If you want to experience the real Vietnam by immersing yourself in Vietnamese culture and lifestyle, then this itinerary with specialist operator Emperor Tours is the one for you!
Starting from Hanoi in the North you’ll travel to Ky Son for a day and overnight stay soaking up the local culture with a cooking class, bike rides, hand spas and steam baths!
Back to Hanoi and it’s time to transfer to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay for an overnight cruise on a beautiful boat, sitting back and taking in the stunning scenery of this breathtaking bay and its 3000 towering limestone islands.
Next stop is Hoi An with its well-preserved ancient streets and homes. Here your local guide will take you, by boat, to the island of Cam Kim and the villages of Kim Bong and Duy Vinh, discovering traditions which have been passed down through generations.
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is the next port of call and on the first night you’ll get to experience the vibrant night life, transported on the back of a vintage Vespa scooter! No trip to the city is complete without seeing the Cu Chi Tunnels and a visit to the spectacular AO Show.
Your final day is spent South of Saigon at Ben Tre province, noted for its coconut plantations and peaceful waterways. You’ll be transported by boat through the small canals and tropical scenery and be treated to a sumptuous 5 course lunch of local specialties. A perfect end to an impressive tour!
Today we begin our private tour of Vietnam by departing London Heathrow for international economy flight to Hanoi.
We can also arrange departures from your local airport at no extra cost.
Upon your arrival, your guide will welcome you at the airport. Take private transfer to your hotel for check in.
After a short rest, it will be time for a comfortable body massage.
In the evening, enjoy a welcome dinner at one of the finest local restaurants where we will begin our exploration of the culinary delicacies of Vietnam and have our trip orientation.
Enjoy breakfast at hotel before heading to Ky Son village.
We arrive at Moon Garden Home stay in Ky Son village around 10:00 am and enjoy a welcome drink with local fresh green tea. Then have some free time for discovering Moon Garden Home stay and Ky Son village on your own (local market, kindergarten etc). After that, join in a cooking class and enjoy your creation for lunch.
In the afternoon, take part in some interesting activities: Hand Spa – enjoy having your fingers dipped in a fragrant lime bowl and the traditional herbal hand massage. Then, free time for relaxing or further conversation with the host family about local snacks, sharing cultures, and learning about traditional customs. If you want to learn Vietnamese, one of the family members can teach you. At 3:00 pm, you have a choice of a short ride (6 km) or long ride (12 km) round trip:
Short ride: Take a bicycle ride to discover the Ky Son, Tam Son, Van Minh, and Cham farming communities to and stop at any home you like for a cup of tea. Visit the kindergarten (if open). Chat with local people about their daily life and farming. You can help with ploughing or making rice beds, transplanting seedlings, harvesting rice (or cassava, corn, sweet potatoes…) depending on the harvest season.
Long ride: Take a bicycle ride with local guide to discover the Ky Son, Tam Son, Van Minh, and Cham farming communities, Duong Lam ancient village and visit Mia Pagoda, Mong Phu Communal House… Then bike ride back along the ritual paths of Thang thac village to discover the Ngo Quyen tomb, Phung Hung temple.
Return to the Moon Garden for happy hour in the evening. While waiting for your steam bath to be prepared, you can enjoy our local drink and taste some of the local products such as maize, sweet potato, cassava, peanuts – (depending on season) or some traditional desserts. Have dinner and then enjoy your foot bath in warm water with ginger, salt and mugwort medicinal herbs before bedtime, which brings you a deeper sleep.
In the morning we join Yijinjing traditional exercises and then have breakfast. After that, enjoy your free time: You can make yourself at home relaxing on the hammock in our garden, taking pictures with Vietnamese traditional clothes, chatting with people, or further discovery of the Ky Son village and the surrounding area.
Later we leave Ky Son and then drive back to Hanoi for a half day sightseeing tour. We will explore Vietnam’s capital city by visiting Vietnam’s first university, the thousand-year-old Temple of Literature, to gain an understanding of one of the driving forces in Vietnamese culture, Confucius.
Afterwards we will walk around Hanoi Old Quarter and enjoy a unique moment in a private electric car around Hoan Kiem Lake and many local streets.
We leave Hanoi this morning and head straight to Halong Bay, a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site with its 3,000 islands of towering limestone dotting the bay and Gulf of Tonkin.
After arriving at noon, you will board a beautiful junk (ancient Chinese sailing ship) for an overnight cruise on Halong Bay. An excellent menu of fresh seafood for lunch and dinner are prepared on board by our chef. We will spend overnight on board the junk.
Today we have a whole day and second night on Halong Bay.
After breakfast, spend more time to explore the amazing natural beauty of Halong Bay and join some activities such as swimming, kayaking, fishing, visiting floating villages or sun bathing.
Wake up early in the morning to enjoy the aquamarine water of the bay at its best.
After tea break, the boat continues to cruise quietly through spectacular limestone formations of Halong Bay. Enjoy the more isolated bay’s spectacular and unique islands. Return to Halong Harbour after brunch for private transfer directly to Hanoi Airport for your onward flight to Danang.
A warm welcome awaits by our local guide on arrival and private transfer to your hotel in Hoi An Town, recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site because of its unusually well-preserved ancient streets and homes.
In the morning, you will depart from the pier located in the old city of Hoi An on a local boat, the only means of transport to sail to the island of Cam Kim. After the crossing of a few minutes, you will reach the village of Kim Bong, and then visit M.Huynh Suong’s workshop, a famous sculpting artist who will teach you about his art.
You will then ride your bikes (car transfer also available) towards the mat weaving village of Duy Vinh. Over the 13-km route, you will enjoy picturesque landscapes of rice fields, bamboo fields and shaded paths. Once in the village, you will discover its traditions and special know-how’s, which have been passed on from generation to generation. After this initiation, you will cross a small dam to reach the fishing village.
Afterwards, you will once again board your local boat and return to Hoi An.
The afternoon is free time at your own leisure until being taken to have a lovely dinner in a local restaurant.
Morning is free at leisure until transfer to Danang Airport for a brief 1 hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City. You will be welcomed by our local guide on arrival and take private transfer to your hotel for check in.
In the early evening, enjoy part night excursion, part street local food adventures. You experience the nightlife of Saigon the way locals do, all from the back of a vintage Vespa scooter. Stops include drinks at a cafe shop, food and drinks at local restaurants (one stop for sea food and one stop for Southern food), samplings of Saigon best authentic street local food, a Vietnamese-style coffee shop (with live music) and wrapping up the evening at one of the many local nightclubs (with live music), where the new generation of Vietnamese unwind and flaunt their unique style. You ride pillion behind your drivers to enjoy and experience the Vietnamese night life.
This morning we will leave the city by private vehicle to visit the amazing tunnel network of Cu Chi. This incredible system, covering almost 250km in length was shelter to over 16,000 Vietcong guerrillas during the wars. If you are interested (and game) you can even descend into the tunnels to learn more about the harsh conditions faced by Vietcong guerrillas who lived there.
We return to Ho Chi Minh City later in the morning.
In the late afternoon, you will be picked up for the famous A O Show. “À Ố” is the name given to the show which is a new kind of art performance commonly acknowledged globally as “new circus”. The show surpasses all the limits that were previously constructed by many other art shows in Vietnam over the years. You are offered the opportunity to let loose your imagination once they are set off the visual creation and lighting of each performance.
The main visuals of the show are bamboo basket boats and their use in the daily life of many Vietnamese. During 60 minutes of the show, you are gently introduced to many different tones of emotion. A truly unique experience!
This morning, we depart from Ho Chi Minh City around 8am and head south to Ben Tre province, famous for its coconut production and quiet, peaceful waterways.
On arrival, take a Xe loi ride through the local village of Huu Dinh to enjoy the green fields and gardens. We continue with a short walk to Huu Phuoc Bridge, where you will start your boat trip through small canals with beautiful tropical scenery. On board the boat, enjoy a welcome drink and tropical fruits while cruising. The cruise will first stop at a Coconut processing family owned business. Here you will learn what Ben Tre is known for and the hundreds of uses of each single coconut. Return to your boat and cruise across the water to a brick making factory, where the locals still use centuries-old traditional methods to make the bricks by hand.
Then enjoy a casual cycling trip that will take you to visit a local rice noodle factory which produces Hu Tieu noodles, one of the most popular dishes in the region (car transfer also available). After your visit take a short walk to one of our friends, Mrs. Huong, who lives with her 3 children and grandson – they live on fishing, shrimp and fruit orchards. Enjoy fresh fruits and tea and chat to get a real prospective of how locals live. We then board a rowing sampan taking you through a lush narrow canal, displaying the tranquil nature of the region.
After our team rows you through the quiet canal, reconnect with your Day Cruiser and enjoy a cruise to a private riverside restaurant. It is time for you to relax and enjoy a 5-course lunch of local specialities. Relax and have a walk around the lush garden setting. Then continue your cycling trip to My Long to visit Mr Sau Tuong, a former Vietcong soldier who survived two years fighting the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh. Now he and his wife live on making rice paper which is the most famous speciality of My Long village. Have a chat with him and enjoy the crispy rice paper made by his wife, and see how it is made. Then visit the nearby house of Mr Hung, who is a famous sticky rice maker in the village. You can also feed his stock of catfish and walk through his fruit garden. After the visit, the boat will be waiting for you at the pier nearby to bring you back to Ben Tre city where your car will be ready to take you back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Sadly we have come to the end of our unique and fascinating tour. It is time to say “tạm biệt” (goodbye) and transfer to the airport for your flight home.
Tour Price includes:
Tour Price excludes:
FLIGHT TIMES: 12.50 hours direct from London Heathrow to Hanoi (Vietnam Airlines Sun-Tue-Thu-Fri only) / 12.35 hours direct from Saigon to London Heathrow (Vietnam Airlines Sat-Mon-Wed only). Other airlines fly indirect every day of the week.
TIME DIFFERENCE: +6 hours in summer time / +7 hours in winter time (BST).
CURRENCY: Vietnamese dong £1 = approx. 31,000 VND
MONEY: Almost all goods and services are calculated and paid for in US dollars. Credit cards are accepted only at major hotels, restaurants owned by foreigners and souvenir shops. Travellers cheques and currencies other than US Dollars are accepted only by major banks. We recommend changing a small amount into local currency on arrival, for drinks and gifts etc.
TIPPING: If you are happy with the services of the driver and guide in each city then tipping is an accepted way of showing your gratitude. We recommend anything from $10 upwards for each, usually more for the guide. We advise placing any tips in separate envelopes and handing to the guide and driver at the end of their service in a particular city.
VISA: No visa is required for UK passport holders if stay is 15 days or less in Vietnam.
LANGUAGE: The official language spoken in Vietnam is Vietnamese.
BEST TIMES TO VISIT: Generally Spring and Autumn months – February to April and August to October. The temperatures are more moderate and rainfall is lighter.
FESTIVALS: Here are the main Vietnamese festivals and what you will expect to see and experience during these festivities…
Vietnamese New Year ‘Tet’ – mid to late February
Vietnamese people gather with their families to exchange best wishes and pray for prosperity over the coming year. In big cities, the streets are adorned with beautiful flower decorations. It’s a great time to see the preparations and immerse in the festive atmosphere before Tet, but travel during the festival is not recommendable.
Mid Autumn Festival (whole of Vietnam) – 15th day of the 8th lunar month in the Chinese lunar calendar
Marked with fanciful lanterns, the festival is a favourite with children, as the occasion calls for more toys, candies, fruit, and entertainment than any other time of the year. Mid-Autumn parties serve cakes, traditional and modified. Lion dances are commonly performed by travelling troupers who go from house to house to perform for tipping.
Reunification Day (whole of Vietnam) – 30th April yearly
Also known as Victory Day or Liberation Day, this national holiday marks the fall of the Saigon government on 30 April 1975. The communist troops captured Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and brought the Vietnam war to an end. This began the process of reuniting the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north and the Republic of Vietnam in the south
National Independence Day (whole of Vietnam) – 2nd September yearly
This day commemorates Vietnam’s declaration of independence from France in 1945. On that day, President Ho Chi Minh, read out the Declaration of Independence. Nowadays, national red flags are raised high everywhere. People are entitled to one day off. Public and official celebrations can be found in all cities.
Lantern Festival (Hoi An) – 14th day of each lunar month
The festival features many hundreds of colourful lantern lit up throughout the town. The houses and shops are beautifully decorated and activities are often held in the streets and along the Thu Bon River.
Dong Da Festival (Hanoi) – 21st February
The festival celebrates the victory of King Quang Trung who defeated the army of 200,000 Qing dynasty soldiers at Dong Da Hill. A dragon procession, games and martial arts activities are performed to celebrate the strength of the Vietnamese people during this historic victory.
FOOD & DRINK: Light, subtle in flavour and astonishing in their variety, Vietnamese dishes are boiled or steamed rather than stir-fried, and a huge emphasis is placed on herbs and seasoning. In the south, Indian and Thai influences add curries and spices to the menu, while other regions have evolved their own array of specialities.
Buddhism introduced a vegetarian tradition to Vietnam, while much later the French brought with them bread, dairy products, pastries and the whole café culture. The quality and variety of food is generally better in the main towns than off the beaten track, where restaurants of any sort are few and far between.
SOCIAL ETIQUETTE: People throughout Indochina are very kind and easy going. People are very relaxed with foreigners and their different habits.
Showing anger is seen as a weakness.
Respect and care should be shown when visiting temples and shoes should always be removed before entering.
HEALTH ADVICE: Although no vaccinations are officially required for entry to Indochina, they are highly encouraged. Visitors are advised to check with their GP or travel immunisation clinic regarding protection against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A & B. Any essential medications should be brought with you as there is no guarantee they will be available in the areas you will be visiting.
If travelling in Summer months, please bring sunscreen, mosquito repellent etc.
It is not safe to drink tap water in Vietnam – please drink boiled water or bottled water only.