Uncover the true essence of Vietnam as you travel from the farthest corners in the north to deep in the south. Create lasting memories as you meet the people, taste the food and embrace the culture. Stay in French colonial boutique hotels and cruise the waters on traditional junks and converted rice barges.
Welcome to Vietnam! Upon arrival, your Asia Senses Travel guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. Tonight your guide will take you on a culinary adventure, sampling street food in the Old Quarter. It’s a great opportunity to try all those weird and wonderful foods you see but just aren’t sure what they are! Start your Hanoi Street Food tour at Bia Hoi corner to try the local brew, a draft beer that traces its roots to Eastern Europe. Do as the locals do and pull up a stool and enjoy a drink while watching the world go by.
Continue through the old quarter’s narrow streets as your guide points out a range of tasty noodles, breads and snacks. At night the sidewalks are packed with locals perched on stools, amongst sizzling woks and bubbling pots. These small pop up restaurants are a nightly feature that all but disappear during the day. Sit down and enjoy a flame grilled Vietnamese barbecue of beef, chicken, tofu and vegetables on skewers. End the night with dessert from Hanoi’s best-known ice-cream parlour.
- Movenpick Hanoi Hotel
- La Siesta Hotel & Spa
Begin the morning with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and hear about the man who led Vietnam’s campaign for independence from French colonial rule. After dedicating his life to the liberation of his country from foreign rule, Ho Chi Minh died in 1969 and his body was preserved for posterity. Every October the mausoleum is closed for a month and Uncle Ho is given a bit of a spruce up! Then wander the grounds to see the one pillar pagoda and the presidential palace. Next, visit the 11th century relic, the Temple of Literature, which was built in homage to the Chinese scholar Confucius.
In the afternoon start with the Museum of Ethnology that is widely acknowledged as the best in the country, with an extensive display dedicated to Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority people. Take a breezy cyclo ride through the Old Quarter’s 36 streets, named for the products that were sold from their shops. Today, vendors on Tin and Bamboo Streets still sell the same wares. Next, is the Ngoc Son temple set on a tiny island on the picturesque Hoan Kiem Lake and how it got its name from a legend of an emperor, a magic sword and a giant turtle! End your day with a delightful water puppet show, a traditional art that is still being performed today. Relax until being transferred to the train station for an overnight train to Lao Cai/Sapa.
Being transferred a short way north of Sapa town to the quiet valleys and gorges surrounding the village of O Quy Ho. The shallow winding valley sits in the shadow of Indochina’s highest peak, Fansipan Mountain, and on clear days you can enjoy superb views of the range. Away from the major tourist routes, this trek is the perfect escape. Pass by Olong tea farms before joining a local footpath that clings to the contours of the rice terraces and takes you gently down the valley past grazing buffalo and working farmers. Walk along ancient stone paths and hear the story of the Black H’Mong migration to these mountains centuries before. Learn about the distinct cultures, languages and lifestyles that make northwestern Vietnam so fascinating, and visit an authentic Black H’Mong house, home to a local family. Finish your walk with a well-earned cup of green tea before transferring back to Sapa town in the early afternoon.
- U Sapa Hotel
- Topas Ecolodge
This morning, walk south of Sapa towards the busy village of Cat Cat. The valleys that surround the village of Y Linh Ho are some of the most picturesque in the region, and this route allows you to explore one of Sapa’s less-traversed areas. Make your way along a gentle incline, through emerald paddy fields above a deep river gorge, before arriving on the river bank. Take a rest, dip your toes in the cool mountain waters and watch local children fishing with nets, before continuing deeper through the villages and terraces of the Black H’mong. Walk at your own pace and take in some of the best panoramas Vietnam has to offer. Enjoy lunch with a view at a local village restaurant before continuing through the valley towards the village of Lao Chai.
Take a well-earned rest and enjoy a soothing cup of tea before learning the art of Batik painting. The beautiful textiles of the Black H’mong are famous around the world and Batik is a traditional part of H’mong culture. Under threat from modernization, Batik is now only practiced by a handful of villagers. Join a hands-on master class led by a local expert and take your creation home! You will be supporting a sustainable tourism project that supports local women and ensures this amazing art form is handed down to the next generation.
Afterwards, head to the home of Ms Moo and her family, where you will sleep for the night. Watch as the sun sets over the rice terraces before tucking in to a delicious H’mong-style dinner. See how food is prepared over an open fire, listen to the sounds of the countryside and learn all about H’mong life and culture with your amazing hosts.
Cat Cat Village, O Quy Ho Pass, Black H'Mong Village, Batik Painting
Wake early to enjoy the view of the sun rising over the terraces. After a tasty breakfast, say farewell to Ms Moo and her family and set out along the Muong Hoa valley towards Ta Van village. Trek along the high road and take in the superb views of the valley. Arrive in the village of the Dzay ethnic people where you will be picked up and transferred back to your hotel in Sapa.
This morning it’s an early arrival back into Hanoi. After a quick freshen up, transfer by road approximately four hours to the port of Halong. Hop aboard a small tender boat to a beautifully restored traditional wooden junk and explore the jade green waters of Halong Bay over lunch. This afternoon the tender will take you to a secluded part of the bay where the water is perfect for swimming and kayaking around the limestone karsts. You’ll return back to boat just in time to watch the sunset from the top deck before enjoying the bay’s freshest seafood dinner.
- Victory Star Cruise
- Indochina Sails
Wake up refreshed from a good night sleep as the boat motors towards Surprise Cave, the biggest in Halong Bay. Board the tender for a short trip to the cave and be amazed - the entry to the cave is deceptively narrow but once through, the cave opens up to a large chamber with impressive limestone formations. Surprise! Then it’s back to the boat and cruise to Halong Port arriving around noon, where you will continue to Hanoi.
Your guide will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight. Upon arrival, your guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel.
- Ancient House Hoi An
- Vinh Hung Emerald Resort
Begin your tour of Hoi An, a former trading port that welcomed Chinese, Dutch, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Arab merchants between the 16th to 18th centuries. Today Hoi An is famous for its restored architecture, homemade silk, expert tailors and delicious noodles and seafood. Its relaxed vibe and pedestrian streets make this town a pleasure to walk around and discover new things.
The tour includes stops at several famous landmarks. The first is Chua Ong Pagoda, dating back to 1653 and built in honor of the Chinese general Quan Cong, who is worshipped by many as a symbol of loyalty and justice.
Next, pop into Phuc Kien Assembly Hall, to see the Jinshang Temple which is dedicated to the goddess of the sea and the protector of sailors. From there it’s a short walk to Tam Ky House, a 200 year old ancestral house and finally, stroll across the often photographed 17th century covered bridge built by Japanese craftsmen. The beautifully built bridge doubles as a temple and is a major landmark of Hoi An. Afterwards, hop on a cyclo and heading out toward Cam Thanh Village, a small community located in the outskirts of central Hoi An. Your destination is a small village home to meet a local family, and the opportunity to interact with the locals that call this village home. On the nearby river, hop in a bamboo basket boat to visit a water coconut forest and then on board a boat bound for central Hoi An. After taking in the stunning riverside scenery along the Thu Bon River, return to hotel then free at leisure.
Chua Ong Pagoda, Jinshang Temple, Tam Ky Ancient House, Cam Thanh Village
Drive back to Danang and take a short flight to Ho Chi Minh City formerly Saigon. Start your Story of Saigon with a visit to the War Remnants Museum. Here, your guide will tell the story of the city’s darkest and most tragic hours during the Vietnam War. The museum contains displays of military aircraft, weaponry and many photographs - some that are quite graphic in nature. Although many of Vietnam’s 90 million people are now too young to remember the war, its legacy is still felt strongly across Vietnamese society.
Next, visit the Reunification Palace, once a symbol of the South Vietnamese Government. It was here on 30 April 1975, that the war ended when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates. See the war room, the banquet hall and the presidential office with the unusual gifts which have been received. Then, continue to the Central Post Office, designed and constructed by the renowned architect Gustave Eiffel, and take a moment to send a postcard! Just behind the post office is the Notre Dame Cathedral, an iconic Saigon landmark built in neo-Romanesque style by the French between 1863 and 1880. Today it’s a favoured backdrop for Vietnamese wedding photographs.
Next, stroll down follow Dong Khoi Street, which figured prominently in Graham Greene’s famous Vietnam novel, The Quiet American, as Rue Catinat. The walk ends at the Saigon Opera House. From a bomb shelter to housing the parliamentary Lower House, the Opera House has had an interesting history. End your day with a speedboat trip along the city’s ancient canals where life carries on unchanged. Return to your hotel as the sun sets on this fascinating city.
- Liberty Central Riverside
- Lavender Saigon
Depart from Ho Chi Minh City pier and begin your speedboat journey on the Saigon River. As the city fades into the background, observe life along the river and the many new ‘weekend’ homes being built by the Saigonese. The cramped tunnels were central to a few of the war’s strategic operations, including the famous 1968 Tet Offensive, and they didn’t escape damage. American B52 bombers dropped hundreds of missiles leaving huge tell-tale craters behind. The tunnels also have “mantraps” - large camouflaged holes dug deep into the ground that ensnared enemy soldiers by bamboo spikes. But don’t worry, you won’t step in one! You’ll also discover the remains of an American tank that was destroyed by a landmine which you can climb on for great photos. The Cu Chi experience can be emotionally draining for some visitors, but it offers fascinating windows into the hardship and traumas of war.
Next, it’s a short drive through the countryside to visit a cricket farm. Some Vietnamese consider crickets a delicacy, and local lore says that hungry soldiers ate them to beef up their nutrient-poor diets. At the farm you’ll see crickets in various stages of growth. You’ll also have a chance to sample crickets wrapped up in tasty spring rolls. Make sure you snap a photograph so that your friends will believe your unusual tale! Stop for a traditional Vietnamese lunch - it won’t include cricket - en route to Ho Chi Minh City, arriving mid afternoon.
Cu Chi Tunnel
Head to the town of Ben Tre, a gateway to the delta. Board a small boat to begin touring a region known as Vietnam’s rice bowl. The country is among the world’s top rice exporters, and the Mekong’s climate allows farmers to produce two or even three rice crops per year. The other major export is seafood, especially shrimp and catfish.
Your boat arrives at a small home-based factory where workers process coconuts by separating their oil, flesh and husks to be used in products like matting and candy. Learn how it all works! After lunch take in the river scenery as you return to Ben Tre where you will be will be transferred to Can Tho, the delta’s economic hub.
- Nam Bo Boutique Hotel
Rise early and travel by boat to the township of Cai Rang to see the hustle and bustle of a floating market. Watch as vendors hawk their wares from boats teeming with produce and buy a coffee from one of the floating cafes. Then, drive approximately three hours to the township of Chau Doc, a colourful and sleepy town near the Vietnam-Cambodia border.
This afternoon drive approximately 20kms from Chau Doc to Tra Su Forest and travel by sampan through endless waterways flanked by mangroves and lush greenery. This eco reserve spans 850 hectares and is an ecological haven for fauna and flora, with more than 100 species of water birds and colonies of bats. The best time to visit Tra Su is from September to November when the water is high, although it is accessible all year round. On the way to the forest you will visit a small village of ethnic Khmer, where you will learn about the importance of Buddhism in the community and have the opportunity to chat with monks at the local monastery.
- Victoria Chau Doc Hotel
The Mekong Delta is a land of winding waterways, lush paddy fields and floating markets where life is governed by the ebb and flow of Vietnam’s most iconic river. Today wake early and cruise aboard a small boat to Chau Doc’s famous floating market. Drawing traders and farmers from the surrounding countryside watch as fruits, vegetables and fish are bought and sold en mass. Continue past the floating fish farms on your way to a local Cham Village, where you will hear the story of one of Vietnam’s most fascinating peoples. After return to your boat and continue cruising towards the iconic Sam Mountain, passing along the fascinating Vinh Te Canal built from 1819 to 1823 by Emperors Gia Long and Minh Mang from the Nguyen Dynasty. Arrive at the banks of Sam Mountain and visit two of the iconic temples that draw pilgrims from miles around.
The lush green paddy fields of Chau Doc are the perfect place to escape modern life and discover the authentic Mekong Delta at its very best. Cycle out along quiet dirt tracks, through villages where life has changed little over the decades and through fields busy with busy farmers and water buffalo. Stop for a picnic breakfast and recharge over a glass of traditional ice tea or coffee before getting back on the saddle and continuing your journey. Stop along the way for a chat with locals and some of the best views Southern Vietnam has to offer. Return to your hotel and a well earned break! Overnight in Chau Doc.
Tra Su Forest, Sam Mountain, Vinh Te Canal
Say goodbye to the delta and travel to Ho Chi Minh City about seven hours by car. There will be plenty of stops along the way to stretch your legs and take photos. Tour ends after your Asia Senses Travel guide transfers you to the airport for the onwards flight.
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