Experience the highlights and traditions of this colourful country in this short but comprehensive trip. Visit the cities of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Hanoi to uncover the vibrant mix of influences, from the French to Asian traders, settlers and indigenous peoples, that make this a unique pocket of Asia. Sail down the Thu Bon River and watch the sunset over Hanoi, a city rich in ancient and recent history. Take an overnight cruise on Halong Bay and discover this place of famed beauty while enjoying a candle-lit dinner on deck
Spend a week in Vietnam discovering the highlights and traditions of this colourful country. This short adventure enables us to sample the Old World charm in this pocket of Asia that was part of the former French Indochina. But equally as evocative are the oriental influences that stem from a historic mix of Asian traders, settlers and indigenous people that have made this part of the world a cornerstone for empires and colonies. By visiting cities like Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Hanoi, we uncover that vibrant mix of the various major influences. By stopping in Hoi An and Halong Bay, we discover places of eternal beauty that have also played their part in Vietnam’s history.
It’s not hard to see why Vietnam is such a popular travel destination. This quick trip travels from exciting, full-on Ho Chi Minh City to the historical treasure-trove of Hoi An, then on to enchanting Hanoi and the thrilling natural wonders of Halong Bay. In between, there is still much to discover – this trip distils the country’s finest moments, with plenty of time for hidden treats and quiet surprises.
Breakfast Included: 7 Lunches Included: 2 Lunches Included: 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Welcome to Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. There will be a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1 where insurance details and next of kin information will be collected. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Until this meeting we encourage you to head out and get your first taste of what Ho Chi Minh City has to offer.
Ho Chi Minh City
This morning you will head out of the city to the nearby Cu Chi Tunnels. Cu Chi is the name of the district that covers the extensive network (approximately 200 kilometres) of underground tunnels dug by the Viet Minh and later expanded by the Viet Cong. The tunnels contained hospitals, accommodation and schools, and were used for refuge, storage and as a military base for the Viet Cong close to Ho Chi Minh City. A section of the tunnels has been widened to allow visitors to enter and get a feel for what the life underground must have been like (please note that this will be hot and sweaty, and claustrophobic for some). You will then return to Ho Chi Minh City for an afternoon tour of the city, where daily life plays out on the streets and the dynamic atmosphere is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. Your leader will take you to the Reunification Palace, formally the Presidential Palace and the site of South Vietnam’s surrender in 1975, before visiting the War Remnants Museum. This illuminating museum features equipment and vehicles from the Vietnam War, and here you can gain a deeper understanding of the how the Vietnamese view the war. The rest of the evening is free - perhaps explore the food stalls at Cho Ben Thanh market.
This morning you will leave Ho Chi Minh City and fly (approximately 1 hour) north to Danang. You will have the chance to enjoy some spectacular scenery on the drive (approximately 1 hour) including the sensational Marble Mountains. The five peaks, limestone with marble outcrops, are seen to epitomise the five elements: fire, water, earth, wood and metal. The history of the mountains is rich - the Champas once used them for religious purposes, and in more recent times they were a haven for the Viet Cong. You will arrive in Hoi An in the afternoon, when you can settle in for your two-night stay in this atmospheric old town.
This morning you will take a tour of the unique town of Hoi An, influenced over the years by myriad traders from various cultures. Originally a busy Cham Port, the town also has Chinese influences scattered about, with pagodas and assembly halls found down the streets. For a small town it has a liveliness alongside its charm and serenity. The tour will take you down the streets of low tiled buildings, taking in a historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy more of delightful Hoi An and the surrounding area. Perhaps browse the market for silk and other materials that can be tailored into fine garments on the same day, or hire a bicycle and ride along the lanes and out to a nice nearby beach. Later this afternoon, take a boat trip out on the Thu Bon River. There are few better ways to soak up the atmosphere of this wonderful town than with sunset drinks as you float down river.
Today you will transfer (approximately 45 minutes) to the airport for a morning flight (approximately 1 hour) to the capital Hanoi. After arrival and a brief stop at the hotel you will take a guided half-day tour of the city. Enchanting Hanoi stands in contrast to its southern counterpart, relaxed rather than frantic, full of lakes and parks to escape to and best explored by foot or bicycle. The tour will take in the major sites, including the Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda, and the former residence of Vietnam’s most famous revolutionary, Ho Chi Minh. The tour will also include lunch at the KOTO café, an amazing project aimed at providing vocational training and experience in the hospitality industry for underprivileged young people. In the evening there is an option to enjoy a performance of the unique Water Puppets.
Today you will leave Hanoi and drive north (approximately 4 hours) to the famous Halong Bay. You can leave your luggage behind at the Hanoi hotel and pack an overnight bag for staying on the boat. Halong Bay is listed as a World Heritage site and is one of Vietnam’s most spectacular natural wonders. The views of sailing junks navigating past thousands of limestone islands with rocky outcrops are nothing short of spectacular. You will travel to Bai Chay (Halong City West) where you will board a boat for an exploration of the bay, enjoying a seafood lunch and dinner (non-seafood also available), as well as spending a night on board. We visit a cave in the area and, in the warmer months, you can enjoy a swim from Ti Top Island Beach. A night on the boat under the stars is very special, but another highlight of this evening is a delicious candlelit dinner out on deck (weather permitting). This is the perfect way to enjoy the beautiful surroundings, dining on a seafood feast
After breakfast at Halong Bay, return by bus to Hanoi (approximately 3.5 hours). This afternoon you will enjoy a unique Peregrine experience when you sit down to a water-puppet performance hosted by a local family. Artist Phan Thanh Liem’s father and grandfather were important figures in this Vietnamese folk art, and the tradition of water puppet performance goes back six generations in the family. Liem was the first person to create a mobile puppetry stage, enabling him to take his art to a wider audience. You will visit his home, which is like a small-scale theatre and also a museum on the history of puppetry and the background of the artists. There’s also a workshop that shows how the puppets are made. You’ll have the chance to talk with Liem all about this traditional art, its history and development. Later, why not stop for a bia hoi (freshly brewed draught beer) at one of the microbars in the Old Quarter, relax at a café or explore the wealth of street food options.
Your Vietnamese adventure will come to an end after breakfast this morning. A transfer to the airport is not included; however, your tour leader will be on hand to advise you as to the options available.