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  • Vietnam Explorer Touring Holiday

     Vietnam Explorer touring holiday

    11 Nights/12 Days
    Hanoi – Ha Long Bay – Hue – Hoi An – Ho Chi Minh City – Can Tho

    This eleven-night tour accompanied by local guide offers more than just a typical first-time insight into Vietnam. You travel from Hanoi in the north, via the UNESCO site of Ha Long Bay, to the ancient cities of Hue and Hoi An, before travelling to fascinating Ho Chi Minh City, visiting the famous Cu Chi tunnels and then staying in Can Tho in the Mekong Delta. There is an optional beach extension in Phu Quoc or Con Dao.

    You can download a copy of this itinerary in PDF format here 

    • Architectural tour of Hanoi • Ca Tru performance • Ha Long Bay overnight cruise • Thien Mu Pagoda • Royal Tombs of the Emperor Minh Mang • Dong Ba Market • Cham Museum Danang • Ancient Town of Hoi An • Fishermen cruise • Cu Chi tunnels • Mekong Delta cruise • Munir Ansay pagoda 
    Day 1 Arrive Hanoi
    You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. There is time to relax after your journey before your guide accompanies you to performance of traditional water puppetry (an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and an interesting, light-hearted introduction to its rural culture). In the evening, you will enjoy a welcome dinner at restaurant in a colonial building.
    Day 2 Hanoi
    The day begins with an architectural tour of Hanoi. You’ll wander with your guide through the city centre, studying the capital’s French colonial villas, pagodas and communal houses with many Chinese features, merchants’ residences, ‘tube’ dwellings and other vernacular styles. As a counterpoint to the traditional styles, you’ll be shown examples of social realism (mostly public buildings, designed or influenced by the USSR), modern houses and buildings. After lunch, you visit the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam dating back to the 11th century and a fine example of Vietnamese architecture in its own right. Later you are driven to Hanoi’s excellent Ethnology Museum for an overview of the country’s 54 distinct ethnic groups. In the evening you’ll have tickets for a performance of traditional ‘ca Tru’ at Thang Long Ca Tru Theatre (at the moment, the only venue offering professional Ca Tru shows in Vietnam). Ca Tru is a uniquely Vietnamese musical style with its religious and courtly origins in the Ly Dynasty (1010-1225 AD), and takes a variety of forms, the most common of which features a trio of performers, with a female vocalist who also plays the phach, a lute player and a scholar or critic who participates in the musical dialogue with a ‘praise’ drum, expressing praise or disapproval of the performance. The theatre also has an exhibition demonstrating the history and evolution of Ca Tru and uses its profits to train new artists as well as providing vocational training for orphans and disadvantaged children. Please note: the performance is at 20.00 hrs on Thursdays and Saturdays only.
    Day 3 Hanoi to Ha Long Bay
    After an early breakfast, depart by car for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. There you will board your boat, a wooden junk built from the model of old Vietnamese court vessels with sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure. The boats vary in size, accommodating between ten and eighteen people. that takes you first to the busy World Heritage area and then to some of the less well-known grottoes and caves. Weather permitting, swim, fish, and climb a hill that affords a view of the Bay’s remarkable seascape, or venture into some of the sea level caves in a small sampan. All meals are provided on board, usually based on fresh seafood, and you’ll sleep in a twin cabin with en-suite toilet and shower.
    Day 4 Ha Long Bay to Hue via Hanoi
    The morning is spent cruising Ha Long Bay, followed by lunch just before docking. You are driven back to Hanoi Noi Bai airport for your flight to Hue. Upon arrival in Hue, you will be picked up and transferred to your hotel for the night. Hue is traditionally a main cultural, religious and educational centre of Vietnam and houses the remarkable tombs of the Nguyen emperors, whose dynasty lasted from 1802 until 1942, a citadel in the Vauban style dating from 1804, a palace and the 21 metre-high Thien Mu Pagoda, astride the Perfume River.
    Day 5 Hue foodie tour and Royal Tombs
    This morning begins with a visit to the Thien Mu Pagoda, built on a bluff overlooking the Perfume River, and then from here you are driven to the Royal Tombs of Emperor Minh Mang and Emperor Khai Dinh. Each royal mausoleum reflects the personality of the Emperor it commemorates. The most majestic is that of Emperor Minh Mang, who ruled from 1820 to 1840, a staunch follower of Confucianism with many wives, concubines and a small army of children. Planned by the Emperor and built shortly after his death in formal Chinese style, it is opulent and exotic, and a good example of classic Sino-Vietnamese architecture. In contrast to Emperor Ming Mang’s flamboyant creation, the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh is an uneasy combination of Vietnamese and European features, using fragments of ceramics and glass for decoration, but with striking views from the courtyard in front of the mausoleum.
    After these visits, hop on your personal cyclo, powered by an experienced driver, and cross over the historic Trang Tien Bridge to visit the colourful Dong Ba Market where you can see many of the ingredients for making local Hue food. During the tour, stop at many famous street restaurants to sample Hue local street food dishes such as: Banh Khoai (Hue pancake), Bum Bo Hue (Hue beef vermicelli soup), Banh Beo (steamed rice dishes topped with shrimp), Banh Uot (Hue wet rice paper), Nem Lui (grilled chopped meat) and much more. You are free to sample as much as you like. In the afternoon, return to your hotel and the rest of the day is at leisure.
    Day 6 Hue citadel and then to Danang and Hoi An
    After breakfast, your guide will arrive to take you on a tour of Hue’s ancient citadel, once the seat of the Emperors of the powerful Nguyen Dynasty that ruled Vietnam from about 1800 until 1945. You begin with a stroll around the area between the Citadel’s giant walls and the defensive moat, now filled with lotus flowers. You then enter the Noon Gate to wander around the Thai Hoa Palace, the Pavilion housing the Nine urns of the Nguyen rulers and the remains of the Royal Palaces. After lunch, your car takes you to Danang, crossing the high mountain pass of Hai Van with excellent views from the top, built on a spur of the Truong Son Mountains that juts into the South China Sea. You should be able to see Lang Co beach and village, with Danang to the south. In Danang, you’ll be shown the remarkable Hindu statuary in the Cham Museum, a fine open-air collection of Cham sculpture. From here you continue to Hoi An, with the rest of the day at leisure. You spend the night in Hoi An.
    Day 7 Hoi An Walking tour and fisherman cruise
    After breakfast, your guide meets you to show you the Ancient Town and explain its considerable significance in the history of Vietnam.
    Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage site. An ancient trading port, once the largest in Indochina, Hoi An was a meeting point for many cultures that left their mark on the different architectural features of its wooden buildings. Untouched by the American War, the original street pattern still exists, as does the quay that once welcomed ships from all over East Asia and beyond. Many remained in port for months at a time, waiting for the trade winds to carry them home. Today there is still an array of interesting houses, shops, family chapels, pagodas and temples, tombs, bridges and clothes shops where tailoring will be carried out on demand. There are plenty of good restaurants and it is a good place for shopping for silk. Many of the famous sights of Hoi An such as the Japanese covered wooden bridges, the Pottery Museum, the 200 year old Tan Ky House, Chua Ong Pagoda and markets are included in the walking tour. At 16.30 hrs you are picked up at your hotel to board a boat to the mouth of the Thu Bon estuary to meet local fishermen who are preparing their journey offshore in the Cua Dai Sea. You experience catching fish in a traditional ‘Thung Chai’ basket boat, (these are light and portable, circular and constructed of bamboo then tarred for waterproofing. Each boat can carry up to five people. Life jackets are provided). Then you relax as you observe sunset behind the coconut palms, enjoying some snacks. You are driven back to your hotel to spend the night in Hoi An.
    Day 8 Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City
    Enjoy a morning at leisure before an afternoon flight to Ho Chi Minh City. After transferring to your centrally located hotel, you’re free to wander around District 1. For the evening there are a couple of options:
    Nightlife by Vespa
    This evening you are picked up at the hotel for a tour on the back of a vintage Vespa scooter, to experience the nightlife of Saigon the way the locals do. Your first stop is at Café Zoom to enjoy a cocktail and appetiser (included) before adventuring to a favourite local eating spot. The ride takes you through Chinatown into District 4, through busy streets and alleys, into District 3 and downtown District 1 on the way to taste Banh Xeo, Saigon’s speciality snack.
    A O Show
    The A O show captures much of the uniqueness of Vietnam in the engaging style of contemporary circus. The hour-long show is a fusion of dance, acrobatics and live music with theatrical drama tracing the passage of Vietnam from a rural village culture to the modern, urban society it is today.
    Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is a thriving metropolis which has nevertheless preserved 300 years of traditions and ancient culture.
    Day 9 Ho Chi Minh City and visit to Cu Chi
    After breakfast your local guide will take you to visit the famous Cu Chi tunnels, a maze of underground passages, chambers, rooms and booby traps used by both the Vietminh and the Viet Cong. After lunch you return to Ho Chi Minh City to visit the Reunification Hall, an early colonial masterpiece built to accommodate the Governor-General of Inchochina. You also visit the Museum of War Remnants (not for the squeamish) which provides a fascinating perspective of the ‘American War’. After the sightseeing there is time to rest and freshen up or visit the lively Ben Thanh market. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
    Day 10 Ho Chi Minh City to Mekong Delta and Can Tho
    You are driven to Cai Be, about two hours from Ho Chi Minh City, where a Mekong river cruise will take you to visit examples of local life in the rich, fertile Mekong delta. You’ll visit orchards, a traditional family-run brick kiln and some long-established cottage industries. Later a rowing boat will carry you through the maze of the channels of the delta so that you can experience the life of the local people, visiting a local house and listening to music performed by local artists. You then drive deeper into the Mekong Delta to Can Tho. Here you visit Munir Ansay, an ancient Khmer pagoda, renowned for its structural decorations. You then continue to your hotel in Can Tho where you spend the night.
    Day 11 Return to Ho Chi Minh City or continue to beach extension
    After breakfast enjoy a boat cruise to visit the Cai Rang floating market on the Mekong Delta. Both the journey and the market provide insights into the rural Mekong Delta lifestyle. You then return to Ho Chi Minh City, visiting the ancient Vinh Trang Pagoda, three kms from My Tho. This pagoda is renowned for its mix of architectural styles: Chinese, Vietnamese and Angkor. You reach Ho Chi Minh City in the late afternoon, with time to freshen up in your hotel before the evening.
    Day 12 Ho Chi Minh City departure
    You are at leisure today until it is time to be collected by private car and driver to take you to Tan Son Nhat airport for your flight.
    Optional beach extension
    On day 11, Instead of returning to Ho Chi Minh City, after the early morning cruise to visit Cai Rang floating market, you are transferred Can Tho airport for a flight to Phu Quoc or Con Dao (or you go by car to Rach Gia and then hydrofoil to Phu Qhoc island). You then spend three nights in your beach hotel before returning to the airport for a connecting flight back home.
    Prices from about £3,090 per person in superior accommodation and from about £4,880 in first class accommodation (excluding the 3 night extension. See below for options and prices).

    • Return scheduled flights with Vietnam Airlines from London to Hanoi, returning from Ho Chi Minh City to London in economy class
    • Domestic flights from Hanoi to Hue and Danang to Ho Chi Minh City
    • Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
    • Six lunches and one dinner (as specified in the itinerary) plus full board on the boat in Ha Long Bay.
    • Private transfers and sightseeing tours in an air-conditioned car appropriate to the size of your party
    • Boat cruises as specified in the itinerary. All Ha Long boats are fully licenced and comply with current safety regulations.
    • Services of an English-speaking guide as indicated in the itinerary (free days or part-free days as well as transfers unless specified do not include the services of the guide).
    • Visas – our local agent in Vietnam offers a free visa service
    • Meals, except as specified above
    • Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses
    • Camera fees where applicable
    • Insurance
    • There may be supplements for compulsory Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve gala dinners, sometimes payable locally
    As with most of our tours to Vietnam, we offer the choice of mainly four star hotels in our superior accommodation option as well as mainly five star hotels in our First Class option. However, you can mix and match the hotels or ask us to find others for you too. This ten-night tour can be adapted with additional nights in any of the places, or combined with a beach stay at the end perhaps. Also, you are not confined to travelling with Vietnam Airlines and we can arrange for you to fly via other countries in the region, for example Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong, which is useful if you want to combine a tour of Vietnam with a stay in another country..

    You can download a copy of this itinerary in PDF format here 

    Vietnam Country Map

    First class option

    Hanoi: Sofitel Metropole Hotel, 5-star, historic colonial building in a city centre location – Luxury Room Historic Wing
    Ha Long Bay: Paradise Luxury Cruise, traditional junk cruise – Terrace suite cabin
    Hue: La Residence Hotel and Spa, 4-star deluxe boutique hotel on the banks of the Perfume river – colonial suite
    Hoi An: Palm Garden Resort, 5-star, villa and bungalow style resort on the northern part of Cua Dai beach – bungalow beachfront
    Ho Chi Minh City, Park Hyatt Hotel, excellent 5-star hotel next to Ho Chi Minh City’s Opera House in the heart of District 1, colonial-style architecture, very comfortable – Park garden view room
    Can Tho, Victoria Can Tho Resort, 4 star hotel beside the Mekong river, with garden – Suite room.
    Superior standard option
    Hanoi: Silk Path Hotel, 4 star, in Hanoi’s Old Quarter – premium deluxe room
    Ha Long Bay: La Vela premium cruise, 4-star, modern superior quality cruise – premium balcony cabin
    Hue: Saigon Morin Hotel, a 4-star colonial style hotel overlooking the Perfume River – colonial deluxe room
    Hoi An: Boutique Resort Hoi An, a 4-star beachfront boutique resort situated on Hoi An beach and about a 5 minute drive from Hoi An Ancient Town – superior room
    Ho Chi Minh City, Liberty Central Hotel, 4-star hotel in the city centre – premier deluxe room
    Can Tho, Victoria Can Tho Resort, 4 star hotel beside the Mekong river, with garden – Suite room.
    Optional beach extension
    La Veranda Resort, Phu Quoc, deluxe garden room on bed and breakfast: £700 per person
    JW Marriott, Phu Quoc, Emerald Bay view room on bed and breakfast: £760 per person
    Six Senses Con Dao, Con Dao, Ocean view duplex room on bed and breakfast: £1490 per person.
    Flights from Can Tho to Phu Quoc or Con Dao, back to Ho Chi Minh City are included in economy class.

    You can download a copy of this itinerary in PDF format here 

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