Vietnam in a Banana Leaf Trip Notes

At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.

  • Trip code :GTVB
  • Trip length : 15
  • Trip starts in : Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Trip ends in : Hanoi
  • Maximum group size : 16
  • Ages : 18 - 39
  • Meals : 1 Breakfasts, 2 Lunch, 1 Dinner
  • Accommodation : 3 Nights Sleeper Train, 10 Nights Hotel, 1 Night Homestay
  • Transport : Private Bus, Private Vehicle, Sleeper Train, Taxi, Train

highlights1

  • Learn new road rules in Vietnam
  • 'Junk' boat cruise among the limestone karsts of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Halong Bay
  • Cai Be floating market and the longtail boats of the Mekong
  • The bustling streets and cyclos of Saigon
  • Cu Chi Tunnels - the underground network of the Viet Minh and Viet Cong
  • Perfume River cruise to the Thien Mu Pagoda and royal mausoleum of Emperor Tu Duc
  • The tailors and market traders of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hoi An
  • Vietnam's northern capital Hanoi

The Ho (Chi Minh) to the Hanoi. See how the locals live on an overnight homestay in the Mekong Delta, then get your beach on in Nha Trang. Pagodas, history and yum yums galore in Hoi An and Hue. Drift through the emerald waters of Halong Bay by boat and go for a snoop through any of Hanoi's many markets. This is your full-on trip up the coast of Vietnam and into Halong Bay. From hectic Ho Chi Minh City to historic Hanoi. Ready, set, pagoda. 

daily-itinerary1

Day
1

Ho Chi Minh City

Accommodation: Hong Thien Loc 2 hotel or similar, Ho Chi Minh City

Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam.

Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.

Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is characterised by a vast array of sights and sounds, and is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. The huge number of people rushing about their daily lives in Vietnam's largest city gives it a dynamic atmosphere and the French influence is evident in the excellent baguettes and coffee on offer. Much of city life takes place on the busy streets lined with shops, stalls and vendors, who have their wares spread out on the footpath and sell everything from soup to sophisticated electronics.

If you arrive early, this city has a vast array of sights and sounds to explore: ancient pagodas and cathedrals sit squarely up against the former Presidential Palace, historic Dong Khoi Street (the Rue Catinat from Graham Greene's novel, The Quiet American) and the bustling markets of Ben Thanh and Cholon (Chinatown).

 

 

Day
2-3

Mekong Delta - overnight train

Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner

Accommodation: Mekong Delta homestay, Mekong Delta 

Head down to the Mekong Delta and visit unexplored Ben Tre where coconut is everything and anything. The fertile delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits and flowers as well as boating along the canals. On arrival, we board our private boat and cruise along the maze of waterways to visit some local cottage industries. Then head to our overnight homestay along the water. We'll be sleeping on simple camp beds in dorm-style rooms with all meals included. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Shared toilet and bathroom facilities are basic.

Rising early to the sounds of the delta coming alive, we enjoy a simple breakfast before boarding our boat, and catching a bus back to Ho Chi Minh City.

Board an overnight train to Nha Trang (approx 11 hours). Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are all part of the experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. Sleeper trains typically have four berth compartments (occasionally six berth depending on seasonal variations and group configuration), which have bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. On occasion, passengers of different genders will be required to share a compartment and there will be occasions where you'll be sharing with local travellers or travellers who are not part of your group. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers take the opportunity to stock up on fresh bread, cheese and fruit prior to departure.

Included Activities

  • Mekong Delta - Boat cruise and homestay
Day
4-5

Nha Trang - overnight train

Accommodation: Cuong Long hotel Nha Trang or similar , Nha Trang 

Arrive in Nha Trang at approx. 5am and transfer to your hotel.
Once referred to as the 'Cannes of the Orient', Nha Trang's sandy palm-lined beach and island-dotted bay still make an idyllic picture, and a cosmopolitan feel prevails in the town itself.
Spend your days here soaking up the sun on a lovely beach, exploring the local markets or checking out the ancient Cham Towers nearby. Make sure you try some of the excellent seafood restaurants.
Board an overnight train bound for Danang (approx. 8 hours) late evening on Day 5.

Optional Activities

  • Nha Trang - Boat trip - VND1316000
  • Nha Trang - Mud baths - VND280000
  • Nha Trang - Bao Dai Villa - VND120000
 
Day
6-8

Hoi An

Accommodation: Hai Yen hotel or similar, Hoi An

Arrive in Danang and travel by minibus to Hoi An (approx 1 hr).

Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An is being beautifully restored and preserved. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South-East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago and it retains the feel of centuries past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it.

It's also a shopping mecca – with much to browse and buy. Choose from original paintings, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and more. Hoi An has also become famous for its tailoring, with a great variety of fabrics and tailors to choose from. Bring your favourite piece of clothing or even just a picture, and you'll be able to have it copied.

There's no better way to explore the peaceful countryside of Hoi An than by bike. Your leader will take you to places few tourists get the chance to see, past green rice paddies and small creeks, this is a true insight into country living in Vietnam.

Included Activities

  • Hoi An - Ancient town

Optional Activities

  • Hoi An - My Son Cham day trip - VND800000
  • Hoi An - Thu Bon river boat trip - VND100000
Day
9-11

Hue - overnight train

Accommodation: Victory Hotel Hue or similar, Hue

Departing Hoi An, we can stop at China Beach (known officially as My Khe Beach) before crossing the dramatic Hai Van Pass to the picturesque fishing village of Lang Co. After a quick stop, continue on to Hue (approx 5 hrs including stops).

As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past and is a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings.

You have a free day to explore. The Dong Ba market, which sells everything imaginable, is a great place to spend some time.

Visit the Imperial Citadel, including the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive, but the foliage-covered ruins are still atmospheric and the gaping holes left by bombs give an idea of the destruction wreaked upon the country during the war.

Enjoy a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River, and a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, considered by many to be the unofficial symbol of Hue. It's an active Buddhist monastery with its origins dating back to 1601. One of the most poignant displays is a car belonging to a former monk who, in 1963, drove to Saigon and set himself alight to protest against the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. We also visit one of the royal tombs, that of Emperor Tu Duc, with its central lake set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees.

Board an overnight train bound for Hanoi (approx. 12 hours). 

Optional Activities

  • Hue - Imperial citadel - VND105000
  • Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda - VND220000
  • Hue - Royal tomb - VND80000
 
Day
12

Hanoi

Accommodation: Van Mieu Hotel or similar, Hanoi 

Arrive in Hanoi very early (approx. 4am) and transfer to the hotel.

The capital of Vietnam is a charming city with a population of over six million. Hanoi is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks and its thriving Old Quarter, which is an architectural museum piece with blocks of ochre buildings retaining the air of a 1930s provincial French town. As Vietnam develops to compete with other South-East Asian countries, the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake reflects the contrasts of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and the tangle of ancient streets in its still surface.

Take a walking tour of the Old Quarter. You'll visit the Dong Xuan market, the biggest wholesale market in northern Vietnam, stroll through the ancient '36 streets' where you can discover an amazing selection of shops selling everything from souvenirs to exquisite silk clothing, beautifully embroidered tablecloths. Your leader will point out some of the unique architecture around Hoan Kiem Lake and the myths and legends of the lake.

Included Activities

  • Hanoi - Walking tour 

Optional Activities

  • Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum - VND50000
  • Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Army Museum - VND20000
  • Hanoi - Women's Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Temple of Literature - VND20000
  • Hanoi - Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison - VND20000
  • Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
Day
13

Halong Bay

Meals included: 1 lunch

Accommodation: Entity Hotel or similar, Halong City

Drive through the Red River Delta to Halong Bay (approx 4 hrs), stopping en route for refreshments at a handicraft village run by disabled people.

Halong Bay is a breathtaking secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands rising from the emerald waters of Bac Bo Gulf. One of Vietnam's most scenic regions, this area of about 1,500 sq km is dotted with innumerable beaches and grottos, created over thousands of years by waves and wind.

Board our boat and cruise the breathtaking bay with its limestone karsts rising from the clear emerald waters. We enjoy a sumptuous seafood lunch on board, explore some of the limestone caves in the area and go swimming during the warmer months.

Stay overnight in a hotel in Halong City (Bai Chay).

Included Activities

  • Halong Bay - Boat cruise
Day
14-15

Hanoi

Accommodation: Van Mieu Hotel or similar, Hanoi 

Take the ferry, followed by a bus back to Hanoi (approx. 3 hours) for some free time and a optional final group dinner.

The trip ends in the morning on Day 15

There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. 

included1

  • Gecko’s expert English-speaking local tour leader throughout the tour
  • Day cruise on Halong Bay with a seafood lunch and overnight in Halong City
  • Homestay on the Mekong Delta
  • Free time to explore Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Lang Co Beach, Hue and Hanoi
  • Sightseeing walking tours of Hoi An & Hanoi Old Quarter
  • Overnight ‘Reunification Express’ sleeper trains from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang, Nha Trang to Danang and Hue to Hanoi

not-included1

International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, day rooms or early check-in, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.


tripgrade1

RAW

Our Raw tours are best suited for those with a sense of adventure, are willing to step outside their comfort zone and don’t mind being thrown in at the deep end. For independent travellers who want to travel with others. Just the ticket for those aged between 18-35 or anyone young at heart who has an open mind, an eye on the budget and a nose for adventure. Authentic experiences that expand the mind rather than hold the hand.

Style Facts

  • The freedom to explore without breaking the bank
  • Time to do your own thing – or join in optional group activities
  • YOU choose where YOU want to eat
  • Basic accommodation
  • A variety of public transportation
  • Fully trained and experienced leader.

Basic

Our Basic tours offer superb value and are ideal for those who are happy to forgo some creature comforts in favour of an authentic and fun experience. Under the leadership of a fully trained tour leader, you will enjoy all the highlights and freedom of independent travel with the convenience, security and companionship of a small group.

Style Facts

  • Plenty of free time to explore independently
  • Optional activities to suit your budget
  • Freedom to choose your own meals
  • Simple famliy run hotels
  • Mostly public transportation
  • Fully trained and experienced leader.

This tour is operated by our partners Geckos Adventures

visa1

A necessary bugbear of adventure travel, visas can appear complicated, costly and confusing to apply for. Imaginative Traveller recommend applying for visas with a professional visa service who can guide you though the process and take care of lodging and collecting your passport with multiple embassies, so we have teamed up with The Visa Machine.

The Visa Machine ‘live and breathe’ visas and have the expertise to provide current and accurate information and arrange the correct visas for your trip, quickly and at a good price.

Please click here for more information. 

medical-preparation1

We strongly recommend you visit your doctor to discuss health requirements for your trip. They will advise you regarding the appropriate inoculations. In some places anti-malaria medication may also be required. Some vaccines need to be administered a few weeks before departure so allow yourself plenty of time. Obtain a certificate of vaccination and carry this with you on this trip. A dental check up is also highly recommended.

Money1

Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.

You will need to take cash to cover all additional expenses not included in your tour cost. These include food, drinks, optional sightseeing, tips, laundry, souvenirs and possible delays. If in doubt, bring more than you think you will need. It is always useful to carry an additional amount for emergencies. If there is a medical emergency you are sometimes required to pay at the time; providing your claim falls within the scope of your policy, your insurance company will make reimbursement later.

travel-insurance

You must have extensive travel insurance as a condition of booking with us, and without evidence of a valid policy you won’t be allowed to start your trip. Please click here for more information  

responsible-travel1

Responsible tourism is at the heart of Imaginative Traveller. For 20 years we have taken customers to places around the world in social and environmentally responsible manner, ensuring everyone involved respects and maintains the natural and often delicate balance of the destination.As travellers ourselves we are well aware of the impact that tourism can have and whilst economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, it 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.We believe giving something back is essential. We therefore work with our customers and the people we visit to ensure the benefits go directly to contribute to local cultures and environmental conservation. This is not only good the communities we visit but it also gives our travellers more enriched adventures.For further information about responsible travel please click here.

 

other-important-information

 

Itinerary Variation

While the information presented here details our planned itinerary, including routes taken, activities included, accommodation and meeting times, please accept that unforseen changes may occur. We are constantly on the lookout to improve our program and further enhance your experience. Naturally, we will keep you up to date with any last minute amendments to your tour.

Meals

1 breakfast, 2 lunches, 1 dinner

Single room supplement

Most of our travellers like the thought of travelling with a few like-minded souls. There are NO compulsory single supplements on most tours as we simply arrange twin shared accommodation for you and another tour member of the same sex. But don't worry if that doesn't appeal. We do understand there are times when you just want a bit of privacy and 'me' time so we are more than happy to arrange a private room upon request when you book.

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