Good Morning Vietnam! - Family Holiday Trip Notes
Trip code: FFVW
Trip length: 13 days
- Cruise in Halong Bay
- Discover the Mekong Delta
- See the water puppet show
- Take a cyclo ride
This two week family adventure takes you to experience the sheer excitement of Vietnam. You visit busy cities, scenic bays and river deltas for a fantastic mix of things to see and do which will keep the whole family entertained. Mixing with the friendly Vietnamese, you discover a fascinating country and of course some great food. Highlights include exploring by cyclo (rickshaw), a water puppet show in Hanoi, boat trips to fantastic islands with great beaches, ancient pagodas and temples, wonderful markets, a trip on an overnight train and much more!
Arrive at your first night’s accommodation and check in. Hanoi is sometimes called the Paris of the Orient, with shaded boulevards, verdant parks and ochre buildings that retain an old-world charm.
You’ll start with a brief orientation tour of the nearby Old Quarter, where some of the city’s most beautiful architecture is to be found. Kids will be fascinated seeing locals in conical hats carrying swinging poles of goods on their way to market!
If you fancy taking things easy, do as the locals do and hire a cyclo - a cycle rickshaw - and sit back to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of this remarkable city. Hotel (AAA) - 2 nights
Hanoi city tour
Today you have a full day to explore Hanoi. Your city tour takes in sights within the old quarter and the infamous prison - the ‘Hanoi Hilton’. You also visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, now a site of pilgrimage for thousands of Vietnamese people.
This afternoon you’ll have plenty of time to wander along tree-lined avenues and enjoy pagoda-studded lakes. The Old Quarter has great shopping opportunities; silk, silver, enamel bracelets and embroidery are among the best buys and the street names bear testimony to the business conducted there; Silk Street, Rice Street, Vermicelli Street, and even Boiled Fish Street! Some of the galleries boast the works of painters from all over Vietnam.
This evening you’ll make a visit to one of the water-puppet theatres to enjoy a performance of this fantastic art form - unique to Vietnam and best seen in Hanoi. (B)
NB. Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum is normally closed for renovation for a period during the months of September to December, however, Ho Chi Minh's house on stilts is usually still open to visitors at this time.
From Hanoi you’ll travel for four hours by charter minibus to the coast and beautiful Halong Bay, whose name means ‘descending dragon’. The name derives from a Vietnamese legend that the gods sent a dragon to protect the people there. Arriving around lunchtime (after a stop at the Sao Do Charity Centre, where you can buy crafts made by disabled youngsters), you’ll jump straight on a boat in this secluded bay, marvelling at the 2000 limestone peaks that emerge from the sea. You’ll have the opportunity to visit spectacular caves crammed with stalactites and stalagmites and, weather permitting, to swim from your boat, before spending the night on-board. Berth in twin-cabin - 1 night (BLD)
This morning you return to Hanoi and have more time to wander in this fascinating city; there are lots of parks and more than 20 lakes to explore as well as little coffee shops and ice cream parlours - a legacy of the French. In the evening you board the Reunification Express train; journeying in four or six-berth, soft sleeper compartments (simple but very comfortable) you travel to Vietnam’s cultural capital, Hue. Berth on overnight sleeper train - 1 night (B).
Hue - the cultural capital
Hue was once the capital of the Nguyen emperors, packed with influential people: bureaucrats, royalty, traders, astrologers and courtiers, who left behind many beautiful reminders of their times. For a fascinating look at life in Hue today, you make your way down to the Perfume River to embark on a riverboat journey to the elaborate tombs of the Nguyen emperors. The tombs are situated among the houses of local farmers who grow rice, fruit and vegetables here. It is this location that gives rise to the views of the Vietnam you know from television; local farmers in straw hats working in paddy fields beneath towering palms. You’ll visit one of the seven tombs, all of which follow a similar layout: statues of mandarins, elephants and horses, a pavilion where a stele (obelisk) tells of each emperor’s glorious reign and a temple where he was worshipped after death.
On your return trip you pause to explore the Thien Mu Pagoda (the Temple of the Heavenly Lady), possibly the most famous of all Vietnam’s pagodas. Legend tells of ‘fairy maids’ who predicted that a king would build a pagoda and bring great wealth to the countryside. Situated on the banks of the peaceful Perfume River, it is one of Vietnam’s best-loved buildings. Hotel (AAA) - 2 nights (Swimming pool) (Bx1)
Travelling south by bus you climb up and over the spectacular Hai Van Pass, the top of which is crowded by hawkers selling all kinds of souvenirs and people who have stopped to enjoy the magnificent view below. Approximately four hours after leaving Hue, you’ll arrive in Hoi An - a relaxed and laid-back place, where cars are prohibited from the narrow streets of the old town, preserving the atmosphere in the centre as it would have been in colonial times.
Settled over the years by a variety of nationalities, including the Spanish and Portuguese, the old town is a fascinating place to visit. The fading beauty of the beautiful shops, houses and cafés add to the charm; Hoi An is bound to be a highlight of the trip. Walking or cycling are the only ways to soak up the atmosphere of the old streets and we’ll help you explore on foot during your stay. You can walk down to the riverside market where fresh fish are unloaded and through the backstreets of this colourful town, past temples to the covered Japanese Bridge.
The rest of your time is left free to relax in this beautiful area. You could take a taxi or make the easy five-kilometre bicycle ride through the rice paddies and shrimp ponds to Cua Dai beach. Alternatively Hoi An is one of the best places to shop for souvenirs, especially if you’re looking for t-shirts, paintings or ceramics. For those interested in getting clothes tailored, this is definitely the place to shop – see Top Tips. Another good idea is to take a boat trip out to a village specialising in ceramics and boat-building (optional).
Hotel (AAA) - 3 nights (Swimming Pool) (Bx3)
Fly to Saigon
Today you make the short drive (one hour) to Danang and take a flight south to Saigon, the cosmopolitan powerhouse of the south and a fascinating mixture of old and new. Upon arrival you head out of the city to make a visit to the famous Viet Cong hideout known as the Cu Chi tunnels; it’s likely that your guides were once soldiers here and their insight will help you to understand this tragic part of Vietnamese history and see the tunnels as more than they are today. Some of the tunnels have been widened to accommodate foreigners; more than a touch of irony here! Hotel (AAA) – 1 night (B)
This morning you leave the city behind and head for Vietnam’s rice-bowl – the Mekong Delta, a journey of approximately three hours. Passing through idyllic rural scenes you arrive at Cai Be where you transfer to local boats in order to reach your simple lodgings for a night in the house of a local family in the Mekong Delta. This afternoon you board local boats to explore the intricate waterways of the Mekong, zigzagged with ramshackle ‘monkey bridges’ and busy with local traders. There’s time to visit the local markets and cottage industries and soak up the atmosphere of this colourful collection of stilt homes built on channels and rivers. Homestay (A) - 1 night (BD)
Your final afternoon, on return from the Mekong Delta, is when you will discover more of Ho Chi Minh City, as the metropolis is now officially called. The city has plenty of enthralling corners to explore and you spend time today exploring the city. If time permits, you can visit the Chinese area of Cholon, with its strange mix of colonial and Chinese architecture then discover numerous museums, markets, pagodas and incense-filled temples. Hotel (AAA) – 1 night (B)
The trip ends at your hotel. (B)
About The Imaginative Traveller
Our aim has always been to provide exceptional travel experiences. We believe that adventure travel should be stimulating, and that it should give you an authentic experience of a place. We want our travellers to relish the amazing diversity of countries and cultures the world has to offer. Our focus is on innovation, not imitation.
Obsessed with quality
One of our strengths has been our obsession with quality. We've always believed that our commitment to you doesn't end as soon as you've paid for your holiday. On the contrary, it is just beginning. Whilst most operators simply get a local company to handle the day to day operation of their tours, we do it all ourselves. We have managers for each of our key destinations around the world and all our small groups are escorted by our own leaders. Our local teams include guides, drivers, administration staff and contacts in the local community who help us ensure that our adventures are active and involving.
For comparability, all prices in this dossier are quoted in one currency. We use the US Dollar since that is familiar to most. However, once on tour you will need to pay for all goods and services in the local currency. See your Country Dossier for details of exchange rates.
Anyone in good health should be able to take part. There is no real physical difficulty, though a few travelling days are quite long, modes of transport are a little antiquated and heat / humidity can be high. Minimum age: 7 years
Transport - Boats, domestic flight, sleeper train, cyclo (cycle rickshaw), minibus
Accommodation - Hotels (10nts), sleeper train (1nt), boat (1nt)
Meals - 11 breakfasts, 4 lunches & 1 dinner
Clothing and Footwear
Although western standards of dress are becoming more accepted, the Vietnamese in general remain very traditional in what they wear. Out of respect (even though you may see travellers dressed otherwise) both men and women should dress conservatively - no sleeveless/halter-necked tops please. Whilst shorts are acceptable in main tourist centres and on the beach they should be modest and reach to just above the knee. Below is a suggestion of what you might find useful to take on this trip. It is not an exhaustive packing list. If you need further advice, please call us or consult your nearest specialist outdoor clothing and equipment store.
- Warm clothes for the North in the winter months (Nov to Feb) i.e. a warm sweater and trousers, and a jacket if you feel the cold. At other times lightweight clothing (cotton) is most appropriate
- A couple of long sleeved shirts to guard against sunburn
- Lightweight waterproof jacket or umbrella in wet season (May to Nov)
- Waterproof/plastic bags
- Sun-hat and swimwear
- Trainers/sandals for relaxing
- Sunglasses, sunscreen, lipsalve
- Personal First Aid kit
- Non-polluting biodegradable soap
- Insect repellent
- Sleeping sheet (available cheaply in Hanoi)
- Ear plugs and a sleep mask for the train journeys
- A laundry service is available in some hotels, but we recommend you take biodegradable detergent so you can wash clothes as you choose.
Local Costs - Vietnam
Approximate costs are for guidance only, and may vary according to location and type of establishment.
Soft drink US1.50
Medium beer US1.50 Bottle of wine US30.00
Bottle of mineral water US1.25
Local snack lunch US6.00
3-course dinner* US20.00
*reasonable mid-range tourist class restaurant
Visas & Permits - Vietnam
Vietnam: Holders of UK & IRL passports do require a visa.
Cambodia: (only needed by those taking the Angkor Wat extension): Holders of UK & IRL passports do require a visa. Cambodian visas can be obtained on arrival in Siem Reap (current cost US$20 per person – payable in cash). Please note: one passport-sized photograph is required for your visa application. Other EU nationals should contact us for information. Nationals of all other countries should contact their local embassy or consulate. Passports must be valid for at least six months after the end date of the trip. Information can also be found at www.travcour.com. This information is given in good faith, but may be subject to change without warning. Please note that, where appropriate, obtaining a valid visa is ultimately your responsibility. Please consult a visa agency or the consular authorities 4-6 weeks before departure for the most up-to-date information.
We advise all passengers to carry photocopies of passport & travel documents & to be aware that is it a legal requirement to carry id at all times.
Vaccinations - Vietnam
The following are recommended:
† Hepatitis A † Polio † Typhoid † Tetanus † Malaria
† NB: Yellow Fever vaccination is compulsory if travelling via an infected country.
For detailed information and advice concerning vaccinations go to:www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk
Vaccination requirements change periodically so we advise that you check with your nearest specialist travel clinic 4-6 weeks before departure to get up-to-date information.
International rules for carrying medicines vary. Some countries do not allow certain medicines to be imported, or require official documents, such as a doctor’s letter, to prove drugs have been prescribed by a doctor and obtained legally. It is sensible to contact the relevant embassy or high commission of your destination to check what their drug transportation rules are before you travel.
The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and does not form part of a contract between the client and The Imaginative Traveller.
Responsible Travel - Travellers' Guidelines
At Imaginative Traveller we love helping our clients experience the beauty and cultures of the destinations we visit. However, hand in hand with this we have always been aware that we have a responsibility to minimise any negative impacts that tourism can bring.
Responsible Travel is twofold. It’s about taking people to the places they want to go in a safe and responsible manner but also about respecting and maintaining the natural and often delicate balance of the destination. Economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, but should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment.
- It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit.
- We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.
- Whilst it is our aim to show destinations and cultures in a positive light, we do not believe in papering over the cracks or shielding visitors from the realities of life. This does not mean, however, that we condone or endorse certain situations or regimes that may be in place.
Our guidelines are meant not as rigid instructions but rather as suggestions to make our holidays more enjoyable – for everybody. As cultural and environmental sensitivities vary from country to country more specific guidelines can be found in our individual country and trip dossiers.
Before you depart try to spend some time familiarising yourself with the destination you will be travelling to – their culture and customs. The country dossiers on our website offer detailed information about all the regions we visit. They also include some useful phrases in the local language for you to use on your trip! A few words of the local language can open up many more opportunities for you to interact with the people you will meet.
Although it is tempting to give out pens, sweets and money to people begging, and particularly tempting to give to children, we feel that this encourages a begging mentality and has a long-term negative impact on communities. If someone begging earns more than someone in the same community who works this can discourage local employment. If children regularly bring home money it may discourage their parents from sending them to school. It is of course your own personal choice but you could consider giving to registered charities or contributing to our Responsible Travel fund instead. Money donated through our fund to our worldwide projects is matched pound for pound by Imaginative Traveller and used to help local grassroots projects.
Always ask permission to photograph local people and respect their decision if they would prefer not to have their picture taken.
Respect local dress codes, especially at religious sites. Our tour leaders are always on hand to give you advice about this.
In many of the countries we visit you might see examples of animal cruelty (for example dancing bears, performing monkeys and snake charmers). Please do not take photographs of this or offer money as it encourages the activity.
Respect the environment you are in. It sounds obvious but do not throw litter, take it with you or use rubbish bins! You may see locals throwing rubbish on the street but do not follow their example!
When shopping in countries where haggling is the norm – enjoy it and only pay what you feel is a fair price for the goods you are purchasing. However, remember that the shopkeeper does have to make a living so do stop once you have reached a price you are happy with. Bargaining should be fun but always remember that a small amount can mean much more to the vendor than to you.
Endeavor to take home souvenirs made locally; the money you spend can be very important to the local communities. However, do use your common sense and don’t buy anything that you think might be made out of endangered animals or plants.
To help keep as much money as possible in the host country - try to eat in locally owned restaurants and order local drinks and produce rather than international brands.
In hotels do be conscious of how much water you are using. Many of the areas we visit regularly have shortages; try not to have hour long showers! Don’t leave lights, air conditioners or fans on when you leave the room – you wouldn’t at home!
Respect the environment you are in, especially when in national parks or reserves. Pay attention to rules about keeping on paths, keeping a distance from animals and not removing any of the natural habitat.
Relax and immerse yourself in the differences of the culture you are in – you’ll be back home in the familiar soon enough (and wishing you were still on holiday!). These cultural differences are part of what makes your experience special.
If you would like to offset the carbon dioxide that will be produced on your flights you can do this on our website (on our Responsible travel page). We work with climatecare, who will reduce the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that you produce in another part of the World through their emission reduction projects. These projects are low carbon efficient technologies in developing countries and not only serve to reduce emissions but also help to spread the adoption of low carbon technologies and improve the quality of life for local communities. Details of climatecare’s projects can be found on their website.
If you would like to contribute to our Worldwide projects, helping communities all over the World, you can also do this on our website or with a sales consultant. Please refer to our responsible travel page on the website for details of our current projects. Any donation you make will be matched £ for £ by Imaginative Traveller (up to a maximum of £1000).
Have a great trip!
Please do let us know if you have any comments about responsible travel at email@example.comThe Imaginative Traveller & The Adventure Company. This trip is operated by our partner company, The Adventure Company. They have more than 10 years experience in adventure travel and they share our ethos for offering unique holiday adventures. As this is a codeshared departure you can expect there to be both Imaginative Traveller and Adventure Company travellers on your trip.