THE HO (CHI MINH) TO THE HANOI. SEE HOW THE LOCALS LIVE ON AN OVERNIGHT HOMESTAY IN THE MEKONG DELTA, THEN GET YOUR BEACH ON IN NHA TRANG. PAGODAS, HISTORY AND YUM YUMS GALORE IN HOI AN AND HUE. DRIFT THE EMERALD WATERS OF HALONG BAY BY BOAT AND GO FOR A SNOOP THROUGH ANY OF HANOI'S MANY MARKETS.
DAY 1 - HO CHI MINH CITY
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is characterised by a vast array of sights and sounds, and is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. The huge number of people rushing about their daily lives in Vietnam's largest city gives it a dynamic atmosphere and the French influence is evident in the excellent baguettes and coffee on offer. Much of city life takes place on the busy streets lined with shops, stalls and vendors, who have their wares spread out on the footpath and sell everything from soup to sophisticated electronics.
If you arrive early, this city has a vast array of sights and sounds to explore: ancient pagodas and cathedrals sit squarely up against the former Presidential Palace, historic Dong Khoi Street (the Rue Catinat from Graham Greene's novel, The Quiet American) and the bustling markets of Ben Thanh and Cholon (Chinatown).
Saigon Royal Hotel or similar
DAY 2-3 - MEKONG DELTA - OVERNIGHT TRAIN
Head down to the Mekong Delta and visit unexplored Ben Tre where coconut is everything and anything. The fertile delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits and flowers as well as boating along the canals. On arrival, we board our private boat and cruise along the maze of waterways to visit some local cottage industries. Then head to our overnight homestay along the water. We'll be sleeping on simple camp beds in dorm-style rooms with all meals included. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Shared toilet and bathroom facilities are basic.
Rising early to the sounds of the delta coming alive, we enjoy a simple breakfast before boarding our boat, and catching a bus back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Board an overnight train to Nha Trang (approx 11 hours). Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are all part of the experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. Sleeper trains typically have four berth compartments (occasionally six berth depending on seasonal variations and group configuration), which have bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. On occasion, passengers of different genders will be required to share a compartment and there will be occasions where you'll be sharing with local travellers or travellers who are not part of your group. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers take the opportunity to stock up on fresh bread, cheese and fruit prior to departure.
Mekong Delta - Boat cruise and homestay
Mekong Delta homestay
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
DAY 4-5 - NHA TRANG - OVERNIGHT TRAIN
Arrive in Nha Trang at approx. 5am and transfer to your hotel.
Once referred to as the 'Cannes of the Orient', Nha Trang's sandy palm-lined beach and island-dotted bay still make an idyllic picture, and a cosmopolitan feel prevails in the town itself.
Spend your days here soaking up the sun on a lovely beach, exploring the local markets or checking out the ancient Cham Towers nearby. Make sure you try some of the excellent seafood restaurants.
Board an overnight train bound for Danang (approx. 8 hours) late evening on Day 5.
Nha Trang - Boat trip - VND1316000
Nha Trang - Mud baths - VND280000
Nha Trang - Bao Dai Villa - VND120000
Cuong Long hotel Nha Trang or similar
DAY 6-8 - HOI AN
Arrive in Danang and travel by minibus to Hoi An (approx 1 hr).
Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An is being beautifully restored and preserved. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South-East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago and it retains the feel of centuries past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it.
It's also a shopping mecca – with much to browse and buy. Choose from original paintings, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and more. Hoi An has also become famous for its tailoring, with a great variety of fabrics and tailors to choose from. Bring your favourite piece of clothing or even just a picture, and you'll be able to have it copied.
There's no better way to explore the peaceful countryside of Hoi An than by bike. Your leader will take you to places few tourists get the chance to see, past green rice paddies and small creeks, this is a true insight into country living in Vietnam.
Hoi An - Ancient town
Hoi An - My Son Cham day trip - VND800000
Hoi An - Thu Bon river boat trip - VND100000
Hai Yen hotel or similar
DAY 9-11 - HUE - OVERNIGHT TRAIN
Departing Hoi An, we can stop at China Beach (known officially as My Khe Beach) before crossing the dramatic Hai Van Pass to the picturesque fishing village of Lang Co. After a quick stop, continue on to Hue (approx 5 hrs including stops).
As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past and is a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings.
You have a free day to explore. The Dong Ba market, which sells everything imaginable, is a great place to spend some time.
Visit the Imperial Citadel, including the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive, but the foliage-covered ruins are still atmospheric and the gaping holes left by bombs give an idea of the destruction wreaked upon the country during the war.
Enjoy a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River, and a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, considered by many to be the unofficial symbol of Hue. It's an active Buddhist monastery with its origins dating back to 1601. One of the most poignant displays is a car belonging to a former monk who, in 1963, drove to Saigon and set himself alight to protest against the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. We also visit one of the royal tombs, that of Emperor Tu Duc, with its central lake set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees.
Board an overnight train bound for Hanoi (approx. 12 hours).
Hue - Imperial citadel - VND105000
Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda - VND220000
Hue - Royal tomb - VND80000
Victory Hotel Hue or similar
DAY 12 - HANOI
Arrive in Hanoi very early (approx. 4am) and transfer to the hotel.
The capital of Vietnam is a charming city with a population of over six million. Hanoi is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks and its thriving Old Quarter, which is an architectural museum piece with blocks of ochre buildings retaining the air of a 1930s provincial French town. As Vietnam develops to compete with other South-East Asian countries, the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake reflects the contrasts of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and the tangle of ancient streets in its still surface.
Take a walking tour of the Old Quarter. You'll visit the Dong Xuan market, the biggest wholesale market in northern Vietnam, stroll through the ancient '36 streets' where you can discover an amazing selection of shops selling everything from souvenirs to exquisite silk clothing, beautifully embroidered tablecloths. Your leader will point out some of the unique architecture around Hoan Kiem Lake and the myths and legends of the lake.
Hanoi - Walking tour
Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum - VND50000
Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
Hanoi - Army Museum - VND20000
Hanoi - Women's Museum - VND30000
Hanoi - Temple of Literature - VND20000
Hanoi - Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison - VND20000
Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
Van Mieu Hotel or similar
DAY 13 - HALONG BAY
Drive through the Red River Delta to Halong Bay (approx 4 hrs), stopping en route for refreshments at a handicraft village run by disabled people.
Halong Bay is a breathtaking secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands rising from the emerald waters of Bac Bo Gulf. One of Vietnam's most scenic regions, this area of about 1,500 sq km is dotted with innumerable beaches and grottos, created over thousands of years by waves and wind.
Board our boat and cruise the breathtaking bay with its limestone karsts rising from the clear emerald waters. We enjoy a sumptuous seafood lunch on board, explore some of the limestone caves in the area and go swimming during the warmer months.
Stay overnight in a hotel in Halong City (Bai Chay).
Halong Bay - Boat cruise
Entity Hotel or similar
DAY 14-15 - HANOI
Take the ferry, followed by a bus back to Hanoi (approx. 3 hours) for some free time and a optional final group dinner.
The trip ends in the morning on Day 15
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Van Mieu Hotel or similar
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