|Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam||Hanoi|
Forget everything you know about traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, helmets and stop signs. They don’t matter here. Wait until you're safely on the other side before you start high-fiving your success.
(Was Vietnam South to North)
You know when you’re camping, how you can sit and watch the fire crackle and spark for hours? That’s what it’s like watching the people in Ho Chi Minh. Grab an outside seat, a bowl of pho and prepare to be mesmerised.
Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 1 dinner
Three things you’ll learn here: how soy sauce is made, whether or not you like the taste of elephant ear fish and what a popcorn factory smells like. Stay overnight with a local family before heading back to cruise the canals, rivers and backwaters.
Meals included: 1 breakfast
Leave your claustrophobia at the door if you want to squeeze into these teeny tiny tunnels. Then jump on a bike and check out some of Ho Chi Minh’s best, including The Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Meals included: 2 breakfasts
The French had it right, building villas up here to escape the heat of Ho Chi Minh City. Cycle around the tea and coffee plantations, see the summer palace of Vietnam’s last emperor and pick which place has been dubbed “Crazy House”.
Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch
This is the part where your friends get jealous: cruising the islands, jumping off the boat for a swim and a snorkel then tucking into a seafood lunch.
Meals included: 1 breakfast
If Hoi An was a kid, you’d want to pinch her little cheeks: cute winding streets, charming heritage architecture and some of the prettiest sunsets ever.
Meals included: 2 breakfasts
Bit of bike riding, bit of walking and a bit of cruising down the Perfume River. Chat with the locals on the overnight train to Hanoi.
Meals included: 1 breakfast
Back on solid ground, with free time to say hi to Uncle Ho at One Pillar Pagoda, geek out at the Temple of Literature or grab some pho in the Old Quarter.
Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
Swim, snorkel, eat a freshly caught seafood lunch, grab a cocktail and watch the sunset. Fingers crossed for a clear night so you can sleep out on the deck under the stars.
• Gecko’s expert English-speaking local tour guide throughout the tour, and professional local site guides at some sites.
• Overnight boat cruise in Halong Bay. Accommodation in twin-share cabins with en suite facilities. A seafood lunch and dinner on board, swimming and a limestone cave excursion. Option of sleeping on the top deck under the stars (weather permitting).
• Day cruise on the South China Sea in Nha Trang, with a freshly-caught seafood lunch included (non-seafood options available).
• 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).
• Mekong Delta cruise including Cai Be’s floating market and visits to family-run industries.
• Homestay on an island on the Mekong River with a Mekong cuisine dinner, an island trail walk and a sampan ride.
• Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature and Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton); Lang Co Beach; Hai Van Pass; and the Cu Chi Tunnels.
• Free time to explore Saigon, Dalat, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue and Hanoi.
• Overnight ‘Reunification Express’ sleeper trains from 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.
We have chosen a selection of some great optional activities to enhance your travel experience. You will need to cover any additional costs yourself. The below list is not exhaustive and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed below have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
When you are taking a tour that travels through South East Asia, you will be tempted at times to draw comparisons between the countries. However, you will get the most of your travel experience if you try to understand and respect each culture and the people living there, regardless of whether you preferred the destination you were in previously.
There are some cultural elements that do cross over between countries in South East Asia:
· Patting someone on their head is considered extremely rude and insulting.
· Public displays of affection are not acceptable, especially kissing.
· Losing your temper or showing anger and shouting or yelling will lose respect immediately,
to remain cool, calm and collected at all times is an admired quality
· When visiting temples ensure your shoulders and knees are covered. They are places of
worship please treat them as such.
· The monarchy is held in high esteem in Thailand & Cambodia, please treat them with respect
At some of the tourist sites and in the cities it is possible you will come across beggars. This can prove an uncomfortable encounter especially for inexperienced travellers. There are many genuine beggars, however there are also those who find the lifestyle easier than working and these people often see tourists as easy prey. As a general rule, if you feel the impulse to give, you should be discreet in the giving. Never make a show of it, as you will attract a crowd, which brings with it its own set of problems. There are often charities that take care of the needy and it may be wise to give to them rather than to individuals begging.
In places you should dress conservatively to avoid attracting unwanted attention and so as not to offend the local population. This is especially applicable to women travellers. Dress rules also apply at many of the religious sites.
Local Tour Guides
By employing and training local site guides to lead our group holidays, there is a two-fold benefit. Firstly, we provide employment opportunities for the local community. Just as importantly is the benefit to you, the traveller. Your tour guide’s friendship, humour, passion and intimate knowledge of the region will be key factors in making your holiday a success.
Tipping has become an accepted part of tourism in South East Asia. Your tour guide will be able to advise you in this area; however, as a guideline we would recommend tipping 10% of the total bill in restaurants and a small tip to hotel bellboys for carrying your bags.
At you pre-tour briefing your tour guide will discuss with you the idea of running a tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then the tour guide pays the tips and keeps a record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour is returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing what is an appropriate amount to tip.
It is customary to tip your tour guide, at the end of the trip, if you are happy with the service. A minimum tip of US$2 per day, from each member of the group, is the usual amount expected.
Tet Holiday Period
Please note that Vietnam is a developing country whose infrastructure may differ from what you expect in your homeland. Be prepared for some inconveniences due to such things as restaurants or tourist sites being closed and our regular transport services not always being available, especially so during the Tet holiday period (Vietnamese New Year).
Tet (Vietnamese New Year) Is a time where most businesses will be closed as Vietnamese people usually spend this period returning to their homes and celebrating with their families. This will involve a major burden on all forms of transport, and despite booking in advance, tickets for planes and trains especially are extremely difficult to obtain. Even if bookings are obtained, transport services during this period will be overcrowded and heavy delays are to be expected, so you will need to make sure that you pack your sense of humour. In order to facilitate your travels during the Tet period, we may need to substitute your train/plane journey with a private bus trip, if required. Please check with your booking agent when Tet is this year.
This is an 'adventure' trip and we hope to expose you to all aspects of the local cultures. Please be open-minded.
Please note that, on your tour, you may link up with passengers booked on other tours in our Gecko’s Asia program.
For some departures the overnight train will either depart late in the afternoon or arrive into cities very early in the morning. On these occasions we will have the opportunity to store our luggage and freshen up in multi share day rooms before either we depart for the early evening overnight train journey or checking into our evening accommodation later in the day respectively. Please note if you have booked a single supplement whilst on tour, it will not apply to these day rooms.
Due to the style of accommodation on our trips it might not always be possible to book you in a single room throughout the trip. If you book a single supplement it will not apply to nights on the overnight trains, homestays, Longhouses, village huts, mountain huts, rainforest lodges ,on hill tribe treks, on boats, Camp 5 in Sarawak, Iban Longhouse, ryokan’s and on the Kokoda Track. If you are unsure of where a single supplement will apply please check with your travel agent before booking.
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
15 November 2013