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A classic panoramic journey through the heart of Vietnam from the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City to the crystal clear waters of beautiful Halong Bay
If you are short on time then this journey takes in the 'must see' gems of fascinating Vietnam. We immerse ourselves in Hanoi's teeming market places before escaping to the tranquil islands and emerald waters of stunning Halong Bay. Heading south by train to the ancient capital of Hue, we explore the Citadel and the Thien Mu monastery on the banks of the Perfume River. Our journey winds its way across the spectacular Hai Van Pass to the world heritage town of Hoi An where we discover the serenity and beauty of this must see port town. Our journey concludes in Ho Chi Minh City with a tour of the city highlights and the impressive Cu Chi Tunnels.
- Explore the wonderful old quarter of Hanoi
- Sail amongst the beauty and limestone karsts of Halong Bay
- Discovering the history and classic pagodas of Hue
- Soak up the ambiance of coastal Hoi An
- Experience the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi
Upon arrival in Hanoi you will be met and transferred to the group hotel. Please look for the WORLD EXPEDITIONS welcome sign in the arrivals hall. The remainder of the day is at leisure to explore Hanoi. There will be a group meeting in the hotel foyer at a time indicated in your final documents. Overnight Hanoi.
Day 2 In Hanoi
This morning we drive to the Ho Chi Minh Complex, containing the mausoleum of the nations' founder Ho Chi Minh. Here, large crowds gather to pay their respects to the man they call ‘Uncle Ho’ as they silently file past his glass sarcophagus. The complex also contains the One Pillar Pagoda, whose origins date back to the founding of the city in the 11th century. The pagoda, supported by a single stone pillar, is said to resemble a lotus blossom. The Presidential Palace and Uncle Ho’s house on stilts can also be seen here. We follow this with a walking tour of Hanoi’s vibrant Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake, the focal point of the city. Legend has it that in the 15th century Emperor Le Thai To vanquished the invading Chinese with the help of a magical sword. Whilst rowing on the lake an enormous turtle seized the sword from his grasp. The Emperor took this to mean that peace had returned and the sword had been given back to its guardian spirit. In honour of the event he renamed the lake ‘Ho Hoan Kiem’ – Lake of the Restored Sword. The Old Quarter, with its bustling streets, is home to hundreds of small thriving businesses, each street denoting its trade, such as Tin Street or Fish Street. We walk around the exciting Don Xuan covered market, the in Hanoi. Here you can buy anything from ‘ghost money' (usually fake $100 bills!) to imitation Rolex watches. In the afternoon we visit the Temple of Literature, the site of Vietnam’s oldest university, dating back to the 11th century. The temple is dedicated to one of the world’s most famous scholars, Confucius. Inside the temple grounds huge stone stele rest on the backs of even larger stone turtles (in Vietnamese culture the turtle represents longevity). The stele recorded the names of the successful candidates who would later go on to become mandarins in the Emperor’s court. From here we visit the impressive Museum of Ethnology, the finest museum in Vietnam. This museum is dedicated to Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minorities, several of which we will see on our forthcoming trek. Overnight Hanoi. NB: Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and his Museum are closed Mondays, Fridays, and from October to November. Ho Chi Minh’s house is also closed Mondays.
Day 3 Transfer to Halong Bay
This morning we transfer 3 hours to commence our Halong Bay cruise. On arrival we will join our traditional 'junk' sailing boat and head out into the Gulf of Tonkin amongst the huge limestone outcrops and emerald waters. We will spend the rest of the day cruising around the myriad of tiny islands and exploring many grottoes created by the wind and the ocean. While on board we'll have a fresh seafood lunch followed by a swim and an exploration of some of the limestone caves in this area. We'll spend the night on board the boat in our cabins.
Day 4 Halong Bay, transfer to Hanoi, overnight train to Hue
This morning we'll continue our cruise in the magnificent Halong Bay. We will reach the pier around noon and then transfer back to Hanoi. We'll arrive into Hanoi in the afternoon and have a couple of free hours to explore the city. We will have a couple of day rooms at the hotel for our group to use, before we board the famous Reunification Express for our southbound train to Hue this evening. The train from Hanoi to Hue is about sixteen-hours. We will be accommodated in sleeper cars with four berths per compartment. A sheet/blanket will be provided as bedding and we suggest that you bring your own sleeping inner sheet or a sarong. Lavatories on the train are basic but functional. Please bring your own toilet paper and toiletries that you may require. You might also wish to bring some snacks on the train.
Day 5 In Hue
In the morning we arrive in Hue, Vietnam’s former capital until 1945. Upon arrival, we’ll be picked up and transferred to our hotel. There are many things to see in this city, regarded by many as the cultural center of Vietnam. The Royal Tombs of the Nguyen Emperors on the outskirts of the city are easily accessible by bicycle. The Nguyen dynasty ruled Vietnam from 1802 until 1945 and several of its most prominent Emperors are buried in the surrounding countryside. One of the most impressive tombs, that of Emperor Minh Mang, is set within a beautiful landscaped garden. It is said that it took 13 years to find an appropriate burial site for the Emperor, and on arrival it’s not hard to see why they eventually chose this location. Set on the banks of the Perfume River and surrounded by beautiful rolling hills it is a tranquil and idyllic place. Also not to be missed is the Citadel, containing the Imperial City and the Forbidden Purple City, the Emperor’s private residence. Both were badly damaged during the Tet Offensive of 1968, when the Communists took the city from the South and held it for 3 weeks. The battlements of the Citadel show marks from the terrible fighting that went on within its walls and are riddled with shrapnel and bullet holes. Now thanks to UNESCO funding, much of it is being faithfully restored to its former glory. The Imperial City, created in the 19th century and modelled on the Forbidden City in Beijing, has many palaces and temples inside. One of the most interesting parts of the City is the ancestral Temple; dedicated to the memory of the former Emperors. Another important site in Hue is the Thien Mu, or Heavenly Lady pagoda. Situated 4 km upstream on the banks of the Perfume River, it is an active Buddhist monastery with its origins dating back to 1601. One of the most poignant displays here is a car belonging to a former monk, Thich Quang Duc, who in 1963, drove to Saigon and set himself alight to protest against the South Vietnamese regime and its treatment of Buddhists. Overnight Hue.
Day 6 Transfer to Hoi An
Today we continue south by road to Hoi An. The scenery enroute is beautiful as we hug the coastline of the South China Sea before winding our way up the spectacular Hai Van pas. Here we stop to admire the stunning views north, to Lang Co beach and south to Danang City. Once in Danang we will stop to visit the Cham Museum. It houses the most complete collection of Cham artefacts anywhere in the world. We continue on to China Beach, where the American GI’s used to have their R&R (Rest and Relaxation!) and the Marble Mountains, whose five peaks represent the five elements of the universe (water, wood, fire, metal and earth). The largest peak, Thuy Son contains a number of caves that have become Buddhist sanctuaries. The journey takes about 5 hours. In the afternoon we will have our first glimpse of Hoi An with a walking tour of the old quarter. Overnight Hoi An.
Day 7 In Hoi An
Hoi An is a charming, small town which can be easily explored on foot. Between the 17th and 19th centuries Hoi An was a thriving international trading port with a large Chinese and Japanese population. More than any other place in Vietnam, Hoi An retains the feeling of centuries past and is a favourite with all travellers. You can spend your time walking around the historic town soaking up the atmosphere, exploring the many Chinese assembly halls and fascinating ancestral homes, some of which have been occupied by the same family for fifteen generations. One of the most spectacular Assembly Halls is the Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall, built in 1690. The pagoda inside contains intricate statues and artwork, in part dedicated to Thien Hau Thanh Mau, the Goddess of the Sea and protector of fishermen. The unofficial emblem of the town is the Japanese Covered Bridge, which is over 400 years old. The town is also famous for its shops in particular it’s large number of tailors. If you wanted, you could have a whole new wardrobe made for you here! The riverside market is always a hive of activity, especially in the early morning when the day’s catch arrives. Overnight Hoi An.
Day 8 At leisure in Hoi An
Today is at leisure to explore this wonderful city and old trading port and visit the tailors for any last minute alterations. You might like to take a boat ride with one of the local women across the Thu Bon River. You could hire a bicycle and head off on a scenic ride to Cua Dai beach, about 4km away, stopping along the way at some of the neighbouring villages. There’s even the chance to improve your culinary skills with a Vietnamese cooking lesson! One thing is for sure - there is no shortage of things to do in this town! You even have the option of taking a day trip to My Son, about 1 1/2 hours away. My Son is another UNESCO world heritage - listed site. Here, in a secluded valley, the Cham built over 70 impressive Hindu-style temples, many over a thousand years old. Overnight Hoi An.
Day 9 Transfer to Danang, fly to Ho Chi Minh City
This morning we transfer early to Danang airport for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon our arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, we transfer to our hotel. This is the largest and busiest city in Vietnam with a population of 6 million people. Much of the daily life takes place on the streets, which are lined with shops, stalls and vendors with their wares spread out on the footpath. Don’t miss the bustling Ben Thanh Market - a fantastic place for bargains of every kind! There are several interesting sights in Saigon. The War Remnants Museum has a wealth of images from the wars, the most moving being a gallery entitled ‘Requiem’, dedicated to Vietnamese and foreign journalists and photographers who perished during the French and American conflicts. The Reunification Palace was the former residence of the President of South Vietnam until April 30th 1975 when the North Vietnamese tanks came crashing through the front gates, bringing the American War to a dramatic end. Close to the Palace some of the best examples of French colonial architecture are represented in the forms of Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office. Notre Dame Cathedral was built between 1877 and 1883 and the stone used to create it was exported in its entirety from France. Next to the cathedral stands the Central Post Office, finished in 1891. It is another fine example of French architecture and is Vietnam’s largest post office. For all its French colonial history, Ho Chi Minh City is by far Vietnam’s most modern city. It has numerous shopping malls, cinemas, discotheques and a bewildering number of bars. Overnight Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 10 Ho Chi Minh City, trip to Chu Chi Tunnels
This morning we have an excursion to the famous Cu Chi tunnels. This network of tunnels, which stretched for over 200km, became legendary during the 1960’s. The Cu Chi tunnels played a vital part in the American war as they allowed the Viet Cong to control a large rural area only 30 to 40km from Saigon. At its height the tunnel system stretched from Saigon to the Cambodian border. The network, parts of which were several levels deep, included innumerable trap doors, specially constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapons factories, field hospitals, command centres and kitchens. Today the remaining tunnels have become a major tourist attraction giving the visitor a unique experience and feel of what underground life in the American War must have been like. The tunnels have been widened for our benefit (otherwise we would not be able to enter them!). Overnight Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 11 In Ho Chi Minh city, trip concludes
Your trip concludes this morning with a transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
- 10 breakfasts, 1 lunch and 1 dinner
- Airport transfers on Day 1 & Day 11
- Comfortable well located hotels on a twin share basis
- Expert bilingual guide
- Medical kit
- Sightseeing and entry fees as listed in itinerary
- Private AC vehicles for group transportation
- Boat trip in Halong Bay
- Comfortable train travel in 4 berth sleeper carriage from Hanoi/Hue
- Internal flight Danang/Ho Chi Minh City (valued at US$85)
- 11 day trip
- 8 nights hotel
- 1 night train
- 1 night traditional boat
Trip Main Activities
- Adventure Touring
- Day Walking
Group Size Min
Group Size Max
There is no specialized equipment required for this trip. A comprehensive list of recommended gear will be provided on booking.
What You Carry
You will need to be able to carry your own luggage for 5-10 minutes at a time on and off transport and to and from hotels.