To see what makes this cruise so special, you have to understand the traditional Pandaw. It’s a luxuriously-equipped riverboat, hand-finished in teak and brass, and its secret lies in its flat bottom. Its ultra-shallow draft means you can reach the most remote, hidden areas of Vietnam that other boats – and overland visitors – cannot.
You’ll see the spectacular limestone caves of Halong Bay, the villages of Kinh Thay River and Duong River. You’ll moor up in Hanoi, explore picturesque Highland Vietnam, see fantastic rock formations, rice paddies and temples and cruise along the Red River towards China.
Your tour culminates at Fusion Resort, one of Nha Trang’s most luxurious beach resorts.
Aboard the Cruise boat
Day 1 – 2: Bangkok – Hanoi
Fly to Bangkok for your connecting flight to Hanoi. From Hanoi you’ll be taken to Halong Bay to start your cruise.
Day 3: Halong Bay
Sail across Halong Bay taking photographs of dramatic limestone rock formations, carved by the elements for 20 million years. Visit a fine, sandy beach and explore spectacular limestone caves.
Day 4: Kinh Thay River
Stop off at the unspoilt village of Yen Duc – recognised as a national monument – and learn about the sacred legends and relics of the Ly and Tran dynasties.
Day 5: Duong River
View the exquisite Dong Ho Vietnamese folk painting at Dong Ho Village; delicate works of art executed on paper made from rice and oysters, using natural pigments like coal, and burnt bamboo leaves. Bat Trang Village specialises in fine ceramics.
Day 6 – 7: Hanoi
Moor at the heart of Vietnam’s capital and revel in a bustling city full of treasures like water puppet theatres, the Temple of Literature, the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ (an infamous wartime prison) and the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. You can also visit the Van Phuc Silk Village and wander through the old French Colonial Quarter.
Day 8: The Lower Red River
From Hanoi you cruise to Viet Tri; a great base for pushing deep into Highland Vietnam. You’ll see emerald rice paddies punctuated with weirdly-shaped rock formations and visit the little-visited Tay Village, where you’ll find temples dating back to the 8th and 11th centuries – home to Buddhist statues carved from jackfruit trees.
Day 9: The Upper Red River
Moor between Viet Tri and Hoa Ha and you can hike through astonishing, rural countryside surrounded by looming mountains.
Day 10 – 11: Da River
Cruise through the Ba Vi National Park to Hoa Binh and the UNESCO-accredited village of Duong Lam, with its tiny wood and shingle houses and specialist pottery. You can visit an interesting museum and a local village where the villagers still wear traditional dress. Beneath the serenity, Hoa Binh has a turbulent past – it was the site of a major battle with the French and is still home to the Muong ethnic group, as well as a 400-ton statue of Ho Chi Minh.
After lunch in the lovely town of Mai Chau with its Black and White Thai ethnic groups and stilted houses, you’ll depart for Hanoi Airport and your flight to Nha Trang. The climax to your tour is a stay in an exclusive resort beside the pristine Cam Ranh-Nha Trang coastline. Warm seas, overlooked by a 12 metre high sand dune, welcome you to a resort that offers panoramic sea views, custom-made suspended bathtubs, canopy-hammocks and a superlative pampering spa.
Stay: Three nights in a Signature Pool Villa at the Fusion Resort Nha Trang.
Fly to Saigon and tour the city’s unforgettable landmarks; the central market, the Old Saigon Post Office, the cathedral of Notre Dame, Reunification Palace (originally the American-built Presidential Palace) and the Chinese District of Cholon – home to the Thien Hau Temple.
Stay: One night at the Park Hyatt Saigon
Saigon – London
Fly from Saigon Airport back to Bangkok and your connecting flight home.