Experience local life during homestays in the Mekong Delta and Da Bac. Get to know the local families, participate in community-based activities and enjoy a homestyle meal with your small group.. Jump on a bike and pedal around charming Hoi An – the best way to see the town and surrounding countryside. Also, the food here? You guessed it: super delicious.. Hue is an historical city with a lot of style. Wander around a citadel-within-a-citadel and dare to gaze upon the Forbidden Purple City – it’s not forbidden just to look, is it?. It’s taken 400 million years for Phong Nha to look this good, so you’d better take advantage. Explore caves, underground rivers and caverns big enough to sail into.
From Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, experience authentic Vietnam on this epic 15-day adventure from south to north. See how the locals live on the Mekong Delta, discover rich history in Hoi An and taste some awesome food in Hue. Drift on the emerald waters around Cat Ba Island by boat and go for a snoop through some of Hanoi’s many markets. This is the make-em-jealous, full-on, once-in-a-lifetime trip up the coast of Vietnam you’ve been waiting for.
Breakfast Included: 3 Lunches Included: 5 Dinner Included: 3
Ho Chi Minh City
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is characterised by a vast array of sights and sounds, and is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. The huge number of people rushing about their daily lives in Vietnam's largest city gives it a dynamic atmosphere and the French influence is evident in the excellent baguettes and coffee on offer. Much of city life takes place on the busy streets lined with shops, stalls and vendors, who have their wares spread out on the footpath and sell everything from soup to sophisticated electronics. After your welcome meeting, why not head into the Ben Thanh night market for a serving of pho or bun with your fellow travellers? It’d be crazy not to.
Today, head down to the Mekong Delta and visit Ben Tre, where the humble coconut is everything and anything. The fertile delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits and flowers as well as boating along the canals. On arrival, board a private boat and cruise along the maze of waterways to visit some cottage industries, where you’ll have the chance to interact with locals of the area. In the evening, head to a guesthouse along the water and enjoy some time to relax.
Mekong Delta - Overnight Train
Rising early to the sounds of the delta coming alive, enjoy a simple breakfast before boarding a boat and catching a bus back to Ho Chi Minh City. Enjoy some free time in Ho Chi Minh City to go check out a few more sites or some tasty street food snacks. Included for today is a local experience with uni students called Ca Phe Bet, which literally translates to ‘coffee on the flat ground’. Enjoy this city ritual of coffee and a snack in one of the many parks. Late this evening, board an overnight train bound for Hoi An – a historical town on the central coast. Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are all part of the experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals.
Arrive in Danang in the early afternoon and travel by minibus to Hoi An (approximately 1 hour). Recently declared a World Heritage-listed site, Hoi An is being beautifully restored and preserved. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago and it retains the feel of centuries past. It's also a shopping mecca, with much to browse and buy. Choose from original paintings, hand-crafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and more. Hoi An has also become famous for its tailoring, with a great variety of tailors and fabrics to choose from. Bring your favourite piece of clothing or even just a picture, and you'll be able to have it copied. Included today is a walking tour of the Old Town, which finishes with a delicious banh mi for lunch. Afterwards, you’re free to explore Hoi An at your own pace.
There's no better way to explore the peaceful countryside of Hoi An than by bike. For a true insight into country living in Vietnam, join your leader in cycling past green rice paddies, over small creeks and through rural villages. Later in the day, you may like to cycle or catch a local bus to Cua Dai Beach near Hoi An centre for an afternoon on the stunning South China Sea. If you would like to see more of the Vietnamese countryside and visit some temples, you could book yourself into a My Son Cham day trip. The best thing is, the afternoon is yours to do as you please.
Departing Hoi An, cross the dramatic Hai Van Pass with a quick stop and photo opportunity before continuing on to Hue (approximately 5 hours including stops). As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past and is a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings. Your afternoon is free to go exploring. The Dong Ba market, which sells everything imaginable, is a great place to spend some time. See the Imperial Citadel, including a visit to the Forbidden Purple City, which was almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive. In the evening, sit back, relax and enjoy a traditional dinner in a local home. These experiences off the beaten track are the ones you’ll remember.
You’ve got the whole day to explore stunning Hue. Head with your group on a street food experience in the morning to pick up a market breakfast and pass by all the local traders. Later on, you may like to take a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River, and a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, considered by many to be the unofficial symbol of Hue. It's an active Buddhist monastery with its origins dating back to 1601. One of the most poignant displays is a car belonging to a former monk who, in 1963, drove to Saigon and set himself alight to protest against the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. Otherwise, you’ll have the opportunity to embark on an optional motorbike tour, riding with a local guide around the sights.
Jump on the bus and make your way to Quang Tri. If you’re keen, it’s just a small fee to visit the Hien Luong Bridge and Vinh Moc tunnels. Hien Luong Bridge separated the North from the South during the war. The tunnels at Vinh Moc are an expansive network of limestone tunnels that locals used as shelters from the bombing. Travel onwards to Phong Nha and spend the afternoon exploring your surroundings. You'll stay just outside Phong Nha Town, which is near Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park: an amazing landscape full of caves and underground rivers.
Phong Nha – Overnight Train
Enjoy a free day to explore Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. At 400 million years old, this World Heritage site is the oldest karst mountain range in Asia. You might like to take a boat through Phong Nha Cave or check out the spectacular Paradise Cave. If caves aren’t your thing, chat with your leader about a kayaking adventure in Suoi Mooc. Otherwise, chill out with a coffee and soak in the river views. Later today you'll head back to Dong Hoi and hop back on a sleeper train (approximately 8 pm to 6 am) – you'll be a pro at this by now.
Arrive in Hanoi very early (approximately 5.30 am) and transfer to your hotel. Then leave your gear in a day room at the hotel. The capital of Vietnam is a charming city with over six million people. Hanoi is known for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, lush public parks and its thriving Old Quarter, which is an architectural museum piece with blocks of ochre buildings retaining the air of a 1930s provincial French town. As Vietnam develops to compete with other South East Asian countries, the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake reflects the contrasts of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and the tangle of ancient streets in its still surface. Take a walking tour of the Old Quarter with uni students accompanying the group. You'll visit the Dong Xuan market, the biggest wholesale market in northern Vietnam, stroll through the ancient '36 streets' where you can discover an amazing selection of shops selling everything from souvenirs to exquisite silk clothing and beautifully embroidered tablecloths. Your leader will point out some of the unique architecture around Hoan Kiem Lake and the myths and legends of the lake, and you’ll have the chance to get a sweet Vietnamese coffee along the way.
Leave Hanoi after breakfast around 8 am and make the drive to Sung village (approximately 4 hours). There are around 70 families living at Sung Village and the majority are Dzao ‘Tien’ people. Farming and forest plantation are their main source of income. Enjoy lunch at your homestay then take an introductory walk around the village. After getting to know the village better, take a short trek (2 kilometres) to the alluring Sung Cave and visit a 100-year-old tea plantation. The trek has some steep and slippery sections so please ensure you have suitable footwear for this activity. After a handicraft workshop, return to your homestay accommodation for a hot shower and dinner.
This morning, have an opportunity to take in more of the Vietnamese highlands on a 10 kilometre (6.2 mi) trek from Sung Village to Da Bia. The first 8 km of the trek is mostly flat ground along well-worn buffalo tracks. The final 2 km gradually inclines and for a period of approximately 300 m there are some steps to climb, however the walk will be a steady relaxed pace. Keep an eye peeled for the monumental stone at the peak of Da Bia Mountain during the hike that takes us through the local villages, meeting people from the ethnic Muong tribe along the way. Stop for lunch at Da Bia before enjoying a scenic 1.5-hour boat cruise on Hoa Binh hydropower reservoir. Arrive at Thung Nai then board a bus transfer to Hanoi (approximately 2 hours). Arrive in Hanoi at around 6 pm. This evening is free for you to explore this delightful city. Why not relax with a bia hoi (freshly brewed draught beer) at one of the microbars in the Old Quarter?