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Vietnam in a Banana Leaf

Trip Length

Trip Code

22 days GTVE

Countries Visited


Start City

End City

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Hanoi
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)

Vietnam in a Banana Leaf

Day to Day Itinerary

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.   

Day 2-3: Mekong Delta

Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 1 dinner

Cruise the mighty Mekong, stop by the Cai Be floating market and try elephant ear fish for dinner. 

Day 4: Cu Chi Tunnels

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Take a tour of the tunnel network and be thankful that some parts have been widened for us fatties.

Day 5-6: Dalat

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

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.

Day 7-9: Nha Trang - island cruise - overnight train

Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch

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.

Day 10-11: Hoi An

Meals included: 1 breakfast

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.

Day 12-13: Hue

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

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.

Day 14-15: Hanoi

Meals included: 1 breakfast

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.   

Day 16: Halong Bay

Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner

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.

Day 17: Hanoi

Meals included: 1 breakfast

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.   

Day 18-20: Sapa - village trek - overnight train

Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 1 dinner

Trek from Sapa into the surrounding hills and stay with a family in a remote hill tribe village.

Day 21-22: Hanoi

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Back in Hanoi there’s free time to check out some art galleries or just stroll around after our epic trip.

Your Trip

Nuts and Bolts

• Gecko’s expert English-speaking local tour guide throughout the tour, and professional local site guides at some sites.

• 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.

• 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).

• 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).

• Two-day trek up the Muong Hoa River Valley to visit minority hill tribe villages.

• A night in Ban Ho in a longhouse belonging to a local family, including a hill tribe breakfast.

• Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Cu Chi Tunnels; Hoi An’s ‘Old Town’; Hai Van Pass; Lang Co Beach; Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature and Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton); and minority hill tribe town of Sapa.

• 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.

• Return overnight sleeper train from Hanoi to Lao Cai.

Summary of accommodation, transport & meals




Not Included

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.

Optional Extras

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.

Important Information

Crossing cultures
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.

Dress standards:-
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.

Single Supplements
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.

About this Information

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!

Last Updated

3 May 2013

General Contact Details

Geckos AdventuresPhone: 855-832-4853
Web: Visit Geckos