Water Puppet Tours

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With its numerous national parks, white sand beaches, colourful villages, pagodas and ancient monuments, forests and islands, Vietnam is a land of often surprising beauty, offering cultural depth and history, increasingly combined with tourism-friendly areas offering all the facilities a modern traveller could wish for.

Vietnam’s people are its greatest asset: gregarious, friendly and eager to meet visitors. In the bustling cities, the often chaotic streets contrast ox carts with limousines, ancient rituals with sophisticated technology, and are ruled by the ubiquitous moped.

Our strength is in translating these opportunities into detailed, practical itineraries. We do luxury travel and event planning, as well as a wide range of beach, family, honeymoon, adventure, golf, veteran and cultural tours.

There is no better way to experience a destination than through the perspective of the local people. At Water Puppet Tours, this key element of local insight drives every step of our process of tour design and delivery. We provide tailor-made tours individually crafted for each client, achieving this by emphasizing the direct working relationship between the client and the tour designer and operator.


Travel Style

Travel Destination

Family Vietnam 13 Days

Vietnam is a destination that offers points of interest for mums, dads and kids alike. In this tour that is specifically tailored to families, discover the country’s beauty through trips to famous islands, beach towns and urban landmarks. The kids will love the caving, snorkeling and cooking classes mixed with just enough of the cultural stuff to keep everyone happy!

Hanoi – Showcasing sweeping boulevards, tree-fringed lakes and ancient pagodas, Hanoi is Asia’s most atmospheric capital. Just don’t expect a sleepy ambience. It’s an energetic city on the move, and Hanoi’s ambitious citizens are determined to make up for lost time.

Halong Bay – Imagine 2000 or more islands rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and you have a vision of breathtaking beauty. Halong translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’, and legend claims the islands of Halong Bay were created by a great dragon from the mountains. As it charged towards the coast, its flailing tail gouged out valleys and crevasses. When it finally plunged into the sea, the area filled with water, leaving only the pinnacles visible.

Hoi An town is a UNESCO World Heritage area. An ancient trading port, once the largest in Indochina, Hoi An was a meeting point for many cultures that left their mark in the different architectural features of its wooden buildings. The original traditional street pattern still exists, as does the quay that once welcomed ships from all over East Asia and beyond. Many remained there for months at a time, waiting for favourable trade winds to carry them home.

Hue – Each Royal mausoleum reflects the personality of the Emperor it commemorates. The most majestic is that of Emperor Minh Mang, a staunch follower of Confucianism with many wives, concubines and a small army of children. Planned by the Emperor and built shortly after his death in formal Chinese style, it’s opulent and exotic, and a good example of classic Sino-Vietnamese architecture.

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)  – Vietnam’s bustling largest city sets the cultural and economic pace for the country. The former Saigon boasts charming French colonial architecture and wide boulevards, usually thronged and choked with traffic. Taxis are an option for seeing the sprawling city. The War Remnants Museum shows the Vietnam War through Vietnamese eyes. Don’t miss the impressive Jade Emperor Pagoda. Go to the frenetic Ben Thanh Market for food, flowers or frogs or tour through the Mekong Delta, past rice paddies and houseboats.

The Mekong Delta - The area is both riparian and deeply rural, but it’s also one of Vietnam’s most densely populated regions, with nearly every hectare intensively farmed. Visitors can dwell on southern charm in little-visited riverside cities, sample fruits traded in the colourful floating markets, or feast on home-cooked delicacies before overnighting as a homestay guest. Mangrove forests, sacred Khmer pagodas and off-the-beaten-track attractions round out the picture.

Family Vietnam 13 Days

Day 1: Hanoi Arrival (Dinner, Guide pickup)

Arriving at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel, the capital city of Vietnam, is an elegant city located on the banks of the Red River with tranquil Restored Sword Lake at its heart. North of the lake are the bustling streets of the Old Quarter, each street named after the trade that used to take place there. Much of the city was transformed by the French when it became a French protectorate in the 1880s and there are wide boulevards and large colonial buildings which are now home to government departments and foreign embassies. You will have time to relax before enjoy a water puppet show, an art form in which puppets are suspended over water, directed by puppet masters who must sit semi-submerged for hours at a time. The tradition of water puppetry is at least 1,000 years old, originating with peasants in the Red River Delta of the north. The puppets, which the French used to call “the souls of the Vietnamese rice fields,” are made of the water-resistant wood of the fig tree and depict villagers, farm animals, dragons, and more.

In the evening, you’ll have a ‘Welcome’ dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant in a restored French colonial building. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.

Day 2: Hanoi Orientation (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast at your hotel, you will be taken to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and historical presidential relics and then the Temple of Literature nearby. Afterwards you will head to Ngoc Son Temple and Hoan Kiem Lake. The Ngoc Son temple is set on a tiny island on the Hoan Kiem Lake and dates back to the 13th century. The lake itself is a picturesque focal point of Hanoi, frequented by tourists and locals alike. In the afternoon, you will visit   Museum of Ethnology, widely acknowledged as the best in the country which houses a display dedicated to Vietnam's 54 ethnic minority peoples. Then you will take 1 hour by cyclo ride through Hanoi's Old Quarters to experience daily life of people who are living in the oldest parts of the city. After that, you will enjoy a water puppet show, an art form in which puppets are suspended over water, directed by puppet masters who must sit semi-submerged for hours at a time. The tradition of water puppetry is at least 1,000 years old, originating with peasants in the Red River Delta of the north. The puppets, which the French used to call “the souls of the Vietnamese rice fields,” are made of the water-resistant wood of the fig tree and depict villagers, farm animals, dragons, and more. You will spend the night in Hanoi.

The Ho Chi Minh mausoleum is closed every Monday and Friday (outside grounds and garden area will be open on these days) and normally closed from September 4 through November 5 for preservation and maintenance of the building.

On Mondays, the Museum of Ethnology is closed. If our tour of Hanoi is on a Monday, our visit to the Museum of Ethnology will be replaced by a visit to Hanoi's History Museum or Fine Arts Museum.

Day 3: Hanoi cooking class (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast, you will join a cooking class at a hospitality school for underprivileged children. Many of them were living on the streets of Hanoi and other cities, and their training will eventually help them work in some of Vietnam’s best hotels and restaurants.  You’ll learn to cook some typical Vietnamese dishes representative of the North of Vietnam. Accompanied by a skilled chef, you’ll be driven to a market to try your skills in bargaining and buying among the locals at a local market. When you return to the restaurant, your Vietnamese teacher will assist you to prepare and cook your lunch. In the afternoon, your time will be your own.

Day 4: Hanoi - Halong Bay (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

After breakfast, you’ll leave for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. There you’ll board a wooden junk that takes you first through Bai Tu Long Bay. You’ll continue your cruise to an island beach. Weather permitting, you’ll be able to swim or climb a hill (not a mountain!) for an overview of the bay’s remarkable seascape. You’ll then continue your cruise to visit Cua Van floating fishing village where you’ll have an opportunity explore the village by rowing bamboo boat. The cruise route is designed to avoid busy areas and includes a very quiet location for your overnight stay.

For your three-day Halong excursion, you'll board Indochina Sails, one of the best wooden boats on the bay. It’s a wooden junk modelled after the old Vietnamese court vessels with two barge sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure. The boat has 14-15 cabins in total, 11 Superior cabins in the lower deck and 4 Deluxe cabins in the upper deck, accommodating a maximum of 30 people, so you're likely to be joining other travellers for the cruise.

All cabins are air-conditioned and have windows overlooking the bay. In size, the Deluxe cabins are 14.5 m2 and Superior cabins are 13m2. Each cabin is furnished with two twin beds or a double queen size bed. The interior panelling, floor and furniture are of hardwood. Each cabin has a wardrobe, desk, pillows, white cotton sheets, and an en-suite toilet and shower with a good selection of high-quality toiletries. All meals, usually based on fresh seafood, will be provided on board. Kayaking is available upon request and at a surcharge.

Day 5: Ha Long Bay (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide on boat)

The Indochina Sails’ route is for two days only, starting from noon of the first day to noon of following day. If you book a three-day cruise on the bay, you’ll be transferred after breakfast to your day–trip boat with private crew to cruise to the bay’s most deserted areas with opportunities to swim from quiet beaches or kayak to visit water tunnels, fishing villages, or your choice of other locations. A personal chef will prepare and serve your lunch on board. In the late afternoon, you’ll return to the Indochina Sails boat for dinner and your overnight stay.

The smaller boat’s facilities are limited and at a lower standard compared to the Indochina Sails boat, but you’ll have its exclusive use to cruise around the further reaches of the bay well away from the tourist area. Pack lightly; you’ll want swimwear and a set of dry clothes, and, as there are different activities during the day, bring both shoes (such as trainers) and flip-flops or sandals.

Day 6: Ha Long – Hanoi – Hue (Brunch, Driver Pickup)

You’ll awake to the fresh air of the bay, and can take a swim or enjoy a Tai Chi session on the large sundeck (beginners welcome!) After a light breakfast of pastries and tea or coffee, you’ll dock to visit one of the most famous caves in the bay. You’ll return to the junk for brunch while cruising back to the main dock, and around noon you’ll leave for Hanoi airport to catch the flight to Hue. When arrival, your guide will pick you up then take you to your hotel to check in. This quiet city is widely known for the magnificent architecture of its citadels, palaces, royal tombs, pagodas and temples built under the Nguyen Dynasty. In the evening, you will make your own exploration to see Hue city by night. Overnight at hotel in Hue

Day 6: Hue (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Your morning will begin with a cruise along the Perfume River to visit to the Thien Mu Pagoda which also gives you a taste of the tranquil countryside. From there, you’ll drive to the Royal Tombs of Emperor Minh Mang. In the afternoon, your guide will take you to visit the Emperor Khai Dinh. After that, you’ll return to Hue to visit one of city’s ‘garden houses’ and then return to your hotel for refreshment.

In the evening, you’ll sit down for dinner in the pleasant surroundings and a comfortable atmosphere of another of the garden houses. The owner will prepare and serve a traditional meal based on the distinctive characteristics of classic Hue cuisine. You’ll spend the night in Hue.

Each Royal mausoleum reflects the personality of the Emperor it commemorates. The most majestic is that of Emperor Minh Mang, a staunch follower of Confucianism with many wives, concubines and a small army of children. Planned by the Emperor and built shortly after his death in formal Chinese style, it’s opulent and exotic, and a good example of classic Sino-Vietnamese architecture.

The tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh is an unprepossessing concrete construction on the side of a wide valley. Its interest lies in the uneasy combination of Vietnamese and European features, the use of fragments of ceramics and glass for decoration, and the striking views from the courtyard in front of the mausoleum.

The garden houses are a unique feature of Hue. The houses are traditional, privately owned, and set in attractive formal gardens. Some have connections with the old Royal Imperial Court. Hue traditional architecture has long had close associations with the natural environment. The garden houses reflect this association. Each is highly individual - house and garden, people and scenery, plants, clouds and water co-exist and blend with each other in a harmonious context. The narrow streets and abundant flora give the garden house area a country village feeling.

Alternative for Day 6: Cycling to get closer to Hue’s lifestyle (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

In the morning, your bicycles will be at your hotel ready for you to ride through Hue’s rural villages towards the Thanh Toan Bridge (roofed in Chinese style). Nearby, a local market will provide you with views of daily life and local products. You'll then return to Hue’s city centre with en-route visit the Ngoc Son Princess ‘garden house’. It has an attractive family altar and the owner is an expert on Hue’s culture and history – he will be pleased to explain the geomantic principles underpinning the building and garden’s construction.

After lunch, your route will take you past the Imperial Citadel to visit some of the garden houses in Phu Mong Kim Long village, thence ride toward one of the handicraft villages in Hue’s hinterland that specialises in a single product range of traditional cakes - ‘banh it’ and ‘banh phu the’ before looping back to your hotel for overnight accommodation.

Day 7: Hue - Danang - Hoi An (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast, you will drive to Hoi An, crossing Hai Van Pass where you will have magnificent view of the stunning long sandy beaches and stop at Lang Co to have a short break. When you arrive in Danang city, you will visit the fascinating Cham Museum and the Marble Mountains en route to charming Hoi An. Known as Faifo to early Western traders, Hoi An was one of South East Asia's major international ports and today it still retains that special old-world feel. Enjoy a walking tour through the Old Quarters to see the town's landmarks of Japanese Covered Bridge, ancient Assembly Hall, Phuc Kien Temple and then you will take a river trip to enjoy the scenery along the Thu Bon River and the general view of Hoi An Ancient Town. Visit ceramic village of Thanh Ha, carpentry village of Kim Bong and Dai Chiem Estuary. Hoi An is also famous for its large number of tailor shops, so if you want to have a new wardrobe made up, this is the time to do it. You will stay overnight in Hoi An.

Day 8: Hoi An – From Farmer to Fisherman Tour (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

The day starts with cycling the narrow roads through the countryside, passing by rice paddy fields, water buffalos, bamboo bridges and local farmers on their daily work. You’ll then board a boat to the mouth of the Thu Bon estuary where the river meets the Cua Dai Sea and cruise along the coastline observing the lives of the local fishermen.

After joining the fisherman to try your hand at catching fish in a traditional ‘Thung Chai’ basket boat, you will meander through the water palm coconut canal. During the American War, Viet Cong soldiers made use of this area as a highly effective hiding place from enemy attacks through their long struggle. Following an insightful visit to a local fishing village, you’ll be free to relax and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch before cycling back to your hotel.

Thung Chai Basket boats, similar in style to coracles in use throughout the ancient world, are widely used throughout Central Vietnam, and are highly suited to the local terrain and lifestyles of local fishermen due to their relative light weight and portability, often doubling as a carrier for various handy items. Circular and constructed of bamboo and tarred for waterproofing, these small boats can typically carry up to five people, and represent a fun-filled opportunity to touch the authentic rural soul of Vietnam. As a precaution, life jackets are provided for your safety during this excursion.

Alternative for Day 8:

Option 1: Cooking Class in Hoi An (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide at cooking class)

In the morning, you’ll join a cooking class at the Red Bridge Restaurant. After visiting a market to purchase ingredients, a boat will take you along Hoi An River to the restaurant where you can investigate its herb and vegetable garden before learning how to cook traditional Vietnamese dishes. After lunch at the restaurant, your time will be free. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An.

Recipes:

  • Fresh Rice Paper Shrimp Rolls – including making rice paper.
  • Warm Squid Salad served in half a pineapple
  • Grilled Eggplant stuffed with market vegetables
  • Hoi An Pancakes (Banh Xeo)
  • Food Decoration - pineapple boat, three coloured flowers and Vietnamese hand fan

Option 2: Hoi An – Making lanterns (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

In the morning, you’ll be met at your hotel and driven to the edge of the Ancient Town (four-wheeled vehicles are not allowed in the old town). From there, a short stroll will take you to a lantern maker’s house. After a welcome cup of green tea, you can observe some of the complex stages of creating the attractive paper lanterns for which Hoi An is justly famous. Next is instruction and training in the art of building lanterns.

By then, it will be approaching lunchtime. In keeping with the rest of the day, you’ll be shown how to cook the Vietnamese food, followed by lunch with the family. After the break, you’ll take your place in the workshop and begin your first creation. Your overnight stay will be in Hoi An.

Day 9: Hoi An free (Breakfast)

The day will be free for strolling in the town, lazing on the beach, or whatever takes your fancy. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An.

Day 10: Hoi An – Ho Chi Minh City (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast, you will be free until the driver arrives to drive back to Danang and take a short flight to Ho Chi Minh City formerly Ho Chi Minh City. When you arrive, you will be taken to your hotel to check in before discovering the Story of Ho Chi Minh City with a visit to the War Remnants Museum, where you will hear about the city’s darkest and most tragic hours during the Vietnam War. The museum contains displays of military aircraft, weaponry and many photographs - some that are quite graphic in nature.

Next, the guide will take you to visit the Reunification Palace once a symbol of the South Vietnamese Government. It was here on 30 April 1975, that the war ended when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates. You will see the war room, the banquet hall and the presidential office. Then continue to the Central Post Office, designed and constructed by the renowned architect Gustave Eiffel, and take a moment to send a postcard! Just behind the post office is the Notre Dame Cathedral, an iconic Saigon landmark built by the French between 1863 and 1880. Today it’s a favored backdrop for Vietnamese wedding photographs.

You will take a short stroll along Dong Khoi Street to the Opera House which was used as a bomb shelter and also housed the Parliamentary Lower House. Restored in 1995 the Opera House has returned to its roots and is once again a theatre. You will end the day with a speedboat trip along the city’s ancient canals where life carries on unchanged before returning to your hotel as the sun sets on this fascinating city. You will spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 11: Ho Chi Minh City - Vinh Long - Can Tho (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After escaping from Ho Chi Minh City’s urban sprawl, you’ll travel to Vinh Long where a Mekong River cruise will take you to visit the fruit orchards, a traditional family-run brick kiln, and some long established cottage industries. You’ll drive further into the Mekong Delta to Can Tho, Upon arrival you’ll call in at the Munir Ansay – an ancient Khmer style pagoda, renowned for its unique structural decorations. You’ll then drive to your hotel in Can Tho where you’ll spend the night.

Munir Ansay pagoda has many statues and pillars which are sophisticatedly decorated, the main gate was built in a shape of tower illustrated by Angkor architecture.

Free option: Ostrich riding and Crocodile ‘fishing’

This is a very popular attraction for Vietnamese holidaymakers.

Ostrich riding takes place in a sandy 10m x 30m arena. You opt to ride more or less bareback or in sort of wooden rickshaw with room for one or two people. If you choose the hang on and hope option, the ostrich keeper helps you to climb up the ostrich. From then on you hang on to your ostrich’s neck as tightly as you can. Depending on the speed of the ostrich, the ride takes from two to four minutes. It’s a bit scary at first because the height of ostriches means you’re about a metre off the ground. Also so, ostriches are not as obliging as horses, and may decide to stop dead or turn round if the feel like it. It’s for anyone with an adventurous streak - older children in particular.

Crocodile fishing isn’t what it appears to be. Twenty or so crocodiles lay quietly in a narrow, rather grubby channel full of algae. You are given your ‘fishing rod’ (it’s really a strong stick with a length of nylon line attached and a dead fish tied to the end). You then plonk the ‘bait’ into the water and wait. Depending on you and the crocodiles, the next step happens fast or slow. You’re wondering if the creatures are asleep when the water suddenly erupts, a jaw-full of yellow teeth wrenches the fish from the line, and the crocodile sinks back into the water.

Nearby, there’s a few caged monkeys and monitor lizards.

We’ve made this optional because Vietnamese culture in relation to animal welfare is very different to that of most developed country and may be distasteful to some customers. However, neither the ostriches nor the crocodiles are harmed (the ostriches seem to enjoy the exercise and the crocodiles seem satisfied by the regular tit-bits).

Obviously, there could be a slight risk of a fall from an ostrich. The crocodiles and customers are well separated – so far, no-one has become a reptile’s lunch. These two activities are at your own risk – if, when you arrive, you think there’s a danger to you or your children, just ask your guide to revert to the main itinerary.

Day 12: Can Tho - Ho Chi Minh City (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast and a boat cruise you’ll arrive at Cai Rang floating market on the Mekong Delta. Both the journey and the market provide insights into the rural Mekong Delta lifestyle.  On your return to Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll call in at the beautiful and ancient Vinh Trang pagoda, 3 km from My Tho centre.  You’ll arrive in Ho Chi Minh City in the late afternoon with time to freshen up in the hotel.

Vinh Trang Pagoda is renowned for its architectural mixture of Chinese, Vietnamese and Angkor styles. It’s Located on a 2 hectare block with 5 buildings, 2 ornamental yards, 178 pillars and many valuable statues (especially the statues of 18 arahants which were carved from wood and made in 1907) the pagoda will give you a deeper look into the relationship between Vietnamese art and Buddhist beliefs.

Day 13: Ho Chi Minh City departure (Breakfast, Driver pickup)

Your time will be your own until your private car and driver arrives to take you to Tan Son Nhat airport for your departure flight.

Inclusive

  • Free Vietnam Visa invitation letter.
  • Private door-to-door pick-up & drop-off services.
  • Travel in an appropriate private air-conditioned vehicle with an experienced safe driver.
  • Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
  • Domestic flight tickets: Hanoi – Hue, Danang - Ho Chi Minh City, including domestic airport taxes.
  • The services of experienced English-speaking guides as indicated in the itinerary
  • Boat cruises as specified in the programme. All Ha Long Bay boats will be fully licensed and comply with current safety regulations.
  • Lunches and dinners (as specified in the itinerary) in the best local restaurants and full board on the boat in Ha Long Bay.
  • All sightseeing tickets.
  • VAT and other taxes
  • 24/7 hotline support guaranteed

Exclusive

  • International flight tickets and airport tax.
  • Lunches and dinners, except as specified above.
  • Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses.
  • Travel insurance
  • Surcharges for Peak seasons (if any)
  • Vietnam visa stamp fee
  • Other services not mentioned above.
  • Alternative in blue

 

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