With delicious food, a fascinating culture and history, lush scenery and friendly people, Vietnam is a country that’s easy to fall in love with. Explore Hanoi together on a cyclo, delight at the water puppets, meet the hill tribes in the Mai Chau Valley. Check out the street food scene in Saigon, participate in farming activities, explore the famous Cu Chi tunnels, and conclude with a riverboat journey that will take you across the border into Cambodia. With so much to share and do together, this is a Vietnam family adventure that you and your kids will always remember.
Hanoi and beyond
A cyclo tour of Hanoi is an excellent introduction to this charming old city, and the novelty of travelling on these three-wheeled wonders is a thrill for all ages. Visit national monuments, the Hoan Kiem Lake, and glimpse the daily local life in the backstreets of the French Quarter. Watch the Quintessence of Tonkin, a live stage show that will introduce you to Vietnamese customs and culture. Visit the ancient capital of Hoa Lua and the Van Long Nature Reserve.
Meet the Hill Tribes
In the Mai Chau Valley, meet the Hmong hill tribe in the village of Xa Linh and learn about Vietnam’s cultural heritage. A family bicycle ride or a trek through the scenic valley past lush rice fields and idyllic villages is highly recommended.
Meet the water puppet man
Learn traditional water puppet theater from a master. Water puppetry originated in the wet rice fields of Vietnam’s Red River Delta. During the flooding of the fields in between crops, farmers created and introduced water puppets to entertain themselves and their families. Watch a show, handle the puppets and explore the art.
Saigon and the Cu Chi countryside and Tunnels
Relish a food tour of Saigon and dine with a local family. Pedal at a leisurely pace through the peaceful villages, fertile farmlands, and quiet canals of the Cu Chi countryside, visit an agricultural village, participate in some farming activities, and witness the process of making rice paper. With your guide, you will then explore the Cu Chi tunnels, which played a vital role for the Viet Cong troops as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches, and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. You and your kids can even crawl around in the safer parts for a unique experience of what underground life in the war was like. The Cu Chi Tunnels are not frightening for most kids, but they are sobering.
The Mekong Delta is a sprawling region of intensively cultivated land, where the lives of the locals are dependent on the Mekong River and its myriad of tributaries and canals. Sampan boats are crucial for making a livelihood here, yet some families can’t afford to buy one. In a specially arranged ceremony witnessed by local authorities, you can donate a sampan to one family in need.
Your river cruise to Phnom Penh
Board a luxurious French Colonial riverboat and discover the charms of the Mekong River with its remote villages, historic cities, and ancient temples. Observe traditional life at Cai Be where all the activity is on the water. See the sights at the historic town of Sa Dec, visit the charming island of Cu Lao Gieng, and watch the women weaving traditional Khymer scarves at the island village of Hong Ngu. Finally cross the border into Cambodia, where you will observe a fascinating transformation in the riverfront architecture.
Please note this itinerary for a family adventure holiday in Vietnam is just a sample that can be tailored in accordance with your personal wishes. All excursions and transfers are on a private basis, with the exception of the cruise portion, which is shared with other passengers.
Itinerary & Prices
Welcome to Hanoi
Welcome to Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam, often referred to as the “Paris of the East”, with its yellow ochre colonial buildings, tree-lined boulevards, and scenic lakes.
As soon as you deplane, the designated Immigration Officer and a guide will meet you at the end of the jet bridge or the entrance of the terminal.
The officer will assist you with immigration procedures to make sure that the process is as quick as possible.
From the airport, you will be driven to your hotel in the city center. Enjoy the ride through the busy streets. After check-in, take the rest of the day to relax and prepare for your exciting adventure in Vietnam.
City Tour by Cyclo and an Evening Show
Tour the city of Hanoi, with its ochre-colored colonial buildings, tree-lined boulevards, and scenic lakes by quaint, pedal-powered cycle providing an up-close view of the sights. Visit the historic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, an imposing monument built to house the preserved body of beloved Vietminh leader Ho Chi Minh. Tour Ho Chi Minh’s House nearby, a simple wooden house in a tranquil setting where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked. Continue to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first national university built in the late 11th century. Enjoy the cyclo ride back to the city center to visit the scenic Hoan Kiem Lake (“Lake of the Returned Sword”) named after a magical sword once used by a legendary Vietnamese emperor to defeat the Chinese Ming Dynasty. On an island in the middle of the lake sits the Ngoc Son Temple accessible by the iconic Huc Bridge. Conclude the tour by exploring the famed Old Quarter known for its ‘36 streets of 36 wares’ named after the original 36 artisan guilds that date as far back as the 13th century.
PM: The venue of The Quintessence of Tonkin is in Sai Son Village, 20km outside of Hanoi. It is performed by nearly 200 local farmers.
Set in the open-air large amphitheater, the show draws inspiration from the spiritual history of the nearby Thay Pagoda and explains the ancient union between religion and the monarchy. The show blends different aspects of the culture: Poetry, Buddhism, Nostalgia, Music & Painting, Joy & Festivities.
The 1000 years old art of water puppetry will bring you vivid images of daily rural life in Vietnam.
Right before the show, you will have a chance to try some local dishes from the outdoor food village right at the venue.
Transfer to the Nature Reserve
Depart Hanoi for a 2hr drive to Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam in Ninh Binh Province.
The ravages of time have destroyed the ancient citadel in town but some vestiges remain, including the temples to King Dinh and King Le among the rice paddies.
After lunch at a local restaurant en route, drive to the Van Long Nature Reserve, the largest wetland natural reserve in the Red River Delta. Enjoy a 2hr boat trip taking in stunning scenes of local villages dotted among the limestone karsts and caves. Bring along binoculars as you may encounter some rare langurs or birds.
End the day at the famous resort in Ninh Binh with the evening at leisure.
Hill Tribes and Nature
Depart for a 4.5hr drive to Mai Chau, famed for its splendid vistas of lush mountains and valleys and stilt-house villages inhabited mainly by the H’mong and White Thai ethnic groups.
After lunch, we’ll visit the H’mong hill tribe village of Xa Linh village. Your guide will facilitate chats with local hill-tribe people for insight into their daily lives including planting rice, herding buffalos, and building traditional houses.
Enjoy the evening at leisure at the Ecolodge.
Leisurely Morning and Transfer to Hanoi
After breakfast, take advantage of your free morning to unwind and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. You can cycle or trek through the valley, or just relax by the pool.
Lunch at the Lodge before driving back to Hanoi. Arrive at your Hanoi hotel in the early evening and enjoy the Old Quarter with its restaurants and busy night market.
Water Puppets and Transfer to Saigon
Water puppetry is a unique art that originated in Vietnam’s wet rice civilization. After breakfast, take a short ride to a local house situated in a small alley of Hanoi to meet with a water puppet artisan.
Inheriting the talent and tradition from his father, Mr. Liem Phan has a passion for puppetry, creating a mini stage for water puppetry and bringing his solo performances to several countries outside Vietnam.
Sit down for a cup of tea and hear his stories about the origins of water puppets, and how he traveled to different corners of the world to bring Vietnamese culture onto the international stage. Then join a 30-minute show of lion dances, buffalo fighting, rice farming, and boat racing, etc. at his private mini water puppet stage on the top floor of his house.
After the show, you can try to handle the puppets in the water or join Mr. Liem Phan in making and painting the puppets.
After lunch transfer to the Hanoi airport for a flight to Saigon, where your driver will meet you for a short ride to your hotel in the city center. Evening at leisure, don’t hesitate to venture out and explore the busy surroundings!
Morning Food Exploration and Dinner with a Local Family
This morning you might want to skip breakfast at the hotel!
The largest city in Vietnam, Saigon is truly a melting pot of flavors, with an amazing street food scene. A local foodie will join you at the Vuon Chuoi Market where you can try freshly made banh khot (grilled rice cakes) and bun cha Hanoi (chargrilled pork with noodles) or banh mi (stuffed baguette).
Continue exploring the small alleys on foot to observe local life and habits, stop at a traditional medicine shop, and listen as your guide reveals insights into Vietnamese food.
Walk past a bustling wholesale flower market before sitting down to lunch in a local canteen.
In the early evening, another local adventure awaits. Transfer to a home of the family in the outskirts. In Vietnam, a typical family has three or four generations living under one roof. Tonight, you will be able to take a very close look into their lives.
Enjoy a traditional Vietnamese meal prepared by Mrs. Hong, a restaurant owner, and a cooking teacher. She’ll be happy to share her recipes and secrets with you.
After dinner, there will be time to interact with the hosts and learn about relationships in Vietnamese families and the traditions involved. Feel free to ask all questions.
Cu Chi Countryside and Tunnels Explorations
Cu Chi District is best known for wartime battles and famous underground tunnels. But there is more to it to discover.
Explore the greener side of this district by visiting the Agricultural Village. Visit farmers and see how they grow buffalos, fish, and prawns. See a mushroom farm and participate in some farming activities, either at a garden or rice field (depending on the season). Sit down to a delicious lunch featuring vegetables picked from the garden.
Start your bicycle ride through the lush countryside. You will see large woven bamboo frames by the side of the road with circular rice paper sheets drying in the sun. Many of the locals in the area are involved in making rice paper. Stop to visit a rice paper workshop to witness the process.
Next, visit the ingenious Cu Chi tunnels, an immense network of connecting underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong as hiding spots during combat. The tunnels also served as living quarters, communication and supply routes, and housed hospitals, food, and weapons caches.
A visit to the underground compounds will provide a better understanding of the tunnels’ history, the hardship of life in the tunnels, and the Vietnamese resilience during combat.
Sampan Donation for a Local Family
This morning embark on a drive to the Mekong Delta. You will soon learn that the sampan boats are an important mode of transportation and livelihood in the Delta where the intricate network of waterways is often a cheaper, safer alternative to roads. Yet, despite generations of effort, some families still cannot afford their sampan, which is significantly impacting their economic situation.
Today you can donate a sampan to a family and significantly improve their life. Interact with the family receiving your sampan donation. Learn about their livelihood and ways of living in the Delta. Participate in a small sampan donation ceremony with local authorities and villagers as witnesses where all will share in the joy that your generosity has made possible.
From here we will take you to your resort, for a relaxed afternoon by the river. Enjoy the pool and the spa or choose to visit My Tho town and observe the locals go about their lives.
Begin a Mekong Cruise
After a leisurely morning, we’ll bring you to the port where you embark the stunning Mekong Navigator.
As the upstream journey begins, experience the cordial hospitality on the Sun Deck at a welcome reception and introduction to the friendly and professional crew who will present a safety briefing. In the evening a “Mekong Delta” themed dinner offers a cultural and innovative introduction to Vietnamese cuisine.
Insights into the Mekong Delta
AM: After a short sail to Cai Be, explore the famous Delta waterways by sampan, passing a colorful collection of local boats and the characterful stilted houses. Continuing into the narrower canals of Cai Be, a stop is made to visit Ba Duc House, traditional Vietnamese home and garden. Next reach a traditional rice factory where industrious artisans produce rice paper, rice wine, and popped rice.
On return to the ship, an elegant buffet lunch is served while sailing upstream through tranquil riverine scenery towards Sa Dec.
PM: On arrival at Sa Dec port the traditional sampan is again used to navigate the canals. Visit a former home of Mr. Huynh Thuy Le, who was the inspiration for Marguerite Duras’ famous novel, L’Amant (The Lover). The next stop is a Chinese temple built in honor of the Huynh Thuy Le Family.
Return to the ship on foot through the town’s bustling market with many photo opportunities.
Weaving Village and Daily Lives
In the morning, we’ll make a landing on the charming island of Cu Lao Gieng to visit a local village where hundreds of sampans and rowing boats are made daily. An enchanting sampan cruise circumnavigating the island ends with a visit to the Cu Lao Gieng Cathedral. The peaceful villages are surrounded by flourishing orchards and verdant green lawns, far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Mid-afternoon your sampans take you to the local island village of Hong Ngu. Here, a large number of traditional Khmer scarves are woven and exported to Cambodia. Observe the weaving process passed down many generations. The inhabitants of this rural area have only recently become familiar with western travelers and always offer a friendly welcome. Before returning to the sampans you can enjoy a walk around the beautiful evergreen island, stopping for a visit at the home of a local war veteran.
Today the ship’s staff will fully take care of your border formalities, while you can relax and enjoy leisure time on the sundeck, in the lounge, library, or wonderful La Vie spa until mooring close to the city of Phnom Penh late evening. Observe a fascinating transformation in the riverfront architecture. Exciting cultural activities will take place on board.
Disembark the Navigator
Following breakfast, the crew will bid you farewell as you disembark in Phnom Penh for your journey home or your onwards explorations.
Your local driver will meet you at the port and drive you to the airport or your hotel in the city.