DAY 1- Ho Chi Minh City
Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City where you'll be met and transferred to your hotel. There are no activities planned until an important group meeting in the evening (usually at 6pm). Please check the welcome board or reception desk on the ground floor of the hotel for details about this. If you have time, get out and acquaint yourself with the city beforehand. Afterwards you will enjoy a welcome dinner with your group at one of the city's excellent eateries.
DAY 2- Mekong Delta
Sit down to a leisurely buffet breakfast at KOTO this morning. This restaurant is designed to give disadvantaged youth an education in hospitality. Then you'll drive south to Cai Be for a boat cruise along the intricate and beautiful waterways of the Mekong Delta. En route you'll stop and visit an orchard and sample some local tropical fruit, and visit some local cottage industries. As the sun starts to drop, continue to your local guesthouse, your place of rest tonight. Here you will enjoy a beautiful home-cooked meal of local specialties.
DAY 3- Ho Chi Minh City
Today is an early start, as after breakfast you will be taken to visit the bustling Cai Be market. Mingle with the locals and browse the stalls at this local bazaar. You will then return to Ho Chi Minh City for a bus tour around the city. You'll visit Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Admire the many beautiful French colonial buildings along the way, such as the main Post Office and the former Hotel de Ville (city hall).
DAY 4- Nha Trang
This morning after breakfast it's time for a half-day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, an extensive underground network (some 200 kilometres) of tunnels dug initially by the Viet Minh and later expanded by the Viet Cong. They contained hospitals, dwellings and schools and were used extensively for refuge and storage, as well as being a military base. As you explore this extraordinary labyrinth you will learn more about its history and the 1968 Tet Offensive. A section of the tunnels has been widened to allow tourists to get a feel for what the underground life must have been like. Note that this will be hot and can be a little claustrophobic. Later this afternoon, fly to Nha Trang (approximately 1.5 hours).
DAY 5- Nha Trang
With palm trees, white sandy beaches and a hip cosmopolitan atmosphere, Nha Trang is often referred to as the Cannes of the Orient. Venture out on a boat to explore the nearby islands today. From the main boat, you will take basket boats to shore and visit a fishing village. There's also the chance to snorkel in the pristine water, feast on a fresh included seafood buffet lunch and enjoy the sunshine on the deck of the boat.
DAY 6- Hoi An
Take a short flight to Danang (approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes). From here you will embark on a short minibus ride to Hoi An (approximately 1 hour). Hoi An was originally a Cham port town, but has been influenced by a myriad of traders from various cultures. With its charming low tiled houses and tranquil feel, this is a delightful town to walk around. You'll notice a distinctly Chinese appearance here, with pagodas and assembly halls scattered along the small lanes.
DAY 7- Hoi An
A morning walking tour today takes you to a historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum. Afterwards, sit down to a delicious lunch with the group. This afternoon you are free to make the most of Hoi An and its surrounding areas. Your leader will be able to help with suggestions for extra activities in Hoi An.
DAY 8- Hoi An
This evening, take a boat trip on the Thu Bon River and enjoy some drinks as you watch the sunset over picturesque Hoi An. This is one of the best times of day to see the city, as it basks a lovely sunset glow beside the river. Before this activity, the day is yours to spend as you please. Hoi An is renowned for its specialist tailors, so perhaps take this opportunity to get some clothing made from some unique local fabrics. If you feel like getting active, a lovely beach is located just nearby and is easily accessible by bicycle (these are easily rented). Or take a tour to My Son Cham to explore the ruins dating back to the 4th century. You might like to visit a local workshop to learn how to make your own rice paper. A Vietnamese cooking class too is a great way to familiarise yourself with some age-old culinary techniques, not to mentioning feasting on the fruits of your own labour.
DAY 9- Hue
Depart beautiful Hoi An today for Hue, the former imperial capital and hub of Vietnam's historic past. En route pass through the Hai Van Pass – a scenic mountainous stretch of highway with views across Lang Co beach. You will also make a stop at this beach to stroll the shore. Arrive in Hue and discover its eclectic mix of frenetic streets and peaceful beauty. In the afternoon you will visit the Imperial Citadel, including the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost completely destroyed during the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War, but its humble, foliage-covered ruins remain a testament to its proud history. Here you'll gain some insight into the horrific damage endured during the war.
DAY 10- Hue
Venture out this morning for a local breakfast, feasting on a popular dish called bún bò Huế which contains rice vermicelli (bún) and beef (bò). This is a signature of the city.
Take a boat cruise on the Perfume River before visiting the Thien Mu Pagoda, the unofficial symbol of Hue. The Pagoda is an active Buddhist monastery that dates back to 1601. You will also enjoy lunch at a local nunnery or monastery. This not only allows you to sample some of Hue’s famed vegetarian food, but also offers a chance to learn about Vietnamese Buddhism. You will also visit the elaborate royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, with its beautiful lake, frangipani and pine trees.
DAY 11- Hanoi
Fly from Hue to Hanoi today (approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes). Your departure will mostly likely be in the morning, but can vary a little. After some free time on arrival, be taken through the ancient '36 streets' and discover an amazing selection of shops that sell everything from souvenirs to exquisite silk clothing, jewellery and beautifully embroidered tablecloths. This afternoon, sit down to a water puppet performance. Your host Liem invites you into his home, a veritable small-scale theatre that continues a long running family tradition, passed down from generation to generation. Witness not only the show itself but gain an behind-the-scenes insight into how the puppets are made and animated. Liem is only too happy to discuss the history and development of this age-old cultural practice.
DAY 12- Hanoi
Enjoy a guided half-day tour of Hanoi, visiting the major sights, including the Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda and the former residence of Vietnam’s most famous revolutionary, Ho Chi Minh. In your free time, the Vietnam Fine Arts museum is well worth a visit. Walking is a great way to explore the city, with fun shopping and many lakes and parks provide enjoyable escapes. You'll see that this enchanting northern capital can be quieter than its southern counterpart.
DAY 13- Halong Bay
Leave your luggage at the hotel and pack an overnight bag as you drive to Ha Long Bay (approximately 3 hours). Take in glorious views of this World Heritage-listed beauty and its spectacular limestone islands. You will travel to Bai Chay (Halong City West) and board a boat for an exploration of the bay, enjoying a seafood lunch and dinner (non-seafood is also available). A candle-lit dinner on the deck of the boat, weather permitting, is a truly memorable experience, as the views at sunset are stunning. You'll also visit a cave in the area. During the warmer months your leader will discuss the option for swimming from Ti Top Island. There is also the option for kayaking to get up close to the towering limestone karsts. If the weather is obliging, the views at sunset are especially incredible.
DAY 14- Hanoi
In the morning, sail back to the port, disembark and then take a bus back to Hanoi (approximately 4 hours). Arriving back in the capital, there will be a few hours free to wander around and enjoy some of the city’s attractions you may have missed the first time. You can shop on Hang Gai Street or perhaps enjoy some afternoon tea at the Metropole Hotel. In the evening, enjoy a final dinner in a Hanoi restaurant, bidding farewell to your newfound friends.
DAY 15- Hanoi
Your journey comes to an end after breakfast today.