Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, the sprawling metropolis that once was the capital of South Vietnam and remains the country’s commercial center. Today is arrival day so there are no activities planned. You are free to relax, explore the city & adjust to the frenetic pace and humid heat of Ho Chi Minh City. 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 require 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. Our Saigon hotel is just outside of downtown Ho Chi Minh City, approximately 20 minutes walk to most of the highlights. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Wifi is free in the hotel.
Making an early start, we head out of the busy Saigon traffic to some smaller, quieter roads where we cycle around the area's local villages. The people in this village are famous for their fine artistry in producing paper lamp shades as well as rice paper used to make fresh spring rolls amongst other Vietnamese delicacies. Being part of the fertile river plain, the region is also used for farming. We finish cycling this morning at the Cu Chi Tunnels where we learn about Vietnam-American War. The Cu Chi Tunnels are a complex network of tunnels that Viet Cong forces lived in to protect themselves from the opposing forces. They stored ammunition, had underground hospitals and served as a hidden base to attack the allied forces. If you are not claustrophobic you may want to crawl through some of the tunnel network to get a feel for what it must have been like during the war. We drive back to Ho Chi Minh City where we stop briefly at a guesthouse to clean up before boarding a flight to Danang. On arrival in Danang we will board a private bus to Hoi An where we spend the next two nights. Our hotel rooms in Hoi An are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Free wifi and a public computer are available in the lobby. The hotel also has a swimming pool to relax beside. Approx travel time: Distance Cycled: 30km Drive from Cu Chi Tunnels to Ho Chi Minh City: 1.5 hours Drive to Ho Chi Minh Airport: 45 minutes Flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Danang: 1 hour Drive from Danang to Hoi An: 45 minutes.
Once known as Faifo, Hoi An was an important trading town with strong south Chinese influence and connections. Now a UNESCO world heritage listed town it has retained much of the beauty and character of times past. 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, 4kms from town makes for a great, flat bike ride. We take a ride around the town and the surrounding countryside to get a feel for the different slower pace and to visit some local communities to learn about the life here. The afternoon is free time to further explore independently either by bike or by foot. We overnight in a Hoi An hotel. 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.
After a morning relaxing at the beach or exploring the town some more, we will take a drive over the majestic Hai Van Pass with stunning views over the coast in both directions. We arrive in the former imperial city of Hue in the late afternoon and have time for a walk along the Perfume River. An iconic bride joins the ancient city to the new city. Designed by the same architect as the Eiffel Tower, the Truong Tien Bridge is lit up at night and creates a romantic atmosphere in the midst of the hectic pace of Vietnam. 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. Our hotel is centrally located, just minutes walk away from restaurants, nightlife and the Huong (Perfume) River. Approx travel time: Private bus from Hoi An to Hue: 4 hours.
We set out on bicycles first to the former Citadel. The Citadel covers an area of approximately four square kilometers and is surrounded by a moat. The Forbidden city is housed inside the walls which was the home of the Nguyen Imperial family. The Citadel was also used as a fortress during the Vietnamese -American War and as a result large portions of the site are currently under reconstruction. After learning a little about the dynasty and the Citadel itself, we cycle into the low hills behind Hue to visit Tu Duc's tomb. The last emperor of Vietnam prior to the French invasion, Tu Duc's reign was turbulent and controversial. His policies kept Vietnam isolated and under resented imperial rule which ultimately led to his demise. His tomb is a beautifully designed resting place with a small forest and lake. After some time to enjoy this we will meander back to town. Approx travel time: Distance Cycled: 35km
Upon arrival in Hanoi we drive out into the hills nearby. We reach Mai Chau in the late morning and then take a trek around this area to visit some of the Thai minority people who call this valley home. With green rice fields, punctuated by traditional brick kilns and surrounded by mountains, Mai Chau is yet another picture perfect moment in the adventure of Vietnam. We enjoy a home-cooked meal tonight and sleep in a dormitory style long house in traditional style. Tonight we will be provided with mattresses, mosquito nets and blankets. The homestay is comfortable, but basic. Approx travel time: Private bus from Hanoi to Mai Chau: 3-4 hours.
In the morning we transfer back to Hanoi. The political capital of Vietnam and home to the father of the unified country, Ho Chi Minh. In the afternoon we cross the River and take a ride around the quieter suburbs surrounding Hanoi, including large protective dykes with cannon mounts. We return to town and can spend the evening exploring the food options of the old quarter. Don’t miss taking a walk through Hanoi's Old Quarter – a maze of streets, each one traditionally devoted to a different product or industry. Follow this up with a walk around nearby Hoan Kiem lake and see if you can spot one of the famous 100 year old turtles which may still live within its murky waters. In the evening you have an option to attend a performance at the famous Water Puppets and sample some of Hanoi's amazing eating venues. Ask your CEO to tell you about the local Northern delicacies. Our hotel in Hanoi is located in the Old Quarter just 5 minutes walk to Hoan Kiem Lake, the centre of Hanoi. Make sure you grab a map and hotel card before you leave the hotel. All hotel rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Wifi is available at the hotel. Approx travel time: Bus from Mai Chau to Hanoi: 3-4 hours. Distance Cycled: 25kms
On day 8, we drive out of Hanoi 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. Approx travel time: Private bus Hanoi to Halong Bay: 4 hours
On the morning of day 9 we get into kayaks to see Halong Bay from a different perspective. In kayaks we are able to get into smaller channels and explore some of the lesser seen areas of the bay between the limestone karsts. We then head back to dry land where we embark on our private bus to Hanoi. This afternoon you can delve deeper into the site of Hanoi and explore the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the resting place of the father of Vietnam's unification. You could head out to Hoa Lo Prison, popularly known as the Hanoi Hilton - where John McCain spent his time as a Prisoner of War. However you chose to spend your afternoon, we will meet tonight to celebrate our final night with an included dinner. 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: Private bus from Halong Bay to Hanoi: 4 hours.