- Taste Vietnam's signature noodle soups on a Hanoi food tour
- Explore ancient palaces and pagodas in Ninh Binh
- Cruise on Ha Long Bay and hear the legends about its limestone mountains
- Cycle around Can Tho and visit workshops and local kitchens
|Day 1||Arrive in Ho Chi Minh, Evening Food Tour||Ho Chi Minh|
|Day 2||Transfer to Ben Tre & Boat Ride to Can Tho||Can Tho|
|Day 3||Cai Rang Floating Market, Transfer to Ho Chi Minh||Ho Chi Minh|
|Day 4||Fly to Da Nang, Transfer to Hoi An||Hoi An|
|Day 5||Hoi An Cooking & Culture||Hoi An|
|Day 6||Hoi An Countryside Excursion||Hoi An|
|Day 7||Fly to Hanoi, Explore the City & Evening Food Tour||Hanoi|
|Day 8||Day Trip to Ninh Binh||Hanoi|
|Day 9||Transfer to Ha Long Bay Cruise||Ha Long Bay|
|Day 10||Ha Long Bay Cruise, Transfer to Hanoi||Hanoi|
|Day 11||Depart Hanoi|
Day 1: Arrive in Ho Chi Minh, Evening Food Tour
Welcome to Ho Chi Minh, also known by its former name, Saigon. With a population of approximately 9 million, it's Vietnam's largest city. A driver will meet you at the airport to transfer you to your hotel, and after settling in, you could head out to explore on your own or opt for an afternoon tour.
For a perfect introduction to the city, spend the afternoon discovering different neighborhoods with a local food expert. At Ben Thanh Market, browse food stalls, and try banh xeo (pancakes) and banh mi (sandwiches). In District 5, see ceremonial cake stalls while learning about how these cakes are eaten for special occasions. For a break and to end the tour, take a seat in a small and busy café to try a sweet iced coffee or slow-drip hot brew while people watching. Return to your hotel to rest at the end of your first day in Vietnam.
Day 2: Transfer to Ben Tre & Boat Ride to Can Tho
Ben Tre and its Ham Luong dock are this morning's destination, traveling about two hours south of Ho Chi Minh. From the dock, board a boat for a relaxing day-long cruise along the Ham Luong River, a tributary of the mighty Mekong. See the area lined with small islands and experience the sights and sounds of life on the river.
Arrive in Can Tho in the afternoon and visit workshops to learn about local ingredients like activated charcoal, dried coconut, and coconut husks. Get aboard a xe loi (rickshaw) and see a demonstration of coconut fiber art and maybe take some home with you. On the river, board a kayak to reach a restaurant for lunch. After lunch, hop on a bike to pedal around the village, go fishing, or take a cooking class. At the end of the day, transfer to your Can Tho hotel.
Day 3: Cai Rang Floating Market, Transfer to Ho Chi Minh
After breakfast in Can Tho, board a boat for a leisurely ride to see the Lower Mekong's tributaries. From there, visit Cai Rang's floating market, the largest floating market in the area, where fruits and vegetables are sold and traded from the early morning hours. There are even small floating restaurants where you can taste noodle soups and learn how they are prepared.
Get off the boat to explore the village of Cai Raing and cross a "Monkey Bridge"—a walkway built over the water with just one bamboo stem. After a stop for lunch, return to Ho Chi Minh, with a transfer of about three hours north by car. Relax at your hotel after a full day, or head out to feel the energy of the city at night.
Day 4: Fly to Da Nang & Transfer to Hoi An
Today's destination is Hoi An, where you'll spend the next three days discovering the city's mix of cultural influences across the centuries. To get there, you'll transfer to Tan Son Nhat Airport for a flight of about 1.5 hours north to Da Nang. At the airport, meet your driver for a one-hour transfer south to your Hoi An hotel. Then spend the afternoon and evening walking around the city.
A 16th-century trading center, Hoi An's architectural and cultural influences are Chinese, Japanese, and French, as you'll see walking along its cobblestone streets. Pass over its hundred–year–old Japanese Bridge and see Phuc Kien Hall and learn about its dedication to a sea goddess. For dinner, head to the fish market or a restaurant and try local dishes such as com hen (sauteed clams), nem lui (ground pork), and cao lau (pork and greens).
Day 5: Hoi An Cooking & Culture
With a full day to see Hoi An and the surrounding area, you have many options, whether you want to stay in town, relax on the beach, take a class, or see the countryside.
To fully experience the area's markets and learn about its foods, hop on a bicycle following a guide to go shopping at a local market. A local chef will explain the spices, vegetables, fish, and other ingredients needed to prepare a meal for lunch. Then, board a basket boat to ride through a palm garden to reach the kitchen, where you'll cook dishes such as green papaya salad, spring rolls, pancakes, fish in a clay pot, or lemongrass chicken. Enjoy what you've cooked with your teacher, and then cycle back to your hotel after lunch.
Day 6: Hoi An Countryside Excursion
On your second free day in Hoi An, you could head for the countryside with a cycling trip along the water with a local guide. To fully experience life on the river, board a boat for a cruise to meet fishers and learn about net fishing. Then trade the boat for a smaller basket boat to take a trip down a coconut palm-lined waterway. Enjoy a seafood lunch and then make your way back to Hoi An for a free afternoon to explore.
Back in Hoi An, you could stop at some of the many local shops to see the city's master tailors at work and get fitted for a custom-made jacket, suit, or dress to take home with you. Spend the evening watching the sunset on the river and enjoy dinner at a restaurant to savor your last night in Hoi An.
Day 7: Fly to Hanoi, Explore the City & Evening Food Tour
Your tour of Vietnam will take you farther north today to the capital city of Hanoi. After the 1.5-hour flight, a driver will meet you at the airport to take you to your hotel, where you can relax or take an afternoon or evening tour with a local guide.
Depending on your arrival time, you'll have time to get to know the capital as you follow a guide to some of its major sites. At Hang Be Market—one of the oldest markets in the city—get in line with the crowds for fresh meat and produce. Then, walk through Tran Quoc Pagoda, a Buddhist shrine dating back to the reign of Emperor Ly Nam De in the sixth century. Next, spend some time at the imposing Ho Chi Minh Complex, the resting place of former leader Ho Chi Minh.
In the evening, join a food tour to taste bun cha ta (grilled pork and noodles) and banh cuon (pork minced rice rolls) while watching chefs at work. Take a seat at a communal table to taste grilled meat at a barbecue stall and end the evening with Hanoi's signature egg coffee with egg yolks, sugar, and condensed milk. Head back to your hotel to rest at the end of a long day.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 8: Day Trip to Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh, about 1.5 hours south of Hanoi, is the destination for today's day trip to discover its many ancient palaces and pagodas. In nearby Hoa Lu—Vietnam's capital in the 10th and 11th centuries—you'll see decorative temples built to honor former emperors. At the three-tiered pagoda of Bich Dong, wander through cave temples, gazing at Buddhist statues and smelling the calming scents of incense, then take in the view on a drive through the countryside, passing by villages and limestone mountains.Stop for lunch at a restaurant, and then travel to nearby Trang An, a scenic area with a karst system of limestone grottoes that you can float through by boat. During the floating tour, see Dia Linh Mountain, which is believed to have spiritual significance. Learn about the Tran Dynasty at the Vu Lam Royal Steps and visit a temple dedicated to Thanh Cao Son, a national hero who taught farmers vital irrigation techniques. After the tour, return to Hanoi for dinner on your own.
Day 9: Transfer to Ha Long Bay CruiseLeave the city behind today for the calm waters of Ha Long Bay, known for its more than 2,000 forest-swathed limestone islands. The journey there begins in the morning, meeting your guide for a four-hour transfer east by car from Hanoi to the shores of Ha Long Bay. There, step aboard your cruise ship and set sail across the bay, passing islands rich in legends and named for their distinctive shapes. Savor a seafood lunch on the deck, relax amid the calmness of the bay, and get settled into your cabin.
In the afternoon, stop at a secret cove for swimming and kayaking, and then explore a nearby beach and grottoes. Back on board, join a cooking class with instructions on making nem (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) to enjoy as part of your dinner on the deck. In the evening, watch the sunset on the boat and then follow the locals for a night fishing adventure.
Day 10: Ha Long Bay Cruise, Transfer to HanoiEat an early breakfast on the deck while watching the sunrise over Ha Long Bay's emerald waters. Follow breakfast with a tai chi class to energize you for the day's activities. After a stop to visit a limestone cave full of stalagmites and stalactites, you'll eat brunch on deck and then sail back to the harbor, where a four-hour transfer takes you back to Hanoi. Spend the final night of your trip in Hanoi eating street food in a market and buying your last souvenirs in the Old Quarter to take home with you.
Day 11: Depart HanoiDepending on your departure time, you could spend your last morning in Hanoi discovering new places. Go for a peaceful walk along Hoan Kiem Lake, visit the 11th-century Temple of Literature dedicated to Confucius and other scholars, or stop for a steaming bowl of noodles. When the time comes, your driver will transfer you to the airport for your flight home or on to your next destination. Safe travels!
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