Tailormade tour Vietnam Explorer touring holiday Vietnam

11 Nights/12 Days

Hanoi • Ha Long Bay • Hue • Hoi An • Ho Chi Minh City • Can Tho

This eleven-night tour accompanied by local guide offers more than just a typical first-time insight into Vietnam. You travel from Hanoi in the north, via the UNESCO site of Ha Long Bay, to the ancient cities of Hue and Hoi An, before travelling to fascinating Ho Chi Minh City, visiting the famous Cu Chi tunnels and then staying in Can Tho in the Mekong Delta. There is an optional beach extension in Phu Quoc or Con Dao.
Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from about £3,090 per person.

Luxury touring holiday with local guides exploring in depth Vietnam from Hanoi to the Mekong delta, including Hue, Hoi An and the Cu Chi tunnels

Highlights

Hanoi • Ha Long Bay with overnight cruise • Thien Mu Pagoda • Royal Tombs of the Emperor Minh Mang • Dong Ba Market • Cham Museum Danang • Hue • Hoi An • Cu Chi tunnels • Mekong Delta cruise • Ho Chi Minh City • Munir Ansay pagoda • Can Tho

Day by day

You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. There is time to relax after your journey before your guide accompanies you to performance of traditional water puppetry (an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and an interesting, light-hearted introduction to its rural culture). In the evening, you will enjoy a welcome dinner at restaurant in a colonial building.

The day begins with an architectural tour of Hanoi. You’ll wander with your guide through the city centre, studying the capital’s French colonial villas, pagodas and communal houses with many Chinese features, merchants’ residences, ‘tube’ dwellings and other vernacular styles. As a counterpoint to the traditional styles, you’ll be shown examples of social realism (mostly public buildings, designed or influenced by the USSR), modern houses and buildings. After lunch, you visit the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam dating back to the 11th century and a fine example of Vietnamese architecture in its own right. Later you are driven to Hanoi’s excellent Ethnology Museum for an overview of the country’s 54 distinct ethnic groups. In the evening you’ll have tickets for a performance of traditional ‘ca Tru’ at Thang Long Ca Tru Theatre (at the moment, the only venue offering professional Ca Tru shows in Vietnam). Ca Tru is a uniquely Vietnamese musical style with its religious and courtly origins in the Ly Dynasty (1010-1225 AD), and takes a variety of forms, the most common of which features a trio of performers, with a female vocalist who also plays the phach, a lute player and a scholar or critic who participates in the musical dialogue with a ‘praise’ drum, expressing praise or disapproval of the performance. The theatre also has an exhibition demonstrating the history and evolution of Ca Tru and uses its profits to train new artists as well as providing vocational training for orphans and disadvantaged children. Please note: the performance is at 20.00 hrs on Thursdays and Saturdays only.

After an early breakfast, depart by car for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. There you will board your boat, a wooden junk built from the model of old Vietnamese court vessels with sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure. The boats vary in size, accommodating between ten and eighteen people. that takes you first to the busy World Heritage area and then to some of the less well-known grottoes and caves. Weather permitting, swim, fish, and climb a hill that affords a view of the Bay’s remarkable seascape, or venture into some of the sea level caves in a small sampan. All meals are provided on board, usually based on fresh seafood, and you’ll sleep in a twin cabin with en-suite toilet and shower.

The morning is spent cruising Ha Long Bay, followed by lunch just before docking. You are driven back to Hanoi Noi Bai airport for your flight to Hue. Upon arrival in Hue, you will be picked up and transferred to your hotel for the night. Hue is traditionally a main cultural, religious and educational centre of Vietnam and houses the remarkable tombs of the Nguyen emperors, whose dynasty lasted from 1802 until 1942, a citadel in the Vauban style dating from 1804, a palace and the 21 metre-high Thien Mu Pagoda, astride the Perfume River.

This morning begins with a visit to the Thien Mu Pagoda, built on a bluff overlooking the Perfume River, and then from here you are driven to the Royal Tombs of Emperor Minh Mang and Emperor Khai Dinh. Each royal mausoleum reflects the personality of the Emperor it commemorates. The most majestic is that of Emperor Minh Mang, who ruled from 1820 to 1840, a staunch follower of Confucianism with many wives, concubines and a small army of children. Planned by the Emperor and built shortly after his death in formal Chinese style, it is opulent and exotic, and a good example of classic Sino-Vietnamese architecture. In contrast to Emperor Ming Mang’s flamboyant creation, the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh is an uneasy combination of Vietnamese and European features, using fragments of ceramics and glass for decoration, but with striking views from the courtyard in front of the mausoleum. After these visits, hop on your personal cyclo, powered by an experienced driver, and cross over the historic Trang Tien Bridge to visit the colourful Dong Ba Market where you can see many of the ingredients for making local Hue food. During the tour, stop at many famous street restaurants to sample Hue local street food dishes such as: Banh Khoai (Hue pancake), Bum Bo Hue (Hue beef vermicelli soup), Banh Beo (steamed rice dishes topped with shrimp), Banh Uot (Hue wet rice paper), Nem Lui (grilled chopped meat) and much more. You are free to sample as much as you like. In the afternoon, return to your hotel and the rest of the day is at leisure.

After breakfast, your guide will arrive to take you on a tour of Hue’s ancient citadel, once the seat of the Emperors of the powerful Nguyen Dynasty that ruled Vietnam from about 1800 until 1945. You begin with a stroll around the area between the Citadel’s giant walls and the defensive moat, now filled with lotus flowers. You then enter the Noon Gate to wander around the Thai Hoa Palace, the Pavilion housing the Nine urns of the Nguyen rulers and the remains of the Royal Palaces. After lunch, your car takes you to Danang, crossing the high mountain pass of Hai Van with excellent views from the top, built on a spur of the Truong Son Mountains that juts into the South China Sea. You should be able to see Lang Co beach and village, with Danang to the south. In Danang, you’ll be shown the remarkable Hindu statuary in the Cham Museum, a fine open-air collection of Cham sculpture. From here you continue to Hoi An, with the rest of the day at leisure. You spend the night in Hoi An.

After breakfast, your guide meets you to show you the Ancient Town and explain its considerable significance in the history of Vietnam. Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage site. An ancient trading port, once the largest in Indochina, Hoi An was a meeting point for many cultures that left their mark on the different architectural features of its wooden buildings. Untouched by the American War, the original street pattern still exists, as does the quay that once welcomed ships from all over East Asia and beyond. Many remained in port for months at a time, waiting for the trade winds to carry them home. Today there is still an array of interesting houses, shops, family chapels, pagodas and temples, tombs, bridges and clothes shops where tailoring will be carried out on demand. There are plenty of good restaurants and it is a good place for shopping for silk. Many of the famous sights of Hoi An such as the Japanese covered wooden bridges, the Pottery Museum, the 200 year old Tan Ky House, Chua Ong Pagoda and markets are included in the walking tour. At 16.30 hrs you are picked up at your hotel to board a boat to the mouth of the Thu Bon estuary to meet local fishermen who are preparing their journey offshore in the Cua Dai Sea. You experience catching fish in a traditional ‘Thung Chai’ basket boat, (these are light and portable, circular and constructed of bamboo then tarred for waterproofing. Each boat can carry up to five people. Life jackets are provided). Then you relax as you observe sunset behind the coconut palms, enjoying some snacks. You are driven back to your hotel to spend the night in Hoi An.

Enjoy a morning at leisure before an afternoon flight to Ho Chi Minh City. After transferring to your centrally located hotel, you’re free to wander around District 1. For the evening there are a couple of options: Nightlife by Vespa This evening you are picked up at the hotel for a tour on the back of a vintage Vespa scooter, to experience the nightlife of Saigon the way the locals do. Your first stop is at Café Zoom to enjoy a cocktail and appetiser (included) before adventuring to a favourite local eating spot. The ride takes you through Chinatown into District 4, through busy streets and alleys, into District 3 and downtown District 1 on the way to taste Banh Xeo, Saigon’s speciality snack. Or A O Show The A O show captures much of the uniqueness of Vietnam in the engaging style of contemporary circus. The hour-long show is a fusion of dance, acrobatics and live music with theatrical drama tracing the passage of Vietnam from a rural village culture to the modern, urban society it is today. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is a thriving metropolis which has nevertheless preserved 300 years of traditions and ancient culture.

After breakfast, your local guide will take you to visit the famous Cu Chi tunnels, a maze of underground passages, chambers, rooms and booby traps used by both the Vietminh and the Viet Cong. After lunch you return to Ho Chi Minh City to visit the Reunification Hall, an early colonial masterpiece built to accommodate the Governor-General of Inchochina. You also visit the Museum of War Remnants (not for the squeamish) which provides a fascinating perspective of the ‘American War’. After the sightseeing there is time to rest and freshen up or visit the lively Ben Thanh market. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

You are driven to Cai Be, about two hours from Ho Chi Minh City, where a Mekong river cruise will take you to visit examples of local life in the rich, fertile Mekong delta. You’ll visit orchards, a traditional family-run brick kiln and some long-established cottage industries. Later a rowing boat will carry you through the maze of the channels of the delta so that you can experience the life of the local people, visiting a local house and listening to music performed by local artists. You then drive deeper into the Mekong Delta to Can Tho. Here you visit Munir Ansay, an ancient Khmer pagoda, renowned for its structural decorations. You then continue to your hotel in Can Tho where you spend the night.

After breakfast enjoy a boat cruise to visit the Cai Rang floating market on the Mekong Delta. Both the journey and the market provide insights into the rural Mekong Delta lifestyle. You then return to Ho Chi Minh City, visiting the ancient Vinh Trang Pagoda, three kms from My Tho. This pagoda is renowned for its mix of architectural styles: Chinese, Vietnamese and Angkor. You reach Ho Chi Minh City in the late afternoon, with time to freshen up in your hotel before the evening. Optional beach extension Instead of returning to Ho Chi Minh City, after the early morning cruise to visit Cai Rang floating market, you are transferred Can Tho airport for a flight to Phu Quoc or Con Dao (or you go by car to Rach Gia and then hydrofoil to Phu Qhoc island). You then spend three nights in your beach hotel before returning to the airport for a connecting flight back home

You are at leisure today until it is time to be collected by private car and driver to take you to Tan Son Nhat airport for your flight.

This holiday exceeded my expectations. The quality of the hotels and excursions were superb.
Ms W, December 2018

Holiday price guide From about £3,090 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for economy flights from London.

Holiday Code VNDG05

Luxury touring holiday with local guides exploring in depth Vietnam from Hanoi to the Mekong delta, including Hue, Hoi An and the Cu Chi tunnels

This holiday exceeded my expectations. The quality of the hotels and excursions were superb.
Ms W, December 2018

Holiday price guide From about £3,090 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for economy flights from London.

Holiday Code VNDG05

Our prices include ● Return scheduled flights with Vietnam Airlines from London to Hanoi, returning from Ho Chi Minh City to London in economy class
● Domestic flights from Hanoi to Hue and Danang to Ho Chi Minh City
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in Hanoi
● 1 night’s bed and full board on the Ha Long Bay river cruise
● 1 night’s bed and breakfast in Hue
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in Hoi An
● 2 nights' bed and breakfast in Ho Chi Minh City
● 1 night’s bed and breakfast in Can Tho
● Six lunches and one dinner (as specified in the itinerary) plus full board on the boat in Ha Long Bay.
● Private transfers and sightseeing tours in an air-conditioned car appropriate to the size of your party
● Boat cruises as specified in the itinerary. All Ha Long boats are fully licenced and comply with current safety regulations.
● Services of an English-speaking guide as indicated in the itinerary (free days or part-free days as well as transfers unless specified do not include the services of the guide)
● Concierge service and Expressions Holidays regional helpful hints

Our prices do not include ● Early check-in or late check-out at any hotels (although we can arrange this on request at additional cost)
● Any other services not mentioned above, such as transfers and meals except breakfast at hotels
● Personal holiday insurance. This is essential and cover should be in place from when you book the holiday.
● Local tourist tax, payable locally to the hotel
● Visas – our local agent in Vietnam offers a free visa service
● Meals, except as specified above
● Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses
● Camera fees where applicable
● There may be supplements for compulsory Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve gala dinners, sometimes payable locally

Expressions Holidays includes these hotels in this touring holiday as suggestions, but they can be substituted by others in the same region, if you have a preference to stay elsewhere.
Hotels included in this tour
Hanoi
Silk Path Hotel Value option

The Silk Path Hotel in Hanoi is a modern and sophisticated hotel in an excellent central location.

Premium deluxe room

Sofitel Metropole Hanoi Luxury option

The Sofitel Metropole Hotel is a beautiful five-star hotel in Hanoi that combines wonderful facilities with historic elegance and luxury.

Luxury room historic wing

Ha Long Bay
L'Amour Junk Value option

The L’Amour Junk is a beautiful, traditional style boat which offers both charm and privacy whilst exploring Ha Long Bay.

Paradise Luxury Cruise Luxury option

The Paradise Luxury Cruise is an elegant and luxurious boat in which to explore Ha Long Bay and its magnificent scenery.

Terrace suite cabin

Hue
Saigon Morin Hotel Value option

The Saigon Morin Hotel is a wonderful hotel, full of historic charm in the centre of Hue.

Colonial deluxe room

Azerai La Residence Hotel and Spa Luxury option

The Azerai La Residence is a stylish hotel with distinctive art deco influences, in an excellent location near the centre of Hue.

Colonial suite

Hoi An
Boutique Hoi An Resort Value option

The Boutique Hoi An Resort is an elegant and contemporary resort with wonderful facilities, in a striking beachfront location.

Superior room

Palm Garden Resort Luxury option

The Palm Garden Resort is an excellent hotel with a wide range of facilities in a wonderful beachfront location near Hoi An.

Bungalow beachfront

Ho Chi Minh City
Liberty Central Saigon Value option

The Liberty Central Saigon Centre Hotel is a sophisticated and modern hotel in an excellent location at the centre of Ho Chi Minh City.

Premier deluxe room

Park Hyatt Saigon Luxury option

The Park Hyatt Saigon is an elegant and luxurious hotel with excellent dining options, in a wonderful location at the centre of Ho Chi Minh City.

Park garden view room

Can Tho
Victoria Can Tho Resort

The Victoria Can Tho Resort is both elegant and stylish, in an excellent location for exploring the Mekong Delta.

Suite room

This holiday exceeded my expectations. The quality of the hotels and excursions were superb.
Ms W, December 2018

Holiday price guide From about £3,090 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for economy flights from London.

Holiday Code VNDG05

Luxury touring holiday with local guides exploring in depth Vietnam from Hanoi to the Mekong delta, including Hue, Hoi An and the Cu Chi tunnels

Highlights of Vietnam

Boat trips on Halong Bay, with the more adventurous able to explore its caves and secret lagoons by kayak, paddling around its limestone peaks; the long, sweeping beaches of Nha Trang; Vietnamese cuisine, bursting with fresh, vivid spices, as delicious in roadside food stalls as in top restaurants such as Mango Rooms in Hoi An; historic, riverside Hoi An, with superb galleries, particularly Apricot and Mai Tai galleries in the Old Quarter, and Dong Phong Art Gallery in the French Quarter; full-moon ‘Legendary Nights’ in Hoi An, when vehicles are banned from the Old Town, which is transformed into a magical land of silk lanterns, traditional food, song and dance, and games in the streets; explore Phong Nha Cave, the largest and most impressive cave in the country; cycle through Ho Chi Minh City, the city where bike is king; the beaches and unique Cham architecture of Quy Nhon; the rugged mountain retreat of Sapa, home to a plethora of minority tribes, and gateway to the Tonkinese Alps; the mountain town of Dalat; Cat Tien National Park, a lush refuge for city dwellers with ample hiking and bird-watching, plus elephants, crocodiles and the endangered Javan rhino; the beaches of Mui Ne; river trips on the Mekong river, past river towns and sleepy villages, floating markets and fish stalls; the white-sand beaches of Phu Quoc, a little developed forested island gem; Hue, the old imperial capital and now the intellectual, cultural and spiritual heart of Vietnam.

Travel around Vietnam

The 1,600-mile Vietnamese railway system, operated by Vietnam Railways, runs along the coast between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and links the capital with Hai Phong and northern towns. While sometimes even slower than buses, trains offer a more relaxing way to get around and more room than the jam-packed buses. Vietnam has an enormous number of rivers that are at least partly navigable, but the most important by far is the Mekong River and its tributaries. Scenic day trips by boat are possible on rivers in Hoi An, Danang, Hué, Tam Coc and even HCMC, but only in the Mekong Delta are boats used as a practical means of transport. Boat trips are also possible on the sea. Cruising the islands of Halong Bay is a must for all visitors to north Vietnam. In the south, a trip to the islands off the coast of Nha Trang is popular.

Facts in brief

Capital Hanoi
Airport There are three international airports in Vietnam. They are Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Noi Bai airport in Hanoi and Da Nang Airport in Da Nang.
Size 128,000 sq. miles
Population 95 million
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