Experience city life and rural life on this private Hanoi, Sapa, Halong Bay adventure tour, which will then take you on to Saigon, the Cu Chi Tunnels, through the Mekong Delta and across the Cambodian border to Phnom Penh. Along the way, you’ll explore bustling cities, spectacular hill villages, and tranquil backwaters dotted with reminders of the past. Your modes of transport will range from bicycles to vintage Vespas, a deluxe Indochine junk, a tri-motorcycle, a sampan boat, and a luxurious French Colonial riverboat.
In the ancient capital of Hanoi, you’ll find a charming city with a rich history. Explore the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, an intriguing relic of Vietnam’s history where beneath the ancient gates lies a secret underground bunker used by North Vietnamese generals during the American War. Continue to the Temple of Literature, walk through the backstreets of the French Quarter, and glimpse the daily local life. Hop on the back of a vintage Vespa for a Vietnamese food tour, and at the end of the day, visit a jazz club for some 1930s’ music.
Surrounded by dramatic gorges and stepped rice terraces, the landscapes around Sapa are among northern Vietnam’s most striking. Stay two nights in an eco-lodge and walk or cycle through the scenic trails of Mai Chau Valley, visit the village of Xa Linh and meet the Hmong hill tribe and learn about Vietnam’s cultural heritage, walk to the villages of Lac and Pom Coong and browse local handicrafts. Observe traditional village life at Sam Khoe and trek through gorgeous scenery against the backdrop of the Tonkinese Alps.
Halong Bay day cruise
Kick back on a day-cruise aboard a deluxe junk boat, as you weave through a series of amazing limestone islands, caves, isolated bays, pristine beaches, and pretty inlets in the UNESCO-listed Halong Bay.
Check out all the major sights of Saigon on a walking tour that includes the Opera House, the CIA building, Notre Dame Cathedral, the General Post Office, and the Reunification Palace, which served as the home and office of South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu during the Vietnam War. The next day, you’ll hear more stories of the American-Vietnam war as you discover the maze-like Cu Chi Tunnels, a 136-mile network of underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong soldiers. Step back in time as you peek into the old storage areas, poke your head through camouflaged trapdoors, and crawl through military supply tunnels.
Mekong exploration and river cruise
Witness local activities within the traditional workshops, rice fields, fruit farms, factories, and famed waterways of the Mekong Delta upon a tri-motorcycle, a bicycle, and a sampan boat. Meet some of the Delta residents and spend a night in a riverside hotel before boarding a luxurious French Colonial riverboat and discovering the charms of the region’s villages, historic cities, and ancient temples. Observe traditional life at Cai Be where all the activity is on the water. See the sights at the historic town of Sa Dec, observe the water hyacinth farmers of Binh Thanh Island, and the floating fish farms of Tan Chau. Finally cross the border into Cambodia, where you will notice a fascinating transformation in the riverfront architecture as you cruise into Phnom Penh.
Please note all of the featured excursions, activities, and accommodations can be tailored to suit your taste, budget, and time availability in accordance with your personal wishes. All are private tours and transport with a private guide, with the exception of the two cruise portions, which are on a shared basis with other passengers.
Itinerary & Prices
- Vietnam Mekong
- Halong Bay
- Mekong Delta
- Breathtaking Natural Scenery
- Colonial Era History
- Cultural Performances
- Experience Village Life
- High-End City Experiences
- History of Vietnam War
- Indigenous Encounters
- Practice Tai Chi
- Ride Traditional Ox Carts
- Support Artisans & Craftsmen
- Sustainability Practices
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Unique Photo Opportunities
- Food Tours and Classes
Welcome to Hanoi!
Welcome to Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam.
As soon as you deplane, the designated Immigration Officer and a guide will meet you at the end of the jet bridge or the entrance of the terminal to assist you with immigration procedures.
From the airport, you will be driven to your hotel in the city center. Enjoy the ride through the busy street of the city.
After check-in, take the rest of the day to rest and prepare for your exciting adventure in Vietnam.
City Highlights and Thang Long Citadel
Your private guide will pick you up from the hotel right after breakfast. Explore the charming city of Hanoi, often referred to as the ‘Paris of the East, with its yellow ochre colonial buildings, tree-lined boulevards, and scenic lakes.
Start your city tour at the Thang Long Citadel. Built in the 11th century by the Ly Viet Dynasty to mark the independence of the Dai Viet and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, the Citadel was a political centre of the country for 13 consecutive centuries and served as the capital of Vietnam for eight centuries.
Visit the secret underground war bunker which played an important role in the American War, especially during the 12 days and nights of the Ha Noi – Dien Bien Phu air battle of 1972.
Continue to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first national university built in the late 11th century. The picturesque temple is an example of well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture and is featured on the back of the 100,000 Vietnamese dong banknote.
Drive back to central Hanoi for a walking tour through the famed Old Quarter known for its ‘36 streets of 36 wares’ named after the original 36 artisan guilds that date as far back as the 13th century.
Scenic Sapa Cycling
Meet your guide early in the morning. Depart Hanoi for a scenic 4hr drive southwest to Mai Chau. Located in Hoa Binh Province, Mai Chau is famed for its splendid vistas of mountains and valleys surrounded by lush landscape and stilt houses, inhabited mainly by the White Thai ethnic group. On arrival, check-in at Mai Chau Ecolodge. Then walk or cycle to Lac Hamlet to enjoy a traditional home-cooked lunch. Continue cycling on a 2hr tour through the beautiful valley of Mai Chau. Your guide will facilitate chats with local hill tribe people to learn about their daily lives including planting rice, herding buffalos, and building traditional houses.
Overnight at Mai Chau Ecolodge.
H’mong Hill Tribe Visit
After breakfast, drive 45mins to the village of Xa Linh which is inhabited by the H’mong hill tribe. Enjoy the cool mountain breeze on a 2hr walk along scenic mountain trails with opportunities to stop and observe local traditions. There is an option to visit Pa Co Primary School (closed on weekends, public holidays, and in summer) or the Pa Co Market (only on Sundays).
Return to Mai Chau for lunch at your hotel.
In the afternoon, relax by the hotel pool or walk back to the small villages of Lac and nearby Pom Coong to browse the handicrafts made by local artisans, take a stroll around the village, and enjoy a cup of coffee with the friendly villagers.
Overnight at Mai Chau Ecolodge
Sapa Village Life and Transfer to Hanoi
After breakfast, drive 30mins to the village of Sam Khoe where you will spend the morning walking through the remote scenery against the backdrop of the Tonkinese Alps. Expect to receive a warm welcome from the friendly villagers as you observe typical traditional village life – women tending to their homes and working on their embroidery, children, and animals playing in the yard, and men talking shop over wood fires.
Return to Mai Chau Ecolodge for an early lunch before driving back to Hanoi.
Ha Long Bay and transfer to Saigon
Depart Hanoi for a 2hr drive to Halong Bay. A UNESCO Natural Heritage Site, Halong Bay covers an area of 43,400 ha (168 sq mi) including over 1,600 islands and islets, most of which are uninhabited and untouched. Halong (literally “where the dragon descends into the sea” in Vietnamese) is world renowned for its spectacular seascape of limestone pillars complemented by its biodiversity, home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species.
Board your traditional junk for a cruise amongst the stunning islets that soar from the clear emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Towering limestone pillars and tiny islets topped by forest along with wind- and wave-eroded grottoes add to the enchantment of this breathtakingly beautiful region. Enjoy a seafood lunch on board before returning to the wharf.
Return to Hanoi arriving in the afternoon and straight to the airport and catch a late flight to Saigon, where you’ll be transferred by private car to your hotel in the city center.
With over eight million inhabitants and four million motorbikes, Saigon is truly a city that never sleeps. Despite its modernity, Saigon maintains a strong link to the past.
Start your walking tour at Saigon Opera House, a beautiful French colonial-era building from the late 19th and early 20th century. Wander along Dong Khoi Street to the CIA building, where helicopters evacuated the remaining US citizens in 1975. The next stop is Notre Dame Cathedral, a red brick edifice with twin spires, based on the original construction from Paris. Head across the square to the Central Post Office, designed by the French architect, Gustav Eiffel, before he had risen to fame for the Eiffel Tower.
From there, we make our way to the former Presidential Palace, the headquarters of the Saigon Government during the war. We also walk past the famous Ben Thanh market. You may choose to make a stop at Maison Marou to taste the best Vietnamese chocolate and learn the history of the artisanal, single-origin chocolate maker. Move on to the stunning French building built in the late twenties – originally a mansion and now Fine Arts Museum. If you are an antique lover, experience walk on the 300-meter Le Cong Kieu Street with all kinds of local collectibles and antiquities.
The last stop of this walking tour can be one of the following places:
+ Option 1: Local craft beer brewery
+ Option 2: Sky Deck on Bitexco Tower with Panoramic Views
+ Option 3: Hidden restaurant located on the top of an old apartment for lunch
Cycling Cu Chi Tunnels
Depart Saigon for a 2hr shuttle northwest away from the main roads and into the quieter agricultural regions. The Cu Chi landscape is famous for its clay-like soil, rubber plantations, and rice paddies. You will also observe large woven bamboo frames by the side of the road with circular rice paper sheets drying in the sun. Many of the locals in the area are involved in making rice paper as this simple ingredient forms the base of many Vietnamese dishes including fried egg rolls and fresh spring rolls. Stop to visit a rice paper workshop to witness the labor-intensive process.
We visit the ingenious Cu Chi tunnels, an immense network of connecting underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong as hiding spots during combat. The tunnels also served as living quarters, communication and supply routes, and housed hospitals, food, and weapons caches. A visit to the underground compounds will provide a better understanding of the tunnels’ history, the hardship of life in the tunnels, and the Vietnamese resilience during combat.
Return to Saigon in the late afternoon.
Local Living in the Mekong Delta
Early morning depart from Saigon for 1.5hr drive to Ben Tre, a gateway to the Mekong Delta. At Huu Dinh Hamlet, take a tri-motorcycle ride down narrow village roads to explore the lush surroundings of rice paddies and fruit farms before boarding the cruise ship where a refreshing coconut welcome drink awaits as you enjoy the rustic river scenes.
Stop by at the traditional workshops of the Mekong Delta: famous coconuts and a brick workshop where bricks are made by hand using centuries-old traditional methods. Take a 5-7km (3-4mi) bicycle trip around Phong Nam village on flat terrain with stops at a rice noodle factory and the home of Mrs. Huong where you can observe local life while sampling tropical fruit and honey tea. Explore some of the Delta’s famed waterways via rowing sampan before enjoying a 5-course restaurant lunch. We visit two more local homes to interact with typical Delta residents: Mr. Sau Tuong, a former soldier who survived two years of fighting the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia before his current occupation as a rice paper maker, and Mr. Hung, known in the village of My Long for his sticky rice and fish ponds.
You will transfer by boat to your hotel on the river for the night.
Historic River Town
We’ll pick you up after breakfast and bring you to the pier in My Tho.
After checking into your luxurious floating home, your first inclination may be to step on your balcony to watch the ship set sail on its fascinating Mekong River voyage. A lunch buffet is served in the restaurant while the vessel steadily glides upstream. Enjoy a quiet afternoon onboard.
By dinner time we’ll reach Cai Be – a historic town established in the 19th century by Vietnam’s last ruling family, the Nguyen dynasty. Cai Be would later become the surrounding region’s predominant water-based trading hub, as we will see in tomorrow’s visit to the floating market. We anchor mid-stream near Cai Be and moor overnight. If you are in the mood for some evening entertainment, there is a cinema in the lounge showcasing classic movies and interesting documentaries on a nightly basis.
Floating Market and Village Life
Wake up early to witness the spectacular scenery at the break of dawn. To make the experience complete, join the daily morning Tai Chi class. Afterward, a rich breakfast buffet awaits, or if you prefer, we can serve breakfast directly to your room.
We arrive at Cai Be, a charming market town which is famous for its Catholic French church and the manufacturing of traditional crafts and food products. The once enormous floating market of Cai Be gets smaller year by year since trading on the water is continually shifting towards modern markets. However, you can still see boat-to-boat trading of local goods, such as fruits and agricultural products.
By local boat, we sail the green canal network and watch the farmers working in the fields. A visit to the local workshops of rice paste, rice paper, rice cookies, and rice wine.
Back aboard for lunch. In the afternoon, Jayavarman reaches the area of Sa Dec and arrives at one of the larger islands in the vast stream of the Mekong, Binh Thanh Island. Several communities have settled here and now make their living by growing water hyacinths.
We exclusively visit one of these untouched areas. By wandering through the village, we get a deep understanding of native life.
Fish Sanctuary and Border Crossing
Tan Chau is a fish sanctuary of Vietnam. Cruise this vibrant town on a local traditional vehicle – xeloi. We stop at the lively local market near one of the town’s temples. This is a great opportunity to interact with the vendors and try your hand at bargaining.
To see what Tan Chau is famous for, we board local boats and head to a floating fish farm. You are about to get an exclusive look into the world’s largest inland aquaculture industry. The region’s specialties are tilapia and the Basa catfish, or Pangasius, which is unique to the Mekong River basin and rapidly gaining popularity on the international seafood market.
Back on board, we sail towards the Vietnamese-Cambodian border. The whole afternoon is at your disposal. The afternoon is perfect for massages, relaxation on a terrace deck sunbed, or private balcony kick-backs.
You also may like to visit the bridge as the captain always has a little story to share about “his” river. Or, if you are curious to learn more about Khmer gastronomy, join a culinary workshop to sharpen your knowledge about local cuisine.
Soon after the border crossing, the boat arrives at the pier of Phnom Penh. Feel free to go out and explore by yourself after dinner. Stroll along the river promenade and watch the locals chit-chatting, selling odds and ends or have a drink in one of the numerous bars.
CRUISES & LODGES
This floating art gallery and French-colonial masterpiece comes with heartfelt Khmer hospitality.