Day 1 - Ho Chi Minh City
Xin chao! Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please check with hotel reception or look on the reception noticeboard for where and when the meeting will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Because this trip doesn’t spend much time in Ho Chi Minh City, why not arrive a day or two early to see the sights? Ho Chi Minh City has a dynamic atmosphere and a French influence. Perhaps head to Pham Ngu Lao Street to see the local open-aired market, visit Vinh Nghiem Pagoda or one of the amusements parks.
Day 2 - Ho Chi Minh
For the first full day of your trip, you’ll visit one of the most important sites in Ho Chi Minh City, the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. These complex tunnels were used by the Viet Cong in the long war against the Americans and were instrumental to the Vietnamese victory. Be amazed by the ingenuity of these dangerous tunnels.
Later in the day, take a tour of the city, passing the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House. Head to the War Remnants Museum for a sobering yet informative lesson on the Vietnam War. Here you’ll see things like old military equipment, an F5A fighter and a UH1-Huey helicopter.
Day 3 - Mekong Delta Homestay
Travel south by private bus for about three hours to Cai Be. When you arrive, you’ll board a boat and explore the intricate waterways of the Mekong Delta. Often referred to as ‘the rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the fertile delta is where rice, tropical fruit and flowers are grown for the whole country. The views along the canal will take your breath away.
Hop off the boat to visit an orchard and sample some tropical fruit. You’ll then continue on the cruise towards some local cottage industries. Get to see local life and the industries surrounding the river up close. Around sunset, you’ll make your way up one of the many canals to your homestay where you’ll enjoy a wonderful meal of local specialities. The accommodation tonight will be simple, but the experience will be rewarding.
Day 4 - Ho Chi Minh City / Overnight Train
Wake up early today to explore more of the magical delta. Daily life here starts at dawn, so after breakfast we visit the Cai Be Floating Market. Here you’ll see hundreds of boats filled with people selling fresh produce.
Travel back to Ho Chi Minh City (about three hours) and enjoy some free time to do a bit of sightseeing. We recommend exploring the city’s restaurants and trying Ho Chi Minh City’s distinctive food. In contrast to the north of Vietnam, the cuisine here is spicier, sweeter and more varied. There are also plenty of street food stalls if you’d like to try a several bites.
In the evening, board an overnight train to Nha Trang which will take about 11 hours. Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a true Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. You’ll have the opportunity to stock up on fresh bread, fruit and cheese before the journey, and most trains also have a dining carriage which serves simple food.
Day 5 - Nha Trang
Arrive in the idyllic coastal town of Nha Trang. Here you’ll have a free day to enjoy the beaches, snorkelling and the seafood restaurants along the promenade. Ask your leader to suggest some things to do.
Day 6 - Nha Trang
Get on another boat and head out to explore the nearby islands. This excursion is often the highlight of the trip for many travellers as you’ll get to know some of the locals and indulge in the beauty of the place. Starting on the main boat, you’ll then take a small basket boat to shore and visit a fishing village, snorkel in the turquoise waters and have a seafood buffet for lunch. Pass the afternoon lazing in a deck chair or going for another swim.
Day 7 - Quy Nhon City
Today will be a long day of travelling to Quy Nhon but will be full of beautiful views along Highway One. The drive will take about six hours along a road hugging granite cliffs over the blue sea. Enjoy scenery of islands, lagoons and sand dunes which give way to sugar plantations and rice fields.
En route, you’ll stop for a visit to the striking Po Nagar Cham Towers, medieval temples remaining from the Cham civilisation.
Quy Nhon is a hidden gem, remaining off the tourist trail despite its beautiful beaches and bay. When you arrive, you’ll visit the Nguyen Nga Training Centre, a not-for-profit venture which provides support to people with special needs, in particular those with physical disabilities, through their education, training and job placement programs. Take a guided tour around the centre and then perhaps meet some of students. You can also purchase handicrafts made in the centre’s workshop.
Day 8 - Hoi An
Another long but scenic drive today towards Hoi An (about seven hours). On the way make a sobering visit to the My Lai Memorial, which marks the site where American troops massacred a whole village of civilians.
Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An was a major trading port with the West from the 15th to the 19th century. Today it has been restored to look exactly as it did more than a century ago, giving it an old-world feel full of nooks and crannies to explore.
You’ll have some free time this afternoon. Hoi An is very much a shopping mecca. Why not browse the paintings, woodwork, ceramics, embroidery all made by the locals? The city is also famous for its talented tailors who work with beautiful fabrics for a good price.
Day 9 - Hoi An
Also known as Ancient Town, part of what makes Hoi An so special is its blend of indigenous and European architectural styles. For this reason, it’s also known as Ancient Town. Go on an orientation walk around the town today and get your bearings. Afterwards, you may choose to go on one of the optional activities. Perhaps take a boat cruise down the Thu Bon River, or take a bicycle tour around the countryside. There’s also a day trip to the stunning ruins of My Son, the centuries-old Hindu temples.
Day 10 - Hoi An
Enjoy another free day in the town of Hoi An. You’ll have time to see the beautiful Chinese shophouses, enjoy the busy market, visit Cua Dai Beach, cycle to the rice fields or browse the array of art galleries.
Day 11 - Hue
Depart Hoi An and visit the white sand and blue sea of My Khe Beach. Continue on the journey and cross the dramatic Hai Van Pass and make a quick stop at the fishing village of Lang Co. Get back in the bus again and make your way to Hue. The total driving time today will be about five hours.
Arrive in Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Hue contains the treasures of Vietnam’s royal history, and has a curious blend of bustling streets and tranquil settings. Your excursion here will be to the Imperial Citadel. This fortress houses the Imperial City and the citadel-within-a-citadel, the Forbidden Purple City. This icon was almost completely destroyed during the Vietnam War, and the ruins and holes left by bombs are a reminder of the destruction caused by the war.
In your free time you might like to visit to Dong Ba Market which offers locally made goods, fresh produce and tantalising street food. This is a good place to try the specialties enjoyed by Emperor Nguyen such as the banh khoai royal rice cake.
Day 12 - Hue
Today’s adventure will be taken on the back of a motorbike. You’ll have your own driver who will take you first on a drive around the Imperial Citadel, then to the Thien My Pagoda, the unofficial symbol of Hue. This site dates back to 1601 and is still an active Buddhist monastery. Here you’ll also see the car left by a monk who set himself alight to protest the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime.
Hop off the motorbike for a bit and go on a dragon boat cruise along the Perfume River. After the 40-minute cruise get back on your motorbike and ride to a special lunch spot at a convent.
After lunch, drive to the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, set amid a lake, frangipani bushes and pine trees. At the end of the day, head back to Hue.
Day 13 - Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Get on a bus this morning on your way to the Vinh Moc Tunnels. These were used during the Vietnam War as shelter for the villagers who were escaping intense bombing. The locals lived in the underground system that went over three levels. You’ll be able to enter the tunnels which remain in their original form.
This afternoon continue on to the a picturesque village outside the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.
Our accommodation here is situated on a farm, with rooms set in bungalows positioned throughout the property. The 'farmstay' was established the help the small town to benefit economically from tourism, while it has also adopted recycling and waste management programs.
Day 14 - Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park / Overnight train
Today visit the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage site contains the oldest known karst mountains in Asia. The area is also known for its enormous cave system. You’ll visit the Thien Duong Cave (Paradise Cave), then take a cruise up the Son River towards the Phong Cave. The scale of the place is truly astounding.
In the late afternoon, travel to Dong Hoi and catch and overnight sleeper train to Hanoi. The journey will take about 10 hours.
Day 15 - Hanoi
Arrive in Hanoi early in the morning and transfer to your hotel. Vietnam’s capital is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, public parks and Frenchy Old Quarter. As an emerging city in Southeast Asian, Hanoi has an attractive contrast of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and a labyrinth of ancient streets.
Later in the day, you’ll visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex, including the One Pillar Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Museum.
In the evening, enjoy a performance of water puppetry, a unique and traditional Vietnamese art form.
Day 16 - Mai Chau
Make your way to the peaceful town of Mai Chau which is situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by verdant mountains and emerald rice paddies. You’ll go for a two or three-hour walk through the minority villages and meet the friendly Hill Tribe people.
You’ll spend the night in a local stilt-house homestay in the village of Poom Coong. Your amiable hosts will cook you a fabulous home-style meal and maybe even serve up some of the regional wine. Tonight you’ll enjoy a traditional dance performed by the local villagers.
Day 17 - Hanoi
Spend another morning exploring and enjoying the country air of Mai Chau, then return to Hanoi. As it’s often a favourite with those who’ve done the trip, you’ll get some more free time in Hanoi. See more of the colonial and Vietnamese architecture, and make the most of the delicious food.
Day 18 - Halong Bay
Drive to Bai Chay Harbour towards the famous world heritage site of Halong Bay. The drive will take around four hours and take you to a secluded harbour and blue-green bay studded with limestone outcrops. The area is full of beaches and natural grottos. You’ll take a boat through the limestone peaks and caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites, and have the chance to go for a swim.
Spend the night on board the boat beneath a sky alive with starlight. The boat has twin-share cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities. There’s also a dining room and bar where you can enjoy the day’s meals.
Day 19 - Hanoi
Take a three-and-a-half hour bus ride back to Hanoi. There are no activities planned for the day except for an optional farewell dinner to mark the end of your trip. Spend a final night in Hanoi before the trip ends tomorrow.
Day 20 - Hanoi
There are no activities planned for the final day and you’re free to leave the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
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