Tailor-made Tour 13 days from £3695 per person

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  Places Visited: Halong Bay, The Kinh Thay River, The Duong River, Hanoi, Viet Tri, Lo River, The Da River, Hoa Binh, Mai Chau

Explore by river cruise a region little visited by tourists, experiencing a diverse cross-section of Vietnamese scenery and culture in Pandaw’s signature retro-style.

The Pandaw cruise company are old friends of TransIndus, and we absolutely love the two ground-breaking routes for low and high water, that they’ve devised in North Vietnam. Beginning with the spectacular limestone landscapes of Halong Bay, it traces a winding course around the Red River Delta, pausing at the capital Hanoi before delving into the Highlands of the interior.

Rather than a string of famous landmarks, the route emphasizes authentic rural life, yielding a vivid sense of the varied and fascinating commerce, industries and culture revolving around the waterways. Every day features a visit to a village, often miles off the tourist trail, where you’ll learn about local crafts, explore forgotten temples and generally soak up the atmosphere of off-beat Southeast Asia – all from the splendid base of Pandaw’s colonial-style river cruiser.

Holiday Types

Cultural Holidays River Cruising Family Holidays Honeymoons Beach Holidays Adventure Holidays


Suggested itinerary

Day 1

On arrival in Hanoi, you’ll be met by a TransIndus representative and escorted to your hotel for an overnight stay. Spend the rest of the day recovering, perhaps venturing out later for dinner at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi – the High Temple of retro Indochina elegance.

Vietnam’s charismatic capital, on the Red River, may be expanding and modernizing at an extraordinary pace, but it’s a great city to explore. Surrounded by parks and tranquil lakes, the core is a medieval Old Quarter – one of the most atmospheric square kilometres in all of Asia – where traditional craftsmen ply their trade in narrow alleyways lined with antique shop-houses. For the most memorable experience, we say shed the car and enjoy the city on foot, by bicycle or motorbike and get a local’s view of the everchanging street life as you pass through at close quarters.

Uptown, colonial mansions and relaxing cafés flank the boulevards and leafy shores of Hoan Kiem Lake. Still, the prime attraction in the broader city is Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, where the Great Leader’s remains are embalmed in a sombre marble tomb. Other iconic landmarks include the 11th-century One Pillar Pagoda, and the Temple of Literature; a feast of medieval Vietnamese architecture erected in 1070 AD.

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Day 2

Transfer from Hanoi to Halong Bay to embark your Pandaw ship followed by lunch on board. Cast off in the afternoon with a welcome cocktail for an evening sail, dropping anchor in a sheltered bay amidst the beautiful island scenery.

Sometimes referred to as the ’36 Streets’, Hanoi’s Old Quarter teems with life: ‘36’ refers to the number of crafts guilds that arose over the centuries in the neighbourhood, and many survive here today. Highlights include the vibrant paper votive offerings on sale along Hang Ma Street, and the shops selling freshly ground coffee and local sweets on Hang Buom.

As the shadows lengthen, cross the red-painted Huc, or ‘Sunbeam Bridge’, on Hoan Kiem Lake to visit the delightful Turtle Temple – the best place in the city for sunset – before catching a performance of traditional puppetry at the nearby water theatre.

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Day 3

Morning sail around Halong Bay and beyond with its 1,500 dramatic limestone islands and extraordinary rock formations, dating back 20 million years. Stop at Viet Hai Village and explore on mountain bike or electric buggy, visiting the village’s vegetable farm and typical village houses. It is a breath-taking trip along a small road winding its way through the limestone rocks. In the afternoon continue cruising towards Lan Ha Bay for a visit to a floating fishing house. Weather dependent, we will end the day with cocktails at a beautiful beach in Halong Bay.

After a welcome drink and briefing, you’ll be served a light supper as the Pandaw cruiser chugs through the otherworldly karst limestone stacks and islets of Halong Bay, dropping anchor for the night in a sheltered cove with a spectacular backdrop.

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Day 4

Exploration of Halong Bay continues with a visit to the so called “Dark and Bright Cave”. Take a kayak or a local basket boat rowed by fishermen and enter this remarkable cave into an enclosed area similar to a crater. Bats can be heard in the cave and massive stalagmites hang from the ceiling. In the afternoon, leave Halong Bay and enter the river where you'll drop anchor near Hai Phong.

As you cross the bay, the Pandaw ship will pass some of the area’s more famous formations, such as Hang Dau Go (the ‘Cave of Marvels’), with its extraordinary stalactite’s and stalagmites, and Hang Sung Sot (‘Cave of Awe’).

Visit Viet Hai village in the afternoon by mountain bike or electric buggy along a pretty backroad flanked by towering rock formations. Later you’ll head further south, pausing in Lan Ha Bay to visit a floating fishing house. Weather permitting, the day will end with cocktails at a remote, white-sand beach.

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Day 5

Observe the lively and interesting life of the KinhThay river, a key commercial waterway. In the afternoon visit Thanh Ha Commune, considered the origin of water puppetry in Vietnam. After a stroll or bicycle through the quaint village, enjoy a private water puppet show set under shade by a beautiful pond of lotus and lilies, as it has been enjoyed for centuries. Continue cruising until late evening and drop anchor midstream.

Passengers transfer to kayaks or a basket boat rowed by local fishermen to enter this remarkable cave-arch, which is hidden in an enclosed area resembling a crater.

Sweet-scented orchids and wild Benjamin fig trees carpet the sides of the hollow, while a colony bats nest amid the massive stalactites encrusting the cave’s ceilings. In afternoon, your ship enters the Red River Delta for the first time.

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Day 6

Sail along the Lower Red River and Day River this morning whilst getting more acquainted with your expedition vessel as you enjoy a ship tour. After lunch onboard head ashore to Co Chat village, Nam Dinh. Here we visit local craftspeople making silk by hand and the local markets filled with exotic produce.

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Day 7

Continue your exploration of the Red River Delta today, sailing toward Ninh Binh before mooring at Khanh Thien Village. Disembark in the morning for a journey to Phat Diem, home to Phat Diem Cathedral, a 19th-century Roman Catholic church built in an eclectic blend of Vietnamese and European architectural styles. After lunch explore Khanh Thien Village itself, a cultural hub where a host of handicrafts including water hyacinth weaving and rice paper are produced. End the evening with a performance by the locals of ‘Chau Van’ singing, an ancient art form local to this area.

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Day 8

Discover ‘Halong on Land’ today as we visit Ninh Binh and take small bamboo rowing boats through the magnificent limestone caves. Visitors in September and October or April and May will witness the valleys shine golden as the rice fields prepare for harvest. Return to the ship and sail upstream on the Red River towards Hanoi.

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Day 9

Dropping anchor in the bustling city of Hanoi, visit some highlights of this Asian metropolis including must see’s like the notorious Vietnam war prison known as the Hanoi Hilton, temple of literature where Confucius did his thinking and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. In the afternoon take a walking tour of Hanoi's old quarter, a bustling maze of food and shopping that is an assault on the senses. Visit a coffee shop to learn about Vietnam’s famous coffee making industry and try a Vietnamese coffee.

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Day 10

This morning we visit Bat Trang ceramic village, a hub of ceramic production for generations. The ceramics made here are famous throughout Vietnam and adorn many homes both north and south. Before returning to the ship, a local dance troupe will treat us to a lion dance on the pier. This colourful and energetic dance is customary during festivals throughout Vietnam, most notably during Tet. Set sail into the lesser visited upper Red River beyond Hanoi and step ashore to visit the Thay and Tay Phuong Pagodas. Hardly known, yet with exquisite temples dating from the 8th and 11th century and home to some fine Buddhist statuary carved from jackfruit trees.

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Day 11

In the morning we go ashore to visit the UNESCO praised village of Duang Lam. This ancient village is a well preserved example of a traditional Vietnamese village from centuries ago with intricate architecture and fascinating culture. In the afternoon, visit the carpenter and smith village of Ly Nhan to witness yet more expert craftspeople of the Red River Delta carrying on the traditional methods. We then sail upstream for your farewell dinner onboard.

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Day 12

Disembark after breakfast and enjoy a morning excursion en route to Hanoi. Visit Hung Lo Temple and enjoy traditional folk music before continuing to the village of Tien Du where the ‘Non La’ conical hats, now so synonymous with Vietnam, are produced. Lunch will be served at a local restaurant followed by a transfer to your hotel for an overnight stay.

Hanoi’s rooftop bars are not as plentiful as in Ho Chi Minh, but there are still excellent places to grab a sunset cocktail or a refreshing Vietnamese draft beer on your last night in Vietnam. Hanoi’s narrow streets bustle with activity and some of the best places to truly experience the noise and chaos is from above. In the heart of the Old Quarter, grab a drink at Diamond Sky Bar and admire the 360-degree view or the Skyline Hanoi where you can also enjoy delicious local cuisine on the outdoor terrace.

Accommodation Options

Day 13

Transfer to the airport for your flight back to the UK.

Accommodation Options

Tailor-made Tour 13 days from £3695 per person

What's included

✓   10 nights accommodation on the cruise and 2 nights in Hanoi
✓   All internal transportation and transfers
✓   English-speaking guides
✓   Full board on the Pandaw cruise including crew tipping
✓   Cultural Performances & daily excursions
✓   Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary

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