Day 1 ARRIVE SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
Welcome to South Korea’s capital city. Hotel rooms are available for mid-afternoon check-in.
Day 2 SEOUL
Your PRIVATE GUIDED SIGHTSEEING starts at GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE, built in 1395 during the Joseon Dynasty that ruled the country for five centuries. Gyeongbokgung was the primary residence of the royal family and considered the most magnificent of the “Five Grand Palaces” built in Seoul. The palace complex was razed by the Japanese invasion of 1592. It sat abandoned for nearly 300 years until the mid-19th century when the complex was rebuilt and expanded. You will also stop at the NATIONAL FOLK MUSEUM to learn more about Korean culture. Before leaving the complex, watch a re-enactment of the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. Next, take a WALKING TOUR through BUKCHON HANOK VILLAGE. Here, you can see hundreds of hanoks (traditional Korean houses) dating back to the Joseon Dynasty. Walk along the quiet alleys lined with restaurants and tea houses. Travel to nearby Insadong for lunch at a local restaurant featuring Korean cuisine. A highlight is bibimbap, a signature dish of warm rice topped with sautéed vegetables, sliced meat, chili paste, and a fried egg. Afterward, stroll along Insadong Street, a center for traditional arts and crafts. The remainder of the afternoon is at your leisure. Breakfast and Lunch are included. On Day 3, Enjoy a full day at your leisure to explore this exciting city.
Day 4 SEOUL–GYEONGJU
This morning, board a HIGH-SPEED TRAIN bound for Gyeongju, capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla, which ruled much of the Korean Peninsula from the 7th to 9th centuries. Upon arrival, a PRIVATE GUIDED TOUR features TUMULI PARK to see several tombs from the Silla period, including King Michu. Also visit ANAPJI POND, where the Silla royal family spent their leisure time, and GYEONGJU NATIONAL MUSEUM, which houses artifacts found around the pond during renovations.
Day 5 GYEONGJU–BUSAN
Today, visit two fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Sites during your PRIVATE GUIDED TOUR. Start at YANGDONG FOLK VILLAGE, one of the best preserved historic villages dating back to the Joseon Dynasty. The village features clusters of houses with mud walls and thatched roofs, faces a river, and is surrounded by forested mountains and open fields. Next, visit BULGUSKA TEMPLE with its ancient wooden pavilions and pagodas built on lush, forested hills. Within the temple complex is stunning SEOKGURAM GROTTO, one of Asia’s finest Buddhist shrines, with its large Buddha statue looking out over the Sea of Japan. Continue to Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city.
Day 6 BUSAN
Your PRIVATE GUIDED SIGHTSEEING starts at JAGALCHI FISH MARKET, Korea’s largest and most famous seafood market. Here, most of the vendors selling fish are Jagalchi Ajumma, meaning middle-aged or married women. Afterward, visit UN CEMETERY which honors soldiers from 16 countries that were killed during the Korean War. Next, take a WALKING TOUR through GAMCHEON with its colorful homes built on a hillside. Originally founded by refugees of the Korean War, this neighborhood has been transformed into an artistic center with galleries and cafés. The remainder of the day is at your leisure.
Day 7 BUSAN–TOKYO, JAPAN; Fly to Tokyo, Japan’s capital city.
Day 8 and Day 9 TOKYO, Today, hop on Tokyo’s subway system for a PRIVATE GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR of the city. First, stop at MEIJI SHRINE, a magnificent 20th-century Shinto monument set in a man-made forest. Next, stop at the SAMURAI MUSEUM to learn about their history and see authentic period-specific swords, armor, and helmets (kabuto). You will even have the chance to have your picture taken wearing a helmet and armor! You’ll also stop at SHINJUKU GYOEN GARDEN which dates back to the early 1600s. Lastly, visit bustling NAKAMISE SHOPPING ARCADE and ASAKUSA KANNON TEMPLE, the oldest of their kind in Tokyo. The remainder of the day is at your leisure.
Day 10 TOKYO–KYOTO; Today, transfer to the train station and board your BULLET TRAIN to historic Kyoto, former capital of Japan. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is at your leisure
Day 11 KYOTO This morning, your PRIVATE GUIDED SIGHTSEEING starts at stunning Kinkakuji, TEMPLE OF THE GOLD PAVILION, covered with shimmering gold leaf. Next, take a WALKING TOUR through Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district, which is also known for its high concentration of machiya-style merchant houses. Continue on to SANJUSAGENDO TEMPLE, famous for 1,001 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Flanking the main statue are 1,000 life-sized statues, covered in gold leaf, with 40 arms said to have the power to save 25 worlds. Finish with a visit to FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE, renowned for the thousands of brightly colored Torii Gates.
Day 12 KYOTO A full day at leisure to explore more of Kyoto’s historic temples and shrines. You may consider an excursion to nearby Nara to visit Todaiji Temple, which houses the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha.
Day 13 KYOTO Depart today from Osaka.
Vietnam will be our last tour description. To many of us veterans, a tour of Vietnam as a tourist seems almost unimaginable after some of the horrors we all saw, and the way many of us were treated. I am told it is very cathartic to visit and enjoy some of the beauty of this country in a calm and comfortable arena.
Arrival will be at Ho Chi Minh City. Spend 3 days here to soak in the renewed flavors and visit many of the war memorials. On day 4 we pick Avalon River Cruise Company to transport us down memory lane from Ho Chi Minh City. Our first stop will be at Cal Be Sa Dec where you will see how Vietnamese products such as Rice Paper and bricks are hand made still today.
Next stop is Chau Doc as we cross over into Cambodia. We stop in Phnom Penh where we visit the Elaborate Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. We can see the juxtaposition of this beauty and the extreme poverty as we visit an orphanage here. Our next day we visit the “Killing Fields” here, then on to a silk weaving demonstration. This is an emotional day for most veterans, but again it is said to be Cathartic. We visit a small village called Angkor Ban during our next day tour.
Our last River Cruise visit is Prek Dam Konpong Louang, where we see a blacksmith demonstration and take a cart ride to a typical farm. Our last stop is Siem Reap, where we disembark for An overnight, included, hotel stay, then our flight home.