Vietnam - The Changing Face of Southeast Asia

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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.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh.


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.

We return to the fast-paced city of Ho Chi Minh to explore some highlights, including the historic Post Office, Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh.


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.

Overnight in 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.

We stop for lunch at a beautiful restaurant with a lotus flower pond, beautiful garden and traditional wooden houses. We can also see the preparation of some of the restaurant's specialty dishes.

We return to Ho Chi Minh to explore Ben Thanh market followed by Colonial Street where the famous Caravella and Rex Hotels are located.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh.


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.

Overnight in Dalat.


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.

This afternoon we embark on a short local train ride to Trai Mat Station where we visit Linh Phuoc Pagoda, followed by a visit to Lat village and, weather permitting, to Langbian Mountain (by jeep).

Overnight in Dalat.


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.

Overnight in 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.

In the afternoon, we will visit an orphanage or local school (depends on the day of the week). We will also try our hand at making local lanterns which the town is famous for.

Overnight in Hoi An.


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.

Overnight in Hoi An.


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.

Overnight in Hue.


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.

Overnight in Hue.


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.

We continue on to Dong Hoi for our overnight.


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.

Overnight in 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.

Overnight Cuc Phuong.


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.

Overnight in 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.

Overnight in Hanoi.


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.

Overnight in Hanoi.


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.

We board our private boat and after a seafood feast, we explore the bay which consists of thousands of islands and islets formed by wind and water leaving the stunning limestone formations. The turquoise waters and limestone islands make for unique and beautiful scenery and countless wonderful photos. Today we visit Bai Tu Long Bay - a large bay with small inlets and Thien Canh Son Cave. We return to our boat and continue our cruise to Cong Do for a swim or just relax on the boat with our beautiful setting before dinner.

Overnight on our comfortable boat at Cong Do.


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.

Dinner and our overnight on the boat.

Please note: Most excursions on Halong Bay consist of only an afternoon or 1 overnight in this extremely beautiful bay. ElderTreks, however, spends 2 nights on our boat in Halong Bay which affords us the opportunity to explore beyond the normal tourist route and avoid the crowds encountered by the standard routes taken by boats with only 1 overnight on Halong Bay.


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.

Enjoy the scenery on our last morning in Halong Bay as we continue our journey back to the pier, where we will have lunch. We return to Hanoi this afternoon with some time for last minute shopping before our farewell dinner where we can reflect on the special moments and experiences of your Vietnam adventure.

Overnight in Hanoi.


Day 21: Depart Hanoi

We depart for the airport to board our international flights homeward.

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