Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam. Image courtesy of the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism.
Take to the skies in this 12-day/11-night trip through Viet Nam and Myanmar's top tourist spots.
Air travel makes short work of the widely-spaced destinations in this two-country itinerary, which divides your time between the temples, lakes and ancient cities of Viet Nam; and the stupas, markets and palaces of Myanmar.
Begin at Ho Chi Minh City, the former capital of half of a once-divided nation: you'll watch a water puppet show beloved to locals; explore Cu Chi Tunnels, hand-dug by the winning side during the Viet Nam War; and wander through central Saigon's colonial-era landmarks, among them the Reunification Palace, the Central Post Office, and Dong Khoi Street.
You'll take to the air afterward, landing at Da Nang and taking a short drive to Hoi An, where you'll walk through the Old Quarter down streets that have hardly changed for 300 years. Take your time visiting each of Hoi An's temples, communal houses, and local before relaxing on a nearby beach.
Travel to Hue, where 13 Nguyen Emperors once ruled all of Viet Nam. Start at the Royal Citadel along the Huong River, first built in 1803. Further from the Citadel, you'll see Thien Mu Pagoda and several tombs in the hinterlands where the Emperors were laid to rest.
Ha Long Bay takes you on a traditional-style wooden boat for a 4-hour cruise around the area's strange-shaped island landscape.
Hanoi has stood in this spot for over a thousand years, and its landmarks recall its long history – from the scenic Hoan Kiem Lake to the Temple of Literature to expansive Ba Dinh Square, around which you'll find the Presidential Palace, the One Pillar Pagoda, and Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum.
From Hanoi, you'll take another long leap, this time across the border to Yangon, the capital of Myanmar. The Sule Pagoda and Shwedagon Pagoda both trace their history back over 2,000 years, far outreaching the British colonial buildings in the city center. Explore the city's museums, pagodas, and markets for a first-hand look at the city's history and culture.
Bagan takes you back in time as well, to the Pagan Empire that once flourished in this area over 800 years ago. Over 2,000 temples still stand scattered around Bagan's arid plain, among them Shwezigon Pagoda, built by King Anawrahta in the early 11th century; Ku Byauk Gyi, a temple with exquisite murals; and Ananda Temple with its four huge standing-Buddha images arranged around an interior gallery.
Finally, Mandalay recalls the glory of the last Myanmar royal dynasty, which ruled here until the British overran the country. The royal influence can still be felt in landmarks like the Mahamuni Pagoda, home to a statue believed to be the most ancient image of Lord Buddha; and Mandalay Palace, a reconstructed royal home in the city's very center.
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