Flying to Ho Chi Minh City (still referred to as Saigon by the locals) you’ll have time to explore this vibrant city with leading specialist tour operator Emperor Tours.
A mix of old and new, where French colonial meets modern skyscrapers, bustling street markets sit alongside peaceful temples – it’s a city you’ll never forget. Our friendly and knowledgeable guide will show you some of the iconic landmarks as well as the incredible Cu Chi Tunnels used by the Vietnamese fighters throughout wartime.
From Saigon the pace changes as you board your cruise vessel for a three-day trip along the mighty Mekong River. Sit back and enjoy the stunning scenery and exotic life on the world’s largest inland fishery. With stops at Sa Dec, Xeo Quy and Cu Lao Gieng there’ll be time to discover more about Vietnam’s heritage, ending each day with a welcome drink on board to accompany the spectacular sunset.
The tour comes to an end at Chau Doc with a visit to a floating village and the amazing Cham village complete with stilted houses and unique Islamic community.
From here there are a number of options to end your trip – please see the itinerary for full details.
We begin our private Vietnam adventure today with departure from London Heathrow for international economy flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
We can also arrange departures from your local airport at no extra cost.
Upon arrival at Saigon’s International Airport, we’ll be cordially welcomed and transferred to the hotel.
The rest of the day will be free time to relax after our journey, or to explore for the more adventurous!
This morning we will leave the city to visit the amazing tunnel network of Cu Chi. This incredible system, covering almost 250 km in length, was shelter to over 16,000 Vietcong guerrillas during the wars. Initially started in 1948 to provide shelter against the French air and ground sweeps, the network went on to serve as communication routes, storage facilities, hospitals and living quarters for Vietnamese fighters throughout the wartime. We can even descend into the tunnels to learn more about the tunnel life.
In the afternoon, we’ll be on a city tour of Ho Chi Minh City, once the capital of French Indochina, taking in the historic landmarks such as the Reunification Palace, the Old Saigon Post Office, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Opera House, and Ben Thanh Market.
This morning we’ll be picked up from the hotel between 8:00 and 8:30 and transferred to Cai Be in the Mekong Delta, a world that lives and works on the waters of the mighty Mekong River. Board the cruise vessel in between 11:00 and 11:30 and enjoy a refreshing welcome drink then check in.
As lunch is served, the boat starts cruising towards Sa Dec. Sit back and watch the fantastic scenery and exotic river life along the Mekong River. After lunch, we disembark for a guided walk through the charming town of Sa Dec where the French author of “The Lover”, Marguerite Duras, spent parts of her childhood. Both the school where Duras’ mother taught and the small house behind it where the family lived still stand. We’ll see the house of Marguerite’s Chinese Lover, now a small museum of “The Lover” in Sadec.
As the sun goes down, we get back to the boat and enjoy a drink at the bar. When the boat anchors for the night, we’ll savour another lavish Mekong meal. The vessel anchors near Xeo Quyt for the night.
We wake up to the morning sounds of river life. After breakfast we land to visit Xeo Quyt, formerly a base of the northern army during the Vietnam War.
Following lunch, we land at the island of Cu Lao Gieng to visit the village as well as the secluded Catholic monastery built back in 1875 by French nuns of Saint Paul de Chartres, which now serves as a retreat for retired nuns.
In the late afternoon we return to the vessel and enjoy sunset views from the top deck whilst sitting back enjoying a drink.
Early in the morning, the vessel departs Cu Lao Gieng and cruises toward Chau Doc. Once arrived, we’ll hop on a sampan to visit a floating village where people farm fish under their living quarters. We also visit a Cham village marked by stilt houses and a mosque and learn of this unique Islamic community.
Afterwards we head back to the vessel to check out and enjoy lunch.
Disembark around 12:00 where we will be transferred to the hotel in Chau Doc city. In the afternoon, we’ll explore the beautiful cajuput forest of Tra Su or the temples and pagodas on the Sam Mountain.
After breakfast today you have a choice as follows*:
(1) Take a speedboat to Phnom Penh, Cambodia;
(2) Drive for 04 hours to Can Tho and continue exploring the Mekong Delta;
(3) Drive back to Saigon, approximately 07 hours of driving away;
(4) Drive to Rach Gia and board a speedboat to Phu Quoc Island for a beach holiday.
*Package price excludes optional choice – to extend your holiday with one of the above choices please ask for further details.
Tour Price includes:
Tour Price excludes:
FLIGHT TIMES: 12.35 hours direct from London Heathrow to Saigon (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.
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 – 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 – 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 – 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.
Ooc Om Bok (The Moon Festival) – 15th day – the Full Moon Day – of the 10th lunar month
Ooc Om Bok is a tradition of the Khmer minority group. The festival is held in honor of the moon deity and people pray for good luck, happiness and good weather. At the Khmer pagodas in the country, people release paper lanterns into the sky or into the rivers as a way of letting go of bad luck or sadness.
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.