27 September 2016
Vietnam is a country that is blessed with a ravishing coastline, emerald-green mountains, stunning national parks, dynamic cities, outstanding cultural interest and one of the world’s best cuisines . . . and on this week long tour you will taste them all. The American War is a thing of the past, yet its impact endures – you’ll find reminders of that horrific conflict everywhere you travel. But the spirit of the country was never broken and it emerged with its pride intact. Poor in parts but never squalid, Vietnam is developing at an astonishing pace and for travellers today it is a safe, wonderfully rewarding and incredibly varied country to explore.
On arrival in Saigon, you will be met at the airport by one of our tour representatives and taken to your hotel in the city. Time to relax after the journey and possibly go out and do some exploring on your own before an evening meeting with your experienced tour leader and the rest of the group for welcome drinks and a briefing about all you will be doing and seeing over the next week.
Saigon is Vietnam’s commercial capital and a city of extraordinary energy. Despite this, Saigon, as it is still known, is a friendly and welcoming place. Today you will travel to the Cu Chi Tunnels. The tunnels are located in an area known during theVietnam War as the ‘Iron Triangle’ on account of the strength of its communist insurgency. Established as a means of waging guerrilla war against superior French and later American fire power; the tunnel network stretches over 250km (155 miles) and extends to three levels underground, providing a remarkable insight into the method and determination of Communist forces during the Vietnam Wars. After the tunnels we'll transfer back to Saigon for lunch where you may like to try ‘Pho’ (pronounced ‘fur’) the delicious Vietnamese noodle soup. In the afternoon take a tour of the Reunification Palace (formerly the Presidential Palace) and War Remnants Museum. Finish the tour with a walk through the heart of the city see the Notre Dame Cathedral and Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat), walk past the Rex Hotel, Ho Chi Minh Square, and Municipal Theatre.
This morning you travel south from Saigon, to the gateway to the Mekong Delta. Known as the 'rice bowl' of Vietnam, the Delta is the most fertile region in the country and the main producer of rice and tropical fruits. Stop on the way at an unusual Cao Dai pagoda. Then board your boat to begin an exploration of the mighty Mekong River as well as its narrow canals, gaining a real insight into the lives of the people. Visit a coconut processing factory and a local family home to experience their hospitality. After a lunch featuring some local specialities, including Elephant Ear Fish, return to Saigon by late afternoon.
This morning rise early for your transfer to the airport and flight north to Haiphong or Hanoi (arrival airport is subject to flight schedules). Upon arrival, your journey will take you north-east to Halong City, the gateway to Halong Bay. En route watch as the first karst mountains appear in the distance as Halong Bay draws nearer. Halong Bay achieved international fame as a key location in the French film ‘Indochine’ starring Catherine Deneuve. The bay has assumed an important position in Vietnamese legend for many centuries and continues to capture the imagination of visitors. On arrival transfer to the port and board your boat for the cruise out to the Bay, enjoying a fresh seafood lunch on board along the way. Considered Vietnam’s greatest natural wonder, Halong Bay boasts over 3,000 islands that rise out of the sea to provide a spectacular natural environment. You will visit some of the beautiful caves and islets around the bay, then enjoy dinner on board before retiring to bed.
Today you rise early to make the most of Halong Bay’s stunning scenery. After breakfast, visit more of the spectacular islets and beautiful caves that make this area so unique and then head back to Halong City, enjoying a another tasty seafood lunch on the way. Drive back to Hanoi where you start your exploration of the city with a walking tour through the bustling Old Quarter - 36 ancient streets where you can observe the daily bustle of life around the markets where peddlers continue to trade as they have done for centuries. This afternoon includes a fun stop at a local ‘Bia Hoi’ in Hanoi. Available throughout Vietnam but originating from Hanoi, these small roadside cafes are not just about beer but are a social experience for many Hanoians. They offer a great opportunity to interact with the friendly and sometimes boisterous patrons!
Hanoi has been the political and historical centre of Vietnam for over a thousand years and has a wealth of sights to explore. Heavily influenced by French colonial architecture, Hanoi is both historically beautiful and a vibrant capital city sure to entice you. Begin your day by visiting the Ho Chi Minh Quarter, starting at Ba Dinh Square, site of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and where Ho Chi Minh first declared independence from French rule in 1945. Ho Chi Minh is without question one of the great figures of 20th century history and the ‘father of modern Vietnam’. Visit the humble house on stilts from which ‘Uncle Ho’, as he is affectionately known, ruled Vietnam until his death in 1969. You can also view the nearby Presidential Palace, and One Pillar Pagoda. Drive across the city to the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ - Hanoi’s former central prison made famous first for the incarceration of the leaders of Vietnam’s National Liberation movement and later US Air force pilots shot down over North Vietnam. The site of the prison was recently developed, however one wing has been retained as a museum. Finally you will visit Hanoi’s first university - the Temple of Literature - dating back to 1070. This historical centre of learning is now dedicated to Confucian worship. Spend your last night enjoying a group dinner at one of our favourite local restaurants, a chance to farewell new friends.
Today you wonderful taster tour of north and south Vietnam comes to an end. Say goodbye to your fellow travellers at breakfast then perhaps make time for some last minute sightseeing or souvenir shopping before you are picked up and taken to the airport to catch an onward flight or begin your journey home.
Classic fr £873pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated