Day 1: Hanoi. On arrival in Hanoi you are met and transferred to your hotel. You meet your tour leader here who will organize a pre-trip briefing, where you meet the other members of your group, before heading out for an optional group dinner. Until your meeting we encourage you to get out and discover the delights that Vietnam has to offer. Make sure that you take a hotel business card so that you will be able to find your way back to the hotel. Please note that your tour leader will collect your travel insurance details at the meeting, so please bring them with you. The meeting is generally followed by an optional group meal out at one of Hanoi's fantastic eating spots.
Day 2: Hanoi. Hanoi is one of Asia's most enchanting cities. This northern capital is a quiet, contradiction of its southern counterpart. Its relaxed ambiance is a joy, with exploration best on foot or bicycle. The shopping is fun and the many lakes and parks provide enjoyable escapes. We take a guided half-day tour of Hanoi, visiting the major sights, including the Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda, and paying a homage to Vietnam's most famous revolutionary, Ho Chi Minh. In the evening we travel on an overnight sleeper-class train journey to Hue.
The train is very basic; we travel in 'soft sleeper' class which is a compartment for up to four people; a communal environment. The beds on board come with a pillow and sheets, although some people may wish to bring their own sleeping sheet (purely optional and not a necessity). Also, breakfast tomorrow is not the best food you will find in Vietnam, so it is recommended that you purchase some snacks before boarding in Hanoi. This journey is in keeping with the adventurous nature of our trips and allows you to experience a taste of the "real" Vietnam. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 3: Hue. Our destination is Hue, the last imperial capital of Vietnam (1802-1945) and also one of its cultural centers. Upon arrival, we freshen up before enjoying a tour of the city and its surroundings. The royal mausoleum of Emperor Tu Duc and the beautiful Thien Mu Pagoda are not to be missed. We include these in a guided cruise on the Perfume River. In the evening we have a chance to sample the local delicacy known as "banh khoai".
Day 4: Hoi An. This morning we embark on one of Vietnam's most spectacular road trips by crossing over the Hai Van Pass, towards Danang. We continue south to China Beach, enjoyed as an "R & R" spot during the Vietnam War, which lies against a backdrop of the sensational Marble Mountains. We also visit these "mountains", which consist of five peaks that are actually limestone with marble outcrops and are seen to epitomize the five elements: fire, water, earth, wood and metal. The history of the mountains is a rich one. They were once used by the Chams for religious purposes, but in more recent times became a haven for the Viet Cong, with their clear view of the Danang air base - at one time the busiest airport in the world. Good footwear is essential, as the paths between the rocks are sometime slippery. Our destination at the end of the day is Hoi An. There are many street-side cafes and restaurants in Hoi An - ideal places to finish off the day by sampling the culinary delights of this town. Includes: (B).
Day 5: Hoi An. Hoi An was originally a Cham port town, but has been influenced down the centuries by a myriad of traders from various cultures. There is a distinctly Chinese appearance with pagodas and assembly halls scattered along the small streets. Hoi An was once a bustling port in centuries gone by, before the river silted up. Today it is a delightful backwater town with an air of liveliness about it. The tranquility and charm of Hoi An, coupled with its low tiled houses, makes it one of the most delightful places to visit in Vietnam. It is a constant favorite of our travelers and staff. A walking tour takes us to see a historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum. During a free afternoon you can enjoy a bicycle ride in the countryside or relax at the nearby Cua Dai Beach. Includes: (B).
Day 6: Quy Nhon. We depart Hoi An early and embark a long day's drive south (approximately 7-8 hours). En route, we pass endless rice fields and see many examples of what could be considered Vietnam's iconic symbol - the ubiquitous conical hat. We also make a stop at the site of the My Lai Massacre, where we pay a somber visit to the memorial museum. Please be warned that some of the photographic images on display may be somewhat gruesome. The area and the people are now at peace, and along the old road to the memorial and museum site we can stop to take a walk through the colorful country roadside markets. We continue to the town of Quy Nhon, where we spend the night. Please note that this is just an overnight stop to break up our long road journey. Quy Nhon is not a town that sees many tourists and it does not have many attractions, but our overnight stay is in a pleasant hotel with good facilities, including a swimming pool. Includes: (B).
Days 7 & 8: Nha Trang. We drive for four hours from Quy Nhon to Nha Trang. Along the way we stop at Dai Lanh Beach, located on one of the quietest and most beautiful bays on the central coast. On arrival in Nha Trang we check into our hotel, which is close to the local beach. A highlight of our visit here is a day trip out on a boat exploring the islands of the South China Sea. We spend a day on the water enjoying swimming, snorkeling, lazing on a beach and feasting on a seafood lunch. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 9: Mui Ne. We continue down the coast to Mui Ne, which is a quieter beach stop that offers a relaxing change of pace from Nha Trang. Nearby are some very large sand dunes, which are one of the country's more renowned natural wonders. There are also interesting fishing villages nearby. Includes: (B).
Day 10: Saigon. Our southbound journey continues as we head towards the tropical south. Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam and the nation's economic capital. In the afternoon a short city tour takes us to the Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum and Notre Dame Cathedral, and allows us to admire the many beautiful French colonial buildings such as the main post office and the former Hotel de Ville. The city also renowned for its nightlife, ranging from international class cafes to surprising bars and nightclubs. Includes: (B).
Day 11: Saigon. In the morning, we head out of town to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. Cu Chi is actually the name of the district that covers an extensive underground network (approximately 200 kilometers) of tunnels dug initially by the Viet Minh and later expanded by the Viet Cong. The tunnels contained hospitals, plus accommodation and schools, and were used extensively for refuge and storage and also utilized as a military base for the Viet Cong close to Saigon. The 1968 Tet Offensive was launched from Cu Chi with surprising effect. A section of the tunnels has been widened to allow tourists to get a feel for what the life underground must have been like (please note that this will be hot and sweaty and also a bit claustrophobic! The afternoon is free for further exploration and shopping. Our final night together is an ideal opportunity to go out for a final group dinner. Includes: (B).
Day 12: Saigon. The tour ends after breakfast. A transfer to the airport is not included; however, the hotel staff will be on hand to advise you as to the options available. Includes: (B).
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Asia Vietnam Local Culture Cultural Journey Canoeing/Kayaking/Rafting