Vietnam is intoxicating. It has an energy and charm of equal proportions, and a regal history of passion, war and conquests to rival any European history. Vietnamese society has undergone a profound transition in the past decade. There is an extraordinary vitality in the cities, where dynamic new businesses and stylish resorts blend with elegant French colonial history. In the countryside, picturesque rice paddies, serene river villages and patient water buffalo contrast with the jungles and mountainous highlands and their enormously diverse wildlife. From the extraordinary history and relics of the Vietnam War to exploring the street markets and restaurants to sampling the delicacies of a cuisine that is renowned for its originality, delicate flavours and creativity. Exploring Vietnam aboard Orion II has the advantage of the ability to sail the secluded backwaters of beautiful bays and rivers. We will visit four World Heritage sites and take a step back in time in the ancient capital of Hue, walk the narrow streets of Hoi An, cruise the stunning jade waters of Ha Long Bay and see the exquisite spiritual architecture of My Son in the mountains of the long lost kingdom of Champa. Enjoy every step of the way to Hanoi where the medieval and modern co-exist.
Vietnam Explorer - Upto 30% OFF! itinerary:
Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City (overnight on board)
We will take our time making our way into this dramatic city. The Song Sai Gon (Saigon River) will take us on a remarkable journey of several hours into Ho Chi Minh City. The 60km of river that we will travel to get to the city is an attraction in itself. Fisherman, traders, floating markets, the river is the life blood of the city. Once in the city itself, the influence of the former French colonial masters is still evident with wide elegant boulevards and historical colonial buildings. The markets are jumping with life and items such as the stylish lacquer ware found throughout Vietnam are on display everywhere to tempt those looking for local souvenirs to take home. The reunification museum is a popular attraction, the reminders of the turbulent and violent history of this vibrant nation are never far away.
(North bound from HCMC will embark, have a night cultural event, overnight onboard, morning activities in HCMC, then afternoon cruise on the Saigon River. South Bound from Hanoi, will have the morning cruising the Saigon River, afternoon activities in HCMC,the evening cultural event, overnight onboard, then disembark following morning)
Day 2: Ho Chi Minh City
A city tour is part of the included program today amongst the grand old buildings such as the historic Rex hotel, you will see colourful markets selling everything from chilies to French baguettes and, of course, an endless stream of bicycles, cyclos and motorbikes. The former Presidential Palace is now known as Reunification Hall. This historic building was made famous when a North Vietnamese tank crashed through its front gates on April 30th, 1975, signalling the end of the Vietnam War. It has changed little since that time and is now retained as a museum. Your tour will include the reception and dining rooms of the President’s quarters, and the basement - with its ancient American-made telecommunications equipment still in place, and strategic military maps lining the walls. A photo stop is included at the Notre Dame Cathedral, a neo-classical structure dating back to the 19th century. The imposing twin spires have long heralded arrival in Saigon to passenger liners that travel the winding Saigon River from its mouth. From central Saigon, the tour continues into the heart of Cholon, literally “big market” and more commonly known as Chinatown. With its crowded streets and shop houses, the names are certainly appropriate! The streets are full of life and colour, with bargaining being conducted at numerous street stalls, and hundreds of hidden temples, shrines and pagodas. Visit the Thien Hau Temple, dedicated to the Goddess Protector of Sailors, which dates to the late 18th century before returning to the ship. A shuttle bus will also be available (morning day 2 northbound/afternoon day 1 southbound) for those wishing to explore the city independently. In the evening we will boat ride along the Song Sai Gon to Bin Quoi Village. At Bin Quoi you will be treated to a fabulous feast of traditional Vietnamese fare in beautiful surroundings, and accompanied by a traditional fashion parade. After the sumptuous dinner you will be transferred back to the ship by coach.
Day 3: Nha Trang, Vietnam
Nha Trang is well known for its extensive white sand beaches and excellent and is fast becoming a recognised destination on the international travel map. This coastal city is capital of Khánh Hòa province and is home to over 300,000 people. Seafood restaurants and cafes ring the beach side area and the food is excellent. Not far from the town the 7th century venerated towers of the Cham Ponagar Temple complex is still very much intact. The Cham people were the original Hindu inhabitants of the area of Central Vietnam, and in the centuries since have essentially become displaced and are now distributed throughout the Indochina region and their Hindu beliefs long lost in the passages of time. Orion has an exclusive beach landing site in Nha Trang, where upon arrival we will be greeted by ladies in traditional Vietnamese dress and where in between tour activities you can relax and take a drink at the bar.
An exclusive Nha Trang village tour is included for our visit to Nha Trang. You will leave the port aboard your coach to visit the Po Nagar Cham Towers, also known as Thap Ba (or the Lady of the City), a remnant of the ancient Cham civilization. The towers, built and renovated between the seventh and twelfth centuries from loose brick with neither plaster nor mortar, were used for the worship of the goddess Po Nagar. From the hillside where the towers stand you will have a spectacular view of Nha Trang Bay and its shores lined with numerous colourful fishing boats. Next you will take a motorboat cruise along the Cai River, where you will have the chance to see a fishing village, a large yard for the construction of wooden boats and coconut islands, shaded by countless palms. Your next visit will be to Vinh Ngoc Commune, situated 10 km from the centre of Nha Trang. It covers an area of over 1,500 ha with around 900 households, consisting of more than 6,000 people, many of whom are farmers. Upon arrival you will visit the central area, which was once the site of the village's paddy fields and cemetery. It is now home to the offices of the local authority, the clinic and medical station and the local market. You will then stop at a nearby typical house of a local family, where you will discover that ancestor worship plays a vital part in everyday life. After that you also have a chance to visit the rice paddy and another family who weave the rush matting commonly used throughout Vietnam. A walk down the street where there are local beer sellers, hair salons in open structures on the side of the street and past the local communist party office. This tour is an excellent insight into the culture and life of Vietnamese people. A shuttle bus will be available through out the day to visit Nha Trang town and its great main beach strip. Or simply take advantage of a private beach landing site for a cool dip or a drink at the bar there.
NHA TRANG SNORKEL TOUR(Half Day)
From the jetty near our landing site, Cruise to Mun Island, the first marine park of Vietnam. Snorkelling and swimming to discover the marine lives. Mun Island is the best place in Vietnam for marine biodiversity with over 200 different types of corals. Head back to Mieu fishing village. Stop to photograph the abundant and pretty fishing boats moored in the shallow harbour. Boats are brightly painted in blue and red - a very colourful sight. Plenty of fish farms, colourful fishing boats and basket boats are the highlights for your pictures. Then a short ride leads to Tri Nguyen aquarium that looks like a ship wreck from a far, before returning to the ship. There is some great snorkelling opportunities and relaxing cruising during this activity.
Price: AU$85.00 per person
Day 4: Baie de Cu Mon & Bai Nam Beach, Vietnam
Baie de cu Mon is seldom visited by outsiders but makes a perfect stop for an expedition vessel like ours. A fishing village sits inside the bay, where you can witness all kinds of local activity. People will be out netting fish in their round "coracle" style basket boats, larger fishing vessels will be preparing to leave in the evening and the locals will no doubt be just as interested in us as we are in them as we sail by. A little further along from the village is Bai Nam beach, a perfect place for us to take an afternoon swim and relax in the war waters of the South China Sea.
Very much a true expedition day we will set out in our Zodiacs to explore the bay, it's fishing village and it's inhabitants. Landings will be opportunistic and we will take advantage of situations on the day as they arrive. Many of the villagers have "fish pens" attached to their houses where they "grow" fish and crustaceans. The Zodiac cruise will be great for photography and interacting with the local people in the village The afternoon will be one of leisure at Bai Nam beach where we can swim, relax and explore the headland and sandy beaches.
Day 5: Da Nang ( For My Son ), Vietnam
Da Nang is a major sea port on the southern coast of Vietnam and home today to over a million people. Today Da Nang is recognised as one of Vietnams premiere beach resort areas, but whilst modern Da Nang symbolises Vietnams success today the history of the area can not be overlooked either. In 1858 French troops landed under orders from Napoleon III an event which signalled the French Colonisation of the area. Under French rule the area was known as Tourane. Many years later in 1965 Da Nang was the infamous landing point for the US Marine Corps as they entered the Vietnam War. The area went on to house a major US air base and nearby "China Beach" was a popular recreation area for troops during that conflict. Da Nang, as well the city itself and China Beach, gives us access to two significant UNESCO World Heritage areas. The first being My Son. My Son is a cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples constructed between the 4th and the 14th century A.D. by the kings of Champa. The temples are dedicated to the worship of the god Shiva as he is known under various local names, the most important of which is "Bhadresvara." Tragically most of My Son has been destroyed by war over the years but more than enough remains to show how significant this location is. The second of these significant areas is Hoi An. Hoi An was one of the orient's major trading ports in the 16th and 17th centuries. After the Thu Bon River linking Hoi An to the sea silted up ocean going ships were no longer able to sail into town and trade moved 30km up the coast to Da Nang. But in it's day Hoi An was the place to be and the place to trade your goods. This atmosphere lives on today with strong Japanese and Chinese influences in the area. There are great restaurants, cafes and the like, ands Hoi An is the centre of Vietnam's clothing manufacturing industry with many well known tailors based in the township. Orion will coordinate with a local tailor service to visit the port to assist guests with the process of acquiring these tailor made garments for which Hoi An is famous.
Approximately an hour drive away, via the undulating countryside of Central Vietnam you will arrive in a range of beautiful mountains called “My Son” in Vietnamese - the Holy land of the long lost Champa kingdom. Upon arrival you will be taken on a short drive by a local van or jeep for 5 minutes to gain access to these valued relics. Historically, this land used to be ruled by the Civilziation of Champa from the early of 7th Century until 14th Century. Being chosen as the holy land for their peoples more than 70 brick-temples were built to worship their Hindu Gods. All the temples were found by the West at the end of the 19th century by French explorers but, sadly, most of them were destroyed in 1969 by American bombing raids during the war. Today, however, visitors can still admire the exquisite spiritual architecture and appreciate their historical value for a long lost kingdom. After lunch a shuttle service will continue to Da Nang city for further exploration and to China Beach, to relax and swim if you choose.
HOI AN BICYCLE TOUR (half day)
The short bicycle ride through the deepest countryside of the village will be one of the highlights of your time in Vietnam – this unique glimpse into the rural lives of the villagers is a sight that very few other visitors will see – and in turn you will delight the local people with your presence on their most favoured form of transportation – the humble bicycle. Finish the riding in Hoi An town.
Price to be confirmed
HOI AN COOKING CLASS
A great opportunity exists for you to undertake a cooking class with local chefs today. Visit the market to purchase your produce then onto the kitchen to learn of the preparation and cookery styles culminating with the consumption of the finished product! All in all a great way to learn more about Vietnamese food.
Price to be confirmed
HOI AN VIETNAMESE DINNER PACKAGE
Just an hour drive from the ship in Da Nang to Hoi An for a set menu Vietnamese dinner at either the Nam Long or Fullmoon Town Restaurant. Both are award winning restaurants in Hoi An. Includes transfers to/from the ship and set menu Vietnamese Banquet in Hoi An.
Price to be confirmed
Day 6: Da Nang ( For Hoi An ), Vietnam
An included guided tour of Hoi An is available today. A scenic drive from the port takes you to an little town called HoiAn or Faifo. The presence of Eastern and Western merchants in Hoi An influenced the architecture, culture and customs of this community during 19th and 20th century. As many wooden buildings date from the first half of the 19th century, the town retains its distinctive charm. Take a step back in time during your guided walk through its narrow streets. Continue through the narrow street to the ornate Phuoc Kien Temple, lavishly decorated with lacquered boards engraved with Chinese characters, and dedicated to Thien Hau, Goddess of the Sea. The walking tour continues to the ancient Japanese Bridge, built in 1593 to connect the Japanese and Chinese communities of Hoi An. The bridge has become a symbol of Hoi An town as its beautiful construction. Your visit to a traditional merchant’s house will reveal a unique mix of European, Japanese and Chinese styles. After the walking tour, that is the time to explore the rest of the ancient town such as the museums, photographs or shopping. Before returning to the ship, you will pause at China Beach as it is known to the local people. This was a favourite military recreation spot during the war and one that became world famous through the television series of the same name. It is also a great chance to see the beauty the Marble Mountains along side of the road. After lunch a shuttle service will continue to Da Nang city for further exploration and to China Beach, to relax and swim if you choose.
HOI AN DINNER PACKAGE (for 22 Nov, 1 Dec & 10 Dec)
Just an hour drive from the ship in Da Nang to Hoi An for a set menu Vietnamese dinner at either the Nam Long or Fullmoon Town Restaurant. Both are award winning restaurants in Hoi An. Includes transfers to/from the ship and set menu Vietnamese Banquet in Hoi An
Price: AU$150 per person
HOI AN BICYCLE TOUR (for 22 Nov, 1 Dec & 10 Dec)
The short bicycle ride through the deepest countryside of the village will be one of the highlights of your time in Vietnam – this unique glimpse into the rural lives of the villagers is a sight that very few other visitors will see – and in turn you will delight the local people with your presence on their most favoured form of transportation – the humble bicycle. Finish the riding in Hoi An town, you will then enjoy a great Vietnamese lunch before undertaking further touring of Hoi An itself, with some free time for shopping as well.
HOI AN COOKING TOUR (Full Day with Lunch) (for 22 Nov, 1 Dec & 10 Dec)
A great opportunity exists for you to undertake a cooking class with local chefs today. Visit the market to purchase your produce then onto the kitchen to learn of the preparation and cookery styles culminating with the consumption of the finished product! All in all a great way to learn more about Vietnamese food. After your sumptuous lunch, continue with your walking tour of Hoi An with some free time for shopping before returning to Da Nang and the ship.
Day 7: Chan May ( For Hue ), Vietnam
Chan May, a commercial port, serves us no other purpose other than being the easiest access point to the ancient imperial city of Hue. As soon as you leave the port and head north to Hue you will experience the cliché “true” Vietnamese scene - rice paddies filled with workers in traditional bamboo conical (“coolie”) hats. Between 1802 and 1945, Hue was the imperial capital of the Nguyễn Dynasty, the most famous dynasty to rule Vietnam. The seat of the Nguyễn emperors was the Citadel, which occupies a large, walled area on the north side of the Perfume River. Inside the citadel was a forbidden city where only the emperors, concubines, and those close enough to them were granted access; the punishment for trespassing was death. Today, little of the forbidden city remains, though reconstruction efforts are in progress to maintain it as a historic tourist attraction. Hue is today a UNESCO World Heritage Area.
Today's included expedition will take you to captivating Hue, the old imperial capital and cultural treasure chest of Vietnam. Founded on the northern bank of Perfume River in the 17th century by the Nguyen Dynasty, Hue appears more like a massive open-air museum with hundreds of temples, pagodas, palaces and tombs. Departing the port, enjoy a scenic drive along the coastal road, bordering the brilliant blue East Sea. Upon arrival in Hue, drive to the remains of the Citadel, the magnificent court of the Nguyen emperors. Completed in 1832, the Royal Citadel of Hue occupies almost 1,000 acres of land, with stone ramparts standing over 20 feet high and huge Ngo Mon (Meridian) Gates. During the Vietnam War, some of the most intense fighting occurred in this region, leaving many buildings destroyed or damaged. Declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, the Citadel has undergone extensive restoration, bringing it back to its former glory. See the vast, wing-roofed Thai Hoa Palace (Supreme Harmony) and the ornate Imperial Library with its detailed ceramic sculptures decorating its roof. Visit the Forbidden Purple City, once the inner, exclusive domain of the emperors. After touring the Citadel, continue along the Perfume River to the elegant Thien Mu Pagoda, one of the most beautiful architectural structures in Vietnam. With its outstanding octagonal seven-story tower and adjacent prayer hall perched at the top of a hillock overlooking the tranquil river, the pagoda represents the finest in Buddhist design and a symbol of Hue. Following a buffet lunch of traditional Vietnamese dishes at a local restaurant, proceed to the Tomb of Tu Duc, the emperor of Vietnam for more than 35 years. Hidden behind an octagonal stone wall is the monarch's sepulcher, surrounded by a pavilion and temple, and guarded by stone sculptures of elephants, horses and soldiers. We then depart mid afternoon to return to the port of Chan May.
Day 9: Ha Long Bay & Cat Ba Island, Vietnam
Nowhere in the world are there so many limestone Karsts jutting out of the sea - nearly two thousand in fact. The temperature and unique atmospherics make for brilliant sunsets and misty mornings. This is a Zodiac exploration paradise over mirror waters to the brilliantly painted Van Gia floating fishing village and deep grottoes that could stand a thousand people. The waters are jade coloured with 1000m pinnacles jutting to the sky. There are not many beaches and virtually no buildings except for the odd Buddhist pagoda. We will have to weave through many a moored teak Junk on our journey.
The day today is split between Cat Ba Island and Ha Long Bay proper. At Cat Ba Island we will use our Zodiacs to explore the area, including visiting a floating village and exploring the interesting caves and grottoes carved out of the limestone by the tides. Depending on tides we may be able to land on one of the small beaches nearby. After relocating to Ha Long Bay proper we will transfer to local 'junks" to sail around the bay and take in all the sights. Local guides will accompany us to point out the highlights as we cruise the bay in these traditional boats.
Day 10: Haiphong ( For Hanoi ), Vietnam
Whether you are departing or arriving, Hanoi deserves a longer visit. Haiphong though, a major port, is just that, and our exit point to Hanoi. If you ever thought Saigon special then Hanoi is extra special. “Imagine a city where the exotic chic of old Asia blends with the dynamic face of new Asia. Where the medieval and modern co-exist. A city with a blend of Parisian grace and Asian pace, an architectural museum piece evolving in harmony with its history, rather than bulldozing through like many of the region’s capitals. Hanoi is where imagination becomes reality.” Motorbikes by the million dart the web of streets that are the Old Quarter, a furnace of commerce for almost 1000 years and the best place to check the pulse of this resurgent city. Locals sip coffee and bia hoi (Hanoi beer), watching life pass them by. Watch synchronised t’ai chi at dawn on the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake in front of the island shrine. Hanoi has it all: ancient history, a colonial legacy and a modern outlook. There is no better place to untangle this modern paradox as long as you don’t untangle the power lines…this you will never believe.
Orion II is a private yacht-like expedition cruise ship built by Cantieri Navale Ferrari of Italy. After a number of years as a private yacht, Orion II was relaunched in 2009 following an extensive technical refit. Little expense was spared with this stylish, Italian built, all-suite Mega Yacht. Orion II now offers the finest standards in small-ship cruise travel. She also has an ice-strengthened hull for voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic and is fitted with stabilisers.
The expedition equipment includes Zodiacs and fast tender to deliver the Orion expedition experience. Combining luxury and service will require staffing by 68 offices and crew to serve Orion II’s capacity of 100 guests. Excellence of design, craftsmanship and quality materials combined with Orion II’s spaciousness and intimate ambience make her ideal for distinctive cultural and expedition voyages.
Length: 88 metres
Beam: 15.3 metres
Draft: 4.5 metres
Hull: Ice- strengthened hull for voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic
Gross Tonnage: 4,077
Engines: MAN B&W Diesel 2 x 2520 KW
Speed: 14 knots. Cruise speed 13.5 knots
Stabilisers: Retractable fin stabilisers
Manoeuvrability: Bow thrusters
Built: January 1991. Refitted 2009
Builder: Cantieri Navale Ferrari (Italy)
Guest Capacity: 100 (twin occupancy).
Regulations: Orion II is built according to the latest international safety regulations, including those of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Public Health, Canadian Arctic Shipping, and St. Lawrence Seaway.
Additional Craft: 6 Zodiac Heavy Duty MK5, 1x36 passenger tender
Communications: Direct-dial satellite telephones; fax; e-mail; Internet access; internal telephone system.