The Flavors of Vietnam
This itinerary of 12 days in Vietnam definitely knows a way to play with the palette of contrasting colors, balancing the vibrant cachet of the country’s budding cosmopolitans with the soft hues of its charming backwaters.
Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). Be welcomed by our guide at the airport then transfer to your hotel (check-ins possible from 2 pm).
Visit the hallmarks of the city which used to be called “The Gem of Far East”
– Cathedral of Notre Dame: Built by the French in 1880, the first basilica of Vietnam;
– Central Post Office: A mix of Gothic, Renaissance and French architecture;
– Former Catinat Street (now Dong Khoi Street) with a score of restored French buildings;
– Ben Thanh Market: The representative image of Hochiminh City.
Overnight at hotel in Hochiminh City.
Take a drive to the Mekong Delta, an amphibious landscape to the south of the country.
Arrive in Ben Tre, a small province located in the northern branches of the Mekong for a day of exploration:
– Boat rides through the intricate web of creeks to observe the water-borne daily life of the delta inhabitant;
– Walks, bicycle or xe lôi rides to discover rice fields and coconut plantations
– Witness firsthand the manufacture of coconut confectionery – a well-loved specialty of Ben Tre;
In the afternoon, transfer to Vinh Long’s An Binh Island (Cù lao An Bình) in the middle of Mekong River. Greet your host family in whose house you will participate preparation of your dinner.
Overnight at homestay.
Depart early for Can Tho, the capital of the delta, located on the right bank of Mekong River’s southern branch.
A few highlights of this day include:
– A boat ride on Mekong River;
– A visit to Cai Rang Floating Market where traders load their boats with fruits, vegetables and even hot dishes;
– A trip to the land market An Binh located which is adjacent to Cai Rang.
In the afternoon, return to Hochiminh City for flight to Danang City, the transport hub of the central Vietnam. Be welcomed by our driver who will take you to Hoi An (30 km from Danang).
Overnight at hotel in Hoi An.
A day dedicated to leisurely walk along the charming ancient streets of Hoi An. Explore well-known sites of “the most lovely town of Vietnam”:
– Fujian Shrine – dedicated to reverence of the legendary protective goddess of fishermen and sailors;
– Chuc Thanh Pagoda – the oldest in Hoi An which is said to be built in 1454;
– Japanese Bridge – built over the Thu Bon River by Japanese merchants in 1593;
– Hundred-year-old alleys, museums and wooden houses – exhibits rare antiques and artifacts;
A stroll out of the town center brings some pleasant refreshment:
– Beautiful nearby beaches (Cửa Đại and An Bang) – perfect for relaxation;
– Traditional villages in the suburban whose products (vegetables, pottery, carpentry) are well-known nationwide.
Overnight at hotel in Hoi An.
Depart for Hue – the last royal citadel located 150km north of Hoi An. Enjoy the drive along the eastern coast with several stops at photogenic sights:
– Hai Van Pass – the highest pass of the central Vietnam. Visits to Lang Co Beach and Lap An Lagoon at the foot of the pass;
– Marble Mountain – the mountains of the five Taoist elements (water, wood, iron, earth and fire) in Danang.
-The cemetery of An Bang – also named “the city of ghosts” – with sets of luxuriously carved mausoleums.
Arrive in Hue in the afternoon. Overnight at hotel in Hue.
A day dedicated to explore Hue – the last imperial capital of Vietnam between 1802 and 1945:
– Imperial City – the residence and workplace of 13 Nguyen kings for 143 years;
– Mausoleum of Emperor Gia Long – the founder of Nguyen Dynasty or of Ming Mang Emperor who was famous for fathering 142 royal offspring with his 43 concubines.
– Phu Mong village with garden houses;
– Thien Mu Pagoda – the most beautiful and most visited pagoda in Hue or Tu Hieu Pagoda – the burial site of Nguyen Dynasty’s eunuchs;
– Dong Ba Market – the largest and oldest market of Hue.
Overnight at hotel in Hue.
Transfer to Danang International Airport for morning flight to Hanoi. Upon arrival, be welcomed by our local guide and embark on the tour around the Old Quarter which is under the confluence of ancient and modern life:
– Old-styled meandering streets named after traded commodities: Silver Street, Paper Street, Wood Street etc.;
– Charming colonial buildings: Hanoi Opera House, Metropole Hotel and St. Joseph’s Cathedral;
– Myriad Buddhist temples and pagodas;
– Sword Lake where, according to legend, Emperor Le Loi returned his sword to the perennial turtle after driving out the invaders from China in the 15th century.
Overnight at hotel in Hanoi.
Discover Hanoi’s most remarkable cultural and historical monuments:
– The recently excavated Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, the first political stronghold of the millennial capital;
– Temple of Literature – the first university of Vietnam and one of the emblems of Hanoi;
– Ba Dinh Palace, the complex of former Indochina Governor Palace which is close to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and his stilt house;
– Vietnam Museum of Ethology – the collection of 25,000 ancient and contemporary ethnic objects from all corners of Vietnam;
– Water puppet shows – a UNESCO Intangible Heritage.
Overnight at hotel in Hanoi.
In the morning, drive to Mai Chau – home to Thai and Muong ethnics, green tea plantations and rice fields.
– A stop at Giang Mo Village whose residential Muong ethnics are known by their stilt houses and slash-and-burn agriculture practice;
– A hilltop view of Thai villages in Mai Chau Valley:
– A walk or a bike ride through rice paddies and Thai villages to observe their custom;
– A taste of flavorful food with ruou can – local wine made from fermented sticky rice.
Overnight at an ethnic stilt house.
Depart for Ninh Binh – a land of limestone formations, sugarcane plantations and rice paddies.
– Boat ride in Trang An, an aquatic complex of more than 30 lakes surrounded by numerous vegetation-clad limestone pitons;
– An afternoon bike tour through villages and sugarcane farms among a serene rural settings.
Overnight at hotel in Ninh Binh.
Depart in the morning for Halong, a one-of-the-kind limestone landscape in Asia. Located 180 km east of Hanoi, Halong is a dreamy seascape spanning an area of 1500 km². Board a cruise to explore the bay:
– Admire the myriad various shapes of thousand islets;
– Relax on the upper deck of the junk or swimming, diving and kayaking in the bay;
– Enjoy seafood-based lunch and dinner on board;
– Indulge with the variety of entertainment: card games or night fishing.
Overnight on board.
Greet the morning as the first ray shines through thousands karst of the bay.
– Visit splendid caves of Halong Bay including the French-baptized “Surprise Cave”;
– Study stalagmites and stalactites which date back thousands of years ago;
– Resume the cruise trip to explore some hidden corners;
– Have buffet lunch board.
Return to Hanoi at the end of the afternoon then transfer to the airport for your departure flight.