Pearls of Southeast Asia - Hong Kong to Saigon

In a timeless stretch of land cradling the South China Sea, awe-inspiring natural beauty, sacred myths, and time-honored traditions shaped by legendary dynasties await you. Join alumni and friends from October 8 – 18, 2017, on this nine-night cruise of the alluring jewels of Vietnam. 

Vietnam

    Discover an intriguing destination of mystical ancient pagodas, serene rice paddies, bustling sampan-filled harbors, grand colonial mansions, and authentic markets filled with talented Vietnamese craftsmen skilled in their ancient artistic traditions. By exclusive arrangement, award-winning journalist Jim Laurie, the only American network correspondent to witness the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese in April 1975, will accompany this cruise and provide revealing lectures and reflections on the American experience in Vietnam.

Cruise from the spectacular harbor of Hong Kong, the “Crossroads of the East,” to vibrant Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) aboard the specially chartered, Five-Star small ship m.s. L’Austral, with all outside cabins and featuring just 110 ocean-view suites and staterooms. Spend a full day exploring dynamic Hanoi, Vietnam’s culturally diverse capital showcasing a romantic blend of old Asian and French heritage. Sail beside the limestone karst pillars and islands and the lush, forested shores of majestic Ha Long Bay in a traditional Vietnamese junk. Walk among the incredible fortifications of the Forbidden Purple City in the former imperial city of Hue and enjoy stunning mountainous coastline views on the famous Hai Van (Ocean Cloud) Pass. Stroll through the lively, traditional riverfront market while interacting with local craftsmen and artisans and admire the brightly colored, intricately carved Assembly Hall in ancient Hoi An, an old-world gem and UNESCO World Heritage site. In the historic French Colonial city of Saigon, explore the spectacular contrast of old and new architecture.

Explore the mystique of ancient customs and colorful traditions on this comprehensive voyage encompassing the breadth of Vietnamese culture from North to South. Enhance your travel experience in Southeast Asia with the three-night pre-cruise option in Hong Kong and/or the three-night post-cruise option featuring UNESCO World Heritage-designated Angkor Wat.   

Shared with participants from cosponsoring associations, this program is sure to fill quickly. Please contact the Travel Study Program office for more details and to reserve your space while choice accommodations and early booking savings are available!

Dates and Prices:

Trip Dates: October 18 - 28, 2017

Prices: from $7,195  per person based upon double occupancy. Taxes and port fees are an additional $695 per person (subject to change).

Please inquire directly about single occupancy rates or request to be matched with a roommate.

 Itinerary:

Day 1: Depart the U.S. / Los Angeles for Hong Kong

Depart today, crossing the International date-line en route to Hong Kong

Day 2: Hong Kong
Arrive in Hong Kong today. Formerly a British crown colony, this bustling metropolis returned to China in 1997 and is today a dazzling, cosmopolitan city of skyscrapers pulsing with life and the fascinating convergence of  British and Chinese cultures, from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island.  Transfer to the L'Austral for Embarkation. Be on deck for the spectacular sail away in Hong Kong’s harbor this evening. (D)

Day 3: Cruising the Bay of Tompkin
Enjoy enriching lectures, the scenery and the ship's amenities today as we sail across the Bay of Tompkin en route to Hanoi. (B,L,R,D)

Day 4: Haiphong, Vietnam for Hanoi
From Haiphong, travel by way of scenic roads through an intricate patchwork of well-manicured rice paddies to historic Hanoi. The undeniable charm of this capital city resides in its shaded boulevards and bucolic parks, while the city center is a marvelous time capsule of 1930s French-colonial architecture. Along the shores of the peaceful Hoan Kiem Lake, residents canstill be seen performing traditional Tai Chi exercises. Begin your walking tour in famous Ba Dinh Square and see a testament to more recent history, the imposing, granite Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. The Beaux-Arts-style former French Governor’s Residence is adjacent to the garden and modest cottage where Ho Chi Minh lived in the 1960s. Nearby, see the 11th-century One Pillar Pagoda—one of Vietnam’s most iconic temples. Visit the Temple of Literature, founded in A.D. 1070 and which educated scholars in Confucianism for more than 400 years. Walk through Hoa Lo Prison, the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” where captured pilots were held during the Vietnam  War. In the bustling 36 Streets District, stroll the 15th-century lanes, which carry the names of traditional handcrafts practiced here, such as “Silk Weaving Street.” (B,L,D)

Day 5: Ha Long Bay
Board a traditional Vietnamese junk for a private cruise of spectacular Ha Long Bay, the majestic “Bay of the Descending Dragon,” one of Vietnam’s most extraordinary natural features and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Amid over 3,000 chalk and limestone islands, wooden-hulled Vietnamese junks with their characteristic orange sails glide along the bay’s tranquil waters between caves and coves, grottoes and stone towers. Walk among the impressive natural stalactites and stalagmites up close in picturesque Thien Cung—the Heavenly Palace Cave. (B,L,D)

Day 6: Cruising the South China Sea
Enjoy enriching lectures and the ship's amenities today as we sail the South China Sea. (B,L,D)

Day 7: Chan May for Hue and the Hai Van Pass/Danang
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hue, located on the banks of the Perfume River, is one of Vietnam’s most intriguing and alluring destinations. Hue was the Imperial City of the Nguyen kings from 1601 to 1945. Travel through the spectacular mountain scenery of rural Vietnam to explore its Imperial Citadel—rivaling Beijing’s Forbidden City in sheer immensity—and see its massive ramparts and moat dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. Tour the Imperial Closure and its Forbidden Purple City, a citadel within a citadel, formerly reserved only for the royalty and servants of the Nguyen Dynasty. Visit the 17th-century Thien Mu (Heavenly Lady) Pagoda, built to ensure the country’s prosperity, according to a legendary prophecy. The pagoda’s seven-tiered, octagonal Phuoc Duyen tower is the highest stupa in Vietnam. Enjoy lunch overlooking the scenic Perfume River, then visit the impressive tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, considered one of the most beautiful architectural works of the Nguyen dynasty and designed by the emperor himself. Drive through the picturesque mountains to the breathtaking Hai Van (Ocean Cloud) Pass, the 15th-century boundary between Vietnam and the kingdom of Champa. (B,L,D)

Day 8: Da Nang for Hoi An
Prior to the 14th century, ancient Hoi An was the commercial capital of the Cham Empire and a strategic port for the very lucrative spice trade. Later, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Dutch merchants settled Hoi An’s ancient town, and today this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a well-preserved example of a 15th - to 19th-century trading post with more than 800 period buildings still intact. Admire the Japanese-style covered bridge, the emblem of Hoi An. Visit the intricately carved grand temple of Phuc Kien Assembly Hall and its workshop for traditional handcrafts, including woodcarving, mat-weaving and embroidery. Stroll the city’s colorful riverside market and observe locals engaging in the art of bartering. Then, visit the impressive Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang, exhibiting the world’s largest collection of Cham sandstone works of art. Stop at the foot of the landmark Marble Mountain, where skilled carvers chisel marble jewelry and sculptures. (B,L,D)

Day 9: Day-at-Sea
Enjoy enriching lectures and the ship's amenities today en route to Saigon. (B,L,R, D)

Day 10: Saigon (Ho Chi Mihn City)
Saigon has remained a vibrant convergence of French romance and Vietnamese flair, where women still wear the traditional national costume of áo dài dresses, a silk tunic worn over pantaloons. Visit the imposing Reunification Hall, which once served as the South Vietnamese Presidential Palace; the lovely 19th -century, European-style Central Post Office; and the War Remnants Museum, which offers a unique perspective on the Vietnam War through the eyes of the Vietnamese. See the neo-Romanesque-style Notre Dame Cathedral and the opulent Saigon Opera House, both a distinct reminder of the city’s French Colonial history. Then, visit the Ben Thanh Market, one of the oldest surviving structures in Saigon, where merchants offer exotic spices, aromatic cuisine, traditional Chinese medicines and alluring handcrafted wares and textiles. (B,L,D)

Day 11: Saigon (Ho Chi Mihn City)/Disembarkation/Flights Home
Disembark this morning and transfer to the airport for flights home, or continue on the optional post-cruise extension to Ankor Wat. (B)

B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, R=Reception, D=Dinner)

Featured Guest Speaker: Jim Laurie

A distinguished journalist and broadcaster, Jim Laurie has been witness to several of the most defining moments in Asia’s history over the past 40 years. Mr. Laurie was the only American network correspondent to cover the communist takeover of Saigon, Vietnam, on April 30, 1975. Subsequently, he opened the first American television bureau in Beijing in July of 1981 and reported from Beijing on the events of Tiananmen Square in June of 1989.

Mr. Laurie has interviewed many historically influential Asian leaders, including China’s Deng Xiaoping, the Dalai Lama and Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihanouk. For 26 years, Mr. Laurie was a global correspondent for ABC News and NBC News. He is the winner of two Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award for his coverage of the Vietnam War and an Overseas Press Club Award. From 2005 through 2011, he was Director of Broadcasting at the Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong. He has specialized in the study of media in China; continues to be a frequent visitor to China, Vietnam and Cambodia; and speaks on a variety of Asia-related issues.

Since 2004, Mr. Laurie has specialized in the development of global television news channels. He has served as a consultant to three TV channels in India, the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera English Channel and China Central Television in Beijing. Currently he is advising on China’s growth as a media power in the United States. He is also the producer of recent documentaries including Cambodia Surgical Ward for BBC World News in 2010 and the environmental film Earth Factor Asia: Making a Difference(KQED World San Francisco: February 2012). Earlier films include Vietnam: 25 Years Later (2000), China’s Unruly Dragon(1988) and Japan: Myths Behind the Miracle (1981).

INCLUDED FEATURES

  • Nine-night cruise from Hong Kong to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam, with port calls at Haiphong for Hanoi, Chan May for Hue, and Da Nang for Hoi An.
    Elegantly appointed, Five-Star Suite or Stateroom, each with a private bathroom.
  • Captain’s Welcome and Farewell Receptions.
  • Complimentary alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages are available throughout the cruise.
  • All meals—early continental breakfast, buffet breakfast, buffet lunch, afternoon tea and dinner—throughout the cruise, featuring fine international and regional cuisine, served at single, unassigned seatings.
  • Wine is served with lunch and dinner.
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the ship.
  • Spectacular sail away while cruising the dynamic harbor of Hong Kong.
  • Excursion to the stoic political capital city of Hanoi to see the 11th-century Temple of Literature, the manicured grounds of the Ho Chi Minh complex and mausoleum and the colorful 36 Streets Old Quarter district, with lunch.
  • Cruise on a Vietnamese junk along the majestic shores of Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dominated by more than 3,000 limestone karsts, with a visit to the amazing Thien Cung Cave.
  • Excursion to the former Imperial Capital City of Hue, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring the impressive Tu Duc Tomb, the fortified Forbidden Purple City and the 17th-century Thien Mu Pagoda, including lunch.
  • Scenic drive over the breathtaking Hai Van Pass from Hue to Da Nang.
  • Excursion to the ancient port of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see the Japanese-style covered bridge and to visit the intricately carved Phuc Kien Assembly Hall and the city’s colorful market.
  • Visit to the impressive Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang, displaying the world’s largest Cham sculpture collection.
  • Tour of vibrant and cosmopolitan Saigon featuring its French Colonial architecture, central Post Office,War Remnants Museum, former Presidential Palace (Reunification Hall), Notre Dame Cathedral and a visit to the lively Ben Thanh Market.
  • Onboard guest speakers to provide educational discussions on the culture and history of Vietnam.
  • Transfers and luggage handling abroad for participants whose arrival(s)/departure(s) coincide with the scheduled group transfer(s).
  • All excursions and visits, as outlined above, with experienced local guides.
  • Gratuities to local guides and drivers on included excursions and transfers.
  • Hospitality desk aboard ship.
  • The services of professional Program Directors throughout the program.
  • Complimentary use of a state-of-the-art audio headset for each participant during guided excursions.
  • Travel document wallet, name badge and pre-departure information.

Not included:
Airfare; Taxes; passport fees; visas and fees for obtaining visas; personal expenses such as laundry and telephone calls; accident/sickness, trip cancellation, and baggage insurance; gratuities to ship and hotel personnel; optional sightseeing excursions; excess baggage charges on aircraft; local departure air taxes; airfare and associated local taxes*, airport facility taxes and federal inspection fees not listed int he "included features" section of the program brochure; transfers and baggage handling to/from airport/hotel on day(s) of arrival and/or departure if you are arriving earlier or later and/or departing earlier or later that scheduled group transfer(s); meals and and alcoholic beverages not listed in the "Included Features" section of the program brochure; and all other services not specifically mentioned in the "Included Features" section of the program brochure.


Please call us toll-free at (866) 325-8664 or email us at travelstudy@columbia.edu for more details.