Morning transfer to Danang airport for your flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival transfer directly to the famous Cu Chi tunnels - an incredible underground tunnel network constructed by Vietnamese resistance fighters during the long struggle for independence. The tunnels, over 250km in length and up to three levels deep in places, played a huge part in the Viet Cong’s victory over the Americans, allowing them to control a large rural area surrounding Ho Chi Minh City.
Today, some of the remaining tunnels have been opened to tourists, offering a unique insight into what underground life must have been like during the ‘American’ war.
Continue on to Ho Chi Minh City and check in to your hotel. Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam and is located near the Mekong Delta. It was originally Cambodian territory before being conquered by the Vietnamese in the 16th century and named Saigon. The city was then renamed once again, after the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam in 1975, becoming Ho Chi Minh City (named after the North Vietnamese leader).
Today the city centre is still adorned with wide elegant boulevards and historic French buildings. However, as the undoubted economic centre of Vietnam, high rise office towers are starting to take their place amongst this wonderful colonial architecture.
Your afternoon is at leisure until *** XXpm ** when one of our Vietnamese friends will meet you ***in your hotel lobby. Take a stroll or join your companion for a coffee or something stronger (!) in a local café or bar. Your programme for the evening has no fixed structure; the aim is to give you time to immerse yourself further into the country’s culture and enjoy the company of a local friend. Your companion will take the lead with some suggestions on how to spend the evening together and be ready to show you a side of Ho Chi Minh City that only locals know. It’s also a great opportunity to get some insider tips and insight into life in the city.
Your evening may involve enjoying some street food and live music or a cycle ride along the river to witness a local ceremony. Your companion might know of a little known backstreet eatery, or invite you to join them in a game of badminton or petanque. There may also be a chance to join them as they attend their local temple or even to share a drink and some food with their family or friends. If there’s anything in particular you are interested in experiencing, just let them know and they will do their best to make it happen.
Your companion will join you for any street food, snacks or dinner you have. They will spend about 2 - 3 hours with you, and will be happy to make some suggestions for where you can go next or will direct you back to your hotel.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh
After breakfast, set off to tour some of Ho Chi Minh City’s highlights. Your guide will be happy to personalise your programme, but we particularly recommend certain sites; the Reunification Palace, formerly South Vietnam's Presidential Palace, was built in the 1960s and remains largely untouched since the day Saigon finally fell to North Vietnamese troops in 1975. Others offer visitors a sense of the region’s French Colonial past; Notre Dame Basilica was built in the late 1800s, and the pink neoclassic confection that is Saigon Central Post Office was designed by Gustave Eiffel himself.
To start your day, however, explore a side of Ho Chi Minh City that few tourists even know exists, let alone get to visit, by plunging into the heart of District 1’s maze of narrow alleyways.
District 1 is famous for impressive architecture like the Basilica, but beyond the neoclassical facades lie some of HCMC’s most densely populated wards, all thronging with daily life, along with significant history of its own.
Walk through the small back alleys and towards the local residential areas, with their bustling, colourful, aromatic markets, and a variety of small scale businesses that seem a world away from the city you have seen up until this point.
Stop to observe a Viet Cong secret weapons store, where undercover commandos of the Viet Cong’s North Vietnamese Army collected munitions before launching the Tết Offensive, on 30 January 1968, with the sound of Tết (New Year) firecrackers disguising the gunfire. Fighting continued for months in an episode that has been described as the ‘bloodiest’ phase in the Vietnam-American War, and which triggered much anti-war sentiment in America.
The weapon store, now recognized as a National Historical Site, went undetected for many years and played a key part in the VC's Saigon offensive. Much of the extensive weaponry kept there is still on display, and visitors can learn about the clever methods used to smuggle and conceal it.
Having visited a few of the aforementioned ‘stately landmarks, continue to Cho Lon, which has been HCMC’s Chinatown since 1778. Taste the local favorite noodle dish for lunch, followed by a visit to Quan Am Pagoda, a Chinese style Buddhist pagoda built during the 19th century, with beautifully decorated interiors. As you explore Chinatown, you will see all manner of goods on sale, from dragon artwork, masks and pet fish, to sacks of rice, fabric and cooking utensils.
Leave Chinatown for newer developing areas, observing a visual feast of old and new architecture side by side, before a drive by what was once known as the “Southern stomach” - specifically, the city’s largest rice market, founded by the Chinese in the 18th century.
Having thoroughly explored HCMC, finish the tour in fine style by heading up the Bitexco Tower, which is the city’s tallest building. Your guide will be happy to wait for a short while whilst you enjoy a sundowner (at your own expense) with breath-taking skyline views, those wanting more time may choose to take a taxi back to their hotel at a later stage.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City