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The Wonders of Vietnam November 2017

The Wonders of Vietnam November 2017

11-26 November 2017

$5695 Per Person Twin Share, $1600 Single Supplement

Hosted By Rodney Vincent

Day 1 – Saturday 11 November 2017 (D) Depart Melbourne – Arrive Saigon

Depart           MELBOURNE on Vietnam Airlines
Arrive             SAIGON

You will meet your guide on arrival Saigon airport, transfer and check-in to your hotel. During the drive your guide will provide an introduction to Saigon, answer any questions you have, and make arrangements for the following day.  Enjoy free time for the remainder of the first day.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in southern Vietnam is a sprawling metropolis of ten million people. Formally renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1975 at the end of the Vietnam-American war, locals still refer to it as Saigon. With thousands of motorbikes zipping past luxury cars, French colonial buildings dwarfed by modern skyscrapers, and traditionally dressed school girls riding bicycles past trendy city workers, Saigon is an exciting city of contrasts.

Saigon is a city that never sleeps and offers a plethora of great restaurants and bars catering to all tastes, from street food vendors to the rooftop bar at the Rex Hotel, where international correspondents covered the Vietnam War and where the U.S. military attaché’s press briefing was held daily and dubbed the “Five O’clock Follies”. Whatever your interests, be sure to ask your guide for personal recommendations.

 Evening enjoy a welcome dinner at your hotel.

Accommodation: Rex Hotel or similar 

Day 2 – Sunday 12 November 2017 (B, L, D) Cu Chi Tunnels & Saigon City

This morning a two hour drive northwest of Saigon, through urbanized areas and typical lush southern Vietnamese countryside, to the famous Cu Chi tunnels. The incredible underground tunnel network was constructed by Vietnamese resistance fighters (Viet Cong) during their struggle for independence. The tunnel complex was initially started in 1948 to protect the Viet Cong guerrillas from the French air and ground sweeps. The tunnels also served as communication routes, storage facilities for food and weapon caches as well as hospitals and living quarters for guerrilla fighters throughout the American war. A visit to the underground villages will provide a better understanding of the tunnels’ history, the hardship of life in the tunnels and the Vietnamese resilience during combat.

Return to Saigon around lunchtime for included light lunch with “PHO” – a bowl of Vietnam’s national dish - pho noodle soup. 

Continue the city visit with the landmark Reunification Hall, formerly known as the Presidential Palace - the headquarters of the Saigon Government during the American war. It was towards this modern building that North Vietnamese resistance fighters tanks (Viet Cong) rolled on the morning of April 30, 1975 as Saigon fell. This fascinating building is filled with history still fresh in the minds of many.

Visit the War Remnants Museum which was formerly known as the Exhibition House of American War Crimes. The museums exhibitions include some disturbing photographs of the Vietnam War.

Transfer to Dong Khoi Street or Rue Catinat as it was known in the time of the French occupation, to discover some of the beautiful French colonial buildings built in the late 19th and early 20th century. Appreciate the splendidly restored exteriors of the Opera House and the former Hotel de Ville which are still two of the finest buildings in Saigon. Wander up to the Notre Dame Cathedral, a red brick edifice with twin spires based on the original construction from Paris. (It is only possible to visit inside when no service is being performed) Then head across the square to the Central Post Office, designed by the French architect, Gustav Eiffel, before he rose to fame for designing the Eiffel Tower.   Dinner tonight will be at a great local restaurant.

Accommodation: Rex Hotel or similar 

Day 3 – Monday 13 November 2017 (B, L) Mekong Delta

After breakfast this morning depart your hotel this morning for a 1.5 hour drive heading south to Ben Tre - one of the biggest coconut tree orchards in Vietnam. Take in the lush surroundings of rice paddies and fruit farms alongside the highway as you leave behind the busy city.

Arrive at the waterfront pier and embark on an enjoyable motor boat excursion, take a glimpse at the delta scenery, houses built on stilts and local fish farms along the way. Cruise among the islands named Dragon, Unicorn, Turtle and Phoenix Islands. You will stop along the way to discover how Vietnamese farmers work their rice fields and observe daily life of the villagers in the Mekong Delta. You will have the chance to see a family run-business where they make coconut candy directly in front of the pier.


Take a short horse cart ride along country roads to a tropical orchard garden of a farmer for a tasting session of honey and some exotic fruits and a traditional folk song performance... Engage in a casual chat with your host and stroll through the garden to get an insight into daily farming life. Take some time to enjoy a leisurely walk through the village observing tropical gardens along the way. Continue discovering the Mekong by cruising the small canals and arroyos lined with palm and coconut trees.


Continue driving and stop en route at either Vinh Trang pagoda, which was built in 1849 and is one of the first pagodas to incorporate a mixture of Asian and European architectural features or a small, colorful Cao Dai temple which represents a synthesis of world religions.   Lunch will be served at local restaurant, taste some local delicacies before returning to Saigon in the afternoon.  Dinner tonight is own arrangements.


Accommodation: Rex Hotel or similar 

Day 4 – Tuesday 14 November 2017 (B, L, D) Long Tan/Nui Dat Excursion

After breakfast this morning drive 2.5hours from Saigon towards Ba Ria – Vung Tau. Take a moment to reflect on the Battle of Long Tan in 1966, arguably the most famous battle fought by the Australian Army during the Vietnam War, while visiting the simple Long Tan Memorial Cross in the middle of the rubber plantations. Pay a visit to the former 1st Australian Task Force Base at Nui Dat, which is now just a clearing surrounded by rubber plantations. Take a moment to reflect on the battle on that fateful day at Long Tan Memorial Cross. Continue travelling to Long Phuoc to visit a wartime tunnel complex. The war has been over for over forty years, but evidence of the tunnel system into the bowels of the earth is still there. Head over to Horseshoe Hill, an elevated site of an extinct volcano. This was a strategic observation out post established by the Australian forces. Nowadays, visitors are not allowed to access it, but it is possible to see from afar.  After included lunch at a local restaurant, head back to Saigon where dinner tonight will be at your hotel.  

Day 5 – Wednesday 15 November 2017 (B, D) Saigon – Danang – Hoi An

Breakfast at hotel.  Today transfer to the airport where you board a short flight to Danang. 

Depart           SAIGON on Vietnam Airlines
Arrive             DA NANG

You will meet your guide on arrival at Danang airport, and then transfer and check-in to your hotel in Hoi An. During the drive your guide will provide an introduction to Danang and Hanoi and answer any questions you have, and make arrangements for the following day. Enjoy free time for the remainder of the first day.

Situated along the south central coast of Vietnam, Hoi An is an outstanding example of a well-preserved ancient town that has been designated a World Heritage Site. Known as Faifo in the past, it was a major port town that boasted multi-cultural influences from the 16th – 18th centuries. Today, it is a quaint and picturesque town that can be easily explored on foot.   Dinner tonight will be at your hotel.

Accommodation: Palm Garden Resort or similar

Day 6 – Thursday 16 November 2017 (B, L) Hoi An Walking Tour

Breakfast is at the hotel this morning.  This morning your guide will take you a walking tour of the old town.   Between the 17th and 19th centuries, Hoi An was a major and prosperous Asian trading port. Hoi An’s architecture and relaxed lifestyle have changed little over the years.  Today, this World Heritage-listed ancient town boasts well-preserved buildings, pedestrianized streets and unique cuisine, allowing visitors a glimpse of its illustrious past.

The narrow lanes are ideal for a guided leisurely walking tour. There is plenty to visit including the old merchant’s houses with influences from Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese architecture; the 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge; the Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation with outstanding wood carvings; and the colourful market with stalls brimming with local specialties including silk, which can be turned into fashionable garments within a day or two. Enjoy included light lunch at local restaurant and the rest afternoon is free at leisure.   Take the opportunity to order your handmade clothes or shoes whilst you’re in Hoi An today.  They’ll be ready for pick up before you leave.  Dinner tonight is own arrangements.

Accommodation: Palm Garden Resort or similar

Day 7 – Friday 17 November 2017 (B, L) Hoi An Cooking Class

Breakfast at hotel before your tour this morning.  After a cup of coffee or tea at a local Hoi An café, students at the Red Bridge Cooking School head off to the colourful market, and experience the amazing sights, sounds and aromas of this busy market. We will have the opportunity to interact with the local sellers and purchase some of the ingredients to be used in the cooking lesson. Then it’s a quick boat trip along the Hoi An River to the school, where students are treated to demonstrations of Hoi An specialties before being let loose in the kitchen. Enjoy the dishes you cooked for lunch today.  The rest of the day is at leisure and dinner tonight is own arrangements. 

After the class, return to hotel and the rest afternoon is free at leisure. Take the chance to have a swim and relax by the pool at your resort or take a stroll along the famous ‘China Beach’.    Dinner tonight is own arrangements. 

Accommodation: Palm Garden Resort or similar

Day 8 – Saturday 18 November 2017 (B, D) Hoi An - Hue

This morning after breakfast you will leave Hoi An for Hue via Danang.   The guide and driver will take you over the beautiful Hai Van Pass - Vietnam's geographical and psychological boundary between north and south. The peak of the pass lies perpetually shrouded in clouds. Stop en-route in Danang, you will visit the Marble Mountains, five sacred hills containing dozens of Buddhist shrines. You will also visit the Cham Museum, which contains the finest collection of Cham sculpture in the world. 

In 1687 the Viets made Hue their capital, and continued their expansion into Cham territory. It remained the capital under the Nguyen dynasty, which had thirteen emperors, the last of whom ruled until 1945. Hue is still the intellectual capital of Vietnam with 12 schools of higher learning.  It maintained its cultural identity while other cities were accumulating foreign influences. The Nguyen dynasty left an Imperial city of citadels, palaces, tombs and temples set in the peaceful countryside bordering the Perfume River. Hue today has regained its royal demeanor and is a calm, peaceful and relaxed place to visit. The remaining French colonial garden houses and villas, quiet streets, riverbanks, and outlying tombs and pagodas that escaped damage - all give Hue a unique atmosphere of tranquility.  Once you’ve checked into your hotel the rest of the afternoon is at leisure.  Dinner tonight is at the hotel.

Accommodation: Saigon Morin or similar

Day 9 – Sunday 19 November 2017 (B, L, D) Hue

Today visit the UNESCO listed site - Imperial Citadel where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945. Take the electric car to visit the Citadel. Enter through the towering main gate and you will appreciate the magnificent architecture and gardens while your guide explains about the events and the intrigue of the former royal court. Despite being bombed heavily, there are some incredibly well preserved sections still intact and others which are being lovingly restored. The visit also includes the Hue Royal Fine Art Museum which is housed within the former Dien Long An Royal Palace.

Continue to visit Thien Mu pagoda, Hue’s best-preserved religious monument. Standing on the riverbank with its seven-storey tower, the pagoda is a sight to behold. Then walk to the nearby pier where you will embark on a half-hour boat trip on the picturesque Perfume River back to town.  Enjoy included lunch at local restaurant.

Drive out about 30 minutes to the elaborate Khai Dinh Royal Tomb from where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945. Its architecture and atmosphere showcase elements of eastern art and western designs.

Dinner tonight is at the private ‘garden house’ known locally as ‘nha vuon’ of one Hue's most famous architects. This traditional style house, which is set in a large and attractive formal garden has connections with the ancient Hue Royal Imperial Court. The traditional architecture has long been associated with the natural environment and the ancient belief of ‘feng-shui’.  On arrival you’ll be greeted in the foyer of this magnificent house with a traditional Vietnamese welcome. The owner of the house will personally prepare an extraordinary Vietnamese meal which is served privately in the traditional manner in the private gardens of her home.  Chat to the family to learn about their daily lives and how they bring the quintessence of the Royal ambiance and culture into their home.

Accommodation: Saigon Morin or similar

Day 10 – Monday 20 November 2017 (B, D) Hue - Hanoi

After breakfast at hotel, you will be transferred to airport for a short flight to Hanoi.

Depart                  HUE on Vietnam Airlines
Arrive                    HANOI

You will meet your guide on arrival Hanoi airport and during the drive your guide will provide an introduction to Hanoi, answer any questions you have, and make arrangements for the day.

Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital city and home to seven million people. Traditional and refined, with French colonial architecture, tree-lined boulevards, scenic lakes and a bustling Old Quarter, Hanoi has a sophisticated charm. Observe elderly people practicing Tai Chi by the lake, with barbers and food vendors plying their sidewalk trade.

Hanoi has many great restaurants with French, Vietnamese and international cuisines available. Ask your guide for personal recommendations.

Visit the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university. Constructed in 1070, the gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a relaxing glimpse into Vietnam’s past. Continue to the hotel for check-in and rest of the day is free at leisure.   Dinner tonight will be served at nice local restaurant.

Accommodation: Silk Path Hotel or similar

Day 11 – Tuesday 21 November 2017 (B, L) Hanoi

Today visit the historic Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, an imposing monument lavishly built using marble and granite, and where the preserved body of “Uncle Ho” resides. (Outside visit only as Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is closed from late September until December). Behind the Mausoleum, you can see Ho Chi Minh's House. The simple house where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked from 1954 until 1969 is made of wood and enjoyed a tranquil setting, with a view of a lotus pond. Ho Chi Minh’s belongings are on display and you can walk up the steps of his house to see his bedroom.

Enjoy a one hour tour by cyclo, a chauffeur-pedalled tricycle, through Hanoi’s Old Quarter, also known as “36 streets”. This bustling area of narrow streets and alleys is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It's a great place to explore, especially by cyclo, with plenty of photo opportunities all around you.

After included lunch at local restaurant, return to hotel and rest of the day is free at leisure.

Accommodation: Silk Path Hotel or similar

Day 12 – Wednesday 22 November 2017 (B, L, D) Hanoi

Today the morning is at leisure before setting off to make a   street food discovery. Eating on the street is a very typical activity for Hanoians and makes up an important part of the city’s unique culture. Street food is for everyone – rich, poor, old, young, tourists and local alike. Start your street food tour with an overview of local ingredients by visiting a local food market with a gastronomy expert. With some background knowledge, it’s time to hit the streets and start your food adventure. Most street restaurants only serve one or two dishes – and each is prepared right in front of you. Walk down some small alleys and bustling streets and savour some of Hanoi’s specialties which are recommended and explained by your gastronome. Finish the trip dining at Ngon (delicios) restaurant which is set up like a local food market selling specialties from each region in Vietnam.  Return to hotel and rest of the day is free at leisure.   Dinner at nice local restaurant.

Accommodation: Silk Path Hotel or similar

Day 13 – Thursday 23 November 2017 (B, L, D) Hanoi – Halong Bay

Your early morning departure from your hotel in Hanoi to Halong Bay takes you on a journey through the rich farmlands of the Red River Delta. Observe everyday life of Vietnamese villages as you see the villagers work the local rice fields, take live pigs to market on bicycles and plough the fields with their large water buffaloes.

Arrive in Halong and board a traditional sailing junk. As the vessel sets sails, you will be greeted by the crew who will look after you for the next couple of days.   As you sail the bay this afternoon you’ll see fascinating caves, pristine beaches, picturesque floating villages, and fantastic rock formations rising up out of emerald water. While onboard, you can take advantage at leisure of the cruise services and you might like to attend the chef's cooking demonstration and try your skills in the art of traditional Vietnamese cooking.

Accommodation: Victory Star or similar

Day 14 – Friday 24 November 2017 (B, L, D) Halong Bay

As the day breaks, you are invited to join a Tai Chi demonstration taking place on the top deck of the vessel. Enjoy a buffet breakfast on the main vessel before being transferred to our day-boat, which will take you to an amazing area of the bay with beautiful islands and long- white- sandy beaches.

Depending on season and weather condition, you will have chance to land on one of the beautiful islands to explore by bicycle or motorbike and visit a local village.  The guide will explain about life on the island and you will have the chance to visit the local school and chat to the friendly and welcoming villagers; or you will cruise to visit one of the largest floating villages in Halong Bay, a ramshackle collection of buildings that include a school, museum and almost a hundred dwellings where the fishermen and their families reside all year round. This unusual way of living only on water and in relative isolation has encouraged a completely unique culture not seen anywhere else in Vietnam.

Enjoy the seafood lunch on cruise and the boat starts sailing again. On the way, visit some famous caves. Kayak, swim, or just enjoy the quiet and splendid setting. Back on the main vessel, relax and enjoy the facilities at leisure.

Dinner served onboard followed by the evening entertainment such as squid fishing or just enjoy a cocktail.

Accommodation: Victory Star or similar

Day 15 – Saturday 25 November 2017 (B) Halong Bay – Hanoi – Depart Hanoi

Early birds can attend a Tai Chi demonstration on the sundeck at the break of dawn. Start the day enjoying some delights with a light breakfast and follow by a colorful brunch.  Continue exploring Halong Bay sailing across its 2000 islets and visiting some of its major highlights. Your cruise will come to an end at the pier in Halong late morning and you will be met and transferred back to Hanoi. The drive will take around 3.5-4 hours and you will arrive in Hanoi around mid-afternoon to check in for your flight home.

Depart           HANOI on Vietnam Airlines 
Arrive         SAIGON 

Depart           SAIGON on Vietnam Airlines

Day 16 – Sunday 26 November 2017 (B in Flight) Arrive Melbourne

Arrive          MELBOURNE

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