Summary : A journey rich with new destinations, start your adventure with an overnight in the happy cacophony of scooters and street-sellers in former Saigon. Then, be prepared for a palette of sights and experiences – the incredible floating flower market of Cai Be, the labyrinthine caves and grottoes of Phong Nha-Ke Bang and the remote Chinese villages of Zhuang. Asia has never been so beautiful.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Embark the ship and meet your Expedition Team. Enjoy time to familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, and meet fellow travelers.
With Silver Discoverer snuggly alongside in Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon as it is locally known) we would like to offer you the choice of several unique opportunities for exploring the city. Perhaps you would like to start your morning with a morning Tai Chi session in one of the oldest parks in Ho Chi Minh City. With a 6:30 am start time, appreciate the early morning rays as you experience the morning like a local. After class, relax with a glass of the famous Vietnamese coffee, then jump in a rickshaw cyclo to visit a market. Stroll the stalls and see how local people shop for their daily groceries, meats and other exotic items.
Starting slightly later in the morning, you will have the choice to set out on a tour exploring the highlights this vibrant city from the back of a motor scooter to travel as local people do daily. By scooter we will visit attractions such as a flower market and an atmospheric pagoda in Chinatown. Your driver will then zip you back to the city center to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral. Next to the cathedral is the Grand Central Post Office, designed by Gustav Eiffel offering visitors a chance to imagine life in the time of the Indochinese Empire. Change to motor coaches for your final stop at Ben Thanh market, where you will enjoy a glass of Vietnamese coffee.
Many travelers appreciate Vietnam’s rich history and the Cu Chi Tunnels are an incredible network of hundreds of miles of narrow tunnels that were built during resistance to the French colonization and utilized extensively during the Vietnam War. The tunnels give an amazing insight into life during the war. If you prefer using the day to dive into this history, join us on a guided exploration of Vietnam’s past.
The day begins with a transfer from Ho Chi Minh City by speedboat along the banks of the Saigon River to meet a Vietnamese war veteran who will share his experiences of living in the tunnels with you. Before exploring the tunnels watch a short introductory film to gain a better understanding of the tunnel network. Some have been enlarged, so it is possible to go inside, but there is also so much to see above ground. After your exploration, stop for lunch at a local restaurant where you will meet a reputed United Press International photographer during the Vietnam War to gain a deeper understanding of Vietnam’s history.
Alternatively, begin the day with a visit to the History Museum, set in the Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The Museum now houses artifacts illustrating the evolution of Vietnamese culture from ancient times to the 1930s, when Vietnam’s Communist Party was founded. Then visit the Reunification Palace built on the site of the former Norodom Palace. Continue to Notre Dame Cathedral and the classic 19th century French colonial Post Office. The largest post office in Vietnam, it is an important communications hub for city inhabitants.
After lunch at local restaurant, explore Cholon, “Chinatown,” and a prosperous area that has been engaged in trading activities since the 17th century. Known for its Chinese delis, ancient quarters, old temples and pagodas, the area reflects original architecture and age-old rituals. Transfer to visit a Quan Am pagoda built in the 18th century. Unchanged for hundreds of years, the pagoda offers a serene escape from the bustling atmosphere of Chinatown. Meet with Dr. Duong Ngoc Dung to learn more about Vietnam culture and religions.
In one final half-day offering for Saigon, learn the fundamentals of delicious Vietnamese cuisine from preparation to presentation at the GRAIN cooking school. Founded by local celebrity chef Luke Nguyen, GRAIN promises to offer visitors a unique culinary experience. Transfer from the port to the lively Ben Thanh Market where your guide will help you pick out the exotic vegetables, spices and herbs that will be used in today’s cooking lesson. After exploring the market, drive to the GRAIN cooking studio for your hands-on four-course cooking classes. Once you’ve finished your menu, savor each dish as you sit down to feast on the fruits of your labor.
Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon as it is locally known) lies on the Saigon River, a tributary of the massive Mekong River delta. Silver Discoverer will spend the day cruising in the river system downstream to the sea. Join the Expedition Team out on deck as the ship navigates the bends of the river. Mangrove forests along the shore contain nipa palms, red mangroves, and swiftlet condominiums for the cultivation of lucrative birds’ nest soup. The morning’s passage will bring both small local fishing boats and large cargo vessels as they carry goods back and forth on this busy river system.
Join the Expedition Team for any workshops or lectures that are offered today, and enhance your knowledge of Vietnam’s natural and cultural history.
Silver Discoverer will anchor in the early morning hours in front of Cai Be, a small town of Tien Giang Province. Upon arrival you may choose to board a local boat and glide through the waterways of the Mekong Delta passing the floating market that sells everything from seasonal fruits to rice noodles for breakfast. Disembark at a local village where you will be able to visit one of the ancient houses. Enjoy refreshments while spending time with the owner of the property. The final stop will be at a local primary school where you can teach the children some English words while you brush up on your Vietnamese before returning to the ship at anchor.
Perhaps you will be keen for an offering that gets you moving, in which case transfer by bus from the landing jetty to the small village that is home of the coveted, “Hoa Loc mango.” Here we will use bicycles to explore beautifully intimate roads that reveal traditional houses and the rhythms of daily life. Next, enjoy a boat cruise to An Binh Island to take a small rowboat deeper into the peaceful countryside on small canals. A short walk will bring you to a local house for a taste of some local snacks with hot tea.
In several Mekong Delta provinces the local people preserve a traditional way of fishing in which they manually drain ditches to catch fish. Today you will have the option to work alongside local farmers who will teach you the art of “Bailing ditches – Catching Fish.” After boarding local boats, cruise to a nearby canal where the floating market of Cai Be takes place. Here you will visit a local house and be given a “bà ba” – a southern Vietnamese traditional dress – to wear. It is here, under the guidance of the locals that you will learn to bail ponds and catch fish. After your hard work, enjoy a well-deserved cup of tea and snacks, while listening to folk music. In this peaceful land, friends and neighbors often gather together to share moments like this.
Once back aboard Silver Discoverer, the Captain and officers will chart a course for our next stop at Con Som, Vietnam. This gives us time to enjoy an afternoon at sea. Possibly you’ll opt to visit the gym, enjoy a relaxing appointment in the spa, or attend any number of lectures from the Expedition Team that will recap the highlights thus far and prepare you for the coming days in Vietnam.
Sleep in today and perhaps attend a lecture presentation as you enjoy a morning at sea. Around lunchtime, Silver Discoverer will anchor outside of Con Dao, an area that had a reputation as a labor camp. Today, it is a place for the Vietnamese to remember and express their gratitude to fallen soldiers.
Once ashore, use the afternoon to visit the Con Dao historical museum, where black and white photographs present a chilling reminder of the past. Next, visit the historical pier no. 914 where it is said 914 prisoners died while constructing the pier. Continue to Phu Hai and Phu Son prison, dating back to 1862 and the largest of the 11 jails on the island. Meet a local war veteran who will give you a personal insight into those trying times. Your final stop before returning to Silver Discoverer for the evening is Mrs. Phi Yen temple.
As Silver Discoverer steams up the southern coast of Vietnam, members of the Expedition Team will be on the bridge and out on deck watching for seabirds or schools of feeding fish. Take advantage of the fresh air and boundless vistas and spend time with Silversea’s expert expedition team on deck, and of course inside, for a wealth of lecture presentations through the day.
Today you may choose to discover Qui Nhon, a city of around 300,000 people, through its history and culture with a visit to the Quang Trung Museum. On arrival you will be met by the museum’s curator and ladies in traditional “ao dai” dress offering flowers. Wander through the displays of costumes, documents, artifacts and various statues before watching a demonstration of Vo Binh Dinh martial art in which participants fight using bamboo sticks. Continue to the Twin Towers, which have a unique architecture of both Cham peoples. A visit to the tower is a chance to learn more about the ancient Cham culture of the region.
If you prefer a sampling of the local nature, join your expedition team for a more slow paced morning on Hon Ngang Island. After transferring from the mainland by local boat, spend time on this tiny, private island. Enjoy a picnic on the beach, relax, and take in the tranquil ocean panorama. Wander around your private island, take a cool swim if you like, indulge in a bit of sunbathing, or a spot of snorkeling. Feeling fully refreshed board your local boats once more for the journey back to the mainland.
From your berth in the busy port, you may like to discover the highlights of Da Nang on a half-day tour and save the afternoon for independent exploration of this city and its colonial architecture. Da Nang boasts tree-lined boulevards with sidewalk cafes and old colonial villas. On the tour, visit a renowned Lady Buddha and tour the Cham Museum with a celebrated lecturer followed by a rickshaw cyclo ride around the city, with a stop at the lively Han Market. We continue to the Marble Mountains where both the Vietnamese and the Cham used these mountains to build shrines, making it a picturesque spot with numerous grottoes, caves and pagodas.
An alternative offering for you today is a visit to Hoi An, a quiet and tranquil town and UNESCO World Heritage Site, located south of Da Nang. Stroll the quaint town and local market to arrive at ‘The Market’ restaurant to sample local foods. Later join the cooking demonstration designed by a talented chef and authority on Vietnamese cuisine. Once your culinary skills have been honed, sit back and relax over the lunch that you have just cooked.
The best way to visit Hoi An is on foot, and so there is also a walking tour of the city that visits Hoi An’s historic town houses, assembly halls, and a Ceramic Museum where you will be guided by an expert in the conservation of the ancient town.
In the spirit of adventure, another option is to visit Tra Que, a charming little village close to Hoi An – by bicycle. At the village, in the home of your host, there will be welcome drinks and freshly picked fruits. Explore the charming village to learn about its history and customs and join in traditional farming methods picking vegetables and herbs, and learning how to wrap them to prevent damage. Your host will offer a cooking demonstration with the family. Try your hand at making the village’s special spring rolls. Lunch will be made from the fruits of your labor.
Silver Discoverer will anchor off Dong My early this morning for what promises to be another busy morning of exploring the Vietnamese coast. Here we offer three caving options. The first is to Paradise Cave located inside the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park containing the oldest karst mountains in Asia. Transfer from the quayside by bus and then buggy to reach the entrance of Paradise Cave, which measures 31 km in length. Ornate natural stalactites and pillars skirt wooden walkways through the cave’s many chambers. At its largest the cave is 100 meters high and 150 meters wide. After exploring Paradise Cave, stop at a local lakeside resort for light refreshments before heading back to Dong My and Silver Discoverer.
Perhaps opt to visit Phong Nha Cave in the Ke Bang Forest instead. This cave is 7.7 km long with 14 grottos and a 14 km long underground river. The journey to reach the cave will require a 30 minute journey by small boat to the mouth of the cave. Gliding into the cave you will marvel at the stalagmites and stalactites and enjoy some time to explore with your guide and expedition team.
Afterwards visit the house of Mr Ho Khanh who stumbled upon Son Doong Cave in the cave system, but for years he could not find it again. After many expeditions the cave was re-discovered and since then Khanh has been a guide for researchers exploring caves in the area. Spend some time at his homestay and chat with him over a refreshing beer.
Alternatively, if you are a real cave enthusiast, you may want to intimately explore another part of the cave system. The ‘Dark Cave’ is 5.5 km long and 80 meters high and is still without lights to spoil the experience. You will access the entrance to the cave from a tower by zip line. Once inside, there is a trek and a swim to a bathing pool of mud before kayaking back across the river and cleaning off.
Located in the Gulf of Tonkin, Ha Long Bay is one of the world’s outstanding natural wonders, resembling a geographic work of art with thousands of limestone islets soaring dramatically from the clear emerald waters. This densely concentrated zone of karst islands, world famous for its spectacular scenery of grottoes and caves, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With Silver Discoverer at anchor in the heart of the bay, you may choose to board a traditional junk, sit back and relax as she sails into Halong Bay and the limestone cliffs and emerald waters. Transfer from your junk into smaller rowing boats to see how local fishermen and their families live on the water. Return to your junk and continue to Me Cung cave, where you will disembark with time to explore this underground wonderland. Return to the ship for lunch with new memories and an appreciation for the beauty and simplicity of life here.
Perhaps being a bit more active is suited to your tastes and you would like to board a traditional junk to travel through Halong Bay and deep in the bay transfer into kayaks. Paddle and explore spectacular caves known as Dark and Bright Cave. The caves are formed by an enclosed group of islands which create a protected sea lake with only one small entrance. Return to your junk to continue to Me Cung Cave. After a good paddle, and a caving adventure, return to the ship for lunch.
One final shorter offering is a visit to Cat Ba Island, covered in large part by national park. Begin with a visit to Hospital Cave, which served both as a secret, bomb-proof hospital during the fighting and as a safe house for VC leaders. Continue to explore the National park of Cat Ba Island on foot before a coach ride to pay a visit to the local market and Cannon Fort Hill where there are spectacular views over the bay. Finally, transfer back to the ship for lunch aboard.
Silver Discoverer bids farewell to Vietnam and sets a course for China’s shores. While travel with Silversea Expeditions is primarily about the excitement and delight to be found in exploring remote and infrequently visited corners of the world, it remains that you travel with a company renowned for its attention to detail and offering some of the most exemplary service available at sea today. Perhaps a sea day is your opportunity to enjoy a late breakfast served in the privacy and comfort of your suite. Later, you may choose to join new friends for a long leisurely lunch, or savor a sunset cocktail on the aft deck as the sun slips below the horizon. Sea days also present a perfect opportunity to enjoy a workout in the gym, indulge in a massage, or visit the salon. In essence, time at sea with us is time to get spoiled.
Disembark Silver Discoverer in Shenzhen with an overnight bag and transfer to the train station bound for the inland region of Guilin. A boxed lunch will be arranged on the train for you to enjoy as the magnificent scenery reveals itself around you. Once in the karst peaks of the Guilin region and the town of Sanjian, enjoy a half day for sightseeing. Today will be an experience of the wisdom and great creativity of the region’s Dong people, from a traditional village, to tonight’s special dinner known as the, “Hundred Families Banquet.” This style of feast is listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage and holds great significance for the Dong people. Following dinner travel to Sanjiang county for a Dong performance and the Sanjiang Dong Xiang Hotel, where you spend the night.
The following morning continue your exploration of the Guilin region with a visit to the Sanjiang Tea Plantation. The owner of the plantation will personally meet you to show you the property and explain the tea drying process. A traditional lunch of the Guangxi people will be arranged and following that drive back to Sanjiang train station and return to the city of Shenzhen with dinner aboard the train.
Alternatively, disembark the ship in Shenzhen and travel overland by train to Guilin. From here drive to Yangshuo, Guangxi Province for lunch at a local restaurant. After sampling the local foods, begin your exploration of the Yangshuo countryside by bicycle. With single and tandem bikes available, you are sure to relish the ride through the picturesque landscape, farmlands and country roads of Yangshuo county. After your bicycle tour, transfer to the Green Lotus Hotel to get ready for the evening’s activities. Once assembled, transfer by boat to a peaceful and pretty island beside the Li River for a “Bonfire Party.” Dinner will be served beside the river bank and after dinner, delight in local dancing, singing and interactive local games.
After checking out of the hotel this morning transfer to Yangshuo and enjoy a morning of sightseeing. You will have the choice to raft on the Yulong River or visit the Yangshuo Moon Hill Scenic Area. Rafting on the Yulong River will allow us to travel on a bamboo raft with reclining chairs down the meandering river lined by green bamboo and rolling hills. Local people use bamboo rafts as daily transportation up and down the river between their houses, markets, and rice paddies. Enjoy a panoramic river and steep karst hills as you ride the waters down the river.
If you would like to spend a little more time on terra firma this morning, you may opt to take a trip to the time-honored town of Xingping. Nestled at the foot of the steep, conical mountains near the meandering Li River, the ancient town is celebrated in China for its natural scenery and heritage. From here, board a local boat for a trip downstream to Yangshouo on the Li River. In Yangshouo, come ashore for lunch at a local restaurant and then drive to the Yangshuo Moon Hill Scenic Area. Moon Hill stands at more than 380 meters high with a crescent-shaped hole through the upper portion of the mountain. When the light shines through the hole just so; it appears like the moon, high and bright. Peeling ourselves away from the stunning terrain of this region, transfer back by train (with dinner served as you travel) to the Silver Discoverer in her berth in Shenzhen.
Following breakfast, disembark Silver Discoverer.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Suite accommodations; onboard meals and entertainment; snorkeling gear; butler service; gratuities aboard ship (except spa); complimentary beverages aboard ship (including select wines, champagnes, spirits, soda, water and coffee); 1 hour of internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Explorer and View Suites; unlimited internet access for passengers booked in Vista, Veranda, and Medallion Suites. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; optional shore excursions; government fees and taxes; passport and visa expenses; some champagne, premium wine and spirit selections, caviar, cigarettes and cigars; laundry or valet services; items of a personal nature such as boutique purchases, medical care, and spa services; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises