With plush fields, rich history, a sparsely populated countryside, pristine beaches, and busy urban areas, these Vietnam sojourns pack in three or four vacation types within a two-week periods. The country holds some surprises, too -- where else can you find a string of leftover French colonial mansions held together by strips by bamboo?
Djoser USA (tel. 877/356-7376; www.djoserusa.com) has an 18-day complete country tour of Vietnam giving the traveler a moles-eye view of the country by focusing on village life and the people and faces that make the Vietnamese such a dynamic, multi-generational, proud people. The package costs approximately $1,975 with airfare out of New York and $1,925 with airfare out of Los Angeles. Trips depart on roughly a monthly basis beginning on February 9, 2006 and includes airfare, hotels, transportation and a professional tour guide intimately familiar with the region's history, people and locales. It does not include meals, entrance fees to sites, personal expenses or air and security taxes. Djoser believes self-exploration is the best way to understand or experience a country. Freedom to go out on your own is encouraged wherever safe and possible. Skipping planned sightseeing trips is also encouraged, which is why entrance fees are not included. The traveler decides what they want to when, within limits of the trips location itinerary. Your tour guide is always available to recommend restaurants and the best local sites. Accommodations range from hotels to popular local boarding houses. You can rent a bike for a few dollars a day to go see the area on your own. Virtually every important region in Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh will be visited.
Covering most South Asian travel destinations, Asian Affair Holidays (tel. 800/742-3133; www.asianaffairholidays.com) offers some easy trips to Vietnamese destinations. The vacation arm of highly-rated Singapore Airlines, Asian Affair Holidays is currently offering a four-night air/land inclusive special to Vietnam starting at $1,246. Included in this package are round-trip economy class tickets to Vietnam on Singapore Airlines, all airport/hotel transfers in Vietnam, accommodations at the five-star Sofitel Plaza Hong Kong or Renaissance Riverside in Ho Chi Minh City, daily breakfast, and one full-day tour. Prices do not include airport and security taxes totaling up to approximately $120. Travel for this air/land special is good from now through March 31, 2006.
For gourmands, Intrepid Travel (tel. 877/448 1616; www.intrepidtravel.com) has a 15-day "Vietnam Gourmet Traveler" which visits local food markets and promises an intensive education on local cuisine from food experts. With a maximum group size of 12, this trip promises hands-on cooking information. Accommodations are mostly in hotels with one-night of a home-stay with a Vietnamese family. This trip departs twice monthly starting in April, and according to the Site, at least seven places are available per departure. Costing approximately $1,240 per person with $200 advised for local payments such as $1 to $2 for each site admission, this land-only trip is a foodie's delight as you'll sample street food, home cooking and Vietnamese haute cuisine. Fourteen breakfasts, three lunches and eight dinners are included in the price of the trip. Bringing extra money for additional meals and purchasing cultural artifacts is also advised. All transportation, including intra-country flights, is included in the price of the trip. Intrepid has other trips to Vietnam, including a host of discounted trips if you book at the last minute and fill up some of the unfilled still available spots on departing trips. See the full list of "Impulse Vacations" at www.intrepidtravel.com/impulse.php.
For less expensive and less lengthy jaunts to Vietnam, Gate One Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) has two separate seven-day/five-night independent trips to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Starting at $969 for Hanoi and $979 for Ho Chi Minh, these trips include round-trip airfare to either city, all accommodations, and daily breakfast. Hotels range in level of luxury from three-star comfortable tourist class locations to five-star deluxe hotels. Of course, prices increase roughly $200 for the price of the trip for the more luxurious hotels. These trips are designed for independent travel, meaning lunches and dinners and sightseeing tours are on you. You can book day trips and most sightseeing excursions through Gate One, or do-it-yourself once you arrive in Vietnam. Remember, as previously mentioned, bicycle rental in Vietnam costs only a few dollars per day and most sites have admission fees of $1 or $2 dollars.
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