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 your 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 with an early morning walk through Tao Dan Park in the center of Saigon. Enjoy the sounds of song birds, have a local coffee to get you moving, and watch as locals start their daily routine with Yoga, Tai Chi, badminton and much more. It’s then a short walk to the Venerable Thich Quang Duc (Burning Monk) Monument. You will stop for a hot bowl of breakfast soup before heading to Cho Lon, known as the Chinatown of Saigon.
Cho Lon is a feast for the eyes. From pagodas to parks, local craftsmen to lively children on their way to school. Your guide will lead you through the winding backstreets, describing the daily life of residents and the history of such an iconic area including two unseen buildings that were directly involved in the reunification movement. Have the opportunity to make and sample the beloved sugarcane juice - a great way to rehydrate as you explore. From Cho Lon we head for lunch in a local restaurant where you are treated to some amazing food in a setting unlike anywhere else in Saigon.
After lunch it’s a short stroll to an old apartment block where residents have come together and transformed their homes into funky, stylish, unique coffee shops. It’s fun to simply wonder through the building, marveling at the creativity and ingenuity of the owners. After exploring, you will get to relax for a traditional Vietnamese tea-tasting. You might not be a tea connoisseur, but you’ll find it fascinating all the same and probably learn more about the types, history and methods of brewing than you would in a month of studying! Travelers may choose to stay and relax with more tea on the beautiful balcony, take another stroll through the building, head back to your hotel, or go back out into the bustle of central Saigon.
Day 3 Fly Pleiku | Free Day
Mid-day return to Ho Chi Minh City for your flight to Pleiku this afternoon. Upon arrival, your guide and driver will transfer you 30 miles (50kms) to Kon Tum. Check in to your hotel and enjoy the remainder of the day at your leisure.
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 / 30-40 km
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, as well as hear the locals' stories.
Trekking Distance: 7.5-8.5 miles / 12-14 km
Elevation throughout trek: 2950 - 3940 ft / 900 - 1200 m
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 / 12-14 km
Elevation throughout trek: 2950 - 3940 ft / 900 - 1200 m
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 U.S. 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 you may visit some of the main sites such as the Japanese Covered bridges, the Pottery museum, the 200 year old Tan Ky House, Chua Ong Pagoda, or the vibrant local market.
This afternoon, take time to relax or discover the town more on your own.
Day 9 Tra Que Farm & Traditional Fishing
This morning you will spend time on a Farming & Fishing Life Tour which provides you with up-close exposure to both the local farming and fishing communities. You will start the day leisurely cycling along country roads and witnessing local Vietnamese rural life first hand. Take advantage of the many photo opportunities along the way. Then you will visit a beautiful organic vegetable farm, Tra Que village, where you will help water and plant vegetables or hoe the soil with a local farmer. Later you will board our eco-tour boat for a river cruise to meet local fishermen and enjoy a hands-on experience of traditional net fishing. You will also experience paddling the unique Vietnamese bamboo basket boat along the waterways of a coconut palm paradise. This tour provides a cultural window into the ways of life of both the Vietnamese farming and fishing communities.
Day 10 Hue City Tour | Cruise the Perfume River
Check out today and drive 3-4 hours north towards the town of Hue. The journey passes through spectacular scenery along the National Highway 1, such as the breath-taking Hai Van Pass, and have some photo stops along the way. Check into your hotel in Hue 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.
Your next adventure will be boarding 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 in the morning before you are picked up and transfered to the airport for your flight to Hanoi. Upon arrival, check into your new hotel and settle in. Spend this evening at your leisure in Hanoi.
Day 12 Explore Hanoi
This morning, you will meet your guide and driver to make your way towards Hoan Kiem Lake. You will get to see how the local people start their daily routine - by practicing tai chi and aerobics. If you want, you can even join the locals in their morning exercise!
After visiting the Ngoc Son Temple, located in the middle of the Hoan Kiem Lake, we will visit a traditional coffee vendor where you will be able to try Vietnam’s local coffee: Cà phê sữa đá (Iced coffee). If you feel more adventurous, you can also try the Egg coffee! After our beverage stop, continue walking in search of a street food vender selling the delicious bánh mì to sample the popular baguette sandwich. Later, we will go deep into Hanoi’s Old Quarter on a walking tour. Observe the French architecture and influence in buildings, such as the St. Joseph Cathedral - a French gothic building constructed in 1886. Continue to the Hoa Lo Prison, where Vietnamese, American, and French prisoners of war were imprisoned. To conclude the morning, pay a visit to the Huu Tiep Lake - better known as "B-52 Lake" where there lies US B-5 bomber wreckage.
Return to the Old Quarter for a local lunch before visiting the Temple of Literature, built in 1076. Vietnam’s first university was established within this temple and functioned for 700 years! Its beautiful gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past. Walk along and photograph Hanoi's railway tracks - some of which are located meters away from house doors! After a long day, finish the evening at the well-known Bia Hoi, where you can enjoy a local draft beer and end your day like a resident!
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 magnificent Bai Tu Long Bay. This afternoon, you will explore the mysterious and beautiful Thien Canh Son Cave. The trail to the cave is set below a forest canopy and stone cliff, making the hike more dramatic. Afterwards, enjoy some swimming or kayaking on the white, sandy beach of Hon Co Island.
As the sun sets over the bay, head back to your boat for a local seafood dinner and relaxation. Finish your evening with a drink from the bar or try your hand at squid fishing from the boat!
Day 14 Disembark Cruise | Return Home
Enjoy the morning view of the dramatic Ha Long Bay landscape with a cup of tea or coffee, and eat breakfast in the fresh air. You will visit Vung Vieng fishing village by way of a rustic row-boat to meet some local people and pass through the floating school and fish farms. An early lunch will be served on the boat as you near the harbor. Around noon you will be transferred to Ha Noi Airport for your flight back home.