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Is Vietnam safe to visit?

Hoi An, VietnamI get asked a lot if it’s safe to go to Vietnam. I always answer this question by talking about how you have to be careful of pickpockets and just use common sense, etc, but the truth is that this question goes much deeper than that. It’s about Americans wondering if those we used to see as enemies are now in fact welcoming hosts?

And the answer is yes, yes it’s safe and yes they’re gracious, kind and welcoming hosts. You see, the Vietnam war, while still rather raw for us, is something that Vietnam had to rapidly get over. Reunification caused a lot of pain, but it forced the country to pull off the bandaid and move on in healing their country. Also, if you’ve watched the Ken Burns documentary you know that the American war was just a continuation of a struggle the Vietnamese had faced for centuries. Post war Vietnam had to re-grow and they had to get past the past.

For America, our healing was different. As we were the ones that withdrew, it felt a little bit like a Band-Aid you could never take off, like a wound that would forever be on the collective American soul. Now as travelers, you can’t help but know about that wound. You can’t help but feel we had unfinished business in Vietnam and wonder if that business is going to become yours, as soon as you touch down on Vietnamese soil.

The answer is absolutely not. The healing that needs to be done isn’t actually on the Vietnamese side, but more on our side. It’s amazing to realize that this country has come an incredibly long way since the war, pulling more people per capita above the poverty line than any other country on earth, and truly come out of a brutal time in their history to be a stronger, more united, and quite honestly fascinating country.

The first time I went to Vietnam I was nervous, I remember checking in, going through immigration and realizing that I was for the first time in my life entering a communist country. That was a new experience for me and growing up had been something that we were taught to fear. After a few days in Vietnam I realized that these warm, open, dynamic people had gotten past the history that we as Americans were having trouble doing. I could ask questions, I could ask them to tell me about their experiences and I wasn’t in fact pulling off any Band-Aids for them, I was merely asking them about a small part of their history. I think they found it fascinating that we wanted to know, that we wanted to understand and that they were proud of the unified Vietnam they got to show us.

Mr. Nam is a perfect example of this, as a Vietnamese Vietnam war veteran he lived for years under the ground in the Cu Chi Tunnels – meeting his wife, making babies, having a family, having a life, all underground. He lost an eye and an arm in the war, but he didn’t lose his sense of compassion or his incredible hosting ability. Drinking rice wine with Mr. Nam and eating his daughter-in-law‘s famous spring rolls has led me to the realization that letting things go, letting the past go and moving on and finding those friendships, is really a key part to life, we all have our own wars in our past and we could use a lesson from Mr. Nam in getting over.

So to answer the question yes, you’re absolutely safe in Vietnam, but I wouldn’t put your wallet in your back pocket when you visit the market and I’d get ready to bargain hard! The people are kind and friendly and there’s a ton of energy in the country right now as it moves forwards in its development. Vietnam should be on everyone’s must-visit list and our history only makes it a more intimate experience!… Read more »

10 reasons why Phuket should still be on your travel bucket list

One of the most common misconceptions about travel in Southeast Asia is that Phuket is too developed and travelers need to look elsewhere for their beach vacations.

While parts of Phuket are overly developed  and to be frank, pretty gross  Phuket is a big island and there are still plenty of gorgeous beaches and clear waters to explore. Below are my 10 reasons why Phuket should still be on your travel bucket list.

  • Quiet beaches – Not all of Phuket island is Patong beach. For a quieter beach experience, head to one of Phuket’s less developed beaches – Kata Noi, Karon, Bangtao.
  • Top rated island by travelers – Phuket was just listed as #7 of the Top Ten Islands in Asia by Travel + Leisure. There are a lot of islands in Asia – there’s a reason why T+L voters named Phuket as their favorite – because travelers love their time in Phuket.  
  • Island hopping – Phuket is the best place to base yourself to explore some of the more remote islands and snorkel spots for the day, and come back to your hotel and have options for dining and nightlife.
  • Ethical Elephant experiences – The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary recently opened on the island. A home for retired elephants, you can visit these incredible creatures in an ethical way, feeding and bathing them, with no riding offered at the park.
  • Great value –  You can stay at some of the best hotels in the world, for a much better value than a beach vacation elsewhere.
  • Destination for active travelers – sea kayaking, hiking, yoga, stand up paddle boarding – Phuket is the place for those who want to do more than sit on a beach and tan.
  • Thai food – Thai food + beach vacation = yes please! Most Southern cuisine is inspired by the fresh sea food ingredients readily available on the island.
  • Thai massages – $10, one-hour massages on the beach. Need I say more?
  • Easy flights  You can fly into and out of Phuket with just one stop from the states (same as if you were flying into and out of Bangkok)
  • #1 reason – Phuket is picture perfect.
Read more »

U.S. School Break Vacation Planner – Southeast Asia & Beyond

Here at Journeys Within, family travel has been at the core of what we do since the very beginning. Click here to read more about our founder Andrea Ross’ travels with her kids and tours we recommend for families.

Since pulling your children out of school for an extended overseas tour isn’t always doable, we put together this list of recommended tours for each of the major U.S. school holiday periods, to give parents a sense of how much they can do and see while their kids are on a school vacation.

Christmas/New Year’s Winter Break

Families looking to travel over the two-week Christmas/New Year’s break have the luxury of enough time to really dive into the culture and sights of a country or even two, which is why we recommend the two tours below. During this time of year, the weather in Thailand and Cambodia is as good as it gets – typical daytime highs around 80 degrees, without the humidity of summertime and little chance of rain.

Best time to book: By Sept. 1 or earlier if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

First Time Asia for Families Tour

This tour is designed for first time Asia goers, but more specifically for a family traveling to Asia for the first time. Through experience we’ve determined how people imagine Asia and the kind of trip they enjoy on their first visit. As a group of family travelers, we’ve also determined a great daily pace for families traveling with children, and tours that are family friendly. By minimizing flights, maximizing day tours, and planning in time for naps or time to let the kids run around and get their wiggles out, you’ll see this tour may be just the right fit for your family’s first Asia adventure.

Classic Family Cambodia Tour

You can head out and explore all the different countries and culture Southeast Asia has to offer, or you can spend your time getting to really know all Cambodia has to offer. Cambodia is so much more than just temples. As we often say, “you’ll love the temples, but you’ll fall in love with Cambodia.”

Spring Break

Traveling over Spring Break consistently offers some of the best weather available in Vietnam, with not-too-rainy and not-too-hot conditions found throughout the country. Families willing to brave the heat and humidity in Thailand this time of year will be rewarded by one of the most family-friendly festivals in the world – Songkran (essentially a nation-wide water fight). In addition, lodging rates are often discounted during the Spring Break holiday period.

Best time to book: By mid-January is ideal, by mid-February if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

Vietnam Spring Special for Families

This 10-day tour starts in the North with an immersion into Vietnamese culture and history, then takes participants out on the waters of UNESCO World Heritage Site Halong Bay for an overnight cruise amongst the remarkable limestone formations. Next, the tour gets active in historic Hoi An where you will walk amongst the ancient town and ride bicycles on Cam Kim Island. Finally, spend your last days in Saigon exploring the cultural diversity of this amazing nation.

Thailand Songkran Festival Tour for Families

The Thai New Year festival of Songkran is a great family-friendly way to get your feet wet (literally) with the traditions of Southeast Asia. This 10-day tour is designed to fit into an extended spring break vacation and will take families to some of Thailand’s most iconic destinations. Start in Bangkok where you’ll experience the nationwide water fight that is the Songkran festival. Next, head north to Chiang Mai where you’ll explore temples and take part in the Patara Elephant Farm’s Elephant Owner For A Day program. Finish up with a relaxing stay on the beaches of Phuket.

Summer Break

Who doesn’t love a summer beach vacation? While most of Southeast Asia is in the midst of the hot and humid rainy season during summer, these Thai islands are an exception. Plus, rates are discounted during the slower summer season.

Best time to book: By end of April if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

Last Minute Beach Crawl Tour

Thailand has some of the finest beaches in the world and this beach crawl will take you through some of our favorites. You will begin your tour on Koh Samui, before traveling on to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

Thanksgiving Break

These days, many schools take the entire Thanksgiving week off, meaning you can plan a more ambitious overseas trip during this time period. If you’re going to travel over Thanksgiving, we figured you might as well celebrate food or take in a must-see festival that’s happening over the same time period (in 2018).

Best time to book: By end of September if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

Culinary Immersion Tour

Asia is possibly best known for it’s food. From the spice of Thai food to the exotic textures of Laos cuisine and the sour mixes found in Cambodia, this tour will take you through these amazing countries exciting your tastebuds along the way. In each city we have tried to include a cooking class focusing on local cuisine, a meal with a local family to get the flavour of authentic cooking and of course one night out at the must-visit restaurant. Of course food doesn’t tell the whole story so in between these amazing meals we have included the highlights of each country: from the Grand Palace in Bangkok, riding elephants in Chiang Mai, visiting waterfalls in Laos and seeing the amazing Angkor Wat in Cambodia your eyes and ears are going to have as much fun as your tastebuds!

Loi Krathong for Families Tour

Let our top guides show you the bustling city of Bangkok before heading North. Take a tour of Chiang Mai and enjoy one of Thailand’s most picturesque celebrations, the Loi Krathong Festival (Nov. 22 – 25 in 2018 – which is the Thanksgiving holiday period in the U.S.) which marks the end of the main rice harvest and is designed to thank the gods for the yearly supply of water.

Fly to the Cambodian city of Siem Reap to take in the sights at Angkor Wat and be further inspired by the wonders of the entire Angkor Archeological Park. While in Siem Reap, see the beauty of the Cambodian countryside by horseback and kayak through floating mangrove forest in Southeast Asia’s largest lake, the Tonle Sap. Finish your trip by spending a few days relaxing on one of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches, coconut in hand.

More Family Travel Tips

Once you have chosen your dates, here are a few more resources for families looking to ensure their overseas trip goes smoothly with children of any age.
Read more »

Fred’s Itinerary – One Vietnam War veteran returns after 47 years

Fred and Natalie enjoying beers during their street food tour of Hanoi. (photo copyright Fred A.)

Journeys Within was honored to work with Fred A., who traveled with us in 2018 to revisit some of the sites he was deployed to during his time with the U.S. Army in Vietnam back in 1970-71. Scroll down for the itinerary we crafted for Fred and his wife Natalie.

While on his trip, Fred wrote a travelogue “Back FROM The World” featuring blog posts, photos (including those used here) and insights from his return. Read more here…

We also had a chance to ask Fred a couple of questions after his return…

Journeys Within: You write that “Vietnam is where I grew up…” in one of your posts where you talk about the reasons for returning to the country 47 years later. For how long did you want to make a trip back to Vietnam? And what did you hope to get out of the trip?

Fred: Like so many others, I put Vietnam in the rearview mirror when I returned home from my tour in 1971. But in the last couple of years, not sure why, Vietnam was suddenly on my mind like an itch that needed to be scratched.

When my wife and I started planning the trip, our objectives were fairly simple: to see the many parts of Vietnam that I didn’t know from the war—particularly, for example, Hanoi. And I also had as a priority to “put boots on the ground” where I had been stationed during the war; The sprawling base camp and airstrip of the 23rd infantry Americal Division in Chu Lai, just south of DaNang.

 I was a lucky participant in the war, having not been wounded—or worse. But serving in Vietnam was very much a coming of age experience when I was 20. My wife lived through that period with me then. Being in country with her this time reawakened powerful emotional feelings.

JW: You traveled pretty much the length of the country on your trip. What area(s) were you most excited to see and why?

Fred: Looking back it’s hard to say what blew me away more, the stunning scenery in the rural north and central Vietnam, or the majestically modern face of today’s Saigon. I knew Vietnam was fast developing and modernizing and I was very curious to see the country in its modernity. I guess if I went back, however, I’d want to spend more time in the highlands and countryside. I remembered how lush and beautiful the rural areas were and how much I was infatuated by the beaches and the sea. I was really excited to revisit that side of Vietnam for sure.

The pastoral beauty that I recall from my army days—including the fabulous seascapes—really got me off. 

JW: What surprised you most about Vietnam today?

Fred: There were surprises everywhere I turned. I think the diversity of the land and the people—even the regionality of the food—was the most surprising. I had originally seen only a small snippet of the country when I was first there. I was really impressed by the differences in terrain, people, customs, and even language as we traveled from north to south.

JW: What advice would you have to other Vietnam War veterans thinking about planning a return trip?

Fred: First and foremost: go now while you can still appreciate it. We’re not getting any younger. I wish I had gone back sooner. I’m glad I finally did it.

And second: go with someone, or more than just one—family or friend—who will appreciate what Vietnam means to you (even if you are not exactly sure yourself, as was true for me).

Bomber in the lake
Partially submerged in Huu Tiep Lake, is the under carriage and landing gear of a B-52 bomber, shot down over Hanoi during the Christmas Bombings of 1972. (photo copyright Fred A.)

Day 1  Hanoi: Fast Track Service on Arrival

Welcome to Vietnam! On arrival you will be met in immigration for your fast-track arrival service. Look for the person with our welcome sign for you. Hand over your photo, visa letter and passport to the person meeting you. You will then be invited to sign the visa form already completed on your behalf before receiving the visa label in your passport. Collect your luggage and clear customs.

Arrive at Noi Bai airport where you will be met by your guide and driven the 1 hour journey to Hanoi.

Day 2  Hanoi: Full Day City Tour

Hanoi, originally named Thang Long or “City of the Ascending Dragon,” was the first capital of Vietnam in A.D. 1010. Situated in the center of Northern Vietnam, Hanoi ranks in the top 20 biggest cities of the world. Among Hanoi’s sightseeing highlights is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum, where you can see ‘Uncle Ho’ laid out to rest. Ho Chi Minh was the founder and president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Highlights also include the National Art Museum or Fine Art Museum; the Hoa Lo Prison; central Hoan Kiem Lake where Hanoians enjoy their early mornings with Tai Chi and “Vietnamese style” aerobics in the peaceful atmosphere; the Old Quarter where streets are named after the trades practiced here since the 15th century; the Hanoi Hilton museum where John McCain and other prisoners were held during the war; the Ethnology museum; and the Temple of Literature which serves as an excellent example of Vietnamese architecture. Hanoi is Vietnam’s cultural center, and the galleries, puppetry, music, and dance performances are worth staying at least a few days to take in. This morning start by discussing options with your guide what you would like to do and see today. Your guide will be with you all day so discuss what suits you and then have fun!

Day 3  Hanoi: Afternoon Market and Street Food Tour

This afternoon you will be met by a celebrated chef at your hotel at 3pm. Today you will get a chance to experience Hanoi in a truly unique way – by eating local food in the most local of places. Most of the areas visited will be outside of the main tourist areas. First, you will head to a local market where you will learn about and taste some of the ingredients used in the local cuisine and see how locals engage in their routine of price negotiating. The chef will introduce you to some of the vendors and explain the uses of the food being sold. If you are interested in purchasing anything at the market, the chef will assist you in your negotiations. After your haggling, relax and enjoy a Vietnamese Ca Phe (coffee) or Tra (tea) with the locals at one of the chef’s favorite sidewalk cafes in the historic French Quarter. Here the chef will give an overview of the Hanoi food scene and discuss the daily life and culture of Vietnam from an expat’s perspective. Lunch will follow with the chef at one of Hanoi’s Bun Cha establishments to enjoy traditional grilled pork and rice vermicelli noodles with fresh herbs, greens, and crispy spring rolls (Nem Ran) like true Hanoians. After dinner you will be transferred back to your hotel.

Chef Tour
Fred and Master Chef Mai touring Hanoi’s century old Dong Xuan wholesale market. (photo copyright Fred A.)

Day 4  Halong Bay: Dragon Legend Cruise (Day 1 of 2)

Your guide will meet you at your hotel at 8 am. Today, you leave bustling Hanoi behind on your private transfer to your cruise connection point. Your journey will take around 3.5 hours by road and along the way our team will advise you of the best places to stop for a comfort break and photo opportunities depending on your timing.

Arrive at Halong City by midday where you will transfer to the pier to board your junk. Enjoy a welcome drink before enjoying your set menu lunch, while cruising through the magnificent Bai Tu Long Bay (the peaceful northern part of Halong Bay, commonly overlooked by most visitors). After lunch you will arrive at the Vung Dang – Cong Dam area to enjoy swimming or kayaking in and around the Karst Mountains. Refresh yourself in the outdoor or indoor mineral seawater pool, the fitness room or with the boat’s spa and massage services (own expense), before enjoying a delicious a la carte dinner in the open air. After dinner you can continue to enjoy on the deck or choose to join in with the evening’s activities of a movie screening or squid fishing from the boat. After dinner you can continue to enjoy on the deck or choose to join in with the evening’s activities of a movie screening, or squid fishing from the boat.

Day 5  Halong Bay: Dragon Legend Cruise (Day 2 of 2)

Begin the day with morning Tai Chi exercises and an opportunity to view the sunrise over the bay. At 7am relax over morning coffee and breakfast. Cruise the turquoise waters to the Con Do area to explore the well-hidden Thien Can Son Cave. Just after 10am check out of your cabin and enjoy a buffet brunch while the crew navigates the boat back to harbor.

Your guide will meet you as you disembark and will transfer you to Yen Duc village.

Your driver will be waiting to welcome you as you disembark your cruise. Your guide will discuss the next few days with you as you make the 1.5 hour private road transfer together to Yen Duc Village. Whenever possible, our team loves to indulge in the slower pace, beautiful surroundings and activities this beautiful area has to offer.

On arrival at Viet House, your home away from home for tonight, settle in and enjoy a light lunch and some rest. Set out with your guide and family hosts to explore the area by bicycle, on foot, or by electric car, depending on your preference for today. Get to know the local community, it’s ancient homes, the communal house and perhaps join in with local people having fun and going about their evening routines. Return for dinner and evening with your local family hosts.

Day 6  Yen Duc to Noi Bai Airport

This morning relax over breakfast before your morning adventure. Local markets are the heart of the community and so you will start at the village market and continue to visit a dragon fruit farmer’s traditional home and orchard (seasonal). Have a go at mud-fishing, planting local vegetables and harvesting produce for your lunch. On the way back to Viet House stop by and learn broom making with some of the locals.

Freshen up and join in with preparing and eating lunch with your hosts.

Say goodbye to your hosts as you prepare for your 2.5 hour private road transfer to Noi Bai Airport for your connecting flight.

Arrive in Dong Hoi where you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel in Phong Nha around 1 hour away by road.

Day 7  Phong Nha: Full Day on Motorbike through Villages with Phong Nha “Wet” Cave

You will be met at your hotel in Phong Nha between 8am and 8:30am to transfer to the starting point for briefing and to review the rules on village roads.

Together by motorbike, follow along Son River to reach to Bong Lai village. Here you will have the opportunity to join in local farming activities in the rice paddies or peanut fields or learn how Vietnamese style popcorn is made. Stop at Gia Hung village, where there is a local rice wine shop which is known as the best in the area. Learn how to make rice wine and enjoy a taste if you wish. Leaving the village, you will take a local ferry to reach to the other side of Son River.

From here, continue along the unpaved road paths. After some uphill route, descend into Bong Lai valley where you will see the Bong Lai River. Visit a veteran at his local farm and gain an insight into daily farming life. Cross the river and stop at the Pub with cold beer. Take your cold beer, or soft drink, and enjoy the view from the hill in the fresh air. Lunch will either be roasted chicken and vegetable and peanut sauce at the “Pub with cold beer”, or “pork cooked in bamboo tree” at the Wild Boar Farm. At the Wild Boar Farm you will be welcomed and experience the farm with the local couple who own the farm. Enjoy some free time until it is time return to town via off the beaten path tracks, crossing many beautiful rice fields (Jan-Aug).

Arrive at the boat pier to board your private motorboat at around 2:30pm. Your motorboat transfer connection will bring you to the Phong Nha cave known as the longest wet cave in the world. When you reach to the cave mouth then the engine will be switched off and the boat roof will be opened up to enable you to fully experience the sights around you. The boat driver(s) will switch over to rowing to minimize noise. At a convenient point you will disembark for a short walk within the cave itself. Magnificent stalagmites and stalactites formations are found here. During the Vietnam War, this is one of the caves used as a military hospital.

Return back to your hotel for the evening.

Note: Helmets will be provided and you will be a passenger on your motorbike with your own personal driver.

Day 8  Phong Nha to Hue: Private Transfer and DMZ

Your guide and driver will meet you at 8am in the reception of your hotel in Phong Nha for your road trip this morning on to Hue. You will have the opportunity for stops along the way for photographs, historical insights and to stretch your legs. Highlights along the way you may wish to consider include the Vinh Moc Tunnels, the DMZ, the MacNamara line with its abandoned tank, Quang Tri Citadel, the Long Hung and La Vang churches. Your guide will discuss your personalized journey with you in advance. As a rough estimate you will arrive around 1:30-2pm in Hue in time for lunch allowing for 2 stops along the way from Phong Nha.

Day 9  Hue: Countryside Motorbike, Citadel & Tombs

Your guide will meet you at your hotel at 8am. Hue is a historical location with strong cultural ties to its heritage and former dynastic rulers. Relax as you sit behind your trusted driver on a motorbike for a journey where you will gain insight into both past and present cultural traditions. Chat with the locals you encounter on your journey – families making conical hats, sellers in the local markets, fishermen on the rivers, rice farmers and villagers tending their local gardens and family temples. Take a moment at the Thanh Toan wooden bridge, built in 1786. Continue by motorbike to Thuy Xuan to enjoy a vegetarian lunch around 1pm or 1:30pm cooked by the resident Buddhist nuns. You will be able to hear the same Buddhist nuns chanting at 2pm. On the return journey you have the option to either travel by a combination of boat and motorbike, or travel by motorbike for the full distance to take in the rural countryside. If you wish, you can stop to see the nearby Crying Elephant Temple where elephants were worshipped, and the Ho Quyen Arena where tigers and elephants once fought, gladiator style, to the death for the entertainment of royals, one or two tombs, Thien Mu Pagoda, the Citadel. Our guides are experts, and they will discuss the plan for today in advance with you so that you get the very best experience. Expect to be back to your hotel between 3pm and 4pm, depending on how your exploration goes today. Helmets will be provided.

Day 10  Hue to Hoi An Private Transfer with Guide and Wander the Ancient Town

Your guide will accompany you on your 3.5 hour, private road transfer to your next destination. The route will take you along the spectacular central coastline and the edges of the Annamite Mountain Range to where it finally meets the sea. During the drive, your guide will also run through the next phase of your itinerary.

Please note: If you transfer through the Hai Van area after 5pm, your driver will take the Hai Van Tunnel rather than the scenic Hai Van Pass for safety, as we do not recommend driving over the steep and twisting pass at night.

​Your guide will meet you at your hotel and together you will head out on a walking tour of Hoi An for a few hours. Visit the Ancient Town, which is home to the beautiful Chua Cau, (roofed bridge), as well as Hoi Quan, the ancient meeting places, some ancestral family homes and some of the lovely hidden pagodas. Time permitting, you have the option to head outside the Ancient Town and learn more about the Hoi An of today. In the spirit of tradition, you’ll also have the chance to enjoy the famous cuisine of Central Vietnam in a local restaurant in the old part of town. You have up to 4 hours to explore with your guide today.

Day 11  Hoi An: Chu Lai and My Lai

Early morning you will set off from Hoi An towards Quang Ngai. The 3.5 hour journey takes you through stunning rice fields and past local villages, making you feel like you truly are in the heart of Vietnam.

Stop off at the former US base at Chu Lai, although now there is little evidence of the actual base apart from the old airport. Chu Lai was an important base for the American army, navy and air force during the war, and one which was heavily bombed by the North Vietnamese towards the end of the war. Almost all of the structures, and certainly all of the debris, have now been cleared away. All that remains is a landscape of bomb craters and airstrips, although in the far distance you can still make out some old airplane hangars to the east of the airstrip.

Continue on to Quang Ngai, where you will visit the Monument to the My Lai Massacre (16 March 1968). American troops set out on a mission to capture Viet Cong believed to be hiding in the local villages. Sadly, events escalated and depending on written sources, between 347 and 504 civilian people from the local villages were killed in the operation. Have lunch at a local restaurant before returning to Hoi An and your hotel, arriving back around 5pm.

Day 12  Danang: Day at Leisure

Have a free day to explore on your own.

Day 13  Danang to Saigon: Local Street Foodie Walking Adventure

Your guide will meet you at your hotel for your private transfer (up to 30 minutes) to the airport in Danang and will ensure that you arrive in time for your onward flight.

Arrive in Saigon where you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel.

Your guide is looking forward to taking you on a half day walking discovery of downtown Saigon and surrounding districts. On foot is a wonderful way to really get to experience all on offer. Meet and chat to local people, try special local cuisine at the different locations you stop by and learn about daily life. Our guides are the experts, and they will discuss the plan for the time with you in advance so that you get the very best experience designed just for you.

Day 14  Saigon: All Day City

Our guides are the experts so we leave you in their capable hands to discuss and decide what you want to see and do with your day. There are some great markets if you are in the mood to shop or you can visit some of the museums like the History Museum, or some pagodas, like Thien Hau Lady Goddess Pagoda and Jade Emperor Pagoda. If you are interested in the history of the Vietnam War, then we recommend that you take the time to visit the Reunification Palace, and the War Remnants Museum. The Vietnamese Traditional Medicine Museum gives another insight into Vietnamese culture. Chat with your guide and decide what suits you!

Day 15  Mekong: Villages and Markets of the Mekong Delta

The latest recommended time for your guide to meet you and set off this morning is 7:30am. The earlier the start the better, so as to catch the market in Cai Be when it is most active. This morning you will be driven to Phu Nhuan Bridge in Phu An village, located in the Mekong Delta approximately 2 hours away from Saigon. Here you will board a small private boat to explore this small shady river and begin with a short cruise. Take a break along the way at a unique village, where you can enjoy a walk around the area, meet some of the friendly locals and learn more about how they cultivate the many rice paddies in the area.  Return to your boat and continue along the river for a further 50 minutes, until you reach colorful Cai Be. Continue on for a short distance until you reach Tan Phong Island, where you will step ashore for a short bike ride of about 40 minutes (longer or shorter depending on your preferences), taking in the island’s luscious gardens and peaceful village life. At the end of the bike ride, you will have lunch in a beautiful traditional garden house and be presented with local dishes, such as Elephant Ear Fish rolled and wrapped with rice paper, as well as different Vietnamese vegetables and fruits served with tamarind dipping sauce. After lunch, if time permits, you may then enjoy being rowed along in a traditional sampan boat alongside the banks of the fruit gardens and through the narrow shady canals. Enjoy the waterways a little longer as you cruise on back to Cai Be where your private transport will be waiting for you. Relax on the drive back to your hotel in Saigon (a drive of about 2 ½ hours), where you should arrive around 5:30pm.

Day 16  Saigon: Departure

You will be picked up at your hotel and taken to the airport for your onward flight.… Read more »

Special summer travel discounts for teachers

We believe travel can teach us so much about the world and we want to celebrate those who help teach others, which is why Journeys Within will offer all school teachers and college professors a 10% discount off a customized independent tour in Southeast Asia this summer (travel must take place between June 1 – Aug. 31, 2018). Please feel free to pass along this offer to any teachers who’ve made an impact in your life!  Call 877-454-3672 to start planning your summer adventure.

Sample Tour Itineraries

First Time Asia Tour

This tour is designed for first time Asia goers. Through experience we’ve determined how people imagine Asia and the kind of trip they enjoy on their first visit. Fly into Bangkok and spend some time getting to know this amazing city before heading for the hills. Chiang Mai is the epitome of Thailand, a bustling city surrounded by beautiful countryside and interesting hill tribes. (We also have a First Time Asia for Families option.)

Give As You Go: Laos & Cambodia Tour

At Journeys Within, we’ve specialized in custom Southeast Asia tours for philanthropically minded travelers from the very beginning – what we call “active philanthropy.” So for us, the 15-day “Give As You Go: Laos & Cambodia” tour is our holy grail – each hotel, restaurant and experience included in this itinerary was chosen with the idea of giving back and supporting local community development efforts.  At Journeys Within, we believe that this type of travel not only helps those countries we visit, but also creates incredible experiences for our travelers.

Cambodia Highlights – Green Season Special

Cambodia has a lot more to show for itself than just temples, and witnessing everything the country has to offer during the “green season” (May – October) is an adventurous and affordable way to get a glimpse of life in this fascinating country with few other travelers around. From the bustling capital with its tree-lined boulevards, to visiting the amazing 4 Rivers Ecolodge and eating pepper crab on a deserted beach… With this itinerary, we can guarantee you’ll love the temples, but we can’t guarantee they’ll be the highlight of your trip.

Enjoy the new Phnom Penh nightlife, be amazed by the temples of Angkor Wat, soak up the beauty of the amazing national parks and relax with the locals on white sand beaches. This tour will take you beyond the tourist traps so you can get a true sense of this incredible country.

Backstage Pass to Vietnam Tour

Our 16-day “Backstage Pass to Vietnam” tour begins in Saigon, exploring the cultural and culinary heritage of the city. You will will continue their exploration of southern Vietnam with a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, where guerilla fighters constructed an amazing underground base and village during the French Resistance and Vietnam War, followed by dinner in the home of a veteran of the Vietnamese-American war.  In the historic port city of Hoi An, you’ll ride bicycles around Cam Kim Island where families still produce traditional crafts such as ornate furniture, coracle basket boats and sleeping mats by hand. In Hue, witness the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hue’s Imperial City and Citadel, and enjoy dinner in the home of former Nguyen Dynasty princess Ngoc Son – now occupied and preserved by a multi-generational family of Vietnamese historians and feng shui experts. Pass through the infamous DMZ on the way to Phong Nha where a three-day underground caving adventure in the mountainous region awaits. In Hanoi, You will have the opportunity for an intimate look at the city via bicycle tour along the banks of the Red River, stopping along the way to learn about local village life, traditional handicrafts, and agriculture in the area.  Finish your tour with an overnight trip to Halong Bay – another UNESCO World Heritage site aboard a private junk boat sailing amidst the limestone islands jutting out of the bay is the perfect way to end this insider’s look at the highlights of Vietnam.

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