Vietnam Express Northbound
10 days with Intrepid Travel Rating:
Day 1 Ho Chi Minh City
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. As this trip doesn’t spend much time in Ho Chi Minh City, why not arrive a day or two early to see the sights? We’ll be happy to book some additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Ho Chi Minh City has a dynamic atmosphere and a French influence. Perhaps head to Pham Ngu Lao Street to see the local open-aired market, visit Vinh Nghiem Pagoda or take an Urban Adventure with an expert local guide. After the meeting, why not get to know your fellow travellers and the flavours of Vietnamese cuisine over an optional group dinner.
Day 2 Mekong Delta - Ho Chi Minh City
Today you'll travel south by private minibus (approximately 3 hours) and spend the day exploring the Mekong Delta. On arrival, board a private boat and traverse the intricate waterways – soak up the tranquil surrounds and admire the breathtaking views as you float through this fertile landscape, often referred to as ‘the rice bowl of Vietnam’. Disembark at Ben Tre and visit the coconut gardens, stopping at a local home to sample tropical fruits and coconut jams before paddling in sampans (small rowing boats). Take a tuk-tuk tour around the villages, learning about rural life and how the locals make their living. Enjoy lunch at a restaurant in the heart of the delta, sampling regional specialties such as the famous elephant ear fish. Then it’s back to the boat to cruise the delta’s major waterways to Ben Tre boat pier. After the cruise, return via bus to Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 3 Hoi An
This morning, say goodbye to Ho Chi Minh City and fly north to Danang (approximately 1 hour 30 minutes). From here you’ll take a 45-minute bus ride to Hoi An, with the five spectacular peaks of the Marble Mountains as a backdrop. Once in Hoi An, your leader will take you on a walking tour of this unique town, influenced over the years by Europe, China and Vietnam. The town was a major trading port from the 17th century onwards, and the outside influences can be seen all over its architecture, with pagodas and assembly halls found across the town. For a small place it has a liveliness alongside its charm and serenity. The tour will take you down the streets that are being restored and look much like they did over a century ago. Past low tiled buildings, you'll take in a historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum.
Day 4 Hoi An
Enjoy a free day in the World Heritage-listed Hoi An. You may like to wander the Central Market and the street stalls selling paintings, woodwork, ceramics, lanterns and much more. Hoi An is also famous for its talented tailors who can make beautiful items to order within a few hours. For those still feeling adventurous, why not hire a bicycle and tour the surrounding countryside? This is one of the best ways to get an insight into rural Vietnam. Other optional activities include a day trip to My Son Cham, an elaborate World Heritage-listed temple that reflects the rich cultural traditions of the Cham civilisation, a cruise along the Thu Bon River and a trip to the nearby Cua Dai Beach.
Day 5 Hue
Leave Hoi An today and journey across the dramatic Hai Van Pass, a sometimes bumpy but incredibly scenic stretch of highway with views of Lang Co Beach. Make a quick photo stop enroute then continue to your destination of Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam (approximately 5 hours including stops). Hue contains the treasures of Vietnam’s royal history and has an interesting blend of bustling streets and tranquil settings. Join your leader for a tour of the Imperial Citadel – this fortress houses the Imperial City and the citadel-within-a-citadel, the Forbidden Purple City. This icon was almost completely destroyed during the Vietnam/American War, and the ruins and holes left by bombs are a reminder of the destruction that was caused. In your free time you might like to visit Dong Ba Market, which offers locally made goods, fresh produce and tantalising street food.
Day 6 Hue - Overnight Train
Today’s adventure will be on the back of a motorbike. You’ll have your own driver who will take you first on a drive around the Imperial Citadel, then to the Thien Mu Pagoda, the unofficial symbol of Hue. This site dates back to 1601 and is still an active Buddhist monastery. Here you’ll also see the car left by a monk who set himself alight to protest the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. Ride to a special lunch spot at a convent or Buddhist monastery for a delicious vegetarian feast, then drive to the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, set amid a lake, frangipani bushes and pine trees. In the evening, board an overnight train to Hanoi (approximately 12 hours).
Day 7 Hanoi
Arrive in Hanoi early in the morning and transfer to your hotel. Vietnam’s capital is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, public parks and beautiful Old Quarter. As an emerging city in South East Asia, Hanoi has an attractive contrast of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and a labyrinth of ancient streets. Later in the day, take a walking tour through the city where you’ll see Ho Chi Minh’s former stilt house and other icons such as the Temple of Literature. In your free time, perhaps stop by the ’36 Streets’ of the historic Old Quarter, head to the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake, or visit the Fine Arts Museum. This museum plays a crucial role in maintaining and promoting the cultural heritage of Vietnam’s ethnic communities.
Day 8 Halong Bay
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage site of Halong Bay (approximately 4 hours). This is one of Vietnam’s most beautiful places, a secluded bay of emerald waters flecked with limestone islands and caves. Here you’ll go on a cruise to explore Surprise Cave and surrounding rock formations, and in the warmer months perhaps go kayaking or opt for a swim from Ti Top Island. Access to Surprise Cave is via staircases. Once inside the cave the pathways are a little uneven and slippery. On board your ship, there’ll be a dining room and bar on board where you’ll enjoy your meals, including fresh seafood for lunch and dinner. Spend the night on board the boat beneath a sky alive with starlight.
Day 9 Hanoi
Leaving the memorable scenery of Halong Bay behind, return by bus to Hanoi (approximately 3.5 hours). Arrive in Hanoi late this afternoon and enjoy some free time to explore Hanoi's sights or do some last-minute shopping. Otherwise, why not relax at a cafe or stop for a bia hoi (freshly brewed draught beer) at one of the microbars in the Old Quarter? Tonight there will be a farewell dinner to enjoy with the group at KOTO restaurant, an organisation that supports disadvantaged youth with careers in the hospitality industry.
Day 10 Hanoi
Today your exploration of Vietnam comes to an end. There are no activities planned for the final day however you may consider continuing your adventure with a short tour such as ‘Hanoi Street Food by Night’ or ‘Village Discovery by Bike’ with our partners Urban Adventures (see urbanadventures.com for more information). Alternatively, perhaps visit the Hoa Lo Prison aka the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ which was used for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. There’s also the Museum of Ethnology with its fascinating indoor and outdoor exhibits. We’ll be happy to book some additional accommodation for you (subject to availability), just ask at the time of booking.
All This Included
Go behind the scenes of Vietnam’s hot-spots on a small-group adventure that avoids the tourists. From the fast-paced hub of Ho Chi Minh City to the charming capital of Hanoi, experience the beautiful landscapes, history-soaked monuments and all the delicious cuisine in between as you traverse the country from South to North like a local: paddle through the waterways of the Mekong Delta in a sampan, explore remote villages via tuk-tuk, cruise through the waters of Halong Bay on a traditional boat, wander the car-free streets of Hoi An on foot and discover the imperial icons of Hue from the back of a motorbike – and with the guidance of your expert local leader, you’ll discover secrets to this South-East Asian gem that you simply won’t find in a guidebook.
Hotel (7 nights)
Overnight boat (1 night)
Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
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* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.