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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 Discovery Adventures welcome note with details of the actual meeting time. At this meeting your guide will ask to sight your travel insurance, double check your Vietnam visa and complete some other paper work. Please note that most nationalities requires a visa to enter Vietnam, and double check this with your travel agent or local Vietnamese Embassy. After your meeting, head out to further get to know your guide and fellow group members over an included meal at a local restaurant.
We overnight in the city center of Hanoi. Our hotel is located close to the Opera House in the city centre. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. A sprawling buffet breakfast is provided.
Depart by bus to the "rice basket" of Vietnam - the Mekong Delta. On our journey to the delta you will be treated to a one hour Vietnamese language lesson to help assist you with your journey for the next two weeks.
The Mekong river starts as ice melt in the Tibetan Himalayas then flows down across the plains of southern China, tickles Burma, forms part of the border between Laos and Thailand, provides food and irrigation as it tumbles through Cambodia, spreads itself out into the '9 Headed Dragon' of the delta spreading rich, life giving silt throughout Southern Vietnam before eventually emptying into the South China Sea. Today will be a full day of discovery as we explore the villages, farms, and intricate waterways that form the delta of this the mightiest of all South East Asian rivers. After lunch and settling into our cabins, we cruise the river with stops for leisurely strolls through the villages, surrounding fruit orchards or rice fields. Meet the friendly locals and taste the local produce and fruits.
Get back on board and enjoy a drink at the bar or relax on deck as the sun sets over the magnificent water landscape. The boat will anchor for the night and we enjoy a delicious on-board dinner. Tonight our unique accommodation is a comfortable, traditional Mekong Delta boat.
Approx travel time:
Private bus Ho Chi Minh City to the Mekong Delta: 6 hours
On Day 3, wake early to watch the sun rise over the Delta. After breakfast, we will board a smaller sampan boat to visit floating markets, the region’s busiest and most lively. Marvel at the sheer abundance of exotic fruits, vegetables and skillfully handcrafted regional products. We will pull up to the boats for talking and bargaining with the merchants. We also visit some of the local candy and cake making factories or boat through the green water landscape to see local houses, orchards and ship-building yards. Travel back to Ho Chi Minh City this afternoon.
The next morning we head 80kms north west for our guided tour of the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. During the Vietnam War the local guerilla forces of the communist North, known as the Viet Cong, occupied an extensive network of tunnels totaling in excessive of 250kms throughout this region, fighting by night and hiding by day. The tunnels housed communication centers, headquarters, hospitals, storage depots and training centers. At Cu Chi you will experience the life of the Viet Cong soldier and even get the chance to crawl through one of the sections if you feel particularly adventurous.
On return to Ho Chi Minh City the afternoon is yours to explore. You may wish to throw yourself into the mayhem of the Ben Thanh market, visit the confronting War Remnants Museum, the Gustav Eiffel designed GPO, Presidential Palace, Revolutionary Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, take a ride on a cyclo or just sip a luscious Vietnamese coffee and watch the world pass you by.
We return the the same hotel we stayed on Day 1.
Approx travel time:
Boat from the Mekong Delta back to Ho Chi Minh City: 4 hours.
Private bus to the Cu Chi Tunnels: 1.5 hours each way.
Our morning fight on Day 5 takes us to the port city of Danang and from there we drive along the coast to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed town of Hoi An. In the 14th Century the Hoi An port was a focal point of Asian trade. By the 18th Century the French had come to prominence in the region and their main trading base of Danang overshadowed Hoi An (then called Faifo). The port's fate was sealed by siltation at the river mouth making it unusable for larger vessels. The silt was ironically also Hoi An's savior as it made the town of little strategic importance and thus it survived the of the Vietnam-American War, making a stroll down the street like a step back in time to a Vietnam of a bygone age.
Hoi An is a center for local handicrafts, silverwork, art, lacquerware and particularly tailors who can have you garbed in the latest Milan fashion within 24 hours. Your guide will lead you on a walking tour of this town of living history and dinner tonight will be supporting disadvantaged kids whilst enjoying delicious local cuisine at Streets Restaurant.
Day 6 starts early with a visit to the Duy Hai Village fisherman's market followed by an authentic local breakfast. Today you will be accompanied by an experienced photographer to record those indelible memories. A morning bicycle tour stopping for a snack with a local family will be followed by a lesson on how to cook Hoi An style where you eat the fruits of your own labour.
The highlight of Day 7 is a visit to the ancient Champa ruins of My Son accompanied by a local expert guide. Granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999 the tower-temples were the seat of the Champa Kingdom for the majority of its existence between the 4th and 13th centuries. The sanctuary is situated in an impressive location surrounded by hills, around 35 km inland from the coast at Hoi An. Wander through the ruins then visit the small museum at the entrance to My Son before heading back to Hoi An. The rest of the day is yours to shop, head to the beach or simply relax at your favorite cafe.
We stay 3 nights in our relaxing accommodation near the river and the local market. The hotel has twin / double share air conditioned rooms with en suite bathrooms. There is a pool for unwinding after a long day of shopping and wifi is available throughout the hotel.
Approx travel times:
Transfer to the HCMC airport: 45 min
Flight from HCMC to Danang Airport: 1 hour
Private bus from Danang to Hoi An: 45 minutes
Private bus to My Son: 45 minutes each way
Heading up the coast in our private vehicle on Day 8 we cross over the Hai Van Pass with majestic views to the north and south. This strategic location was used during the war and evidence of the past remains intact today. We continue to the city of Hue in time for lunch.
Hue was the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty which ruled Vietnam from 1802 to 1945. This afternoon we visit the seat of Nguyen power, the Royal Citadel containing the Forbidden Purple City, inspired by the Forbidden City in Beijing. Our local guide will show you around and explain the use and meaning of the various building as well as showing examples of the damage sustained during the Tet Offensive in 1968 when the Citadel saw extensive fighting.
On Day 9 we board our Dragon Boat for a ride up the Perfume River to Thien Mu Pagoda and onward to the tomb of Emperor Tu Doc. Our guide will also take us out into the countryside where we can experience local industries and villages.
This evening we dress in imperial clothes and attend a Royal Banquet, enjoying a set menu of Royal delights.
Our centrally located hotel is close to the Perfume river and many shops and restaurants. Our twin and double share rooms have air conditioning and en suite bathrooms. There is a pool for relaxing and there is free wifi available.
Approx travel time:
Private bus from Hoi An to Hue: 4 hours
This morning we fly to the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi (**Please note that the Hue airport will be closed from April 1-December 31, 2013. As a result, all tours operating during this time will fly from Danang, an approx. 2 hours from Hue). We begin our exploration of this ancient city with a tour of the Hoa Lo Prison, commonly known as the Hanoi Hilton. During the Vietnam-American War the prison housed American prisoners of war, including U.S presidential nominee John McCain. We also visit the famed Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. The Mausoleum houses the remains of Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of the unified Vietnam (closed October-November). Later take a thrilling cyclo-ride through the city and in the evening we will attend a performance at the famous Water Puppets.
Don’t miss taking a walk through Hanoi's Old Quarter – a maze of street, 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.
Our hotel tonight is located in the Old Quarter, just 5 minutes walk to Hoan Kiem lake, the center 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.
Approx travel time:
Transfer to Hue Airport: 20 minutes
Flight from Hue to Hanoi: 1 hour.
Transfer from Hanoi Airport to Hotel: 45 minutes.
Our day begins with a bus journey through the countryside and industrial towns of the north, to the coast where we board our private live-aboard Junk for our overnight cruise on stunning Halong Bay.
Legend has it that the emperor called upon the mother dragon to protect Vietnam from a seaborne invasion fleet. The dragon flew over the sea and spat jewels at the invaders destroying the fleet and the jewels became the magnificent limestone karst formations that speckle the bay in their hundreds. The dragon then settled on the coast and her tail curled around forming the shape of the bay. Halong Bay literally translates as "Descending Dragon Bay"
During our cruise we shall be feasting on local seafood specialties, visiting one of the wondrous cave systems on the islands and also stopping off at a floating fishing village where we can experience the bay up close and personal in sea kayaks. All meals are included on board.
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. We also have a rooftop sundeck to take in the stunning scenery and a full dining room to enjoy our meals of local dishes, on board our private boat.
Approx travel time:
Hanoi to Bay Chai Harbour: 4 hours.
We lift anchor this morning and continue our cruise through the spectacular scenery of Halong Bay. We arrive back in Bai Chay Harbour where we disembark from our boat and take a private bus back to Hanoi. En route back to Hanoi we will stop at the Phu Lang Pottery village where our guide will show you the skill of the artisans in this village.
When we arrive in Hanoi you have the rest of the afternoon free to explore the colorful streets of the Old Quarter, sip on coffee in the French Quarter and admire the architecture of the city.
We stay at the same hotel in Hanoi as we did on Day 10. Centrally located, each room is double or twin share with air conditioning and a private bathroom.
Approx travel time:
Bay Chai harbour to Hanoi: 4 hours.
You are free to depart at any time today. Please note that hotel check out time is 12pm.
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