Hollands was a staff and line officer with the 27th Engineer Battalion. His primary desired for his veteran tour to the road from the Perfume River to the Bo River which he constructed in 1969. The road began at a large bridge over the Perfume River west of Hue, continued west past the Tomb of Minh Mang, then west to Fire Base Bastogne, across the mountains to Fire Base Blaze, where the road crossed the Rao Nai…
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 Mausoleum and historical presidential relics and then the Temple of Literature nearby. Afterwards you will head to Ngoc Son Temple and Hoan Kiem Lake. The Ngoc Son temple is set on a tiny island on the Hoan Kiem Lake and dates back to the 13th century. The lake itself is a picturesque focal point of Hanoi, frequented by tourists and locals alike. In the afternoon, you will visit Museum of Ethnology, widely acknowledged as the best in the country which houses a display dedicated to Vietnam's 54 ethnic minority peoples. Then you will take 1 hour by Cyclo ride through Hanoi's Old Quarters to experience daily life of people who are living in the oldest parts of the city. 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.
On Mondays, the Museum of Ethnology is closed. If our tour of Hanoi is on a Monday, our visit to the Museum of Ethnology will be replaced by a visit to Hanoi's History Museum or Fine Arts Museum.
Day 3: Exploring villages in the Red River Delta – Lao Cai (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, your driver will arrive to take you to Tho Ha Village about 30km north of Hanoi. After a drive and brief ferry ride, you’ll find the reality of the traditional lifestyle of northern Vietnam, little changed from feudal times. The main industries here are making rice paper, alcohol (known locally as ‘wine’, but is actually rice vodka), and pig farming. After a visit to the village’s temple, a local family will show you rice paper in the making. You’ll walk through the village’s alleys, visit one of its oldest houses built over 100 years ago, and mingle with the locals. It’s a good opportunity to get to grips with rural life in Vietnam.
Tho Ha has passed down their traditions from generation to generation and is one of the most attractive villages on the Red River Delta. A few steps from the ferry landing is the village’s communal house. A little further are the gate and pagoda that have attracted a multitude of photographers seeking the symbolic quintessence of traditional villages in Vietnam. It’s also known as a village that produced fine pottery in the past. You can see the quality of the ancestors’ craftwork in the vases and jars stored in the communal house and some homes. One word of warning - most of the villagers tend pigs, so be prepared for a somewhat smelly stroll!
Later, you’ll drive 15km to Tam Tao village for a picnic lunch, followed by traditional Quan Ho music performed by villagers in the commune house. The singers have been officially designated part of Vietnam’s ‘living heritage’ by UNESCO. After that, your vehicle will take to Dong Ky village where most of the local families produce furniture inlaid with mother of pearl. It’s a good example of how the villagers work co-operatively on different stages of the manufacturing process. In the late afternoon, you’ll return to your hotel for refreshment then you will be free until your car and driver arrives to take you to Hanoi railway station in time to board the 10 p.m. overnight sleeper to Lao Cai.
Day 4: Lao Cai - Sapa (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
You’ll arrive in the early morning, where you’ll be met and taken up into the mountains by car to Sapa, a small town perched on the mountainside opposite Mt. Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest peak. After breakfast at your hotel, you’ll be driven along a scenic valley to visit some of the H’mong ethnic minority villages. After a stream-side picnic lunch, you’ll visit the Red Dao ethnic minority people of Giang Ta Chai village. Later in the afternoon, you’ll return to Sapa for your overnight accommodation.
Day 5: Sapa free (Breakfast)
Your time will be your own!
Day 6: Sapa - Ethnic market - Hanoi (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, your transport and guide will arrive to take you to visit a market frequented by ethnic minority peoples. The first part of your journey will take you through Lao Cai, which is a border crossing point, and alongside the river marking the boundary with China. After a picnic lunch, you’ll return to Lao Cai for a shower and freshen-up before boarding the sleeper train to Hanoi.
Although it’s quite a long drive, the landscape is attractive and the ethnic markets are a fascinating experience. Unlike those in the tourist areas, the markets that we choose are for not only buying and selling, but also meeting places for ethnic minority people to meet and exchange news. There will be plenty of colour and authentic costumes, but very little to buy as souvenirs unless you want to barter for a water buffalo or a sack of fertiliser!
The trips to ethnic minority markets must be on Tuesday (Coc Ly or Ban Cam market), Thursday (Lung Khau Nhin market), Saturday (Can Cau) or Sunday (Bac Ha, Muong Hum or Muong Khuong markets).
Day 7: Hanoi - Halong Bay (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
You’ll arrive in Hanoi in the early morning, where you’ll be met and taken by car to your hotel to have breakfast and take a short rest before departure to Halong Bay
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 8: 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 9: 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.
Alternative for Day 9: Hue Thuy Bieu Eco village (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
After breakfast, you will start the day with a leisurely boat trip on the poetic Perfume River. You will stop at Dong Ba Market to buy ingredients for the evening cooking class. En route, you will visit Thanh Tien village where paper flower are produced, Van Mieu Temple and Thien Mu Pagoda also known as “Heavenly Lady Pagoda”, the symbol of Hue city. You will then continue the cruise toward Thuy Bieu ecovillage, an ancient village situated on the bank of the Perfume River. The afternoon is reserved for cycling through the peaceful village, visiting several communal houses, ancient temples and the highlight: the garden house, a typical and unique feature of Hue. Soaking your feet in medicinal herb water followed by an excellent blind massage will refresh them after a day of sightseeing. In the evening you will take part in a cooking class. You will have a chance to prepare a typical Vietnamese meal for dinner with the instructions from our chef. Embark an elegant junk for a relaxed night on the river before transferred back to your hotel. You will spend the night in Hue.
Day 10: Hue – DMZ – Khe Sanh (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
In the morning, you’ll drive to Quang Tri province to tour the wartime ‘De-militarised Zone’, better known as the DMZ. You’ll visit the Old Citadel of Quang Tri, La Vang church, the Doc Mieu Base, Hien Luong Bridge. the Vinh Moc and the Ben Hai river battle sites. Your car will take to what was once the Con Tien firebase as you requested. You’ll spend the night in Khe Sanh town.
Day 11: Khe Sanh – DMZ – A Luoi (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
After an early breakfast, your car will take Khe Sanh combat base, Lang Vay Special Forces Camp and the Laos/Vietnam border and visit Dong Ap Bai (Hamburger Hill). You’ll spend the night in A Luoi.
Day 12: A Luoi – Hue (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
In the morning, you’ll drive back to Hue and stop en-route to see Rao Nai Bridge, walk to Rao Nho valley for few kilometers. You’ll have a change to visit the FSB T-Bone on the way and some locations along the road before you return to Hue via route 49. You’ll spend the night in Hue.
Day 13: Hue – Bach Ma (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
In the morning, you’ll drive to Bach Ma National Park (60 km). You’ll stop along the way to see the “Hue Bridge-South”. After lunch at hotel, you’ll follow the Rhododendron trail and Five-Lakes cascade trail (6km in total) through evergreen forest to visit cascades and waterfalls. If time permit, you’ll visit the Pheasant Trail (2.5 km). You’ll spend the night in the park.
Day 14: Bach Ma – Danang – Hoi An (Breakfast, Guide)
After breakfast, you’ll walk 500m up the mountain to the summit for the views and, hopefully, the sunrise then your car will drive you to Danang. On the way, you’ll cross the high mountain pass of Hai Van. The views from the top are excellent. Upon arriving in Hoi An, you’ll have a guided visit to the Ancient Town of Hoi An. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An.
Day 15: 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 16: 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.
Day 17: Hoi An – Danang – Ho Chi Minh City (B, G in Ho Chi Minh City)
Your time will be your own until your private car and driver arrives to take you to Danang airport in good time for a flight to Ho Chi Minh City. You’ll be free in the afternoon. Your overnight will be in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 18: Ho Chi Minh City - Tay Ninh - Cu Chi Tunnels – Ho Chi Minh City (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
A morning drive will take you to Tay Ninh to visit the Cao Dai Holy See in time, home to a unique religion combining the disciplines of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Confucianism, Hinduism and Geniism. The aim of this sect is to achieve a synthesis of all religions. Followers consider Joan of Arc, Rene Descartes, William Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Winston Churchill and Napoleon Bonaparte their respected saints or spirit intermediaries. You will arrive at the temple in time for the midday service giving you the chance to listen to chanting devotees. The temple’s exterior is decorated with multi-coloured dragons of all shapes and sizes.
After lunch, 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. You will spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.
Cao Dai is a ‘new’ religion unique to Vietnam with around a million followers. Both its creed and its architecture are remarkable and exotic. The service lasts about half an hour – the rituals are based upon an eclectic mixture of Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. Discreet photography is OK, but shoes must be left outside
Day 19: Ho Chi Minh City - Vinh Long - Can Tho (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After escaping from Ho Chi Minh City’s urban sprawl, you’ll travel to Cai Be where a Mekong River cruise will take you to visit the fruit orchards, a traditional family-run brick kiln, and some long established cottage industries. Later, a rowing boat will carry you through the maze of the Mekong Delta’s myriad channels to connect with the real life of the local people, visiting a local house and listening to live music performed by local artists. You’ll then drive deeper into the Mekong Delta to Can Tho. Upon arrival you’ll call in at the Munir Ansay – an ancient Khmer style pagoda renowned for its unique structural decorations. You’ll then continue to your hotel in Can Tho where you’ll spend the night.
Munir Ansay Pagoda has many statues and pillars with sophisticated decoration; the main gate was built in the shape of the towers illustrative of Angkor architecture.
Day 20: Can Tho - Ho Chi Minh City (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast and a boat cruise, you’ll arrive at Cai Rang floating market on the Mekong Delta. Both the journey and the market provide insights into the rural Mekong Delta lifestyle. On your return to Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll stop by the beautiful and ancient Vinh Trang Pagoda, 3 km from My Tho centre. You’ll arrive in Ho Chi Minh City in the late afternoon with time to freshen up in your hotel before the evening.
Vinh Trang Pagoda is renowned for its architectural mixture of Chinese, Vietnamese and Angkor styles. Located on a 2 hectare block with 5 buildings, 2 ornamental yards, 178 pillars and many valuable statues (especially the 18 arahants, wooden statues carved in 1907), the pagoda will give you a deeper look into the relationship between Vietnamese art and Buddhist beliefs.
Day 21: Ho Chi Minh City departure (Breakfast, Driver Pickup)
Your time will be your own until your private car and driver arrives to take you to Tan Son Nhat airport for departure.
- Free 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.
- Return train tickets: Hanoi – Lao Cai (air-conditioned soft four-berth cabin, good local standard in Fanxipan Train carriage or similar)
- 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.
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