WORK IN PROGRESS!
Day One – Hanoi
Flight – fantastic! Taxi to hotel – booked via booking.com as much cheaper than via Explore. Really nice room. So tired – slept! Went out for food but all seemed very local – could not do a restaurant but room service was really lovely!
Day Two – Hanoi
Various temples and lakes – a lot of walking. Info had always said welcome meeting at 6pm so aimed to be back at the hotel for that time. Got back just before 4pm to find the guide looking for me and the hotel not knowing if I had checked in or not! After very long welcome meeting and a group much bigger than I am used to we all went for dinner – nice place, nice people.
Day Three- Hanoi
You may choose to take a walk around the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake.
2Discover the sights of Hanoi including the Old Quarter
This morning we make a tour of the main sights of Hanoi. Architecturally styled like a French provincial town with tree-lined boulevards and substantial low-built houses the city is wonderfully nostalgic. Among the interesting sights are the charming One-Pillar Pagoda, Confucius Temple and the Presidential Palace. Ho Chi Minh himself, a spartan-living and scholarly man, chose not to live in the Presidential Palace; he preferred instead a simple teak stilt-house specially built for him in the grounds. This walk through the narrow lanes of the fascinating Old Quarter, where the streets are named after various crafts or specialties: Paper Street, Silk Street, Basket Street and so on. The shops themselves have very narrow frontages but are actually quite deep; they are known locally as tube shops. On the pavements food sellers sell noodles, snacks and stir-fries from shoulder panniers. The smell of food mixes with the smell of incense from small temples dotted around.
Day Four – Hanoi & Halong Bay
3Free time in Hanoi, then drive to Halong Bay
We have some free time in Hanoi this morning perhaps to visit some of the many museums or Ho Chi Minh’s austere mausoleum, which resembles Lenin’s in Moscow. Afterwards we drive out towards the iconic Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin. Thousands of jagged limestone islands rise out of the jade green waters like the hairy scales of a submerged dragon. In fact Halong means: ‘Where the dragon descends to the sea’. As legend has it the rugged seascape was created by the pounding tail of a dragon as he ran from the mountains into the sea, carving the islands in his wake.
Day Five – Halong Bay
Cruise Halong Bay; from Hanoi overnight train to Hué
This morning we enjoy the romantic scenery of Halong Bay on a cruise amongst the islands. We’ll have the chance to stop at a grotto beneath towering cliffs and perhaps visit a beach. It is interesting to see the curious assortment of tourist boats, traditional junks and wooden sampans gliding through the waters. We enjoy a seafood lunch on board the boat. Craft factory. Returnin to a hotel in Hanoi to freshen up before boarding the Reunification Express to Hue.
Day Six – Hue
In Hué; boat along Perfume River to Thien Mu Pagoda
We arrive in Hué, one of the great cultural and religious centres of Vietnam, a quietly impressive place. The Perfume River divides the city in two and has been the inspiration for poets and painters for many centuries. This afternoon we plan to take a trip by boat along the Perfume River from Hué to the Thien Mu Pagoda. This serene temple is the oldest in Hué and also the symbol of the city. Rickshaw ride back into town – scary but fun! Vegetarian restaurant in evening – even seeing pigs in the food! Drinks on roof of hotel afterwards – Cloud!
Overnight: Standard Hotel Swimming Pool Available Swimming Pool Available
Day Seven – Hue
6In Hué, visit the Imperial Citadel; free afternoon
This morning we appreciate Hué’s fascinating history with a visit to the Imperial Citadel. Located on the left bank is the river, this palace was built by the Nguyen dynasty, Vietnam’s ruling emperors from the early 1800s to 1945. The Citadel has formal moats and impressive ramparts that were constructed by 20,000 men and was a copy of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Although most of the inner part of the city was totally destroyed during the month-long Tet Offensive in 1968, the vast outer walls and the west wing remain an eloquent reminder of the palace’s former glory. Museum too. I went for an extra walk after wards then walked back to hotel. The remainder of the day is free to perhaps explore some of the outlying Tombs of the Emperors by bicycle. – really – never offered – think we went to some Emperor Tomb and the village? Sushi Restaurant – brilliant evening. Dream not at the hotel bar this evening and they said they had run out of rum despite us saying it was upstairs in the breakfast room & terrace and they would not serve us drinks up there as per the night before. Went for another drink across the road but nothing open was very tempting so to bed.
Day Eight – Danang and Hoi An
Scenic drive via Danang to Hoi An
We enjoy a scenic drive across the spectacular Col des Nuages, otherwise known as the Hai Van Pass en route observing rural scenes of thatched, wooden houses and lime-green rice paddies as well as enjoying panoramic sea views. Pausing in Danang, once the centre of the Kingdom of Champa (2nd century AD – 1720) we visit the Cham Museum, home to a fine collection of Cham sculptures. Our next stop is at the nearby five peaks of the Marble Mountains, said to represent the five elements of water, wood, fire, gold and earth. Naturally formed grottoes have been transformed into heavily carved Buddhist sanctuaries. A torch is useful to explore some of the caves and grottos – didn’t really get to explore that much. A short distance from the mountains we find the white sands of My Khe Beach (nicknamed China Beach by American troops)- an ideal spot for a brief rest. Finally we reach our destination – the UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An.
Overnight: Standard Hotel Swimming Pool Available Swimming Pool Available
Day Nine – Hoi An
Free day to explore Hoi An; optional visit to My Lai
The historic, merchant town of Hoi An had become one of the busiest international trading ports of Southeast Asia by the 17th and 18th centuries. First colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th century it still retains its medieval charm today, with many of its old buildings superbly preserved. The day is free to explore at leisure. You may choose to visit the Japanese Bridge or some of Chinese temples and meeting halls in the Old Town. There are many shops, bars and restaurants in this charming town and is a great place to buy souvenirs, have clothing tailored or simply watch the world go by in a riverside café. You may wish to take an optional excursion out the site of the My Lai village massacre memorial. The massacre was a significant turning point in the American War and the horrific story is told through a very emotive exhibition of photography. Think this was the day we went on the island village tour my bicycle.
Day Ten – My Son & Hoi An
Visit to ancient My Son; free afternoon in Hoi An
A further day is spent based in this lovely historic town. This morning we take an excursion to the holiest and most evocative of Vietnam’s Cham sites, My Son. The Chams were dynastic lords who rejected the authority of China in 2AD and established their own kingdom. Although they benefited from strong sea links with the rest of Southeast Asia the kingdom’s interior could not supply sufficient food for a strong military force. For 1000 years they managed to stave off attacks by the Vietnamese and Chinese, before being overcome by the Vietnamese in the 15th century. Travel along the track that leads to the site is slow and bumpy through wooded hills, but the site is certainly impressive with several groupings of Cham temples to be visited. Nowhere are the fine masonry skills of the Chams more evident than at My Son, despite the fact that much of the site was bombed in the 1960s. The afternoon is free to enjoy Hoi An further. The beach is only a short drive by taxi alternatively a boat trip on the river as the late afternoon sun lights up the riverfront is a treat.
Day Eleven – Ho Chi Minh City & Mekong Delta
After a short drive to Danang Airport we fly to Ho Chi Minh City, from where we drive further south to Ben Tre in the Mekong Delta. Surrounded with lush and fertile land the area is home to small villages and swaying coconut palms. We take a local ferry to a nearby village, which we explore by trishaw. Later we board sampans, which are small Chinese wooden boats, and cruise along the narrow canals that shoot of the main vein of the Mekong River. After lunch at a local house we have some free time to explore the area further. Finally we return to Ben Tre by boat where we spend the night in a local homestay, with shared facilities and dorm-style accommodation.
Overnight: Basic Homestay
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day Twelve – Mekong Delta & Ho Chi Minh City
We spend the morning exploring the Nuoc Trong canal in the Mekong Delta, meeting some hard working locals, perhaps with time to see coconut processing and trading. We also have options to walk or cycle along the canal to explore further. Later on we drive back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Day Thirteen – Ho Chi Minh City
explore Old Saigon, free afternoon
This morning we walk around the central sights of Old Saigon, now District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City. We see the Notre Dame Cathedral and the GPO building as well as some of the old French Colonial hotels such as The Rex. We then drive to the Independence Palace (renamed the Reunification Hall) and the graphic War Remnants Museum. The afternoon is free for you to explore the city further at your leisure, perhaps with a visit to the huge Ben Thanh market.
Day Fourteen – Cu Chi Tunnel then drive to Cambodia
This morning we take a short drive out of the city to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels, which formed an incredible underground command base for 10,000 Viet Cong troops and were a major part of the 1968 Tet Offensive. The site is a fascinating insight into the resourcefulness of the Vietnamese. There is the opportunity to crawl through a small specially adapted section of the tunnels should you wish to sample the claustrophobic conditions the Viet Cong lived in. Afterwards we bid farewell to our tour leader who continues back to Ho Chi Minh City while you continue by road into Cambodia. Border formalities take place at Moc Bai (Vietnam) and Bavet (Cambodia) crossing point. Our final destination is Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital.