February 14 – 26 (or 29), 2020
About This Tour
To Vietnamese people, the dragon brings rain, essential for agriculture and what turns this country a vibrant, lush green. It also represents the emperor, and the prosperity and power of the nation. Like the Chinese dragon, the Vietnamese dragon is the symbol of yang, representing the universe, life, existence, and growth. The Vietnamese dragon is the combined image of crocodile, snake, cat, rat and bird. You can also imagine the shape of the country on a map as a verdantly green and sinuous dragon.
Many first-time visitors to Vietnam are overwhelmed by its ancient history, rich culture, and the sublime beauty of the country’s natural setting. It boasts almost 2,000 miles of coastline with endless stretches of white sand beaches. Inland mountains soar majestically from dense, misty forests to heights of nearly 10,000 feet. Hidden away in impenetrable jungles lie the remains of ancient cities. The fertile Mekong Delta in the south is a patchwork of vast rubber plantations and brilliant green rice paddies tended by women in conical hats. Come with us for an adventure on this exciting “green dragon” starting in Hanoi and ending in Saigon, with an optional extension to see the wonders of Cambodia.
- Hanoi, Capital City of Vietnam
- Imperial Citadel of Thang Long in Hanoi *
- World Heritage Site of Halong Bay *
- Hue, ancient capital of Vietnam *
- Ancient Architecture of Hoi An *
- Ho Chi Minh City, modern and colonial Saigon
- Cholon (Saigon Chinatown)
- Mekong River Delta
- Siem Reap, Cambodia (extension)
- Temples of Angkor * (extension) * UNESCO World Heritage Sites
MAIN TOUR ITINERARY
Arrive in Hanoi / Welcome Dinner
Arrange your flight to arrive in Hanoi, Vietnam by mid-afternoon today. The main airport is the Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport; use the airport code HAN when searching for flights. Upon arrival, collect your luggage, go through customs and look for someone holding a Toto Tours sign. You will be transferred to our centrally located hotel, and you will have the remainder of the day to rest and recover from the long flights. It is Valentine’s Day! Prepare to fall in love with Vietnam! Overnight in Hanoi. (No Meals)
Hanoi / Welcome Dinner with LGBT Family
Take a walk with your guide to the “standing newspaper” where you can have an interesting explanation about the poor period of the Hanoians when they bought newspapers as a luxury. Then sit back at a local coffee shop to watch and listen to the sounds of daily life before transferring to Gioi Market, one of the most popular street markets. Visit the Museum of Ethnology (with its extensive collection from simple daily objects of fishing tools to prized items of jewelry. There is also an interesting outdoor area with ethnic long houses. Wind your way to Fine Arts Museum for an overview about entire history of Vietnamese fine arts arranged chronologically from the bronze age to the presence.
Take a leisure walk around Hanoi Old Quarter to witness the bustling local life reflected through small crowded streets where people have been trading things for centuries. Stroll through the streets and choose to stop at any stalls specializing in handmade goods, or simply enjoy local dishes if you wish. Vietnam today is a youthful nation fueled by the desire for modernization and commercialization while protective of its traditional past. Tonight, meet with a Vietnamese LGBT family and spend time with them to enjoy an authentic home-cooked dinner. Our discussions with the family will provide insights into local LGBTQ life and how they overcame discrimination and barriers from their parents. (Breakfast / Dinner)
Ha Long Bay Cruise
This morning we drive from Hanoi to Hai Phong, where we take a tender out onto the bay to board our luxurious craft, Era Cruise. You will be welcomed aboard and greeted with a complimentary drink. Our crew will conduct a compulsory safety procedures session and then you are free to check into your cabin and freshen up. Take some time to have a look around the vessel or watch the magical landscape go by. Enjoy a special lunch of fresh seafood and an assortment of appetizing favorites. Dining on a luxury junk with fine food and drinks doesn’t get any better than this! We set sail for Lan Ha Bay passing by Da Chong islet where you can see a lighthouse built by the French over 100 years ago. When lunch is finished, the cruise completes its entry through Cua Van area to Lan Ha Bay, surrounded by an extraordinary limestone karst landscape. You can explore Ba Trai Dao beach, where you may kayak on crystal-clear waters or go for a swim. Afterwards, our ship cruises to our overnight moorage. Enjoy a Vietnamese cooking demonstration, a great way to learn how to prepare delicious appetizers. Dine on a special signature dinner in the restaurant before spending the evening at leisure. Overnight onboard. (All Meals)
Cruising and Shore Excursions
Early birds are welcome to attend sunrise Tai Chi on the upper deck, an excellent way to get your energy levels up for today's adventures. Enjoy a buffet breakfast with the best local coffee and fresh fruit juices. Next, we board our Day Boat to head to Viet Hai Village. Enjoy a bicycle trip along a village path and go through rain forests and a dark tunnel. Be amazed by the stunning scenery of rice fields along the way. Stop at the village to relax and visit an ancient local house, made from straw, mud, bamboo. (Optional electric car service is available at an extra cost). Lunch is served on our day boat. In the afternoon we have free time for kayaking and swimming at the Ba Ham Lake area where all four sides are enclosed by vertical cliffs (if weather permits). In late afternoon, we re-board the ship and cruise to our overnight moorage. Witness one of the most brilliant sunsets you will ever see during happy hour. Then enjoy a cooking demonstration to discover how to make traditional Vietnamese spring rolls. After another amazing dinner of fine food, the remainder of evening is at leisure. Overnight on board. (All Meals)
Hanoi Water Puppets / Fly to Hue
Wake up early to witness the sunrise over the bay on the sundeck. Afterwards there will be an early and gentle Tai Chi demonstration. Eat a light breakfast in the restaurant (pastries, tea, coffee) as we sail to the last adventure of your cruise: visiting caves and islets by local rowing boat. We return to the boat and cruise back to the wharf. Check out of your cabin as we draw closer to the mainland. After brunch and farewell to the staff and crew, we board the tender and head back to the wharf and begin the drive back to Hanoi. Along the way we visit an ancient village known as the birthplace of the traditional folk art of water puppetry, stopping at a workshop to meet the owner and watch a private outdoor water puppet show of 30 minutes on the village pond, with traditional music accompaniment. Continue to the airport to catch our evening flight to Hue. Upon arrival we transfer to our hotel and the remainder of the evening is free. (Light Breakfast / Brunch)
Hue was the ancient former capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen Dynasty at the beginning of the 17th century. With its splendid emperors’ tombs and ancient pagodas, the Imperial Citadel Complex has been officially recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. We next see the Tu Duc Royal Tomb which was built on principles of “Fengshui” and designed to work in harmony with the natural scenery. Hue is the center of Buddhism in Vietnam with hundreds of temples and pagodas built in the early 19th century. We participate in a prayer ceremony to wish for health and prosperity for our families, bringing some offerings including some fruits & flowers to the monks. Afterward, enjoy a vegetarian lunch prepared by the nuns. Our final stop will be a visit with a famous expert working to preserve the unique and nearly forgotten Royal Enamel Art called “Phap Lam.” This art form plays a huge part in Vietnamese history, particularly in Hue where enamelware was used for imperial structures and royal families during the Nguyen Dynasty. After returning to our hotel, the remainder of the evening is free. Overnight in Hue. (Breakfast / Lunch)
Hai Van Pass / Hoi An
After breakfast, transfer to Hoi An by crossing the stunning Hai Van pass. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hoi An is an ancient town that boasts well-preserved buildings, pedestrianized streets and unique food culture. There is plenty to see including the old merchant’s houses with influences from Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese architecture; the 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge; the Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation with outstanding wood carvings; and the colorful market with stalls brimming with local specialties including silk. Silk lanterns, simple and colorful, are an essential part of Hoi An culture meant to bring good fortune. Stop by a family-run lantern workshop and meet the owners whose family has a long tradition of making lanterns in Hoi An. They will teach you step by step to make your own silk lantern in different shapes and colors. Try creating your own lantern and take it home as a souvenir. We return to the hotel and the remainder of the evening is free. Overnight in Hoi An. (Breakfast / Lunch)
Farming Village / Bamboo Boat Ride / Cooking Class
Cam Thanh Village is known for dense water coconut jungles and immense rice fields. During the Vietnam war, Cam Thanh was a shelter for local people and soldiers. Nowadays, this place supplies seafood, vegetables and rice for the area. This morning we transfer to the picturesque Co Co River for a bamboo basket-boat ride to Thanh Dong village, which is the first and only organic farm in Hoi An. Get a glimpse of the history and customs of this charming village before venturing into the garden for some hands-on learning about how to cultivate vegetables without chemicals. Pick some of your favorite herbs and vegetables to prepare during a cooking class. Wander through the peaceful water coconut forest to a riverbank restaurant overlooking beautiful rice fields. Take part in traditional Vietnamese folk games such as bamboo bridge balancing and pot smashing, and then join in a hands-on cooking class. Enjoy eating what you have cooked. We return to our hotel in Hoi An for a free evening. (Breakfast)
Free Day in Hoi An
The day is entirely free to relax and enjoy the pool and spa treatments at our luxurious resort, or explore more of Hoi An on your own. Hoi An was a very busy commercial port in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, where merchants from Japan, China, India and Holland came to trade. Almost all the original architecture of streets, ports, and religious buildings are intact, and the old city is in walking distance from our hotel. Pristine beaches are a lovely bike ride away. Click here to see a list of exciting things to do in Hoi An. Overnight in Hoi An. (Breakfast)
Fly to Saigon / Cu Chi Tunnels
This morning, we transfer to the airport and take a flight to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. From the airport, we proceed to the Cu Chi tunnel complex, dug in 1948 for the guerrillas to hide from French air and ground sweeps. It also served as communication routes and food and weapon caches as well as hospitals and living quarters for guerrilla fighters throughout the American war. After seeing the tunnels we continue to downtown Saigon, the country’s commercial center. Although a modern city, there are still remnants of its past visible in the historic landmarks and beautiful French colonial buildings. We check into our hotel and enjoy some free time before our evening adventure. The darker the night gets, the more vivid Saigon becomes! Get ready for a fascinating ride by vintage Vespa tonight to discover Saigon after dark. Relax! You’re in the hands of an expert local Vespa driver. Just hang on!, On this dine-around tour we sample amazing street foods in the most authentic local restaurants. First we stop at a small Vietnamese bread stall, and then continue on to a local coffee shop, a boutique seafood restaurant, an old apartment complex with hundreds of food and drink stalls, a 50-year-old dessert shop, and finally a speak-easy bar to taste some local beer or cocktails and chat with locals. Take a walk or catch a taxi to return to our hotel. (Breakfast / Dinner)
Depart from Ho Chi Minh City for a scenic two-hour drive to Cho Gao, situated in the Mekong River Delta. Upon arrival, board a wooden boat for a fascinating river excursion off-the-beaten tracks. Crossing two branches of the Mekong River, we arrive at Long Thanh Village for a stop at a local factory to understand the traditional methods used to make fuel from coconut shells. Afterward, hop on a bicycle for a relaxing ride through the peaceful village to observe the rustic lifestyle, riding among fruit plantations and friendly locals. Stop to visit an ancient house and a communal temple of the village. Then, cross by ferry to Tam Hiep Island where you will enjoy a leisurely walk to a local farmer’s house for a lunch of Mekong Delta specialties. After lunch, wander on the rural village path to a honey bee farm to observe how to make honey straight from the source. Continue the cycling trip around the village and stop at a local farmer’s garden with a specialty of the region called “lá sâm.” The host will take you around his lush garden to pick some leaves and show you how to make a special herbal jelly. Board a sampan for a ride along the narrow canals of the Mekong Delta before getting back on the ferry to cross the river and return to Saigon for a free evening. Overnight in Saigon. (Breakfast / Lunch)
Enjoy a full-day walking tour of some of the city’s most historic landmarks. Visit beautiful French colonial-era buildings from the late 19th and early 20th century. Appreciate the splendidly restored exteriors of the Saigon Opera House and the Notre Dame Cathedral, a red brick edifice with twin spires constructed from materials imported from France. Then head across the square to the Central Post Office, completed in 1891. Continue to the Jade Pagoda established in the early 1900s by Chinese refugees. In Chinatown visit the beautiful Thien Hau Pagoda, built by the Cantonese community in the early 19th century to honor the Goddess of the Sea. Continue your visit to FITO, the first museum of traditional medicine in Vietnam. This evening, meet some proactive volunteers of a local LGBTQ organization in Vietnam and share with them your own experience and knowledge. Sip some mocktails or cocktails in a cozy room owned by a famous mixologist (also a lesbian), and talk more with the local LGBTQ community. From here we continue to a local restaurant to celebrate the conclusion of our tour with a festive Farewell Dinner. Overnight in Saigon. (Breakfast / Farewell Dinner)
The main tour officially ends after breakfast this morning. We provide your transportation to the airport for your onward flight. If you wish to extend your stay in Saigon or continue to the extension to Cambodia, please let us know on your reservation form. (Breakfast)
February 26 – 29, 2020Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia
After breakfast, transfer to the airport to take the flight to Siem Reap, located in north-west Cambodia. It is a charming provincial town defined by a cluster of villages, Chinese-style shop houses, and French-colonial architecture. Spend an enjoyable afternoon visiting places including: Artisans Angkor (a company helping young rural people find work near their home village in various arts); Wat Damnak, once a royal palace and now a major pagoda; and the new and old market on both sides of the river. (Breakfast)
Temples of Angkor / Phare Circus
Built in 1186 as a Buddhist temple, Ta Prohm is one of Angkor’s jewels and is overgrown with fig trees, giving a haunting yet exotic atmosphere. One of the largest temple sites in Angkor it took almost 80,000 people to build and maintain the temple. Drive a short distance to Ta Keo, which would have been one of the finest temples in Angkor had it been completed. Continue to Angkor Thom, not a temple, but an entire walled city of 9 square kilometres and the royal Capital from 1181. The centerpiece is the Bayon temple crowned with 216 giant, smiling faces of King Jayavarman VII. Also visit the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King, which houses almost perfectly preserved carvings. Return to your hotel to relax and have lunch (on your own). After a leisurely break we enter the rear gate of Angkor Wat (early 12th century). Surrounded by a vast moat it is thought to be the largest religious building in the world. The temple took 30 years and 300,000 workers to construct. In the evening, we attend a one-hour performance of the Phare Circus, an amazing blend of traditional and modern theatre, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling and contortion. (Breakfast)
Quadbike Countryside Tour / Farewell Dinner
Set off with a qualified instructor/guide for a half day trip around Siem Reap. Take in the sights of the beautiful surroundings and paddy fields, engage in local life as it passes slowly by. Visit Prei Monti temple, a 9th century structure that doesn’t draw the attention of many tourists. Enjoy a break and the taste of fresh coconut before returning to town. This afternoon is free at leisure to explore Siem Reap on your own. This evening enjoy a farewell dinner at The Khmer House at Srah Srang, nestled in a lush garden and featuring breathtaking views. (Breakfast / Dinner)
The tour extension officially ends after breakfast this morning. We provide transfers to the airport in time to catch your international flight back home. (Breakfast)
Entry Requirements-- For citizens of the United States and Canada, visitors must have both a passport (valid for 6 months from entering the country) and a separate visa for each of the two countries visited on this tour. Here are specific details about the requirements for each country.
Vietnam -- There is now a fairly simple procedure for pre-registering to obtain your visa upon arrival. You must get an approval letter in advance. Please click here to read the Frequently Asked Questions about this process on the TripAdvisor website. Alternatively, you can obtain your visa in advance through the Vietnam Embassy (or a Consulate) in the US.
Cambodia -- It is possible to obtain an electronic visa for travel to Cambodia. click here for a link to the official Cambodia government e-visa service. Visas can also be obtained in advance at any Cambodian embassy or consulate.Immunizations & Health-- Please consult your personal physician or a travel clinic. Click the links below to read the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control:
You should only drink boiled or bottled water throughout the duration of this tour. Complimentary bottled mineral water will always be available on our motorcoach.
Exit Requirements - There is currently no separate departure tax required of visitors leaving Vietnam other than that included with the cost of your airline ticket.
Making Travel Arrangements to VietnamOn this tour, international airfare is NOT included. Two internal flights are included within Vietnam, and if you are taking the Cambodia extension, we have included the price of your flight to Siem Reap.
You need to purchase your international flights to Hanoi, Vietnam (code HAN), and back from Saigon (code SGN). If you take the extension to Cambodia, you will return from Siem Reap (code REP). We encourage you to work with Steven Goldberg at Frosch Travel in Chicago, who can find you the best flights to get you to Hanoi, with return from Saigon.
Steven Goldberg / Frosch TravelToll-Free in USA: 1-800-323-1276
International guests, please call +1-312-371-9686
We suggest you arrive in Hanoi at any time on Friday, February 14, 2020 (hotel rooms available after 3pm). Morning departure is from Saigon on Wednesday, February 26, 2020, or from Siem Reap on Saturday, February 29, 2020.
When calling, please identify yourself as a Toto Tours participant. If you leave a message on Steven’s voice mail, he will return your call promptly. He will be happy to discuss your travel plans and help you decide when to purchase your ticket for the best rate.
NOTE: The recent trend in travel is for people to finalize their plans much closer to departure time than was customary in the past. While we try to be as flexible as possible we often must turn away last minute registrants because we relinquish hotel space and air reservations 8 – 12 weeks prior to departure! Please keep this in mind when making your travel plans.
WHAT TO BRINGIn February, the temperatures will be cool in Hanoi, between 60 and 70 degrees. The middle of the country in Hue and Hoi An will be about 10 degrees warmer between 70 and 80 degrees. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) can range from 75 to 85 degrees. With such a wide variance in temperature, you will want to bring a sweater for cool evenings and lightweight clothes for hotter days. The tour is informal and dinner attire is casual, but you will want a nice outfit for welcome and farewell dinners. Try to pack light and bring only one piece of luggage plus your carry-on. Pack any medications you require in a carry-on bag and leave expensive jewelry at home.
Suggested Packing List:
- Suggested Packing List:
- Proof of citizenship. Passport and visa(s) required.
- Comfy walking shoes for sightseeing.
- Sandals for the boat and beach.
- Nice casual wear for dinners.
- Lightweight long pants & long-sleeved shirts for sun protection.
- Shorts for warm touring days.
- Socks, underwear for 13 days (laundry services available at our hotels).
- Sweater or lightweight jacket for cool evenings.
- Personal toiletries.
- Sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, sun hat with tie-on strap.
- Mosquito repellent with Deet.
- Anti-diarrhea medication (as a precaution).
- Camera, lots of digital memory, extra batteries.
- Ziploc Bags (sandwich size for documents, gallon size for wet items or toiletries).
- Electrical Adapter. The electricity supply in Vietnam is 220 volts, 60 Hrz, the same as in Europe. Click here to see what type of adapter to bring.
- A good book for the long flights.
MONEY MATTERSVietnam: The currency unit is the Dong (VND). Major credit cards are now more widely accepted throughout the country at most hotels and restaurants, but you will need cash at local shops. On March 23, 2019, the interbank exchange rate was 23,140 VND to the US Dollar.
Cambodia: The official currency is the riel (KHR), but the US Dollar is the currency favored by the locals. On March 23, 2019, the interbank exchange rate was 3,870 KHR to the US Dollar.
Current Exchange Rates: Click here to see up-to-date exchange rates for the currencies in all three countries. Tipping—Gratuities make a huge difference in the lives of those who work for us here, as the local wages are minimal at best. We will make group tips where appropriate, and guidelines will be provided prior to departure with a suggested contribution to a group tipping fund.
THE TOTO SPIRITToto Tours provides Adventure Travel Experiences as differentiated from tours in the traditional sense. Adventure Travel allows (even encourages) you to be an active participant. Adventurers can be identified by certain traits. They are:
- fun-loving optimists who have a sense of humor and accentuate the positive;
- good natured realists who are willing to accept situations as they exist;
- undaunted by the unexpected, like occasional delays or bad weather;
- willing to forego some of the amenities we normally take for granted;
- eager to try new things & test limits;
- not whiners!
Travel InsuranceWe recommend you purchase travel insurance with Travel Guard to cover for unforeseen events prior to and during your trip. Please follow the link below or call us for more information.
MAIN TOUR PRICES
Tour prices per personPrice: $4,000 in double occupancy hotel accommodations.
Private Room: $1,100 additional, for a total main tour price of $5,100. Save $300 if you are willing to share a cabin for 2 nights aboard the cruise ship.
(Paying a single supplement is not required. Toto Tours will try to match you with a roommate if you are traveling alone and prefer to share a room. If this is not possible, a single supplement will be applied to your reservation before the final payment date.)
(Due at time of registration for the tour. May be paid with a credit card.)
Remaining Balance (main tour): $3,400 double / $4,500 single
Remaining Balance Due: November 26, 2019 (80 days prior to departure)
(Full payment required with reservation form if enrolling after this date.)
Note: The tour price does not include bank service charges for processing credit card payments, and assumes that the balance of the tour price will be paid by check. If you would like to pay the final balance with a credit card, a 4% service charge will be applied. Let us know if you wish to pay by credit card, and we will adjust your invoice accordingly.
Included: 12 nights hotel accommodations; arriving and departing airport transfers; two internal flights within Vietnam (Hanoi to Hue; Danang to Saigon); hotel breakfasts daily plus Welcome & Farewell Dinners; other meals as listed in the itinerary; ground transportation in climate controlled vehicle; sightseeing activities and entrances as listed in the itinerary. This is a fully guided and escorted tour.
Not Included: International airfare to Hanoi (HAN) and returning from Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon (SGN); ground transportation for sightseeing on your own (taxis, local guides, etc.); meals and optional activities not specifically listed in the itinerary; camera fees; alcoholic beverages; drinks other than water at included meals; insurance; laundry, telephone calls, faxes, or any other expenses of a personal nature. Tips to drivers and guides and other conveyance attendants are not included; tipping guidelines for our group tips will be provided prior to departure.
CAMBODIA EXTENSION PRICES
(extension prices per person)Price: $1,250 in double occupancy hotel accommodations.
Private Room: $350 additional, for a total extension price of $1,600.
Deposit: $200 additional, for a total tour deposit of $800.
(Due at time of registration for the tour. May be paid with a credit card.)
Remaining Balance (main tour plus extension): $4,450 double / $5,900 single
Remaining Balance Due: November 26, 2019 (80 days prior to departure)
(Full payment required with reservation form if enrolling after this date.)
Note: The extension price does not include bank service charges for processing credit card payments and assumes that the balance of the tour price will be paid by check. If you would like to pay the final balance with a credit card, a 4% service charge will be applied. Let us know if you wish to pay by credit card, and we will adjust your invoice accordingly.
Included: 3 nights hotel accommodations; one international flight from Saigon to Siem Reap; arriving and departing airport transfers; hotel breakfasts daily plus Farewell Dinner; ground transportation in climate controlled vehicle; sightseeing activities and entrances as listed in the itinerary. This is a fully guided and escorted tour extension.
Not Included: International airfare to Hanoi (HAN) and returning from Siem Reap, Cambodia(REP); ground transportation for sightseeing on your own (taxis, local guides, etc.); meals and optional activities not specifically listed in the itinerary; camera fees; alcoholic beverages; drinks other than water at included meals; insurance; laundry, telephone calls, faxes, or any other expenses of a personal nature. Tips to drivers and guides and other conveyance attendants are not included; tipping guidelines for our group tips will be provided prior to departure.
Click hotel name to read description
- Hanoi (2 nights): Apricot Hotel (Sketch Room)
- Halong Bay (2 nights): Era Cruise (Terrace Suite)
- Hue (2 nights): Pilgrimage Village (Deluxe Room)
- Hoi An (3 nights): La Siesta Hoi An Resort & Spa (Junior Balcony Suite)
- Saigon (3 nights): Le Meridien Saigon (Premier Classic Room)
- Siem Reap (3 nights): Le Meridien Angkor (Superior Room)