The day is free to recover from the flight or stroll amongst broad tree-lined avenues dating from the French period. There is a faded colonial charm where baguettes and good coffee are sold from doorways of grand buildings of a past era. There will be a welcome briefing this evening with dinner at a local restaurant, where your children will have their first opportunity to practice their chopsticks skills.
This morning we take a city tour, which will include a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum area to see his 'House on Stilts' and visit the One Pillar Pagoda. We'll also visit the Temple of Literature and the Hoa Lo Prison (also known as the 'Hanoi Hilton'). Afterwards we enjoy a cyclo (bicycle taxi) ride through the Old Quarter, with its '36 Streets' where each street is home to shops sell particular products - e.g. 'silk street', 'gold street', 'paper street' and 'naff souvenir street'. The remainder of the day is at leisure to stroll around the Hoan Kiem Lake, stopping for a coffee or ice cream at one of the many cafes surrounding it. In the evening we enjoy a performance of Hanoi's famous water puppets.
We make an early start for the approximately 4-hour journey to Halong Bay. This is one of the most stunningly beautiful sights in South East Asia with roughly 3,000 limestone peaks rising directly from the clear emerald sea. We cruise amongst this amazing karst scenery, stopping to swim and kayak, allowing us to get to places inaccessible by boat (weather permitting), and enjoy a seafood lunch on board. In the late afternoon we watch the sun go down and enjoy another lovely meal before overnighting on the boat in twin share cabins with en suite facilities.
We continue to cruise around Halong Bay this morning before returning to port. We then drive back to Hanoi, and transfer to the train station and board the Reunification Express for the overnight train ride to Danang, over 500km to the south.
This morning on arrival in Danang we drive the short distance to Marble Mountain where we explore the large caves which were used by the Viet Cong as a hospital base during the war. From the mountain peak, there are fantastic views over China beach and the surrounding countryside leading on to Hoi An. We then drive on to the World Heritage site of Hoi An, the original European trading port in Vietnam dating back to the mid-sixteenth century. It is now a living museum, with attractive wooden merchant's houses and pagoda-style temples with Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and European architectural influences. It is also a marvellous place to wander around and enjoy the thriving riverside market. We take a walking tour of the old town and visit the Japanese Bridge and Chinese Assembly Hall. Hoi An also has plenty of 'silk shops' offering tailor made garments at unbelievably low prices. For best results you should put your order in early and have a good idea (possibly a picture or a sample) of what you want.
This morning we jump on bikes for a ride on quiet roads through the countryside past local markets, schools and villages before continuing on to Cua Dai beach (5 km). The afternoon is dedicated to free time at the beach for swimming, or you can take an optional boat trip on the river or relax back in town. In the evening we join an informal cooking class where adults and children alike will learn how to make some of Hoi An's speciality dishes and even participate in rolling your own spring rolls!
This morning we transfer to Danang airport and fly to the lively resort of Nha Trang. In the afternoon we visit the Thap Ba Hot Springs where you can bathe in the mineral mud before washing it all off (if you wish) in the natural hot springs. The springs are a good chance to interact with the locals and your children will love covering themselves in mud. Massages are also available at an additional cost.
We take to the sea in a fishing boat for a trip around the islands where we can go snorkelling. This is a wonderful experience offering stunning views of the mountainous coastline that lies to the north of Nha Trang and an opportunity to eat some of the freshest seafood available. We'll also stop at Hon Mieu Island to visit the aquarium and take a ride on a traditional circular basket fishing boat known as a 'coracle'.
The morning is free for your own exploration or relaxation on the beach or by the pool. In the afternoon we fly to Saigon, officially known as Ho Chi Minh City. This is an exciting and absorbing city where scooters pack the streets and temples stand defiantly alongside modern developments. Devastated by the Vietnam War, it is now a bustling free market city where anything goes.
In the morning we wander around the city visiting the Saigon River, Ben Thanh market, Reunification Hall and Notre Dame Cathedral. This afternoon we visit the excellent Dam Sen Water Park with its slides and rides to allow the kids to let their hair down!
This morning we drive to Cai Be in the Mekong Delta (about 3.5 hours). The Mekong, known as 'the rice bowl of Vietnam', produces much of Vietnam's fruit, sugar cane and coconuts. We spend some time at Cai Be from where we begin a Mekong River boat trip passing a floating market and visiting typical riverside villages where we learn about some of the local products for which the Mekong Delta is famous - e.g. popped rice, rice paper & coconut candy. After lunch we continue our journey passing some magnificent countryside and stopping at some small cottage industries. The evening is tranquil as we have dinner on an Island and enjoy some 'Delta' hospitality. We spend the night sleeping at a simple guesthouse built in the style of a local house. Bedding, a mosquito net and a small towel are provided.
This morning we take a walk through the fruit orchards and navigate our way through the small canals in a traditional wooden sampan. Later we rejoin our boat to rendezvous with our vehicle for the journey back to Saigon via a little visited Cao Dai temple used by devotees of this strange indigenous religion, which fuses all the great religions of east and west.
In the morning we visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the war the network covers 3 levels and approximately 240km of tunnels. The tunnels were used by the guerrillas as living quarters and escape routes during the Vietnam War. Although originally very narrow, some parts have been widened for the tourists and we have the opportunity to explore parts of the system. Claustrophobes may prefer to stay outside in the sunshine before we return to Saigon. The afternoon is free.