Vietnam tours from Canada – escorted small-group vacation for discerning travellers.
Hanoi – Ha Long Bay – Da Nang – Hoi An – Ho Chi Minh City
Join us on this extraordinary tour to explore Vietnam’s culture, history and wondrous landscapes. This Southeast Asian country of 90 million people is famous for its beautiful countryside, beaches, rivers, Buddhist pagodas, French colonial landmarks and bustling cities.
Conducted by an experienced tour leader and expert local guides, the tour begins in Hanoi, ancient capital of Vietnam, and concludes in Ho Chi Minh City – the largest city and the most important economic centre of Vietnam. Trip highlights of this fully escorted premium tour include overnight Ha Long Bay cruise and the Old Town of Hoi An – both on the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list.
- Small group (20 max).
- Experienced tour leader.
- Expert local guides hand-picked by Laurus Travel’s owners.
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers included.
- Ha Long Bay overnight cruise aboard one of the best luxury junks.
- No forced shopping stops.
- Authentic local cuisine.
- Unlimited supply of bottled water.
- Free Wi-Fi in every hotel.
- Water puppet show in Hanoi.
- Cooking class in Hoi An.
Nights per location:
- Hanoi: 3
- Ha Long Bay cruise: 1
- Hoi An: 2
- Ho Chi Minh City: 4
Meal Code: B = breakfast / L = lunch / D = dinner
Day 1/Thu: Departing Home City
Your Vietnam tour from Canada begins with your transpacific flight from Vancouver or Toronto. You’ll lose a day upon crossing the International Date Line.
Day 2/Fri: Arrival in Hanoi
Welcome to Hanoi! Meet your guide on arrival and transfer to the hotel. The balance of the day is at leisure. Airport transfer for guests arriving ahead of tour schedule is not included and taxi fare is about $15 US.
Day 3/Sat: Hanoi (B/L/D)
Hanoi is the capital and the second largest city of Vietnam with a population currently estimated at close to 3 million. The ancient city has had many names throughout history, all of them of Sino-Vietnamese origin. Hanoi received its current name from Emperor Minh Mang in 1831. Ha and Noi mean “river” and “in between” respectively, to reflect the fact that the city sits between Red River and To Lich River. Hanoi was the most important political centre of Vietnam between 1010 and 1802. It was eclipsed by Hue during the Nguyen Dynasty (1802–1945). The city served as capital of French Indochina from 1902 to 1954. After the French were driven out in 1954, Hanoi became the capital of North Vietnam and subsequently capital of the unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam since 1975.
Our city tour following orientation in the hotel takes in the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Temple of Literature, the Old Quarter and traditional water puppet show.
The Presidential Palace was built between 1900 and 1906 to house the French Governor-General of Indochina. When Vietnam achieved independence in 1954, Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969) declined to live in the grand structure for symbolic reasons. Instead, a traditional Vietnamese stilt house was built for him in the same complex and he lived in it until he passed away on September 2, 1969. The palace is used for government functions, not open to public. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is located nearby the palace.
The Old Quarter near Hoan Kiem Lake has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. At the beginning of the 20th century the city consisted of only about 36 streets, most of which are now part of the old quarter. A night market (near Dong Xuan Market) in the heart of the district opens for business on weekends offering a variety of clothing, souvenirs and food.
We attend a traditional water puppet show later in the day. The show is performed in a waist-deep pool with the surface of water as stage. The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered. The puppeteers standing behind a split-bamboo screen control the puppets using long bamboo rods and string mechanism hidden beneath the water surface. The themes are rural with strong reference to Vietnamese folklore. Stories of harvesting, fishing and festivals are highlighted, often with a humorous twist. Legends and national history are also told through short skits.
We wrap up the day with a delicious welcome dinner.
Day 4/Sun: Hanoi (B)
Today is set aside for you to recover from jet lag or explore on your own. Please feel free to ask your local guide for recommendations.
Day 5/Mon: Hanoi – Ha Long Bay (B/L/D)
Our morning drive to Ha Long Bay takes about three and half hours. Board the luxurious junk on arrival. Our overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay includes visits to a sandy beach and a limestone cave full of stalactites and stalagmites.
Inscribed in 1994 by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay, located in the Gulf of Tonkin and 165 kilometres from Hanoi, covers an area of 43,400 hectares and includes over 1,600 islands and islets. The exceptional scenic beauty of the limestone pillars complemented by biological interest is an ideal model of a mature Karst landscape developed during a warm and wet tropical climate. The outstanding value of Ha Long Bay is centered around the drowned limestone karst landforms, displaying spectacular pillars with a variety of coastal erosional features such as arches and caves which form a majestic natural scenery.
Day 6/Tue: Ha Long Bay – Hoi An (B/L/D)
After a leisurely breakfast, we disembark the boat and drive back to Hanoi for late afternoon flight to Da Nang, a major port city in Central Vietnam 30km north of Hoi An.
The early history of Hoi An is that of the Cham people, who created the Champa Empire which occupied much of what is now central and lower Vietnam, from Hue to beyond Nha Trang. Europeans first reached Hoi An in early 16th century when it was still known as Hai Fo. In the 18th century, Hoi An was considered by Chinese and Japanese merchants to be among the best destinations for trading in all of Southeast Asia. But its importance waned sharply at the end of the 18th century as a result of domestic turmoil and rise of Da Nang after the Vietnamese imperial court granted the French exclusive trade rights to Da Nang.
Day 7/Wed: Hoi An (B/L)
Our tour of the food market in the town centre is followed by a cooking class. We then spend the rest of the day exploring the ancient town of Hoi An, a UNESCO inscribed World Heritage Site. Our walking tour of the Old Town takes in the 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge Pagoda, Sa Huynh Museum, Tran Family Chapel, Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall, and a lantern making workshop.
Day 8/Thu: Hoi An – Da Nang – Ho Chi Minh City (B/L/D)
Free morning to explore on your own. Many guests probably would like to spend some time in the hotel’s lovely outdoor swimming pool. The local guide would be on hand to help you rent a bicycle and pedal into the countryside with you.
After lunch, we drive 30km back to Da Nang and visit the Museum of Cham Sculpture – a highlight of the city, prior to our late afternoon flight for Ho Chi Minh.
Day 9/Fri: Ho Chi Minh City (B/L)
Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam, with a population of 9 million. Formerly named Saigon, it lies 1,160km (720 miles) south of Hanoi and 605km (375 miles) southwest of Da Nang.
Ho Chi Minh City began as a small fishing village called Prey Nokor inhabited by Khmer people, who lived here for centuries before the arrival of the Vietnamese. Beginning in the early 17th century, colonization of the area by Vietnamese settlers gradually isolated the Khmers of the Mekong Delta from their brethren in Cambodia proper and resulted in their becoming a minority in the delta. Increasing waves of Vietnamese settlers, which the Cambodian kingdom could not impede because it was weakened by war with Thailand, slowly Vietnamized the area. In time, Prey Nokor became known as Saigon. Prey Nokor was the most important commercial seaport to the Khmers and the loss of the city and the rest of the Mekong Delta cut off Cambodia’s access to the East Sea. Subsequently, the only remaining Khmers’ sea access was southwesterly at the Gulf of Thailand.
Under the name Saigon, the city served as capital of the French colony of Cochinchina from 1862 to 1954 and later of the independent republic of South Vietnam from 1955 to 1975. Saigon was officially renamed Ho Chí Minh City on July 2, 1976.
Our sightseeing today begins with a stroll along Dong Khoi Street, formerly known as the Catinat Street, the main shopping district and the heart of the old colonial Saigon. Highlights include such classic European-style landmarks as Hotel De Ville, the old Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office.
We then proceed to the Reunification Palace, formerly the presidential palace of the South Vietnamese government, which was stormed by Viet Cong troops on April 30, 1975, signifying the fall of the Republic of Vietnam commonly known as South Vietnam. The War Remnants Museum is the last on our schedule.
Day 10/Sat: Ho Chi Minh City (B/L/D)
After breakfast we embark on an excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels. Stretching over 200km, this incredible underground network was an important Viet Cong base during the Vietnam War. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat as well as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters. The tunnels were also Viet Cong’s base of operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968.
We then visit Cao Dai Temple in Tây Ninh and take in the midday service. The religion practiced here is known as Caodaism, a monotheistic religion officially established in the city of Tây Ninh in 1926.
We return to the city after lunch at a local restaurant near the temple.
Day 11/Sun: Ho Chi Minh City (B)
Free day to explore on your own.
Day 12/Mon: Ho Chi Minh – Home City (B)
Your Vietnam tour ends today. Transfer to the airport anytime for return flight. Arrive home the same day after recrossing the International Date Line.