Arrive in bustling Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. As passengers will be arriving at various times today, there are no planned activities. Some suggestions include: Taking a walk through Hanoi's Old Quarter – a maze of streets, each one traditionally devoted to a different product or industry. Visit Tran Quoc Pagoda, the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu) or Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and Museum. The Mausoleum houses the remains of Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of the unified Vietnam (the mausoleum and museum are closed in October-November). You will have a scheduled group meeting in the evening around 6pm. Please check at the reception desk or look for a G Adventures notice board with details of the actual meeting time. At this meeting your CEO will ask to sight your travel insurance, double check your Vietnam visa and complete some other paper work. Please note that most nationalities requires a visa to enter Vietnam, please double check this with your travel agent or local Vietnamese Embassy. After your meeting, you may choose to head out for an optional dinner to further get to know your CEO and fellow group members. Day 2 you have further opportunity to explore the city. In the evening we will attend a performance at the famous Water Puppet Theatre before boarding our overnight train to Lao Cai, en route to Sapa. We overnight in the city center of Hanoi. Our hotel is located in the Old Quarter. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Free wifi and a computer are available at the lobby. Approx Travel Time: Overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai: 9 hours
After arriving in Lao Cai in the morning of day 3, we transfer to Sapa. An afternoon excursion will take us to the village of Ta Phin where we'll have a chance to interact with some of the local ethnic minorities such as H'mong, Dao, and Zai. We will spend an hour or two strolling through the villages before returning to Sapa early evening. On day 4, we take a moderate trek through the Muong Hoa River valley. We will stop at Lao Chai village for lunch and on to the Ta Vinh village for our homestay. The terrain can be steep at times and slightly challenging. However, passengers with a moderate fitness level should be fine. The homestay accommodation for the evening is basic, but bedding and mosquito nets are provided. After breakfast on day 5, say goodbye to the host family and walk on to a nearby village where a bus will be waiting to transfer us back to Sapa. Take the afternoon to relax before catching our overnight train back to Hanoi. Our cozy hotel in Sapa is located in the heart of the town, very near to the market. The rooms are have en suite bathrooms and wifi is available throughout the hotel. Please Note: During the rainy season (May-November) you should be prepared with rain gear as the availability of such items for sale can be limited. Temperatures in the Sapa region can drop to near freezing, so please pack appropriate clothing, such as a fleece, long trousers, and knit hat. (Dec - Apr) Approx travel time: Lao Cai train station to Sapa Hotel: 45 minutes each way Trek to the Muong Hoa River valley homestay: 5-6 hours. Trek to depart the Muong Hoa River valley: 2 hours. Return transfer to Sapa: 15 minutes Overnight train Lao Cai to Hanoi: 9 hours
On day 6, our private bus takes us to Bai Chay harbour, our entry point to Halong Bay. Thousands of islands rise dramatically from the waters of Halong Bay and, to further their beauty, intricate cave systems naturally exist throughout these limestone karst formations. Our sailing junk will take you to visit some of the islands and caves. You could enjoy a pre-dinner swim (depending on the season) and have an evening drink on the deck beneath the stars. Our accommodation tonight is a truly special experience – sleeping on a boat surrounded by high limestone karsts. All cabins are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. On day 7, after an early lunch on board the boat we head back to Hanoi. You have enough time for shopping or further sightseeing until our overnight train to Hue, the first of 3 sleeper trains you will take in Vietnam. The sleeper trains throughout Vietnam are quite comfortable. Each cabin sleeps 4 people in 2 bunk beds. You will be able to lock the door from the inside. All bedding is provided. The train is air conditioned and has squat and Western style toilets with a wash basin at the end of each compartment. Bags can be stored in your cabin and accessed at anytime. Food and drinks are available for purchase on board - although the food is not to everyone's taste so we recommend you bring your own. There are multiple options in Hanoi which your CEO can help you with. Approx travel time: Private bus Hanoi to Halong Bay: 4 hours each way Overnight train Ha Noi to Hue: 13-14 hours
We arrive early on Day 8 into Hue, once the imperial capital of Vietnam. After checking in to our hotel, you have the option to visit to the wonderful Tien Mu Pagoda. Built over 400 years ago, and at seven stories high, Tien Mu is still the tallest and perhaps the most elegant pagoda in Vietnam. You could also visit a tomb of one of Vietnam’s former emperors. These tombs are extremely ornate and embrace the concept of Feng Shui. Afterwards, you may choose to enjoy a vegetarian lunch at a local nunnery and there are various options to head out by bike to explore the local countryside. Please ask your CEO for more information. In the evening, take the chance to try some local Hue specialties such as banh khoai (Hue savoury pancakes), and banh bot loc boc tom thit (thin rice paper filled with meat and shrimp). You might want to wash it all down with a Hue beer. Yum! Our accommodation tonight is centrally located a 10 minute walk from the Perfume River in Hue. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Free wifi is also available. Approx travel time Hue train station to the hotel: 10 minutes.
This morning we’ll start our day touring the wonderful ruins of the Imperial Citadel, from where the whole of Vietnam was once ruled. You’ll enjoy exploring the many palaces and gateways, courtyards and gardens of this beautiful complex and of course hearing the stories of the emperors who once lived here. In the late morning we begin our drive to Hoi An. After crossing over the Hai Van Pass, with fantastic views in all directions, we will in Hoi An in the afternoon for our three night stay. Once known as Faifo, Hoi An was an important trading town with strong south Chinese influence and connections. You can take a walking tour of this living museum which includes the Museum of History and Culture, the Tan Ky house, the Japanese bridge, the Fujian Assembly Hall and lunch at a riverside restaurant to sample some of the local delicacies. Hoi An is also a shopping mecca for tourists in the region. Tailors can produce virtually anything overnight, with clothing, silk lanterns, lacquer ware and many other crafts abound. For sun worshipers, Cua Dai Beach is 4kms from town and makes for a great, flat bike ride. We overnight three nights in a Hoi An. Our hotel is located very close to the old quarter of Hoi An. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Free wifi and a public computer are available in the lobby. Approx travel time: Private bus Hue to Hoi An: 4 hours
Drive to Danang for the flight to Ho Chi Minh City, the sprawling metropolis that was once the capital of South Vietnam and remains the country’s commercial center. The afternoon is free time to visit the Thien Hau and Giac Vien pagodas and stroll through the immense Ben Than Market. There is also the Reunification Palace, the residence of the presidents of South Vietnam before 1975, Cholon (literally translated: Big Market),the Chinese quarter and the War Remnants Museum. We overnight in Ho Chi Minh City. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. The hotel is well located near the Benh Than Market, backpackers area, war remnant museum and within walking distance to all the French colonial buildings. Free-Wifi and a computer are available at the lobby. Approx travel time: Transfer Hoi An to Danang Airport: 45 min Flight Danang to Ho Chi Minh City: 1 hour Transfer to hotel in Ho Chi Minh city: 30 min
This morning we travel by private minivan south to the 'rice basket' of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta where we'll experience a different lifestyle from what we've seen elsewhere in Vietnam. We take a boat to further explore the intricate waterways whilst visiting small cottage industries, such as bee farming. We can stop along the way for you to try a local lunch, such as the local delicacy elephant fish. A short ride in a Xe Lam (tuk tuk) brings us to our local homestay, surrounded by fruit trees. Here you can relax in a hammock while sipping on a coconut and watch life on the river or take a bicycle around the area led by your local guide. Tonight, our hosts will prepare an included traditional southern Vietnamese dinner for you to feast. Our lodgings at the homestay are basic tonight. Our homestay will provide each person with a mattress, clean linen and mosquito nets. Approx travel time: Private bus from Ho Chi Minh City to the Mekong Delta: 2-3 hours.
This morning we enjoy an included breakfast before taking a boat and bus to return to Ho Chi Minh City. We will arrive in this sprawling city by midday for your chance to explore the many sites you did not get the chance to see earlier. Try your hand at bargaining amongst the vendors of the Ben Thanh Market or hit the high end shops around the Opera House. Tonight we spend our final night as a group reminiscing over our journey through Vietnam, over an optional dinner at a local restaurant. After dinner you may want to enjoy a cocktail whilst viewing the city traffic from above at the iconic Rex Hotel. Our Saigon hotel is located in the heart of District 1. Free wifi is available. The famous Dong Khoi Street full of restaurants and bars is located within walking distance. Approx travel time: Boat from Mekong Delta to our bus: 30 mins. Private Bus from Mekong Delta to Ho Chi Minh City: 2-3 hours.
After breakfast on Day 15, the tour ends and you are free to depart at any time. We look forward to receiving your evaluation regarding this tour itinerary and your CEOs performance. We value your input into what we could improve to make this trip even better and of course love hearing about what we are already doing well! You will be sent a post tour email on your return with details on how to go in line and fill in this simple form. Thank you so much in advance. Some of your group may continue traveling west through Cambodia with G Adventures. If you are interested in ongoing travel in Cambodia and Thailand have a look at the following trip on our website: Cambodia Experience http://www.gadventures.com/trips/cambodia-experience/AVCW/2012/