Your four-day tour of southern Vietnam takes you through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, the underground tunnels of Cu Chi and the famous canals of the Mekong Delta to experience the authentic daily life of the local residents.
Your extraordinary trip includes two nights accommodation at your choice of 1- to 4-star hotels in Ho Chi Minh City plus a one-night Mekong Delta homestay with a local family! You’ll feel like a local as you taste delightful tropical fruits, enjoy Vietnamese dishes and talk with your hosts over two home-style meals.
Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City – Mekong Delta (L, D)
The dynamic urban landscape of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon, brims with street vendors, temples, shops and French colonial architecture in a fascinating blend of old and new. After making your own way to the Saigon Opera House to meet your guide, begin your journey to the Mekong Delta, the lifeblood of Southeast Asia. Relax on the 2.5-hour drive to the city of My Tho, a former naval base – now a bustling port city and gateway to the delta.
En route, your guide will inform you about the fertile region of the Mekong Delta, where approximately half of Vietnam's food is produced. Upon arrival in My Tho, hop aboard a private boat for a cruise on the mighty Mekong River, which wends its way from Tibet through China, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and finally Vietnam.
Learn about the daily lives of the villagers, who are more likely to travel by river than road, and who depend on the maze of canals – brimming with markets and tropical foods – for their livelihoods. Gain insight into the region’s cottage industries with a visit to a local fish farm and stop at an island with lush gardens for a chance to sample tropical fruit.
Your guide will take your small group to another island for a tour of a local coconut candy factory, where you’ll learn about the process of making the sweets. Continue your island tour by xe loi (motorized cart), visiting a bee farm before transferring to smaller rowboats. Then, head deeper into the smaller canals to visit local villages and learn more about the traditional customs of the people who call the Mekong Delta home.
Stop at a riverside restaurant, Diem Phuong, for a traditional lunch. Your guide will provide advice about the local cuisine and assist your small group with ordering local delicacies. After lunch, continue your journey by rowboat along the narrow waterways, passing one of the Mekong River's most beautiful islands -- Phoenix Islet -- where fish farming takes place.
Toward the end of the day, arrive at the home of a local family for your homestay, where a 4-acre (2-hectare) garden offers seasonal tropical fruits such as longan, durian, mangosteen, banana and grapefruit. Wander the beautiful grounds and share a delicious home-style dinner with your welcoming hosts and small group.
(Please note: Dormitory-style facilities at the homestay are basic; bedding and mosquito nets are provided.)
Overnight: Homestay in Mekong River Delta
Day 2: Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh City (B, L)
Awaken early to the sounds on the Mekong Delta and hop on a bicycle via local paths to visit the market. After marveling at piles of colorful produce, you’re welcome to help your host prepare lunch or do a bit of gardening. After lunch, say goodbye and head back to Ho Chi Minh City.
After checking in to your hotel, spend the rest of the afternoon and night exploring the city at your leisure.The dynamic urban landscape of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon, brims with street vendors, temples, shops and French colonial architecture in a fascinating blend of old and new.
Overnight: 1-, 2-, 3- or 4-star hotel in Ho Chi Minh
Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City (B, L)
After breakfast at your hotel, follow your guide on a small-group walking tour through the back streets of Chinatown.
Visit Thien Hau Temple, built in the early 19th century and dedicated to the goddess of seafarers. Explore Chinatown’s bustling markets -- Cholon Market and Binh Tay Market – where street vendors spread out their wares, from soup to sophisticated electronics. Stop at a local café and relax over a delicious cup of Vietnamese coffee as you watch the fast pace of urban life pass by in Vietnam's largest city.
Following your market visit, slurp up a bowl of traditional Vietnamese pho (noodle soup) for lunch before a sightseeing tour of Ho Chi Minh City's iconic buildings. First, learn about the ravages of the Vietnam War with a visit to the War Remnants Museum, where you’ll see displays of old military machinery including an F5A fighter jet and a UH1-Huey helicopter.
Then, head on a walking tour to the Reunification Palace, formerly known as the Presidential Palace, the site of South Vietnam's surrender in 1975. Visit Notre Dame Cathedral, the General Post Office and the Saigon Opera House – all beautiful examples of architecture from the French colonial period.
Overnight: 1-, 2-, 3- or 4-star hotel in Ho Chi Minh
Day 4: Ho Chi Minh City – Cu Chi Tunnels (B, L)
Leave the hectic pace of Ho Chi Minh City behind on an approximate 2.5-hour journey to the Cao Dai Temple in the Tay Ninh district. Along the way, you’ll be welcomed into the home of a local Vietnamese family for an authentic home-cooked lunch.
Arrive at the Cao Dai Temple in time to attend the noon ceremony and gain insight into Cao Daoism, which blends elements from Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism and Confucianism. Admire the ornate and colorful tiles and pillars, religious murals and gardens of Cao Dao, meaning ‘high place or abode,’ built in the 1920s.
Afterward, your guide will drive you further through southern Vietnam's countryside to the underground complex of the Cu Chi Tunnels, built by local fighters during the Indochina conflict as a strategic base from which the Viet Cong could operate close to Saigon. Located at the end of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail, the complex encompassed 125 miles (200 km) of tunnels by 1965, including hospitals, schools, meeting rooms, kitchens and sleeping quarters.
As you venture into the Cu Chi Tunnels – 46 miles (75 km) of them preserved and widened with low-powered lights as a memorial park – your guide will tell you about the difficult living conditions and the ingenuity required to maintain life underground. Wander past huge bomb craters, discover hidden entrances, see tiny chimneys that dispersed smoke from underground kitchens and even sample some of the simple cuisine that local fighters would have consumed.
When you've emerged above ground, your guide will return you to Ho Chi Minh City, arriving in the southern capital around 5pm
Hotel Options in Ho Chi Minh City:
Basic Style: Hong Thien Loc 2 Hotel or similar
Original Style: Hoang Gia Huy Hotel or similar
Comfort Style: Hoang Hai Long Hotel or similar