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Day 1: Arrive in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)
Arrival in Ho Chi Minh followed by a transfer to our centrally located hotel. The remainder of the day is free to explore Ho Chi Minh on your own or just relax after your long flight. Tonight we have our orientation meeting.
Day 2: Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh Sites
This morning, we drive to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels, the Vietcong underground tunnel system that at one time stretched as far as the Cambodian border. The network consists of over 130 miles of tunnels in the Cu Chi district alone, parts of which are several stories deep. There are trap doors, specially constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapon factories, field hospitals, command centers and kitchens - all underground! Parts of this remarkable tunnel network have been enlarged and upgraded and are open to the public.
Day 3: Mekong Delta
We drive to Cai Be in Tien Giang province where we board our boat to travel on the Tien River to Cai Be floating market. During the day, we get on and off the boat to explore local villages where we can see the production of local specialties. Lunch is at a historic local home set in a lovely garden. We continue our boat ride, stopping at a local fruit garden. We then cross the Tien River to Vinh Long province before continuing on to Can Tho.
Day 4: Floating Market, Return to Ho Chi Minh
Early this morning, we visit Cai Rang floating market by boat. Cai Rang is a wholesale market and the sellers hang their products over their boats with a bamboo pole to advertise what they are selling. Enjoy a short walk along Ninh Kieu harbor before a visit to a small local market on land.
Day 5: Scenic Drive to Dalat
Today we enjoy a long scenic drive with several photo stops enroute to Dalat. We will walk over the bridge at Langa River to see the floating houses and stop to see coffee and tea plantations, which this area is known for. As we near Dalat, we will see many greenhouses, as well as pine forests, as we pass thru the mountain pass known as Preen.
Day 6: Dalat Sites
Today we explore Dalat, known as the city of love and famous for its flowers and French villas. We will visit the Crazy House, Bao Dai Summer Palace, and take a cable car up to Truc Lam Zen Monastery which was built to recreate the spirit of Zen Buddhism during the Tran Dynasty that ruled Vietnam from 1225 to 1400.
Day 7: Fly to Da Nang, to Hoi An
This morning we travel to the airport for our short flight to Da Nang. We will visit the lovely Cham Museum followed by late lunch and a visit to a local marble workshop. We continue on to Hoi An.
Day 8: Hoi An (UNESCO) - By Foot and By Boat
This morning we have a walking tour of old Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has quaint pastel buildings lining the streets, interspersed with colorful temples, numerous art galleries and a bustling market. We will visit the Hoi An Museum, a Chinese pagoda, the famous Japanese bridge and ancient house. This will be followed by a boat trip on the Thu Bon River.
Day 9: My Son (UNESCO), Cham Towers
This morning we drive to the holy land of the Cham people, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of My Son. The My Son ruins cover a large area and have beautiful groups of ruins of Cham towers and Hindu temples. From the 3rd to the 13th century, there were 74 towers built by the northern Cham people (also referred to as the Betel nut clan). This afternoon is free to explore this charming town on your own.
Day 10: To Hue via My Khê (China Beach), Perfume River Tombs by Boat, Thien Mu Pagoda by Cyclo
Today we drive to Da Nang for a short stop at My Khê (China Beach). We continue our drive to Hue via the spectacular Hai Van Pass. In Hue, we take a boat ride on the perfume river to the Thien Mu Pagoda then enjoy a cyclo ride, stopping to visit an ancient garden house.
Day 11: Ancient Capital of Hue
Today we explore more of Hue, the most important of the ancient capitals of Vietnam. We explore the Dai Noi citadel complex based on Chinese designs in Beijing. We will also see the royal tombs of Emperor Tu Duc and Emperor Khai Dinh. A visit to Hue would not be complete without a visit to the Dong Ba market where you will get a feel for how the locals shop. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure.
Day 12: To DMZ, Hien Luong Bridge, Vinh Moc Underground Villiage
This morning we drive along Highway 1 into the DMZ (demilitarized zone). We stop at the Hien Luong Bridge, once the temporary division between north and south Vietnam. We continue on to Vinh Moc underground village , which is different from the more famous Cu Chi Tunnels, as these tunnels and caves were used for living, not fighting. The Vinh Moc tunnels are original and have not been altered for tourists.
Day 13: Phong Nha Cave
We depart for Huong Khe, driving along the infamous and beautiful Ho Chi Minh Road. We will enjoy a boat ride on the Son River to visit Phong Nha National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we can explore some of the longest caves in Vietnam. The caves hold traces of the Cham people, the rulers of central Vietnam before the 17th century. The limestone rock formations are exquisite in this area. We continue driving to Huong Khe.
Day 14: To Cuc Phuong via Ho Chi Minh Road
We depart Huong Khe for a long scenic drive to Cuc Phuong. We continue along the Ho Chi Minh Road with several stops to enjoy the scenic beauty and the mountainous landscape.
Day 15: Cuc Phuong National Park, to Hanoi
We explore Cuc Phuong National Park, the country's first national park, which was established in 1962. It is home to over 1983 types of plants, 89 animals species and 320 types of birds. We visit the endangered primate rescue center, Vietnam's first wildlife center. We see some of the world's most endangered primates such as Cat Ba langurs, Delacours langurs and gibbons. We also offer 2 hikes in the park, one more challenging to a 1000 year old tree, or an easier walk on flat terrain to a sau tree. This afternoon we drive to Hanoi.
Day 16: Hanoi Sites, Old Quarter by Cyclo
Today we explore Hanoi with visits the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum complex, One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature and the Fine Arts Museum. This afternoon, we will see the Ethnology Museum. We also enjoy a tour of the Old Quarter by cyclo (bicycle taxi). Tonight we attend a water puppet performance only found in Vietnam.
Day 17: Traditional Vietnamese Village
We depart Hanoi to visit Thai Hải village which is located in Thai Nguyen province about 80km from Hanoi. The village is an ecological reserve area with houses sitting on stilts, which preserves the life and traditional folk culture of the ethnic Tay people.
Day 18: To Halong Bay - 3d/2n Boat Journey
This morning we drive to picturesque Halong Bay via Bac Ninh province, which is the cradle of Buddhism in Vietnam. We will stop for photo opportunities to capture traditional farming and daily life activities enroute. We also stop at a 'physically challenged' handicraft center, where we can see the beautiful handicrafts and clothes being made.
Day 19: The Turquoise Waters and Limestone Islands of Halong Bay
This morning, we set sail for the fishing village of Vung Vieng, which we explore by bamboo boat. We continue to Vung Ha (on Bai Tu Long Bay) where we can join the fisherman in their fishing efforts. Fortunately our dinner will not depend on what we catch! This is a unique opportunity to have a short experience in the life of a fisherman in Halong Bay. We return to our boat and travel to a beach where we can have a refreshing swim.
Day 20: Halong Bay, to Hanoi
We continue our exploration of Halong Bay visiting the large and impressive Surprising Cave with its stunning viewpoints. We also visit Luon Grotto where you have the opportunity to kayak and explore the hidden waters inside the island after kayaking through the grotto. Enjoy the scenery and keep an eye out for monkeys.
Day 21: Depart Hanoi
We depart for the airport to board our international flights homeward.
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