All about Vietnam from the South to the North, the Plain to the Highland, cities to hill tribes is crystalized in this amazingly interesting trip (Ho Chi Minh, Mekong Delta, Da Lat, Nha Trang, Buon Ma Thuat, Lake Lake, Pleiku, Hoi An, Da Nang, Hué, Ha Noi, Hoa Lu, Son La, Dien Bien Phu, Tam Duong, Sa Pa, Ha Long Bay, Ha Noi).
Day 1: Arrival - Ho Chi Minh
On arrival at Tan San Nhat Airport, you are met and transferred to hotel. Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon by many locals, is a center of commerce, finance, culture and tourism in Vietnam. This bustling metropolis, contradiction of its northern counterpart, is crowded with bikes and motorbikes, excited by numerous shopping area and sidewalk cafés. (If time permits) we stroll around the down town to explore the different local ways of life. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh.
Day 2: Ho Chi Minh - Cu Chi Tunnels - Ho Chi Minh
The sightseeing tour of Ho Chi Minh City begins with a visit to the Reunification Palace, which was the former residence of the President of South Vietnam until end of April 1975. Close to the palace are some striking French colonial structures including the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Old Sai Gon Post Office. After seeing the Jade Emperor Pagoda and the War Remnant Museum, we continue our trip on to the bustling Ben Thanh Market where anything and everything is for sale. We drive out to explore the Cu Chi Tunnels, an incredible underground network constructed by Vietnamese fighters during the long struggle for independence. The tunnels contained hospitals, plus accommodation and schools, and were used as a military base for the Vietcong in the American war. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh. Includes: (B, L).
Day 3: Ho Chi Minh - Mekong Delta - Ho Chi Minh
Heading out of the town, we travel by roads to the Mekong Delta, Vietnam’s largest rice bowl. On arrival in My Tho we embark on a boat navigating around the intricate small canals in the delta region, which is a great way to observe the local lifestyle close-up and catch a view dotted by many islands. The exciting excursion will pass the lush green vegetation before arriving at the famous Unicorn Island. Here we have opportunities to stroll around an orchard, taste many seasonal fruits and enjoy wonderful traditional music. The next stop of our trip is Ben Tre Province to visit some fascinating local industries. After feasting on a huge lunch we return to Ho Chi Minh, stopping off along the way to see the beautiful Ving Trang Pagoda and the Cho Lon, Saigon’s Chinatown, which is crammed with sacred temples and mysterious, narrow lanes. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh. Includes: (B, L).
Day 4: Ho Chi Minh - Da Lat
The northbound journey begins as we depart Ho Chi Minh and pass through the many tea and coffee plantations to the hill station of Da Lat, sometimes known as the "City of Eternal Spring". The drive is long but views are fantastic. On arrival we can soak up the cool climate as much as we want by spending our time to wander around and catch our first glimpse of the town. The influence of the French is prevalent since Da Lat was founded as a hill retreat for the colonials to escape the oppressive heat of the coastal plains and the Mekong Delta. This charming town is set around a lake and surrounded by forests, waterfalls and rolling countryside. Overnight in Da Lat. Includes: (B).
Day 5: Da Lat - Nha Trang
After breakfast, we embark on a short drive past the charming pine hill to visit the summer residence of Vietnam’s last Emperor Bao Dai, who was forced to abdicate in 1945, shortly after the end of the World War II. We follow this with a trip to the Lam Ty Ni Pagoda and the Hang Nga Guesthouse, well known as the Crazy House because of its bizarre architecture. The central market and the old rail station are also visited this morning before we travel by roads through the undulating terrains to the picturesque coastal town of Nha Trang. Along the way we make stopover at the scenic Ngoan Muc Pass and the Po Klong Jarai Cham Towers. These amazing structures represent an interesting culture and a colorful history of the Cham people. Overnight in Nha Trang. Includes: (B).
Day 6: Nha Trang
The fabulous sunny weather, turquoise water surrounding a string of islands and white sandy beach stretching the whole length of the city make Nha Trang one of Vietnam’s premier beach resorts. After breakfast we board a boat for a day trip around the coastal islands, stopping on the way at a local fishing village to observe the island life. Today we also have lots of time on the blue clear water enjoying swimming and snorkeling or lazing on a beach. A seafood lunch is some enjoyment of the trip. We arrive back in town late afternoon and spend our time to catch up on some shopping areas or simply to relax. Overnight in Nha Trang. Includes: (B, L).
Day 7: Nha Trang - Buon Ma Thuat - Lak Lake
The beautiful Ponagar Cham Towers is one of the most interesting sights in Nha Trang. We visit this and Long Son Pagoda before we head the coast towards the Central Highlands, travelling via the famous town of Buon Ma Thuat to Lak Lake. On arrival, we enjoy an one and half hour elephant ride to admire the rural life and the stunning mountain backdrops. Afterwards we transfer to June village where we are guest of a M’nong family in a traditional long house. The facilities here are very basic, but the experience is definitive unique. This also offers us a chance to explore the simple lifestyle of the M’nong hill tribe people. Overnight at June village. Includes: (B).
Day 8: Lak Lake - Pleiku - Komtum
An impressive way of commencing our day is a short dugout ride on Lak Lake surrounded by the verdant and rugged mountains. We also have enough time this morning walking to discover a nearby village, home of the M’nong hill tribe people. Upon leaving Lak Lake we travel by roads along the central highlands and pass Vietnam’s biggest growing coffee area to Pleiku and Komtum, our final destination. The deep contrast of lush vegetation and red surface of basaltic soil is incredible all along the way. After checking into hotel in Komtum we visit the town with the Komtum Seminary, the traditional culture center, the Wooden Church and the Banar ethnic village. Overnight in Komtum. Includes: (B, L).
Day 9: Komtum - Hoi An
The scenic journey continues to Hoi An which was originally a Cham seaport but has been influenced down the centuries by a myriad of traders from various cultures. We make our way past the beautiful mountainous region towards the central coast. A part of the pleasure of travelling in this region is the simple joy of seeing the rice fields and the smiling faces of the people. On arrival in Hoian we wander around to catch our first glimpse of this delightful town. Here are plenty to see, some of which are the famous Japanese Covered Bridges, the Pottery Museum, the 200 years old Tamky House, the Chua Ong Pagoda and the vibrant market. Overnight in Hoi An. Includes: (B, L).
Day 10: Hoi An - Hué
An interesting walk around the old quarter streets will acquaint us with Hoian’s some major landmarks. We then depart for Hué, stopping en route to visit the sensational Marble Mountains, the China Beach and the Cham Museum. This structure is home to Vietnam’s largest collection of Cham treasures. The winding roads begin as we make our way up the spectacular Hai Van Pass. At the top of the pass we stop to admire a fantastic view north to Lang Co and south to Danang. After checking hotel in Hué we explore the massive citadel, containing the Imperial City and the Purple Forbidden City. This royal residence was all but destroyed during the 1968 Tet Offensive, however it is still fascinating to stroll among the ruins. Overnight in Hué. Includes: (B).
Day 11: Hué
The beautiful riverside pagoda of Thien Mu, which now becomes the symbol of Hué, and the elaborate royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc are not to be missed. We include these in a half day cruise on the Perfume River which also gives us a taste of the scenic countryside as well as an enjoyable visit to the mausoleum of Emperor Minh Mang, in a tranquil setting of gardens and lakes. After an impressive boat trip we enjoy a walk to the bustling Dong Ba Market that sells a wide variety of local goods and handicrafts. Along the way we pass many fantastic eating spots, all ideal for visitors to sample some local delicacies. In the late afternoon, we board the train for an overnight journey to Hanoi. The train conditions are basic; we travel in soft sleeper class, which is a compartment for up to four people. Overnight on board. Includes: (B).
Day 12: Hué - Ha Noi
The train journey arrives in Hanoi this morning. Hanoi is a stylish and gracious city that retains an unique old world charm and some Asia ‘s most striking colonial architecture. The many lakes and parks also make for relaxing atmosphere. After a short rest we commence our city tour, exploring the beautiful lake of Hoan Kiem with its sacred temple and the West Lake and the impressive Ethnologic Museum, dedicated to Vietnam ’s 54 ethnic minorities. This is a must for us as we will embark on an overland trip into the homeland of several minority people. A perfect way to finish the day is to enjoy a short cyclo excursion through the bustling old quarter streets named after the specific goods once offered for sale at these places. Overnight in Ha Noi. Includes: (B).
Day 13: Ha Noi - Son La
An early morning start to drive towards Son La. We pass through the undulating terrains of tea plantations and the many timeless villages linked to the road, which is the main artery of trade between the northwestern region and the capital city. This is our first glimpse of rural northern Vietnam and sets the tone for the days ahead. Depending on road and traffic conditions our drive will deliver us in Son La by mid or late afternoon. After checking into hotel we take a walk around this mountain town. There is a little traffic on roads and many Black Thai in traditional costume scurry in all directions. Overnight in Son La. Includes: (B, L).
Day 14: Son La - Dien Bien Phu
The provincial museum and the nearby old prison are some of this hill town’s major sights. We have a chance to visit these before we leave for our next destination. The winding roads cross over the Pha Din Pass before reaching Dien Bien Phu, the site of the decisive battle in Vietnam’s struggle for independence in 1954. After checking into our central located hotel we enjoy a walk around to see this fast growing town. Our main stop is Dien Bien Phu’s Museum, which details the event in place. We also pay a visit to the old battle field where the lush vegetation grows behind many war relics including old French tanks and artillery pieces. Overnight in Dien Bien Phu. Includes: (B, L).
Day 15: Dien Bien Phu - Tam Duong
Heading out of the town, we spend a full day travelling into Vietnam’s most mountainous region. The roads are difficult at times, but the spectacular landscape with a mixture of terraced fields and hill villages makes the hardship all worthwhile. On the way, we have some opportunities to encounter the Red Hmong, Kho Mu, and Mang, Dao people who still retain their age-old cultural traditions and are recognizably distinct from each other by their dress. We arrive in Tam Duong by late afternoon and have time strolling around to catch our first glimpse; a small town surrounded by breathtaking mountains and tea plantations. Overnight in Tam Duong. Includes: (B, L).
Day 16: Tam Duong - Sa Pa
The scenery of the north is unequalled although the conditions are very simple. After breakfast we set off on a half-day drive following the mountain roads to Sa Pa, our final destination. At an elevation of 1,500 meters, Sapa was founded in the early years of the last century as a hill resort for French administrators when the heat on the plain became unbearable. We arrive in Sapa by mid afternoon and can soak up the fresh climate as much as we want by spending our time wandering this famous hill town. The ethnic people are frequently seen on the main street of Sapa and small vendors along the street sell local textiles and handicraft. Overnight in Sa Pa. Includes: (B, L).
Day 17: Sa Pa
After breakfast, we visit the bustling Sa Pa Market where the Red Dao, Black Hmong, Tay and Xa Pho ethnic minorities converge from the nearby mountainsides and valleys to trade their goods and buy provisions. The Phan Si Pan Range boasts Vietnam’s highest mountain and lends an alpine feel to the area surrounding this hill station. We get well off the beaten track as we embark on a walk into the homeland of hill tribe poeple. Along the way we traverse several rustic villages and see many mountaineers doing their daily works such as logging, herding buffalo and tilling the field. The blend of verdant mountain backdrop and colourful population makes for an unimaginable view. Overnight in Sa Pa. Includes: (B, L).
Day 18: Sa Pa - Ha Noi
The return journey begins as we depart SapaTown and pass through the verdant and rugged mountain scenery to Hanoi. These back roads are a great way to explore the real Vietnam. We see very few other travellers, mostly rural dwellers who are just as interested in finding out about our lives as we are of theirs. The drive is very long, but we can can make many stops along the way to stretch our legs and take some wonderful photographs. Overnight in Ha Noi. Includes: (B, L).
Day 19: Ha Noi - Ha Long
Today we enjoy a half-day tour of Hanoi with the Ho Chi Minh Complex, containing the mausoleum of the nation’s founder Ho Chi Minh, the Presidential Palace and the Ho Chi Minh’s house on stilts. The complex also comprises the One Pillar Pagoda, whose origins date back to the foundation of Hanoi. We follow this with a trip to the Temple of Literature, well known as Vietnam’s first university, and the History Museum, which displays an excellent collection of artifacts illustrating the Vietnamese history. Upon leaving the town we travel by roads through the charming countryside to Halong Bay with stop over at Dong Trieu pottery village. Overnight in Ha Long. Includes: (B).
Day 20: Ha Long - Ha Noi
The legendary Ha Long Bay is truly one of Vietnam’s most impressive scenic sights. Heading out of town we embark on a sailing boat for a five hour cruise around this wondrous bay, dotted with some 3,000 limestone islands rising amazingly from the clear and emerald water. The limestone karst formations are littered with beaches, grottoes and beautiful caves. Along the way we will anchor for a leisurely swim in a secluded cove and an enjoyable visit to one of the many hidden grottoes beneath towering cliffs. After a seafood lunch on board we make our way back to Ha Noi, arriving in time to see an evening performance of Hanoi’s famous water puppets. Overnight in Ha Noi. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 21, Ha Noi - Departure
There is a free time to relax or further explore Ha Noi. The trip ends after your transfer to Noi Bai Airport transfer for departure. Includes: (B).
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