Ho Chi Minh City
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.
Ho Chi Minh City
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.
Mekong Delta Homestay
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.
Ho Chi Minh City
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 coastal town of Phan Rang (approximately 3 hours). Visit the nearby Po Klong Garai Cham Towers, an archaeological site from the middle ages dedicated to the indigenous goddess. Gain an insight into an ancient tradition with a visit to the oldest pottery village in South East Asia, Bau Truc. Enjoy free time for the rest of the day. Make sure to ask your leader for restaurant recommendations to sample the excellent local seafood.
Phan Rang / Overnight train
Take a day trip to Vinh Hy Bay, a picturesque, crescent-shaped harbour between Phan Rang and Nha Trang. Along the way, you’ll stop at the Bau Nai fish market for a glimpse of the bustle of activity as fish are unloaded and locals hurriedly shop for the best deal. Continue to a salt field. Rivalling the beauty of the Vietnamese countryside, central Vietnam’s sprawling salt fields are a sight to behold. Witness workers raking and collecting salt that has evaporated from the salty waters of Vietnam’s coast, which has been funnelled inland into shallow fields. Next, visit another place of great natural beauty – the moss-covered rock formations and fossilised coral reefs of Hang Rai. Finally, arrive at Vinh Hy Bay, where you’ll have plenty of time to swim and snorkel in its warm, coral-filled waters.
This evening, board an overnight train to Da Nang. Conditions are basic on these trains and hygiene standards may be lower than what you’re used to at home, however overnight trains are the best way to brush shoulders with the locals and make the best use of your time. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers like to take some food for the journey.
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.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
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.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park / Overnight train
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.
Leave Hanoi after breakfast around 8 am and make the drive to Sung village (approximately 4 hours). There are around 70 families living at Sung Village and the majority are Dzao ‘Tien’ people. Farming and forest plantation are their main source of income. Enjoy lunch at your homestay then take an introductory walk around the village. After getting to know the village better, take a short trek (2 kilometres) to the alluring Sung Cave and visit a 100-year-old tea plantation. The trek has some steep and slippery sections so please ensure you have suitable footwear for this activity. After a handicraft workshop, return to your homestay accommodation for a nice hot shower and a delicious dinner.
This morning, have an opportunity to take in more of the Vietnamese highlands on a 10 kilometre (6.2 mi) trek from Sung Village to Da Bia. The first 8km of the trek is mostly flat ground along well-worn buffalo tracks. The final 2km gradually inclines and for a period of approximately 300m there are some steps to climb, however the walk will be a steady relaxed pace. Keep an eye peeled for the monumental stone at the peak of Da Bia Mountain during the hike 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 pm. This evening is free for you to explore this delightful city. Why not relax with a bia hoi (freshly brewed draught beer) at one of the microbars in the Old Quarter?
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. In the evening, enjoy a performance of water puppetry, a unique and traditional Vietnamese art form. Afterwards, perhaps mark the end of your trip with an optional farewell dinner. 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.
Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi Tunnels
Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
Ho Chi Minh City - City tour
Mekong Delta - Sightseeing tour including cottage industries
Mekong Delta - Local Market
Dalat - Garden visit
Phan Rang - Bau Truc pottery village
Phan Rang - Po Nagar Cham towers
Phan Rang - Vinh Hy Bay snorkelling
Phan Rang - Hang Rai fossilised coral reefs
Phan Rang - Bau Nai fish market & salt fields
Hoi An - Old Town walking tour
Hue - Imperial Citadel
Hue - Royal tomb
Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
Hue - Perfume River cruise & Thien Mu Pagoda
Quang Tri - Vinh Moc Tunnels Entrance
Quang Tri - Hien Luong Bridge
Phong Nha Ke-Bang NP - Thien Duong (Paradise Cave)
Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park - Phong Nha Cave Entry
Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh Complex: Ho Chi Minh, Stilt House and Museum
Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda
Hanoi - Old Quarter Walking Tour
Da Bac - Sung cave and village tour
Da Bac - Trek
Hanoi - Water puppet show