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Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi
Arrival in Hanoi followed by a transfer to our centrally located hotel. The remainder of the day is free to explore Hanoi's tree-lined streets and wide boulevards. Tonight we have our orientation meeting and overnight in Hanoi.
Day 2: Hanoi City Tour by Cyclo
Today our visits include the Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and One Pillar Pagoda. After lunch we continue our sightseeing with the Fine Arts Museum, and the Ethnology Museum.. We also enjoy a tour of the old quarter by cyclo (three-wheeled bicycle rickshaw), the best way to explore this busy place.
Day 3: To Halong Bay
An early departure today to Halong via Ha Bac Province, which is the cradle of Buddhism in Vietnam. We board our boat and have a seafood feast lunch.
Day 4: Halong Bay, Return to Hanoi
This morning we will continue to explore Halong Bay by boat. For early risers, the sunrise from the upper deck is a lovely way to greet the day from the water. We may see the fishing boats returning after the night fish.
Day 5: Traditional Village Visit
We visit the village market as well as a Taoist Temple dedicated to Chu Dong Tu and hear the emotional love story of Chu Dong Tu and his wife.
Day 6: Cuc Phuong National Park
We depart Hanoi and drive to Cuc Phuong National Park, the first national park of Vietnam, established in 1962. It is home to over 1983 types of plants, 89 animal species and over 320 types of birds. We visit the Endangered Primate Rescue Center, which was also the first wildlife center in Vietnam. We see Delacour's langur, Cat Ba langur and gibbons. We continue our exploration of the park with a hike. We will split into 2 groups, an easy hike to Sau Tree or a longer hike to the One Thousand Year Old Tree. Overnight Cuc Phuong National Park.
Day 7: To Ha Tinh Along the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Depart Cuc Phuong for our long, scenic drive to Ha Tinh. During our drive, we pass along the infamous Ho Chi Minh trail, with several stops to enjoy the scenic beauty and photograph the beautiful mountainous landscape. Arrive late afternoon in Ha Tinh.
Day 8: Phong Nha Cave
We depart for Dong Hoi, once again driving along the infamous and beautiful Ho Chi Minh trail. Enjoy a boat ride on the Son river to visit Phong Nha National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site where we explore some of the longest caves in Vietnam.
Day 9: Dong Hoi to Hue via Hien Luong & Thach Han Bridges (The DMZ)
In the morning drive from Dong Hoi, along Highway 1 into the DMZ (the Demilitarized Zone). We first visit the Vinh Moc Underground Village, which is different from the more famous Cu Chi tunnels, as these tunnels and caves were used for living not fighting. The Vinh Moc tunnels have not been altered for tourists. We stop at the Hien Luong Bridge, once the temporary division between North & South Vietnam and Thach Han Bridge built by the French and where the US and Vietnam exchanged POW's in 1972.
Day 10: Hue Sightseeing
Today we sightsee in Hue, the most important of the ancient capitals of Vietnam. We visit Dai Noi Citadel and view this fantastic structure, based on Chinese designs in Beijing. We will also visit Thien Mu Pagoda and the Royal Tombs of Tu Duc and Khai Dinh.
Day 11: Hai Van Pass, China Beach and Hoi An Sightseeing
Today we drive to Hoi An via the spectacular Hai Van Pass. We stop at the Cham Museum in Danang and have lunch at beautiful China Beach.
Day 12: My Son World Heritage Site
We drive today to the holy land of the Cham people, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of My Son. The My Son ruins cover a large area and have beautiful groups of ruins of Cham towers and Hindu temples.
Day 13: Hoi An Boat Trip, Vietnamese Cooking Demonstration
An early morning visit to the fish market. This afternoon we have a walking tour of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site has quaint pastel buildings lining the streets, interspersed with colorful temples, small art galleries and meandering canals. We visit a typical historic house, Hoi An Museum, a Chinese pagoda and an ancient Japanese Bridge. After breakfast we enjoy a morning boat trip on the river to observe local life. We have lunch in a local restaurant in town.
Day 14: Fly to Dalat
We leave the little charming town of Hoi An for the drive to Danang airport for a short flight to Dalat. Upon arrival, we will take the cable car up to Truc Lam Zen Monastery for our visit. Built to recreate the spirit of Zen Buddhism during the Trần Dynasty that ruled Vietnam from 1225 to 1400. In the afternoon there will be time to relax and enjoy some free time before dinner and to enjoy Dalat at night.
Day 15: Dalat City Sights
This morning we explore Dalat's sights: "Crazy House", the former Palace of the Emperor Bao Dai, the Flower Garden. We then have a relaxing stop at a coffee and tea house before enjoying free time to visit the local market or walk around the lake.
Day 16: Scenic Drive to Saigon
Enjoy a long scenic drive with many stops for photo opportunities as we cross the mountain pass of Preen. Marvel at the impressive views of Dalat with its French villas and pine forest. This area is known for the many green houses, coffee and tea plantations as we pass through Duc trong.
Day 17: Saigon, Cu Chi Tunnels
A short drive from Saigon to the Northwest, we will explore the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels, the Cu Chi guerrillas underground tunnel system that, at one time, stretched as far as the Cambodian border.
Day 18: Cai Be, Tien Riverboat Trip, Mekong Delta
We drive today from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) to Cai Be in Tien Giang Province. Upon arrival we board our boat to travel on the Tien River to the Cai Be floating market. During the day we get on and off the boat to explore local villages where we can see coconut candy, dried longan, rice cakes and fish sauce being made. We will also visit a local house that has a beautiful garden on our way into Vinh Long Province.
Day 19: Return to Saigon, Floating Market
We visit Cai Rang market this morning by boat. Cai Rang is a wholesale market and the sellers hang their products over their boats with a stake to advertise what is on sale. There is time to explore Saigon on your own in the afternoon.
Day 20: Saigon City Sites
This morning we explore the sites of this fast paced city. Highlights include: Notre Dame Cathedral, the historic post office, the War Crimes Museum, and Reunification Hall. After lunch in Saigon there is free time to explore on your own for some last minute shopping or massage before our farewell dinner.
Day 21: Depart Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
We depart for the airport to board our international flights homeward.
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