Hidden Charm of Vietnam
Duration: 12 days/ 11 nights
Hanoi – Halong – Hue - Danang – Hoi An – Saigon
Day 1: Arrival
Arrival at Hanoi Airport, you will be welcomed by local guide and transferred to the city centre for hotel check in. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 2: Hanoi sightseeing (B)
As the largest freshwater lake in Hanoi, West Lake has a circumference of 17km and houses many of the city’s historic places of interest around its perimeter – including Vietnam’s oldest pagoda and one of Vietnam’s four sacred temples. The lake attracts many locals and tourists seeking respite from the busy city, providing a sanctuary of great natural beauty with plenty of quiet spots in the sizeable lush gardens surrounding the lake. There, you will pay a visit to Tran Quoc Pagoda, the most typical Vietnamese places of worship located along the shore of West lake.
Just before lunch, tour Vietnam’s first university, the thousand-year-old Temple of literature. Continue your trip with a tour of the Museum of Ethnology, widely acknowledged as the best in Vietnam which houses a display dedicated to Vietnam's 54 ethnic minority peoples. Then drop off at Hanoi Old Quarter for a walking tour to explore the diversified architecture of Hanoi and its famous 36 streets of the Old Quarter. The purpose of today’s walking tour is to discover Hanoi’s architecture, which reflects the atmosphere and soul of Hanoi. The rich diversity reaches from Vietnamese, Chinese and French colonial to Communist architecture. You will find Hanoi a real architectural treasure as you explore a traditional tube house. And you will see how attractive a small pagoda in the center of Hanoi can be. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 3: Hanoi - Halong Bay (B, L, D) - Guide on boat only
In the morning, you will be picked up from your hotel and leave Hanoi for Halong Bay by shuttle bus, 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 in the open air of Halong Bay.
Day 4: Halong - Hanoi (B)
You are advised to set your alarm clock to enjoy a spectacular dawn over the bay. After a morning bathe and breakfast on board you will continue your cruise to explore the bay. Enjoy this more isolated bay’s spectacular and unique islands of the bay. Enjoying the brunch during returning back to harbor around noontime. We’ll head back to Hanoi by shuttle bus, passing a vast expanse of rice fields of the Red River Delta. You will see scenes of farmers working in the fields, children going to school, and even little pigs being brought into town on motorbikes. Arrive back in Hanoi and free at leisure for the rest of the day. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Option: Cyclo tour around Hoan Kiem Lake and Water Puppet show – Supplement +€50/ person
Enjoy a traditional cyclo ride (pedicab) for a 45 minute tour of the colonial city’s traditional “36 streets of 36 wares” in the old Quarter and around the Hoan Kiem lake and district. Wrap up the day with a traditional water puppet show, a unique Vietnamese traditional art. This art originates from rural festivals in Vietnam. The artists-men and women-stand waist-deep in the water to manipulate the puppets, making them move about, talk and laugh and even dance on the surface of the water. Transfer back to your hotel. Meals on your own.
Day 5: Hanoi - Hue - Hoi An (B)
This morning you will be picked up at the hotel and transferred by local driver to the airport to fly to Hue. Upon arrival, you will be picked up by local guide and start your visiting in Hue. First, visit the famous Imperial Citadel, built by Emperor Gia Long in 1804, the citadel's attractions include the Noon Gate or Ngo Mon. The gate leads to the Imperial Palace and was the ceremonial location for the kings' annual announcement of the year's calendar and the names of new doctors of philosophy…
Then, continue with a leisure boat trip to Thien Mu Pagoda which is located right on the bank of the Perfume River, where offers very nice photo shot of river and the city. Wrap up the day tour 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 bring you. After that, you will be transferred to the hotel in Hoi An via the scenic Hai Van Pass, where we will enjoy the spectacular panorama of the central coastline from the summit. Arrive in Hoi An in the early evening. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 6 - Day 8: Hoi An free days (B) No guide nor vehicle
Option: Hoi An local morning experience and discovery of the ancient town – Supplement +€63/ person
Wake up early this morning to visit the local fish market, located on the Thu Bon River, behind the main market area. The best time to visit is around 6 – 7 am, when the fishing boats arrive and the local activity starts, the place is a real photographer delight. At that time, you can walk around the narrow streets in the early morning, when there’s nobody around to give the place it’s busy look. There are no tourists, no shops open. It‘s a new image of Hoi An, which shouldn’t be missed. Take a boat trip along the Thu Bon river to enjoy the quite atmosphere on this poetic river before trying a local breakfast of Hoi An at a local restaurant. It‘s a new image of Hoi An, which shouldn’t be missed. After that, take a stroll to visit 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 2-century-old Chinese houses. Sites include the Japanese Bridge, the Chinese Temple, and Phung Hung Chinese-trading house. Return back to the hotel. Balance of the day is free at leisure. Meals on your own.
Option: Biking Duy Vinh village – Supplement +€70/ person
You will depart from the pier located in the old city of Hoi An on a local boat (bac), the only means of transport to sail to the island of Cam Kim. After the crossing of a few minutes, you will reach the village of Kim Bong, and then visit M. Huynh Suong’s workshop, a famous sculpting artist who will teach you about his art. You will then ride your bikes towards the mat weaving village of Duy Vinh. Over the 13-km route, you will enjoy landscapes of rice fields, bamboo fields and shaded paths. Once in the village, you will discover its traditions and special know-hows, which have been passed on from generation to generation. If you are there in May or August (rush harvest), the various stages of mat making will no longer bear any secrets for you as you learn how to slice the rush stems, dye them and dry them. During the other months, the villagers will show you how they actually weave the mats. After this initiation, you will cross a small dam to reach the fishing village of Duy Vinh. Finally, you will once again board the boat to return straight to Hoi An town. Return to the hotel. Dinner on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Option: Joining Cookery class (L): Supplement: + €63/ person
In the morning, you are picked up at the hotel and then go to the market with Ms Van, a cuisine expert living in Hoi An who loves to share her passion for food, especially Central Vietnam food, to everyone. The morning market is where you can be in the thick of the actions and get explanations for local ingredients, as well as witness daily local life. After that, you can enjoy ice coffee before go to Ms Van’s home.
Ms Van’s home is a charming house with beautiful bamboo decoration. In the kitchen, she will demonstrate to you how to cook a dish of your choice. Her fun, enthusiast nature and her dedication will surely make the class more special than many others. And when you have finished cooking your meal, it is time to enjoy it with all others classmates. The best thing about this class is you can choose one recipe from the list of 50 dishes and more than 20 vegetarian dishes to learn. Everyone can try to cook their personal favorite recipe, not a preset menu! Afterwards, return to your hotel and free in the afternoon. Dinner on your own. Overnight at the hotel. (Remarks: Chef is also guide so there is no private guide included into cookery class.)
Option: Jeep tour to My Son Holy Sanctuary – Supplement +€75/ person
This adventure, off the beaten track, will take you along a narrow but beautiful lane that normal tour buses cannot access. On the way, you will have a chance to witness the fascinating lives of the local people: farmers who work in the rice fields, fishermen returning home from their boat trip and merchants bringing their products to sell at vibrant and colorful markets. You can also chat with some locals when taking a break at a local coffee shop and see just how charming and friendly they are. The beautiful scenery of the region is another highlight of this activity, with luxuriant green forests, lush fields of rice and corn and slow flowing canals to see along the road. Eventually you will arrive at My Son, the holy land of Champa culture in Vietnam. The complex was the religious and cultural center of this ancient Kingdom for many centuries, with the oldest temples constructed in the 4th century. Partially ruined, My Son still has numerous exquisitely decorated and detailed temples and shrines and has been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Afterwards, back to your hotel. Meals on your own.
Day 9: Hoi An - Danang - Saigon (B)
Free time at leisure until good time for transfer (without guide) to the airport in Danang to fly to Saigon. Upon arrival, you will be picked up by local driver and transferred to the hotel for check-in.
Balance of the day is free for your own discovery of the capital of the South. Nowhere is Vietnam’s rush to modernise more visible. Despite its rush to modernity, Saigon, as it is still known, is a friendly and welcoming place with many reminders of its turbulent past and a palpable momentum towards the future. In the evening, you could visit Ben Thanh Night Market to see how lively this city by night is. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 10: Saigon - Cu Chi tunnels - Saigon (B)
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. Return to the city centre for lunch (your expense). In the afternoon set out on a tour of the former capital of French Indochina. Historic landmarks include the Old Saigon post office, Notre Dame Cathedral. Continue your tour by visiting the Reunification Palace which was used as the headquarters of the Saigon Government during the American war in the 60s. After that visit the War Remnants Museum which contains a comprehensive and somewhat distressing array of documents and photos about the long Vietnam-American War. Be aware that your visit to the museum will provoke strong emotions. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 11: Saigon free day (B) - No guide nor vehicle
Free day at leisure for your own exploration in the Saigon, which is Vietnam’s commercial capital and a city of extraordinary energy.
Option: Excursion in Mekong Delta (L) – Supplement +€105/ person
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. Get on boat and will 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, discover the 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 plan 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.
Day 12: Saigon - Dublin (B) - without guide
Free time at leisure for your own exploration in the most bustling city of Vietnam until good time for transfer by private driver to the airport for your flight back home. Room is at disposal till noon time only. Meals on your own. End of services.