Vietnam in a Banana Leaf
This is your full-on trip up the coast of Vietnam and into the hills of Sapa. From hectic Ho Chi Minh City to historic Hanoi. Ready, set, pagoda.
(Was Vietnam Encompassed)
Day 1 - Ho Chi Minh City
Hit Pho 2000 for the best pho in town (yep, we’re putting it out there) then grab a drink at Saigon Saigon, one of the oldest hotels in Vietnam.
- Arrive in Ho Chi Minh and explore this fascinating city
Day 2-3 - Mekong Delta
Cruise the mighty Mekong, stop by the Cai Be floating market and try elephant ear fish for dinner.
Breakfast | Dinner
- Join the boat at the small market town of Cai Be
- Cruise the canals, rivers and backwaters and discover how the local people lead their lives
- Visit a congested flotilla of boats selling all manner of fruit and vegetables at Cai Be's floating market
- Stop by some family-run industries, which include a rice paper, popcorn and popped rice factory
- Learn the process involved in making some of the products for which the Mekong Delta is famous – including fish sauce, soy sauce, tofu and clay floor tiles
- Arrive at asimple home-stay situated on an island in the middle of the Mekong River
- Enjoy a dinner including the Mekong Delta's famous “Elephant Ear Fish” as well as a number of other Mekong specialties
- Take a walk along the island's trails and a sampan ride through some of its small creeks and canals
- Set off on the riverboat back to Cai Be and return to Ho Chi Minh in the afternoon
Day 4 - Cu Chi Tunnels
Take a tour of the tunnel network and be thankful that some parts have been widened for us fatties.
- Crawl through a section of the Cu Chi Tunnels
- Learn how the brave men and women of Cu Chi built underground hospitals, kitchens and meeting rooms during their struggle
- Spend the last afternoon shopping in the city’s main business district, or take a cyclo ride through the busy city streets to Ho Chi Minh’s Chinatown district, Cholon
Day 5-6 - Dalat
Suck in a lungful of fresh mountain air and head to Coffee Street, which is packed with little coffee stalls (obviously). Combined with the clean, crisp air you’ll definitely be wide awake by now.
- Join a local bus for the day-long drive to Dalat
- Mix with locals and other travellers on board the bus
- Journey past rubber and teak plantations before ascending the jungle-clad pass to Bao Loc
- Continue past tea and coffee plantations, where the people and their houses look very different to those in Ho Chi Minh
- Enjoy a full free day to explore some of the more interesting sights in Dalat, including the old railway station, Bao Dai, and the Hang Nga Guesthouse, known as the 'Crazy House'
- Perhaps pay a visit to one of Dalat's most notable residents, Buddhist monk/artist, Vien Thuc, and purchase his black ink on paper paintings and calligraphy for approximately US$5 a piece
- Why not try lunch is the upstairs 'mezzanine' floor of the fruit and vegetable pavilion in Dalat's central market
- Take an optional trip out to 'Lat Village' – a local ethnic hill tribe community located just outside Dalat
Day 7-9 - Nha Trang - island cruise - overnight train
Pack your swimmers and towel for our cruise around the islands. You’re on your own for the day before we catch our overnight train to Danang then the bus to Hoi An.
Breakfast | Lunch
- Enjoy plenty of time to worship the sun during two full days in Nha Trang
- Head out onto the water for a day to cruise around the islands
- Spend stacks of time swimming and snorkelling
- Indulge in a lunchtime feast of freshly caught seafood and other delights for non-fish eaters
- Board the overnight sleeper train bound for Danang
Day 10-11 - Hoi An
Hire a bike and check out the countryside, take a riverboat cruise, relax on a nearby beach, eat in the cheap cafes or update your wardrobe at one of the same-day tailors.
- Drive through the busy streets of Danang and pass by the massive former US airbase that was, in 1968, the busiest airport in the world
- Take a walking tour of Hoi An
- Enjoy free time - there’s such a broad choice of things to see and do, and they can all be experienced without difficulty
- Perhaps rent bicycles and set off to explore the surrounding countryside, take a boat trip on the river, relax on the nearby beach, enjoy the cuisine on offer at some of the town’s numerous cheap cafes or have some clothes made up
- Why not venture further afield to Vietnam’s world famous ‘China Beach’ and the adjacent Marble Mountains
- An optional visit to the Kingdom of Champa, the ancient ruins at My Son, can be completed in half a day
- Leave Hoi An and take the day train to Nha Trang
Day 12-13 - Hue
Packed with temples, tombs, palaces and pagodas, Hue is great for history buffs (and Instagram fans). Don’t miss the Purple Forbidden Palace and the Citadel walls.
- Mount local ‘shopping’ bikes and cycle down to the riverside
- Place the bikes on board a ‘Dragon Boat’, and enjoy a cruise up the Perfume River to visit the Thien Mu pagoda
- Choose to either cycle back into town from here, approximately 8km, or staying on the boat to head back down river to the Citadel
- Spend a couple of hours exploring Hue’s massive walled citadel and the Forbidden Purple Palace enclosed within
- Perhaps cycle out to one of the Royal tombs such as the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, one of the best remaining examples of its kind
- Alternatively, set off on an optional motorcycle tour of the sights in Hue and some surrounding villages
Day 14-15 - Hanoi
You can’t go past Minh’s Jazz Club for a good night out. Resident sax god, Quyen Van Minh, brings a bit of Coltrane and Parker to downtown Hanoi.
- Begin by visiting the One Pillar Pagoda near the Soviet-inspired mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh
- Walk to the Temple of Literature - Vietnam’s first educational institute
- Visit the Hoa Lo Prison, probably better known to most as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’
- Enjoy a free afternoon to wander around town and check out the lifestyles of Hanoi’s people
- Perhaps stop by the city’s Old Quarter, situated to the north of the lake
Day 16 - Halong Bay
They say the limestone karsts in Halong Bay were formed when dragons were sent to spit big lumps of jade into the water, creating a wall that would protect Vietnam from invaders. No dragons were harmed in the making of this legend.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
- Take a 3½-hour drive through the fertile Red River Delta to the bayside town of Bai Chay
- Board a chartered boat and enjoy a full afternoon lazing on deck as you cruise through the seascape
- Indulge in a seafood lunch is served on board
- Perhaps go for a swim before going ashore on one of the islands to explore colourful limestone caves
- Be lucky to witness a sunset over Halong Bay before enjoying dinner prepared by the crew
Day 17 - Hanoi
Grab some snacks in Hanoi before we jump on the overnight train. There’s a bit of free time before we leave, so pop into the mausoleum and see Uncle Ho in all his embalmed glory.
- Enjoy a bit of free time in Hanoi to get in some sightseeing or shopping
- Board the overnight sleeper train
Day 18-20 - Sapa - village trek - overnight train
Trek from Sapa into the surrounding hills and stay with a family in a remote hill tribe village.
Breakfast | Dinner
- Perhaps catch a glimpse of China over the other side of the river
- Drive into the mountains and on to the picturesque minority hill tribe town of Sapa, set amidst mountain scenery and in the shadow of Vietnam's tallest peak, Mt. Fansipan
- Spend the afternoon getting to know this little town
- Set out on an adventurous two-day trek up the Muong Hoa River Valley, with its lush vegetation and rice terraces
- Spend the night in the cosy longhouse belonging to one of the local families
- Indulge in a hearty hill tribe breakfast, get picked up by jeeps and driven back to Sapa
- Head back to Lao Cai where we board the overnight train to Hanoi
Day 21-22 - Hanoi
Back in Hanoi there’s free time to check out some art galleries or just stroll around after our epic trip.
- Enjoy more free time in Hanoi to explore the many temples, pagodas and museums, or simply choose to relax
What to Know
An experienced local tour guide, and there will be the services of local site guides at some sites. All transportation, accommodation and meals as indicated.
- 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.
Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments
At the end of each trip, we ask our travellers to provide feedback. We publish the positive, negative and neutral feedback on this page to give you an overall idea of what to expect on this trip.
Vietnam in a Banana Leaf
Allison - Australia, 16 Mar, 2013
We joined the tour on the 18th of March and thoroughly enjoyed our experiences with the group for the next 2 weeks. Our guide was excellent and very knowledgeable - we went to places that we would have never dreamed of if he wasn't with us!
Vietnam in a Banana Leaf
Adam - Australia, 16 Mar, 2013
We signed up for Uncle Ho's Magical mystery tour. Highly recommend this tour to anyone that wants to experience all the highlights of Vietnam and its wonderful people. We started down south which was wonderful getting a sense of the people and what they had been through in the war but also the traditional side in the Meekong delta which was amazing. Hoi An was definatly a highlight with such a beautiful atmosphere. And finishing in Ha Long Bay cannot be topped! Amazing trip in such a beautiful country.
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