Day 1 Hanoi
Arrive in bustling Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. As passengers will be arriving at various times today, there are no planned activities. 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. We overnight in the city center of Hanoi. Our hotel is located in an Old Quarter. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Free-Wifi and computer terminals are available in the hotel. Please note for departures on Jan 5, June 1, July 20, Sept 14, Oct 12, Nov 23 and Dec 7 2014 there will be an itinerary change due to the lodge in Mai Chau, please see Important Notes for the adjusted itinerary.
Day 2-3 Mai Chau (2B)
This morning, we begin our day enjoying a filling breakfast at a training restaurant for disadvantaged Hanoi youth. You'll dine in the knowledge that not only are you enjoying some of the most delicious food in town, but that your contribution is really making a difference to the future of these smiling young faces. We then visit the famed Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Visit 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). Continue to the lush Mai Chau Valley where we stay in a rural Lodge, the perfect base for exploration and learning about Vietnam's ethnic hill tribes. Options include a walking tour of the ethnic villages, cycling to the country-side, cooking class, rock climbing or kayaking at the Hoa Binh reservoir Mai Chau has a population of around 47,500 encompassing various ethnic minority groups such as the White Thai, H'mong, Zao, Muong, Tay, Hoa and Viet. The Mai Chau hill tribe people are warm and welcoming, and famous for theiquality handicrafts - in particular embroidering clothes. Mai Chau offers a stunning vista of the lush, green Valley which is surrounded by stilt houses inhabited mainly by the White Thai ethnic group.
Day 4 Hanoi (1B)
Return to Hanoi to explore Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton) with a local guide and go on a cyclo tour of the Old Quarter. In the evening there is the option to attend a performance at the famous Water Puppet Theatre.
Day 5 Halong Bay (1B,1L,1D)
Travel by private bus to Halong Bay. Halong Bay is a breathtaking secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands rising from emerald waters. It is one of the most scenic regions in Vietnam and has been nominated as one of the new 'Natural Wonders of the World'. On arrival in Halong Bay, we board a junk boat, our home for the evening. This traditional wooden sailing boat offers a unique way of navigating the lime karsts of Halong Bay with all the comforts of a motorized, floating hotel. The boat crew will prepare an included seafood lunch and dinner to feast on. All cabins are twin share and have an en-suite bathroom. The boat features an enclosed dining and sitting area and of course plenty of outside deck space to enjoy your beautiful surroundings. Approx travel time: Private bus Hanoi to Halong Bay: 4 hours
Days 6-7 Hue (2B,1L)
After a light breakfast we continue to cruise around the Bay to finding more secluded areas to enjoy. We follow this with an early lunch, before returning to land and heading back to Hanoi. Later in the day we catch our short flight to Hue. Founded as a royal city in 1687, Hue is the gateway to the treasures of Vietnam's royal past and remains one of Vietnam's major tourist attractions. This quiet city is widely known for the magnificent architecture of its citadel, royal tombs, pagodas and temples built under the Nguyen dynasty in a background of greenery on the banks of the Perfume River. Early on the morning of Day 4, we meet our local guide and take a tour of the ancient walled Citadel containing the former Imperial Palace. The Citadel was closely modeled on the Forbidden City in Beijing and was almost totally destroyed during the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War. It is now being faithfully restored thanks to the generous funding by UNESCO. We follow this with a trip into the surrounding countryside to see the final resting place of former Emperors by visiting one of the most impressive Royal Tombs. Our hotel in Hue is located within walking distance of the many shops and restaurants in the downtown Hue area. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Wifi is also available. Approx travel time: Private bus from Halong Bay to Hanoi: 4 hours Flight from Hanoi to Hue: 1 hour Transfer from Hue Airport to hotel: 20 minutes
Days 8-10 Hoi An (3B,1L)
Enjoy a scenic drive to Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and take a walking tour of the ancient town. On Day 9 dive into the oodles of noodles cooking class at a Planeterra supported culinary training school. Visit local markets to learn about noodles, then return to the school to cook lunch with the students. Day 10 is free to support a Planeterra project and spend an hour learning how to make your own traditional lantern and support local Vietnamese with chronic disabilities. Or visit local tailors, shop, or visit My Son ruins. We depart Hue by private bus for the scenic journey to Hoi An, via the Hai Van Pass, an incredibly scenic and mountainous stretch of highway with spectacular views of Lang Co Beach. Hoi An itself is a charming small town 30km south of Danang. 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 almost exactly as they did a century ago. More than perhaps any other place in Vietnam, it retains the feel of centuries past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it. We undertake a guided walking tour of Hoi An, a wonderful way to explore this small picturesque town. Strolling through the narrow winding streets of the ancient quarter, you will see the various Chinese Assembly Halls, Ancestral Homes, the Japanese Covered Bridge, and well-preserved Pagodas. Oodles of Noodles Youth Tour - Run by STREETS International and made exclusively for G Adventures, this tour empowers street youth from across Vietnam that have been brought to Hoi An to learn in a culinary training kitchen. Youth (16-18) go through an 18 month training course and are divided into wait staff and kitchen staff. The kitchen youth often have a more challenging time finding employment after their training course as their English is not as proficient as their wait staff peers. This excursion will empower the kitchen youth to lead insider noodle tours in Hoi An. There are currently over 26 types of noodles in this city alone and we will go to the market with two students and their trainer, learn about the ingredients at the market, and do a tasting of the different noodles while supporting local small women enterprises. We then pick the ingredients and return with our youth guides to the training kitchen where you will learn to cook and prepare noodles from the guides. After we enjoy our noodles for lunch and watch a video an learn about the organization. Optional activity: Lifestart Lantern Making Working to support adults with challenging disabilities, Lifestart provides job training and opportunities for adults to become self-sufficient. Learning from one of the beneficiaries of this program, travellers will have a chance to make their own lantern in the lantern capital of Vietnam. Spend an hour learning about Vietnamese life and ask the teachers about their background, health issues in Vietnam, and how they found themself at Lifestart. Other beneficiaries work around the travellers, and all products are sold in the storefront downstairs. The artist makes 100% of the proceeds from the sale. During your time in Hoi An, you may also like to visit a local tailor and be fitted for some very reasonably priced clothes. Alternatively, you can organise an optional day tour to My Son, a major Cham site around one hour outside of Hoi An. These historical ruins are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If all of this sounds too strenuous, you can always spend the day by the pool or head to the nearby Cua Dai beach, a flat bike ride away. Approx travel time - Day 8: Private Bus from Hue to Hoi An: 4 hours
Day 11-12 Ho Chi Minh City (2B,1D)
Flight to Ho Chi Minh CIty, Vietnam’s biggest city, with the option to take a cyclo tour and visit markets and shops. On Day 12 we visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, legendary for the vital part they played during the Vietnam war. Tonight we spend our final night as a group reminiscing over our journey through Vietnam, over an included dinner at a local restaurant. Enjoy Ho Chi Minh City, discover the infectious energy of Vietnam’s biggest city that when known as Saigon, was once the capital of South Vietnam and remains the country’s commercial center. On Day 12 head 80kms north west for our guided tour of the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. During the Vietnam War the local guerilla forces of the communist North, known as the Viet Cong, occupied an extensive network of tunnels totaling in excessive of 250kms throughout this region, fighting by night and hiding by day. The tunnels housed communication centers, headquarters, hospitals, storage depots and training centers. At Cu Chi you will experience the life of the Viet Cong soldier and even get the chance to crawl through one of the sections if you feel particularly adventurous. During your free time you can take a tour by cyclo (rickshaw) to various sights around town. See Notre Dame Cathedral, Gustav Eiffel's Post Office, the Opera House, Rex Hotel, and town hall or you may wish to visit the War Remnants Museum or the Reunification Palace. Approx travel time: Transfer from Hotel to Nha Trang Airport: 30 minutes Flight from Nha Trang to HCMC: 40 minutes Transfer from HCMC Airport to Hotel: 1 hour
Day 13 Ho Chi Minh City (1B)
After breakfast on day 13, 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.