Xin chao! Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please check with hotel reception or look on the reception noticeboard for where and when the meeting will take place. 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. Because this trip doesn’t spend much time in Ho Chi Minh City, why not arrive a day or two early to see the sights? Ho Chi Minh City has a dynamic atmosphere and a French influence. Perhaps head to Pham Ngu Lao Street to see the local open-aired market, visit Vinh Nghiem Pagoda or one of the amusements parks.
For the first full day of your trip, you’ll visit one of the most important sites in Ho Chi Minh City, the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. These complex tunnels were used by the Viet Cong in the long war against the Americans and were instrumental to the Vietnamese victory. Be amazed by the ingenuity of these dangerous tunnels. Later in the day, take a tour of the city, passing the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House. Head to the War Remnants Museum for a sobering yet informative lesson on the Vietnam War. Here you’ll see things like old military equipment, an F5A fighter and a UH1-Huey helicopter.
Travel south by private bus for about three hours to Cai Be. When you arrive, you’ll board a boat and explore the intricate waterways of the Mekong Delta. Often referred to as ‘the rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the fertile delta is where rice, tropical fruit and flowers are grown for the whole country. The views along the canal will take your breath away. Hop off the boat to visit an orchard and sample some tropical fruit. You’ll then continue on the cruise towards some local cottage industries. Get to see local life and the industries surrounding the river up close. Around sunset, you’ll make your way up one of the many canals to your homestay where you’ll enjoy a wonderful meal of local specialities. The accommodation tonight will be simple, but the experience will be rewarding.
Wake up early today to explore more of the magical delta. Daily life here starts at dawn, so after breakfast we visit the Cai Be Floating Market. Here you’ll see hundreds of boats filled with people selling fresh produce. Travel back to Ho Chi Minh City (about three hours) and enjoy some free time to do a bit of sightseeing. We recommend exploring the city’s restaurants and trying Ho Chi Minh City’s distinctive food. In contrast to the north of Vietnam, the cuisine here is spicier, sweeter and more varied. There are also plenty of street food stalls if you’d like to take a few bites of the local fare.
After exploring Ho Chi Minh City, take a bus transfer to Dalat. Temperate and cool compared to the rest of the country, Dalat has gained the name “City of Eternal Spring” due to the mists that cover its nearby valleys nearly all year around. This fairytale nickname spreads to its amazing architecture – the Hang Na guesthouse, an expressionist masterpiece, stands as a towering, melted stone obelisk over the lush garden below. There’s also plenty of charming Art Deco-influenced structures and gardens littering the area as well. Perhaps go for a wander through the streets for a better feel of the city or find a café for a cup of artichoke tea, a regional specialty.
Dalat’s soothing climate isn’t just a great reprieve from the sweaty jungles of Vietnam, it also creates the perfect environment to grow a wide selection of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Take a full day to stroll through the tranquil gardens of this city, darting past plantations full of plump vegetables, dazzling flowers, medicinal herbs, aromatic lavender and juicy strawberries.
This morning travel by bus to the idyllic coastal town of Nha Trang (approximately 4 hours). Here you’ll have a free day to enjoy the beaches, snorkelling and the seafood restaurants along the promenade. Ask your leader to suggest some things to do.
Get on another boat and head out to explore the nearby islands. This excursion is often the highlight of the trip for many travellers as you’ll get to know some of the locals and indulge in the beauty of the place. Starting on the main boat, you’ll then take a small basket boat to shore and visit a fishing village, snorkel in the turquoise waters and have a seafood buffet for lunch. Pass the afternoon lazing in a deck chair or going for another swim. In the evening, board an overnight train to Danang.
Begin with an early arrival and bus transfer from Danang to Hoi An. Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An was a major trading port with the West from the 15th to the 19th century. Today it has been restored to look exactly as it did more than a century ago, giving it an old-world feel full of nooks and crannies to explore. You’ll have some free time this afternoon. Hoi An is very much a shopping mecca. Why not browse the paintings, woodwork, ceramics, embroidery all made by the locals? The city is also famous for its talented tailors who work with beautiful fabrics for a good price.
Enjoy another free day in the town of Hoi An. You’ll have time to see the beautiful Chinese shophouses, enjoy the busy market, visit Cua Dai Beach, cycle to the rice fields or browse the array of art galleries.
Depart Hoi An and visit the white sand and blue sea of My Khe Beach. Continue on the journey and cross the dramatic Hai Van Pass and make a quick stop at the fishing village of Lang Co. Get back in the bus again and make your way to Hue. The total driving time today will be about five hours. Arrive in Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Hue contains the treasures of Vietnam’s royal history, and has a curious blend of bustling streets and tranquil settings. Your excursion here will be to the Imperial Citadel. This fortress houses the Imperial City and the citadel-within-a-citadel, the Forbidden Purple City. This icon was almost completely destroyed during the Vietnam War, and the ruins and holes left by bombs are a reminder of the destruction caused by the war. In your free time you might like to visit to Dong Ba Market which offers locally made goods, fresh produce and tantalising street food. This is a good place to try the specialties enjoyed by Emperor Nguyen such as the banh khoai royal rice cake.
Today’s adventure will be taken on the back of a motorbike. You’ll have your own driver who will take you first on a drive around the Imperial Citadel, then to the Thien My Pagoda, the unofficial symbol of Hue. This site dates back to 1601 and is still an active Buddhist monastery. Here you’ll also see the car left by a monk who set himself alight to protest the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. Hop off the motorbike for a bit and go on a dragon boat cruise along the Perfume River. After the 40-minute cruise get back on your motorbike and ride to a special lunch spot at a convent. After lunch, drive to the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, set amid a lake, frangipani bushes and pine trees. At the end of the day, head back to Hue.
Get on a bus this morning on your way to the Vinh Moc Tunnels. These were used during the Vietnam War as shelter for the villagers who were escaping intense bombing. The locals lived in the underground system that went over three levels. You’ll be able to enter the tunnels which remain in their original form. This afternoon continue on to the a picturesque village outside the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Our accommodation here is situated on a farm, with rooms set in bungalows positioned throughout the property. The 'farmstay' was established the help the small town to benefit economically from tourism, while it has also adopted recycling and waste management programs.
Today visit the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage site contains the oldest known karst mountains in Asia. The area is also known for its enormous cave system. You’ll visit the Thien Duong Cave (Paradise Cave), then take a cruise up the Son River towards the Phong Cave. The scale of the place is truly astounding. In the late afternoon, travel to Dong Hoi and catch and overnight sleeper train to Hanoi. The journey will take about 10 hours.
Arrive in Hanoi early in the morning and transfer to your hotel. Vietnam’s capital is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, public parks and Frenchy Old Quarter. As an emerging city in Southeast Asian, Hanoi has an attractive contrast of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and a labyrinth of ancient streets. Later in the day, you’ll visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex, including the One Pillar Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Museum. In the evening, enjoy a performance of water puppetry, a unique and traditional Vietnamese art form.
Rise early this morning to pack and eat breakfast before departing at 8am. It’s then a four hour bus drive to Sung Village, where you will experience a home stay tonight. Enjoy lunch with your hosts on arrival and then take an introductory walk around the village. After getting to know the village better, set out on a short trek to Sung Cave and a local tea plantation that’s 100 years old. Arrive back at the village around 5:30pm for a hot shower and a fabulous home-style meal with our hosts. There are around 70 families living at Sung Village and the majority are Dzao ‘Tien’ people. Farming and forest plantation are still their main source of income.
The opportunity to take in more of this curious landscape presents itself on a 10 kilometre (6.2 mi) trek from Sung Village to Da Bia. We climb from 500m and maintain a similar elevation for the first 4.5km of the route before descending over the next 2km to 120m. It can be quite slippery if there has been recent rain, so suitable footwear is highly recommended. Our homestay hosts can provide bamboo trekking poles on request. Keep an eye peeled for the monumental stone at the peak of Da Bia Mountain during the trek that takes us through the local villages, meeting people from the ethnic Muong tribe along the way. Stop for lunch at Da Bia before enjoying a scenic 1.5 hour boat cruise on Hoa Binh hydropower reservoir. Arrive at Thung Nai then board a bus transfer to Hanoi (approximately 2 hours). Arrive in Hanoi at around 6.00pm. Make the most of the city’s delicious food scene by recharging with a group dinner together.
Drive to Bai Chay Harbour towards the famous world heritage site of Halong Bay. The drive will take around four hours and take you to a secluded harbour and blue-green bay studded with limestone outcrops. The area is full of beaches and natural grottos. You’ll take a boat through the limestone peaks and caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites, and have the chance to go for a swim or perhaps take a kayak out on the bay. Spend the night on board the boat beneath a sky alive with starlight. The boat has twin-share cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities. There’s also a dining room and bar where you can enjoy the day’s meals.
Take a three-and-a-half hour bus ride back to Hanoi. There are no activities planned for the day except for an optional farewell dinner to mark the end of your trip. Spend a final night in Hanoi before the trip ends tomorrow.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you’re free to leave the accommodation at any time.