- Enjoy walking tours of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
- Visit the Gulf of Tonkin and cruise gorgeous Ha Long Bay
- Explore the ancient river city of Hoi An and its countryside
- Travel up the Mekong Delta and visit floating markets
|Day 1||Arrive in Hanoi, Optional Activities||Hanoi|
|Day 2||Bicycle Tour of Dong Ngac & Hanoi||Hanoi|
|Day 3||Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Cruise & Activities||Ha Long Bay|
|Day 4||Morning Cruise, Transfer to Hanoi||Hanoi|
|Day 5||Transfer to Hoi An, City Tour||Hoi An|
|Day 6||Bicycle Tour of Organic Farms & Villages||Hoi An|
|Day 7||Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City, Guided Tour||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 8||Transfer to Can Tho, Cycling Tour||Can Tho|
|Day 9||Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 10||Depart Ho Chi Minh City|
Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi, Optional Activities
Welcome to Vietnam! Upon arrival at the airport in Hanoi, you'll transfer by private vehicle to your hotel. Dating to 3000 BCE, Hanoi is one of the most ancient capitals in the world, yet it's also a mix of the old and the new—a city defined by the contradictions of a rapidly developing yet deeply traditional society. Here glimmering office buildings sit alongside the French colonial Old Quarter. Rarely at rest, the kinetic energy of Hanoi's motorbike-packed streets spills over into the outdoor markets, Hang Gai silk shops, curbside bun cha /banh mi vendors, and an eclectic nightlife scene.
After settling in, you can stretch your legs on a self-guided tour of the Old Quarter. Visit markets and street vendors then take in some local history and mythology with a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake. At the north end is an arched red bridge leading to Jade Island and the Temple of the Jade Mountain. This temple was built in the 18th century to honor Tran Hung Dao, a military commander who famously repelled two Mongol invasions.
In the center of the lake is Turtle Tower, a small stone tower built to commemorate the Golden Turtle God, Kim Qui, who, according to Vietnamese myth, reclaimed a magical sword from Emperor Le Loi in order to return it to the Dragon King. You should know that it's legends like these around which Vietnam's rich culture is based. After taking in Hanoi's famous sights, feel free to dine out in the Old Quarter. There's no shortage of incredible eateries in this neighborhood that run the gamut from street food to fine dining to trendy fusion restaurants.
Day 2: Bicycle Tour of Dong Ngac & Hanoi
After breakfast, transfer to the far north of Hanoi, where on the Red River lies the small community of Dong Ngac. Home to about 1,000 residents, this traditional district dates back hundreds of years, and some of its well-preserved houses date to the 1600s. Upon arrival, you and your guide will hop on bicycles and ride around Dong Ngac's streets, first stopping at a local market. These commercial areas double as social centers for the residents and are always abuzz with activity. Your guide will lead you around the various stalls and point out the local products and fresh produce on offer.
Then you'll stop at the most famous landmark in Dong Ngac: the Communal House. Built in 1635 during feudal times, it serves as a temple of worship as well as a shrine to honor over 100 laureates (the residents of Dong Ngac pride themselves on their legacy of academic excellence). Later, visit the home of a local family for a cooking class in which you'll learn to prepare traditional dishes of Hanoi. The best part is once the class is complete you'll sit down with your group and enjoy a delicious lunch of everything you just cooked.
After lunch, you'll transfer back to Hanoi for a tour of the city center. Your first stop is the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, a massive complex that preserves the cultural heritage of Vietnam's 54 different ethnic groups. The day ends with a fun bit of traditional Vietnamese entertainment: a water puppet show. The surface of the water acts as a stage while the puppeteers stand behind a screen and manipulate the wooden puppets using bamboo rods. Water puppetry has been practiced in the Red River Delta region for generations, and it's as much an art form as it is a performance.
Day 3: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Cruise & Activities
Depart Hanoi this morning for the 2.5-hour drive to Ha Long Bay. In this sweet spot where the land meets the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,000 karst islets rise above emerald waters and comprise one of the most beautiful regions in the country. Upon arrival at the port, you'll board a pleasure boat for an unforgettable overnight cruise along the bay. After a greeting from the crew, you'll be led to your cabin followed by a short trip briefing.
Once the ship gets underway, you'll sit down for a lunch of fresh seafood. Enjoy the scenery as the ship passes stunning sights like the karst islet Trong Mai and the floating village of Cua Van. The first stop is at Trinh Nu Cave, a massive, 21,000 square-foot (1,950 sq m) cavern with a wide array of stalactites and stalagmites. After hiking the cave, you'll hop in a kayak and paddle around the emerald waters along the white sands of Trinh Nu Beach. Then return to the boat in time to watch the sunset before dinner. Afterward, you can retire to your cabin for the evening or join the locals for night squid fishing.
Day 4: Morning Cruise, Transfer to Hanoi
Begin your day with a tai chi session on the sundeck then sit down for a light breakfast. After eating, the boat will cruise to the floating village of Cua Van, which is home to around 800 residents who live in floating houses. The main industry here is, naturally, fishing, but the residents live the same way they would on dry land: working, going to school, and socializing. The major difference is that they travel everywhere by boat. Upon arrival at Cua Van, you can kayak around the bay or tour the community by rowboat. Then return to the ship for brunch.
Afterward, you'll transfer to a dock on the mainland and then to a local village. Here you'll enjoy a special water puppet show performed by local artists. At the end of the show, you'll return to Hanoi and check into your hotel.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Transfer to Hoi An, City Tour
You're on the move again today as you transfer to Hanoi's airport to catch a 1.5-hour flight south to Da Nang. Then transfer another half-hour by car down the central coast to Hoi An. Located on the delta of the Thu Bon River, this is one of the most well-preserved ancient cities in the country. This UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts over 2,000 years of history, with its heyday occurring from the seventh-10th centuries when it was a major player in the spice trade. By the 1600s, Hoi An was a thriving international port, and you can see remnants of this in its Chinese temples and Japanese merchant homes.
This afternoon, you'll tour the waterfront Ancient Town, which is lined with historic wooden houses that have been given new life as cafés and boutiques. You'll also notice the abundance of colorful lanterns here. Believed to bring good luck, these lanterns have been icons of Hoi An ever since the first Japanese settlers arrived in the 16th century. You'll learn about this history in a class led by an expert craftsman during which you'll create your own official Hoi An lantern.
Day 6: Bicycle Tour of Organic Farms & Villages
At 8 am, meet your guide for the bicycle ride from Hoi An along the river to the countryside village of Tra Que, which is known for its organic vegetable farms. This scenic route passes gorgeous green rice paddies, flourishing gardens, and local markets. You can stop as often as you like to take photographs and chat with locals. Once at the village, you'll visit the home of a local family for a chat about traditional farming.
Afterward, you'll visit a local shrimping farm then head to the Cam Thanh coconut forest for a tour of this unique mangrove ecosystem. In the village here, fishermen will show you how to prepare nets to catch fish and crabs on the river estuary. You'll then join them in a traditional basket boat on the water to do a bit of fishing yourself. Once back on the shore, sit down for a traditional lunch in a local restaurant overlooking the water. Afterward, hop in a car for the transfer back to Hoi An.
Day 7: Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City, Guided Tour
In the morning, transfer to the airport in Da Nang for a 1.5-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. Despite a communist revolution and devastating war, the city has retained much of its cultural mix of Asian and western traditions. In fact, many of its French-colonial landmarks still stand. Today, its streets swell with mopeds whizzing past markets and modern shopping districts as the sidewalks overflow with vendors selling everything from street food to golden lucky cats.
After checking into your hotel, take a guided tour and visit highlights like the 19th-century Gothic/Renaissance Saigon Central Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. Feel the energy of the city as you walk along Dong Khoi Street to the Gothic Opera House, which was built in 1901. Along Le Loi Boulevard, you'll pass landmarks like City Hall, the French-colonial Rex Hotel, and Bach Dang. Cap the tour with an ascent to the 68th floor of the Bitexco Building, which at 859 feet (262 m) is the city's largest building. From the sky deck, you'll be treated to panoramic views of the skyline.
Day 8: Transfer to Can Tho, Cycling Tour
After breakfast, leave Ho Chi Minh City on a 3.5-hour drive south to Can Tho, a waterfront city on the mighty Mekong Delta. Its most famous for its floating market, where each day at 4 am dozens of wooden paddleboats laden with fruits, vegetables, and other products take to the water and sell their goods to passersby. It's a market with a long history dating back to the Nguyen Dynasty of the 19th century.
Upon arrival at Can Tho, you'll hop on a bicycle and ride to the family home of local blacksmiths who've been practicing the trade for generations. After gleaning insight into their knife-making skills, you'll leave the home and visit an orchard to enjoy fresh-picked fruit. End the day with a visit to another family home where under their guidance you'll prepare fresh banana cake. Later, you'll head to your hotel in Can Tho and will have some time to relax before dinner.
Day 9: Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City
Head out by boat early this morning to witness the Cai Rang Floating Market. Located in the middle of Can Tho, this is the largest floating market on the Mekong Delta. After doing some aquatic shopping, you'll visit a local family that earns their living making handmade noodles—a trade that goes back three generations. Then, after a light breakfast at a restaurant next to quiet canals, you'll head back to Ho Chi Minh City, where you'll overnight.
Day 10: Depart Ho Chi Minh City
Take the morning to enjoy one last stroll around Ho Chi Minh City. At the appropriate time, you'll transfer to the airport to catch your flight home. This concludes your grand Vietnam adventure. Until next time!
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