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 valid from : 01/01/2014
Trip valid until : 31/12/2015
Trip length : 15
Trip starts in : Saigon, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Trip ends in : Hanoi
Maximum group size : maximum 16


  • Learn new road rules in Vietnam
  • 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
  • Cai Be floating market and the longtail boats of the Mekong
  • The tailors and market traders of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hoi An
  • Vietnam's northern capital Hanoi
  • The bustling streets and cyclos of Saigon
  • 'Junk' boat cruise among the limestone karsts of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Halong Bay

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. 



Ho Chi Minh City

You know how when you're camping, you can sit and watch the fire crackle for hours? That's what it's like watching the traffic in Ho Chi Minh City. Grab an outside seat, a bowl of pho and prepare to be mesmerised.Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City. There will be a pre departure meeting at approx. 6pm tonight!Consider hiring a ‘cyclo’ (bicycle rickshaw) for touring the city sights (optional)


Mekong Delta - Ho Chi Minh City - overnight train

Cruise the mighty Mekong River before spending the night with local friends on a homestay by the water.Take a boat down the Mekong River. It's an experience that will fill you with joy, as will staying with a local family in the evening.Head down to the Mekong Delta and visit Ben TreOn arrival, board a private boat and cruise along the waterways to visit local cottage industries. Head to our overnight homestay along the water.Sleep on simple camp beds in dorm-style rooms. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Shared toilet and bathroom facilities are basic.Rise early and enjoy a simple breakfast before boarding the boat, and catching a bus back to Ho Chi Minh City.Board an overnight train to Nha Trang - conditions are basic, but this is the best way to travel long distances in Vietnam. The berths sleep 4- 6 and you may be sharing with locals and different genders


Nha Trang - overnight train

When you’re lying on the beach and feeling peckish, it might be time to order fresh lobster. Pick a vendor, find the biggest lobster of the bunch and Bob’s your uncle (or is he?)Enjoy plenty of time to worship the sun during two full days in Nha TrangA great optional excursion (at additional cost) is a day to cruise around the islands where you spend stacks of time swimming and snorkelling and indulging in a lunchtime feast of freshly caught seafoodBoard an overnight train to Danang


Hoi An

Cheap is definitely tasty in Hoi An. Now’s your chance to try pho from the Motherland. Slurp away to your heart’s content.Enjoy free time - there’s such a broad choice of things to see and do, and they can all be experienced without difficultyPerhaps join an optional Vietnamese cooking class?Perhaps rent bicycles and set off to explore the surrounding countryside, take a boat trip on the river, relax on the nearby beach, enjoy the cuisine on offer at some of the town’s numerous cheap cafes or have some clothes made upWhy not venture further afield to Vietnam’s world famous ‘China Beach’ and the adjacent Marble MountainsAn optional visit to the Kingdom of Champa, the ancient ruins at My Son, can be completed in half a day


Hue - overnight train

After a bike ride in the countryside fill up on banh – Hue’s very own steamed rice cakes with a little fish sauce or a dollop of chilli sauce.Travel across Hai Van Pass to the fishing village of Lang Co. After a quick stop, continue on to Hue (approx 5 hrs including stops).Enjoy some free time, perhaps visit the Dong Ba marketCheck out the Forbidden Purple Palace and some royal tombsMaybe take a Dragon Boat cruise up the Perfume River and also visit Thien Mu pagoda?Perhaps cycle out to one of the Royal tombs such as the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, one of the best remaining examples of its kindBoard overnight train to Hanoi



There’s a big art scene here, so head to Art Vietnam in the West Lake area or Dong Phong Art Gallery in the French Quarter and pick up a memento before heading home.Take a walking tour of the Old Quarter,Visit the Dong Xuan Market and stroll through the ancient '36 Streets'


Halong Bay

Sure, the water looks a bit murky when you board your junk. But that's just because of all the other dirty, smelly boats stinking up the joint. Wait until you get out into the open - the water is so clear you'll be gagging for a swim. Which is exactly what we're gonna let you do.Drive through the Red River Delta to Halong Bay (approx 4 hrs), stop on the way for refreshments at a handicraft village run by disabled peopleHalong Bay is a breathtaking secluded harbour with 2000 limestone islands rising from the waterBoard a boat and cruise the bay with its limestone karsts rising from the clear emerald watersEnjoy a seafood lunch on board, explore some of the limestone caves in the area and go swimming during the warmer monthsStay on Cat Ba Island. The foreshore is a great place to have a drink and watch the sunset



Feast your eyes and belly on the wondrous world of Hanoi once again. Do some final exploring or just grab a beer, Vietnamese coffee or freshly squeezed juice and get terminally chill.Enjoy some free time, wander around town and check out the lifestyles of Hanoi’s peoplePerhaps visit One Pillar Pagoda near the Soviet-inspired mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh or walk to the Temple of Literature - Vietnam’s first educational instituteThe trip ends in the morning on Day 15


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.



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


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 trip is operated by our partners Geckos Adventures


  • Expert English-speaking local tour guide throughout the tour.
  • Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant):Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature and Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton).
  • Local ‘shopping’ bike ride around Hue and Dragon Boat cruise up the Perfume River to visit Thien Mu pagoda and Tomb of Emperor Tu Duc (with option to cycle back through the countryside).
  • Day cruise on Halong Bay and overnight on Cat Ba Island.
  • Free time to explore Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Lang Co Beach, Hue and Hanoi.
  • Overnight ‘Reunification Express’ sleeper trains from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang, Nha Trang to Danang and Hue to Hanoi.


  • 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
  • Travel insurance
  • Tips and items of a personal nature


1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner


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.


The local payment is the final part of your overall tour cost. It MUST be paid in cash, in the currency indicated, to your tour leader at the start of your trip. Having a local payment helps us to pass cost savings on to you. Please note that the Local Payment is non-refundable.

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