A Local’s Story:  From North to South

10 Days / 9 Nights

  Hanoi - Ha Long Bay - Hoi An - Ho Chi Minh City

10 Days / 9 Nights

A Local’s Story:  From North to South

  Hanoi - Ha Long Bay - Hoi An - Ho Chi Minh City

From northern capital Hanoi to the bustling metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City, experience and encounter local life on this ten-day journey through Vietnam. Along the way, be transported by many means - ride a traditional cyclo through Hanoi’s ancient streets, cruise Ha Long Bay on a restored wooden junk, go crab fishing from a bamboo basket boat, and cruise the Mekong on the stunning ‘Le Jarai’ teak boat. Visit major highlights of Vietnam as well as the hidden secrets only a local would know – delve deeper into the wonders of a country full of diversity. 

Tour Highlights

  • Take a joyous ride through Hanoi’s Old Quarter on a traditional cyclo and enjoy an evening street food tour for a taste of Northern flavours
  • Board a restored junk for an overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay and experience the natural wonders of this UNSECO World Heritage Site
  • Ride in a bamboo basket boat and learn how to catch crabs from the local experts in Hoi An’s surrounding countryside
  • Explore Ho Chi Minh City’s cultural highlights and visit the historical Cu Chi Tunnels
  • Travel through the small waterways of the Mekong Delta and learn about the production of several different local products

Inclusions

  • Accommodation at selected hotels with daily breakfast
  • Check-in time is 2.00PM and check-out time is 12.00PM. Early or late service is subject to availability with surcharge
  • Meals as mentioned
  • English speaking guide
  • Tours and transfers as mentioned by air-conditioned vehicle
  • Sightseeing fees and permits during guided time
  • Boat cruises mentioned
  • Flights as program
  • Service charge and current government VAT tax

ITINERARY

DAY 1

Hanoi

DAY 1 - Hanoi

Upon arrival at Hanoi airport to meet a Buffalo Tours guide, then transfer to a hotel in the city.  

DAY 2

DAY 2 - Hanoi

Spend the morning at leisure, then begin afternoon explorations of historic Hanoi – not by foot, but aboard a ‘cyclo’. Equal parts transportation and travel experience, these traditional bicycle rickshaws move at a leisurely pace, perfect for photography and slow-moving sightseeing. Sit back and relax while the driver weaves through some of the Old Quarter’s busiest streets, dodging speeding motorbikes and rolling past French colonial houses.

 

Dismount the cyclo at the Northern Gate of Hanoi’s ancient citadel located in the heart of the city. Learn about the history of the imposing structure and Cua Bac Church, a beautiful example of French and catholic influence in the city.

 

Set off to the 11th Century Taoist Quan Thanh Temple - one of the oldest and most culturally significant in the city. Embark on a lengthier stroll towards West Lake, taking the quieter back roads before stopping at historic Pho Cuon Restaurant for a quick snack. Set off again to Chau Long Market for a closer look at Hanoian culture in the flurry of a local market. Continue along ‘Nguyen Truong To Street’ - famous for its desserts - towards the epicentre of Hanoi’s thriving wedding cake stores. Learn about Vietnam’s unique wedding culture while sampling some wedding cakes then take a stroll to nearby ‘Hang Cot Street’ for a look at Hanoi’s mat weaving borough. End today’s walking tour with a traditional Vietnamese coffee at a local coffee shop along ‘Hang Ba Street’. Return to Buffalo Tours tour desk at Silk Path Hotel to relax before tonight’s exciting food tour.

 

Go on a culinary whirlwind this evening, sinking your teeth into the flavours of the North on a street food tour through the alleys of the Old Quarter. Meet a Buffalo Tours guide at the quaint Café Nang, before heading to the local night market. Marvel at the bustle and array of goods on display, before setting off into the maze of alleys. Here, stop at a famous pho stall to slurp up this iconic beef noodle soup, before grabbing a stool at the neighbouring Bia Hoi Corner. Watch the commotion of this spot as it comes to life in the dark, while sipping a tall glass of cold local draft beer. Continue wandering and take in the sights of various curb side businesses that only open at night. Try some delicacies such as savoury steamed rice rolls with mushroom and pork, a classic Vietnamese sandwich, freshly grilled chicken wings or other snacks to satisfy all cravings. See firsthand the city’s obsession with barbecues before finishing things off with dessert. Take a bite of fresh tropical fruits over shaved ice, drizzled with condensed milk - the perfect way to finish off this street food tour.

 

DAY 3

DAY 3 - Hanoi – Ha Long Bay

Depart Hanoi and travel to Ha Long Bay to board the L’Azalee Deluxe, a beautifully restored traditional wooden junk with a colourful, modern design. Admire the sublime beauty of limestone karsts rising out of the water like giants.

 

Today promises a visit to a local Pearl Farm, followed by a leisurely cruise through the Kiem Lam archipelago hidden within Cat Ba National Park. Here, the adventurous can choose to jump into the azure waters to discover sea caves and secluded bays that bigger boats can’t reach. Back on board the junk, wrap up the evening with a Vietnamese cooking demonstration from the onboard chefs!

DAY 4

DAY 4 - Ha Long Bay - Hanoi

Wake up refreshed from a good night’s sleep as the boat motors towards Sung Sot Cave, the largest in Ha Long Bay. Enter the cave through a small opening in the rock and be prepared to be amazed; the cave entrance is deceptively narrow but, once through, the cave opens up to a large chamber with impressive limestone formations. Return to Ha Long port in the early afternoon and transfer back to Hanoi.

 

DAY 5

DAY 5 - Hanoi - Hoi An

In the morning, fly from Hanoi to the quaint riverside town of Hoi An. Meet a Buffalo Tours guide at the airport for a hotel transfer before beginning an exciting day.

 

 

Once checked into the hotel, set off on a culinary adventure to discover the flavours and dishes that make Hoi An unique. Alongside an expert local guide, this journey introduces the stories behind Hoi An’s most iconic dishes at the town’s most famous eateries.

 

Start at a local restaurant famous for white rose dumplings, found exclusively in Hoi An. Sit back and enjoy the wonder of the locals working here, who churn out up to 6000 of these dumplings every day! This visit includes a chance to try making dumplings for yourself before sampling a few. Down a nearby alley, head to another local specialty - banh can crackers. Served with quail eggs, pork and a tasty salad, this dish is a highlight of Hoi An street food culture. Pull up a small street side stool and enjoy.

 

Continue onward to sample grilled pork satay and spring rolls at a local restaurant. Next up is fried wonton - lovingly referred to as “Hoi An pizza” - and finally famous a bowl of Cao Lau noodles. Wrap up the tour with a stop at Sky Coffee Bar, a local favourite haunt within the Hoi An Museum. Chat with the guide over a beverage before heading back to the hotel.

 

DAY 6

DAY 6 - Hoi An

Hop on a bicycle for a picturesque half day tour of the countryside surrounding Hoi An. Pass rows of serene rice paddy fields en route to Cam Thanh village, a place to get a real taste of local life. Once a shelter for locals and soldiers during the war, the village is now famous for its thatched roof cottages woven from water coconut leaves of the region. Spend some time with a local family and learn about the villagers’ way of life. Then, board a bamboo basket boat and learn how to catch crabs alongside local experts. Take a well-earned rest and savour the refreshing flavour of fresh coconut water before cycling on to Ha Linh lantern workshop; learn how to make these delicate creations in a hands-on master class and take home your very own. Enjoy the charming scenery on the bike ride back to Hoi An.

 

DAY 7

DAY 7 - Hoi An - Ho Chi Minh City

Say goodbye to the ancient streets of Hoi An and fly to fast-paced Ho Chi Minh City, still often referred to as ’Saigon’. Meet the guide at the airport and transfer to a hotel for check in.

 

Delve straight into the story of Saigon with a visit to the War Remnants Museum. Here, the guide will tell the story of the city’s darkest and most tragic hours during the Vietnam War. The museum contains displays of military aircraft, weaponry and many photographs - some that are quite graphic in nature. Although many of Vietnam’s 90 million people are now too young to remember the war, its legacy is still felt strongly across Vietnamese society.

 

Next, visit the Independence Palace - once a symbol of the South Vietnamese Government. It was here on 30 April 1975, that the war ended when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through the gates. See the war room, the banquet hall and the presidential office with the unusual gifts which have been received. Then, continue to the Central Post Office designed and constructed by the renowned architect Gustave Eiffel. Just behind the post office is the Notre Dame Cathedral, an iconic Saigon landmark built in neo-Romanesque style by the French between 1863 and 1880. Today it’s a favoured backdrop for Vietnamese wedding photographs.

 

Next, stroll down Dong Khoi Street, which figured prominently in Graham Greene’s famous novel “The Quiet American” as Rue Catinat. The walk ends at the Saigon Opera House; from a bomb shelter to housing the parliamentary Lower House, the Opera House has had an interesting history. End the day with a speedboat trip along the city’s ancient canals where life carries on unchanged. Return to the hotel as the sun sets on this fascinating city.

DAY 8

DAY 8 - Ho Chi Minh City & Cu Chi Tunnels

Leave the busy pace of Ho Chi Minh City behind and head out into the countryside, a far cry from the frenetic urban sprawl of downtown Saigon. Along the way, stop by a traditional mushroom farm within the heart of this agricultural hub. This important ingredient plays a big role in tasty Vietnamese dishes such like ‘ga xao nam’.

 

Continue on to Cu Chi Tunnels, an underground city for Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam War. The cramped tunnels were central to the war’s strategic operations with underground hospitals, schools and canteens. See man traps, bomb craters and other remnants of war - even an American tank that was destroyed by a landmine!

 

Afterwards, embark a speedboat for a more exciting mode of transportation. Travel down the Saigon River, one of the city’s least explored parts that’s just brimming with culture. Keep an eye on the banks to see rice paddies, fish farms and rickety wooden homes perched on the river’s edge. After arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, enjoy a traditional Vietnamese lunch at a waterside restaurant. Finally, return to Ho Chi Minh City in the mid-afternoon.

DAY 9

DAY 9 - Ho Chi Minh & Mekong Delta

This morning, drive a few hours to Ben Tre - gateway to the Mekong Delta. From here, board a small boat to start sightseeing around the waterways of Mekong Delta. Known also as the rice bowl of Vietnam because of its large rice production, the area has also diversified into activities related to aquaculture, rearing animals, cash crops and fruit trees.

 

Visit a brick factory and board a small boat to meander through the canals and waterways; stop at a small coconut processing plant to see how coconuts are turned into oil, candy and woven mats. After the boat trip, take a short walk to a local village to see mat weavers at work, then jump on a local version of a tuk tuk and travelling down country roads to the pier. From here, board the beautiful teak boat, ‘Le Jarai’, to cruise along the river. While onboard, join in the demonstration of Vietnamese cooking before sitting down to a sumptuous three-course lunch of Mekong specialties. After lunch relax on the top deck and take in the scenery on the way back to Ben Tre; upon arrival transfer back to Ho Chi Minh City.

 

DAY 10

DAY 10 - Depart Ho Chi Minh

Meet a Buffalo Tours guide at the hotel and transfer to the airport for departure flight.

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