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Exploring Vietnam with Wendy Wu Tours

Read all about what our Senior Travel Consultant Deana got up to when she was lucky enough to be invited on a trip-of-a-lifetime with Wendy Wu Tours… 

Day 1

We arrived into Saigon and checked into the Bay Hotel. After a quick change into our summer clothes we headed out to visit the Ho Thi Ky Flower Market, which supplies fresh flowers from the Mekong Delta. We also experienced our first traditional Vietnamese coffee in the square where the locals bring their birds in ornate cages, so others can enjoy their coffee whilst watching and listening to the colourful songbirds. The bird cages are hung on the pagoda in the centre for prime viewing, while we were sampling sweet Vietnamese coffee.

Once we were refreshed and relaxed, we headed to the Museum of Traditional Medicine to see herbs that have been used curatively for centuries. We enjoyed lunch in town and then returned to our hotel for another change before heading to the famous Caravelle Hotel to enjoy a cocktail on the rooftop bar with views over the city.

Day 2

We transferred to the city pier where we boarded a boat and ventured onto the Saigon River to see the incredible Cu Chi Tunnels. These cramped tunnels were central to several of the Vietnam War’s strategic operations, including the critical 1968 Tet Offensive. They did not escape damage – American B52 bombers dropped hundreds of bombs, leaving huge tell-tale craters behind.

The Cu Chi experience was incredible, to see how resourceful the Vietnamese were and offering a fascinating insight into how the tunnels protected many Vietnamese from the horrors of war and maybe even saved lives. I was offered the chance to descend into one of the tunnels. This is not for everyone, but offered a real experience of the depth of the tunnels and how the Vietnamese came up with tools and their environment to help themselves during the war. It is a must see!

I then headed to the Independence Palace (also known as the Reunification Palace) and Saigon Central Post Office, which is often erroneously attributed to Gustave Eiffel, the man behind the Eiffel Tower. It is an incredible work of architecture that is still a working post office to this day.

We visited the Vietnam Military History Museum, which gives an account of the Vietnam War in pictures, taken by various photo-journalists at the time. This can be uncomfortable and upsetting viewing as they are real images taken in the heat of war. This may make some people feel uneasy but there are also interesting facts and statistics and a real message about the futility of war. It has four floors of the most incredible pictures, and outside you can go into the prison and view old aircraft and tanks. It is definitely worth a visit.

Later in the evening we headed to one of the infamous beer-tasting tap rooms where you can taste up to six different varieties. Choose your favourite and then relax and savour your beer of choice (mine was watermelon!).

Day 3

Today we transferred to the picturesque coastal province of Ben Tre, situated on the mighty Mekong Delta, stopping on the way for a rickshaw ride around the lush rice paddies and fruit farms. We were welcomed with a traditional Vietnamese hat and then boarded the charming Mango Cruise to begin exploring the incredible Mekong waterways. We were welcomed with fruit and drinks and got to relax on comfortable chairs – and even a couple of sunbeds – whilst taking in the views of this historic river. We next stopped at a coconut processing factory – this area is known as coconut country. We also visited a traditional brick-making workshop and noodle-making workshop.

We could take bikes from the back of the river boat to enjoy cycling through the mango farms and enjoy a welcome drink of honey and lemon tea. This was a highlight for me – cycling alongside the mango trees, waving at locals and enjoying the stunning scenery. There was another surprise of a wooden rice barge and I was able to enjoy the serene and relaxing sights of the mango jungles either side of the river’s edge. After a light lunch we headed for our internal flight to Hue. Anyone concerned with internal flights need not be – the check-in process was quick and stress-free, and the airports are modern and comfortable.

Day 4

This morning we visited the Imperial City and the Purple Forbidden City, which is still being restored many years after the destruction caused by street fighting and bombings during the Vietnam War. We then transferred to Thuy Bieu Village, a quiet retreat in the suburbs, and took a leisurely stroll around the village, visiting an old communal house, passing by several ancestral temples with the chance to interact with local people.

We then enjoyed lunch – home-hosted at the ancient house of a local family. They originally worked for the king and are now over 80 years old, yet continue to host guests and grow their own ginger, which we got to sample in its purest form. The wife then laid out a huge spread of food which was divine and again gave me a chance to get immersed with local life. Afterwards we drove over Hai Van Pass to Hoi An and stopped in Cam Thanh to take a cruise on the Thu Bon River. As the sun set, we arrived in Hoi An and were taken straight to a riverside restaurant to enjoy dinner before continuing to our hotel.

Day 5 Hoi An (my favourite!)

This was my personal favourite – I loved everything about this coastal resort. You felt like you had stepped back in time but with a real resort and holiday feel, a slower pace of life and much less traffic compared to the cities.

It is truly beautiful and well-known for holding the Hoi An Lantern Full Moon Festival, which takes place every moon cycle. Lanterns hang everywhere and are a marvel to behold, especially at night when they are lit up to spectacular effect. We headed out by boat to a colourful central market to experience the amazing sights, sounds and scents, and then took a tour around the market and haggled with local traders.

We then enjoyed tea and coffee at the inspirational Reaching Out Teahouse, which is run by the deaf. You are given a menu and board with words so you can place your order and say please and thank you. It was a pleasure to relax in such amazing surroundings. I sampled a tasting board of 3 varieties so I could savour every second of this pure delight.

We then headed out to a cookery demonstration and got to cook our own lunch, which was an experience unlike anything I have done before. I even got to keep the menu so I can try and replicate this incredible experience on my return home!

Day 6

After breakfast we transferred to the airport to fly to Hanoi. On arrival we visited the serene Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first national university. We next visited Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, followed by the One Pillar Pagoda, a historic Buddhist temple built atop a single stone column. Afterwards we got to experience an exhilarating cyclo ride (a three-wheeled bicycle taxi) through Hanoi’s Old Quarter, which finished at the door of our hotel. It was an exhilarating experience, meandering through the traffic whilst having total confidence in your cyclo guide who knew the roads and traffic like the back of his hand.

Day 7

Today is the day that we finally see Halong Bay, the iconic natural wonder that adorns the front of almost every brochure selling Vietnam – this is one of my personal bucket list destinations. It was a long transfer of around 4 hours from Hanoi to Halong Bay, but our guide stopped for breaks on the way and the chance to get some welcome refreshments. We finally arrived at Bhaya Cruise Port for our overnight cruise. We checked in and were given our cabin number on a lanyard.

We boarded the ship and got welcomed with fresh cold towels and a welcome drink, then we were shown to our cabin where our luggage was already waiting outside our door. The cabin was quaint and beautifully decorated and even had a small balcony, with chairs and table, and a full shower cubicle with fresh linen towels. There were numerous activities to enjoy such as kayaking on the bay, swimming, fishing and even a sunrise tai chi lesson on the top deck.

I headed excitedly out on deck. Nothing could have prepared me for the incredible sight before me, the sheer expanse and beauty of these amazing rock formations. I shed tears of joy, not quite believing what my eyes were seeing. This is a must do – it really is incredible and awe-inspiring.

After a light lunch on board we took a small boat and went up close and personal to one of these incredible rock formations. Again, nothing could prepare you for the beauty inside the cave. It was simply a joy to walk through, with many jaw-dropping ‘wow’ moments. We then headed back to our Bhaya cruise to enjoy happy hour and the sights of this incredible natural wonder, with a cocktail and taking as many photos as possible, not wanting to miss a moment. It was time for a dinner change followed by a delectable dinner before retiring to our cabins.

Let me help you plan the perfect holiday to Vietnam! If you have ever wanted to visit Vietnam, then now is the time to go. I was surprised with the level of interest, how it is still not as touristy as other parts of Asia and how it’s kept its charm. I felt like one of the lucky few who have managed to view this amazing country.

At the end of the trip I could not believe how much was included on our Wendy Wu tour. Tips are taken at the beginning of the tour so you can then relax and know the rest of your holiday spending money is yours to do with as you please. All food and excursions are included, and excellent knowledgeable guides are used, which greatly enhanced the entire experience.

If Vietnam is somewhere you’d like to visit, please contact me on 0121 213 0012 or email [email protected] for help in choosing the right trip to Vietnam for you. I will be happy to get a quote and answer any questions that you may have. As we are one of Wendy Wu’s largest agents we can also pass on further savings and exclusive benefits! Take a look at what other customer say about us on TrustPilot! So don’t delay, contact me today!

I hope to help you experience the history, sights and sounds of Vietnam very soon!

Deana Manser, Senior Travel Consultant

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