Transported into pulsating streets before emerging from the zen of far flung islands, Vietnam is a country from south to north which will surprise you at every corner.
THE HIGHLIGHTS OF VIETNAM
Waves of aromas and flavours combined with the waves of friendly strangers will indelibly mark your spirit as you experience the best of Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang then up to Hanoi and Halong Bay. Vietnam’s complicated history is etched into its architecture, food and its people’s stories.
A 10-day experiential adventure that was not easily forgotten.
Day 1 – Ho Chi Minh City riverside relaxation
Touch down in Ho Chi Minh City where your waiting guide will whisk you away into its tangle of urban energy. Passing through the swell of motorbikes under a canopy of electricity cables you’ll arrive at the Saigon River where the heat of the streets will breeze into the background as your private boat transfer cruises you 20 minutes down stream to the An Lam Retreats Saigon River, a leafy waterside oasis that will be your sanctuary for the next 3 nights. Unwind on daybeds with the life of the river as your vista, or head back to explore this eclectic city, it’s entirely up to you.
Venture Far Insight: Don’t lift a finger as a bespoke butler service will help ease you into your romantic or relaxing getaway at the An Lam Retreats Saigon River.
Day 2 – Discover hidden worlds
Venture into the underground world of the Cu Chi Tunnels where the Vietcong secretly moved below Saigon during the war. Dug by hand connecting hospitals, weapons factories and command posts dotted with disguised entrances and booby traps, you’ll get a better understanding of how these subterranean veins stretching 200km were the lifeblood of the Viet Cong.
Following lunch your city tour will take you to the Reunification Hall, then the architectural vestiges of colonial French at the Notre-Dame Catholic Cathedral, the 19th Century empire-style Post Office, the Hotel de Ville or City Hall, as well as the Thien Hau Chinese temple and into the bustle of the city’s main Binh Tay Market constructed by the French in 1880 in the heart of the city’s Chinatown.
Venture Far Insight: The Reunification Hall is the former Presidential Palace where Viet Cong tanks rolled in on the morning of April 30, 1975 as Saigon fell.
Day 3 – Fire up the senses
Acquainted with the diversity and mouthwatering flavours of Vietnamese food, it’s now your turn to try your hand at creating a culinary masterpiece. Your Vietnamese private chef will guide you through the overflowing colourful maze of fresh meats, fruits and vegetables at the giant indoor Ben Thanh market helping you haggle for exotic ingredients for your intimate group cooking lesson that follows at the Hot Tuc Restaurant.
Venture Far Insight: Three courses later, including a sumptuous seasonal dessert, and you’ll have a piece of Vietnam in your cooking repertoire to wow your friends and family back home.
Day 4 – Da Nang’s beaches less travelled
Take a mid-morning flight to Da Nang where you’ll descend over the city’s crescent beaches and crystal clear waters. Halfway between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi your awaiting guide will transfer you to the sandy, palm-lined shores of the Pullman Danang Beach Resort for your two night stay in its spacious, tranquil guest rooms.
Looking directly out onto the turquoise East Vietnamese Sea relax in the infinity pool or stroll a few steps further for some seafront water sports. At sunset settle into the Azure Beach Lounge with a cold local craft brew in hand as waves lap at the shore.
Venture Far Insight: Da Nang flew under the radar until it sprung onto the international stage recently with its new Golden Bridge held aloft by two giant hand sculptures.
Day 5 – Slowdown in Hoi An’s serenity
Let your whims decide on how the day ahead will unfold. A spa treatment, a round of golf, beach relaxation, a mix of them all, or take the complimentary shuttle bus to the historical coastal trading town of Hoi An founded in the 15th Century. Weave through its dazzling mix of temples, French colonial architecture, traditional Vietnamese houses and its Japanese covered bridge.
Touch luxury Vietnamese textiles at the Silk Village and get measured up by skilled tailors working the shopfronts. Meander under a sea of lanterns through over 50 stalls at the riverside night market before settling into a meal and a glass of wine from one of the upstair terraces at one of the nearby bars and restaurants.
Venture Far Insight: Delve into other tours of Da Nang city, the My Son Sanctuary or the Hue Imperial City if they take your fancy instead.
Day 6 – A Taste of Hanoi
Sneak in another spa treatment before taking a flight to the bustling streets and tree-lined boulevards of Hanoi. Zooming mopeds and cramped street side stalls swirl into a backdrop of Vietnamese, French and Chinese historical influences as first impressions fly by your window on your private transfer to one of the world’s timeless hotels, the five-star colonial-era Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, your home for three nights.
Stately buildings and boutiques lie moments away waiting to be explored in the opulence of the French Quarter before your evening Street Eats + Market Tour begins. Kick things off with a welcome tea and Pho (beef noodle soup), circulate through the Chau Long market, tuck into rice-noodle rolls and crab cakes by the lake, then head onto the Old Quarter for a cold Bia Hoi beer before finishing with a Vietnamese coffee.
Venture Far Insight: Eat as little as possible before the food tour, you’ve come all this way so you don’t want to miss out on any of the tasty morsels. Find out more on our must eat food guide to Hanoi.
Day 7 – Step back in time
Discover the mysterious and charming soul of Hanoi on your private full day tour. Both elegant in its beautiful public spaces and frenetic in its narrow lanes and cramped shopfronts, it’s a unique gem amongst Asia’s capitals. Pay respect to the embalmed body of revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh before seeing his mahogany stilt house where he once lived preserved faithfully amongst the palms and lake of its garden surroundings.
Delve 1000 years into the past ambling through the landscaped courtyards and ornate gateways of the Temple of Literature where Vietnam’s first university extolled knowledge for over 700 years. Return to the Old Quarter to see its tapestry of streets and alleys bursting with handicrafts and Vietnamese character.
Venture Far Insight: The Old Quarter is also known as 36 Streets with each one named after the merchandise traditionally sold there, from fabrics, crafts and medicines to even tomb stones.
Day 8 – Boat ride to beautiful Halong Bay
Set sail on the Halong Jasmine for your overnight Heritage cruise through the limestone, forested islands towering from the emerald waters of Halong Bay. See remnants of civilisation dating back over 10,000 years in the Tien Ong cave before stepping lightly into a small bamboo boat at the Cua Van fishing village where locals will row you around calm secluded waters gifting you a precious look at their remote way of life.
Back aboard get your hands busy at a cooking class or unwind with cocktails and canapés on deck before dining in sophistication below then retreat to the polished wood Indochina-era ambience of your deluxe cabin for the night.
Venture Far Insight: Halong Bay and its more than 1600 mostly uninhabited islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 9 – Feel the energy onboard the Halong Jasmine
Breathe in the serene energy with Tai Chi at dawn then sail to the tiny Ti Top Island. Climb its 400 stone steps to its peak for 360 degree views of the dreamlike Halong Bay. If you prefer to avoid the crowds then stay on deck and relax before disembarking just before lunch for your journey back to Hanoi.
Venture Far Insight: There’s a viewing platform half-way up Ti Top Island with great panoramic views if the remaining 200 steps look a little much.
Day 10 – Goodbye Vietnam
It’s goodbye Vietnam as you have breakfast at the hotel and head to Hanoi Airport for your flight out.