Starting in busy, bright and bustling Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), we visit the Reunification Palace and the fascinating Notre Dame Cathedral. We also crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels and journey down the Mekong Delta, passing colorful floating markets. On a small island in the delta, we spend a night in a homestay with a local family – a real highlight. From the laid-back beach town of NHA trang, we explore the offshore islands by boat and snorkel amongst the colorful coral in the warm waters of the South China Sea. We also explore ancient Hoi An and the charming northern capital, Hanoi, before heading to spectacular Ha Long Bay, where the rugged limestone pinnacles and grottoes combine to make up one of the world’s most recognizable landscapes.
Day 1: Saigon/ Ho Chi Minh City
Day 2: Ho Chi Minh City
Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City – Mekong Delta – Cai Be
Day 4: Cai Be – Ho Chi Minh City
Day 5: Ho Chi Minh City – Cu Chi – Nha Trang
Day 6: Nha Trang
Day 7: Nha Trang – Danang
Day 8: Danang – Hoi An
Day 9: Hoi An
Day 10: Hoi An – Danang – Hanoi
Day 11: Hanoi
Day 12: Hanoi – Ha Long Bay
Day 13: Ha Long Bay – Hanoi
Day 14: Hanoi
DAY 1: SAIGON/HO CHI MINH CITY
On arrival in Saigon you will be transferred to your hotel. Please remember that hotel check-in times are after midday – unless the hotel has some rooms already available. If you do arrive early you can leave your luggage at reception and we would encourage you to get out and explore Hanoi – but please take a hotel business card so that you will be able to find your way back. Before leaving the hotel, please look in the reception area for a notice advising your tour leader’s name, mobile phone number and other helpful local information. There are no activities planned until your 6 pm tour briefing. It is important you attend the tour briefing and afterwards, for those interested, your leader will be happy to escort you to a local restaurant to sample the delights of Vietnamese cuisine and toast the start of what will be an unforgettable journey.
DAY 3: SAIGON – MEKONG DELTA – CAI BE
We can leave some luggage behind at our hotel before heading south into the Mekong Delta. The Mekong River begins its journey in the high plateau of Eastern Tibet and, after winding its way some 4,000+ km through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos & Cambodia, it reaches Vietnam and divides into 9 channels (the Vietnamese refer to the Mekong Delta as “Cuu Long” – which means 9 dragons) and hundreds of tributaries before emptying into the South China Sea. The Mekong Delta is one of the most fertile regions on earth and home to some 20 million people. The best way to see the Delta is, of course, by boat and we join ours at the small market town of Cai Be. As we cruise the canals, rivers and backwaters we will discover how the local people lead their lives here and go about their daily business. We will cruise past a congested flotilla of boats selling all manner of fruit and vegetables at Cai Be’s floating market. We will visit some family-run industries, which include a rice paper, popcorn, popped rice & coconut candy factory. Continuing our journey we arrive at our simple home-stay situated on an island in the middle of the Mekong River. Dinner tonight will include the Mekong Delta’s famous “Elephant Ear Fish” as well as a number of other Mekong specialties.
DAY 6: NHA TRANG
With fabulous sunny weather for most of the year, crystal clear blue waters surrounding a string of offshore islands, a beach that spans the 6 km length of the city, and some fantastic seafood, it is little wonder that Nha Trang has become Vietnam’s premier beach resort. We will have plenty of time to enjoy the sun & sand by day and vibrant nightlife in the evening during our time in Nha Trang, This morning we will head onto the water for a boat cruise around the offshore coastal islands. Bring a towel and bathers because there is time for swimming and snorkeling. For lunch our crew will serve up a sumptuous feast of freshly caught seafood and other delights for non-seafood eaters.
DAY 8: DANANG – HOI AN
There is no rail link into Hoi An so we disembark at Danang and drive the remaining distance to Hoi An. It should only take us about 45 minutes and on the way we will pass the massive former US airbase that was, in 1968, the busiest airport in the world with all manner of aircraft coming and going in support of South Vietnam’s war effort. The ancient and historic town of Hoi An was for three centuries one of the most important ports in Central Vietnam, visited by sailing ships from all over the world seeking trade in silk, ceramics and spices. In the late 19th Century, the Tu Bon River, linking the port to the open sea, began to silt up and became un-navigable for large vessels. Trade moved up the coast to Tourane, now modern day Danang, and Hoi An went back to being a sleepy little fishing and rice farming community. Today however, Hoi An’s fortunes are once again riding on the crest of the wave as Vietnam’s number one tourist destination. This is largely due to the fact that UNESCO has listed the Old Town as a World Heritage Site with its quaint narrow streets packed with ancient Chinese, Portuguese and Japanese styles of architecture that has changed little from its heydays as a major port of trade. In Hoi An we include a walking tour of the Old Town where you can visit an Ancient House, a Chinese Assembly Hall, the Japanese Covered Bridge and a Museum.
DAY 10: HOI AN – DANANG – HANOI
This morning we transfer to Danang where we visit Marble Mountain and China Beach. Note: Appropriate footwear (runners rather than thongs) should be worn for the walk up Marble Mountain. The walk takes about an hour and involves climbing approximately 200 steps. After the morning activity, we transfer to Danang Airport in time to catch a flight to Hanoi. On arrival in Hanoi we make our way to our hotel in town. This evening we enjoy a performance of Hanoi’s famous Water Puppets – kids and parents will be equally delighted!
DAY 13: HA LONG BAY – HANOI
In the morning we cruise back to Ha Long port, where we disembark and drive back to Hanoi. The afternoon is free for shopping and sightseeing or relaxing in one of the lakeside cafes.
DAY 14: HANOI
Free at leisure, it is subject to your flight schedule you might have some free time once we transfer you to the airport for taking your international flight back home. Today is the last day of your tour. You can use your hotel room in Hanoi until check out time (most times at 12 pm noon). We wish you a comfortable journey home and are sure you will take with you some wonderful memories of Vietnam.
DAY 2: SAIGON/HO CHI MINH CITY
Officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City after reunification in 1975, most people here still prefer to use the old name, Saigon. Once referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Saigon, with its unofficial population around 8-9 million is Vietnam’s largest city and stands in stark conatrast to the capital, Hanoi. Perhaps Saigon lacks the same colonial charm of its northern cousin but it still has a certain tropical ambience and general hustle and bustle that makes it a distinctly a modern South East Asian city. This morning we will visit the Reunification Palace (formerly South Vietnam’s Presidential Palace), War Remnants Museum (with its graphic depiction of the horrors of war), the French built Notre Dame Cathedral and the Gustav Eiffel designed Central Post Office. The afternoon is at leisure – perhaps an optional visit to the excellent Dam Sen Water Park to splash around with the kids?
DAY 4: CAI BE – SAIGON
The morning begins with a walk along the island’s trails and a sampan ride through some of its small creeks and canals. Our riverboat carries us back to Cai Be and we take the bus from here returning to Saigon in the afternoon.
DAY 5: SAIGON – CU CHI – SAIGON – NHA TRANG
This morning we drive to the former Viet Cong stronghold of Cu Chi Tunnels. Begun by the Viet Minh and later expanded by the Viet Cong, Cu Chi’s tunnels were constructed to conduct covert operations and then quickly hide from the enemy. There are reputed to be around 200 kilometers of underground tunnels within the area, and in some places they even managed to penetrate the perimeters of nearby US military bases. We will actually be given the opportunity of crawling through a section of the tunnels while we are here, and learn how the brave men and women of Cu Chi built underground hospitals, kitchens and meeting rooms during their struggle for a unified Vietnam.
DAY 7: NHA TRANG – DANANG
Today is at leisure but Nha Trang is an ideal place to relax, either by the hotel pool or at the nearby beach across the road. You might like to take an optional excursion to visit the Po Nagar Cham Towers or visit to Thap Ba Hot Springs for the chance to soak your bones in soothing pools of hot, mineral rich mud. There are also a couple of water parks where the kids can splash about. This evening we board our overnight sleeper train and head north to Danang. (N.B: This is a local train and conditions on board are generally quite basic. Also, breakfast is not always available on the train so it is recommended that you purchase some supplies before boarding in Nha Trang).
DAY 9: HOI AN
Today is free at leisure. In your free time you can rent bicycles and set off to explore the surrounding countryside, take a boat trip on the Tu Bon River, relax on the nearby beach, enjoy the wonderful cuisine on offer at some of the town’s numerous cheap cafes, or have some clothes made up. Hoi An has nearly 100 silk shops offering same-day service for tailor made clothes at low prices.
DAY 11: HANOI
Although there has been a permanent settlement here since the 3rd Century AD, the city of Hanoi can trace its origins back to 1010 B.C., when Emperor Le Thai To moved his capital from Hoa Lu to this site. When the French occupied Vietnam from the 1880s to World War II, Hanoi was developed as their colonial Indochinese capital with many of the ancient and historical structures being razed to make way for new French buildings. Today, the people of Hanoi take a lot of pride in their grand old colonial buildings which, together with the wide spacious boulevards and tree-lined lakes, help make Hanoi one of most graceful and charming cities in South East Asia. This morning we enjoy a city tour, showcasing some of Hanoi’s most interesting attractions. We begin by visiting the One Pillar Pagoda which is near to the Soviet-inspired Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. One Pillar Pagoda was first constructed in 1049 and is one Hanoi’s oldest structures. If it does not look that old, it is because the French blew it up in 1954 as a parting gesture and the current building is a replica. Afterwards, we’ll visit the Temple of Literature. Founded in 1070, it was Vietnam’s first institute of learning and the place where candidates for the position of Mandarin were examined. Finally we’ll visit the Hoa Lo Prison, better known to many as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’. These days the prison serves as a museum and a reminder of the Vietnamese who were incarcerated here by their French masters and, later, American pilots shot down over North Vietnam airspace during the Vietnam War. The afternoon is free to wander around and one of the best places to do this is the city’s Old Quarter, situated to the north of the Hoan Kiem Lake – a great (and easy) place to get lost in for a couple of hours.
DAY 12: HANOI – HA LONG BAY
Ha Long Bay became firmly entrenched as one of the must-sees of Vietnam after the filming of the 1992 French movie, Indochine (starring Catherine Deneuve) and later the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (starring Pierce Brosnan), The images of red sailed junks navigating through the 3,000+ limestone karsts (islands) jutting out of the bay are nothing short of spectacular. It is approximately a three-hour drive from Hanoi to Halong port where we board our boat and head out into the bay enjoying a seafood lunch (non-seafood also available) on the way. During the cruise we will stop to visit a cave and, in the warmer months, there is a chance to enjoy a swim and maybe do some kayaking (optional and extra cost involved). After we have moored up in the bay for the night our crew will busy themselves preparing a sumptuous dinner whilst, weather permitting, we watch an incredible sunset. Conditions are more communal compared to staying in a hotel; however it is a wonderful experience to be spending a night on the bay. All boats have twin-share cabins with en suite facilities and bedding and towels are provided.
Accommodation as mentioned in the program, based on Double/Twin Room with breakfast
Meals as indicated in itinerary
English speaking guide throughout the trip
Tours, transfers and all services as mentioned in the itinerary
Private driver and vehicle for city tours, train and airport transfers
Private cabin with the twin share on Ha Long Bay Junk
Entrance fees for all sights visited
Internal flight SGN-NHA / DAD-HAN
1st class air conditioner shared cabin with 4 soft berths in the train
Vietnam visa arrangements
International flights to and from Vietnam
Any other meals not mentioned above
Personal expenses are such as laundry, telephone, drinks, camera and video fees, etc.
Gratitude for guide and driver
All other services which are not mentioned in INCLUSIONS
``I enjoyed my time in Vietnam and would love to come back again.``