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

Vietnam Sonata 16 days

Vietnam is a country full of photographic opportunities. The landscape is diverse and includes a very long and beautiful coastline, magnificent rock formations, and mountains. Having not developed like China and Thailand it still has plenty of opportunity to observe and photograph traditional lifestyles. Vietnam is raw and still relatively unspoilt, with a photograph and story to be told at every bend of the road that you travel. Because of this, now is a great time to visit Vietnam. Vietnam Sonata 16 days

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.

Day 1: Hanoi Arrival (Dinner, Guide pick up)

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 having tickets for a performance of traditional Water Puppetry, an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and a good, light-hearted introduction to its rural culture. 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 - Thay Pagoda - Hanoi (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

Early morning around 5.30, walk to Hoan Kiem Lake where local seniors practice a rigorous, joint-limbering version of Tai Chi. After breakfast, you will be picked up at your hotel in Hanoi in the morning and drive to the Song Phuong Vegetable Village where you will have the opportunity to do gardening with local farmers. This will allow you to get in touch with the Vietnamese farmer and learn more about wet-rice cultivation. This morning will end with lunch in a local house and you will enjoy local dishes, seasonal vegetable, fruits and Vietnamese green tea.

In the afternoon you will visit Thay Pagoda, a complex of temples, communal houses and a pagoda nestled at the foot of a large limestone cliff formation, characteristic of the area. It is said that traditional water puppet theatre originated here. You will then proceed to Tay Phuong Pagoda which is situated on the top of Buffalo Mountain. This pagoda may be the most beautiful pagoda in Northern Vietnam, with ancient architecture and impressive wooden statues of Buddha and Arhats. You will then come back to Hanoi for stay overnight.

Day 3: Hanoi – Ninh Binh – Lao Cai (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast, your guide will take you to Ninh Binh. It takes 2-hour drives through rural northern Vietnam to the site of Vietnam's first capital, Hoa Lu. You will then enjoy a 2 hour boat cruise through Tam Coc which boasts some absolutely breathtaking scenery, along the way stop where you wish to take photographs. Afterwards, you will travel along rural roads amongst the rice fields and magnificent rock formations of the Hoa Lu area.

After lunch, you will visit Van Long Nature Reserve (2 hours) before commence our journey back to Hanoi. You will then stop at a market garden during the return trip to photographs rural life up close. You will come back to Hanoi for refreshment then free to wander the downtown area through the old section of 36 streets and 36 wares, where each street hosts vendors of particular trade. You will be free until the drive takes you to the station at 21:00 to board a night train to Sapa. You will spend the night on the train.

Day 4: Lao Cai – Sapa market (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

You’ll arrive in the early morning then be picked will be picked up and taken to the local hotel to have breakfast and a short rest before continuing driving to Bac Ha market, which is one of the most interesting hill tribe markets in North Vietnam. Here you will observe and photograph Nung, Flower H'Mong, Black Dao and Dzay minority people buying and selling their local produce. After spending the morning casually strolling around and photographing the markets, you will visit a Flower H’mong village called Ban Pho.

After a picnic lunch, you’ll return to Lao Cai and continue your journey into the mountains to Sapa, a small town perched on the mountainside opposite Mt. Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest peak. You’ll arrive with time to relax and stroll around the town.

After checking into hotel you can soak up the fresh climate as much as you want by spending time to wander around. The ethnic people are frequently seen in this hill town and small vendors along the street sell local textiles and handicraft.  You will spend the night in Sapa.

Although it’s quite a long drive, the landscape is attractive and the ethnic markets are a fascinating experience. Unlike those in the tourist areas, the markets that we choose are for not only for buying and selling, but are also meeting places for ethnic minority people to meet and exchange news. There will be plenty of colour and authentic costumes, but very little to buy as souvenirs unless you want to barter for a water buffalo or a sack of fertilizer!

The trips to ethnic minority markets must be on Tuesday (Coc Ly or Ban Cam market), Thursday (Lung Khau Nhin market), Saturday (Can Cau) or Sunday (Bac Ha, Muong Hum or Muong Khuong markets).

Day 5: Village Trek - Overnight Train to Hanoi (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast, you will trek down the mountain to Ta Van village. Along the way you will photograph the magnificent terraced rice fields and local minority people going about their day-to-day activities. After an enjoyable picnic lunch, you will continue our trek, walking through a number of minority villages and getting up close to the terraced rice fields. you will take photograph the sunset over the terraced rice fields before coming back to Sapa town to refresh. In the afternoon, you will be transferred back to Lao Cai station to take night train back to Hanoi.  You will spend the night on the train.

Day 6: Hanoi - Halong Bay (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

You’ll arrive Hanoi in the early morning, where you’ll be met and taken by car to your hotel to have breakfast and take a short rest before departure to Halong Bay. On the way, you will go through the scenic countryside. The wondrous Halong Bay is truly one of Vietnam’s most impressive scenic sights. Heading out of the town then you embark on a boat for an exploration of the legendary Halong Bay. This exciting cruise will provide you a fantastic view of the picturesque scenery blending with the sky and some 3,000 limestone islands rising amazingly from the clear and emerald water. The limestone karsts formations are littered with beaches, grottoes and beautiful caves. Along the way you will anchor for a leisurely swim in a secluded cove and an enjoyable visit to one of the many hidden grottoes beneath towering cliffs. You will stay overnight on the Junk Cruise

Day 7: Halong Bay – Hanoi - Hue (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

Greet the day with a morning Tai Chi exercise with an opportunity to view the sunrise over the bay. After breakfast, you will visit beautiful limestone grotto then back to the boat for a final glimpse of the Halong Bay while cruising back to the dock. Your driver will be waiting for you at the pier and drive you back to 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 8: Hue (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

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.

Day 9: 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. The rest of the day will be free at your leisure. 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 10: Walking and Photographing Hoi An (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

In the morning, you will enjoy a walking tour with first stop is the bustling fish and vegetable market and then you will go through the Old Quarters to see the town's landmarks of Japanese Covered Bridge, ancient Assembly Hall, Phuc Kien Temple. After that, you will get on the boat to cruise along the river to enjoy the scenery along the Thu Bon River and the general view of Hoi An Ancient Town then you will the Kim Bong pottery and carpentry villages to learn the traditional way of making clay products and fishing boat building. Hoi An is well known for souvenir shopping with great prices and also famous for its large number of tailor shops, so if you want to get a cloth tailor made to measure, this is the time to do it. You will spend the night in Hoi An.

Day 11: 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 11: 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

Day 12: Hoi An - Ho Chi Minh City (Breakfast, Driver Pickup)

After breakfast, your time is your own until your car arrives to take you to Danang airport for the afternoon flight to Ho Chi Minh City, where a guide will meet you and take you to your hotel. After checking in you’ll be free, perhaps for a preliminary wander around Ho Chi Minh City’s busy streets and shops. You’ll spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 13: Ho Chi Minh City orientation (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast, your guide will arrive to show you around Ho Chi Minh City. You’ll visit the History Museum where there is a special exhibition of the 5th century ‘Oc Eo’ civilisation. (Alternatively, you’ll visit the Fito Museum (First Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine) is host to a large collection of relics, including traditional Vietnamese medicinal implements, and chronicles the history of medical practice in Vietnam from 2000 BC). The Museum of War Remnants provides a very partial, but riveting, perspective of the ‘American War’: not for the squeamish! The Binh Tay market and the China Town are worth a stroll to explore the local daily life and the culture mix.

You’ll also call in at the Jade Emperor Temple. It’s one of the best Taoist temples in Vietnam, with superb effigies, remarkable carved panels of the descent to Hell and somewhat incongruous terrapin and tortoise sanctuaries. You’ll then return your hotel for freshen up or wander around the huge Ben Thanh market, one of the liveliest areas of Ho Chi Minh City, is packed with every conceivable commodity. You’ll spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 14: Ho Chi Minh City – Cai Be floating market and farms – Vinh Long – Ho Chi Minh City (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast, you will be transferred to Cai Be where you will get on a private cruise to visit of Cai Be colorful floating market, cruising among local sampans coming from all provinces of the delta full of fruits and vegetables.  Your sampan will proceed to Dong Hoa Hiep island located between Vinh Long and Cai Be. During a 40 minutes cruise, you will be able to discover beautiful landscapes along the river and observe the typical Mekong delta rural life. These evergreen islands among the Mekong River still remain unknown to many people.  Visit at an ancient mandarin house dating from the 19th century where the family will welcome you with a cup a tea.  Back on board, your guide will take you to observe the activity of the biggest rice stock market. Further, others stops will allow you to see a traditional bricks and tiles factory and how locals are using palm leaves for houses. Cruising 20 minutes further to Phu An hamlet passing by Cai Be beautiful church, you will have a visit at some interesting home factories to see how rice paste is made, but also rice cookies, coco candies, as well as longan fruits drying process. You will have lunch at Le Longanier, a superb Indochinese villa located in a lush tropical garden by the river, surrounded by fruit orchards. You will then transfer you back to Ho Chi Minh City where you will spend the night.

Day 15: Ho Chi Minh City - Tay Ninh - Cu Chi Tunnels – Ho Chi Minh City (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

A morning drive will take you to Tay Ninh to visit the Cao Dai Holy See in time, home to a unique religion combining the disciplines of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Confucianism, Hinduism and Geniism. The aim of this sect is to achieve a synthesis of all religions. Followers consider Joan of Arc, Rene Descartes, William Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Winston Churchill and Napoleon Bonaparte their respected saints or spirit intermediaries. You will arrive at the temple in time for the midday service giving you the chance to listen to chanting devotees. The temple’s exterior is decorated with multi-coloured dragons of all shapes and sizes.

After lunch, you will enjoy a scenic drive through idyllic paddy flatlands and countryside. Arrive to Cu Chi tunnels for a fascinating guided tour of this amazing three-floor labyrinth of underground passages stretching a staggering 250kilometres from Saigon to the Cambodian border. The network included innumerable trap doors, specially constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapons factories, field hospitals, command centers and kitchens. Today the remaining tunnels have become a major tourist attraction giving the visitor a unique experience and a feel of what underground life in war was like. You will spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City

Cao Dai is a ‘new’ religion unique to Vietnam with around a million followers. Both its creed and its architecture are remarkable and exotic. The service lasts about half an hour – the rituals are based upon an eclectic mixture of Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. Discreet photography is OK, but shoes must be left outside

Day 16: Ho Chi Minh City Departure (Breakfast, Driver pick up)

After breakfast, you will be free until the driver will arrive to take you to the airport for your departure flight. Trip ends.

Inclusive

  • Vietnam Visa invitation letter
  • Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
  • Pick-ups and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicle as specified in the itinerary above (Please note: pick-ups will be by a guide and driver or, where a guide is not necessary, a driver only. All unaccompanied drivers will be briefed in advance, and will carry a mobile phone to ensure smooth transfer arrangements)
  • Domestic flight tickets: Hanoi – Hue, Danang - Ho Chi Minh City, including domestic airport taxes.
  • Boat cruises as specified in the programme. All Ha Long Bay boats will be fully licensed and comply with current safety regulations.
  • Return train tickets: Hanoi – Lao Cai (air-conditioned soft four-berth cabin, good local standard in Fanxipan Train carriage or similar)
  • Travel in an appropriate private air-conditioned vehicle with an experienced safe driver.
  • The services of experienced English-speaking guides as indicated in the itinerary (please note: guides will be on hand from pick-up until guests’ return to their hotel or reaching their destination). Free days or part days will not include the services of a guide unless requested and included in the final itinerary.
  • Where necessary, entry fees for all visits as mentioned in the programme.
  • Lunches and dinners (as specified in the itinerary) in the best local restaurants and full board on the boat in Ha Long Bay.
  • VAT and other taxes

Exclusive

  • International flight tickets and airport tax.
  • Visas
  • Lunches and dinners, except as specified above.
  • Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses.
  • Insurance.
  • Surcharges for Peak seasons (if any)
  • Compulsory meal (if any)
  • Alternative in blue

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