6 December 2017
Check in with your tour guide at Oliver Tambo airport in Johannesburg around 10:00 AM . We depart South Africa on Emirates Airlines on an overnight flight to Hanoi, Vietnam. (On board meals)
7 December 2017
12:30 Arrival at Hanoi Vietnam, Upon arrival, enjoy a sightseeing tour around Hanoi by bicycle! You will experience the Vietnamese daily life in the past and present on a bicycle tour around the Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple and Old Quarter Streets. Following your Hanoi bicycle city tour, enjoy an evening traditional Vietnamese Water Puppet Show.
8 December 2017
Today, transfer into Vietnam’s northern hinterland and on to the Cuc Phuong National Park, stopping en route at the Van Long Reserve to view the iconic waterscapes teeming with birdlife. Here, you will spend the entire day learning about Vietnam’s unique geology whilst exploring the magniﬁcent Kenh Ga Hot Spring & Tam Coc or “3-caves”.
9 December 2017
Today a magniﬁcent tour highlight awaits! Enjoy an early breakfast before taking a transfer out of Hanoi and on to one of the planet’s most famous World Heritage sites – Halong Bay.
On arrival, board a private boat for a cruise around the islands, caves and grottos of this spectacular piece of paradise. You will enjoy a delicious seafood lunch on board and then take a magical excursion of the Surprising Cave and some of the numerous islets in the bay. You will then overnight on a traditional Huong Hai Chinese Junk Boat!
10 December 2017
This morning, depart Halong Bay & return to Hanoi. Upon returning to the city, enjoy the chance to discover one of Hanoi’s famous cultural heritage and historic sites – The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum.
Enjoy the remainder of the afternoon at leisure exploring the bustling market streets of Hanoi before transferring to the train station where you will board your overnight train to the Imperial City of Hue.
11 December 2017
Upon arrival in Hue, check into your accommodation and enjoy a guided tour of this city visiting sites such the Imperial Citadel and King Minh Mang Tomb, King Tu Duc Tomb, and the Thien Mu Pagoda, before taking a Dragon Boat afternoon cruise on the mystical Perfume River. This evening, be the guest at a typical royal court dinner with a presentation of ancient dancing and court music.
12 December 2017
Today you will have some leisure time to catch up on the remarkable shopping Vietnam has to offer.
13 December 2017
Depart Hue on your short ﬂight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Upon arrival, transfer to Cu Chi. Here you will visit the local Vietnamese Army Military Base and have the opportunity to see the Cu Chi Tunnels, dug and used by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. After the morning ‘underground expedition’, transfer back to Ho Chi Minh City where you will visit the Reuniﬁcation Palace and the War Remnants Museum.
14 December 2017
After breakfast today, leave the busy city for Mekong Delta region. Upon arrival at Cai Be, enjoy the local lifestyle on a boat ride around the small canals in the delta region. Observe the ﬂoating markets where sellers and buyers bargaining and exchange their goods from their boats.
After spending the morning exploring this veritable treasure trove of nature, head over to the Can Gio Mangroves. Here, discover the magniﬁcent biodiversity & unique characteristics of this wetland paradise.
15 December 2017
Today, your ﬁnal day on tour, enjoy breakfast and then enjoy the morning at leisure in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) seeking out a few more South-East Asian treasures before you depart. Later this evening, transfer to the airport and board your ﬂight back home to South Africa.
16 December 2017
Arrive in Johannesburg after a wonderful tour of Vietnam.
We live in uncomfortable times. We spend our lives in grey area, in ambiguity, in considering a multiplicity of truths, recognizing that we have moved past an era of absolutism. But at many of the monuments we visited, and perhaps this is testimony to how vividly history came alive on this tour, we seemed to return to a coveted siècle of certainty. Thus, the memories of my travels in China and Vietnam that stand out to me still, the ones that unravel in my head long after unpacking, are the times when I could feel a quality of reverence reverberating in my surroundings, whether it was for a person or a cause.
In China I felt this way when visiting the tombs of Ming emperors and the Forbidden City – all associated with China’s long and lavish rule of dynasties. The Ming Tombs comprised of a path mantled with weeping willows on either side that we delighted in one afternoon in Beijing, surveying the ornate sculptures that marked off each tomb. The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace to 14 emperors over the years. Walking a few of the 9999 rooms the stone steps seemed to echo with the footsteps of wily bureaucrats, lonely concubines, and subservient eunuchs of years gone by.
Similarly in Vietnam that feeling returned at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, a temple dedicated to the philosopher Confucius, and the grand tomb of Emperor Tu Du in the city of Hue. In both countries there was a celebration of a gentle but unwavering devotion to the divine, which often linked to an allegiance to monarchy because of a dynasty’s association to divinity.
We re-lived more recent history with our visits to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, and to the mausoleums of Mao Tse-tung and Ho Chi Minh, in Beijing and Hanoi respectively. In the War Remnants Museum one felt the strength of the Nationalist call in Vietnam: a belief in self-determination so strong that it withstood unprecedented cruel tactics employed by American adversaries.
The crowds gathered with us to visit the lambent embalmed bodies of Mao Tse-tung and Ho Chi Minh were testimony to the reverence people in China and Vietnam still have for their respective leaders. In Hanoi, Vietnamese paid tribute to Ho Chi Minh and communism and the point where the lines between the two blurred. In Beijing, old Chinese grannies, with the poverty of their provinces carved into their faces, bought yellow carnations for their moment of stillness and silence with Mao. Beyond being symbols, Mao and Ho Chi Minh were men and that’s a lot harder, and there seemed to be a quiet understanding of this in each person that visited these masoleums.
Extending past the history focus of the tour was an additional emphasis on the sciences. It was clear through the masses that joined us in touring Beijing’s phenomenonal Science Museum, and even the architectural feats of the Beijing Olympic Village and the Bund in Shanghai that people within China and Vietnam also seek the comfort of modernist answers within the rich scientific and technological landscape that thrives in South East Asia. It is interesting to note that while many of the historical sites we visited were frequented by senior citizens, sites of scientific and technological interest were dominated by throngs of young people.
Altogether the moments described above have made me question what in the world I am loyal towards, something I think is a valuable thought to grapple with for everyone; to quote activist Sheena Duncan in a 1975 address to Woodmead School, “I do not know the answer but I would like to know that we were asking the question.” I thank the teachers and students who accompanied me on this trip for helping me reach that moment of reckoning, Travel & Sport for their care, and my parents for affording me the opportunity to attend this tour.
30 August 2017: Deposit Deadline: R10 000
29 September 2017: Instalment: R10 000
31 October 2017: Balance Payment: ± R13 900