Tailored from £3,500 per person excl. flights
11 days Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Mui Ne, Saigon
11 days Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Mui Ne, Saigon
The beauty and dynamism of Vietnam is on constant display in this specially designed tour. From the winding alleys in the old quarter of Hanoi, to the elegance of Hue, from the heritage feel of Hoi An to the seafood delight of Nha Trang and on to the bustle and fun of Saigon, Vietnam is bursting with all the splendours of Southeast Asia. Art galleries, markets, museums and culinary enchantment all are all part of the journey through this fascinating land, with enough tradition to entice and enough modernity to provide a luxurious and unparalleled experience.
We will meet you on arrival at Hanoi (HAN) airport, where you will be greeted with a Wayfairer welcome sign, and then transfer together to your hotel for the night on a B&B basis. Depending on your arrival time your local guide can meet you at your hotel and will be happy to suggest an array of dining options from local to international cuisine.
Today we discover Hanoi in depth. We start with the One Pillar Pagoda, dating back to 1049 and one of Hanoi’s oldest structures and then on to the Temple of Literature, also from the 11th century, which was the country’s first institute of learning. We then visit Hoa Lo Prison, also called the ‘Hanoi Hilton’, and a absorbing cultural site. Used as incarceration for political enemies of the French, and later for American pilots, your guide will explain how messages were passed in through the windows and tobacco and opium were thrown over the walls. The afternoon is the perfect time to amble around the Old Quarter and its thousands of specialty shops, proffering silk, lacquer ware, spices and many more, often organised into discrete areas such as ‘Silver Street’ or ‘Basket Street’ with good natured hawkers trying to attract your business. In the evening we board the historic Reunification Express for an overnight journey to Hue, romantically and slowly snaking through the beautiful provinces which border Hanoi and carry you to the fabled Perfume City.
We arrive in Hue in the early morning, widely regarded as the culinary heart of Vietnam. Hue was the nation’s capital from 1801 to 1945 and has an old-world and harmonious atmosphere. A dragon boat cruise along the Perfume River will highlight the tranquillity which Hue is famed for. We will take the time to stop at beautiful heritage sites such as the Thien Mu Pagoda, built between the river and a pine forest and one of the oldest and most elegant buildings in the country. Your guide will regale you with the local legends surrounding the history of the pagoda before you continue your voyage to the Forbidden Purple Palace in the Imperial City. Here you will marvel at the way the walls and moat were built to enclose the Nguyen imperial family and wander around the courtyards and gardens.
We then visit the Tomb of the 19th century Emperor Tu Duc, who enjoyed the longest reign of any monarch of the Nguyen dynasty. The grandeur of the site demonstrates the labour and time spent on constructing this architectural sensation and underscores the great imperial history of this incredible country. As sunset draws near your guide will point you towards the culinary pleasures of Hue, suggesting all manner of dining options and evening entertainment. If the water still tugs your heartstrings, then have another, moonlight trip with performances by local folk singers and the tender, multi-hued release of lanterns into the river
A scenic morning drive to Hoi An opens the day, along rural and coastal panoramas. Arriving in Hoi An, this charming and busy town will immediately take your breath away. With a history of trading the treasures of the Orient, it is no wonder that it continues to be the hub of the silk and ceramic industry in Vietnam. Listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site, it has narrow streets filled with architecture from several countries. The walking tour through the town will take you to the Japanese Covered Bridge, an Ancient House and a Chinese Assembly Hall, with your guide explaining the relevance and background of the town as you stroll. Free time is provided so that you can explore the countryside by bicycle, take a peaceful boat trip on the river or visit one of the various small museums, such as the Museum of Trade Ceramics which provide even more perspective on the town and its importance economically and culturally in the country. The evening should be given over to the pleasures of finding a cosily appointed restaurant, which your guide will be happy to escort you to, with fresh, local seafood being a Hoi An specialty.
Leaving early we will visit the site of the My Lai massacre, where the US committed mayhem on March 16, 1968. Your guide will tell you the background to this tragedy and you can stop to pay homage at the memorial and museum. We then continue southward, where you can linger along the way to take pictures of the wondrous scenery, as and when you like. We then reach the town of Quy Nhon, the provincial capital of Binh Dinh. With its roots firmly entrenched in the days of the Kingdom of Champa, it is now an important and thriving port city. If time permits, visit the Leper Hospital, which far from being a depressing instituon, is actually a model of good practice where patients live with their family in well appointed chalets and work on handicrafts.
Today we enjoy a well-deserved break at the beach in the resort town of Nha Trang, famous for its excellent year-round weather and seafood. The beach, edged with palms and firs is a national treasure, and in true Vietnamese tradition, you will be able to enjoy snacks all day long, as beach vendors will stop to grill you enormous prawns or offer you sweet coconut. If you desire even more relaxation, then visit Thap Ba Spa. Natural hot mineral pools abound, all situated in a hibiscus- infused garden and massage and body treatments are on offer for those with tired legs and excursion-wearied feet.
Today we venture to sea, with a boat cruise around Nha Trang’s coastal islands. The seafood lunch on board, prepared to your specifications will delight, as will the snorkelling stops at specially-chosen reefs. Every island surrounding Nha Trang carries local legends, which your guide will readily narrate, and if desired, your boat crew will cheerily serenade you with local Vietnamese songs. The evening meal will be choice from a myriad of excellent restaurants, with of course, seafood again being the specialty. However, Nha Trang is a popular destination so also has a number of international restaurants, and if you have fallen in love with Vietnamese cuisine, then you must try the locally famous fish or chicken noodle soup.
Continuing our journey south, we reach Mui Ne, a subdued and secluded beach resort. For those who wish to relax, the beach is idyllic, but for those with a more adventurous bent, the two top activities here are kite-surfing and windsurfing because of the strong sea breezes. If you haven’t tried either sport before, your guide will find you patient instructors who will take you out and help you to master the waves, at your own pace. If you would like to see more of the countryside then your guide will help you rent a bicycle or motorcycle, so that you can enjoy the coastal roads and visit Cham tower-topped hills. Just remember to take your camera with you! The famous orange sand dunes are also a must-see, and are located a few kilometres north of the fishing town. The dunes offer magnificent views as well as the irresistible desire to fling oneself down them, throwing all dignity to the wind, as a sense of child-like fun and wonder remind you of why we travel in the first place.
Have a final, relaxing morning on the beach before we travel to our final destination of Saigon. Once a small fishing village, it is now a lively metropolis with a huge variety of things to see and do. The shopping is exceptional, with glitzy department stores and flagship fashion shops scrapping for space next to souvenir stalls and treasure-filled markets. Saigon is definitely the economic capital of the country. Once you have checked in to your hotel you will have the evening to explore, and as usual your experienced guide will be happy to nudge you in any direction you like. Cocktails can be sipped on the 9th floor of the famous Caravelle Hotel in the Saigon Saigon Bar, with an exceptional view over the city, or traditional Vietnamese dances or shadow-puppet shows can be enjoyed at different venues around the city. For those wanting to recreate the nostalgia of days gone, then a Graham Greene inspired visit to the Continental Hotel or ‘Vietnam War’ journalist-enthused call in to the Rex Hotel (where the foreign correspondents used to gather to swap tales and discover the latest news) will satisfy those urges and recreate the atmosphere of those times.
In the morning we visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, where the Viet Kong conducted sneak attacks on US and South Vietnamese positions, then suddenly disappeared out of sight. There are about 200km of these tunnels, some of which even went under enemy military bases. You can crawl through the tunnels, which contained hospitals, kitchens and meeting rooms and even watch a short film which shows their construction and living conditions at the time. We then go back to Saigon and visit the Reunification Palace, which continues to be one of the major landmarks in the city. This was the site of the end of the war during the ‘Fall of Saigon’ on April 30th 1975, when a North Vietnamese army tank barrelled through its gates.
We also visit the War Remnants Museum which contains numerous exhibits from the war in eight themed rooms and military equipment from the time on show outside in the yard. Finally we go to the French-built Notre Dame Cathedral which was built in the 19th century and has two enormous bell towers, with all the materials being imported from France. Perhaps this evening you would like to finish your tour with a final, gastronomic tour de force. Saigon has some of the best restaurants in the country, and features Vietnamese food from every province imaginable. Your guide, by now anticipating your culinary desires, will helpfully suggest a few mouth-watering dining options so that you can truly savour the tastes of Vietnam.
After breakfast your Vietnam odyssey concludes. If you haven’t had the chance there may be time to quickly explore the beautiful Vietnamese art galleries along Dong Khoi Street, where all the noted artists from around the country are represented, and grab a final traditionally-brewed coffee as you sit amidst the flow of life in vibrant Saigon. We can then take you to Saigon airport (SGN) in good time ahead of your departure.
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