Trip Number: 12505B
Staff: Hurston Roberts
- Visit important Vietnamese cultural/historical sites
- Hike in three of Vietnam's national parks
- Kayak in spectacular Ha Long Bay
- All in-country transportation, including two flights
- All accommodations, meals, and gratuities
- An experienced, English-speaking Vietnamese guide
Photo: Matt Wathen
You are invited to join us for our Vietnam journey, which travels the length
of Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) to Hanoi. We will be exploring
the many facets of this mystical country with a rich and varied history. "S"-shaped
Vietnam is inhabited by 54 ethnic groups, each with a unique culture. The Viet
are the established ancestral ethnic group, making up more than 70% of the Vietnamese
population. Constantly under the threat of invasion and occupation in the past,
the Vietnamese are now working industriously to improve the quality of life
for all citizens as they also honor their cultural traditions.
We'll visit many of the most beautiful and famous of Vietnam's cultural and
historical sites, which will provide insight into the history and character
of Vietnam. We will overnight in a rural village, and be entertained with traditional
Vietnamese music and dance, including (in Hanoi) the famous water puppet theater.
We will also visit some of the most dramatically beautiful Vietnamese natural
areas, including three of their national parks and renowned Ha Long Bay.
This trip is planned for anyone who wants to experience the very best of Vietnam in a single trip. All of the physical activities are optional, so if you
just want to sightsee you are welcome to join us. We'll have three moderate
(2-3 hours each) day hikes in national parks. You can hike as long as you'd
like on all of the three hikes; likewise, you're welcome to do as much or little
sea kayaking in Ha Long Bay as you'd like. We'll be on a large boat overnight
in Ha Long Bay with comfortable accommodations and delicious food.
Most of our meals will feature delicious Vietnamese cuisine; we'll also have
some non-Vietnamese meals (usually Chinese) and some of our meals will be on
your own (money provided by leader) in case you want to taste some of the other
international cuisine there. We'll have wonderful, fluent English-speaking guides
who will interpret Vietnam's rich history, culture, and nature for us. We'll
learn about the Vietnam War (referred to as the "American War" by
Vietnamese) from their perspective by visiting some of their museums, and some
famous sites including China Beach. The Vietnamese hold no anger from our war
with them and warmly welcome American tourists to their beautiful country.
Photo: Matt Wathen
Although we'll pack a lot of activities in our Vietnam adventure, we will
also have time for relaxation and free time for shopping and sightseeing. Here's
a day-by-day itinerary of what we'll be exploring in Vietnam.
Day 1: Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, where you will be met at
the airport and transferred to our central downtown hotel. If you are flying
from the West Coast, you'll probably leave on Thursday, March 1st (you will
lose a day as you cross the International Date Line) and arrive late evening
on Friday, March 2nd. You should plan to arrive no later than Saturday mid-afternoon
on March 3rd. We'll have a late-afternoon trip orientation meeting at our hotel
and then enjoy our first delicious Vietnamese dinner.
Day 2: After breakfast, we'll spend the day touring Ho Chi
Minh City/Saigon, Vietnam's largest and perhaps most dynamic city. We'll visit
the historic post office (where you can purchase beautiful Vietnamese stamps),
the interesting national historical museum, and the imposing Reunification Palace,
and then end the day walking through the huge downtown market where you can
shop and witness daily street life.
Day 3: Today we'll "head for the hills" (highlands)
and bus to Cat Tien National Park, where we'll overnight in rustic cabins/rooms.
Cat Tien is one of Vietnam's outstanding natural areas and features an amazing
biodiversity in a lowland tropical forest, considered the best in southern Vietnam. After settling into our rooms and lunch, we'll visit a small bear and primate
rescue center there and then take a 2-3 hour hike (optional; as far/long as
you want to hike) with a park guide/naturalist in the nearby forest to explore
some of the natural treasures that Cat Tien NP was created to save. In the evening
after dinner, we'll board a truck and go spotlighting for noctural animals,
Day 4: For the "early birds," we'll have an early-morning
birding walk before breakfast. Next we'll head for Nha Trang on the coast. On
the way, we'll visit Po Klong Garai Cham towers, ancient Hindu temples built
on a hill overlooking the coastal plain, where we'll admire the Cham's sophisticated
architecture and building technology. We'll continue on to Nha Trang where we'll
overnight at a beach hotel -- if we arrive in Nha Trang early enough, we'll
visit the Cham (Po Nagar) towers there. We'll spend the next two nights in Nha
Day 5: Today will be the first of our days exploring the beauty
of offshore Vietnam. We'll board a boat that will take us to some of the islands
in Nha Trang Bay. This will be our first chance to truly relax -- we'll be snorkeling/swimming
(both optional) and relaxing on the beach. We'll probably be offered a massage
on our boat (if you really want to relax; purchased on your own). After having
lunch on the islands, we'll return to Nha Trang where we'll tour the fascinating
Oceanographic Institute nearby and learn about Vietnamese marine biology and
their efforts to preserve the marine environment, and then return to our beachfront
Photo: Matt Wathen
Day 6: This morning will be the first of our two in-country
flights. We'll fly to Da Nang, an important airport during the US war there.
We'll visit some fascinating museums in Da Nang: the Cham museum and the historical/war
museum; both will be interpreted by our Vietnamese guide. Then we'll head for
beautiful Hoi An, stopping at famous China Beach and hiking up Marble Mountain,
visiting the pagoda and cave there (optional) and Non Nuoc marble carving village
in the Marble Mountains. We'll spend our next two nights in Hoi An.
Day 7: We'll spend the entire day touring Hoi An, one of the
most beautiful and interesting cities in all Vietnam. In the morning we'll
tour the covered bridge, an ancient historical home, and Chinese assembly hall.
Except for a traditional Vietnamese music/dance performance (optional), the
afternoon is on your own. Hoi An features hundreds of shops that will tempt
you to bring back inexpensive clothing (customed tailored) and other souvenirs.
Day 8: Today will be a long day as we drive north toward the
ancient capital of Hue. We'll stop along the beach to photograph boats along
Da Nang Bay, and drive up the coastal highway to view Hai Van (Cloud) Pass.
Then we'll bus into the mountains to explore our second Vietnamese national
park: Bach Ma. Sometimes referred to as the "Da Lat of central Vietnam,"
Bach Ma was a French-era hill station but has been restored to its previous
natural wonder. Bach Ma is a popular bird-watching area and boasts more than
40 different mammal species. After touring the visitor center, we'll take a
1-2 hour hike (optional) and then head for historical Hue, where we'll stay
for the next two nights.
Day 9: Located on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue is famous
for its art and architecture, and in 1993 was honored as a UNESCO World Heritage
site. We'll spend the entire day exploring some of its temples, tombs, pagodas,
and palaces: the Thien Ma pagoda, King Tu Duc Khai Dinh and King Mihn Mang tombs,
and the famous Hue Citadel. While the Hue tour will take most of our day here,
there may be some time in the late-afternoon for some shopping and sightseeing
on your own.
Day 10: Today we'll have our second in-country flight as we
fly to Hanoi. Upon arriving in the capital city of Hanoi, we'll head southward
to Cuc Phuong national park, Vietnam's first national park. After we settle
into our rooms and have lunch, we'll tour their fascinating Endangered Primate
Rescue Center. Not only does this center rescue injured primates, it provides
an up-close opportunity to see these rare and endangered mammals.
Day 11: This will be the third of our hiking days. After breakfast,
we'll bus into Cuc Phuong NP. Once there, we'll hike to the Big Tree and a park
guide/naturalist will describe the different plants/trees and explain the complex
ecosystem there. Depending on participants' interest, we can also hike to the
Cave of Prehistoric Man, where remains were found that date back 7500 years.
After lunch, we'll bus over to the Muong village of Ban Khank where we'll stay
with the villagers and experience Vietnamese rural village life, including a
performance of traditional Vietnamese music and dance.
Day 12: After breakfast in Ban Khanh, we'll board our van
and bus back to Hanoi and visit the fascinating Ethnology Museum. Either this
evening or tomorrow evening, we hope to arrange for a presentation by one of
Vietnam's environmental NGOs and learn about efforts to preserve Vietnam's beautiful
and fragile wildlife and environment.
Day 13: This will be a full day of touring the best of Hanoi,
Vietnam's capital city. We'll visit the Ho Chi Minh masoleum, his simple home
and the interesting Ho Chi Minh museum, the Temple of Literature, and the Fine
Arts Museum. Perhaps one of the highlights of today will be attending the famous
and fascinating water puppet theater. Although we won't be able to understand
the Vietnamese language, we'll surely understand the action and enjoy the beautiful
musical/singing accompaniment. We'll spend a second night in our downtown Hanoi
Photo: Matt Wathen
Day 14: After breakfast, we'll board our bus and travel through
the vast Red River delta to Ha Long Bay, one of Vietnam's greatest natural
wonders and another UNESCO World Heritage site. The bay, part of the Gulf of
Tonkin, is filled with limestone/karst islands and caverns, which we will explore
this afternoon and tomorrow morning. We'll board our large boat and tour out
into Ha Long Bay among the thousands of islands. We'll stop and hike through
one of the impressive, huge caves on the islands. Depending on weather/water
conditions, we'll likely have an afternoon kayaking adventure (optional). We'll
have lunch, dinner, and overnight aboard our boat.
Day 15: We awake onboard our boat on beautiful Ha Long Bay,
and after breakfast we'll continue our tour, with opportunities for more kayaking
(if weather/water conditions permit) and exploring the islands. After our onboard
lunch, we'll disembark to the mainland and bus/van back to Hanoi for our farewell
Day 16: With some sadness and many wonderful memories, our
Sierra Club Vietnam adventure ends. Unless you choose to extend your stay in
Vietnam/Hanoi, you will be transported from our Hanoi hotel to the airport for
your return flight back home.
Our trip officially begins with your arrival in Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday,
March 3rd. You will need to get a Vietnam visa in advance; as of this writing,
a single-entry Vietnam visa costs $65 (not included in trip price). Allow yourself
plenty of time to get the visa, and be sure your passport is valid for at least
six months beyond the conclusion of our trip.
You are welcome to make your own travel plans to/from Vietnam, or you may want
to coordinate your flight with other trip members. The trip leader will provide
you with flight information from a travel agent that many Sierra Club trip leaders
use for our Asian trips. If you would like to arrive earlier than the beginning
of our trip, the trip leader can make arrangements for you to be met at the
airport and hotel reservations in Ho Chi Minh City. Contact the trip leader
before finalizing any flight arrangements. For those interested in our war there,
there are day tours to Viet Cong tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City to experience
these claustrophobia-inducing tunnels and to see the elaborate systems of underground
tunnels and fortifications that they established in the "backyard"
of Saigon during the war. Likewise, if you'd like to extend your stay, please
let the trip leader know and he can help with your plans.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Matt Wathen
We'll be staying in a variety of accommodations -- during most of our trip
we'll be in cities with very nice and comfortable hotels, and in Ha Long Bay
we'll have very comfortable rooms on our boat. Our two overnight stays in Vietnamese
national parks will be in comfortable, but more rustic rooms/cabins. And our
overnight stay in the rural village of Ban Khanh will likely be with local families
in their simple homes, sleeping on the floor on padded mats with comforters
and blankets. Accommodations will be two people per room. Couples will room
together and singles will be paired up according to gender and (as much as possible)
age. Once on the trip, singles can change roommates if they'd like and it's
agreeable to all those making any changes. If there's an odd number of single
participants of either/both genders, we'll share the single accommodation with
other single participants. If you want to request a single accommodation, please
let the trip leader know and he will see if this is possible; there will be
an additional charge for requested single accommodation.
All of the physical activities are optional, so if you're not in strong physical
shape and/or don't enjoy physical activities, you can still join us and not
participate in these activities. We will have two moderate hikes in national
parks, and participants can hike as far as they want and wait for us to return
and hike back together to our bus/van or hike back on their own; likewise for
our kayaking on Ha Long Bay.
Because Vietnam is a developing country, medical care is not as available
or convenient as in the United States, making medical emergencies considerably
more hazardous than they might be at home. Please take care of any potential
medical problems before leaving home and bring adequate amounts of all medications
you might need. If you have any questions about the medical form included in
your trip application packet, or about whether or not our trip will be appropriate
for you, please contact the leader. Your safety and that of our group depends
on your candid responses on the medical form.
Equipment and Clothing
We'll be traveling from southern to northern Vietnam, and from tropical coastal
areas to higher mountainous regions, so you should bring a variety of clothing
for different temperatures. The easiest/lightest way to do this is to bring
layers of clothing. You'll want to have well broken-in footwear -- sturdy tennis
shoes or light hiking boots. Our trip leader will provide you with a list of
recommended clothing/equipment and welcomes questions about what to/not to bring.
Photo: Matt Wathen
Probably the best place to begin is one of the popular tour guide publishers:
Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, etc. You can check your local library or bookstore,
or online. Internet resources are so prolific that if you're comfortable with
that format you can obtain lots of information and ideas there. If you find something
interesting/helpful, please let the trip leader know so he can share it with others.
The leader will bring along some guidebooks and share pre-trip information with
you to enhance our in-country experience. Here are a few other resources:
- Jamieson, Neil, Understanding Vietnam.
One of the benefits and unique aspects of Sierra Club Outings is our focus
on the environment and conservation issues. Pre-trip literature will highlight
some of the environmental challenges and accomplishments of Vietnam, and both
the leader and our Vietnamese tour guide will discuss environmental issues during
the trip. If possible, a presentation by a Vietnamese environmental NGO will
be included to provide their perspective on these important issues.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Hurston Roberts has been leading Sierra Club outings for over 8 years. He has completed Sierra Club Base Camp Leader training and has lead or assisted in leading six lodge outings in the Sierras. Hurston loves the outdoors, the Sierra, and gets great enjoyment out of sharing mountain splendor, the wilderness and outdoor experiences with the people who come on these trips. When not leading trips in the Sierras, Hurston leads trips to Hawaii and international trips to England, Scotland, New Zealand, Vietnam and Nepal. After living in Hawaii for 24 years and Northern Virginia for 7 years, Hurston recently relocated to Reno, Nevada to be closer to the Sierra.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips