Day 1 – Ho Chi Minh City (D)
On arrival in Vietnam, we will check into our hotel in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Sai Gon. After freshening up, we will go to a local restaurant for dinner.
Day 2 – Ho Chi Minh City (B, L, D)
This morning we rise early to visit a local market before exploring a labyrinth of laneways to see how the local people live. We then make our way over to Cholon (China Town) to visit Thien Hau Pagoda, a 150-year-old Chinese Temple, and if time allows, Binh Tay Market. Afterwards, we visit Saigon Canal where a floating village has developed over the years with more modern buildings in the background.
After lunch, we continue downtown to visit Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office immediately across the road. We then continue to Jade Emperor Pagoda, one of the five most important shrines in Ho Chi Minh City. We end our day with a cold drink watching the sunset over the city.
Day 3 – Ho Chi Minh City => Danang => Hoi An (B, L, D)
We will leave early to make our way to the airport for our flight to Danang. Once we have arrived we will commence our journey to Hoi An, stopping briefly at Marble Mountain and the Non Nuoc stone fine art village. After lunch we enjoy a walking tour of Hoi An, visiting ancient homes, pagodas and the Japanese Bridge. After dinner, you are free to explore and photograph Hoi An at night, with its beautiful lanterns.
Day 4 – Hoi An (B, D)
We have an early morning boat trip on the Thu Bon River and around Hoi An markets near Duong Hoang Van Thu Dock. After breakfast, you are free to explore the town at your leisure or for those who are interested; a cooking class will be offered to give you a much-deserved break from photography.
Late afternoon we will enjoy photographing local school girls wearing their traditional white school uniforms (Ao Dai) before photographing the sunset over the river and ancient town.
Day 5 – Hoi An => My Son => Hue (B, L, D)
We will walk to Cam Nam Bridge and photograph the sunrise with boats travelling up and down the Thu Bon River.
After breakfast, we travel to My Son, a world heritage series of ruins remaining from the Champa Kingdom which flourished from the 400AD to 1200AD. We will then commence our journey to Hue, where we will check into our hotel before having some downtime to relax.
Day 6 – Hue (B, L, D)
This morning we head inland to visit two elaborate tomb complexes of past Kings of the Nguyen dynasty. Our first will be the royal tomb of Minh Mang who was the second ruler of the Nguyen Dynasty and reigned from 1820 to 1840. We then make our way back towards Hue and visit the tomb of Tu Duc who reigned from 1848 to 1883, the longest reign of any monarch in the Nguyen dynasty. Tu Duc’s tomb is regarded as the most picturesque of all the royal tombs.
After lunch, we visit the Imperial Citadel where Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945, with numerous attractions such as the Flag Tower, Noon Gate, Nine Dynastic Urns, Nine Holy Cannons, Thai Hoa Palace, and Forbidden Purple City. We then travel back up the river to Thien My pagoda for sunset.
Day 7 – Hue => Ha Noi => Sa Pa (B, L, D)
We rise early for our flight to Ha Noi. On arrival, we board our ground transport and immediately commence our drive to Sa Pa along the motorway. This is somewhat a lengthy drive, so it will be a good opportunity to sit back and relax or catch up on some photography talk.
Upon arrival in the border town of Lao Cai, we stop briefly at the border gate with China to stretch our legs before commencing our drive up the mountain pass to Sa Pa.
Day 8 – Sa Pa (B, L, D)
For those who are really energetic, you may wish to rise early to climb Ham Rong Mountain (Botanical Gardens) to photograph Sa Pa in the early morning light. At the top of the mountain, you can discover and photograph unique rock formations discovered in 1925.
Today we trek down the mountain to Ta Van village. Along the way, we photograph the magnificent terraced rice fields and local ethnic minority people going about their day-to-day activities. After an enjoyable lunch, we will explore and photograph the village and conduct photo shoots with the local Black H’mong and Red Dao people. Late afternoon we commence our drive back to Sa Pa town, stopping at strategic places to photograph the sunset over the valley and terraces.
Day 9 – Sa Pa => Muong Hum Market => Hanoi (B, L, D)
Today we depart early and travel to the remote Muong Hum market where we will see H’mong, Red Dao and Ha Nhi families socialising and going about their weekly shopping. Our journey to and from the market will be through some spectacular landscape so expect many photo stops. After enjoying some time at the market, we make our way along the border to Lao Cai where we stop for lunch.
After lunch, its time again to sit back and relax as we make our way back to Hanoi.
Day 10 – Hanoi (B, L, D)
For the keen and energetic, we rise early and enjoy a casual walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, photographing early risers meditating, dancing, doing tai chi, exercising and playing badminton. After breakfast, we visit the Temple of literature where we explore the grounds of this 945-year-old temple and Vietnam’s first national university. We will also be accompanied by a local female model wearing traditional Ao Dai.
After lunch we will enjoy a special cycle ride around the streets of the old quarter, providing a unique photographic perspective as they weave their way in and out of the traffic. Our ride concludes at railway street where we explore the unique, narrow railway snuggled in amongst the residential area by foot.
Day 11 – Hanoi => Ha Long Bay (B, L, D)
This morning we enjoy a very special photo opportunity by visiting and photographing a family that manufactures bamboo fish traps. This no doubt is a craft that will eventually disappear so you are guaranteed to get images that tourists never see. Afterwards we make our way to Ha Long Bay, stopping at a local restaurant for lunch. We will spend the night in Ha Long City.
Day 12 – Ha Long Bay (B, L, D)
We will rise early for a special visit to a local fish market for sunrise, with the beautiful islands of Ha Long Bay in the background.
After breakfast, we casually prepare for our overnight junk boat on Ha Long Bay. We will arrive at the dock around noon and board our junk just in time for a delicious gourmet lunch of fresh seafood onboard as we sail out into the mystical bay.
In the afternoon, we will cruise around some of Ha Long’s many islands, including Dinh Huong and Ga Choi. Along the way visit one of the bay’s three largest caves (Thien Cung, Dau Go or Sung Sot) and then stop at an island cove with a sheltered white-sand beach to take a dip in the warm waters of the Tonkin Gulf (weather permitting).
After watching the sunset from the deck of the boat, we pass the night away on the junk, lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of calm waters.
Day 13 – Ha Long Bay => Hanoi (B, L, D)
You can wake up early to participate in Tai Chi on the top deck or simply relax and enjoy the sunrise over the bay’s towering islands. After enjoying a morning cup of coffee or tea, we set out to explore nearby islands by rowboat. On return to the junk, we enjoy breakfast before taking advantage of the sundeck where we can continue to admire the amazing rock formations of Ha Long Bay as we navigate back to Ha Long City.
Lunch will be provided on board the boat before returning to Ha Long dock. Our driver will meet us at the dock where we commence our journey back to Hanoi.
Day 14 – Hanoi => End Of Tour (B)
This morning we head out one last time to explore the streets of the Old Quarter as they prepare for the day ahead. All the vendors will be setting up their stalls in preparation for the morning breakfast rush and shopping. This is the best time to explore and photograph, and as quickly as it appears, it disappears when the rush is over.
It’s now time to return to the hotel, do some last-minute shopping and prepare for our journey back home. After lunch, we transfer to Noi Bai Airport where we will say our goodbyes.