From Halong Bay to the Cu Chi Tunnels
Travel into the heart and soul of South East Asia on this comprehensive tour of Vietnam from Halong Bay to Saigon
On this journey you will get to see some of the most impressive sights
of Vietnam and take time to immerse yourself in the traditions and
culture of the people of Vietnam. You will also get to enjoy the
pristine beauty of the magical, Halong Bay.
You will journey from Vietnam to Hue. Hue is a city in central Vietnam that was the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802 to 1945. A major attraction is its vast, 19th-century Kinh Thanh,, surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls. While Vietnam is famous worldwide for its delicious cuisine, Hue is famous among the locals for its Royal cuisine, boasting over 1,000 specialty dishes.
You will then travel to Ha Long Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin, which has 1,600 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. Junk boat tours and sea kayak expeditions take visitors past islands named for their shapes, including Stone Dog and Teapot islets.
The next highlight is Old Town Hoi An, the city's historic district, is recognized as an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century, its buildings and street plan reflecting a blend of indigenous and foreign influences. Prominent in the city's old town is its covered "Japanese Bridge", dating to the 16th–17th century.
Then we are off to Ho Chi Minh City and the Cu Chui Tunnels where the Viet Cong (VC) dug tens of thousands of miles of tunnels, including an extensive network running underneath the Cu Chi district northwest of Saigon. Soldiers used these underground routes to house troops, transport communications and supplies, lay booby traps and mount surprise attacks, after which they could disappear underground to safety.
The tour can be extended with a visit to Cambodia to visit Siem Reap with its incredible vast complex of intricate stone buildings including the preserved Angkor Wat
Day-1: Arrival Vietnam, Hanoi airport
Day-2: Hanoi City Tour
Day 3: Hanoi- Halong
Day-4: Halong - Hanoi. Flight to Hue
Day 5: Hue City tour
Day 6: Hue- Hoian
Day 7: Hoian - free at leisure- Danang - Ho Chi Minh City
Day-8: Saigon- Cu Chi
Day-9: Saigon- Can Tho
Day-10: Mekong Delta- Ho Chi Minh City
Day 11: Ho Chi Minh City departure
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VIETNAM HIGHLIGHTS ITINERARY
Day 1: Hanoi arrival.
Arriving at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel.
This evening, attend a water-puppet theatre performance. The art of water puppetry began a thousand years ago, possibly in the flooded rice fields of Vietnam. Puppeteers today stand in waist-high water and manipulate their charges in such a way that you can’t help but be swept up in the legend being told.
Welcome dinner tonight is at the local restaurant.
Day 2: Hanoi City tour
In the morning, we head to the Ho Chi Minh Complex, including Ba Dinh square, and his modest stilt-house which provide valuable insights into the life and times of one of the most successful leaders of the 20th century; as well as the Old Pillar pagoda. After that, we'll visit the historical Temple of Literature - Vietnam's first university, which was established in 1070.
In the afternoon, drive to the excellent Ethnology Museum for an overview of Vietnam's 54 distinct ethnic groups and enjoy a performance of traditional Water Puppetry, an art form unique to northern Vietnam at the museum outdoor stage (a good, light-hearted introduction to our rural culture).
As we return to the Old Quarter, you’ll cruise ride around the Colonial and Old Quarters on a cyclo to discover the city’s architectural mixture of French colonial style, social realism (mostly public buildings - designed or influenced by the USSR), pagodas and communal houses with many Chinese features, merchants’ residences, ‘tube’ dwellings, modern buildings and vernacular houses. Overnight in Hanoi
The day program includes a visit to a religious architecture; it’s advisory to wear long trousers/blouse (enough to cover your shoulders/knees)
Day 3: Hanoi - Halong
7:45 – Pick up from hotel to Handspan office for tour check-in procedure.
8:00 - Depart from Hanoi for a 3.5 hours drive to Halong City through the Red River Delta. Upon arrival, get on board of the Treasure Junk and start the cruise to the boundaries of Halong bay while lunch with fresh seafood is served (vegetarian and kids menus available).
After lunch, just make yourself at ease and relax. Limestone rock formations will parade all around us for about 2 hours before our first stop. We reach the perfect spot, where the waters of Halong and Bai Tu Long hit and wave together. Let's get ready for a closer look to the water and explore the bay in depth with your own kayak & paddle.
We’ll get back on the Treasure board before sunset refresh and an aperitif on the sundeck. The boat cruises to its anchorage area. Dinner is served either inside or outside depending on weather conditions. Overnight on board in a cozy air-conditioned cabin with en-suite bathroom facilities.
The transfer from Hanoi to Halong is by shuttle bus. On the way to Halong we will stop at a place with food, beverages and souvenirs for sale. This is not to trick you and that will be the only times of the whole trip you may feel in the tourism mass. But that is the only place on the way, where you, your driver and your guide can use clean toilets without being forced to buy anything. Thanks for your understanding.
Day 4: Halong – Hanoi. Flight to Hue
6:30 AM - Coffee, tea and cakes will be served. Wake up smoothly while witnessing the silence of beautiful misty bay. A 30-minute Tai Chi session will be organized, energize your body and soul or just allow yourself some relaxing time on a sunbath with a cup of coffee.
About 7.45 AM, we hop on bamboo boats to go visiting a secluded floating village surrounded by the mountains. We trace our way between numerous floating houses and small rowing boats that serve the everyday life as vehicle, itinerant shops, fishing utility, sometimes overnight shelter.
Back on treasure before 9 AM, we start cruising back to the pier. From 9.30am, a brunch will be served. Take a last glance at the rocks, standing still as the eternal guardians of a kingdom, we are about to reach the pier.
11:30 AM – Transfer back to Halong harbor. In the afternoon, we drive back to Hanoi and onto Noi Bai airport for your evening flight to Hue. Meet up at Hue airport and driven to your hotel in the centre by our tour guide and driver Spend your night in Hue.
Day 5: Hue City tour
This morning, board a boat for a trip on the Perfume River to return to Thien Mu Pagoda, one of the most famous of all Vietnamese landmarks. Legends explain how the pagoda came to be: one has it that an old woman instructed Lord Nguyen Hoang in 1601 to walk along the river with a lit incense stick and build a city at the spot where the incense stopped burning.
Nestled in the lush valley of the river stand seven tombs built for seven Nguyen emperors. Each is an expression of the unique personality of the man whose remains it holds. Each is comprised of three elements: a temple dedicated to the worship of the deceased emperor and his queen; a stele made of stone that records the biographical and historical high points of his life; and the royal tomb itself. We will continue to visit two tombs of Minh Mang and Tu Duc.
This afternoon, we are back to Hue city central. Kinh Thanh, the citadel, is perhaps the most well known site in Hué. Begun in 1805 by Emperor Gia Long, it is actually a complex comprised of the Imperial City, several museums, lakes, and lovely gardens, all laid out in a series of concentric circles. We also visit the Forbidden Purple City, originally built in the early 1800s for the personal use of the emperor and staffed by eunuchs who posed no threat to the royal concubines. Nearly destroyed in the Tet Offensive, today the ruins house the Royal Library and the grounds flourish with mimosa plants and vegetable plots.
Overnight in Hue
Day 6: Hue- Hoian
In the morning, your car will drive you to Danang. On the way, you'll cross the Hai Van mountain pass. The views from the top are excellent – you should be able to see Lang Co beach and village, and the lagoon far below, with Danang spread out before you to the south.
We spend the afternoon for a walking tour around this enchanting port town. Follow the narrow lanes lined with centuries-old houses influenced by Chinese, Japanese, French and European architectures and visit its numerous places of interest: the 400-year old Japanese Covered Bridge, the Phuc Kien Assembly Halls, the local fish market. Around the town we can see a numerous art galleries and tailor shops, get some made-to-order clothes if you like.
Overnight in Hoian
Day 7: Hoian – free at leisure- Danang - Ho Chi Minh City
In the morning, free at leisure.
Late afternoon, our driver arrives and takes you to Danang airport for boarding a flight to Ho Chi Minh city.
Upon your arrival at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh city, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel in the city centre. After checking in, you’ll be free for a preliminary wander around District 1.
Day 8: Saigon Orientation and Cu Chi tunnels
8:00 AM - We depart from your hotel to visit Cu Chi - a byzantine maze of underground passages, chambers, rooms and booby traps used during the war. You'll be able to get an idea of what it would have been like to live, sleep and eat in the underground passages and bunkers during the fierce battles above and below the surface. Return to the city for lunch at local restaurant in the city centre.
In the afternoon, you'll discover the Reunification Palace - a blend of traditional ritual and modern architecture, served as the presidential palace of South Vietnam until reunification in 1975. The building now functions as a museum, offering tours of the former state rooms, presidential office and library, living quarters of the president's family, and underground war rooms.
Our next destination is Binh Tay market and its surrounding area – known as Cholon or China town. The market is always busy, crowded and messy with small aisles selling all manner of goods, our main point is not for shopping but to enjoy the authentic Chinese atmosphere that has existed here for hundreds of years. There’s also time to visit Thien Hau pagoda before heading back to your hotel.
Day 9: Ho Chi Minh City - Can Tho
8:00 – 8:15 AM – pick up from your hotel by shuttle bus for an approximate 2.5 hour drive to our exploration area. We let the touristy spots behind and travel beyond, where very few other visitors have the chance to go.
We arrive at Cai Thia pier at about 10h30. Boat hits the waterways bring you to the village of Hoa Loc. We will cycle through the villages on the winding countryside to visit local houses en-route, with opportunities to learn about their local handicraft and/or be invited for a cup of tea with some local snack.
We later meet our boat again and ride further to a less busy area of the Mekong, where you’ll find a bamboo sampan (rowing boat) is waiting to take us deeper into the countryside of the Delta through its networks of small canals.
In the afternoon, we cruise toward Vinh Long with more stops at local workshops. 16:00 – a quick transfer from Vinh Long pier to Can Tho, where you check-in your hotel and enjoy the night in this “mega city” of the Mekong Delta.
***The cycling part is superb easy and short (30 minutes each way) and it is the best way to explore the island. For anyone who likes a longer cycling tour, it's possible to extend it to 2 hours.
Day 10: Mekong Delta- Ho Chi Minh City
6:00 AM – An early start is necessary as you’d like to see the Cai Rang floating market at fullest. While our boat glides slowly through the market mayhem, please feel free to take photographs, talk or bargain with local vendors. There are fantastic photo opportunities amidst the variety of agricultural bounty on sale here.
We’ll back to hotel for breakfast, and then check-out at around 8:00. A quick transfer brings you further to Phong Dien – the rustic area of Can Tho city. We’ll make our way to visit a blacksmith family and also a fruit orchards in Nhan Ai island.
After lunch, saying goodbye to the hospitable host for a drive back to Ho Chi Minh city. Overnight in hotel in Ho Chi Minh city.
*** Option for cycling tour of the village is available without extra charge. Please confirm at booking if you want to do cycling tour (1.5 hour).
Day 11: Ho Chi Minh City departure
Your time will be your own until your private car and driver arrives to take you to Tan Son Nhat airport for your departure flight.
Alternatively, if time permit, you can join one of our tour to the historical Cu Chi tunnel.
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Vietnam is a year-round destination, spring (March to April) is typically the best time to visit the entire country, when days are generally pleasant, temperatures are moderate and rainfall is light. Hanoi and North Vietnam has a distinct winter and summer season. The cool but mostly dry winter lasts from November to April when temperatures average 17-22°C with the coldest months being January - March. Summer lasts from May to October when it is hot and humid and the region experiences its highest rainfall.
The best time to visit Cambodia is between November and May when the country experiences low rainfall and still enjoys warm temperatures. However, the climate in Cambodia is generally hot and humid all throughout the year.
The official language of Chile is Chilean Spanish. English is spoken by some locals in tourist areas. It is a good idea to learn basic Spanish phrases before your trip."
The official Vietnamese currency is the dong (VND). While US dollars are also accepted in areas that receive a lot of tourists, most transactions are conducted in dong.
The highest denomination note is 500,000 VND, but it looks very much like the 20,000 VND note so you need to be alert. Other notes are: 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 and 200,000 VND.
Yes you do. We do not recommend travelling without it and require it for our tours. Accidents, medical emergencies, travel delays or other problems can occur in any country and the resulting costs can be significant. Here is a link if you do not already have your own preferred provider.
Vietnam generally uses 220 volt, 50hz electricity. They use types A, C, and G power sockets. Most sockets also accept 2 flat-pin plugs (type A – American).
For Cambodia there are three associated plug types, A, C and G. Plug type A is the plug which has two flat parallel pins, plug type C is the plug which has two round pins and plug type G is the plug with three rectangular pins, in a triangular pattern. Cambodia operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.
The tap water is generally not safe to drink in Vietnam and Cambodia. Bottled water is readily available at tourist sites, hotels, and restaurants. Don't forget to use bottled water when brushing your teeth as well! Ice is not always made with boiled/ bottled water. Order your beverages without ice.