Arrive Hanoi. Arrive at war-era Noi Bai Airport outside of Hanoi where 30-year old MIGs still take off. A thousand year-old city, Hanoi was also the former French capital of Indochina which is reflected in it's dominant architecture along the tree-line boulevards. Now the political and cultural center of Vietnam, Hanoi holds guard of the country's ideals while Saigon rapidly pursues capitalism. Afternoon and evening free to stroll and soak up Hanoi's stoic atmosphere along Hoan Kiem Lake and ancient, yet lively Old Quarter or of course, rest from your overnight flight.
Day 1: Hanoi City Tour
City tour of Hanoi with long stop at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and serene One Pillar Pagoda followed by lunch at a popular outdoor cafe. Afternoon stroll through the Old Quarter — the most densely populated urban place on earth, stopping to visit a family's typical "tube" house. Afternoon exploring Hanoi's silk, art and other specialty shops before a "survival" Vietnamese language lesson. Welcome and orientation dinner at an elegant French-Vietnamese restaurant followed by a traditional, delightful water puppet performance — an art unique to Vietnam.
Day 2: Hanoi to Hue
Morning airline transfer to the ancient Imperial Capital of Vietnam. Set on the tranquil Perfume River, Hue is Vietnam's most pleasant and picturesque city. While Saigon and to a lesser extent, Hanoi, have seen heavy growth in the last decade, Hue remains largely untouched. After breakfast we will test our bikes cycling along the Perfume River on our way through the high-walled Imperial Citadel, to the peaceful Thien Mu Pagoda.
Day 3: Hue
A succession of Nguyen Dynasty Emperors built grand tombs on a wide scale, scattering them around the hills surrounding Hue. and we will see two wonderful examples of Imperial architecture. We'll cycle from our restored hotel on the riverfront through Hue's beautiful countryside to the majestic Khai Dinh and Tu Duc Royal Tombs. Afternoon and dinner free to explore the giant, bustling riverfront market and other attractions, or rest up for our next day's journey.
Day 4: Hue to Hoi An
A full day cycling one of the most scenic routes in Vietnam. Our "long group" will depart Hue on bike early in the morning while the rest of us will wait to disembark closer or to the top of the Hai Van Pass. Our route passes by rural villages and the picturesque Lang Co Lagoon, then ascending the six-mile road over the Hai Van offering stunning views of the coast and a thrilling descent on the backside to the green rice fields and white-sand graveyards around Danang. After regrouping we will skirt around Danang on a side country road to Hoi An. Afternoon arrival at the peaceful Hoi An Hotel. A tour favorite, read more of Hoi An's history in this Asia Week Article. Meals: (B) and (L).
Day 5: Hoi An
City tour of Hoi An, an ancient Japanese port of trade. Much of Hoi An's rare wooden architecture remains in this small, pleasant town. We will explore the elegant pagodas, bustling riverfront marketplace and distinctive cuisine, soaking up the town's unique atmosphere. Optional Cycling to Cua Dai Beach on the South China Sea for a baked clams, Vietnamese cooking demonstration in town featuring local specialties by one of Vietnam's most talented chefs, or free time on your own for a boat excursion on the river.
Day 6: Quang Ngai to Qui Nhon. Early coastal riding followed by lunch on the golden sands of Sa Huynh beach, also a wonderful place for a dip in the cooling South China Sea. Afternoon cycling past emerald green rice fields and villages canopied by swaying coconut palms along the coast.
Day 7: Qui Nhon to Nha Trang. Our ride from Qui Nhon to Nha Trang covers some of Vietnam's most scenic coastline, featuring deserted blue lagoons and stone promontories overlooking the waters below. Fishing villages dot the coast here, their bays filled with brightly colored boats. Not many travelers here, so lots of attention can be expected. Lunch at scenic Dai Linh Beach.
Day 8: Nha Trang
Vietnam's finest oceanfront city. Optional half-day boat excursion to nearby islands and a marine reserve. Snorkeling and swimming over the coral reefs in warm, clear water, followed by sunbathing and grilled seafood lunch. Also option of city cycling tour, including Lon Song Pagoda and Po Nagar Cham ruins. Evening free to walk along the beach, stroll the busy promenade, have a massage or swim in the warm surf.
Day 9: Nha Trang to Dalat
Morning bus shuttle past historic Cam Ranh Bay to Phan Rang - location of a large a Cham ruin, Thap Cham, and most of the remaining, original inhabitants of Vietnam - the Chams. Cycling from Thap Cham along the flat to the six-mile climb up Ngoan Muc Pass into the beautiful pine forests of the Central Highlands around Dalat. Small villages and strawberry, carrot and other crops line the empty road passing into Dalat. Cycling "escorts" are common here.
Day 10: Dalat
After a leisurely breakfast overlooking the Dalat central lake, we'll venture out for a tour of this scenic colonial-era hill-station with cooler weather and some very interesting and sites, such as Vien Thuc's Pagoda, Bao Dai Palace and the Valley of Love. The gem of Vietnam, Dalat was where the French came for relief from the heat of Saigon - hundreds of well-preserved colonial villas cover the hills. Also a center for exotic game hunting - even Teddy Roosevelt had a villa here. Ride to see the Valley of Love and other local attractions including waterfalls and lakes. Afternoon city tour of the central marketplace, Dalat Cathedral, the artist community and numerous cafes.
Day 11: Dalat to Saigon
Our morning begins with a twisting six-mile descent from Dalat through pine forests to the rolling and gradually falling road to Saigon. We'll pass by numerous coffee, tea, banana and rubber plantations planted in the rich, red earth that marks the Central Highlands as the place where Vietnam's finest tea fields and crops unique to Vietnam, like strawberries grow abundantly. We'll also pass by the ubiquitous churches in this unique and predominately Catholic area of Vietnam. Just outside of Saigon, the rubber trees originally planted by the French Colonialists are still harvested. Accommodations at restored historic hotel on the Saigon River. Saigon from above image.
Day 12: Saigon. Saigon. Half to full-day city tour of the vibrant Cholon Bin Tay market, nearby pagodas, the Saigon River front and several historical sites. Afternoon free for cycle ride or sightseeing and shopping local arts and crafts shops with guide. Farewell dinner near the Saigon River.
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