Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. You will be transferred from the airport to your hotel, and your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 5pm. Afterwards, enjoy a welcome dinner with your fellow families. Hanoi is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks and thriving Old Quarter. The latter is a veritable architectural museum piece that feels like a 1930s provincial French town – a great place to explore today if you have time.
Embark on a full-day tour of the city. You will visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum, and the tranquil Temple of Literature – an oasis of calm in the heart of town. Also head to the Museum of Ethnology to learn more about the diverse heritage of Vietnam. Enjoy some lunch at the KOTO restaurant – an excellent establishment and long-time friend of Intrepid which lives by the philosophy of 'know one, teach one'. It supports underprivileged local youth by giving them a chance at making a career in hospitality. In the evening, sit down to a traditional water puppet performance. This northern tradition, dating back nearly a thousand years, is performed alongside traditional Vietnamese music that employs drums, wooden bells, horns and bamboo flutes.
Travel by minibus to the spectacular World Heritage-listed site of Halong Bay (approximately 4 hours). The bay is a breathtaking secluded harbour with some 2000 limestone islands jutting out of the waters of the Bac Bo Gulf. Board your private boat and cruise among the dramatic limestone peaks. There's an opportunity to swim in the famous Vietnam East Sea and explore caves filled with stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Spend a peaceful night on board, beneath a sky alive with stars.
Enjoy breakfast on the boat this morning and perhaps head out for an optional early morning kayak. Return to Hanoi by bus (approximately 3.5 hours). From there you will board an overnight train bound for Hue. As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past. It's a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings. Although conditions are basic on your train journey, overnight trains are a classic South East Asian experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. Lie back and enjoy the ride! Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but it's a great idea to stock up on fresh bread, cheese and fruit before you head off.
Welcome to Hue! Your leader will help you chose a local, tasty breakfast option this morning after you disembark the overnight train. As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Delve further into the fascinating former capital today. You will visit the Imperial Citadel, which is the best-preserved remnant of a large citidel and Royal centre that once existed on this fortified site. The unique fortifications are fascinating, even though much of this place has sadly been destroyed by war. The foliage-covered ruins make for an interesting couple of hours of exploring. You will visit the Forbidden Purple City, which was almost totally wiped out during the Tet Offensive in 1968. The gaping holes left by bombs give an idea of the shocking destruction wreaked upon the country during the war.
Afterwards, you will take a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, which is considered by many to be the unofficial symbol of Hue. It's an active Buddhist monastery originating in 1601. One of the most poignant displays here 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.
After breakfast you and your family will visit Tu Duc Tomb, Emperor Tu Duc enjoyed the longest reign of any monarch of the Nguyen dynasty, ruling from 1848-1883. Next up we pay a visit to a local non-government organisation that supports Hue’s deaf community by providing training, employment, support and a place to connect with others. Take part in a traditional paper flower making class with members of the community – this exercise is conducted in silence using body language and sure to be a special experience the whole family will remember.
This afternoon you will journey through the streets of Hue on a cyclo tour. Travelling around the citadel, passing through the local fruit and vegetable marketing, stopping to climb the ancient Citadel towers for a birds eye view of the town before stopping over at Ho Chi Minh’s house.
Travelling by bus (approximately 4 hours), head south through coastal rice paddies before traversing the spectacular Hai Van Pass. You'll all be treated to some stunning mountain scenery en route. After a brief visit to the beautiful China Beach, arrive at Hoi An. Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An and its delicate beauty is being 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 it look exactly as they did more than a century ago – it's the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it.
After breakfast, head out to spend the morning at Cua Dai beach. This beach is known for its stunning palm-fringed white sand and views of the Cham islands. Transfer back to town and pop into a local restaurant where you’ll learn how to make ‘white rose cake’, one of Hoi An’s most popular street foods. These tasty savoury dumplings are made with rice paper and minced shrimp and named after their resemblance to a white flower. Once your local instructors have taught you how to make these delicious parcels, sit down together and tuck into your creations for lunch. This hands-on experience is one the whole family will enjoy!
The rest of your time is left free to relax in this beautiful area. 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. You might also like to speak to your leader about arranging a cooking lesson and learn about the many layers of fresh herbs and flavours that can be found in Vietnam's fresh and tasty cuisine. Or simply spend your day by the pool.
Take a short flight to Ho Chi Minh City (approximately 1 hour). Formerly known as Saigon, this bustling metropolis is full of vibrant sights and sounds; a fascinating blend of old and new. Check out Ben Thanh Market and feast on a delicious lunch of local street food, and take an orientation walk. Afterwards, you're free to explore the city as you please. Your leader will have plenty of interesting ideas for you and your family. Consider scooting off on cyclos to Cholon, the Chinatown area of Ho Chi Minh City, or for a bit of temple-hopping. Otherwise, you could visit the Vietnamese version of a department store for some serious shopping.
Head down to the Mekong Delta and visit unexplored Ben Tre where coconut is everything and anything. The journey to Ben Tre is south by private bus (approximately 2.5 hours). The fertile delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits and flowers. On arrival, board your private boat and cruise along the maze of waterways to visit some local cottage industries. This is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a different part of the local economy. Then head to your overnight homestay by the water. Be invited into a family home for a true local experience – a chance to see daily life from the inside. You'll be sleeping on simple camp beds in dorm-style rooms, with all meals included. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided.
Rise early, as the locals do here on the delta. Enjoy a leisurely morning before heading back to Ho Chi Minh City on the bus. On arrival, you'll have free time to further explore the city at your own pace. This is an opportunity to do anything you might have missed the first time around. District 1 is a great place to walk around with the family. If you've fallen in love with Vietnamese food, sample some of the culinary delights you haven't got around to yet – perhaps some grilled cuttlefish or, for the adventurous, street-barbecued sea snails.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time, provided you comply with the hotel’s internal check-out policies.