Family Vietnam In Depth
|Family Vietnam In Depth
|Asia, South East Asia, Vietnam
Join us on an in depth journey through magical Vietnam, traversing the country from north to south. Bike alongside the rice paddy fields of Mai Chau and explore the intricate network of waterways in the Mekong Delta. Witness the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City, the old-world charm of Hanoi, ancient neighbourhoods of Hoi An and dramatic limestone pinnacles of Halong Bay.
Mai Chau – Cycle along rice terraces and through villages dotted with stilt houses
Ho Chi Minh City – Learn about the resourcefulness of the Viet Cong at the Cu Chi Tunnels, visit an underground weapons bunker and explore old Saigon’s bustling back alleys
Mekong Delta – Navigate the delta by bike and boat. Stay in a traditional homestay and take part in a Vietnamese cooking lesson
Day 1 Join trip in Hanoi.
Arrive in Hanoi. Vietnam’s bustling capital is architecturally styled like a French provincial town, with tree-lined boulevards and low-rise buildings. It’s a wonderful city to explore on foot.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Hanoi at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to arrive into Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport (airport code HAN), which is 30KM, around one hour’s drive from the airport. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to head to the Old Quarter, a maze of narrow lanes named after the various crafts and specialities of the city’s artisans. The pavements are filled with food sellers tempting you with steaming noodles, snacks and stir-fried delights.
Day 2 Hanoi. Watch locals take lakeside yoga classes, explore night markets.
This morning join our Explore leader to see more of Hanoi, visiting the One-Pillar Pagoda, the tranquil Temple of Literatures and the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh lying in state.
The afternoon is then free to perhaps take an optional cookery class, or explore Hanoi’s elegant French Quarter by cyclo. In the evening there is the chance to witness a remarkable performance of traditional water puppetry (optional activity). Set on a flooded stage, the stories tell tales of legendary heroes and everyday life, with dragons and unicorns often sharing the stage with fireworks and naval battles, alternatively head out to sample the delights of Vietnamese cuisine at a local restaurant.
Day 3 Scenic drive to Mai Chau, bike through paddy fields past tranquil traditional villages.
Hemmed in by hills and set in a tranquil valley, Mai Chau is a world away from the hectic pace of life of Hanoi. The four hour journey provides a glimpse of rural life in the north of the country passing through villages surrounded by paddy fields. On arrival, check-in to our hotel with fine views of local villages distantly related to the tribes in Thailand, Laos and China, lunch is included at the hotel.
This afternoon head out on a biking tour along rice terraces of the Mai Chau Valley dotted with stilt houses. The ride provides opportunities for panoramic views of paddy fields, spectacular karst cliffs and verdant valleys around you, a truly spectacular setting. On the way home, pass by Van Village, home to the White Thai people. Enjoy dinner and an overnight stay at our comfortable eco lodge featuring a swimming pool to cool off in after an afternoon of cycling.
Day 4 Drive to Xam Khoe Village, home to Thai ethnic minority, home cooked lunch with a local family.
After breakfast, drive to Xam Khoe Village and set off on a walking tour to Buoc Village populated by the Thai ethnic minority people, the terrain is mainly flat, sticking to the valley floor traversing the network of banks separating rice paddy fields. Enjoy local hospitality in a simple stilt-house as a home-cooked lunch of regional specialities such as Goi cuon (spring rolls) or Pho (Vietnam’s national dish, a light beef or chicken broth flavoured with ginger and coriander, to which are added broad, flat rice noodles, spring onions and slivers of chicken, pork or beef) prepared by a local Thai family. Short drive back to Mai Chau with a stop en route to explore the magnificent Van Mai Valley.
Day 5 Continue to Ninh Binh, likened to an inland Halong Bay.
This morning is left free to enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Drive to Ninh Binh in the afternoon. Whilst the town itself is fairly unremarkable, the area around Ninh Binh is beautiful, known for its impressive cave formations and network of waterways, lakes, temples and towering limestone peaks.
Day 6 Bike ride through paddy fields to visit Dong Tam Village. Afternoon boat trip to explore cave complex.
This morning stretch our legs as we cycle the back roads through picturesque local communities to Dong Tam village. After a break at a temple we head through the countryside towards the spectacular limestone peaks of Van Long, surrounded by paddy fields and meandering waterways. The landscape is truly spectacular. Our destination is the nearby village of Vuon Thi, where we enjoy a delicious traditional lunch prepared by friendly hill tribe villagers.
After lunch, take a sampan ride along the charming Ngo Dong River to a cave complex, with time to explore the network of caves in the area. Return to Ninh Binh.
Day 7 Morning drive to Ha Long Bay. Overnight cruise on a traditional junk boat, visit fishing village, sea kayaking.
Leaving Ninh Binh after breakfast, we drive to the Gulf of Tonkin and the breath-taking scenery of Ha Long Bay. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visually impressive landscapes in South East Asia, Halong Bay is the setting for an overnight cruise. Boarding just after midday, set sail towards Bai Tu Long Bay. Lunch is served shortly after embarking, there is ample time after lunch to sit back and admire the towering limestone islands topped by rainforest that Halong Bay is so famous for.
We make a stop to visit a Vung Vieng fishing village by rowing boat or kayak, the choice is yours. The rest of the afternoon is spent further exploring the bay scattered with hundreds of islands and dotted with caves and grottoes. Dinner is served on board, a chance to sample fresh sea food and regional dishes, we anchor overnight in Bai Tu Long Bay.
There are between 10-18 en-suite cabins on board with a restaurant, bar and sundeck area. All bedding is provided. Please be aware, the boat may not be exclusive to our group and consequently we may be sharing with other tourists.
Day 8 Witness sunrise over Halong Bay. Visit Thien Canh Son caves. Return to Hanoi to take the Reunification Express overnight train to Hue.
Sunrise takes place around 0630, if the weather is clear it’s well worth making the effort to witness sunrise over the bay. A light breakfast of pastries, tea and coffee we disembark to visit the hidden Thien Canh Son caves with numerous stalactite and stalagmite limestone formations in an impressive cavern. Returning to our boat, continue to cruise in the bay. Brunch is served on board.
Returning to Hon Gai harbor, rejoin our vehicle and drive back to Hanoi. The rest of the afternoon is free, with two day use rooms provided for the group to freshen up before we head to the central train station in Hanoi to board the Reunification Express overnight sleeper train to Hue, Vietnam’s old imperial capital.
We travel in soft sleeper compartments, with four passengers sharing each compartment with all bedding provided. Please note, breakfast will not be provided on the train, it’s advisable to pick up snacks for the morning before boarding the train.
Day 9 Travel to the Tu Duc Royal Tombs. Try kite making (and flying!) and visit the Imperial Palace.
Arriving in Hue this morning, seek out many of the highlights of this former imperial capital of Vietnam including a visit to the Royal Palace with its Terracotta Warriors guarding the entrance and the Thien Mu Pagoda, home to the oldest monastery in the city. We also visit Mr Cu’s house who was a national champion kite flier for Vietnam who shows us how to make traditional Vietnamese kites which you make and decorate with symbols such as dragons, birds and peacocks. Once assembled, we fly them at the nearby Citadel.
Day 10 Hoi An. Martial arts lesson. Make traditional wood paintings, cruise on the Perfume River.
Journey to Trieu Son village, located by the Perfume River on Hue’s outskirts for a guided walk and boat ride. First stop is Sinh village where we meet a local family that specializes in making wood paintings.
Later in the morning, take to the open road on a leisurely cycle ride around the village and along countryside lanes to Thanh Tien village, famous for paper flowers. Criss crossing an intricate network of paddy fields, we arrive at Tien Non village where we board our cruise boat, taking us back to Hue (total cycling distance is approximately 6km).
An included martial arts lesson is our next stop with a visit to a dedicated martial arts school that practices the Vietnamese art of Kinh Van, Vietnam’s equivalent to Kung Fu, based upon defence techniques from the actions of a tiger, cobra, and bird. The owner’s ancestors were chosen to guard the Vietnamese king; knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation to our host, who has been intrusted with teaching this ancient art. Travel over the Truong Son Mountains and through the Hai Van Pass as featured on the TV programme, Top Gear, to the historic merchant seaside town of Hoi An.
Day 11 Free day in Hoi An, opportunity to spend the day on the beach.
The morning is free to wander through the historic heart of this World Heritage Site, taking in the wonderfully preserved buildings of what was once one of the busiest trading outposts in South East Asia. Discovering this delightful town, we recommend an early morning visit to Hoi An’s fish market which presents the perfect setting for some great photographs.
Wander through Hoi An’s historic collection of traditional wooden houses and Chinese temples. This afternoon you could hire bicycles and explore the surrounding countryside, experience a gentle river cruise, or grab the chance to visit some of Hoi An’s famous tailor shops. Alternatively take a 20 minute taxi ride to the nearby coast to spend the day on the beach.
Day 12 Fly to Ho Chi Minh City. Explore the old quarter in cyclos (cycle carriages with a seat).
Drive to Danang, fly to Ho Chi Minh City. Explore Old Saigon, and discover ‘Secret Weapons Bunker’
This afternoon we will experience a different side of Ho Chi Minh City, away from the major sights where we take a walk through Old Saigon’s back alleys. We make our way to District 3 by cyclo (cycle carriages with a seat at the front) and turn off the main thoroughfare and into the maze of narrow streets of this bustling district. Our walk takes us past ramshackle shopfronts, through local markets selling anything from colourful fruit to bootleg DVDs, and past houses, churches and schools, all squeezed into the small buildings that line the narrow alleys. It’s a fascinating inter-connected community here that is a stones-throw from the city centre, yet feels a far cry from the modern buildings and throngs of tourists. We stop at a local stall for a traditional Vietnamese coffee (brewed coffee served sweet with condensed milk) where we can also sample ‘Banh Mi’ – a Vietnamese take on the humble French baguette – freshly baked and packed with a combo of traditional and more exotic, aromatic ingredients.
The walk ends the so-called ‘secret weapons’ bunker’. A small unassuming ‘tube house’ nestled in a quiet neighbourhood hides a trap door in the floor, concealing a basement stocked full of rifles, grenades and ammunition. The bunker played a key role in the TET Offensive of 1968, it was the base from which the Viet Cong’s “Team 5” launched their assault, and its location was only revealed after the end of the war. We have some time to explore the house and bunker, filled with decommissioned weapons and photographs, news clippings and memorabilia from the wartime.
Day 13 Discover the Cu Chi Tunnels which the Viet Cong used as a hideout during the Vietnam War.
After breakfast this morning drive to visit the infamous Cu Chi tunnels. First constructed by the Vietnamese during their colonial war with the French, the tunnels were later greatly expanded and went on to achieve notoriety during the Vietnam War, when they served as an underground command base for 10,000 Viet Cong troops. Exploring Cu Chi gives some idea as to the conditions that the Vietnamese had to endure (the tunnels are narrow and can be quite claustrophobic). The afternoon allows for more time in the city including an optional visit to the waterpark, a great way to cool off from the mid-day sun.
Day 14 Drive to the Mekong Delta, overnight homestay, explore villages by bike.
Leaving the city, journey to the Mekong Delta and board a boat to the start point of our cycle ride. We cycle for around 10-12 km along the flat Cai Thai village path with constant views of the delta as we wind our way around its many tributaries. The route is often shaded which is helpful to combat the humidity (the boat can pick up cyclists at various stopping points if required). Along the way, we visit Mrs Nani’s home who will show us how to make rice paper in the traditional way and Mr and Mrs Chin’s home who will provide refreshments that include her famous ‘Banh Tieu’ (traditional doughnut).
Returning to our cruise boat for lunch on-board, we continue sailing along the delta to our night stop. Transferring from our cruise boat to a sampan craft, a small traditional boat regularly used by the villagers to travel along the delta, make the short journey to a traditional homestay, set in a lovely garden setting with a main lounge area and dining room, accommodation is en-suite (shower and toilet) with traditional dcor throughout. After settling into our simple but clean accommodation, embark on a gastronomic experience as we take part in a Vietnamese cooking lesson. Typically our hosts usually give a traditional dancing and singing show to accompany the evening meal.
Day 15 Morning cruise on the Mekong Delta. Drive back to Ho Chi Minh City where the trip ends.
Leaving the homestay behind, cruise back along the Mekong delta passing small floating markets and soaking up the atmosphere of this unique trading point, a vast network of rivers and islands that crisscross agricultural villages, paddy fields and mangrove swamps. Bidding farewell to our boat crew, drive back to Ho Chi Minh City.
We will aim to be back at Ho Chi Minh City around 3pm. For those with evening flights, a day use room will be provided. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport (airport code SGN). The earliest your flight can depart is 5pm.
Why not extend your trip to Indochina with three nights on the tropical white sand beaches of Phu Quoc Island? Nestled in the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand this Vietnamese island is 90% national park, a thick-rainforest interior framed by idyllic white sand beaches. Easily accessible by a short flight from Hanoi, Siem Reap or Ho Chi Minh City, this is a great way to unwind after an action-packed trip in Indochina.