This 14 day tour is based in the south of Vietnam and includes activities designed to attract the interest of both children and adults. Vietnam is very much a ‘child friendly’ country with plenty to see and do. We’ll provide you with an experienced guide who can interpret Vietnam’s rich culture at on different levels so that each member of your family will be able to interact with local people and experience their daily life.
Journey together from Hanoi to the magical forest of Cuc Phuong where we stay in forest bungalows; discover the world heritage site of Halong Bay aboard a traditional junk; explore the charming UNESCO-designated World Heritage town of Hoi An and its nearby beaches and end in the modern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City. On this forest & beach adventure, the whole family is certain to be entertained by the people, history, color and culture. What better education is there, than the education of understanding and discovery!
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: Hanoi - Cuc Phuong (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
A morning drive takes you to the Cuc Phuong National Park. After lunch, you’ll be able to wander through a subtropical forest, rich in flora and fauna with thousand-year-old trees and dripping vines, visiting the Endangered Primate Rescue Centre. You’ll spend the night in the National Park Guesthouse.
The Endangered Primate Rescue Centre is a temporary home for many gibbons and langurs that have been injured, or have been orphaned by poachers. Among them are two of the rarest species in the world, Delacourt’s Langur, confined to two or three spots in North Vietnam, and the elegant Cat Ba Golden Langur, now reduced to a colony of around 50 individuals in Cat Ba Island National Park. Strenuous efforts are being made to conserve both species. When those in the rescue centre have regained their strength, a carefully staged programme will release them into the wild.
You may consider an optional ‘night spotting mini-safari' (if weather permits). In the late evening, you'd set off into the primary forest, an opportunity to see the park's nocturnal dwellers: the Black Giant Squirrel, the Indian flying Squirrel, Samba deer, the Slow Loris and several other small carnivores.
Day 4: Cuc Phuong - Ninh Binh (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
In the early morning, you’ll be picked up to travel to Hoa Lu – the former capital of Vietnam, about a one-hour drive from Cuc Phuong National Park. You’ll stop en-route to visit Van Long Nature Reserve by small boat. You may lucky enough to see the rare langurs on the way. From there, you’ll continue driving to Hoa Lu to visit two temples, one dedicated to Emperor Dinh and the other in memory of Emperor Le, followed by a brief visit to the remains of the Old Palace. After lunch at a local restaurant, you’ll visit Tam Coc (three caves), a peaceful valley among limestone ‘karst’ hills, There, you’ll be rowed along a gentle river between paddy fields and through the caves. On the way back, you’ll disembark for a pleasant stroll (about 2km) through the rural scenery to Thai Vi temple. You’ll spend the night in Ninh Binh.
Day 5: Ninh Binh – Halong Bay (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
In the morning, your guide will arrive to take you to Halong Bay, 178 km northeast of Ninh Binh. . After a 5-hours drive through lush green rice paddies you are welcome on the traditional junk boat. Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. There you’ll board a wooden junk that takes you first through Bai Tu Long Bay. You’ll continue your cruise to an island beach. Weather permitting, you’ll be able to swim or climb a hill (not a mountain!) for an overview of the bay’s remarkable seascape. You’ll then continue your cruise to visit Cua Van floating fishing village where you’ll have an opportunity explore the village by rowing bamboo boat. The cruise route is designed to avoid busy areas and includes a very quiet location for your overnight stay.
For your three-day Halong excursion, you'll board Indochina Sails, one of the best wooden boats on the bay. It’s a wooden junk modelled after the old Vietnamese court vessels with two barge sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure. The boat has 14-15 cabins in total, 11 Superior cabins in the lower deck and 4 Deluxe cabins in the upper deck, accommodating a maximum of 30 people, so you're likely to be joining other travellers for the cruise.
All cabins are air-conditioned and have windows overlooking the bay. In size, the Deluxe cabins are 14.5 m2 and Superior cabins are 13m2. Each cabin is furnished with two twin beds or a double queen size bed. The interior panelling, floor and furniture are of hardwood. Each cabin has a wardrobe, desk, pillows, white cotton sheets, and an en-suite toilet and shower with a good selection of high-quality toiletries. All meals, usually based on fresh seafood, will be provided on board. Kayaking is available upon request and at a surcharge.
Day 6: Ha Long Bay (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide on boat)
The Indochina Sails’ route is for two days only, starting from noon of the first day to noon of following day. If you book a three-day cruise on the bay, you’ll be transferred after breakfast to your day–trip boat with private crew to cruise to the bay’s most deserted areas with opportunities to swim from quiet beaches or kayak to visit water tunnels, fishing villages, or your choice of other locations. A personal chef will prepare and serve your lunch on board. In the late afternoon, you’ll return to the Indochina Sails boat for dinner and your overnight stay.
The smaller boat’s facilities are limited and at a lower standard compared to the Indochina Sails boat, but you’ll have its exclusive use to cruise around the further reaches of the bay well away from the tourist area. Pack lightly; you’ll want swimwear and a set of dry clothes, and, as there are different activities during the day, bring both shoes (such as trainers) and flip-flops or sandals.
Day 7: Ha Long - Hanoi – Danang – Hoi An (Brunch, Driver Pickup)
You’ll awake to the fresh air of the bay, and can take a swim or enjoy a Tai Chi session on the large sundeck (beginners welcome!) After a light breakfast of pastries and tea or coffee, you’ll dock to visit one of the most famous caves in the bay. You’ll return to the junk for brunch while cruising back to the main dock and around noon you’ll leave for Hanoi airport to take the flight to Danang. Then you will be transferred to Hoi An nearby. You will spend the night in Hoi An.
Day 8: Hoi An rural life (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, you'll learn how to make silk lanterns at a local house. You'll have chance to view the complex process of creating Hoi An-style lanterns. Your guide will then take you on a bicycle ride through the rural scenery of Hoi An to a small village located on the banks of the Tra Que lagoon, three kilometres northeast of the old town. You’ll join local people in their daily work of planting and watering vegetables. Your lunch will be prepared by the family.
In the afternoon, 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. You will then take a river trip and you will enjoy the scenery along the Thu Bon River and the general view of Hoi An Ancient Town. It transforms itself at night, when many of the shops hang lanterns outside. You will transfer you back to the town and rest of time at your own leisure. 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 stay overnight in Hoi An.
Day 9: 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.
Alternative for Day 9: 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 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 11: 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 12: 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.
Free option: Ostrich riding and Crocodile ‘fishing’
This is a very popular attraction for Vietnamese holidaymakers.
Ostrich riding takes place in a sandy 10m x 30m arena. You opt to ride more or less bareback or in sort of wooden rickshaw with room for one or two people. If you choose the hang on and hope option, the ostrich keeper helps you to climb up the ostrich. From then on you hang on to your ostrich’s neck as tightly as you can. Depending on the speed of the ostrich, the ride takes from two to four minutes. It’s a bit scary at first because the height of ostriches means you’re about a metre off the ground. Also so, ostriches are not as obliging as horses, and may decide to stop dead or turn round if the feel like it. It’s for anyone with an adventurous streak - older children in particular.
Crocodile fishing isn’t what it appears to be. Twenty or so crocodiles lay quietly in a narrow, rather grubby channel full of algae. You are given your ‘fishing rod’ (it’s really a strong stick with a length of nylon line attached and a dead fish tied to the end). You then plonk the ‘bait’ into the water and wait. Depending on you and the crocodiles, the next step happens fast or slow. You’re wondering if the creatures are asleep when the water suddenly erupts, a jaw-full of yellow teeth wrenches the fish from the line, and the crocodile sinks back into the water.
Nearby, there’s a few caged monkeys and monitor lizards.
We’ve made this optional because Vietnamese culture in relation to animal welfare is very different to that of most developed country and may be distasteful to some customers. However, neither the ostriches nor the crocodiles are harmed (the ostriches seem to enjoy the exercise and the crocodiles seem satisfied by the regular tit-bits).
Obviously, there could be a slight risk of a fall from an ostrich. The crocodiles and customers are well separated – so far, no-one has become a reptile’s lunch. These two activities are at your own risk – if, when you arrive, you think there’s a danger to you or your children, just ask your guide to revert to the main itinerary.
Day 13: 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 14: Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi ½ day - Ho Chi Minh City departure (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, your guide will take you to visit the famous Cu Chi tunnels, a Byzantine maze of underground passages, chambers, rooms and booby traps used by both the Vietminh and the Viet Cong to suddenly materialise as if from nowhere, launch a lightning ambush, and vanish equally rapidly. After lunch, you’ll return to the airport for the departure flight.
- 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 – Danang, 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.
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