Day 1: Halong Bay - Hanoi
Your guide will we waiting for you at the cruise ship pier ready to tell you stories about life in his beloved country. Hanoi is about 3.5 hours away - just enough time to get you prepared for an extremely memorable experience. You'll spend the day touring this wonderful city with its ochre-coloured colonial buildings, tree-lined boulevards and scenic lakes. Hanoi is charming. Its French-Asian.
One of your visits will be to the Temple of Literature, which was the 1st University in Vietnam. During 1076 - 1779, 2,313 doctors graduated. In 1484 Emperor Le Thanh Tong started the tradition of printing the names of the laureates of the university on stone steles, which were placed on top of stone turtles.
We will also take you to the Lake of Restored Sword and Ngoc Son Temple. The Lake of the Restored sword (Hoan Kiem Lake) is the site where King Le Loi is said to have been handed a sword by a turtle, and gone on to use this sword to vanquish invaders, before the turtle came and took the sword back and returned to the depths of the lake. Turtles are still occasionally spotted surfacing in the lake. The lake is also home to Ngoc Son Pagoda, a charming small pagoda on an island in the lake, accessed by a small footbridge. It is rumored that Ho Chi Minh once attended this pagoda disguised as a cyclo driver during the French occupancy.
Your afternoon will be jam-packed. A short drive out of Hanoi brings you to the serene Museum of Ethnology (closed on Mondays) that offers a fascinating insight into Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority groups. Drive back to central Hanoi for an hour cyclo tour through the Old Quarter to enjoy the bustling local life, then cap off the day with a show at the water puppet theater - a uniquely northern Vietnamese art form depicting scenes of rural life and episodes of national history.
At this time, probably about 5pm, you will be taken to one of the finest hotels in the world, the Hilton Hanoi Opera for a restful evening.
Day 2: Hanoi - Halong Bay
After breakfast, check out and meet your guide at hotel lobby. This will be a very special morning with a visit the historic Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, an imposing monument where the preserved body of “Uncle Ho” resides. (Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is closed every Monday & Friday, all afternoons and from late September until December). Behind the Mausoleum, you can see Ho Chi Minh's House. The simple house where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked is made of wood and enjoyed a tranquil setting, with a view of a lotus pond. Ho Chi Minh’s belongings are on display and you can walk up the steps of his house to see his bedroom. A short walk from the mausoleum is the lotus shaped One Pillar Pagoda – resting on a single stone pillar emerging from the water.
You will then be transferred back to your cruise ship.