Hanoi orientation with evening cyclo cruise through the colonial quarter. Why not combine your orientation around the center of capital with two-hour cyclo through the colonial quarter cyclo to discover the city’s architectural mixture of French colonial style, social realism (mostly public buildings – designed or in- fluenced by the USSR), pagodas and com- munal houses with many Chinese features, merchants’ residences, ‘tube’ dwellings, modern buildings and vernacular houses.
Highlights: Hanoi – Halong Bay – Hue – Hoi An Ancient Town – Ho Chi Minh City
Day 1: Hanoi Arrival (Dinner, Guide pickup)
Arriving at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel, the capital city of Vietnam, is an elegant city located on the banks of the Red River with tranquil Restored Sword Lake at its heart. North of the lake are the bustling streets of the Old Quarter, each street named after the trade that used to take place there. Much of the city was transformed by the French when it became a French protectorate in the 1880s and there are wide boulevards and large colonial buildings which are now home to government departments and foreign embassies. You will have time to relax before enjoy a water puppet show, an art form in which puppets are suspended over water, directed by puppet masters who must sit semi-submerged for hours at a time. The tradition of water puppetry is at least 1,000 years old, originating with peasants in the Red River Delta of the north. The puppets, which the French used to call “the souls of the Vietnamese rice fields,” are made of the water-resistant wood of the fig tree and depict villagers, farm animals, dragons, and more.
In the evening, you’ll have a ‘Welcome’ dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant in a restored French colonial building. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 2: Hanoi Orientation (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast at your hotel, you will be taken to visit the Ho Chi Minh Complex where you will hear about the man who led Vietnam’s campaign for independence from French colonial rule. Then you will see the One Pillar Pagoda and the Presidential Palace before heading to the Imperial Citadel. Once the apex of regional political power for more than a millennium, the area is now undergoing archaeological excavation and research. In the afternoon explore the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university and the iconic Long Bien Bridge, followed by cyclo ride through Hanoi's Old Quarters to experience daily life of people who are living in the oldest parts of the city. After that, you will enjoy a water puppet show, an art form in which puppets are suspended over water, directed by puppet masters who must sit semi-submerged for hours at a time. The tradition of water puppetry is at least 1,000 years old, originating with peasants in the Red River Delta of the north. The puppets, which the French used to call “the souls of the Vietnamese rice fields,” are made of the water-resistant wood of the fig tree and depict villagers, farm animals, dragons, and more. You will spend the night in Hanoi.
The Ho Chi Minh mausoleum is closed every Monday and Friday (outside grounds and garden area will be open on these days) and normally closed from September 4 through November 5 for preservation and maintenance of the building.
Please be aware that the One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi is closed for renovation work until January 2015. Day tours will now visit Ho Chi Minh’s Museum as an alternative touring attraction.
Day 3: Hanoi - Halong Bay (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
After breakfast, you will be transferred to Halong Bay. On the way, you will go through the scenic countryside. The wondrous Halong Bay is truly one of Vietnam’s most impressive scenic sights. Heading out of the town then you embark on a boat for an exploration of the legendary Halong Bay. This exciting cruise will provide you a fantastic view of the picturesque scenery blending with the sky and some 3,000 limestone islands rising amazingly from the clear and emerald water. The limestone karsts formations are littered with beaches, grottoes and beautiful caves. Along the way you will anchor for a leisurely swim in a secluded cove and an enjoyable visit to one of the many hidden grottoes beneath towering cliffs. You will stay overnight on the Junk Cruise
Day 4: Halong Bay – Hanoi - Hue (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
Greet the day with a morning Tai Chi exercise with an opportunity to view the sunrise over the bay. After breakfast, you will visit beautiful limestone grotto then back to the boat for a final glimpse of the Halong Bay while cruising back to the dock. Your driver will be waiting for you at the pier and drive you back to Hanoi airport to catch the flight to Hue. When arrival, your guide will pick you up then take you to your hotel to check in. This quiet city is widely known for the magnificent architecture of its citadels, palaces, royal tombs, pagodas and temples built under the Nguyen Dynasty. In the evening, you will make your own exploration to see Hue city by night. Overnight at hotel in Hue
Day 5: Hue (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Your morning will begin with a cruise along the Perfume River to visit to the Thien Mu Pagoda which also gives you a taste of the tranquil countryside. From there, you’ll drive to the Royal Tombs of Emperor Minh Mang. In the afternoon, your guide will take you to visit the Emperor Khai Dinh. After that, you’ll return to Hue to visit one of city’s ‘garden houses’ and then return to your hotel for refreshment.
In the evening, you’ll sit down for dinner in the pleasant surroundings and a comfortable atmosphere of another of the garden houses. The owner will prepare and serve a traditional meal based on the distinctive characteristics of classic Hue cuisine. You’ll spend the night in Hue.
Each Royal mausoleum reflects the personality of the Emperor it commemorates. The most majestic is that of Emperor Minh Mang, a staunch follower of Confucianism with many wives, concubines and a small army of children. Planned by the Emperor and built shortly after his death in formal Chinese style, it’s opulent and exotic, and a good example of classic Sino-Vietnamese architecture.
The tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh is an unprepossessing concrete construction on the side of a wide valley. Its interest lies in the uneasy combination of Vietnamese and European features, the use of fragments of ceramics and glass for decoration, and the striking views from the courtyard in front of the mausoleum.
The garden houses are a unique feature of Hue. The houses are traditional, privately owned, and set in attractive formal gardens. Some have connections with the old Royal Imperial Court. Hue traditional architecture has long had close associations with the natural environment. The garden houses reflect this association. Each is highly individual - house and garden, people and scenery, plants, clouds and water co-exist and blend with each other in a harmonious context. The narrow streets and abundant flora give the garden house area a country village feeling.
Day 6: Hue - Danang - Hoi An (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, you will drive to Hoi An, crossing Hai Van Pass where you will have magnificent view of the stunning long sandy beaches and stop at Lang Co to have a short break. When you arrive in Danang city, you will visit the fascinating Cham Museum and the Marble Mountains en route to charming Hoi An. Known as Faifo to early Western traders, Hoi An was one of South East Asia's major international ports and today it still retains that special old-world feel. The rest of the day will be free at your leisure. Hoi An is also famous for its large number of tailor shops, so if you want to have a new wardrobe made up, this is the time to do it. You will stay overnight in Hoi An.
Day 7: Walking and Photographing Hoi An (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
In the morning, you will enjoy a walking tour with first stop is the bustling fish and vegetable market and then you will go through the Old Quarters to see the town's landmarks of Japanese Covered Bridge, ancient Assembly Hall, Phuc Kien Temple. After that, you will get on the boat to cruise along the river to enjoy the scenery along the Thu Bon River and the general view of Hoi An Ancient Town then you will the Kim Bong pottery and carpentry villages to learn the traditional way of making clay products and fishing boat building. Hoi An is well known for souvenir shopping with great prices and also famous for its large number of tailor shops, so if you want to get a cloth tailor made to measure, this is the time to do it. You will spend the night in Hoi An.
Day 8: Hoi An - My Son - Hoi An (Breakfast, Guide)
After breakfast, you’ll be driven to the World Heritage ‘My Son Sanctuary’. Your guide will show you the remains of the remarkable towers constructed by the Cham builders, many centuries ago - their origins and purpose have yet to be fully explained. In the afternoon, you’ll return to your hotel. When you return, the rest of the day will be free. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An.
The Cham craftsmen built a network of intricately-worked red brick columns heavily incised with figures and motifs as well as many striking statues. Their towers were badly bombed in the American war, but are still impressive, as is its remote valley setting. The complex is set in a quiet, richly forested area bisected by a clear stream. However, the tree cover is not complete and the valley acts as suntrap, so good sun protection is important.
Day 9: Hoi An free (Breakfast)
The day will be free for strolling in the town, lazing on the beach, or whatever takes your fancy. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An.
Alternative for Day 9
Option 1: Hoi An – From Farmer to Fisherman Tour (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
The day starts with cycling the narrow roads through the countryside, passing by rice paddy fields, water buffalos, bamboo bridges and local farmers on their daily work. You’ll then board a boat to the mouth of the Thu Bon estuary where the river meets the Cua Dai Sea and cruise along the coastline observing the lives of the local fishermen.
After joining the fisherman to try your hand at catching fish in a traditional ‘Thung Chai’ basket boat, you will meander through the water palm coconut canal. During the American War, Viet Cong soldiers made use of this area as a highly effective hiding place from enemy attacks through their long struggle. Following an insightful visit to a local fishing village, you’ll be free to relax and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch before cycling back to your hotel.
Thung Chai Basket boats, similar in style to coracles in use throughout the ancient world, are widely used throughout Central Vietnam, and are highly suited to the local terrain and lifestyles of local fishermen due to their relative light weight and portability, often doubling as a carrier for various handy items. Circular and constructed of bamboo and tarred for waterproofing, these small boats can typically carry up to five people, and represent a fun-filled opportunity to touch the authentic rural soul of Vietnam. As a precaution, life jackets are provided for your safety during this excursion.
Option 2: Cooking Class in Hoi An (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide at cooking class)
In the morning, you’ll join a cooking class at the Red Bridge Restaurant. After visiting a market to purchase ingredients, a boat will take you along Hoi An River to the restaurant where you can investigate its herb and vegetable garden before learning how to cook traditional Vietnamese dishes. After lunch at the restaurant, your time will be free. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An.
- Fresh Rice Paper Shrimp Rolls – including making rice paper.
- Warm Squid Salad served in half a pineapple
- Grilled Eggplant stuffed with market vegetables
- Hoi An Pancakes (Banh Xeo)
- Food Decoration - pineapple boat, three coloured flowers and Vietnamese hand fan
Day 10: Hoi An – Ho Chi Minh City (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, you will be free until the driver arrives to drive back to Danang and take a short flight to Ho Chi Minh City formerly Ho Chi Minh City. When you arrive, you will be taken to your hotel to check in before discovering the Story of Ho Chi Minh City with a visit to the War Remnants Museum, where you will hear about the city’s darkest and most tragic hours during the Vietnam War. The museum contains displays of military aircraft, weaponry and many photographs - some that are quite graphic in nature.
Next, the guide will take you to visit the Reunification Palace once a symbol of the South Vietnamese Government. It was here on 30 April 1975, that the war ended when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates. You will see the war room, the banquet hall and the presidential office. Then continue to the Central Post Office, designed and constructed by the renowned architect Gustave Eiffel, and take a moment to send a postcard! Just behind the post office is the Notre Dame Cathedral, an iconic Saigon landmark built by the French between 1863 and 1880. Today it’s a favored backdrop for Vietnamese wedding photographs.
You will take a short stroll along Dong Khoi Street to the Opera House which was used as a bomb shelter and also housed the Parliamentary Lower House. Restored in 1995 the Opera House has returned to its roots and is once again a theatre. You will end the day with a speedboat trip along the city’s ancient canals where life carries on unchanged before returning to your hotel as the sun sets on this fascinating city. You will spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 11: Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi ½ day - Ho Chi Minh City Departure (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, you leave Ho Chi Minh City on an afternoon excursion for Cu Chi, situated 70km from Saigon. The Cu Chi Tunnel system was created around 1948 to assist the Viet Minh in their combat against French occupiers. Construction and enlargement continued during American bombings and they were turned into an underground city with living areas, kitchens, storage, weapon factories and field hospitals. The Cu Chi Tunnels could house up to 10,000 people who lived underground for years, getting married and raising children. During the Vietnam American War the entire area of Cu Chi was designated as a fire free zone yet was heavily bombarded. Since 1988, two sections of the tunnels are open for visitors to crawl through and better understand the war. After lunch, you’ll return to Ho Chi Minh City to get your luggages then tranfer you to the airport for the departure flight.
- Vietnam Visa Invitation letter.
- Private door-to-door pick-up & drop-off services.
- Travel in an appropriate private air-conditioned vehicle with an experienced safe driver.
- Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
- Domestic flight tickets: Hanoi – Hue, Danang - Ho Chi Minh City, including domestic airport taxes.
- The services of experienced English-speaking guides as indicated in the itinerary
- Boat cruises as specified in the programme. All Ha Long Bay boats will be fully licensed and comply with current safety regulations.
- Lunches and dinners (as specified in the itinerary) in the best local restaurants and full board on the boat in Ha Long Bay.
- All sightseeing tickets.
- VAT and other taxes
- 24/7 hotline support guaranteed
- International flight tickets and airport tax.
- Lunches and dinners, except as specified above.
- Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses.
- Travel insurance
- Surcharges for Peak seasons (if any)
- Vietnam visa stamp fee
- Other services not mentioned above.
- Alternative in blue