Jakkree Thampitakkull/Getty Images
Jack Tydeman
July 31, 2018

Jack Tydeman is a member of Travel + Leisure’s A-List, a collection of the top travel advisors in the world, and can help plan your perfect getaway. Below is an example of the type of itineraries he creates. To work with Jack, you can contact him directly at jack.tydeman@audleytravel.com.

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi

Transfer to hotel by private vehicle with driver and guide. For breakfast, you can join the locals at one of the small food stalls for a bowl of Pho, traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. 

In the afternoon, set off on a private street food tour of Hanoi's best culinary spots with a local food blogger. Having a special passion for Vietnamese food and culture, this blogger has documented his food and cultural adventures since 2005. He will give you an insight into Hanoi's hidden food scene, and provide an elaborate explanation of Vietnamese practices. The tour will take you to some of Hanoi's most impressive markets, food stalls, and hidden eateries, where you will have the opportunity to try the regions best loved cuisine.

Afterwards, you can wander the Old Quarter — discovering traditional medicine shops and age old temples hidden in the busy market streets. In the evening, relax in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of a jazz bar beside the central Hoan Kiem Lake. 

Stay

Sofitel Legend Metropole

Day 2: Hanoi

Start with a fascinating half day guided tour around Vietnam's capital. Your first stop on the tour will be at the final resting place of former leader and celebrated father, the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. Then, see Ho Chi Minh's wooden stilted house and the One Pillar Pagoda before arriving at the country's first university, The Temple of Literature. Afterwards, you will drive past Hoan Kiem Lake and the charming Ngoc Son Temple before ending the tour in the city's old quarter.

In the afternoon, spend a couple of hours with Mr. Chuck Searcy, a veteran of the Vietnam War who has detailed knowledge of the history of the wars in Vietnam. After returning to Vietnam in 1992, he is now Chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, working on a project to eradicate hunger, alleviate poverty and clean up unexploded ordnance left over from the war along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Back at your hotel, visit to the resident bomb shelter at the Sofitel Legend Metropole. Re-discovered in 2011, the bomb shelter was used during the Vietnam War to protect guests from nightly air raids in Hanoi. Famous residents include Jane Fonda and Joan Baez.

Stay

Sofitel Legend Metropole

Day 3: Haiphong

Transfer from Hanoi to Haiphong with a private driver, a journey of approximately 2.5 hours. The port of Haiphong was established in 1888 on the Cua Cam River, a major tributary of the Red River. It is the north’s second largest city and has a prosperous feel; major industrial investment and a rejuvenated portside are testament to the vitality of the people. Western travellers rarely visit the city, which is an over-sight, as the centre is pleasantly green, with tree-lined boulevards and some attractive colonial style architecture. 

Upon arrival at Dinh Vu Port in Haiphong, you will board an Orchid ship to tour Halong Bay. The cruise will proceed to Da Ching Islet, with a 100-year-old French lighthouse, before cruising towards Cat Ba island, a route free of many other
tourist boats. Spend the afternoon enjoying some stunning limestone karst scenery, exploring fishing villages, and enjoying a magnificent sunset over the Gulf of Tonkin. Dinner is served on board before you retire for evening.

Stay

Orchid Cruise

Day 4: Halong Bay

Rise early for Tai Chi on deck and breakfast before transferring to the day exploration boat. Journey towards Bai Tu Long Bay, where you will explore Viet Hai Village by bike before enjoying a kayaking trip later in the afternoon. Return to the Orchid cruise for a cooking class followed by dinner and happy hour drinks on board.

Stay

Orchid Cruise

Day 5: Hue

Transfer to Hanoi airport and fly to Hue. Backed by the mountains of the Annamite Cordillera, and set on the beautiful Perfume River, this is the best place to experience the country’s imperial past. The last imperial family, the Nguyens, ruled under French protection from 1802 to 1945, and their mausoleums compete in scale and grandeur as they line the valley as it leads up to the hills. Lavishly squandering their country’s wealth and manpower, these mausoleums are amongst the country’s most poignant sights.

They are not the only attractions here, though. You can board a boat and travel to the Thien Mu Pagoda, dating back to 1602, and surrounded by graceful gardens, or explore Hue’s more recent past: the former Demilitarized Zone, the atmospheric tunnels at Vinh Moc and the battle sites of Khe Sanh and the Citadel.

Stay

La Residence Hotel & Spa

Day 6: Hue

Take a half day private excursion with a guide and driver. Crossing to the north bank of the Perfume River, you will enter the imposing moated Citadel, which the Forbidden Purple City; much of the original structure was destroyed during the Tet Offensive in 1968, although with the help of UNESCO funding it is gradually being restored to its former glory.

You will then continue to visit the Museum of Royal Antiquities and the Mausoleum of Emperor Tu Duc, located in an area of rolling hills and pine trees seven kilometres outside Hue. The tranquil grounds are filled with trees, ponds and pavilions where Tu Duc would write poetry.

In the afternoon, visit Minh Mang's Mausoleum and Thien Mu Pagoda by private boat. At the riverside in Hue you board a boat for a journey up the Perfume River to the mausoleums of Nguyen Dynasty's emperors. During a two hour journey upriver you will first explore Thien Mu Pagoda, a serene and picturesque landmark which is also an important Buddhist site. Continuing upstream, you will disembark at Minh Mang’s Mausoleum, set in gardens of pine and frangipani.

Stay

La Residence Hotel & Spa

Day 7: Hue

Take a private guided day trip to the former DMZ and the Vinh Moc tunnels. Places of military significance in the area include Dong Ha city, Camp Carroll, the Rock pile, Dakrong Bridge and parts of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. You will also have the option to visit one of the former American bases Khe Sanh or Con Thien Firebase; although both are now abandoned and overgrown, a steady stream of veterans are beginning to return.

In the afternoon continue on to Vinh Moc, stopping en route at the war cemetery, Hien Luong Bridge and Ben Hai River at the 17th Parallel. The Vinh Moc tunnels were built by the villagers during the Vietnam War as a shelter from American bombing and naval bombardments.

Stay

La Residence Hotel & Spa

Day 8: Hoi An

Meet your guide early for hiking in Bach Ma National Park. The trails of Bach Ma are lined with medicinal plants. At the end of your trail stop and have a picnic near the falls; it's a gradual pitch at the top, and you can test your bravery by looking over the waterfall's edge. After a bit of time to relax, you will trek back up to your car and transfer to Hoi An, either through the mountains (the more scenic route) or through the tunnels, arriving in the early afternoon in time for a late lunch or early dinner.

Prior to the arrival of the French, Hoi An was Vietnam's "window on the world."Tucked away amongst the back streets are the houses of merchants from Asia and Europe, lured from afar by the prospect of high-grade silk and porcelain. It is an ideal
spot to stop for a few days, strolling along the wharf, shopping in the market, or having a silk dress or suit fitted, and is best explored on foot and at your leisure. There are many restaurants, old houses, craft shops and art galleries, where local
artists exhibit their works. Take some time to enjoy a bowl of Cao Lau, a special noodle soup which is a specialty in the area. 

Stay

Anantara Hoi An Resort 

Day 9: Hoi An

The day begins with a short boat trip from Bach Dang boat landing in Hoi An town, along the Thu Bon River to the village of Kim Bong, where you will first visit a traditional boat building yard. Here, you pick up bikes and begin a leisurely ride through the beautiful countryside with your guide, stopping for photographs and refreshments as you please. This is a lovely way to see some of the more traditional areas around Hoi An and explore the local handicraft cottage industries, such as wood carving, mat weaving, and coracle boat making. Afternoon at leisure in Hoi An.

Stay

Anantara Hoi An Resort 

Day 10: Saigon

Fly to Saigon for Da Nang. On arrival at Saigon Airport, meet with your private guide and driver and transfer to
the Cu Chi tunnels. The Cu Chi tunnel complex was dug in 1948 for the guerrillas to hide from French air and ground sweeps. It also served as communication routes and food and weapon caches as well as hospitals and living quarters for guerrilla fighters throughout the Vietnam War. Visit the underground villages with a VC veteran who used to live there. His experiences enable you to better understand the tunnels’ history and gain perspective of life in the tunnels and the resilience of the Vietnamese during combat.

The vivacious city of Saigon was the original "Pearl of the Orient." The city continues to undergo rapid change, with new skyscrapers, lively bars, and a booming economy. There is still plenty of local charm: soup sellers ring their chimes to signify a freshly made lunch, fortune tellers read palms and incense drifts from busy temples. The choice of restaurants is outstanding, and this is a great shopping city: classy boutiques sell lacquerware, silk, and modern art. 

Take a private guided evening food tour by vespa. Stop first at a small, popular Vietnamese bread stall before heading on to a vintage coffee shop to hear about the evening's activities. From there visit a local apartment complex that has many food stalls set up each night, a dessert shop that has been in operation for over 50 years, and a boutique seafood restaurant known only to locals. Finish your night in a cozy pub where you can try local beer and perhaps even enjoy some live music.

Stay

Hotel des Arts

Day 11: Saigon

Commence this morning's tour with a visit to the shrine outside the US Consulate, before continuing to the former CIA building (outside visit only), where helicopters evacuated the remaining US citizens in 1975. Head to the rooftop café of the Rex Hotel, a familiar landmark for Americans during the Vietnam War. Sit down for a drink and enjoy the view and this piece of history, which your guide will help to explain. Then visit the Reunification Palace for a guided tour of the former headquarters of the South Vietnamese government and presidential residence.

Drive to the former home of the US Ambassador of South Vietnam in the early 1960s, Mr Henry Cabbot Lodge, who conducted a mission to overthrow the South Vietnamese government. Here you can watch an exclusive ten-minute documentary about Saigon during that time while enjoying a cold drink. Continue to the War Remnants Museum
for a vivid insight into the Vietnam War through the locals' eyes.

You will then be driven to a historic venue for a simple lunch of pho (noodle soup). House number 7 on Ly Chinh Thang Street, now known as Pho Binh restaurant, used to be the headquarters of Viet Cong Commanders and is where they gathered to plan for the 1968 Tet Offensive. Take a walk upstairs to learn more about its history through the family’s photo collection.

After lunch you will be driven to Cho Lon to visit a herbal medicine market and to Binh Tay market to experience the hustle and bustle of local everyday life. End the day at Thien Hau Temple, built by the Cantonese congregation in the early 19th century to honour the goddess of the sea. The temple’s ornate interior courtyard is always full of life as worshippers from the local Chinese community come to offer prayers. Take time to make a wish, write it on a small card and attach it to one of the incense coils — as per local custom. 

Stay

Hotel des Arts

Day 12: Mekong River

Morning transfer to the port of My Tho to embark on the RV Mekong Pandaw in time for welcome drinks, a briefing and lunch. Sail across the vast Mekong Delta on your way from Saigon to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Your guide will collect your passports at the meeting point in preparation for the immigration formalities.

Stay

RV Mekong Pandaw

Day 13: Mekong River

Take a sampan boat excursion to Sa Dec via Vinh Long, sailing along canals and backwaters and see the local market and the ancient house of Mr. Huyn Thuy Le — the "lover" of Marguerite Duras, a famous French novelist whose book was immortalized in the film "L’Indochine."

Stay

RV Mekong Pandaw

Day 14: Mekong River

Visit a tribal village of the Mulsim Cham people and a cat fish farm in Chau Doc with our guide — or do your own thing and take off on one of our mountain bikes. The local market is great and the Catholic Church well worth a visit. Return to the ship by boat for lunch and cast off for the Cambodian border for the usual formalities.

Stay

RV Mekong Pandaw

Day 15: Phnom Penh

Disembark in Cambodia’s capital after breakfast. Your guide and driver will be waiting for you at the water’s edge, when you arrive in Phnom Penh. They will transfer you directly to your hotel.

With its wide, tree lined boulevards and scenic setting at the confluence of three rivers, Phnom Penh was once the loveliest of the former French cities in Indochina. Many of its French colonial buildings remain, dotted around this rapidly growing capital in various state of ruin or renovation and beautiful frangipani trees still sprout from the pavements of the boulevards. It is a city which is finally emerging from the horrors of its recent past, rediscovering and reinventing itself as a tourist destination.

The focal point of Phnom Penh is the bustling riverside where you can enjoy a stroll along the banks of the Tonle Sap River or sit at a café and watch the world go by. Just back from the riverfront are the main attractions of the city — the National Museum, the Royal Palace, and Wat Phnom, from where, fable has it, the city was born. The markets are a hive of local activity and perfect for people watching, and no day in Phnom Penh is complete without a sundowner at the famous Foreign Correspondent's Club on the riverfront.

In the evening, go to Plae Pakka (Khmer for "fruitful") — a performance put on by Cambodian Living Arts exclusively at the National Museum of Phnom Penh. The artists showcase the historical and cultural richness of the country featuring dance, theatre, and live music,along with elaborate traditional costumes and staging.

Stay

Raffles Hotel Le Royal

Day 16: Phnom Penh 

Take a full-day private city tour with your driver and guide. With your guide you begin the day exploring the stunning Royal Palace complex, home to the Cambodian royal family and a symbol of the nation.  Continue on to the Silver Pagoda, named after the 5,000 silver tiles covering the floor; inside are some of the country's most cherished treasures, including a life-sized gold Buddha studded with 9,584 diamonds, the largest weighing 25 carats. You leave the Royal Palace and continue to the nearby National Museum, home to the world's finest collection of sculpture from the Angkor period.

After lunch you come face to face with the horrific crimes of the Khmer Rouge. Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21, was a former high school that the Khmer Rouge turned into a centre for interrogation, torture and death. Today it is a museum of torture
and serves to remind visitors of the terrible atrocities that came to pass in Cambodia. You then travel out of town to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Prisoners from Tuol Sleng followed this same route to their fate. An old Chinese cemetery, Choeung Ek was turned into an extermination camp for political prisoners. Despite the horrors of the past, it is a peaceful place to go and a tranquil spot to reflect on the tragic events that engulfed Cambodia and its people.

Laterin the day you will head for Wat Phnom, a symbol of the city. Located on one of the few hills in this flat part of the
country, the first pagoda was originally built in 1373 to house Buddha statues discovered in the Mekong by a woman named Penh. This gives the modern name of the city, Phnom Penh, or Hill of Penh. Cambodians come to the shrine to pray for luck
in love, life, employment and exams, so it is always a bustling place.

Stay

Raffles Hotel Le Royal

Day 17: Siem Reap

Fly from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. Just north of Tonle Sap Lake, this town has grown rapidly in the last few years due to the draw of the temples of Angkor. The sheer scale and grandeur of the Angkor complex is rivalled by only a handful of sights elsewhere in the world. 

Visit Angkor Wat in the late afternoon with your guide. Believed to have been undertaken as a temple and mausoleum for King Suryavarman II at the peak of the Khmer empire in the first half of the 12th century, Angkor Wat is the best-preserved
of the Angkorian temples. One of the treasures of Angkor Wat are the bas-reliefs that adorn the outer wall of the temple, stunning examples of traditional Khmer art — they mainly depict scenes from the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, but some of them also show day to day life within the Khmer empire

Stay

Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor

Day 18: Siem Reap

Rising early this morning you will depart for a spectacular sunrise visit to Pre Pup temple. Pre Rup, meaning "Turning the Body," consists of a pyramid-shaped temple-mountain with the uppermost of the three tiers carrying five lotus towers and provides incredible sunrise views over the Angkor Park. After your dawn excursion, continue to the famous Ta Prohm temple. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground.

Take a private tour of Angkor Thom and the Bayom temple before lunch at Sala Kdei, a traditional wooden building located in a small village overlooking the ancient royal bathing pool of Sra Srang. Lunch includes a selection of popular national dishes.

In the afternoon, take a private cycling tour of rural Cambodia. Surrounded by rice paddies, Siem Reap makes an excellent base from which to explore the surrounding countryside and glimpse rural Cambodian life. This half day cycling tour takes you out amongst the local villages, a world away from the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap town. Cycle past rice paddies, palm trees, ox-drawn carts and wave at the smiling children who will be delighted to see you.

Stay

Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor

Day 19: Siem Reap

Travel to the countryside to see the gem of the Angkor area, the pretty temple of Banteay Srei, which remains the best-preserved temple in Cambodia. An early-morning visit offers the advantage of avoiding the crowds that visit mid morning and having excellent light to view the carvings. Continue to the Golden Silk Pheach Farm, a local NGO that is helping to revive ancient Khmer craftsmanship in silk production, and provides job opportunities to more than 100 local staff. The farm area, mulberry trees, and weaving ateliers can be seen as part of the guided tour. 

Spend the afternoon at leisure in Siem Reap before visiting the Phare Circus, an hour long show which currently rotates between four different stories centred around Cambodian society and history. Phare Circus is run by Phare Ponleu Selpak, a non-profit Cambodian association working with vulnerable children and young adults to improve their lives through
development and training in the performing arts, as well as social support and educational training. 

Stay

Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor

​​​​​Day 20: Hong Kong

Fly from Siem Reap to Hong Kong. Located at the south-eastern tip of China, Hong Kong adjoins the province of Guangdong, and has a population of over seven million people, 95% of whom are Chinese. Hong Kong Island and Kowloon were originally ceded to the British, following the Opium Wars of the 1800s, and from a minor fishing village, steadily
developed in to one of Asia's greatest trading hubs. 

Built up around Victoria Peak, Hong Kong Island is famed for its spectacular views of glittering skyscrapers, crowded markets, shopping, fast living, and the wonderful juxtaposition of ancient and modern.  Across the harbour is the Kowloon side, which offers fabulous views across to the skyline, as well as some great shopping and local markets. The outlying islands offer tranquility, away from the bustle of the city, and have beautiful countryside dotted with temples to explore at your leisure. 

Stay

The Langham 

Day 21: Depart from Hong Kong

Spend the morning at leisure in Hong Kong before your transfer to the airport for your flight.

You May Like