Overview: Hanoi – Hai Phong – Danang - Ha Long – Danang - Hoi An – Hue – Saigon
Day 1 Depart Cork
Day 2 Arrive Hanoi
Arrival and welcome at Hanoi Airport. Transfer to the city for hotel check in. Free time in the afternoon to explore the traditional streets of the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake vicinity. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 3 Hanoi Sightseeing (B)
Full day tour of Vietnam’s capital city, including Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (outside), Traditional Stilt House and Revered One-Pillar Pagoda. Next, enjoy a leisurely (non- private) electric car ride – the perfect way to experience Hanoi’s peaceful atmosphere. Following lunch (not included), visiting the thousand-year-old Temple of Literature - Vietnam’s first university. At the end of the day, take a walking tour of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, also known as the ‘36 streets’. This bustling area of narrow streets and alleys is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It's a great place to explore with plenty of photo opportunities all around you. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 4 Hanoi – Halong Bay (B, L, D)
In the morning, leave Hanoi for Halong Bay, a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site with its 3,000 islands of towering limestone dotting the bay and Gulf of Tonkin (180km – 3.5 - 4 hour driving). After arriving at noon, you will board a beautiful boat for an overnight cruise on Halong Bay with an excellent menu of fresh seafood. Lunch and dinner are served on boat. Overnight on board
Day 5 Ha Long Bay – Hai Phong – Danang – Hoi An (B)
Wake up early in the morning to enjoy the aquamarine water of the bay at its best. After tea break, the boat continues to cruise quietly through spectacular limestone formations of Halong Bay. Return to the pier where you will disembark at around 11.00 am. Transfer directly to Cat Bi Airport in nearby Hai Phong City (70km – a 2 hour drive) where you will take a short flight to Danang. Here you will be welcomed by your local driver on arrival and transfer to your hotel in Hoi An Town (30 km – 45 minute driving) for check in. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 6 Hoi An Exploration (B, L)
The morning starts with a really interesting activity – Sail aboard a nut-shell boat. The nut-shell boats, also called “Thung Chai”, are small round boats made of bamboo. They are thus called because of their resemblance to an inverted walnut shell. Often used by the local fishermen in the central regions of Vietnam, they can contain up to 5 people. Their small size allows them to access the most unreachable canals in the flooded forest and to discover the surrounding countryside in an environment-friendly manner. You will be able to paddle the boat, but beware, these little barges are not easy to handle, precisely because of their round shape.
After a short break, we will take a cyclo tour to visit the village of Tra Que (located 3 miles or 20 minutes from Hoi An). Tra Que is famous for the quality and the flavour of its aromatic herbs. Here, a local family will show you their agricultural techniques and you may also be asked to take part in the work for a while. If you are not green-fingered, don't worry, they are very patient and will guide you through various tasks, such as digging, watering or harvesting. The atmosphere is simple, and the key words are conviviality and good spirits. You will also enjoy a very relaxing traditional foot massage, which is a custom here, and is performed using the family’s special technique. Finally, you will have lunch there, which will enchant the gourmets as the village’s specialties, such as the “Tam Huu”, are a delight for the senses. After that, back to Hoi An for your walking tour in Hoi An town, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site because of its unusually well-preserved ancient streets and homes. Set out to explore the quaint cobblestone streets of the town with more than two-century-old Chinese houses. Sites include the Japanese Bridge, the Chinese Temple, and Phung Hung Chinese-trading house. Free time in the afternoon for shopping and exploring Hoi An at your own pace. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel.
Day 7 Hoi An – Hue (B)
Morning is free at leisure to relax or further discover Hoi An on your own. In the afternoon, departure to Hue via the scenic Hai Van Pass to enjoy one of the most beautiful panoramas in Vietnam as you look out over the central coastline. You will also pass through the quiet, white sandy beach of Lang Co along the way. Arrive in Hue at the end of the afternoon and free time to enjoy the refined and distinct atmosphere of the town. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 8 Hue (B)
In the morning, visit the famous Imperial Citadel, and then continue with a leisure boat trip to Thien Mu Pagoda which is located right on the bank of the Perfume River, which offers an excellent photo shot of river and the city. Wrap up the morning with a visit to a typical garden house which was built according to precise rules of geomancy to experience the serene and pleasant feelings such a place might invoke.
In the afternoon, you will visit Tu Duc tomb and Khai Dinh tomb– one of the most beautiful tomb in Hue. Inspired by calmness, it is a fine example of Vietnamese traditional art. It is also an opportunity to learn about the history of Nguyen Dynasty and the French colonial periodThen it’s off to visit the conical hat village where you will discover the traditional ways of making cone hats and if you wish, involve yourself in the production of a hat. The fun part is that your attempt at making this traditional Vietnamese hat will become yours when you leave the village. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 9 Hue - Saigon - Cu Chi Tunnels (B, L)
Enjoy some more time in Hue before catching flight to Saigon. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel for check. Saigon is Vietnam’s biggest city with 7 million inhabitants and 2.5 million motorbikes. As soon as you get out of the airport, you will be struck by the bursting energy of youth and the flow of motorbikes ready to start at each traffic light.
This morning we will leave the city by private vehicle to visit the amazing tunnel network of Cu Chi. This incredible system, covering almost 250km in length was shelter to over 16,000 Vietcong guerrillas during the wars. Initially started in 1948 to provide shelter against the French air and ground sweeps, the network went on to serve as communication routes, storage facilities, hospitals and living quarters for Vietnamese fighters throughout the American war. If you are interested (and game) you can even descend into the tunnels to learn more about the harsh conditions faced by Vietcong guerrillas who lived there. Lunch at a local restaurant. Dinner on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 10 Saigon – Mekong Delta (B, L)
Today, your driver will drive you from Saigon to Phong Nam in Ben Tre District, a journey of about 2 hours, where you will start your excursion into deep Mekong Delta area. Pick up at the Phong Nam brick kiln, where bricks are still painstakingly made by hand. Board a boat and cruise along the Chet Say river (a branch of the Mekong) and stop off at various local workplaces to give you a picture of how the local economy works, including coconut activated charcoal factory where coconut shell is put into high heat kiln to produce coconut charcoal: a coconut processing workshop, where you can sample fresh coconut and see how every single part of this versatile nut is turned into food and other products. Then the boat will cruise through the small canal, revealing the vibrancy of local life. The boat will then stop at a quiet village where you can have a short walk to experience real Delta village life, visit a mat weaving house, where straw mats are woven using a hand loom – you can even have a go at weaving yourself before boarding your xe loi (a kind of motorized rickshaw) or biking into the village where you can see farm, rice field and vegetable plants before stopping at a local house for a delicious and filling lunch, featuring such local specialties as elephant-ear fish and river shrimp, washed down with some cold drinks or beers. It’s time to board a sampan for a relaxing trip along narrow canals. Take boat back to Pier and return to Saigon in the late afternoon. Dinner on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 11 Saigon – Departure (B) – Without guide
Enjoy your time in Saigon before transfer without guide to airport where you take flight back to your home or next destination. Meals on your own. Room is at your disposal until noon time only. Services end
Day 12 Arrive Cork