Wander Across VIETNAM
This Vietnam tour will take you from south to north, visiting both inland and coastal areas, covering major, bustling cities as well as intriguing towns and quiet villages along the way. With so much diversity and so many highlights, both well-visited and off-the-beaten-path, Vietnam offers a combination of history, culture, oh-so-yummy food, stunning nature (from mountains to the sea), unique activities and so much more… the kind of combination that few countries can offer.
Vietnam is a country in a rapid state of change and this is your chance to experience the fascinating result!
Guide for this trip: Sakai (read more about Sakai here)
Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City
Trip orientation in the morning followed by a traditional lunch and a journey out to the Cu Chi Tunnels in the afternoon, an iconic feat from the Vietnam War. You’ll explore a section of the tunnels and learn a great deal about the history involved.
Day 2 - 3: Dalat
In the morning, enjoy some more sites of Ho Chi Minh City, and in the early afternoon the group heads off to Dalat (6 hours). Dalat is known as the artistic hub of the country and is considered a stepping stone to the central highlands of Vietnam. This town could easily be mistaken for the French countryside – littered with pine trees and winding roads that traverse lakes and waterfalls. On Day 3 you’ll have a full day tour of this lively city and its surroundings.
Day 4 - 5: Nha Trang
After a morning drive (3-4 hours), you’ll arrive in Nha Trang where you’ll spend the afternoon at the well-known mud baths and hot springs, with an opportunity for a therapeutic massage. Not a bad way to start the exploration of this area….on Day 5, you’ll take a day trip to a remote stretch of beach for a nice gathering on the sand, with some beer, rice wine and a traditional BBQ.
Day 6: Quy Nhon
Traveling about 4-5 hours this morning, you’ll reach the beachside haven of Quy Nhon. In the afternoon and evening, it will be time for relaxation, a stroll along the beautiful coast and some time to just enjoy a more rural side of Vietnam.
Day 7 - 9: Hoi An
A morning bus trip will ensure you reach Hoi An in the afternoon, just in time for a walking/orientation tour of this quaint, laid-back town. Hoi An is a great place for cycling, wandering and soaking up the atmosphere of one of the few towns that was almost completely unaffected by the war. With unique architectural combinations and its famous Central Vietnamese cuisine (white rose dumplings, anyone?), not mention it being known for high-quality tailor-made clothes that can be made to order in less than 24 hours, this town is always a major highlight for anyone who visits.
Day 10: Hue
The day begins by taking the bus to Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam under the Imperial Nguyen dynasty. Hue is the Buddhist centre of Vietnam and is home to a spectacular range of vegetarian food. On the outskirts of the city lie the tombs of the Emperors and you will visit the most impressive of them, the Tu Duc Tombs. You’ll also take a tour of the Forbidden Purple City.
Day 11 - 12: Dong Hoi (Phong Nha Caves)
Early on Day 11, you’ll jump onto the back of motorbike taxis that will take the group through the Hue countryside, through rice fields, over covered bridges, past war bunkers and multi-level pagodas. Lunch will take place in a nunnery with organic ingredients grown on site before the group travels to Dong Hoi. On Day 12, you’re going to explore the lesser known, yet incredible, Phong Nha Cave network. Travelfish.org described it by saying, ”There are caves, there are big caves and there are gigantic, world record-breaking caves. You’ll find some of Planet Earth’s best of the latter category around Phong Nha.” It is the world’s longest river cave reaching over 7.7kms in length, of which a small section has been opened up. A largely un-surveyed area, you’ll explore a part of Vietnam known to very few visitors. In the evening the group will transfer back to the coast for an overnight train to Hanoi – arriving at 5.30am the next day.
Day 13 - 14: Hanoi
On the morning of Day 13, the hotel rooms may not be ready upon arrival in Hanoi and so the group will go for a walk to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where throngs of Vietnamese pay their respects to their Father of Independence and Reunification. During the next day and a half, you’ll also attend a Water Puppet Theatre (a popular Vietnamese Art form), visit the Presidential Palace and have a more complete city tour that covers all of the major highlights as well as several off-the-beaten-path locations. Optional activities will also include a visit to the Hoa Lo Prison (held prisoners of War from the Allied Forces) and the Temple of Literature. On the evening of Day 14, there will be a farewell dinner for the group before everyone parts ways the following day at the conclusion of this two week Vietnam adventure.
Day 15: Hanoi - departure day
Halong Bay - Optional Add-on
For those interested, there will be an optional two-day trip to Halong Bay ($160 USD per person/twin share) after the tour ends. You will be picked up in the morning of Day 15 and driven to this serene and tranquil bay, where you’ll board a luxury junk boat. You’ll then spend the rest of the day and next morning sailing through limestone karst, exploring caves, kayaking and swimming along the way. You will dine on fresh seafood and learn all about the region, which was recently voted as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. On Day 2 of this add-on, you will be driven back to Hanoi, arriving by midday. Includes: transport, meals, twin share accommodation, entrance fees and sightseeing, kayaking, welcome drink, english speaking guide
Guide: Sakai (read more about Sakai here)
*Local guides are also used during the tour but Sakai will be with you the entire time.
Physical Level: While the tour itself is not very strenuous, please note that it can involve the following: somewhat long days, a good amount of walking, being in the sun in potentially hot temperatures, long journeys by bus or train (including overnight trips), early morning wake-ups and other similarly challenging scenarios.
Accommodation: Prices are based on the sharing of rooms and single members of the group will typically be put together. We will be using good quality 2-3* guesthouses/hotels that offer comfortable facilities that I am confident you will enjoy. (If you wish to have a private room to yourself, the single supplement cost is $400 USD.)
Subject to Change: Keep in mind that the above itinerary and activities are subject to change. Travel almost always involves unexpected situations so things might need to be re-arranged at times. However, it is important to remember that travel is all about the journey, and so even the unexpected situations we may face should be treated as part of the overall experience 🙂
Arrival Details: I do recommend arriving at least one day prior to the start of the tour so that you’ll be well rested. If you do arrive early, I can arrange accommodation for you in Ho Chi Minh City depending on your budget and I will also be able to organize a private pickup from the airport for a nominal fee.
INCLUDED in the tour cost:
– 13 nights of accommodation in good budget guesthouses/hotels (+1 overnight sleeper train)
– Meals – 11 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 2 dinners
– Transportation – all transportation within Vietnam during the tour (trains, buses, vans, etc.)
– All included activities and associated entrance and guide fees
Not included in the tour cost:
– Flights or other transportation to/from Vietnam
– Meals and activities not mentioned
– International travel/health insurance
– Passport/visa fees
– Tips for driver/guide
“I enjoyed myself immensely and am looking forward to the next one. I have done three Wandering Earl tours so far, two led by Sakai. Sakai has an improbable collection of skill sets and knowledge that makes him an ideal tour leader. He speaks more languages than I can count on both hands, including Thai, Khmer, Arabic and I don’t know what all. His knowledge also runs to the more practical side of things, such as: which taxi cabs are least likely to rip you off in Hanoi, Vietnam (the green and white ‘Mai Lin’ taxis), what is the best 1940s bar in Siem Reap, Cambodia (Ms. Wong’s on Pub Street) and which leach protectors you should wear when tramping through the jungle. Anything he doesn’t know, he knows how to find out.” – Gordon H. (USA)
“Our trip exceeded our expectations on almost all levels. We were instantly comfortable as Sakai instantly put us under his fun and knowledgable wings and the adventure began… One of the most amazing parts of the trip was each destination had such different nuances and joys to be witnessed. We soaked in each of these and left each destination with sadness that we didn’t have more time to explore and immerse a bit further. The trip was planned perfectly as each new place seemed to more familiar and more fascinating. A South/North trip was definitely the way to see Vietnam. We have been forever changed by this trip and sincerely thank you for making it easy and a reality for us. We learned so much and have a love for Southeast Asia that I fear will not be extinguished.” – Catie L. (USA)
“We’ve never done a tour because we essentially don’t really consider ourselves the kind of travelers that like tours. However, reading your blog and knowing that the group will be small, we went, and haven’t regretted the decision one minute. The things I’d hate about tours (and actually observed in a hotel with another tour group), is the sense of being herded and hustled. I do realize there’s a schedule to keep but beyond that, I loved the sense of freedom we had to do our own thing if we chose. There was no stigma to going off alone or choosing not to share in an activity. Loved that. We also realized that we would never have done all the things we did on our own, so the tour was well worth it.” – Tina and Ron O. (USA)