Vibrant Vietnam: Culture, Conservation & Nature Tour

Company : Soulful Concepts
Activities: Activity Holidays / Career Break / Tours / Cultural Tours
Country: Thailand
Location : Vietnam, South East Asia
Duration: 1 week to 2 weeks
Approx Costs: 2500 to 3000+ £ Pound (UK)
Tour Code : VNCON16

Expand your understanding of Vietnam’s unique history and vibrant present on this twelve-day conservation trip around the country. Vietnam sits in the heart of Indochina and holds an important and mythical place in the history of the region.

Our journey across the country will take us from the northern colonial charms of Hanoi and the spectacular natural surroundings Halong Bay to the southern buzz of modern day Ho Chi Minh City and the tropical biodiversity of Nam Cat Tien National Park. We will finish at the warm waters of luxurious Con Dao Island. Along the way we will deepen our appreciation of this compelling land while we see the lives of the local people and learn about how their past struggles are informing their confident future. 

This trip contributes to environmental conservation efforts of Education For Nature – Vietnam (ENV), the country’s first NGO focusing on engaging the Vietnamese people in endangered species and habitat protection. Our travels will also support the community projects of Bloom Microventures Vietnam a creative non-profit organisation that uses tourism revenue to finance non-collateral low-interest small loans and technical support for entrepreneurial women in rural Vietnam, allowing them to start their own business and create sources of sustainable income.

Itinerary

Day 1 – Hanoi: Hello Vietnam!

Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam’s charming capital. A private airport pick up gets you swiftly settled in the hotel and then the day is yours for independent explorations. Located in the north of the country, Hanoi is an awakening city with a rich history. Calm lakes, green parks, and shaded boulevards meet a surge of scooters, a lively café scene and the bustle of street vendors hawking their wares. This balance between tranquil and lively, historic and contemporary, traditional and modern, is what gives Hanoi its special flavour. Take time to acquaint yourself with the charms of the old city centre before joining us for dinner at Koto restaurant. This flagship spot of KOTO non-profit projects offers a stylish setting to dine on excellent food while helping support local youth training and empowerment.

Accommodation: Intercontinental Westlake Hanoi 

Meals: D 

 

Day 2 –Hanoi to Tho Ha Village: Step back in time

This morning has us setting off to the rural outskirts of Hanoi to experience authentic village life in Tho Ha Village. A short ferry ride takes us across the calm waters of the Cau River to the picturesque village setting. Here we will witness, through the eyes of the residents, their traditional village life, much of which remains unchanged from times past. Most local families still make their living by raising pigs and producing handmade rice paper. This is a truly unique glance into the limited reach modern development has had in Vietnam. We will pay a visit to the Tho Ha pagoda before we head back to Hanoi. Along the way we stop at a local spot for a bite of lunch.

The afternoon continues as we explore some of Hanoi’s highlights. We visit the city’s original university, the stunning Temple of Literature, to appreciate the ancient Vietnamese architecture of this peaceful compound. Next we will pay a visit to the Vietnamese Women’s Museum to gain insights into the diverse nature of the Vietnamese people through the lens of women’s topics. The diverse exhibitions cover different components of traditional life, from street vendors to marriage traditions and fashion trends. Afterwards we venture out into Hanoi’s bustling streets for an exciting ‘Cyclo’ ride through the narrow streets of the city’s distinctive Old Quarter.  

Later, we will enjoy dinner at Le Tonkin restaurant, set in a gorgeous 100-year old French villa that showcases Hanoi’s special cultural heritage.  We will be joined by a local representative from ENV who will share more details about their conservation work and how our donations will benefit the development of the Con Dao Island Outpost for turtle protection.

Accommodation: Intercontinental Westlake Hanoi 

Meals: B, L, D

 

Day 3 – Hanoi to Hoa Binh: Ethnic community engagement 

Today we will venture out of Hanoi again, this time to visit an ethnic community in Hao Binh province. We will walk around this beautiful community which sits next to a lake nestled between mountains, forests and green rice paddies.  Here we will also support and learn more about the community projects of Bloom Microventures Vietnam. 

This creative non-profit organisation uses tourism revenue to finance micro-loans to women in rural Vietnam, allowing them to create independent sources of sustainable income. We get a chance to meet some borrowers who will benefit from the loans our visit will fund. Hear their personal stories, learn about their plans for their microloan and find out about their hopes for the future. It is a unique chance to directly connect with the positive impact your contributions will make. 

We will join in the local community to try our hand at some of their typical activities such as tending to livestock and crops and making traditional prawn baskets. After, we will visit a local home to partake in an authentic Vietnamese lunch. Here our host, the head of the Women’s Union in the village for over 10 years, will help shed some light on the challenges faced and opportunities provided to rural women in Vietnam. We walk by schools, a local kindergarten and a health clinic on our way to the home of the Head of the Commune People’s Committee where we can learn more about the health and educations systems of the community. 

Our busy day ends with an evening drive back to Hanoi where you can have an independent dinner at your leisure. 

Accommodation: Intercontinental Westlake Hanoi 

Meals: B, L

 

Day 4 – Hanoi to Halong Bay: Water water everywhere!

We leave Hanoi and head towards the waters of world-renowned Halong Bay. On our way we will stop for a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show, one of Vietnam’s signature art forms, in the village of Yen Duc. Then it is on to Hon Gai International Harbour to join our stunning traditional Junk cruise ship. After check in and a quick briefing over a welcome drink, we settle into our cabins and head out onto the waters of the bay. Halong Bay is known for its unique geography, unusual limestone formations and sparkling green waters. On board we are joined by a university Geologist, Mr. Trần Văn Hiến, the Director of Halong Geological & Geomorphological Researching Center and an expert in the geological features of the bay. He will offer us insights into the formation of the bay. 

We cruise to picturesque Bai Tu Long Bay and then on to Cap La where there is the chance to kayak around the fishing village to join in the cruise ship’s rubbish collection program. After this environmentally friendly activity we come back on board to relax on the sundeck. Dinner is served upon arrival in Cong Do, our anchor point for the night. 

Accommodation: Dragon’s Pearl Junk Boat

Meals: B, L, D

 

Day 5 – Halong Bay: A day at play in the bay!

We wake up to the fresh air and morning views of the Bay’s beautiful landscape. Breakfast is served on the upper deck before we begin our cruise to the hidden lagoons of Cong Dam. The limestone mountains of this outdoor geological park have been preserved for 340 million years with underground lakes, underwater caves, coral reefs and smooth beaches dotting the area. We will have lunch on the boat before stopping at Hon Co Island for a chance to go swimming or kayaking. If weather permits the magic of Thien Canh Son cave will be the perfect spot for our evening meal.

Accommodation: Dragon’s Pearl Junk Boat

Meals: B, L, D

 

Day 6 – Halong Bay to Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City: Journey north to south 

Enjoy one last breakfast on deck as you catch glimpses of the morning light sparkling on the bay. We will take a short stop to see the village of Vung Vieng, before making a lunchtime cruise back to the harbour. 

Stopping to visit a traditional pottery workshop before we head to the airport. A light snack is served en-route as we make our way south to Ho Chi Minh City. A two hour flight has us in Ho Chi Minh City, lovingly still referred to by locals as Saigon. This buzzing metropolis is Vietnam’s most modern city and the beating heart of the country’s south. 

Check in and then take an independent evening to start exploring with dining recommendations from our local guide.

Accommodation: Majestic Saigon Hotel 

Meals: B, L

 

Day 7 – Saigon to Nam Cat Tien National Park: Heritage explorations and wildlife encounters

This morning we set out to explore Saigon’s heritage with author and historian Tim Doling, an expert on the history of this special city. Together with Tim, we will trace the development of the city from a Khmer fishing village to the modern economic powerhouse it is today. We will learn about how the fusion of colonial French, ancient Chinese and American War influences have shaped the distinct look of Saigon. On this Heritage Walk Tim will point out various places of interest including the site of two citadels, the canals which ones criss-crossed the city, the old rail and tramways and a number of hidden historic buildings. 

Imagine ancient life as we walk past the spot of the city’s original market, the city’s first wooden cathedral and the earliest French Governor’s ‘Palace’. We will take in the French colonial “Triangle of Power” and be provided with new insights into landmarks like the Unification Palace and the Post Office.  As we go we will notice intriguing spots from the American era, such as those locations used in Graham Greene’s famous wartime book The Quiet American. We finish our morning of history with a fresh lunch at a local restaurant.

In the afternoon we leave the city for the contrast of nature as we transfer to Nam Cat Tien National Park, a UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve. This is home to an incredible array of biodiversity and offers some of the best hiking, biking, and wildlife watching in all of Vietnam. 

Upon arrival, we will check into our deluxe-tented accommodations for the night at Forest Floor Lodge, a unique Eco-resort located in the heart of the park. When evening falls, it is time to get together for an open-top night jeep safari ride that takes us in search of nocturnal wildlife such as wild boar, deer, civets, pangolin, fishing cats and a variety of nocturnal birds.

Accommodation: Forest Floor Lodge

Meals: B, L, D

 

Day 8 – Nam Cat Tien National Park: Rehabilitating jungle hikes (Sept - June)

Start the day to the sounds of the jungle. Today we have an exciting opportunity hike the green Lagerstroemia Trail and learn about the many plants that make up the jungle canopy. From tall trees to creeping vines and colorful orchids, this is a refreshing walk through nature. The trail also provides excellent bird spotting so keep your eye open for partridges, pittas and other endemic species. 

In the afternoon we will visit the park’s Bear Rehabilitation centre, which was established by Wildlife at Risk to help in the rescue of wild bears. These gentle creatures are often hunted for their bile or to be sold as exotic pets.   

The evening is yours to rest and relax in style in the jungle setting, as dinner tonight will be at your own leisure.

Accommodation: Forest Floor Lodge

Meals: B, L

 

Day 9 – Nam Cat Tien National Park to Saigon to Con Dao: Forest to beach

This morning we leave behind the green of the Nam Cat Tien National Park to make our way to one of Vietnam’s star attractions, the isolated beaches of Con Dao Islands. Our morning check out is followed by a car trip back to Tan Son Nhat Airport in Saigon. Along we way we will stop for a tasty lunch of traditional Vietnamese ‘Pho’ noodle soup before our hour-long flight delivers us to the remote islands of Con Dao National Marine Park. Here the region’s natural beauty and easy luxury of the Six Senses resort will be our home for the next few days. The evening is yours to take in the paradisiacal surroundings.

Accommodation: Six Senses Con Dao

Meals: B, L

 

Day 10 – Con Dao: Island leisure or historic shadows

Today offers us two options, a day of independent island leisure or the chance to delve into the darker side of Con Dao’s history, with a tour of the historical Prison system located on the island.

For a day of leisure, take time to explore the scenic beaches and bays of the island. Swim through the colourful coral reefs, go for a dive, or hike the thick forests. There are great opportunities for wildlife and bird spotting in the National Park, which covers roughly 80% of the island chain. Relax in the private and secluded setting of the hotel or get active with some fun in the sun.

For a view into the darker side of Con Dao’s history we can visit the series of prison systems that were constructed on the island over the 113 years of colonization. The hardships faced by prisoners and the brutality of the regime has become legendary in Vietnam’s already rough history. Walk through the sprawling complex, visit the prison cemetery and learn about the incredibly harsh living conditions faced by the thousands of prisoners kept here, many who are now considered national heroes. 

Accommodation: Six Senses Con Dao

Meals: B

 

Day 11 – Con Dao: Paradise explorations

Today we have another beautiful day for island fun. Explore at your own leisure or join us for an excursion to make some sustainable memories at Con Dao National Park. We can enjoy a variety of inspiring, educational and fun activities on the water or land. Some of the stand out excursions include exploring the island by Vietnam’s signature 2-wheeled transport, trekking to the islands important landmarks or a visit to the Bay Canh island turtle nesting grounds where you get will have a chance to witness this protected spectacle of nature. Hiking, biking, snorkelling, and kayaking can also be booked and paid for at the hotel.

For those who simply want to spend a quiet day alone there is plenty to do. Swim in the clear sea, walk on the white sand or drink a cocktail on the beachfront as you appreciate your time this tropical paradise. 

Accommodation: Six Senses Con Dao

Meals: B

 

Day 12 – Con Dao to Ho Chi Minh City: Warm goodbyes 

Start the day with one last breakfast on the beach before we catch our flight back to Ho Chi Minh City. We bid you a warm farewell, either at the airport or in the city centre, depending on your onward travel arrangements.   

Meals: B

 

Give back… 

Donation component: £100 per person

Your Impact: The donation component of this trip goes towards funding the projects of Education for Nature- Vietnam (ENV), whose mission it is foster greater understanding among the Vietnamese public about the need for nature and wildlife protection. 

Vietnam is home to an astounding spectrum of natural diversity; from unique habitats and natural areas to an enormous range of animals, birds, reptiles and insects. New enigmatic species are regularly being discovered. Development, population growth and animal trafficking threaten many species. Because of this, conservation efforts in Vietnam are vital. 

The donation component of this trip goes towards funding the projects of Education for Nature- Vietnam (ENV), whose mission it is foster greater understanding among the Vietnamese public about the need for nature and wildlife protection. Using innovative strategies to influence public attitudes and working closely with government partners, ENV aims to support efforts in animal and environmental conservation on a regional and national level. One program approaches this issue with the creation of an outpost to help protect the native turtle populations of Con Dao Island. 

As always, by participating in responsible tourism that respects and honours the people and places you visit, you are helping to support local communities in maintaining their way of life. Your travel time in their villages and your interest in their culture helps bring money to the community, supports local guides, fishermen and artisans, and allows them to take pride in their traditions.

Travel

  • Airport Pickup
  • Boat / Ferry
  • Internal Flights
  • Internal Travel
  • Minibus

Accomodation

  • Accomodation Included
  • Hotel

Meals

  • Breakfast
  • Meals Included

Tour Price

What's included: Accommodation with breakfast daily (4 and 5 star hotels, deluxe boat) All transfers in private air-conditioned vehicles Western tour manager English speaking guides throughout Meals as indicated in the itinerary Entrance fees as indicated in the itinerary Cruise and boat fees as indicated in the itinerary Domestic flights as indicated in the itinerary What's not included: International flights and airline taxes Single Supplement Vietnam Visa* Optional tours and excursions Tips and gratitude’s Personal travel insurance and vaccinations Items of a personal nature Other services not listed in the inclusions column *Travellers are responsible for valid visas throughout the duration of the trip

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