Departure from airport in USA.
Upon your arrival in French colonial Hanoi, your guide will welcome you at the airport and then transfer to your hotel for check in. Your hotel room is available after 1:30 PM. The rest of the afternoon is free at your leisure to relax and settle into your hotel. You may wish to participate in our optional body massage at a local spa (additional cost).
The group departs the hotel early in the morning to attend the morning mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Afterwards, enjoy a full-day guided tour of the highlights of Vietnam’s capital city, such as the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the restored One Pillar Pagoda, the Taoist Quan Thanh Temple, and Vietnam’s first university, the thousand-year-old Temple of Literature. Your visit continues in the afternoon with the beautiful Museum of Ethnology where you will learn about the variety that’s found among Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups. Take a walking tour through the Old Quarter and sip on a cup of traditional Vietnamese coffee at a local coffee shop. Later towards the evening, attend a traditional water puppet show, a uniquely northern Vietnamese art form especially designed for depicting scenes of rural life as well as may episodes of national history.
After breakfast, drive to Halong Bay (180km / ~ 4 hrs), a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site with its 3,000 islands of towering limestone dotting the bay and Gulf of Tonkin. We arrive at Halong harbor and board our beautiful boat (which is fashioned for overnight cruising). We set off on our cruise on the magnificent Ha Long Bay staffed with a hospitality crew of captain, chef and waiters.
Eat breakfast on board and enjoy free time to relax as you continue cruising on the bay. Disembark around 11 AM and return to Hanoi. If time permits, the group will stop en-route to enjoy the charm and the enigmatic soul of a traditional pottery village. Upon arrival at Hanoi, explore the city at leisure until the time of boarding the overnight train to Hue (Vietnam’s former Imperial City). The train cabin consists of 4 soft sleeper berths.
Note: If you do not wish to take the overnight train, you can fly from Hanoi to Hue and stay overnight in a local hotel (additional cost).
Upon arrival to Hue, a local guide will meet the group and escort you to the hotel for check-in and breakfast. After a short rest, enjoy a cyclo-tour of the highlights, including a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, Tu Duc Mausoleum, and sample traditional Vietnamese green tea at a Hue garden house. You will also get a glimpse at local life when you make a stop to visit the Dong Ba Market.
Depart the hotel early at 5 AM to begin your motorbike tour (~ 12 km / 1 hr) along poetic Nhu Y River, from Vinh Ve village to Chuon Lagoon. The scenery of the ancient village captivates visitors by the traditional architectural beauty of old pavilions, the sophisticated pattern of family temples with charming dragon carvings, rustic winding paths, meandering streams of river leading visitors through golden paddy fields stretching as far as Chuon Lagoon. Here, you embark on a boat to start your amazing lagoon excursion, where you will learn about the daily floating life of local people on the lagoon and visit 1-2 local stilt houses on the lagoon. After you finish the tour, return to the hotel for breakfast and free time before it’s time to transfer to Hoi An. Stop at Lang Co to stretch your legs on the white sands of this peaceful beach. Upon arrival in Hoi An, check in your hotel and spend the evening at leisure.
In the morning, cycle through the rural scenery of Hoi An to a small vegetable planting village located on the banks of the Tra Que Lagoon (3 mi / 15 min), known for its special aromatic herbs. Join in with local people of Tra Que Village in their daily work of planting and watering vegetables; and then learn to cook some local specialties such as “Tam Huu” (shrimp, pork and aromatic herbs). Return to Hoi An after lunch to take a stroll through the quaint cobblestone streets and visit the Japanese Bridge, the Chinese Temple, and the Phung Hung Chinese-trading house. At the end of the day, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee at Reaching Out Tea House – a very special and unique ancient house which offers you not only a fabulous drink and snack, but also the soul values.
Spend the day at leisure exploring the city on your own or participate in one of our optional tours (additional cost – see below):
– a morning cooking class with lunch + $60 (max. 10 participants), or
– fishing with local fishermen, learning to throw the fishing net, or catch the crabs by hand – includes BBQ lunch (+ $45)
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and transfer to the Ho An airport for your flight to Ho Chi Minh City. A local guide/assistant will meet the group at the airport and take them on a sightseeing tour of the city to see the highlights of the former capital of French Indochina: the Old Saigon Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Opera House and a Caodaïst Cathedral. The group will also visit the Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine and the Ben Thanh market. Enjoy the evening at leisure.
Enjoy a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City to explore Ben Tre in the Mekong Delta (130 km / ~3 hrs). The boat 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 a coconut-activated charcoal factory and a coconut-processing workshop. Then you will discover local life when the boat stops at a quiet village where you can have a short walk to experience real Delta village life. Visit a mat-weaving house and you can even try 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 traditional lunch. Finish your boat trip with a relaxing cruise along the narrow canals by sampan, arriving to the pier and then be transferred to the hotel in Ho Chi Minh City.