Vietnam Explorer – 20 Day

Southeast Asia > Vietnam

Vietnam is a country located in Southeast Asia. It has a long coastline along the South China Sea.

 

It is bordered by China, Laos and Cambodia. Vietnam shares maritime borders with Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. Vietnam is approximately 331,210 square kilometers (128,565 square miles) large.

The capital city of Vietnam is Hanoi. The population of Vietnam is over 97 million people. It is one of the more densely populated countries in Southeast Asia. When packing for Vietnam it is helpful to bring durable, waterproof, comfortable shoes. There is no need to pack an abundance of clothes, as clothing is relatively inexpensive in Vietnam, so purchasing extra clothing items upon arrival is easy. The Vietnamese dress conservatively in Vietnam, and visitors should do the same.

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Day 1: ARRIVE IN HANOI

Upon arrival, you will be welcomed and transferred to your hotel near the Old Quarters, about 45min drive from the airport. Rest of the day is free to rest up from your long flight.

Overnight at Silk Path Boutique Hotel Hanoi (Breakfast)

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Day 2: MORNING FOODIE OLD QUARTERS WALKING TOUR & AFTERNOON HANOI CITY HIGHLIGHTS

Morning Foodie Old Quarters Walking Tour meet your guide for a foodie walking tour around the Old Quarters filled with local shops, residential areas and interesting local food vendors operating along foot pavements. Explore narrow alleys and see how multiple families share limited residential space in this historic area. Walk along railway tracks running through a residential area and see typical local life. During your walk, you will stop at street side vendors and small local eateries to sample some iconic local dishes including Chao Ga (chicken congee), Banh Cuon (streamed rice rolls filled with minced pork), Cha Gio (deep-fried spring rolls) and Bun Cha (grilled pork with rice vermicelli). You will also visit Giang Café, a famous café inside an hidden alley to enjoy a steaming cup of “Egg Coffee”. Hanoi City Tour afternoon, visit the French Quarter and discover why this city is called the “Paris of the East”. Other iconic sights include Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Presidential Palace and the famed Temple of Literature. In the evening, you can explore on your own the weekend night market around the Old Quarters. Streets around Hoan Kim Lake and near the market are closed to traffic in the evenings from Fridays to Sundays, a pleasant way to stroll among locals enjoying the weekend night out, see children playing on the streets, local youth dancing to pop music or skateboarders showing off their skills.

Overnight at Silk Path Boutique Hotel Hanoi (Breakfast)

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Day 3: FULL DAY TRIP TO NINH BINH VILLAGE AND CAVES

After breakfast, drive about 2 to 2.5 hours to the picturesque province of Ninh Binh. Known locally as the “dry Halong Bay”, this charming area is surrounding by low mountains and traditional villages. Upon arrival, you will take an easy bicycle ride around paddy fields to Dong Tam Village. Discover the lifestyle, hospitality and friendliness of the Northern people when you prepare lunch with a local family. After lunch, take a 2.5h boat ride on small row boat along the river through But Cave complex.

Explore the dry cave and other water caves. After the tour, transfer back to your hotel in Hanoi late afternoon.

Overnight at Silk Path Boutique Hotel Hanoi (Breakfast, Lunch)

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Day 4: HALONG BAY CRUISE

Meet your guide at your hotel for the transfer to boat pier for your boat cruise, it takes about 2 to 2.5 hours to drive from Hanoi. Boarding time for the cruise is 12noon, you will be transferred by tender to board the luxury Orchid Cruise. The boat proceeds to Da Chong islet, where you can see a lighthouse built by the French over 100 years ago. Have lunch while admiring amazing limestone karst formations rise up out of the sea. Afternoon, continue the boat cruises to Ba Trai Dao Beach at Lan Ha Bay, a quiet region within Halong known for its pristine beaches and dotted with over 400 islands. You can enjoy some swimming or kayaking in emerald green water. Return to your boat to join a traditional cooking class in the making of some Vietnamese dishes or enjoy Happy Hour drink deals before having a sumptuous dinner. At night, you can try night squid fishing or watch a movie in the restaurant.

Overnight on Orchid Cruise (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

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Day 5: HALONG BAY CRUISE

Early birds can enjoy the splendid beauty of Halong Bay at sunrise and participate in Tai Chi lesson. After breakfast, you will move to a smaller day boat which will take you to visit Viet Hai fishing Village and explore daily life. You will cycle along village paths, through rain forests and a dark tunnel. Enjoy stunning scenery of rice fields on the way. Stop at the village to visit an ancient local house made from straw and mud, see typical rural local life. Back to your day boat and cruise to Bai Tu Long Bay where you can enjoy more swimming, some kayaking or relaxing on the beach if weather permits. Return to main cruise boat at about 4pm to relax and enjoy the stunning views before dinner.

Overnight on Orchid Cruise (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

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Day 6: WATER PUPPET VILLAGE & FLY TO HUE

After breakfast, you will head out in canoes to explore the bay area where Toi Sang Cave is located. At about 9:30am, get back to your boat for check-out followed by a delightful brunch and a traditional Vietnamese tea ceremony with the boat crew. At about 11:35am, arrive at the port where your guide will be waiting for you. Along the drive back to Hanoi, stop a local village known as the birthplace of water puppetry in the Red River Delta. This is a unique traditional art that originates from Northern Vietnam. You will watch an authentic outdoor water puppet performance while sampling some local delicacies. You’ll get to bring home a wooden puppet as a souvenir. Then continue to Hanoi Airport for a flight to Hue. Upon arrival, you will be welcomed and transferred to hotel on arrival.

Overnight at Scarlett Boutique Hotel Hue (Breakfast)

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Day 7: MORNING HUE CITY TOUR & EVENING BEN XUAN DINNER

This morning, take a cyclo ride from your hotel over the famous Trang Tien Bridge and past the Dong Ba Market. The cyclo will take you around the ancient citadel of Hue, through local streets and shops for an overview of daily life. Stop at the Noon Gate of the Imperial Citadel for the walking tour to the inner area of the citadel where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945, including the Flag Tower, Noon Gate, Nine Dynastic Urns, Nine Holy Cannons, Thai Hoa Palace, and the Forbidden Purple City. In the afternoon, visit the poetic mausoleum of Emperor Tu Duc and the beautiful Thien Mu Pagoda with a sunset boat ride on Perfume River back to the city. This evening, visit Ben Xuan, a local house with wonderful features of traditional Vietnamese architecture situated at a serene place on the northern banks of the Perfume River. Built with consideration and love, the nostalgic owners constructed the unique property using reclaimed housing materials over 100 years old sourced from around Hue to reflect the history and culture of the former Imperial City. After a warm welcome, you will get to see some of the well-preserved wooden buildings around the tropical garden. Then enjoy a home-made meal prepared by the hospitable owner who is a descendant of the second king of the Nguyen Dynasty and a former Swiss banker!

Overnight at Scarlett Boutique Hotel Hue (Breakfast, Dinner)

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Day 8: VIETNAMESE DIM SUM COOKING CLASS & AFTERNOON DRIVE TO HOI AN

Your day starts with a visit to the Me Tu house where "banh chung" is made. The host will explain and help you to make some of these traditional delicacies. After finishing, your guide will take you to the Ba Do house to learn how to make more types of savory cakes such as "banh beo", "banh nam", and "banh bot loc". You will stay for lunch, which will include the dishes you have just made, as well as other traditional Vietnamese savory cakes. Depart afternoon for Hoi An Via Danang over Hai Van Pass, a scenic 3 hour drive. You can make an optional visit at Champa Museum built in 1915, it houses 297 stone and terracotta sculptural works made between the 7th and the 15th centuries from Kingdom of Champa. Stop by My Khe Beach before continuing to Hoi An, about 30min drive from Danang. Arrive Hoi An late afternoon and rest of the evening is free to explore the night markets on your own.

Overnight at Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel (Breakfast, Lunch)

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Day 9: HOI AN HALF DAY OLD TOWN WALKING TOUR & HERB FARM LUNCH

Meet your guide this morning for a walking tour of the old town of Hoi An, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Highlights include an ancient merchant house, the Phuc Kien Assembly Hall, the 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge and the vibrant riverside market. Visit one of Hoi An’s famous lantern workshops and learn how make a lantern. Continue to Tra Que Herb Farm for a delicious local lunch and see a large variety of fresh herbs used popularly in Vietnamese cuisine. Rest of the day is free to relax or explore on your own. You can rent a bike to explore the surround areas and beach or visit a local tailor. This town is famous for custom tailor made clothing at very reasonable prices!

Overnight at Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel (Breakfast, Lunch)

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Day 10: HALF DAY KIM BONG ARTISAN VILLAGE CYCLING TRIP

This morning, enjoy an easy cycling trip around Kim Bong Village. The carpenters' village of Kim Bong is situated on the other side of the Thu Bon River where carpenters use traditional methods to create a variety of wooden statues, furniture and tools. Explore the village and surrounding area on bicycles, weaving our way through small hamlets. See a number of traditional handicrafts including coracle boat makers, mat weavers and some ancestral temples, dating back several hundred years. Visit Thanh Ha pottery village before returning to Hoi An. Rest of the day is free to relax or explore on your own.

Overnight at Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel (Breakfast)

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Day 11: FLY TO SAIGON - AFTERNOON CITY TOUR

Meet your guide after breakfast and transfer to Danang Airport, about 30min drive from Hoi An. Upon arrival, you will be welcomed and transferred to your hotel. In the afternoon, visit the Reunification Palace - the former Presidential Palace of the Southern Vietnamese Government before 1975. Proceed for photo opportunities at some of the most iconic colonial buildings in the city, including the Central Post Office, City Hall and Opera House. Head up to the observation deck at the new Bitexco Financial building for a bird's eye view of Saigon at 627 feet high. Then head to a shop to enjoy a rose shaped ice cream with exotic flavors, the latest trend in Asia! If you like, proceed to the historic Ben Thanh Market to shop for souvenirs, but we will include this stop on your last day in Saigon too. Transfer back to your hotel after the tour or take a 15min walk back to your hotel.

Overnight at Liberty Central Saigon Riverside Hotel (Breakfast)

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Day 12: CUCHI TUNNELS & EVENING VESPA FOODIE TOUR

This morning meet your guide and drive about 1.5 hours to the famous Cu Chi tunnel, an important base during the American War. The Vietcong built a 200 kilometer network of tunnels connecting command posts, hospitals, and shelter and weapon factories. Dug out of hard laterite by hand tools without the use of cement, this amazing network was never discovered. Meet UPI Photojournalist opportunity permits (known only one week prior to arrival), visit a private museum of war photography by Mr. Hoang Van Cuong, a former United Press International photojournalist during the war. Most American journalists departed with the US Embassy staff when North Vietnamese troops took over Saigon on April 30, 1975. Mr. Cuong was one of the few journalists who stayed behind and documented this momentous period with his photos. Listen to his encounters with combat troops and imprisonment in a re-education camp for seven years. (Mr. Cuong’s schedule is only known one week prior to arrival as he is often involved in governmental engagements. If he’s not available, you can visit the War remnants Museum.)
Later this evening you will do a fascinating 4-hour night tour of Saigon riding at the back of a Vespa motorbike. You will be picked up from your hotel and start your Vespa night trip by mingling in the crowd of locals going home after work. Take in the scene of complex traffic while riding through different districts of old Saigon. Stop by some street food restaurants to try Vietnamese seafood and crepes, as well as discover the diversity between the local Cafés with Vietnamese music and popular bars with the oldies, jazz or rock. Your driver guide will take you back to hotel after an exhilarating evening.

Overnight at Liberty Central Saigon Riverside Hotel (Breakfast, Dinner)

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Day 13: PRIVATE MEKONG DELTA CRUISE

Meet your guide this morning for the drive about 1.5hours to Ben Tre, a small provincial town in the Mekong Delta region. Upon arrival, you will board your Mango cruise boat at Ba Dung pier. Enjoy your welcome drink and peaceful scenery while crew members board your luggage. The cruise will take you to Phong Nam village in Giong Trom, where you will take a cycling trip through the Village to explore more of the local daily life. Stop at a local factory to sample a local coconut liqueur, mildly fermented from tapping young coconut flowers. Then take a short bike ride to a local home to taste tropical fruits and chat with the farmer. Continue to take a rowing sampan boat through the small canals covered green by the water coconut palms. Enjoy your freshly cooked lunch served on board. After lunch, your boat will bring you to My Long village where you will meet, Mr Sau Tuong, a former Vietcong soldier who survived two years fighting the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh. He and his wife has a small rice paper workshop, the most famous specialty of My Long village. Have a chat with him and enjoy the crispy rice paper made by his wife. Return to the boat and continue cruising to Mo Cay canals. Stop at a coconut processing workshop where you can see how the locals utilize every bit of the coconut. Continue cruising to Vung Liem Canal where your sampan will dock for an overnight. Relax and freshen up for your cooking demonstration and dinner on board.

Overnight on Mekong Delta Cruise (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

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Day 14: PRIVATE MEKONG DELTA CRUISE

In the morning, breakfast will be served on board and you will start with a visit to a brick factory to see traditional methods, mostly by hand. Continue with a bike ride through green paddies, garden settings and local villages to explore the untouched beauty of this region. Head to the town of Vung Liem, visit the Cao Dai Temple in one of the most popular local religions, which is a combination of Taoism, Buddhism and Confusism. The boat will then cruise to Tra On on the Mang Thit river, on the way you will stop at Cai Nhum village where you will have a walk or bike ride through local villages, observing the local culture and interact with the local people. Get back to your boat and continue cruising to Can Tho. While on board, freshen up, and then head to the deck to observe the sun set while dinner is being prepared.

Overnight on Mekong Delta Cruise (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

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Day 15: CAI RANG FLOATING MARKET - FLY TO CON DAO ISLAND

Rise early in the morning for breakfast. Freshen up for the early boat trip to the spectacular Cai Rang floating market, where you will transfer to a smaller boat and mingle amongst the thousands of trading vessels. Feel free to buy yourself fruits or drinks from the local boats. After your market visit, return to your Mango Cruise, and soak in your surroundings. Time to check out and you will be dropped off at Ninh Kieu quay in Can Tho where your guide will be waiting. Depending on time schedule, you can discuss with your guide for lunch options by the riverside and visit Binh Thuy ancient house, a charming old residence featured in the film set of the movie “The Lover”. Then transfer to Can Tho Airport for a short flight to Con Dao Island. Upon arrival at Con Dao Airport, you will be welcomed by resort representative and transferred to the Six Senses Resort.

Overnight at Six Senses Con Dao (Breakfast)

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Day 16: CON DAO ISLAND

Free at leisure or participate in resort activities.

Overnight at Six Senses Con Dao (Breakfast)

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Day 16: CON DAO ISLAND

Free at leisure or participate in resort activities.

Overnight at Six Senses Con Dao (Breakfast)

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Day 18: FLY TO SAIGON

Check out in the morning and transfer to airport for flight to Saigon. Upon arrival at Saigon, you will be welcomed and transferred to your hotel. Rest of the day is free to enjoy spa session or explore the city center by yourself. Your guide can recommend a good local spa outside of the hotel.

Overnight at Liberty Central Saigon Riverside Hotel (Breakfast)

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Day 19: CHOLON MORNING FOODIE TOUR & MARKETS

Skip breakfast this morning at your hotel and start the day at a colorful wholesale flower market followed by a classic Saigon style Banh Mi for breakfast at a popular street vendor. A chance to make your own Banh Mi if the vendor is not busy. Explore busy market alleys to sample more local food: seafood noodle soup, fried banana, fresh spring roll Saigon style and “Che” Vietnamese sweet dessert, syrup with fruits, beans, jelly, coconut milk, nuts. Digest it all with a “Ca Phe Sua da” - a classic Saigon iced coffee with sweet condensed milk. Continue to Cholon, the Chinatown district. Explore the back alleys dedicated to traditional Chinese culture, see local shops selling traditional Chinese medicine, herbs and opera costumes. Visit FITO Museum to learn about Chinese herbal medicine, continue to Phu Dinh alley to see the last remaining colonial buildings in Saigon and Phuoc An Assembly Hall. For lunch, you will stop at a famous local food joint catering only to locals, sample local dim sum and a noodle dish.
Then return to Saigon city center and your guide will drop you off at Ben Thanh Market for shopping. From here, you can return to your hotel on own, an easy 15min walk back to your hotel by the riverside

Overnight at Liberty Central Saigon Riverside Hotel (Breakfast)

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Day 20: DEPART SAIGON

Transfer to airport for departing flight home or onward journey.

(Breakfast)

Accommodations

SILK PATH BOUTIQUE HOTEL HANOI

Located conveniently by Hoan Kim Lake and minutes walk from the Old Quarters, Silk Path Boutique Hotel Hanoi is a charming small hotel with only 33 rooms. Each room is well appointed with modern amenities, free Wi-Fi, mini bar and TV. The hotel also has 2 restaurants, a rooftop terrace, a 24-hour business center, and concierge services are onsite.

 ORCHID CRUISE

A luxury small cruise company with only 18 cabins onboard each boat. All cabins are well designed with beautiful large windows opening toward the sea and private balconies to enjoy spectacular views from the comfort of your own cabin! Each cabin has a roomy size of 36 sqm with private bathrooms, hot & cold shower and a separate bathtub. There is also a spa, restaurant and spacious sundeck on board.

SCARLETT BOUTIQUE HOTEL HUE

Scarlett Boutique Hotel is a charming small hotel with only 18 rooms and centrally located in Hue, just minutes walk to local restaurants, shops and weekend markets. All rooms are well equipped with modern amenities including free wifi and private bathrooms with hot & cold shower. The hotel also has a spa and restaurant.

LITTLE HOI AN BOUTIQUE HOTEL

Located on the banks of Hoai River, Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel is in the bustling Old Town and easily accessible to popular sights and night markets. This charming small hotel features 30 comfortable rooms with modern comforts including free Wi-Fi, a swimming pool, spa and restaurant.

LIBERTY CENTRAL SAIGON RIVERSIDE HOTEL

Located on Ton Duc Thang Street, along the active Saigon River, Liberty Central Saigon Riverside Hotel is a boutique hotel with close proximity to the shopping hub as well as in walking distance to many of the city’s prominent landmarks. All rooms are well equipped with modern furnishings with higher floor rooms providing stunning views of the city skyline. The hotel features a roof top swimming pool, spa, gym and all day dining restaurant.

SIX SENSES CON DAO

True to Six Senses’ philosophy of selecting remote yet accessible destinations in areas of outstanding natural beauty, Six Senses Con Dao enjoys a breathtaking setting in a protected national and marine park. The first five-star luxury resort in Vietnam’s archipelago islands, it is contemporary in design and reflects the essence of a traditional fishing village.

  • Meet & assist at airports with transfers between the airports and hotels
  • Accommodation on a bed-and-breakfast basis
  • Surface transportation per itinerary by air-conditioned vehicle with driver
  • Private tours per the itinerary with the services of local English-speaking guides unless otherwise stated in itinerary.
  • Entrance fees to listed sights and activities
  • Meals per itinerary
  • In-country flights in Economy Class including 20kg (44 lbs) check-in luggage per person
  • Hanoi to Hue
  • Danang to Saigon
  • Can Tho to Con Dao
  • Con Dao to Saigon
  • Visa fees and visa arrangement for Vietnam
  • International airfare to/from Vietnam
  • Travel insurance
  • Meals not specified in the itinerary
  • Beverage during meals
  • Tipping
  • Personal expenses (like laundry and internet connection at hotels)