VIETNAM Selective Journeys
AN INTRODUCTION TO SELECTIVE JOURNEYS
HOW WE DEFINE TRAVEL TODAY It is all too easy to travel to the main centres of a destination and consider having ‘seen it’. However, the true backbone of Vietnam’s culture and society is found in the unknown, the unaware, the places and areas where throngs of tourists do not tread because, quite simply, the knowledge and insight is not there to begin with. This is where we come in.
As tourism in the country expands and develops most of us yearn for a travel experience away from the commercial centres. We have therefore carefully researched and created a series of select journeys that best represent another side of Vietnam ... a Vietnam that will enrich a trip with memories, an experience and an education. This is about travelling with style, a degree of comfort but, at the same time, being out of ones comfort zone to formulate a travel experience that will enrich a visit with insights and exchanges that will, hopefully, prove to be the highlight of your stay in this enigmatic country. Ranging from the exclusive to the moderate these selective journeys are either half or full day excursions from the main centres of Vietnam and are therefore easily placed into your itinerary.
indus experiences Vietnam
indus experiences Vietnam
HANOI PAGES 6 - 17 HUE / DANANG PAGES 18 - 27 SAIGON PAGES 28- 37
(VIETNAM’S CULTURAL HEART)
The North of Vietnam is the country’s true cultural heart. Its art, its music and dance, its cuisine, its heritage, architecture and rich tapestry of life all starts with Hanoi and makes its way south. Hanoi may not have the prosperity or modern wealth of its southern counterpart, but it does provide the visitor with a far greater cultural understanding and experience of what Vietnam is all about to the Vietnamese. Faded colonial architecture, some restored beautifully, sits side by side hidden pagodas and temples. Tree lined boulevards are filled with local street side cafes and restaurants. Its shaded parks provide respite from the summer heat or the trickle of winter rain and are always filled with life within. Its street markets and street culture continues to play out as if one is wandering through a set of a play or a movie on how life used to be in Asia. Yes, Hanoi is modernising, but it is wise enough to know that what brings visitors here and what keeps the fabric of Hanoi society together is its heritage and distinctly Vietnamese traditions. This is the very fabric that helps us build tour product with an air of exclusivity about it, whether a private evening exploration of the Temple of Literature or a simple visit to a rural Buddhist pagoda where time has stood still, Hanoi enchants and delivers on all fronts.
EARLY MORNING MARKETS, RITUALS, RESIDENTIAL STREETS & LOCAL CAFES HANOI’S MORNING GLORY Hanoians tend to rise at dawn, and this short early morning tour gives an opportunity to experience a side of the city and its culture that few visitors are privy to. After departing your hotel very early in the morning visit the fresh vegetable wholesale market (named Cho Rau Dau Cau) which operates daily from 0400 - 0630 am. This is where the farmers from the coun-tryside bring their wholesale produce to the city for sale. Early in the morning it has to be Hanoi’s busiest spot and simply disappears by 7am.
Next visit the lively and very colorful flower market (Cho Hoa) which is a photographers’ delight and again its most active early in the morning. You will see vendors carting their flowers off on the back of their bicycles and riding through the Hanoi streets
Continue to Hanoi’s nearby West Lake area, where you may choose to take a brisk walk or a bicycle ride around the paths of the quiet foreshore and the nearby residential streets, which are a popular place for the Hanoi local residents to socialize and enjoy their early morning exercises. There is the opportunity for the energetic to join with the locals in some Tai Chi. Visit a small local pagoda rarely frequented by foreigners, and take a break for a traditional Vietnamese coffee with the locals by the lake before returning to your hotel. On special request, for small groups or individuals, we can add-in a meet with martial art instructors at their school or a pagoda or park (subject to availability, with surcharge payable).
MUSIC, PRIVATE ACCESS, PERFORMANCE, GRAND ARCHITECTURE BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE OPERA
The Opera House is one of the most photographed sites in Hanoi, with most visitors to the city including a stop to view the outside of this iconic building during their city sightseeing tour. It is usually not possible during the day to visit the inside of the building, however indus experiences can now offer our clients the unique opportunity to attend an evening perfor-mance (Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra or an alternative special performance if scheduled) which is held at this historic venue on selected dates. Amid the flow of history, The Hanoi Opera House stands as the architectural, cultural and political symbol of the 1000 year old Capital. Constructed by the French colonial administration between 1901 and 1911, it was modeled on the Palais Garnier in Paris, and is considered to be one of the architectural landmarks of Hanoi. Its design is influenced by the European architectural style under the Renaissance period.
Besides its use as a theatre, the Hanoi Opera House has also been a historical witness to the most significant events the city’s recent history including the Revolution of Hanoi in 1945 and the first key meetings of the National Assembly in 1946. Completely restored in 1995 the Opera House is now a cultural center of the country and a cultural landmark in Southeast Asia. Enjoy enjoy a glass of champagne at the Opera Garden prior to the performance and a private talk on the history of the building. After the performance you have exclusive access to visit the backstage area to be introduced to some of the performers – a unique experience to meet and interact with these talented musicians. This special evening is capped off with a late dinner at one of Hanoi’s finest restaurants. Please note, selective dates will apply for this excur-sion. Please contact us for further infromation.
STREET CUISINE, HOSTED CHEF, SIDEWALK CAFES, AUTHENTIC DISHES
BUDDHIST CENTRES, MEDITATION, RIVER COMMUNITIES
HANOI’S STREET FOOD WITH CULINARY EXPERT
RED RIVER BUDDHIST PAGODA (with meditation and lunch)
Private tour is available on Mon/Thu/Sat from 9:45 AM~14:15PM
Many photo opportunities will be available in this bustling, vibrant and colorful scene. Afterwards enjoy a Vietnamese Cà Phê (coffee) or Trà (tea) with the locals at one of Daniel’s favorite sidewalk cafes. Here Daniel will give an overview of the Vietnamese food scene, particularly in Hanoi, and discuss the daily life and culture of Vietnam from a well-informed expatriate’s perspective.
This morning journey out of the hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s crowded capital into the quiet and traditional countryside areas of the Red River Delta to visit one of the finest pagodas in northern Vietnam But Thap. Known as Vietnam’s first Buddhist center, the pagoda was first built under the dynasty of King Tran Thanh Tong (1258-1278) and rebuilt in 1647 in the Le Dynasty by Buddhist priest Zhus Zhus.
Continue your exploration of the city and its street food and then enjoy lunch with Daniel at one of Hanoi’s Pho Cuong establishments, to enjoy traditional grilled beef and rice noodle rolls with fresh herbs, along with several other favorite local snacks.
With more than 100 compartments, But Thap is larger than most other pagodas in the north of the country. Inside the pagoda are more than 50 statues of different sizes with the most remarkable a thousand-handed and thousand-eyed Guanyin, which is described as a sculptural masterpiece of Vietnam.
Daniel Hoyer is a well-known Hanoi chef and a renowned culinary writer, who authored Culinary Vietnam amongst other titles, and presides over the kitchen at Provecho. A morning spent with Daniel allows the opportunity to see one side of Hanoi from his perspective, using food as an insight to Vietnam. Daniel takes guests to places tourists wouldn’t normally venture on their own where most guidebooks neglect to mention, hence guests will see daily life in the city as it has always been.
The morning experience starts with a visit to either the Chợ Hôm or Chợ Châu Long market to learn about and taste some of the ingredients used in the local cuisine and to admire the buying and selling rituals of a Vietnamese market. Daniel will introduce the guests to some of the vendors, explain about the ingredients for sale and assist with purchasing items to take home.
Leaving But Thap pagoda, guests will visit nearby Bong Lai pagoda and here they will enjoy the unique chance to practice meditation with the monks for thirty minutes followed by a special vegetarian lunch prepared by the Pagoda’s resident nuns from natural ingredients. Guests may interact with the nuns to understand more about their practice of Vietnamese Buddhism, their life experiences and their charitable activities within the community.
COLONIAL MANSIONS, HISTORICAL GRANDEUR, CULTURAL INFLUENCES HANOI’S FRENCH LEGACY BY VINTAGE CAR (with lunch) Hanoi has been referred to as ‘Asia’s most Asian city’, however the legacies from the period of French Colonialism still permeate the city and adds to the allure of Vietnam’s capital. Spend today exploring Hanoi’s historical vestiges by vintage car and your local guide. First visit St. Joseph’s Cathedral, a neo-Gothic edifice with twin bell towers to match those of Notre Dame de Paris, completed in 1886. Next, the vintage car will bring you to the Hanoi Opera House, which stands as the architectural, cultural and political symbol of this 1000 year old Capital. Constructed by the French colonial administration between 1901 and 1911, it was modeled on the beautiful Palais Garnier in Paris.
Drive and walk down Phan Dinh Phung Street, arguably Hanoi’s, if not Vietnam’s most attractive boulevard filled with both restored and rustic French built villas. Your guide will point out some of the hidden treasures here.
Continuing the drive along some of Hanoi’s charming streets before stopping for lunch at La Verticale, often acknowledged as the city’s finest French eatery. The French owner and chef Didier Courlou has cre-ated this timeless establishment renowned for its fine French cuisine with a Vietnamese twist, located in a four-story 1930’s French townhouse. This afternoon visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the University of Medicine and the History Museum, with its distinct Indochine style. Late afternoon visit the Long Bien Bridge – one of the most iconic landmarks in the capital and now regarded as a sym-bol of the city’s tenacity and spirit. Commissioned by the French Governor General of Indochina, when the bridge opened in 1903 it was one of the longest bridges in Asia, and was of strategic importance in securing the areas north of the city and providing ac-cess to the seaport at Hai Phong. There is the chance to walk all or part way across the bridge to enjoy the views and take advantage of the photographic opportunities.
TEMPLE OF LEARNING, MANDARINS, CONFUSIONISM, STONE STELEAS TEMPLE UNDER THE STARS (private access)
Founded in 1076, Van Mieu, or the Temple of Literature, was built by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong to honor academics and men of literary accomplishment.
Enter the site from its main entrance after six o’clock in the evening. The temple site is often soflty lit at night when private access is given.
Six years later, Vietnam’s first university was founded here to teach the children of royalty and aristocracy. In 1484, another Emperor Le Thanh Tong had stele erected in one of the courtyards to record the statistics and achievements of those who received doctorates from the university. The school continued until its functions were transferred by Emperor Gia Long to the new capital at Hue in 1802.
Stroll alone through the venue with a glass of wine accompanied by our local expert guide soaking up the tranquility, illuminated by the night-lights of the monument and its Confusious temple. A priviledge only few have been accorded.
While during the day, this historic complex, one of the highlights of an Hanoi city tour, can become crowded with other tourists and vendors our exclusively nego-tiated evening access enables you the chance to fully appreciate the majesty of this monument in solitude and provides a respite from both the tourist scene and the bustle of Hanoi’s street life beyond its walls.
Due to the private access costs involved we generally recommend this special visit to small group parties rather than indivdiuals.
After your evening visit continue with dinner at one of Hanoi’s finest restaurants.
HUE & DANANG (THE CENTRE)
With such a short distance between them no two cities could be more at odds with each other. Hue, the former Imperial Capital, exudes charm and history and is very much enriched by its intrisic culture and traditions that continue to this day with little outside interference. With its restored Imperical Citadel, its lands decorated with magnificent tombs of the Emperors, its ancient pagodas and serene Perfume River, Hue is possibly Vietnam’s prettiest city and its inhabitants intend to keep it that way. With so much to offer, culturally, Hue has an abundance of tour product to warrant an extended stay and yet, the beaches of Danang, its cutting edge resorts and the tourist friendly town of Hoi An tends to attract the long stayer in search of relaxation, shopping and luxury. But away from that, the region holds many surprises in its diverse landscape and hidden areas of beauty. From ancient relics of a former civilsation to rural villages of ethinic minorities that still maintain their authenticity, to serene countryside where rice is cultivated and buffalos roam, Danang and its environs offers far more than may meet the eye. Explore and stay a little longer in this region as these experiences will be the ones remembered most.
ANCIENT CIVILISATIONS, KINGDOMS, TOWERS & SCULPTURES UNCOVERING THE MYSTERIOUS CHAM (private access) My Son, located approximately 70 km southwest of Danang, was the former capital of this mysterious ancient Cham civilization. The Cham religion was primarily derived from Indian Hinduism and the ruins at My Son, are considered to be the most extensive and best-preserved Cham relics in Vietnam. The My Son complex is comprised of seventy Hindu-like towers and temples that connect to each other with complicated red brick designs. This important archeological site represents the longest continuous occupation for religious purposes within Southeast Asia as a whole, and is now under UNESCO protection as a World Heritage Site and conservation efforts under way. 20
Begin your visit early afternoon first to explore the My Son complex with our local guide, where there is time to explore the ruins.
Learn about the restoration efforts, and you may even be able to enjoy the traditional Cham dance performance at the site (only show starts at 2:30PM). After departing My Son travel to Danang, where we have arranged special after hours access to visit the world renowned Cham Museum to complete your understanding of the Champa kingdom, its culture and history. The museum was built by the French in 1915 and most of the artifacts it houses were retrieved from My Son, and thus saved from the ravages of war that followed. You have the exclusive privilege of being able to wander through the museum in the early evening after closing time, when all other visitors have departed, whilst enjoying a glass of wine. Wander in solitude along the frangipani lined entranceway to the halls of stone work and art from different periods of the Champa kingdom with our escort, an expert on Cham history and culture.
ROYAL ARCHITECTURE, FENG SHUI PRINCIPALS, EMPERORS & MANDARINS HUE’S RELIGIOUS PRACTICES & MYSTERIOUS BELIEFS Hue used to be the Capital of the Nguyen dynasty, the last royal monarchy in the history of Vietnam. The architecture of the Ancient Capital of Hue reflects a deeply Vietnamese traditional soul. In 1993, the complex of Hue monuments was included in UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage. First first visit the Imperial Citadel with a distinct fo-cus on the beliefs behind its structure and royal ar-chitecture with an expert guide. Then visit one of the royal tombs, each with its own characteristics, some small, some grand. Guests will learn about the eastern phi-losophy of Feng Shui which influenced their con-struction and underlies their design. 22
Hidden in the nearby forest is the delightful Tu Hieu Pagoda and monastery. It best represents the religious architecture of Hue where most of the population is devoted to Buddhism. Arriving prior to noon see the monks praying inside.
Later head further into the residential districts where one can find the traditional Hue garden homes. These are wooden houses, elaborately carved and decorated, located in the middle of large gardens with beautiful bonsai and ancient trees. Hue’s garden houses used to be the living places of royal relatives, royal officials, elite families, poets and writers during the time when Hue was the capital of Vietnam. Today ancestors are worshiped in the main buildings while their descendants are living in the divided parts of the home. It can be said that these garden houses are a link between royal and folk architecture from the time when Hue was the epicentre of Vietnamese cul-ture. Lunch will be hosted at the exclusive garden house named Tha Om which only excepts one booking per day. After lunch, continue to visit the European quarter in Hue which had been constructed on the Southern bank of the Perfume river during French rule to see some of the colonial style buildings from this era.
HIDDEN EMPEROR’S TOMBS, COUNTRYSIDE LANES, RIVERSIDE SETTINGS
RELIGIOUS PRACTICES, BELIEFS, CULTURAL EXCHANGE
GIA LONG TOMB BY BICYCLE (with picnic lunch)
LUNCH AT A HUE NUNNERY
Discover the countryside and hidden back roads of Hue by bicycle on this captivating excursion to visit the lesser known Tomb of Emperor Gia Long.
Depart early in the morning and ride out of the town centre along the smaller roads, fol-lowing the banks of the Perfume River.
Gia Long was the first of the Nguyen dynasty emperors. After more than 20 years of almost continuous warfare, he succeeded in ending the Tay Son rebellion and, for the first time unifying all of what we recognize today as Vietnam. His tomb is located 18km from Hue making it the most distant of the major tombs. It’s a sprawling, serene complex set in picturesque hill country. While few of the structures remain, Gia Long’s sarcophagus survived the Vietnam War era battles that destroyed other structures here.
Along the way pass landscapes of traditional Vietnam, with charming views over the river and the surrounding countryside. Meander tranquil country roads largely free of other tourists, passing by small villages, some local craft workshops, small shrines and pagodas, and then taking a local ferryboat across the Perfume River with the locals.
Being the furthest from Hue, Gia Long’s tomb is the least visited and the most difficult to get to, but arguably the most significant - his tomb was the template for those of the Emperors that followed.
After taking time to explore the tomb enjoy a picnic lunch to appreciate the tranquil setting. Afterwards cycle back to the river where you may elect to either cycle or travel by vehicle back to Hue city centre for the remainder of the day.
After crossing the river, continue cycling the short distance along the village pathways to the tomb.
Hue is considered as the center of Buddhism in Vietnam and the city and surrounding rural areas have many pagodas that have been built in the last 400 years. Although small compared to other pagodas, Dong Thien Pagoda is a very special place, where our guests may visit and enjoy a modest but delicious Buddhist vegetarian lunch with the pagoda’s friendly resident nuns. Peacefully located on top of a hill in the countryside outside the city, Dong Thien is surrounded by lush countryside and pleasant views. There is a distinct air of tranquility, and time seems to pass much slower here. The pagoda has a beautiful yard and a garden that supplies the vegetables for the nuns.
Arriving at Dong Thien Pagoda follow a beautiful path in the cool shade of the trees while go-ing uphill. From the vantage point, enjoy the views and admire the serene location of the pagoda before entering through the main gate. Take a walk around the pagoda and visit the main hall with its beautiful collection of Buddha statues. Guests will have chance to talk with the chief nun who is a master of Zen, and note the influence of this peaceful philosophy that is evident everywhere. Visit the kitchen and meet the nuns who will prepare your lunch to experience the typical vegetarian lunchtime meal of the nuns in Hue. After lunch, guests can enjoy some dessert and interact with the nuns to discover more about their lives in the pagoda, their practice of Buddhism, and how they came to become nuns.
PRESERVED VILLAGES, HOME HOSTED MEAL, TIMELESS ATMOSPHERE
ETHNIC MINORITIES, MOUNTAIN ESCAPE, JEEP RIDE
PHUOC TICH ANCIENT VILLAGE, HUE (with lunch)
MINORITY VILLAGES BY JEEP, DANANG (with lunch)
Depart Hue early morning and transfer to Phuoc Tich, an ancient village dating back to the 15th century and located around 37 kilometers north. Phuoc Tich has all of the cultural elements of an ancient Central Vietnamese village that many other villages in the country have not been able to maintain. This quaint village is circled by the O Lau river with winding walkways along the riverbanks. Traditional crafts, crumbling communal houses, small temples, river wharfs, and spacious ancient houses in various stages of disrepair are nestled amongst the evergreen trees. Choose to walk or ride a bicycle with your local guide to explore the village. 26
Visit some of Phuoc Tich’s ancient houses (known as “Nha Ruong”) which are believed to be between 100 and 500 years old. Surprisingly many are still well preserved up to now with most residents not seeing the value in changing the face of the house for commercal purposes.
Most local homes here are made by lacquered ironwood, tile covered roofs and graceful green fences. This area is rarely visited by tourists and retains its traditional atmosphere and way of life. Depending on the season there may be the opportunity to watch rice planting, harvesting, or the fields being ploughed and locals working in their vegetable gardens. Some local villagers also weave mats and baskets from a type of locally grown grass, in order to supplement their income. Follow the path along the river to enjoy the rural scenery, communal houses, traces of Cham cultural relics, local crafts and stop to chat with the local residents you will meet along the way. Enjoy a home-hosted lunch at one of the ancient houses in the village, or a picnic meal before returning to Hue in the mid afternoon.
A relatively short drive from Hoi An or Danang, Bho Hoong village of traditional Co Tu minority can be visited in a day by Army Jeeps.
After the walk, enjoy a traditional Co Tu lunch and music performance. Alternatively, a picnic lunch can be arranged from Danang or Hoi An for a surcharge.
Journey by jeep from the golden coast to the emer-ald mountains through quaint villages and hamlets in the Thu Bon river delta on the way to the ethnic minority Co Tu village of Bho Hoong where guests can capture a glimpse of everyday rural Vietnamese lifestyle.
Leaving Co Tu village, make your way through more tea plantations to Trung Mung commune where you will be introduced to the Co Tu’s former king – Y Khong and his family.
Stop en-route to see farm-ers at work in the fields and the tea plantations that line the elevated hill sides. Upon entering one of the few remaining hilltribe vil-lages in Central Vietnam take a light guided walk with a local resident and explore the communities and unlock its cultural secrets.
Under their hospitality enjoy a cup of tea or coffee or even a nip of traditional Co Tu rice wine. As you drink and converse, enjoy the traditional wood carvings and other cultural items in the households. Explore the villages until late afternoon before journeying back to Hoi An - seemingly a dif-ferent world away.
(HO CHI MINH CITY) Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, as it is officially called, is Vietnam’s epi-centre. Although we can say Saigon is not Vietnam that would simply not do this remarkable city justice. It is here that the country is speeding ahead in its zealous approach to development. 28
Modern shopping malls, manicured streets and parks, towering skyscrapers, international brands, luxurious hotels, stylish bars and restaurants and lots and lots of beautiful people! Saigon, for the Saigonese is all about style. Sadly, all of this comes at a price, with the rapid demise of prized French colonial architecture, however, the real, old Saigon is still there. It may be harder to find but with insight, local knowledge and a sense of adventure we try to bring this to the forefront in our selection of newly created tour product found in these pages. Whether you wish to sip cocktails from a modern day sky bar, or walk down hidden alleys to find a pagoda or street market that hasn’t changed in centuries, Saigon has everything you could wish for in an Asian city. It is a difficult city to know but it is all there to be embraced.
FLOWER MARKETS, MEDICINAL HERBS, MARTIAL ARTS, MODERN HISTORY SECRET SAIGON
In this special morning tour, explore this vibrant, electric city, moving away from the initial tourist-type sights to some of the lesser-visited but equally interesting places in the city. The trip starts early morning with a visit to a local flower mar-ket in District 10, where varieties of flowers are sold. This busy local market has about 100 trading house-holds and is said to receive between 1,000-3000 flow-er boxes daily, depending on the season, which are then traded to buyers who visit from all areas of the city.
Back to the city center enjoy some cool drinks at one of the best local coffee shops in Saigon - Tram coffee. This popular coffee shop for local residents is located alongside a pagoda, and offers a tranquil environment filled with water pools and green plants.
Continue to visit the first and only museum in the city that specializes in Vietnamese traditional medicine – the Fito Museum. This very first museum of traditional medicine in Vietnam has been skillfully crafted with stunning interiors made from wood. Frames of wooden houses were transported from some northern provinces to give the museum an an-tique look. Afterwards, visit the local home of a friendly chef who is willing to show some of her favorite local dishes and invite guests to dine with the family.
In the heart of the city visit the building where the last helicopter evacuated employees of the U. S. Government. This apartment building became an icon of the Fall of Saigon in 1975. A Dutch photographer, Hubert van Es, working for UPI, took the famous photograph that captured the last chaotic days of the war. Whilst not normally accessible to the public, subject to special advance permission, a visit to this rooftop may be organized.
Nearby visit the 100 year old Nam Chom temple built as a place of worship for local residents. Everyday martial artists gather around to practice Vietnamese Kungfu called Nam Huynh Dao. If lucky, you may meet and join a Kungfu class with the instructor.
DANCE, DRAMA, MUSIC, STORY TELLING, ACROBATICS
LIGHTS, ACTION, STREET LIFE, COCKTAILS, VESPA RIDE
‘A O’ PERFORMANCE
SAIGON NIGHT MOVES
Commencing early in 2013, an innovative new entertainment option named the ‘A O Show’ has been added into the evening “should see” performances in Ho Chi Minh City. The A O show has been created by the same group of artists who successfully created the Lang Toi show since 2009 and have performed more than 200 shows world wide. That show received much attention, praise and support from international press and media. The A O Show was inspired by Lang Toi, and pledged with a mission to enrich the entertainment scene of Ho Chi Minh city.
The aim of the A O Show is to introduce to the au-dience the transformation of modern Vietnamese society and its people. The A O show aims to take the audience to the serene and beautiful village of South Vietnam and swiftly transfer them back to the ruckus of the hasty city life. Bamboo and its use in the daily life of Vietnamese is applied as key visual throughout the show.
Performances and routines are presented in groups according to the nature of each scene. Performers are diverse in term of background, from circus performers, acrobats, jugglers, martial arts performers to refine street-style dancers. Musicians play live the music using traditional musical instruments - including those rare instruments that can only be played by a handful of Vietnamese. While the music plot is being set, the musicians are inspired to play according to the act & the feel of the artists. Each A O Show performance lasts approximately 60 minutes and is held at Saigon’s famous Opera House right in the city center. After the performance, you will have the chance for a friendly chat with the show’s director or artists, where you will be able to raise as many question as you want in relevance to the performance
Saigon is a frenetic city with a palpable energy that never seems to cease, even as the night falls. This evening’s experience is partly night excursion, partly street food adventure, and a chance to experience the energy of this vibrant city by night. At 6PM guests are picked up by antique vespa or sidecar and the first stop is a favorite local hideaway to ‘watch the world go by’ and to enjoy a cocktail and appetizer before adventuring into one of the popular local eating spots for a dinner of Southern Vietnamese favourite dishes. Guests experience the nightlife of Saigon as the way locals do, all from the back of a vintage Vespa scooter or riding in a motorbike sidecar.
Located on the 26th floor in the heart of Saigon, this uber modern rooftop bar provides unsurpassed views of this vibrant and ever changing city below. The two-story bar features a state of the art sound system with indoor and outdoor lounges and aweinspiring views. Designed by the same creators as the renowned Soroco Bar in Bangkok, the designers have now brought their sophisticated flair to Saigon and the bar has proved to be very popular with visitors and locals alike. Afterwards return to your hotel with your driver, or alternatively you may choose to continue your ad-venture exploring the delights of Saigon by night.
Ride through busy streets and quiet alleys to see the city’s local nightlife and places that foreign tourists normally would not discover. Continue to a hidden Vietnamese-style bar frequented by young local residents to experience a taste of the budding Vietnamese live music scene and finish with a cocktail at the Chill Skybar.
RIVER LIFE, TROPICAL GARDENS, RELAXING TREATMENTS TIME OUT SAIGON For weary travellers yearning to leave behind the pressure of everyday life or in need of a relaxing day after long trip in Vietnam guests can visit a haven of luxurious surroundings, soothing sounds and rippling waters - Thao Dien sanctuary offers the perfect spa retreat. Drawing on traditional healing art with modern day touches, the spa menu merges old with new to create treatments that recharge your body’s essential energies and envelop you in a world of new discovery. In minutes, leave the urban metropolis behind by speedboat to emerge along scenic jungle-fringed canals and minor tributaries where locals still observe more traditional ways of life. 34
On arrival at Thao Dien Village enjoy a massage from their selection, and afterwards indulge in the sauna or their on site swimming pool overlooking the Saigon River.
After your spa experience continue by speedboat to Binh An Village where you will enjoy a specially prepared lunch or dinner. Binh An Village is conveniently located just 8 km from Saigon city center on Thanh Da Island, however it feels like it could be a world away. The village is situated on 12,000 square metres of land and offers an open air-dining experience surrounded by gorgeous tropical gardens and coconut trees by the banks of the Saigon River. After your set menu lunch or dinner at Binh An Village, transfer back to the city centre by speedboat (or by road for dinner guests). This package will cover the return transfers between Saigon city center to Thao Dien village by speedboat (transfer back by road for dinner guests), one massage session at the Authentic Spa, and set menu lunch or dinner at Binh An Village.
BIRD PARKS, TAI CHI, WORSHIP & LOCAL NOODLES
INSPIRING ARCHITECTURE, EMERGING ART, COMMUNITY ARTISTS
SAIGON’S MORNING GLORY
VIETNAM’S ART THROUGH THE AGES (with expert)
Created for the early riser, this delightful pick me up tour starts at 6AM to catch the first rays of the sun and a chance to see Saigon waking up to a new day. The traffic is light at this hour and you will be fully immersed in the atmosphere of the city. The first stop is ‘Tao Dan Park’ where local people each morning practice the art of Thai Cuc Quyen - or slow-motion shadow boxing. There is the opportunity to exercise with a local instructor in Tai Chi either by yourself or with others. Guests can stroll around the park to a small pagoda where you are likely to see locals engaged in their daily prayers. Buddhism in Vietnam has had a symbiotic relationship with Taoism and Chinese spirituality as well as aspects of indigenous Vietnamese religion. 36
From here continue to walk to the other side of the park to reach the Bird Café where guests can hear the songs of beautiful birds chirping while enjoying a cup of coffee as the locals do. Next continue on to visit a local residential market where shoppers haggle over the fresh produce on offer and stroll through as the sellers set up their stalls and prepare for the day’s trading. Finally visit a family-owned restau-rant to enjoy a bowl of Pho – Vietnam’s famous noo-dle soup, before returning to your hotel. There are many aspects of life in Asia that only occur early in the morning and this tour offers the chance to see certain aspects that simply do not exist after breakfast.
This morning take a closer look at the major shifts in 20th and 21st century Vietnam through the eyes of artists. From the grand halls of the HCMC Fine Art Museum to the fresh white spaces of leading con-temporary art galleries, this journey will take you from colonialism to independence, communism to globalization. This special tour is not just for art lovers but for all those who want to gain a deeper understanding of Vietnam’s modern and contemporary history and will be conducted by an English speaking native expert to provide a clearer appreciation of Vietnamese art. The tour begins at a café where our expert will join you for breakfast. An overview of what you can expect from the morning is given along with a historical background that sets the stage for the tour. The first stop on the tour is a collection of works by students at the first French founded School of Fine Arts housed in a traditional Saigon villa. Using visual aids clients are invited to see the striking depictions of 1930’s and 1940’s Vietnam.
Guests are then taken to a gallery showing the largest private collection of propaganda art in Vietnam. Here learn about how propaganda was produced and distributed and how the style was influenced by Vietnam’s relationship to Russia and China. The t our c ontinues t o H CMC F ine A rts M useum, an impressive example of Sino-French architecture, where you could see work of wartime artists. See the difference between pre and post reuni-fication and learn how politics lead to Vietnam’s 90’s art market boom. Next visit a contemporary art gallery which works with Vietnamese and international artists nurturing experimentation and creating opportunities for emerging artists. Meet the Director and talk about the current exhibition and the challenges local artists face. Visit an area across the Saigon River in District 2, where a number of local artists reside in almost an artists’ community setting.
indus experiences Selective Journeys
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