Day 1 Arrive Ho Chi Minh City
Arrive to Vietnam today. You are met at the airport and drive to your hotel for check-in. Rest up and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.
Day 2 Ho Chi Minh City Tour
Today explore the country's most dynamic city, Ho Chi Minh City. Still called Saigon amongst older generations, this city was renamed as Ho Chi Minh after North Vietnam's President in 1975. A day spent here reveals a bustling lifestyle with an interesting mix of modernity and traditional Vietnamese traits. Modern skyscrapers appear amidst Chinese style pagodas and food vendor stalls and create a truly dynamic urban area.
Start the morning by heading to Chinatown for a visit to the indoor Binh Tay Market where locals go to find good bargains. Visit Thien Hau, a 150 year old Chinese Temple, followed by the first Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine with nearly 3,000 items relevant to traditional Vietnamese medicine dating back to the Stone Age. Continue on the tour of Vietnamese history to the War Remnants Museum, one of Vietnam’s most popular museums which primarily exhibit the American phase of the Vietnam War.
Following this sobering experience stop at a local restaurant of your choice for lunch. This afternoon, visit the Reunification Palace, a landmark built atop the former site of the Norodom Palace. See the Notre Dame Cathedral, a french style construction from 1880, as well as the historic building housing the Central Post Office. Make a stop in to see XQ embroidery workshop where fine hand-made silk embroidery are made and sold. Finish up the day with a visit to Ben Thanh Market where visitors can find a variety of local handicrafts, souvenirs and taste local cuisine.
Day 3 Cu Chi Tunnels | Fly Pleiku
This morning meet up with your guide for a drive to the famous Cu Chi tunnels 47 miles (75km) northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. This strategic 124 miles (200km) network of tunnels played an important role during Vietnam's war for independence in allowing the North Vietnamese to maintain a military presence in South Vietnam virtually undetected for many years. Today take the opportunity to see how these soldiers lived underground, what they ate, and what kinds of booby traps they used to ward of invaders into their private underground world.
Mid-day return to Ho Chi Minh City for your flight to Pleiku this afternoon. Upon arrival drive 30 miles (50kms) to Kon Tum. Check in to your hotel and freshen up before your new guide takes you for dinner at a favorite local restaurant.
Day 4 Bahnar Village Biking
Today set out on a bike to explore the friendly and quiet town of Kon Tum. Stop first at a market for some grocery shopping for lunch. Next visit several Bahnar villages located on the fringes of Kon Tum. The Bahnar are an ethnic minority who have maintained their own unique language, traditions, and customs in Vietnam. Meet some villagers along the way, learn a bit about their culture, and observe each villages' Rong House. A Rong House is serves as a court of justice and meeting place for important decisions, ceremonies, and festivals. The house is the heart of the community and typically is visible from far away. Here too you can learn about the "Space of the Gongs" which has been declared and intangible UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy a simple lunch in a local village house that you and your guide prepare together. Learn how they make rice wine which is consumed through long bamboo straws. You may even get the chance to participate in an agricultural task, depending on the season.
After lunch pedal back to Kon Tum to visit a few sites including the beautiful and imposing Catholic Seminary dating back from 1935. It currently houses an exhibit on Kon Tum and the minorities living around the town. Visit the wooden Bahnar church and neighboring Vinh Son orphanage where more than 200 orphans (mostly from ethnic minorities) will be waiting to meet you and practice some of their new English with you. They may even teach you a few words of their own tongue, which is quite different from Vietnamese. Return to your hotel this early this evening.
Biking Distance: Approximately 18-25 miles / 30-40km
Day 5 Kon Du Trekking
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Prepare a light backpack today for an overnight trekking adventure. Leave your luggage at your hotel and set out first to the Kon Tum market to do some shopping for supplies for the next two days. Learn how to bargain in Vietnamese like a local! After this head eastward towards to the Kon Ray area. At the Jo Long village called Kon Du you unload to start the trek. The Jo Long are a sub-group of the Bahnar. Admire their Rong House before taking off on foot to the base of the mountain. Enjoy a picnic lunch here before starting the ascent up the mountain through thick jungle. Towering trees, vines and ferns form spectacular scenery. Enjoy the serenity and sounds of the forest and take your time to stop regularly for photo opportunities. Before dark you arrive to a simple community cottage at a hunter's outpost where you overnight. Freshen up here while your guide prepares dinner. Assist him to learn some traditional highland cooking tips at the same time.
Trekking Distance: 7.5-8.5 miles / 12-14 km
Elevation throughout trek: 2950 - 3940 ft / 900 - 1200m
Day 6 Return Kon Tum
Today rise early for some fresh mountain air and breakfast. After breakfast start your descent down the mountain. Take your time to enjoy the vegetation. Enjoy a picnic in the forest before arriving back to Kon Du. Here you may again have the opportunity to join in an agricultural activity with the locals depending on the season. Enjoy connecting with these generous and friendly people before returning to Kon Tum this afternoon. Check back into your hotel and enjoy a well earned hot shower. The rest of the night is free for you to wander on your own. A great place to relax, watch the sunset, and meet locals is along the terraces on the banks the Dakbla River.
Trekking Distance: 7.5-8.5 miles / 12-14km
Elevation throughout trek: 2950 - 3940 ft / 900 - 1200m
Day 7 Dak To & the Road to Hoi An
After breakfast set out to travel north along the Ho Chi Minh Road. The first stop is the town of Dak To, an area where many battles were waged between US forces and North Vietnamese troops. Visit here an impressive war memorial commemorating the capture of Dak To by North Vietnamese forces in April 1972. Along the 7 hour journey you also pass by an abandoned US airstrip.
At Dak Seang, a former US Special forces base, stop to make a walk through rubber plantations. See the Rong House here of the Che minority and admire the beautiful landscape of thickly forested mountains in every direction. Stop for lunch in Kham Duc before continuing on. Observe the changing landscape, as more rice fields and Vietnamese villages begin to come into sight. Take stops as you like for photos and to chat with the locals working in the fields. Arrive to Hoi An early evening where you settle into your new hotel.
Day 8 Explore Hoi An
Hoi An is a charming smaller town consisting of hundreds of historic houses, pagodas and other structures. Its ancient town is one of the best preserved examples of a South-East Asian trading port dating back to even the 15th century. The buildings and streets here reflect indigenous and foreign influences which reveal its unique and multi-cultural heritage.
Today visit some of the main sites including the Japanese Covered bridges, the Pottery museum, and the 200 year old Tan Ky House. The Chua Ong Pagoda and the vibrant local market are also stops along the way on this walking tour.
This evening take time to relax and discover the town more on your own.
Day 9 Tra Que Farm & Traditional Fishing
Today you set out with your guide for a cycling tour of traditional farming and fishing techniques. Take a lazy ride on dirt paths, fresh air, small villages and absolutely beautiful paths through the rice fields outside of Hoi An. Stop in the village of Tra Que for a short walk to see the vegetable garden and then opt to join the farmers in preparing the land and fertilizing it with lake seaweed. Join in raking, sowing, watering and picking vegetables along with other gardening activities during your visit. Enjoy a short rest after your labors along with a footbath before preparing lunch together with a local family.
During lunch try some of the local delicacies including 'tam huu' spring roll and banh xeo, a Vietnamese style pancake.
In the afternoon, cruise the river to meet and work with local fishermen where you will have the opportunity to experience hands-on traditional net fishing. Later, paddle in a unique Vietnamese bamboo basket boat along the waterways of coconut palm paradise.
Return to Hoi An for another leisurely evening.
Biking Distance: Approximately 6 miles / 10km
Day 10 Hue City Tour | Cruise the Perfume River
Check out today and drive 3-4 hours north towards the town of Hue. Check in and freshen up before an introductory tour this afternoon. Hue once stood as the political, cultural and religious center of unified Vietnam under the Nguyen dynasty until 1945. Now as a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city has begun to preserve some of its historical relics and buildings which were previously neglected.
Today visit the Forbidden Purple City, once the seat of emperors and concubines of the dynasty constructed in the early 19th century. It is located inside the Citadel of Hue, which was badly damaged during the Tet offensive of 1968.
Next board a dragon boat for a cruise along the Perfume River to visit the Thien Mu Pagoda, the tallest religious building in Vietnam. Visit also the tomb of Tu Duc emperor, Vietnam's fourth who lived until 1883. During his reign, Vietnam lost their independence to France.
Return to Hue and explore the city at your leisure the rest of the evening.
Day 11 Fly Hanoi
Today enjoy some leisure time this morning before you are picked up and drive to the airport for your mid-afternoon flight on to Hanoi. Upon arrival, check in to your new hotel in Hanoi.
Day 12 Explore Hanoi
Meet your guide this morning and start your day visiting Hanoi's Old Quarter. Here you have the chance to meet a local family and discover their way of living. Learn about some typically traditions of families from North Vietnam. Set out walking in the rest of the city. See old French architecture in different Vietnamese buildings, evidence of a time when France controlled this area. Visit typical communal houses as well that have been restored by UNESCO. Along your walk, stop to try some Vietnamese cuisine such as local spring rolls and other traditional snacks. You may even have the chance to try our hand at creating spring rolls yourself and compete with local sellers!
This afternoon you visit the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first university. Built in 1076, this temple was used to educate Vietnam's royalty, mandarins and other members of the elite class. The university operated for 700 years and now its gardens and well preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam's past. Finish your day with a walk along the Hanoi railway tracks which at times are locted just meters away from houses. You will end the day tasting local draft beers at the typical and well known Bia Hoi. Return to your hotel this and enjoy the rest of the day free.
Day 13 Cruise Ha Long Bay
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Today set out from your hotel early for the 3.5 hour drive to one of the most spectacular World Heritage Sites and the world's largest marine limestone karst landscape, Ha Long Bay. Upon arrival to the pier, you will board your wooden 'junk' boat modeled after the old Vietnamese court vessels. After check-in enjoy lunch on board while cruising towards a local fishing village*. Upon arrival take a row boat ashore and explore the fishing village. Late return to your vessel and enjoy the opportunity to kayak around the village or fish in the bay if the weather allows.
This evening witness a cooking demonstration, enjoy dinner and a possible movie on the Lounge Deck before returning your cabin to relax for the evening.
*Itinerary depends on cruise chosen
Day 14 Disembark Cruise | Return Home
Start this your last morning with an early Tai Chi lesson on the sundeck. Enjoy views of the bay and the surrounding islands at breakfast and later take the option of going to explore and swim on a secluded island. You may have the chance to discover one of the biggest caves in Ha Long Bay. After brunch is served your cruise comes to an end and you cruise back into the harbor to disembark at noon. Transfer back to Hanoi where your driver is waiting to take you back to the airport for your international flight home.