A cyclo tour of Hanoi is an excellent introduction to bustling inner-city Vietnam, and the novelty of travelling on these three-wheeled wonders is a thrill for all ages. There’s a great mix of included activities and free time, which is perfect in atmospheric destinations like Hoi An, with the beach just a short bike ride away. Halong Bay is more than an amazing and unique natural wonder – it’s a proper escape from the world around you. Sleep under the stars on a comfortable cruise boat and enjoy a sumptuous lunch and dinner on board. By dining at KOTO in Hanoi, you’ll not only feast on delicious northern specialties, you’ll be supporting an excellent cause that helps connect street kids with careers in hospitality
With its friendly locals, delicious food and incredible scenery, Vietnam is a great place for a family adventure. Stroll the winding streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, laugh yourself silly at the water puppet theatre at Hoan Kiem and see ancient temples and pagodas alongside modern houses from a cyclo. Barter with stallholders at a floating market, explore the Forbidden Purple City and eat all the pho you can handle. Give your family a bank of memories to last a lifetime on this 13-day adventure combining history, geography and food – so really, it’s just like school – only much better!
Breakfast Included: 11 Lunches Included: 5 Lunches Included: 4
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. You will be transferred from the airport to your hotel, and your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Afterwards, enjoy a welcome dinner with your fellow travellers. Hanoi is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks and thriving Old Quarter. The latter is a veritable architectural museum piece that feels like a 1930s provincial French town – a great place to explore today if you have time.
Embark on a full-day tour of the city. You will visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum, and the tranquil Temple of Literature – an oasis of calm in the heart of town. Also head to the Museum of Ethnology to learn more about the diverse heritage of Vietnam. Enjoy some lunch at the KOTO restaurant, an excellent establishment and longtime friend of Intrepid which lives by the philosophy of 'know one, teach one'. It supports the underprivileged local youth by giving them a chance at making a career in hospitality. In the evening, sit down to a traditional water puppet performance. This northern tradition, dating back nearly a thousand years, is performed alongside traditional Vietnamese music that employs drums, wooden bells, horns and bamboo flutes.
Travel by minibus to the spectacular World Heritage-listed site of Halong Bay (approximately 4 hours). The bay is a breathtaking secluded harbour with some 2,000 limestone islands jutting out of the waters of the Bac Bo Gulf. Board your private boat and cruise among the dramatic limestone peaks. There's an opportunity to swim in the famous Vietnam East Sea and explore caves filled with stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Spend a peaceful night on board, beneath a sky alive with stars. Your sailing junk has twin-share cabins, air-conditioning and private facilities. There's also a dining room and bar.
Notes: Due to recent, unforeseen changes by local authorities, many boats are no longer permitted to stay overnight on the bay. This has resulted in a boat shortage. To ensure Intrepid travellers are all accommodated, a larger boat, usually with 12 cabins, may be used, and passengers may be split across multiple boats. An Intrepid group leader will be present on each boat, and the route and onboard inclusions will remain the same.
Return to Hanoi by bus (approximately 3.5 hours). From there you will board an overnight train bound for Hue. Although conditions are basic on your train journey, it's a classic South East Asian experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. Lie back and enjoy the ride! Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but it's a great idea to stock up on fresh bread, cheese and fruit before you head off.
Notes: Sleeper trains typically have four-berth compartments (occasionally they're six-berth, depending on seasonal variations) which have bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. On occasion, passengers of different genders will be required to share a compartment and there will be occasions where you'll be sharing with local travellers or travellers who are not part of your group.
As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past. It's a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings. As well as the Imperial Citadel, you will visit the Forbidden Purple City, which was almost totally destroyed during the American War's Tet Offensive. The gaping holes left by bombs give an idea of the destruction wreaked upon the country during the war. Thankfully the foliage-covered ruins are still atmospheric in places. You will also make a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, considered by many to be the unofficial symbol of Hue. It has been an active Buddhist monastery since 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.
Enjoy a dragon boat cruise along the Perfume River. You will visit one of the royal tombs, that of Emperor Tu Duc, and see the central lake which is set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees. There is also the chance to visit the tomb of Minh Mang – perhaps the most majestic of all the royal tombs. Its lush forest backdrop and impressive architecture make it a delight to explore. While you're here, take the opportunity to learn a little more about this figure who opposed the French involvement in Vietnam and was a strict orthodox Confucianist.
Travelling by bus (approximately 4 hours), head south through coastal rice paddies before traversing the spectacular Hai Van Pass. You'll be treated to some stunning mountain scenery en route. After a brief visit to the beautiful China Beach, arrive at Hoi An. Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An and its delicate beauty is being 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 it look exactly as they did more than a century ago; it's the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it.
In the morning, visit CHIA (Children's Hope in Action Centre) to learn more about its cause and perhaps interact with the local kids. This is a community-based project supported by the Intrepid Foundation. For lunch you will sit down to a picnic on the beach, which is quite close to town. In the afternoon, enjoy some free time to explore. You're sure to be impressed by the Japanese Covered Bridge which, after many additional layers and changes over the years, retains its beautiful original aesthetic. It's built very sturdily, to protect it from earthquakes.
The rest of your time is left free to relax in this beautiful area. You could take a taxi or make the easy five-kilometre bicycle ride through the rice paddies and shrimp ponds to Cua Dai beach. Alternatively, Hoi An is one of the best places to shop for souvenirs, especially if you’re looking for t-shirts, paintings or ceramics. For those interested in getting clothes tailored, this is definitely the place to shop. You might also like to speak to your leader about arranging a cooking lesson and learn about the many layers of fresh herbs and flavours that can be found in Vietnam's fresh and tasty cuisine.
Ho Chi Minh City
Take a short flight to Ho Chi Minh City (approximately 1 hour). Formerly known as Saigon, this bustling metropolis is characterised by a vast array of sights and sounds, a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. Check out Ben Thanh Market and feast on a delicious lunch of local street food, and take an orientation walk. Afterwards, you're free to explore the city as you please. Your leader will have plenty of interesting ideas for you and you family. Consider scooting off on cyclos to Cholon, the Chinatown area of Ho Chi Minh City, for a bit of temple-hopping. Or visit the Vietnamese version of a department store for some serious shopping.
Head down to the Mekong Delta and visit unexplored Ben Tre where coconut is everything and anything. The journey to Ben Tre is south, by private bus (approximately 2.5 hours). The fertile delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits and flowers. On arrival, board your private boat and cruise along the maze of waterways to visit some local cottage industries. This is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a different part of the local economy. Then head to your overnight homestay by the water. Be invited into a family home for a true local experience – a chance to see daily life from the inside. You'll be sleeping on simple camp beds in dorm-style rooms, with all meals included. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided.
Ho Chi Minh City
Rise early, as the locals do here on the delta. Enjoy a leisurely morning before heading back to Ho Chi Minh City on the bus. On arrival, you'll have free time to further explore the city at your own pace. This is an opportunity to do anything you might have missed the first time around. District 1 is a great place to walk around with the family. If you've fallen in love with Vietnamese food, sample some of the culinary delights you haven't got around to yet – perhaps some grilled cuttlefish or, for the adventurous, street-barbequed sea snails.