Trip Number: 13550B
Staff: John Bird
- Visit important Vietnamese cultural/historical sites
- Hike in one or more of Viet Nam's national parks
- Snorkel in Nha Trang Bay
- 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
Please note that the leader has changed from what was originally published. If you
have questions, please
You are invited to join us for our Viet Nam journey, which travels the length
of Viet Nam, 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
Viet Nam is inhabited by 54 ethnic groups, each with its own 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 will visit some of the most beautiful and famous of Viet Nam's cultural
and historical sites, which will provide insight into the history and character
of Viet Nam. 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 one of their national parks and renowned Ha Long Bay.
This trip is planned for anyone who wants to experience the very best of Viet
Nam 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 at least one moderate
day hike (2-3 hours) in a national park. Many activities are optional so that
you can choose to do as little as you like or join us on a hike; likewise, you're
invited but it is not mandatory to do the snorkeling in Nha Trang Bay or sea
kayaking in Ha Long Bay. 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 and some 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
Viet Nam'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 are wonderful hosts and warmly welcome American tourists to their
Photo: Matt Wathen
Although we'll pack a lot of activities in our Viet Nam 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 Viet Nam.
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 Tuesday, February 19th or Wednesday,
February 20th, and will lose a day as you cross the International Date Line.
You should plan to arrive no later than Friday mid-afternoon and are encouraged
to arrive a day or two before the actual start of our trip. We'll have a late-afternoon
trip orientation meeting at our hotel and then enjoy our first delicious Vietnamese
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 DaLat, where we’ll overnight in one of the city's many comfortable
hotels. DaLat, meaning “river of the Lat Tribe,” is known for its
coolness in the midst of the tropics and a wealth of locally grown delicacies.
Amazingly, both sides of the war spared this resort city from destruction so
that people like us can still explore and discover its delights. Discovered
by Europeans in the early 20th century, DaLat has been appreciated by foreigners
and natives alike for decades. We will have free time upon arriving to enjoy
its hilly terrain and explore such sights as the flower gardens and the local
market. In the evening we will have dinner at one of the many charming restaurants
in DaLat, which is known for its international cuisine.
Day 4: On this day we will 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 Viet Nam. 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. There we'll tour the fascinating
Oceanographic Institute nearby, learning 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 U.S. 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, hiking up Marble Mountain,
and 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 Viet Nam. 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.
If conditions allow, we will bus into the mountains to explore our first Vietnamese
national park: Bach Ma. Sometimes referred to as the "Da Lat of central
Viet Nam," 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- to 2-hour hike (optional) and then head for historical Hue,
where we'll stay for the next two nights. If Bach Ma National Park is inaccessible
we will have extra free time in Hue to explore its many historical sites at
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
by bus 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 another 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, and trail and weather
conditions, we may 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 will stay with the villagers and experience Vietnamese
rural village life, including a performance of traditional Vietnamese music
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
Viet Nam's environmental NGOs (often World Wildlife Fund) and learn about efforts
to preserve Viet Nam's beautiful and fragile wildlife and environment.
Day 13: This will be a full day of touring the best of Hanoi,
Viet Nam's capital city. We'll visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, 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 Viet Nam'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 may have an afternoon kayaking adventure (optional) and/or a
hike on one of the karst islands. We'll have lunch, dinner, and overnight aboard
our boat. This will be a good time to share our reflections of this incredible
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 Viet Nam adventure ends. Unless you choose to extend your stay in
Viet Nam/Hanoi, you will be transported from our Hanoi hotel to the airport
for your return flight back home. We'll be gaining a day on our return flight,
so we'll be landing on the West Coast on Saturday, March 9.
Our trip officially begins with your arrival in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday,
February 22. You will need to get a Viet Nam visa in advance; as of this writing,
a single-entry Viet Nam visa costs about $80 (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 Viet Nam, 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. 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 with our Viet Nam concessionaire.
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 overnight stay in a 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 she 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 at least one moderate hike in
a national park, 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. There will also most likely be an
opportunity to bicycle in Hoi Ann at participants’ expense.
Because Viet Nam 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 Viet Nam, 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 she 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 Viet Nam, 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.
John Bird has been roaming the planet for the past 40+ years, beginning with a two-year stint in India with the Peace Corps. A true citizen of the world, John loves sharing his enthusiasm for other cultures, and over the past 23 years has led Sierra Club trips in England, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Thailand and China, and assisted on trips in Italy and Turkey as well as scouted possible future trips to Morocco, Bali, Iran, Greece, Spain and France. This will be his first trip to this area. An avid digital photographer, John also enjoys sharing his expertise (and pictures) with trip members.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips