The Hanoitimes - According to CNN, visitors had a chance to discover Vietnam in 10 days sail on the RV Angkor Pandaw from the magnificent Ha Long Bay up the Red River to Hanoi, and into the clear rustic waters of the Da River, a journey of more than 600 kilometers.
One of favorite part of the trip is Ha Long Bay, a spectacular labyrinth of karst cliffs that thrust out of tranquil waters off Vietnam's northeast coast. These gigantic rocks are 25 million years old, and one of Asia's most photogenic natural wonders. According to reporter of CNN, they spend the first night and entire next day of the cruise here, occasionally weighing anchor to explore new coves.
Discover Vietnam and Red River in 10 days.
In addition, one of the great benefits of river cruising is that boats can anchor frequently at villages and small ports, either to pick up provisions from the local market or let the passengers take in an excursion or two.
Among the highlights of Pandaw's excursions are water puppet performances, ethnic dancing, a bird sanctuary, Buddhist and Taoist temples and visits with local artisans and craftspeople.
We see several sturdy stone Catholic churches as well, built during the French colonial period. Visitors will invariably be welcomed to a village home with an offering of green tea. Or, if it's evening, they might tempt you with a splash of rice whiskey.
Pandaw is the only firm operating cruises on the Red River.
Another unique characteristic of the northern Vietnamese is the custom of burying loved ones in their paddy fields. According to tour guide explains that the tradition is twofold: firstly, so that the headstone acts a reminder to the family that you are still here, still looking over the household; and secondly, as a warning to your family never to sell this land.
Half-way into the trip they arrive in Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, a city of over six millions people. After the customary tours of Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum and the inspirational Temple of Literature, it's reassuring to get our legs on land with a walking tour of the Old Quarter, taking in its French architecture, bustling narrow boulevards and cafes.
Then after that, they take a sneaky left-hand turn down the Da River (Black River). This is the scenic part of the voyage: looming lush mountainsides and fresh countryside breezes.
One of the great benefits of river cruising is that boats can anchor frequently at villages and small ports.
Onboard the Pandaw, with a passenger capacity of 32, the ratio of guests to staff is almost one to one, which helps explain the meticulous attention to detail. Cabins sleep one or two and feature brass fittings and polished teakwood paneling. Dining is a thrice-daily feast of East-meets-West flavors and healthy fare.
The day's activities conclude with sunset cocktails on the top deck, followed by an unhurried three-course dinner accompanied by a buffet of salads, cold cuts, cheeses and breads. For now at least, Pandaw is the only firm operating cruises on the Red River. The 10-day tour starts at US $2,600, excluding flights.