A holiday that explores the exciting diversity of Vietnam on foot. Enjoy walking tours around the must-see city sights in Hanoi, Hue and Ho Chi Minh City, and rural rambles between tribal villages and to ancient jungle temples. Extend your trip to visit the laid-back Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh and incredible temple complex at Angkor. Halong Bay - Cruise among breathtaking limestone landscapes aboard a junk Hoi An - Discover this charming ancient merchant's town Culinary delights - Enjoy Vietnam's amazing street food
The trip starts today in Hanoi. Vietnam's bustling capital is architecturally styled like a French provincial town, with tree-lined boulevards and low-rise buildings. It's a wonderful city to explore on foot. Your Leader plans to meet everyone in the hotel reception at 4pm for a welcome meeting. Afterwards, for those that wish, we'll head to a restaurant for dinner. On the way to dinner your leader will orientate you and introduce you to life in Vietnam as you head through some of the bustling streets and markets of Hanoi's Old Quarter. The maze of fascinating alleys is known for its interesting 'tube' houses, whose narrow frontages give way to long rooms that stretch back from the road. There are no other activities planned today. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Noi Bai International Airport (HAN), which is 45 minutes from the hotel. Please note that if you wish to join the afternoon orientation tour today, you must arrive at the hotel by 4pm. If you are booking your own flights, we recommend giving yourself at least 30 minutes to clear the airport. From the airport to the hotel is around 45 minutes' drive, so therefore the latest your flight can arrive is 1pm. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information by note left at the front desk.
Leaving Hanoi behind this morning, we drive west to the Pu Luong Nature Reserve, a beautiful region of limestone cliffs, forests and terraced fields that is richly biodiverse. This area is a home to the Thai ethnic minority tribe who live in villages of stilt houses. We will be staying in the heart of the Reserve at the Pu Luong Retreat, an eco-friendly lodge built from traditional materials in a 'boutique' style, with breathtaking views all around. There is even an infinity pool in the former fish pond! At the Retreat we will be staying in its unique stilt house, a beautifully appointed and traditional structure where we sleep on comfortable mattresses in one very large room that can be divided into sections by curtains. The shared bathrooms are connected to the stilt house and open to the elements. See http://puluongretreat.com/house-on-stilt/. On arriving at the Nature Reserve, we hike across the paddy fields to our accommodation while the bus continues there with our luggage. We can expect today's eight kilometre walk to take around two-and-a-half hours across gently undulating terrain.
We spend today hiking among the beautiful landscapes of the Reserve and will enjoy plenty of stops along the way, planning to spend time in some of the villages of the Thai minority tribe and have a picnic lunch en route. Today's leisurely paced hike of approximately 10 kilometres will take around five hours across gently undulating terrain.
In the morning we enjoy another walk, rambling alongside the bubbling river with its vast wooden waterwheels which transport its waters to irrigate the terraced paddy fields. We return to the hustle and bustle of Hanoi later today with time in the evening to enjoy a performance of traditional water puppets (optional). These puppet shows date back to the 11th century, and performances took place in the flooded rice fields of the villages in the Red River Delta. This morning's walk covers approximately five-and-a-half kilometres and is expected to take around two hours.
This morning we will discover more of Hanoi outside of the Old Quarter on a walking tour. Architecturally styled like a French provincial town with tree-lined boulevards and substantial low-built houses, the city is wonderfully nostalgic. Among the interesting sights that we will visit are the charming One-Pillar Pagoda, Confucius Temple and the Presidential Palace. Ho Chi Minh himself, a spartan-living and scholarly man, chose not to live in the Presidential Palace; he preferred instead a simple teak stilt-house specially built for him and which we will see in the Palace grounds. In the afternoon we drive to our hotel at Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin. We can expect today's five kilometre walking tour to take around four hours including sightseeing.
This morning we enjoy the romantic scenery of Halong Bay on a junk cruise amongst the thousands of jagged limestone islands that rise out of the jade green waters like the hairy scales of a submerged dragon! In fact Halong means: 'Where the dragon descends to the sea'. As legend has it the rugged seascape was created by the pounding tail of a dragon as he ran from the mountains into the sea, carving the islands in his wake. During our cruise we'll have the chance to stop at a grotto beneath towering cliffs and perhaps visit a beach and enjoy a delicious freshly caught seafood lunch on board the boat. After disembarking, we return to our hotel in Hanoi to freshen up before boarding the 'Reunification Express' to Hue. We travel 'soft sleeper' class on the train, with four people to a compartment with all bedding provided.
Awaking aboard the train, we pass through a rural landscape of seemingly endless rice paddies before arriving in the city of Hue mid morning. This afternoon we will discover Hue's fascinating history on a walking tour around the Imperial Citadel. Located on the left bank of the river, the palace was built by the Nguyen dynasty, Vietnam's ruling emperors from the early 1800s to 1945. The Citadel has formal moats and impressive ramparts that were constructed by 20,000 men and was a copy of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Although most of the inner part of the city was totally destroyed during the month-long Tet Offensive in 1968, the vast outer walls and the west wing remain an eloquent reminder of the palace's former glory. We can expect today's seven kilometre walking tour to take around three-and-a-half hours including sightseeing.
This morning we drive out of the city to enjoy a hike through the countryside and villages overlooking the Huong Giang River, better known as the Perfume River. Exploring on foot enables us to observe rural life up close and our leader is always on hand to explain what we see. Various cottage industries take place in the villages here including silk painting, bronze casting and incense stick production. The river supposedly got its name from the aromas carried by the river downstream from the forests and mountains of its source. Near the end of our walk we'll stop on Vong Canh Hill to admire the great view of the river down below before descending to board our own boat for a leisurely cruise along the river back to Hue. Today's hike of approximately eight kilometres will take around three hours. We will walk along village footpaths and the terrain is undulating.
Today we enjoy a scenic drive south to Hoi An, crossing the spectacular Hai Van Pass en route and passing through rural scenes of thatched, wooden houses and lime-green rice paddies as well as panoramic sea views. The UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An was one of the busiest international trading ports of Southeast Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries. First colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th century, it still retains its medieval charm today, with many of its old buildings superbly preserved. The afternoon has been left free to explore Hoi An at your own pace. You may choose to visit the Japanese Bridge or some of the Chinese temples and meeting halls in the Old Town. There are also many shops, bars and restaurants and it is a great place to buy souvenirs, have clothing tailored or simply watch the world go by in a riverside cafe.
Today we drive for around an hour from Hoi An and enjoy a hike through a hilly landscape of pine forest and grasslands to the ancient Cham site of My Son. The Chams were dynastic lords who rejected the authority of China in the second century and established their own kingdom in what is now Vietnam. Although they benefited from strong sea links with the rest of South East Asia, the kingdom's interior could not supply sufficient food for a strong military force. For 1000 years they managed to stave off attacks by the Vietnamese and Chinese, before being overcome by the Vietnamese in the 15th century. The site is impressive, despite the fact that much of it was bombed in the 1960s and there are several groupings of Cham temples which we can visit. We can expect today's nine kilometre hike to take around four-and-a-half hours across undulating terrain with a high point of 168m.
After a short drive to Danang Airport first thing this morning, we fly to Ho Chi Minh City, from where we drive further south to Cai Be in the Mekong Delta. Surrounded with lush and fertile land the area is home to small villages and swaying coconut palms. We take a walk on Tan Phong Islands to see local Delta life. Later we travel by boat to the island of Binh Hoa Phoc where we spend the night in a local homestay-cum-guesthouse. At the homestay we will be accommodated in a mix of twin and triple rooms with attached bathrooms. The rich soil of the Mekong provides an abundant harvest, including coconut, fruits, rice and of course fish and tonight we will enjoy a dinner of local produce We can expect today's four kilometre hike to take around one-and-a-half hours.
This morning we plan a walk on the island, stopping off along the way to observe some of the traditional cottage industries of the Delta such as the production of rice paper and coconut sweets. Other glimpses of everyday life may include seeing people catching fish from the river, or mending baskets and repairing tools by the river bank. Departing by boat once more we meet our bus in Vinh Long and drive to our final destination of the trip, Ho Chi Minh City. Still unofficially referred to as 'Saigon', the city is the largest in Vietnam with a population of around eight million. 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. We can expect today's eight-and-a-half kilometre hike to take around three hours across at a leisurely pace. The terrain of the Delta is flat.
This morning we walk around the central sights of Old Saigon, now known as District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City. We see the Notre Dame Cathedral and the GPO building as well as some of the old French Colonial hotels such as The Rex. We then continue to the Independence Palace (renamed the Reunification Hall) and the War Remnants Museum. The afternoon is free for you to explore the city further, perhaps with a visit to the huge Ben Thanh market for some shopping. We can expect today's five kilometre walking tour to take around four hours including sightseeing.
This morning we take a short drive out of the city to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels, which formed an incredible underground command base for 10,000 Viet Cong troops and were a major part of the 1968 Tet Offensive. The site is a fascinating insight into the resourcefulness of the Vietnamese. There is the opportunity to crawl through a small specially adapted section of the tunnels should you wish to sample the claustrophobic conditions in which the Viet Cong lived. You are free to depart from the hotel in Ho Chi Minh City after the morning activity, which finishes at 1.30pm. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you will need to depart from Tan Son Nat International Airport (SGN), which is around 30 minutes' drive from the hotel. If you wish to join the morning excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels then the earliest time you can book a flight to depart is 5 pm.
12 Break Fast(s) 2 Lunch(es) 3 Dinner(s)
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