Day 1: Hanoi arrival (D, GP). Arriving at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel. In the afternoon, you’ll ride a cyclo to visit the bustling Old Quarter, a magnet for visitors – it’s noisy and hectic, but definitely a ‘must-see’ attraction. The Old Quarter is a maze of shopping streets and restaurants with a hotchpotch of architecture - traditional tube houses, religious buildings, artisans’ workshops and cottages, colonial houses and modern concrete edifices.
In the evening, you’ll have tickets for a performance of traditional Water Puppetry (an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and an interesting, light-hearted introduction to its rural culture). You’ll have time to relax after your journey before a welcome dinner at a good restaurant housed in the pleasant atmosphere of a colonial building. Your overnight stay will be in Hanoi.
Day 2: Hanoi architecture walk and afternoon tea (B, L, G). The day begins with an architectural tour of Hanoi. You’ll walk around the city centre with your guide, examining French colonial villas, traditional communal architecture and local houses. After lunch, you’ll visit the Temple of literature, dating to the 11th century, and fine piece of architecture itself. You’ll also call in the excellent Ethnology museum for an overview of Vietnam's 54 distinct ethnic groups. The day will finish with an afternoon tea and a choice of cookies at the Sofitel Metropole hotel. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 3: Cycling and exploring villages around Hanoi (B, L, G). In the morning, you’ll be picked up to drive to Bat Trang. On arrival, you’ll be able to stroll in the small alleys of this old village to watch local people producing their fine products and visit some of the houses used as workshops and showrooms. You’ll then pick up your bicycles and ride along the riverside dike, through some more of the many villages surrounding Hanoi. The total distance on bicycles is around 7km, along a small road that runs alongside a tributary of the Red River.
You’ll then drive to Dong Ho village - famous for its traditional paintings. After a picnic lunch, your vehicle will take to Tam Tao village to enjoy its traditional Quan Ho music performed by villagers in the commune house. The singers have recently been officially designated as part of Vietnam’s ‘living heritage’. In the late afternoon, you’ll return to Hanoi for your overnight accommodation.
Day 4: Cooking Class in Hanoi - Hue (B, L, G). In the morning, you’ll walk to a family restaurant, where the owner is also a famous chef, who will invite you a cup of Vietnamese green tea. She’ll then take you to a local market where you’ll get a chance to learn all about Vietnamese ingredients and to buy or bargain as the locals do.
When you return to the restaurant, you’ll learn to cook some typical Vietnamese dishes, characteristic of North Vietnam. After the class, you’ll sample all the different dishes in a comfortable home. In the afternoon, you will be picked up to Noi Bai airport for your evening flight to Hue. On arrival, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel in Hue centre where you’ll spend the night.
Day 5: Hue city and Cooking Class at a Garden House (B, L, D, G). Your morning will be taken to visit the ancient Citadel, followed by a cruise along the Perfume River to Thien Mu Pagoda, and then by road to the Royal Tombs of Emperor Minh Mang. The mausoleum and the citadel span the long reign of the Nguyen King’s imperial dynasty – the contrast is stark. 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. In the afternoon, you’ll visit one of city’s ‘garden houses’. Here, you’ll learn to cook some of Hue’s traditional dishes. As well as preparing and serving a traditional meal, the owner will also explain the distinctive characteristics of classic Hue cuisine. After finishing your cooking, be able to enjoy the fruits of your labours in the pleasant surroundings and comfortable atmosphere. You’ll spend the night in Hue.
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.
Day 6: Hue - Danang - Hoi An (B, L, G). In the morning, your car will arrive to drive you to Danang. On the way, you'll cross the high mountain pass of Hai Van. The views from the top are excellent – you should be able be able to see Lang Co beach and village, and the lagoon far below, with Danang spread out before you to the south. Upon arriving in Danang, you’ll have a brief look at the remarkable Hindu statuary in the Cham Museum and call at Marble Mountain before leaving for Hoi An. After lunch, you’ll have a guided visit to the Ancient Town of Hoi An. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An.
Day 7: Hoi An rural life (B, L, G). After breakfast, you’ll ride a bicycle 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. You’ll then return to the old town to learn how to make silk lanterns at a local house. You’ll also be able to view the complex process of creating Hoi An-style lanterns. Your lunch will be prepared by the family. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An.
Day 8: Hoi An - Danang - Da Lat (B, G). You’ll have a free morning until you’re picked up for your noon flight to Dalat. On arrival, you’ll be met and driven to check in to your hotel in Dalat, with the rest of the day free at leisure.
Day 9: Da Lat City Tour (B, L, G). In the morning, you’ll ride a cable car to Truc Lam Pagoda and Tuyen Lam Lake. The pagoda is quite plain, but is surrounded by an attractive flower garden. There are good views of the lake, lying beneath with thick forest on the far side and which can be reached by a staircase. You’ll visit the ‘crazy monk’ in Lam Ti Ni pagoda, a prolific local artist, the uncoventional design of Hang Nga ‘Crazy house,’ and explore traditional Vietnamese woman’ embroidery at Da Lat Su Quan. Your over night accommodation will be in Dalat.
Day 10: Da Lat - Ho Chi Minh City (B, G). Your morning will be free until your car arrives to take you to the airport for your noon flight to Ho Chi Minh City. You’ll be welcomed at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City and transferred to your hotel in the centre for check-in.
In the afternoon, your guide will meet you at your hotel and show you around Ho Chi Minh City. You’ll visit the Museum of War Remnants, providing a very partial, but riveting, perspective of the ‘American War’: not for the squeamish! The huge Ben Thanh market, one of the liveliest areas of Ho Chi Minh City, is packed with every conceivable commodity. You’ll finish your day with a visit to a lacquer workshop to see the complex processes and meticulous workmanship involved in this traditional Vietnamese craft product. You’ll spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 11: Cooking class in Ho Chi Minh City (B, L, DP). Today you’ll join a morning cooking class at Ho Chi Minh City’s Cookery Centre. After visiting a local market to purchase fresh ingredients, there follows an introduction to Vietnamese culinary culture, after which you will get busy in the kitchen under the careful supervision of an English-speaking Vietnamese cook. There is a whole range of menus to choose from – one for each day of the week! Each has been specially developed to give an all-round flavour of Vietnamese cuisine. You’ll have lunch with the dishes that you’ve cooked, and afterwards be awarded of certificates of competence and souvenir gifts. In the afternoon, your time will be your own. You’ll spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 12: Ho Chi Minh City departure (B, GP). Your time will be your own until your private car and driver arrives to take you to Tan Son Nhat airport for your departure flight. Tour ends.
- Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
- Pick-ups and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicle as specified in the itinerary above (Please note: pick-ups will be by a guide and driver or, where a guide is not necessary, a driver only. All unaccompanied drivers will be briefed in advance, and will carry a mobile phone to ensure smooth transfer arrangements)
- Domestic flight tickets: Hanoi – Hue, Danang - Dalat and Dalat – Ho Chi Minh City, including domestic airport taxes.
- The uses of cyclo and bikes in Hanoi.
- Travel in an appropriate private air-conditioned vehicle with an experienced safe driver.
- The services of experienced English-speaking guides as indicated in the itinerary (please note: guides will be on hand from pick-up until guests’ return to their hotel or reaching their destination). Free days or part days will not include the services of a guide unless requested and included in the final itinerary.
- Where necessary, entry fees for all visits as mentioned in the programme.
- Lunches and dinners (as specified in the itinerary) in the best local restaurants.
- All the cooking classes mentioned in the itinerary.
- VAT and other taxes.
Prices vary depending on level of accommodation, group size and dates of travel. Contact us to customize a vacation itinerary and price to meet your needs and budget.
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