Cycling in Mai Chau, Vietnam

 Vietnam Summer Tour: Itinerary

Arrive Hanoi
Arrive at war-era Noi Bai Airport outside of Hanoi where 30-year old MIGs still take off. A thousand year-old city, Hanoi was also the former French capital of Indochina which is reflected in it's dominant architecture along the tree-line boulevards. Now the political and cultural center of Vietnam, Hanoi holds guard of the country's ideals while Saigon rapidly pursues capitalism. Afternoon and evening free to stroll and soak up Hanoi's stoic atmosphere along Hoan Kiem Lake and ancient, yet lively Old Quarter or of course, rest from your overnight flight.

Prayer at the One Pillar Pagoda

Day 1, Hanoi City Tour

Hanoi's Old Quarter
City tour of Hanoi with long stop at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and serene One Pillar Pagoda followed by lunch at a popular outdoor cafe. Afternoon stroll through the vibrant Old Quarter with a stop at a family home. Welcome and orientation dinner at Vietnam's most elegant French-Vietnamese restaurant followed by a delightful traditional water puppet performance, unique to Vietnam. Overnight at the 5-star Sofitel Metropole, the finest hotel in Hanoi located near central Hoan Kiem Lake. (B,L,D)

Day 2, Hanoi to Halong Bay

The Gulf of Tonkin was once the haunt of Vietnamese and Chinese pirates. At Halong Bay the romance of old Vietnam still lingers, with bizarre karst islets randomly scattered and the odd red sailed junk clipping across the waters. With 3,000 limestone and dolomite islets sprinkled over an area of 1,500 square kilometers, Halong Bay offers a wonderland of karst topography. In recognition of this, in 1994 Halong was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After breakfast, transfer by private car to Halong Bay past scenic northeast landscapes outside Hanoi (about three hours), stopping to visit a crafts cooperative. Board private, wooden yacht (the 8-cabin Huong Hai). Seafood lunch, exploration of caves by foot and kayaking on Halong. Special dinner on board featuring local cuisine. Accommodation in private cabin with lavatory. (B,L,D)

Day 3, Halong Bay
The fisherfolk of Halong navigate by limestone landmarks with names such as Hon Ga Choi (Fighting Cock Rock), Hon Con Coc ( Toad Island), Hon Rong (Dragon), Hon Rua (Tortoise), Hon Dua ( Buddha Praying Island). Continued kayaking around these landmarks, with options for swimming and island hiking. Seafood banquet on board.

Day 4, Halong Bay to Hanoi
Half-day kayaking, exploring low caves etched out by the sea and halong's floating villages. After farewell lunch with crew, return to dock and transfer by car back to Hanoi. Late afternoon and dinner free to explore Hanoi. Overnight at the Metropole. (B,L).

Day 5, Hanoi to Hue
Morning flight to the ancient Imperial Capital. Set on the tranquil Perfume River, Hue is arguably Vietnam's most pleasant and picturesque city. While Saigon and to a lesser extent, Hanoi, have seen heavy growth in the last decade, Hue remains largely untouched. This first day we'll test our bikes cycling along the Perfume River on our way through the beautiful countryside to the majestic Khai Dinh and Tu Duc Royal Tombs, Imperial Citadel, and to the peaceful Thien Mu Pagoda. Dinner free to partake of Hue's local delicacies such as crab soup, ban sao — "pancakes." (B,L)

Day 6, Hue to Hoi An
Full-day cycling one of the most scenic routes in Vietnam. Depart Hue along a unknown coastal road with no traffic to the Hai Van Pass. Our route passes by rural villages and the picturesque Lang Co Lagoon, then ascending the six-mile road over the Hai Van offering stunning views of the coast and a thrilling descent on the backside to the green rice fields and white-sands around Danang. Continued riding or shuttle in the van the remaining route to avoid traffic near Danang to Hoi An, typically a tour favorite. Overnight at the central Hoi An Hotel. (B,L,D)

Bikers at Tu Duc Tomb

Day 7, Hoi An

Local Market
City tour of Hoi An, an ancient Japanese port of trade. Much of Hoi An's rare wooden architecture remains in this small, pleasant town. We will explore the elegant pagodas, bustling riverfront marketplace and distinctive cuisine. Cycling to Cua Dai Beach on the South China Sea for beach combing. Late afternoon Vietnamese cooking demonstration in town featuring local specialties by one of Vietnam's most talented chefs, or free time on your own perhaps for a boat excursion on the Thu Bon River fronting the town. (B,L,D)

Day 8, Hoi An to Saigon

Morning cycling to nearby Marble Mountain to explore it's grotteos and temples with views over the surrounding area, including China Beach where we'll hop in the surf before changing into clothes for our flight to Saigon from nearby Danang.

Saigon at last! Half or optional full-day city tour of the vibrant Cholon Bin Tay market, the Saigon River front and several historical sites. Afternoon free for cyclo ride or sightseeing and shopping in the central district arts and crafts shops with guide. Farewell dinner near the Saigon River. (B,D)

Saigon City Hall

Day 9, Saigon to Mekong Delta (Can Tho)

Saigon to Vietnam's "rice basket" — the Mekong Delta where the mighty Mekong River ends its journey from Nepal to the South China Sea, splitting into seven major branches as it traverses the soggy delta, a fertile area of almost 50,000 square kilometers.

We'll be sightseeing by bicycle and sampan, cruising along the quiet backroads and canals of the Delta, stopping for lunch of tropical fruits and seafood. After lunch, continued exploration of the waterfront villages through the vast rice field landscapes and the home of a local farming family. Accommodation at the French Victoria Can Tho Resort. (B,L)

Day 10, Can Tho to Chau Doc

The delta is a region of extraordinary energy and market commerce, with burgeoning markets, floating markets, fruit orchards, and more coconuts than you'd want to contemplate.

Rise early for sampan cruise through the a local floating market. Afterwards, breakfast and cycling for about between Long Xuyen and Cao Lanh past scenic stretches of the countryside. Overnight at the French Victoria Chau Doc Resort.

Cycling near Chau Doc

Day 11, Chau Doc to Saigon

Up early for a ride to the famous Lady Chua Xu Temple (c. 1820). Then ride up to the sacred Sam Mountain for its panoramic view over the vast plains into Cambodia. After lunch , return to Saigon. Grand (Suite) near the Saigon River. (B)

Day 12, Saigon

Exploration of the central quarter sights, including French Colonial-era Art Deco post office and cathedral, and reminders of the American War including the War Museum and Reunification Palace. Lunch in Cholon, Saigon's Chinatown.

Farewell dinner in a popular, outdoor restaurant. Accommodation at the Grand (Suite) near the Saigon River. (B,L)

Saigon River

Depart Saigon

Farewell and transfer to Tan Son Nhat Airport for return flight home or continue on our tour extension the magnificent temples of Angkor in neighboring Cambodia, a short 45-minute flight. We highly recommend you make this side-trip, Angkor is one of those places that far exceeds any preconceptions. (B)

(B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)