In just 10 days, this private tour encompasses the very best that Vietnam has to offer. Using a range of handpicked hotels, you will experience lush landscapes, discover harrowing history and sample incredible fresh food. Halong Bay - Cruise around the island cliffs on a traditional junk boat Hoi An - Take a cookery course or try out traditional lantern making. Saigon - Learn about the resourcefulness of the Viet Cong at the Cu Chi Tunnels, visit an underground weapons bunker and explore old Saigon's bustling back alleys
Still commonly referred to by locals as 'Saigon', the city is the largest in Vietnam and the country's commercial hub. You will find an eclectic mix of the traditional and the new, where pagodas and markets compete alongside the trappings of Vietnam's newly discovered entrepreneurial spirit. You will be met on arrival at Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) by a local guide, and driven to your centrally-located hotel, approximately a 30 to 40 minute journey. There are no activities planned today, so feel free to arrive in Ho Chi Minh City at any time. For those booking their own flights, you will just need to let us know your flight details no later than three weeks prior to departure, in order to be met on arrival. Many museums in Vietnam are closed on Mondays, so we advise you to take that into account when booking, if there is something that you particularly want to visit.
No visit to Ho Chi Minh City would be complete without exploring something of its tragic recent history, and the poignant reminders of what the Vietnamese refer to as the American War can still be seen amongst many of the buildings in the city. You'll explore something of this today. Take a short drive with your local guide out to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels in the morning. Originally started during the French occupation of the country, the tunnels went on to achieve notoriety during the Vietnam War, when they formed an amazing underground command base for 10,000 Viet Cong troops and were a major part of the Tet Offensive. This area was the centre of intense fighting during the war, much of it falling prey to the incessant carpet bombing, napalm and defoliants utilised by the Americans in an attempt to dislodge the Viet Cong from their underground shelters. There is little evidence of any of that now and the landscape has returned to something of its pre-war beauty, but exploring the tunnels of Ben Dinh and Ben Binh gives some idea as to the conditions that the Vietnamese and their American adversaries had to endure. Be warned, the tunnels are low and narrow and can be claustrophobic. In the afternoon, walk around the central sights of Ho Chi Minh City with a local guide, taking in the Notre Dame Cathedral and the GPO building as well as some of the old Colonial hotels such as The Rex. Drive to the Independence Palace (renamed the Reunification Hall) and the graphic War Remnants Museum, where you will learn about the Vietnam War from a very different view point to that of Hollywood.
Transfer to the airport for a short flight to Danang in Central Vietnam, meeting a local guide on arrival to continue the journey by car to Hoi An. Given the early hour of arrival at the hotel you might not be able to check-in, so the plan is to store bags and then embark on a walking tour of Hoi An. First colonized by the Portuguese in the 16th century, by the 17th and 18th centuries Hoi An had become one of the busiest international trading posts in southeast Asia and, even today, it still retains the engaging charm of a medieval port, with many of its old buildings superbly preserved. Highlights include the Phuc Kien Assembly Hall, a pagoda dedicated to the worship of Buddha originally built by the Vietnamese people in the 16th century and the 400 year old Japanese covered bridge. End at the colourful riverside market, which is a perfect setting for you to continue exploring solo.
Today is free to wander through the historic heart of this World Heritage Site at your leisure. An early morning visit to the fish market presents a riot of noise and colour that is perfect for some great photo opportunities and some choice local interaction. You might also like to pay a visit to the Japanese Bridge, Hoi An's emblematic symbol, believed to have been constructed to quell the violent rumblings of a restless monster, or perhaps explore the traditional wooden houses and Chinese temples that line the streets. There are numerous tailors shops in Hoi An providing an incredibly cheap and quick service and almost all visitors have at least one item made before they depart. Hoi An is also a great place to hire a bicycle as the roads are relatively quiet. There's a good beach just a few kilometres from the town or alternatively why not set out to explore nearby villages. Cooking classes are yet another option available in this popular traveller's hangout.
Head along the coastal road towards the historic setting of Hué, crossing part of the Truong Son Mountains and travelling via the Hai Van (Sea Cloud) Pass. This stunningly scenic region once marked the boundary between Vietnam and the Champa Kingdom to the south and the journey should get you into the old imperial city around lunchtime, after which the rest of the day is free for personal exploration. Once the capital of Vietnam and an inspiration for poets and artists alike for centuries, Hué is divided by the waters of the Perfume River, which separate the city's 19th century citadel from the suburbs that radiate from the eastern shore and, even today, its easy air of leisurely ambience makes it one of the most engaging cities in the country to explore.
Take a morning tour with your guide today. Cruise along the Perfumed River, paying a visit to the iconic Thien Mu Pagoda, home to the oldest monastery in the city whose 21m high tower has become something of a symbol for Hué. Dedicated to the Manushi- Buddha, the existing temple was constructed in the middle years of the 19th century, under the auspices of the Emperor Thieu Tri, and within its confines you can find a number of superb Buddhist statues, as well as an enormous cast bell that weighs in at over 2000kg and is reputed to be audible over 10km away. Farther afield, amongst the forested landscapes of the Perfume Valley, you can find the Royal Tombs of the Nguyen kings, and visit the mausoleum of Emperor Tu Duc. Later this afternoon, drive to the airport and fly to Hanoi, Vietnam's vibrant and historic capital. You'll be met by a guide and transferred to your hotel.
Vietnam's capital is famous for its rich culture, bustling life and colonial influences on their centuries-old architecture. Little lakes dotted around the city are encased by busy streets and secret alleyways, which are waiting to be explored. With the morning free to explore, visit the Ethnology Museum or Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and museum (closed on Mondays). The city showcases superb French architecture from its colonial days, with large tree-lined boulevards and low-built mansions and houses. Your local guide will provide you with a map of the Old Quarter should you wish to walk through the narrow lanes of this fascinating district, where the streets are named after various crafts or specialties: Paper Street, Silk Street, Basket Street and so on. The shops themselves have very narrow frontages but are actually quite deep; they are known locally as tube shops. On the pavements food sellers sell noodles, snacks and stir-fries from shoulder panniers, all adding to the charm of this historic quarter of the city. In the afternoon, transfer by road towards the Bay of Tonkin on Vietnam's northeast coast. Your destination is the breathtaking setting of Halong Bay, one of Vietnam's, and indeed Southeast Asia's, most spectacular natural attractions, whose staggering beauty has seen it listed as one of the eight natural wonders of the world. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Halong Bay presents a quite extraordinary vista of hundreds of limestone islands (over 1600 at last count) that rise from the jade green waters of the bay like the scales of some great submerged dragon. Indeed Halong means 'where the dragon descends to the sea' and local legends tells of a time when this rugged landscape was created by the pounding tail of a mighty dragon as he ran from the mountains into the glittering waters of the bay below.
This morning, board a junk and set sail, threading your way through a flotilla of boats, junks and wooden sampans as they ply their way across the gentle waters of the bay. The plan for today is to sail through this stunning seascape, stopping off to swim and visit some of the limestone caverns that pepper the landscape, as well as enjoying a traditional seafood lunch. Disembark in the late afternoon and drive back to Hanoi.
Architecturally styled like a French provincial town, with tree-lined boulevards and substantial low-built houses, Hanoi is a wonderfully nostalgic city to enjoy and amongst its more interesting sights are the charming One-Pillar Pagoda, the Temple of Literature and the Presidential Palace. Ho Chi Minh was a spartan-living and scholarly man, who chose not to live in the Presidential Palace itself, but instead preferred a simple teak 2-storied stilt-house specially built for him in the grounds. You can visit his museum and this austere mausoleum, said to resemble that of Lenin in Moscow, or perhaps taking another walk through the engaging streets of its Old Quarter. The city's French Quarter is a great place to explore by bicycle, its grandiose colonial architecture offering up a rich contrast to the more frenetic pace of the old city, whilst those looking to discover something more of the colonial wars might like to pay a visit to the Museum of Vietnamese Revolution or the Military History Museum.
Your trip ends today, and you will be taken to the airport to meet your international flight. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at the hotel. If you have time, you may wish to take another wander through the fascinating Old Quarter or stroll along the shore of Hoan Kiem Lake.
8 Break Fast(s) 1 Lunch(es)
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