ESSENTIAL VIETNAM IN STYLE
Highlight: This trip is planned for clients who visit Vietnam at the first time, and want to spend more private time on private cruises to admire the beautiful scenery by waterway, also have more unique experience. Starting from Hanoi capital to Ninh Binh, admire impressive limestone karsts of Ninh Binh and Halong Bay, then cruise through the Mekong Delta’s lush waterways. Venture through Ho Chi Minh City’s maze of laneways and dine at Hanoi’s best street stalls with insightful local guides, discover incredible traditional handicrafts and art.
Route: Hanoi – Ninh Binh – Hai Phong – Lan Ha Bay & remote area of Halong bay – Hanoi – Danang – Hoi An – Hue – Ho Chi Minh – Cai Be (Mekong delta) – Ho Chi Minh.
Welcome up on arrival by Lighten Travel’s tour guide and driver, we then transfer to hotel in main city for check in (check in time from 14:00).
You are free at leisure until being pick up for welcome dinner at a nice local restaurant. Overnight in Hanoi.
Note: In case you cannot find your guide, kindly call our hot line for support at any time.
At 08:30 am, Lighten Travel’s tour guide will meet you at hotel’s lobby for the city tour today. Drive past the historical Ba Dinh Square where Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of Vietnam in 1945. Next up is the Thang Long Imperial Citadel, built in the 11th century and added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2010. Venture inside and explore the underground war bunker that played an important role in the armed conflict with America.
Continue the Hanoi landmarks tour with a stroll through areas where sewing shops have been in family hands for generations, and people still practice the old ways, or admire the daily life of local people in the alley of Hanoi. Proceed to the millennia-old Temple of Literature and explore its role in the country’s past, as both a university and a temple.
Finally, if you feel interested, make a stop at the last courtyard where Vietnamese traditional instruments contribute to the oriental feel. For travelers who are musicians, opportunities to play some notes will present themselves, all under the guidance of the artists.
In the afternoon, head to the highly-acclaimed Vietnam Women’s Museum, offering wonderful insight into the lives of Vietnamese women. Learn historic and modern-day traditions centred on birth, weddings, motherhood, spirituality and more. Towards the end of the tour, embark on a walk through Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Witness the ancient commercial street names, mirroring the crafts and businesses dating back over a thousand years.
Visit a family living in a typical ‘tube house’ in Hanoi's Old Quarter, built during the 19th century. Learn just what makes these houses unique, and how old tax laws resulted in this typical architecture. Make it back to the hotel, rich with new experiences from Hanoi. The rest of the evening is at your leisure. Overnight in Hanoi
At 7.30 am you will be pick up for the 2 and half-hour drive through rural northern Vietnam to Ninh Binh province. One of the most beautiful parts of Vietnam with its dramatic scenery and historical temples. The rice fields here are beautiful and the mountains have earned the area the nickname ‘Dry Halong Bay’, a moniker borne out by the limestone karsts which dominate the landscape.
Your fist visiting is Hoa Lu - the capital of Vietnam in the 10th century, learn about its history, and admire the architecture of the two temples dedicated to the kings for Dinh and Le dynasty. After that, we move to visit Bich Dong pagoda - an important religious place of region. It comprises three structures: Ha – Trung – Thuong pagoda, each one’s on a different level ascending a karst mountain. Pretty cool temple for visitor.
At lunch time, you will be transferred to a local restaurant to enjoy the local food and relax.
Finally, a rowboat will take you to visit the bird garden in the center of the eco-tourism area of Thung Nham. Thung Nham extends over an area of more than 300ha, a wonderful destination by the harmony between the beauty of the karstic rocks on the transparent waters, that of the caves and especially of several kinds of birds that gather there. At sunset, you will see thousands of birds returning to their nests after a day of searching for food. Here, there are also two kinds of birds that appear in the Red Book of Vietnam. Overnight in Ninh Binh.
After breakfast leave Ninh Binh for an overnight boat trip on Lan Ha Bay. Journey there through the rich farmlands, observe everyday life of Vietnamese villagers as they work the rice fields, take pigs to the market on bicycles and plough the fields with their water buffaloes. Arrive in Hai Phong City late morning and board your traditional wooden junk for the overnight journey into the Bay. Lunch is served on board.
Towards the end of the day set anchor for the night. As the sun sets over the bay dinner is served on board with fresh seafood, salads, and fruits. Overnight on board in Lan Ha Bay.
On your return to Hanoi enjoy a wholesome brunch as your boat weaves through strange-shaped limestone rock formations. Upon disembarkation your driver will meet you for the transfer to Hanoi Airport for the flight to Da Nang.
On arrival your guide will welcome you for the 40-minute drive to Hoi An. Overnight in Hoi An.
After breakfast, start the tour to learn about efforts to preserve Hoi An’s unique historical heritage from a UNESCO expert. From the perspective of a local conservation expert, share in the knowledge of various UNESCO conservation projects taking place in this ancient trading port which dates back to the 15th century. First, meet with the conservation expert at an ancient merchant house for a brief introduction to the current conservation projects that are taking place. Escorted by the specialist, walk through a protected neighborhood and visit three antique buildings to see ongoing conservation efforts that are underway to preserve the historical heritage of Hoi An. Their unique architecture has influences from the various cultures that flourished here during Hoi An’s heyday as a bustling international trading port in the times of antiquity.
Continue the tour with a wander around Hoi An’s charming flower lined streets and take in sights of some of the various historical attractions there, including highlights like the historical Japanese Covered Bridge, the Communal Hall and privately-run heritage photo galleries showcasing Hoi An Ancient Town and its people. Conclude this tour with a walk through smaller streets for a look at the local life of the area, which still retains its unique cultural vibes. Following the day, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, experience a hands-on Vietnamese mask-making lesson. Begin with a walk through Hoi An Ancient Town to meet a paper mask artist at his workshop. His craft is steadily disappearing as newer forms of entertainment have gradually taken over. Learn how this artist contributes to the effort of preserving his craft for future generations.
Next, create a traditional folk mask under his guidance. Using specific patterns and colours, these masks communicate a vast array of character emotions in ‘tuong’- a form of classic Vietnamese theatre which has been performed for more than eight centuries.
After creating a mask, get ready to enjoy a private 30-minute tuong performance at a simple traditional theatre. Enjoy this ‘behind-the-scene’ experience, watching characters from the play wear different masks to convey various emotions that are portrayed in the telling of a Vietnamese legend. All the while,enjoy the privilege of superior access to both the performance itself and the performers for an unforgettably intimate cultural experience. Overnight in Hoian.
After breakfast, leave Hoi An for Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. In Danang visit the Cham Museum, before climbing over the ‘Pass of Ocean Clouds’. Arrive in Hue and transfer to hotel. Enjoy free time at leisure
In the late afternoon, take a delicious Hue food tour begins with a 17:30 pickup from the hotel in Hue by vintage Vespa motor scooter. First stop is for a refreshing drink and a briefing by the guide at a bar located in the popular area of Hue. Continue to a nearby local restaurant to sample some favourite Hue specialities like Banh Beo, Banh Nam and other Banh Uot (literally wet cakes). The local guide will explain these different dishes and how and when they are normally eaten.
Next, take a ride into the Imperial Citadel Ramparts to get a feel of the evening local entertainment and taste some delicious local pizza accompanied by beef skewers. Take a short stroll in the grounds of the historic Citadel near the Flag Tower to see how it transforms at night. Food stalls and various games are quickly installed to entertain the many locals. Riding pillion on the back of the motor scooter at a leisurely pace allows guests the chance to fully soak up the atmosphere of the city at night in a similar manner as the locals experience their city in the early evening hours.
Ride around the Citadel and reach the centre of Hue where it is possible to try some famous local BBQ dishes including some more adventurous options. Top off this tasty evening discovery with a delicious local dessert in a small back street, before returning to the hotel at about 21:30.
Transfer to Hue domestic airport for the 40-minute flight to Saigon. Upon arrival in the afternoon, start with a visit to the iconic Saigon Central Post Office built between 1886 and 1891. Based on the design of famous French architect Gustave Eiffel, it is now considered a symbol of Saigon and one of its most famous landmarks.
If he is available, stop for a chat with Mr. Duong, who enjoys local notoriety for his professional love-letter skills.
Walk along Dong Khoi street, formerly la rue Catinat and pay a visit to Gia Long Palace – Ho Chi Minh City Museum for its beautiful architecture and listen to its history through times. Continue to ‘Le Loi Street’ to meet a local artisan who specializes in traditional engravings.
Next, stroll through the old central market (your vehicle will be available) before arriving at the city’s oldest colonial-era apartment, built in 1886, and see what the young creative Vietnamese are up to from their funky boutiques and coffee shops. Sit down at one of the stylish coffee shops and interact with a local resident who moved here in 1975.
Leave the compound and have a look at the building on the other side, which used to be ‘Banque de l’Indochine’ (Indochina Bank) during the 1920s. It’s a stunning example of the ‘Indochinois’ east/west fusion style of architecture that this area is known for. After this last stop, head back to the hotel. Overnight in Saigon.
In the morning we take you to Can Tho or Cai Be. You board your comfortable wooden river cruise vessel around noon.
After a refreshing welcome drink we show you our on-board facilities and your cosy cabin. As lunch is served, the boat starts cruising. Sit back and watch the fantastic scenery and the daily life of the Mekong people.
In the afternoon you can disembark for a guided leisurely stroll through a village and the 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 of the Mekong river. The cruise boat will anchor for the night. The day ends with a delicious on-board dinner. You stay overnight on board your floating hotel in the Mekong Delta.
Wake up well rested to the sound of the river and get ready for another exciting day of sightseeing in the Mekong Delta. At 6.30h the cruise vessel sets off for a sunrise cruise. Watch the locals go about their daily work drying exotic fruits and building ships on the wooden yards while enjoying an early breakfast.
After breakfast, we will board a sampan boat to Cai Rang floating market, the region’s busiest and most lively markets. On even dates, you will explore the small channels of the mekong delta around Cai Be with a small sampan or by foot. Marvel at the sheer abundance of exotic fruits, vegetables and skilfully handcrafted regional products. We will pull up to the boats for talking and bargaining with the merchants.
We will also visit some of the local candy and cake making factories or boat through the green water landscape to see local houses, verdant orchards and ship-building yards.
After visiting the colourful floating market, you will return to Ho Chi Minh City in the afternoon, overnight in hotel.
Note: This is itinerary of Mekong Eyes Cruise.
Your private car and guide will be at your disposal until your transfer by private car to Tan Son Nhat Airport for international flights or a domestic extension.
- Private tours with Experienced Englishspeaking guide
- A/C transport throughout the tours
- Entrance fee to any applicable tourist sites
- Meals as indicated in the program
- Overnight cruise in Lan Ha bay and Mekong delta
- Cold water and towel during the trip
- Government tax & Service charge
- Compulsory Gala Dinner on 24 Dec and 31 Dec
- Other meals not mentioned
- Tips & personal expenses
- Other not stated above
- Travel insurance