A fascinating 16 day tour allowing a unique insight into Vietnamese culture and way of life. Take part in local activities, taste Vietnamese street food, be invited into a Vietnamese family home; talk, listen and speak Vietnamese , meet nuns in a pagoda, cycle on country roads and see farmers at work in the Mekong Delta & children at school. Departure Tuesday & Friday only.
£1,595 per person
From 09/12/11 : Direct flights to Vietnam from London Gatwick with Vietnam airlines (approx £650, fare depending on departure date).
HANOI – HALONG OVERNIGHT CRUISE – HUE – HOIAN – MYSON – SAIGON – VINH LONG HOMESTAY
Price includes : Private car and English speaking local guides, best 3* hotels and homestay with daily breakfast, meals where stated, Halong overnight cruise on the luxury Bhaya junk, admission fees, internal flights, boat rides, visa to Vietnam.
Price excludes : International flights (we suggest Vietnam airlines direct flights), other meals, optional trips, tipping and any service not specified. Single supplement £450.
Departure from London Gatwick. Direct flight to Hanoi onboard Vietnam airlines.
DAY 02 HANOI STREET LIFE (-/-/D)
“Xin Chao!” Welcome to Hanoi, one of Asia’s most enchanting cities, full of culture and history. Meet your local guide at the airport and learn about this fascinating country on the way to your hotel. This beautiful city is bustling with energy and will soon dispel even the slightest feeling of jetlag. Down the street you are invited to try an iced coffee with milk (cafe sua da) or iced tea (tra da) in one of the many Hanoi cafés and learn about the Vietnamese café culture. Introduction to Hanoi street food strolling along local restaurants and food stalls. These little food outlets form the pulsating culinary heart of Vietnamese cuisine. In the evening you are kindly invited by a local family to a warm welcome dinner at their house. Story sharing during the meal and take the chance to learn some basic Vietnamese phrases, which may come in handy later. Overnight at Silk Path Hotel.
DAY 03 FLOWER MARKET, TAI CHI & VAN GIANG VILLAGE (B/L/D)
Wake up early and head out to Hanoi’s biggest flower market in Quang Ba. Take in the beauty and wonderful aromas of fresh flowers coming each day from suburban villages. The diversity and vibrant colours on display guarantee amazing pictures. On the way back to the old Quarter stop at Truc Bach Lake. Every morning, hundreds of Hanoians gather here to practice Tai Chi, daily fitness exercises or play badminton. Join in or simply enjoy this oasis of peace and serenity in the middle of busy Hanoi. Join the locals in the street for a bowl of Pho. This aromatic beef noodle soup is without a doubt Vietnam’s most famous dish. Next is a quick stop at Ba Dinh Square for some pictures. This historic spot is where Ho Chi Minh declared the Vietnamese Independence in 1945. From here, drive on to Van Giang Village, about 30 minutes from the city. Here, mingle with the local family and learn how to cook some typical Vietnamese dishes. Join the family for lunch before heading back to Hanoi. Afternoon cyclo ride taking in the sights of the bustling Old Quarter and the 36 Corporation Streets. For dinner try the unique Hanoi specialties : Bun cha (smoked and grilled pork in stock with rice noodles and fresh herbs) or Cha Ca La Vong (a 200-year-old Hanoian specialty of marinated grilled fish served with dill and peanuts). Overnight at Silk Path hotel
DAY 04 HANOI AT LEISURE (B/-/-)
Day at leisure in Hanoi to explore at your own way putting into practice what you have learned in the last 2 days. Overnight at Silk Path Hotel.
DAY 05 HA LONG BAY OVERNIGHT CRUISE (B/L/D)
Breakfast at hotel before car transfer to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the way visit a typical Northern Vietnamese village where many generations still live together in harmony in traditional houses. Feel free to ask questions and practice your Vietnamese, they would be very happy to talk to you. Arrive in Ha Long at lunch time and board The Bhaya boat for an overnight cruise in the bay passing by more than 3000 limestone islands and rocks rising majestically out of the emerald water. Enjoy a delicious buffet lunch made up of freshly caught fish and seafood. In the afternoon visit Vung Vieng floating fishing village and enjoy onboard activities of your choice: food carving, cooking class, traditional massage, kayaking or, weather permitting, take a dip in the water. The day ends with a spectacular set-menu dinner usually composed of steamed crab in tamarind sauce, fresh squid, giant prawns and delicious mussels, to name just a few of the many specialties. Before returning to your comfortable private cabins, spare some time to see the crew fishing for lunch the next day.
DAY 06 FLY TO HUE, THE IMPERIAL CITY (B/L/-)
Start the day with a few Tai Chi moves or an optional massage on the sundeck. The boat will then be sliding pass beautiful spots such as Trong, Trinh Nu and the Me Cung Caves, and a chance to explore the Surprise Caves before a late breakfast on board. Back to Ha Long harbour around noon for the drive back to Hanoi. Enroute pay a visit to the famous Manh Hoach chicken restaurant in Hai Duong province. Ga Manh Hoach (the King of Chicken) is the specialty of this province and is extremely popular in North Vietnam. Continue by road to Noi Bai airport for a short flight to Hue. On arrival transfer to Villa Hue hotel.
DAY 07 A DAY WITH THE NUNS IN A PAGODA (B/L/-)
Morning cycle along peaceful roads to Dong Thuyen Pagoda. After a greeting by the Head Nun, enjoy a tea ceremony sipping Hue’s green tea accompanied by sweets made by the nuns. Learn about Buddhist practices such as meditation, Buddhist’s code of conduct before joining the nuns on a trip to the local market to buy ingredients for the vegetarian meals which you are invited to help prepare. Have lunch with the nuns and join them in their chant in the Meditation Hall. Return to your Hotel.
DAY 08 HOI AN ANCIENT TOWN (B/L/-)
After breakfast drive down to Da Nang via the scenic Hai Van Pass. Stop at Lang Co, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, before arriving in Hoi An. This World Heritage site was once home to merchants from all over the world. Lunch at a local restaurant followed by a guided walking tour in this enchanting and peaceful town stopping at some of its characteristic trade houses, bridges and temples. HoiAn is also well known for super-fast and skillful tailors who can make smart suits or dresses in 24 or 48 hours. Overnight at HoiAn Ancient House hotel.
DAY 09 HOI AN TODAY (B/L/-)
After breakfast, bicycle ride on a beautiful road bordered by paddy fields to Tra Que Village just outside Hoi An. This little town is well-known for supplying many restaurants and hotels in the area with fresh herbs and vegetables. Take a walk in the vegetable farm, see how the local farmers work the soil and learn more about the history of the village and the importance of herbs in Vietnamese medicine and cuisine. Lunch is served with central Vietnamese specialties such as Tam Huu spring rolls and the local Banh Xeo pancakes. Time to relax in hammocks before cycling back to Hoi An. Rest of the day at leisure to enjoy a stroll in the lantern lit streets, explore art workshops or simply cycle to the Cua Dai beach for a swim. Overnight at HoiAn Ancient House.
DAY 10 COOKING CLASS IN HOI AN & VISIT TO MY SON (B/L/-)
After breakfast, travel by boat to Hoi An’s busy market to buy the ingredients for a Vietnamese cooking class, where you will be making your own lunch. Stop at local villages making rice pancakes and some typical dishes of this region. In the afternoon visit My Son sanctuary, another UNESCO World Heritage site. My Son is an elaborate temple complex and burial place of Cham royals and heroes dating back to the Kingdom of Champa. It is one of the most important examples of Hindu influence in the whole of South East Asia. In the evening we can stroll around the romantic streets of ancient Hoi An, or enjoy a drink at one of its trendy cocktail bars. Overnight at Hoi An Ancient House.
DAY 11 SAIGON STREET LIFE (B/-/D)
Breakfast at hotel. Car transfer to Danang for a short flight to Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Minh City. On arrival transfer to Asian Ruby 1 Hotel. Walking tour in this bustling part of the city visiting market stalls where customers can have the freedom to haggle. Brief photostops at The City Hall, National Theatre, Continental Hotel where the film ‘The Quiet American’ was shot, the Central Post Office and Notre Dame Cathredral, before being whisked to ‘Pho Ta’ - a restaurant run by the wife of Vietnam’s former vice-president. Enjoy a another bowl of Pho (the southern version) before returning to your hotel.
DAY 12 MEKONG HOMESTAY (B/L/D)
Morning 3 hour drive to Cai Be floating market. Cruise aboard a motorboat through the intricate maze of waterways and canals, filled with local merchants and traders. Continue in small canals towards a tropical island. Lunch is served in a bonsai garden with the popular ‘Elephant Ear’ fried fish and spring rolls. Afternoon exploration of the delta stopping at family-run handicraft and coconut sweet workshops, sample rice wine and listen to Vietnamese music in a local house. Spend the night in a local homestay in Vinh Long sharing a meal with the family and listening to their amazing life stories - a truly unique experience. (Homestay is dormitory style with folding beds, mosquitoe nets & blankets provided).
DAY 13 SAIGON (B/L/-)
Join our friendly hosts for breakfast and then go for a stroll around the village, stopping at a primary school to see self-disciplined young children eagerly learning to read & write. Meet laborious farmers at work on rice fields and learn about rice growing. Return to the boat for further exploration and observation of scenes on the Mekong River. Everyday more than 400 boats fill its waters to trade and sell their farm produces. Arrive in Cai Be to rejoin the car for the transfer back to Saigon.
DAY 14 SAIGON (B/L/-)
Today we explore the older part of the city, Cholon or China Town, where all sorts of trade take place. Visit Hai Thuong Lang Ong Street of Medicinal Herbs, then Binh Tay wholesale market. For lunch we try the local variety of Banh Xeo, a big savoury pancake made out of rice flour, coconut milk and freshly ground turmeric. The pancake is filled with fresh herbs and vegetables, pork and prawns, and served with “nuoc mam” (the famous Vietnamese fish sauce thinned with water, lemon and chili).
Return to Hotel. Afternoon is at leisure for independent activities. We recommend a visit to the rooftop Café-bar at the Rex Hotel or the top floor of The Caravelle. This hotel and its bar were home to many foreign reporters and secret agents during the Vietnam War. Chill-out drinking Saigon beer and enjoy a panoramic view of the city with the sound of live music. Evening farewell buffet dinner served aboard an illuminated boat cruising along Saigon River for a memorable image of Saigon by night.
DAY 15 SAIGON DEPARTURE (B/-/-)
Breakfast at hotel. Free time for last minute shopping before transfer to airport for flight home.
DAY 16 Arrive home.