Ever wanted to go to Vietnam? We road-tested Intrepid’s Vietnam Family Holiday over the Easter break. This is what you can expect as you travel from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh with kids.
Vietnam is the number one family tour destination in 2019. Intrepid’s Vietnam family tour begins in Hanoi and travels south to Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta. In between, you will visit Hoi An, Hue and Ha Long Bay.
In Hanoi stop for lunch at KOTO restaurant. KOTO stands for Know One Teach One. The restaurant, founded by Australian-Vietnamese entrepreneur Jimmy Pham, trains Hanoi street kids to work as chefs and waitstaff. At the end of their two-year training program, the students receive an international certificate in hospitality – allowing them to work in 5-star hotels anywhere in the world. This place really does change lives. And the food is delicious.
The most popular thing to see in Hanoi is actually a dead guy. Ho Chi Minh’s body lies embalmed inside this building. You must cover your shoulders, knees and stomach if you want to enter the temple. The tourists form two lines and must hand over all water bottles and cameras before they make the pilgrimage past the founder of Vietnam.
Around the corner from the mausoleum, you will find Ho Chi Minh’s home from 1954 till 1958. Ho Chi Ming refused to live in the grander French Mansion down the road, instead preferring a simpler villa close to a lake. In Vietnam, official government buildings are all painted yellow. At the villa, you can also see Ho’s collection of classic cars – many donated by foreign governments.
This room is where Ho Chi Minh planned and strategised for the Vietnam war, known as the American War in Vietnam. The room is simple and adjoins a huge concrete bunker, now overgrown with vegetation.
The Hanoi Temple of Literature ( Van Mieu ) hosts the “Imperial Academy”, Vietnam’s first national university. It was built in 1070 and features on the Vietnamese Dong.
Head to the street market outside the Temple of Literature to buy a Vietnamese Rice hat. The kids love them and you will end up wearing them A LOT. Trust us, everyone does.
From Hanoi, it takes about four hours by bus to get to Ha Long Bay. The Vietnamese government has limited the number of cruise ships allowed in the bay each day to 400. Only 150 can stay overnight. Luckily, Intrepid can book one of them.
The spectacular bay is known for stunning limestone pillars topped with lush green jungle. The kids will love spotting monkeys. Just don’t let them get too close.
An overnight train ride in Vietnam is an experience, that’s for sure. Start in Hanoi where the train rumbles through the streets, close to homes and businesses and wake up in Hue ready to explore. The cabins have four or six beds and you’ll find a toilet and wash space at the end of each carriage.
Hue (pronounced Whey) was once home to the Vietnamese kings. This gorgeous complex is Emperor Tu Duc’s royal tomb and gardens who ruled Vietnam from 1847 to 1883.
To understand how the Vietnamese kings live, head to the Imperial City in Hue. The East Gate (Hien Nhon Gate) to the Citadel has a great view of the moat and you can get fish food to feed the koi and amuse the kids.
Of all the cities in Vietnam to take a rickshaw ride, we think Hue is the best. The ride starts in the city, speeding through a busy roundabout before heading into the villages and rural rice fields.
Jump on board a dragon boat and cruise up the Perfume River. It’s only a short 20-minute ride to the pagoda and a much more fun way to get there.
Jump off the boat at Thien Mu pagoda, a working Buddhist monastery. Students at the pagoda have three different types of hairstyles, depending on how dedicated they are to their study. The temple also houses the Austin motor vehicle in which monk Thich Quang Duc was driven to his self-immolation in Ho Chi Minh City (then Saigon) in 1963 against the Diem regime. – you will recognise the photo from the Rage Against the Machine Album Cover.
If you’re on an Intrepid Family Tour of Vietnam you can also try making your own incense. It’s harder than it looks. Once rolled, the sticks need to dry in the sun for three days.
Take a stroll along the river in Hue on your way to dinner. It’s safe, peaceful and beautiful. The kids loved watching the Trang Tien Bridge change colour.
Lantern-lit Hoi An is the place everyone pictures when they think of Vietnam. An Intrepid Family Tour stops here for three days. You can explore the markets, do cooking classes in the restaurants and float along the river in a lantern-lit boat.
If you want a suit, a formal dress, or a coat made to order – Hoi An is the place to be. The city’s tailors can make a three-piece suit in 2.5 days. Our pick is Yaly – which will keep your measurements on file so you can order more when you get home.
Spend a whole morning at Ang Bang Beach, Hoi An, Vietnam. You can either pop your towel on the sand or rent one of the cushy shaded lounge-chairs with drink service.
On a bike tour of Hoi An you can explore the rice fields, the vegetable gardens, the villages and the city streets. The kids favourite part was riding over the rice that was drying in the fields.
Take a lantern-making class in Hoi An and you will get to take home your own personalised lantern.
Head up the top of the building on the left and you can have coffee and ice-cream with incredible views over Ho Chi Minh City.
Take a boat along the Mekong to a homestay on the river. You can explore the coconut farms, make coconut candy and feed the farm animals.