This 7-day history tour included several war sites and old battlefields in Southern Vietnam. The tour history relics in Saigon (or presently called Ho Chi Minh City), the famous Cu Chi Tunnels that Vietnamese used during the American War, the old battlefields of Long Tan – Nui Dat, a special zone for Australian and New Zealand veterans. The day-excursion to Mekong Delta at the end of the itinerary will be fun time for students with boat rowing in the small canals, biking in the villages’ roads, lunch with local family..
Day 1: Saigon arrival (D)
On arrival at Tan Son Nhat airport in Saigon, students and leaders will be welcomed by our guide and driver. We then drive to our hotel for checking in. The rest of the day will be free. In the evening, we enjoy a welcome Vietnamese dinner in a nice local restaurant. Dinner and overnight in Saigon.
Day 2: Retracing Vietnam War History (B, L, D)
After breakfast at hotel, students and teachers will visit to the shrine outside of the US Consulate then continue to the former CIA building (outside visit only), where helicopters evacuated the remaining US citizens in 1975. We then move to the visit the Reunification Palace, the former headquarters of the South Vietnamese Government and residence of the presidents. Our next visit is the Thich Quang Duc Monument. Thich Quang Duc was a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who burned himself to death at a busy Saigon road intersection on 11 June 1963 to anti the war.
We then drive to a historic venue for a late lunch of “pho” (noodle soup) at Pho Binh restaurant which used to be the headquarters of Viet Cong Commanders where they gathered to plan for the 1968 Tet Offensive. Take a walk upstairs to learn more about the history through the family’s photo collection. Then sit down and enjoy the traditional taste of pho downstairs.
In the afternoon, we will visit Saigon’s historic landmarks including the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office. Both are architecture masterpiece of Saigon. Further, drive to visit the War Remnants Museum for a vivid insight of the American war through the local’s eyes (not for squeamish, sorry as some pictures as very graphic). We finish our day with a relax time at the Roof Top’s Café at Rex Hotel, a familiar landmark for Americans during the Vietnam War. Enjoy your drinks (at your own expenses) and the panoramic view of the lively streets of Saigon. Dinner and overnight in Saigon.
Day 3: Cu Chi Tunnels Tour and Wildlife at risk (B, L, D)
After breakfast at hotel, we will drive to visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. At its height, the tunnel system stretched over 250 KM from Saigon to the Cambodian border and was three levels deep. The network included innumerable trap doors, specially constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapons factories, field hospitals, command centers and kitchens. Today the remaining tunnels have become a major tourist attraction giving the visitor a unique experience and a feel of what underground life during the U.S.-Vietnam American must have been like.
After lunch in a local restaurant, we will Wildlife at Risk (WAR), which is around 10-minute drive from Cu Chi Tunnels, a biodiversity protection in Vietnam by combating the illegal wildlife trade, raising environmental awareness, protecting endangered species and their habitats. We can support the centre by donating money or purchase something at their Gift shop, all the money will go straight to the above purposes. Return to Ho Chi Minh City in the afternoon, dinner and overnight in our hotel.
Day 4: Saigon – Ba Ria Vung Tau – Old Battle Fields (B, L, D)
Today, we will drive from Saigon to the impressive VC Memorial, the former US/Australian wartime airbase in Ba Ria Vung Tau. We will first visit a village in Hoa Long where rice paper is still produced by hand. There is an opportunity to interact with the locals to get a glimpse of their daily life. Then travel onto Long Phuoc to visit a former wartime tunnel complex.
We then drive to the former 1st Australian Task Force Base at Nui Dat, which is now just a clearing surrounded by rubber plantations. Continue to visit other historic landmarks including Long Tan battlefield and the Long Tan Memorial Cross, located in the tranquil surrounds of the rubber plantations. Take a moment to reflect on the Battle of Long Tan in 1966, arguably the most famous battle fought by the Australian Army during the Vietnam War. Finish our tour with a visit to Horseshoe Hill, a strategic observation outpost established by the Australian forces. Nowadays, visitors are not allowed to access it, but it is possible to see from a far.
Drive to Vung Tau, we will head up to Radar Hill where we are able to orientate ourself with a fantastic overview of the city and the coast. Continue driving down to Bai Sau beach, the longest of the peninsula’s beaches. Spend time walking along the beach side area, adjacent to the former Australian wartime base (nothing remains today). Dinner and overnight in Vung Tau.
Day 5: Vung Tau Sea Town – Saigon (B, L, D)
Today, we will explore this small exciting sea-town. We will first visit the spectacular Jesus Statue for a morning panoramic view of the city and shoreline. Built in 1972, this statue is standing in Nui Nho (Nho Mount) with 32 metres high and 18.3 metres long arms. Take nearly 900 steps to the top; we will enjoy a breathtaking view of Vung Tau City. When we go down, get ourselves relaxed by a cool drink offered by our tour guide before transferring to our next visit – Niet Ban Tinh Xa (Nirvana Pagoda). Nirvana Pagoda or Lying Buddha Pagoda (12m Buddha made of marble) was built in 1969 and is one of the biggest pagodas in the city. When we get here, please try to drum the giant bronze bell in the upper level for a good luck. The next place in our itinerary is White Palace, which used as summer palace of the last Emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai.
After lunch in a local restaurant, we will visit the Lighthouse, which offers a panoramic view of the whole city. The peak where the Lighthouse is located is around 170 metres above sea level and usually praised as the most interesting site in Vung Tau with shades of high trees on both side. In the mid-afternoon, we will return to Saigon. In the evening, we enjoy the farewell dinner at nice local restaurant. Overnight in Saigon.
Day 6: Saigon – Biking in Mekong Delta (B, L, D)
After breakfast at hotel, we will drive south towards the Mekong Delta. This will be a good chance for us to take pictures of fish, shrimps, prawns, crabs, snakes, rice-field rats, tropical fruits, vegetable…On arrival, we will cruise in the Cai Be Floating Market and stop at some cottage industries making pop-rice, coconut candy and rice-paper. We will also visit some nursery gardens, bonsai garden or fruit orchard. Our guide will take us to go around the village and stop at brick kiln and pottery factory.
Arrive in our local home at around lunch; we will enjoy our delicious lunch with typical Mekong Delta dishes. After lunch, we will take our bike and ride for an hour around the An Binh Islet in the village road and get closer to the daily life of the local people. Back to our homestay for a cool drink before getting in our car to drive back to Saigon. Dinner and overnight in Saigon.
Day 7: Saigon departure (B)
Time will be free until our car arrives at the hotel to take us to the airport in good time to board our departure flight. Trip ends.