VIETNAM EXPERIENCE – March 11th to 19th’ 2017 

Vietnam is an assault on the senses. Life in its feverish cities is conducted largely on the streets, among chattering bia hois (pavement pubs) and steaming pho (noodle soup) stands. The country’s two main cities – Hanoi in the north, Ho Chi Minh in the south – are different in many ways, but they share an intoxicating energy. Ancient pagodas and colonial houses jostle for space with new-build skyscrapers, while labyrinthine back-alleys hum with life. These narrow streets are atmospheric places to spend time, day or night. A frenetic and fascinating country, it calls to mind conical-hatted street vendors, water buffalo plodding across rice fields, mopeds buzzing through cities and floating markets on the Mekong River.
Backpack and explore Vietnam on this journey that takes you from North to South. Start with the colonial elegance and charm of Vietnam’s atmospheric capital – Hanoi, travel to the natural wonderland of Halong Bay in a traditional junk boat and set sail through hundreds of limestone karsts that rise dramatically from the emerald waters of this beautiful bay, visit the ancient capital of Hue,  wander the ancient street of  tranquil Hoi An, bask on the beaches of Hoi An and Nha Trang, explore the beautiful water-world and landscape of the Mekong delta and finish off in the fast pace and bustle of modern day Saigon. Experience Vietnam’s beautiful landscapes, delicious cuisine and the renowned friendliness of the Vietnamese people on this 9-day journey that takes you from north to south.


ITINERARY

Day 1:  March 11th – Hanoi
Arrive in Hanoi: Vietnam’s bustling colonial capital and transfer to hotel. With its wide tree-lined boulevards, French colonial architecture, peaceful lakes and ancient oriental pagodas, Hanoi is an eclectic mix that offers something for everyone.
After lunch a guided 3-hour walking tour of the charming  Old Quarter Area – the soul of Hanoi and Hoan Kiem Lake area. On our stroll through hidden alleyways and bustling markets of Hanoi’s charming old quarter we wander past small shops,  ( selling a wide range of products from china bowls, jewelry, shoes & sandals, silk, mixed fruits, comb, candies & dry apricot, bamboo products and souvenirs ) street food stalls and quiet residential lanes where you can observe local life that has changed little since Hanoi was founded over 1000 years ago. At evening we walk around Hoan Kiem Lake and visit the Ngoc Son Temple along the lake.
Later in the evening we go on a food exploration journey and sample delicious Vietnamese cuisine just like the locals do — on the street. Dig in on a variety of Hanoi specialties like Banh Cuon (Vietnamese Steam Rice Rolls), Cha ca ( small fish fillets marinated in turmeric and galangal, and sauteed with a very generous helping of dill ), Pho xao ( Stir fried noodles ), Bun rieu ( Crab noodle soup ), Bun nem ( Spring rolls ), Bun Cha ( barbecued pork in a sweet and sour soup with bun noodles and herbs ), Pho ( Noodle soup served with herbs and either chicken or beef ), Xoi Xeo ( sticky rice topped with ground de-hulled mung bean and fried onion).  Overnight at Hanoi.

Day 2:  March 12th – Hanoi ( Day trip to Halong Bay )
After an early breakfast, we leave for Halong Bay. On the way to Halong city enjoy the journey through the farmlands of the Red River Delta and the scenery of rice fields, water buffaloes, and everyday Vietnamese village life.
Around 12.30 Bai Cháy Pier and board the cruise boat. Take photos of the stunning scenery. Enjoy seafood lunch while cruising through the emerald water between the limestone outcrops and long corridors, passing by Dog Stone, Chicken Stone, and the Burning Incense Islet. Stop at Fishing Village for Kayaking(optional). Visit Thien Cung – the cave of the heavenly palace, famous for its stalagmites and stalactites, and Dau Go Cave. Keep cruising around islands of Ha Long Bay. Return to the harbour by 5 p.m.to get on the shuttle bus back to Ha Noi. Overnight at Hanoi.

Day 3:  March 13th – Hanoi ( Hanoi City Tour )
After breakfast, we head out on a full-day tour of Hanoi visiting some of Hanoi’s main attractions: the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology,  Vietnamese Women’s Museum, Temple of Literature & National University, Hoa Lo Prison, Ho Chi Min Mausoleum and French Quarter. After the day of sightseeing drop into a traditional teahouse to taste some of the best Vietnamese flavored green teas or sample the signature Vietnamese black coffee ( there is also egg coffee to choose from if you like to try ).  Evening free or optionally you could visit the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. It is an exploration of the historical traditions and culture of Hanoi. The show gives you an insight into the musical aspect of their perform live with a small band. Overnight at Hanoi.

Day 4:  March 14th – Hanoi to Hoi An
After breakfast drive to the airport to catch the flight to Da Nang. Arrive by afternoon and transfer to hotel in Hoi An. After lunch walking tour of Hoi An Ancient Town. Hoi An’s ancient core is a rich architectural fusion of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and European influences dating back to the sixteenth century. In its heyday, the now drowsy channel of the Thu Bon River was a jostling crowd of merchant vessels representing the world’s great trading nations, and the mellow streets of this small, amiable town still emanate a timeless air.
We visit the central market to see the local vendors selling fresh meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables and other food items. It is full of colorful fresh food and fabulous tantalizing smells of cooking classes. Next stop The Old House of Tan Ky and Phun Hung and Quan Cong Chinese Temple. Later walk the narrow streets comprising wooden-fronted houses topped with moss-covered tiles and plenty of shops, art galleries, tailor shops and restaurants. As night falls the town is glimmering with silk lanterns shining out from narrow alleys and the riverbank in their hundreds, the light reflecting in the waters of the Thu Bon River. Explore the riverside and night market before hitting one of the many restaurants for dinner. Overnight at Hoi An.

Day 5:  March 15th – Hoi An ( Village discovery tour around Hoi An )
Today we explore Hoi An and the villages and beaches around it. The best way to explore the surroundings of Hoi An is by scooter/motorbike and that’s our plan for the day. After breakfast with our ammunition of cap, sunscreen, water bottle, and camera we are ready to pick up our bikes and embark on the interesting day’s journey ahead. We load out bikes into a ferry that crosses over the Thu Bon river to the island of Cam Kim. Cam Kim is a scenic rural island which is almost entirely free of tourists. Stunning rural scenes, rice paddies, villages and quiet roads are the draws of Cam Kim apart from the Kim Bong Carpentry village. Visit the wood-carving shops, to see artisans at work and explore the beautiful rural countryside along picturesque pathways with some amazing bamboo bridges. The afternoon we take the ferry back to Hoi A town for lunch. After lunch, we visit Pottery village, silk village and vegetable village before heading to A Bang beach for a swim in the sea and watching the sunset. Later back to town and overnight at Hoi An.

Day 6:  March 16th – Hoi An ( Cham Islands day trip and snorkeling )
Today is the day for some water activities and sea adventures at Cham Islands. Lying 18 km offshore from Hoi An, the Cham Islands feature beautiful seascapes and landscapes and a perfect spot for a day trip with snorkeling.
After breakfast, we reach the Cua Dai harbor to catch the boat for a 30-minute cruise out into the sea to reach Cham Islands. We arrive at Lang village and the tour guide will help us understand more about Cham island with its history. Make a visit to the Marine Protected Area, the boat shelter, Hai Tang pagoda, traditional fishing village and the local market then go swimming, snorkeling and having lunch with some seafood afterward. Relax or go for another swim after lunch then get on board the boat at 14:00 and cruise back to Cua Dai beach harbor. Afternoon spends at the beautiful Cua Dai beach taking walks or just relaxing. Evening head back to town. Overnight at Hoi An.

Day 7:  March 17th –  Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City ( Saigon )
Arrive breakfast drive to Da nang to catch the flight to Saigon. Arrive in Saigon and visit the Cu Chi tunnels before transfer to the hotel. In the evening we explore Ben Thanh market and District one for different shopping and food options. Overnight at Saigon.

Day 8: March 18th –  Ho Chi Minh City  ( Day trip to Mekong Delta )
After breakfast leave for a day trip to Mekong delta, the rice bowl of Vietnam. Board the bus at Saigon around 8 a.m. for the 2-hour ride to My Tho.
On arrival at Mekong Delta board a wooden motor boat to Unicorn Island. On this boat cruise along the river’s bank, you pass through natural creeks and quiet villages and watch rural people going about their daily life. See fisherman’s port, stilt houses and the interesting transportation modes that local people use to move around. Along the journey visit a bee farm where you can taste a cup of authentic honey tea while checking out the folk music that is typical to only the people in Southern Vietnam. After that, we go to a village where you can smell the flavor of coconut candies being made and witness how village people make candy and handcrafted items from coconuts. As you go around, you’ll find exotic fruits like the durian and you will be served with platters of local fruits like dragon fruit and ripe mangoes. Then on to small canoe boat ride through the narrow channels of the delta that pass through narrow canals with the canopy of palms and beautiful mangroves. Then after, ride on a horse-driven cart to a sumptuous lunch in a nearby village. Finally, board on a motorized small boat coasting through the small water channels back to Mekong River and back to land. Leave from Ben Tre by 5 p.m. and back to Saigon by 7 p.m. Overnight at Saigon.

Day 9: March 19th – Ho Chi Minh City  ( Departure ) 
After breakfast transfer to airport. End of tour.

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