Religious Practices, Beliefs, Cultural Exchange Lunch At A Hue Nunnery
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 tranquillity, and time seems to pass much slower here. The pagoda has a beautiful yard and a garden that sup-plies the vegetables for the nuns. Arriving at Dong Thien Pagoda follow a beautiful path in the cool shade of the trees while going 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 pre-pare 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 Phuoc Tich Ancient Village, Hue (with lunch)
Depart Hue early morning and transfer to Phuoc Tich, an ancient village dating back to the 15th century and located around 37 kilometres 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.
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 commercial purposes. Most local homes here are made by lacquered iron-wood, 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.
Ethnic Minorities, Mountain Escape, Jeep Ride Minority Villages By Jeep, Danang (with lunch)
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.
Journey by jeep from the golden coast to the emerald 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.
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 villages in Central Vietnam take a light guided walk with a local resident and explore the communities and unlock its cultural secrets. 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.
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.
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 different world away.
Saigon (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.
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 market 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.
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 skilfully crafted with stunning interiors made from wood. Frames of wooden houses were transported from some northern provinces to give the museum an antique 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. 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.
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. 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.
Dance, Drama, Music, Story Telling, Acrobatics ‘A O’ Performance
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 me-dia. 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 audience 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 ac-cording to the nature of each scene. Performers are di-verse 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.
Lights, Action, Street Life, Cocktails, Vespa Ride – Saigon Night Moves
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 South-ern 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. 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 Vietnam-ese live music scene and finish with a cocktail at the Chill Skybar. 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 awe-inspiring 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.
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 re-treat. 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.
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 pre-pared 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 mas-sage session at the Authentic Spa, and set menu lunch or dinner at Binh An Village.
Bird Parks, Tai Chi, Worship & Local Noodles
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. 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 restaurant to enjoy a bowl of Pho – Vietnam’s famous noodle 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.
Inspiring Architecture, Emerging Art, Community Artists
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 ex-pert 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 tour continues to HCMC Fine Arts Museum, an impressive example of Sino-French architecture, where you could see work of wartime artists. See the difference between pre and post reunification 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.
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