Travel Writing Tour in Vietnam October 17-30, 2010
Vietnam is lush with tropical flora and fauna.

Vietnam is lush with tropical flora and fauna.

Our 2010 Vietnam trip is finished. We hope to offer it again in November, 2011. Our next adventure is a writing safari in Botswana in March, 2011. Click the above "Botswana" tab for all the details!

Introduction

Explore this exciting and oft-misunderstood land, and enjoy a unique series of journaling, creative non-fiction, and travel writing classes along the way. Writers of all skill levels are welcome!

In his classes, seminars, and best-selling book, Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and still have time to enjoy your trip!), travel humorist Dave Fox has been helping people write about their international adventures for more than a decade. Now, he takes his classes on the road in an exciting journey through southern Vietnam!

We'll visit bustling Ho Chi Minh City, the lush jungles of the Mekong Delta, and windswept sand dunes, colorful fishing villages, and palm tree beaches along the South China Sea. You'll have lots of opportunities to interact with local Vietnamese people, explore colorful temples and solemn historical sites, visit village markets, and even enjoy a Vietnamese cooking class! The food is delicious, the weather is warm, the people are friendly, and the scenery is idyllic.

Accompanying us will be Trân Phúc, a licensed Vietnamese tour guide, expert troubleshooter, and close friend of Dave. Born and raised in a small Mekong Delta village, Phúc now lives in Ho Chi Minh City, where he runs his own tour business. He has many years of experience guiding  English-speaking tourists throughout his native land. He’ll be with us to make sure things run smoothly and share his knowledge of his native land. (Oh, come on! Stop giggling at Phúc’s name. It's as common a name in Vietnam as Dave is in America. Here's the correct way to pronounce it.)

The idyllic   Mekong River is a major commerce route.

The idyllic Mekong River is a major commerce route.

What more could you ask for in a tour? How about a series of classes along the way to help you write about this and future journeys in ways that are exciting, meaningful, and fun to read? Dave's journaling and travel writing classes will not only help you capture your experiences in words, but also bring you more intimately in touch with your surroundings as you explore.

The cost of this trip is US $2,895 per person, with a $350 single supplement if you’d like your own room. (Please click the "What’s Included?" tab above for full details.)

To make our writing classes as productive as possible, and to offer cultural experiences that larger tour companies can't, space on this tour is limited to 12 participants. To reserve your spot or get more information, please send an e-mail to info@GlobejotterTours.com, or give us a call at +1 - 206-922-2292.

Travel Journaling and Creative Writing in Vietnam
October 17-30, 2010

Vietnam’s youth are embracing the future. Children make up one-third of the population.

Vietnam’s youth are embracing the future. Children make up one-third of the population. More than half of the population is under 30 years old.

Day 1: Sunday, October 17
Good Evening Vietnam! (Arrive in Saigon)

Most flights from the United States to Ho Chi Minh City arrive late at night, so there will be no official group activities today. For anyone who arrives early, however, we'll have a casual happy hour in the late afternoon. (Place and time to be determined depending on who's coming.) If you arrive late tonight, someone from the hotel will meet you at the airport and whisk you comfortably to our tour hotel. On the 30-minute drive, you'll get your first glimpses of Saigon's lively, late-night street life and mesmerizing motorbike traffic. Dave will be at the hotel to be sure check-in goes smoothly for those arriving late. (Sleep in Saigon.)

Day 2: Monday, October 18
The Saigon Shuffle

We'll officially kick off the tour this morning with a short information meeting and an orientation walk around our neighborhood. You'll learn how to happily and safely navigate Ho Chi Minh City — and how to cross Saigon's busy streets amid a sea of motorbikes! For lunch, we'll feast on pho, Vietnam's famous and hearty noodle soup. (Hot sauce optional!) In the afternoon, we'll settle in for our first "hands-on" writing class, along with time for you to venture out on your own in search of a story. We'll wrap up our day with a fun group dinner at a local restaurant. (Sleep in Saigon.)

Day 3: Tuesday, October 19
Ben Thanh Market and the American War

After a morning writing class, we'll visit the solemn and powerful War Remnants Museum for a straightforward perspective on what the Vietnamese call "The American War." The afternoon is yours to explore and write. Absorb more history at the Ho Chi Minh Museum, test your bargaining skills at the Ben Thanh Market, or settle in for some streetside people-watching at a local bar where a liter jug of bia hoi (freshly brewed beer) will set you back less than one US dollar. (Sleep in Saigon.)

Lavish and colorful, the Cao Dai Temple celebrates a unique Vietnamese religion.

Lavish and colorful, the Cao Dai Temple celebrates a unique Vietnamese religion.

Day 4: Wednesday, October 20
Cu Chi Tunnels and Cao Dai Temple

Today, we take a day trip out of Saigon. Our first stop is the Cu Chi Tunnels, where, during the war, the Viet Cong lived underground, sometimes for weeks on end. The tunnels are cramped and not recommended for people with claustrophobia; however, even if you choose to stay above ground, you will gain startling insights into what wartime life was like. After lunch, we change gears and visit the lavish and colorful Cao Dai Temple. The Cao Dai religion is unique to Vietnam. Officially established in 1926, it incorporates elements of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, and Islam. The religion preaches non-violence, among other things, and includes an unlikely array of "saints" including Jesus Christ, Buddha, Napoleon Bonaparte, Joan of Arc, Pericles, and Winston Churchill. (Sleep in Saigon.)

Day 5: Thursday, October 21
The Mighty Mekong

We leave the big city today, load up our air-conditioned tour bus, and head into Vietnam's lush and tranquil countryside. A two-hour bus ride takes us to My Tho where we make a brief visit to the Vinh Trang Pagoda, the largest Buddhist temple in the Mekong Delta. Then, we board a private boat for a cruise down the Mekong River. We'll pass lush, palm tree jungles and wave to fishermen setting their nets. After some free time to take in the beauty, we'll have lunch and a writing class on our boat. In the afternoon, we continue by bus to Can Tho,our urban base for more small-town exploring the next day. We'll have a short orientation walk around town and enjoy a scrumptious group dinner at a riverside restaurant. (Sleep in Can Tho.)

Merchants are up before sunrise in the Mekong River’s floating markets, selling fresh produce from boat to boat.

Merchants are up before sunrise in the Mekong River’s floating markets, selling fresh produce from boat to boat.

Day 6: Friday, October 22
Floating Markets in the Mekong

We get an early start today to get the best views of the Mekong River's legendary floating markets. Private motor boats will take us to two different markets, where hundreds of boats bob in the water selling local produce to riverside residents. We'll sample a wide array of fresh tropical fruits — familiar favorites like mangoes, pineapples, and bananas, and more exotic choices such as lychees, water apples, and dragonfruit. We'll follow up our fruit fest with a local lunch, then head back to Can Tho for an afternoon writing class and free time. You'll be free for dinner tonight — another fancy meal by the river, or some cheap and yummy street food at a local hangout. (Sleep in Can Tho.)

Day 7: Saturday, October 23
Jungle Adventures and a Humble Homestay

Today is a short day on the road. We leave Can Tho after breakfast and head to a "homestay" in either Cai Be or Vinh Long. (More info on these accommodations coming soon!) We'll make fun stops along the way, including a brick factory with massive, walk-in kilns for a glimpse at one of the local industries. In the afternoon, if you're feeling energetic, rent a bicycle for a ride through the narrow pathways that lace together jungle villages. (Our local guide, Phúc, is a skilled cyclist and an expert on the pathways that meander through the region. He'll keep you from getting lost!) Or, lounge in a riverside hammock, slurp fresh coconut milk from the shell, and get ready for another succulent, outdoor dinner. (Sleep in Cai Be or Vinh Long.)

Vast fields of rice supply a staple food. Sweet sticky rice is an especially tasty variety. It is not only eaten, but also distilled into a local liquor.

Vast fields of rice supply a staple food. Sweet sticky rice is an especially tasty variety. It is not only eaten, but also distilled into a local liquor.

Day 8: Sunday, October 24
From Jungle to Ocean

Today is our longest bus ride as we make our way out of the Mekong Delta, and up the coast to the shores of the South China Sea. Along the way, Phúc and Dave will tell you more about Vietnamese history and culture, and help you wrap your tongue around the sounds of the Vietnamese language (challenging to most native English speakers). Along the way, we'll stop for lunch, as well as some deliciously rich Vietnamese coffee and a taste of locally distilled sticky-rice wine. In the late afternoon, we arrive in Mui Ne, an oceanside town that offers both tourist resort comforts and a still-thriving fishing village culture. After we check into our beachfront resort, we'll eat dinner at the Peaceful Family Restaurant, one of the town's oldest and most authentic dining spots. (Sleep in Mui Ne.)

Day 9: Monday, October 25
Sand Dunes and Fishing Villages

We get an early start this morning to beat the day's heat. We begin with a drive to the famous sand dunes that surround Mui Ne — breathtaking, windswept, and fun to roll around in if you don't mind getting sandy. Afterward, we'll spend some time in the original Mui Ne fishing village, a place far less touristy than the resort area down the road. Fishermen tend their nets along the beach, and paddle out in little round boats in search of the day's catch. After we find lunch, we'll make our way back to our resort hotel for a writing class and a free evening. (Sleep in Mui Ne.)

At the Mui Ne Cooking School, we learn how to cook a Vietnamese feast.

At the Mui Ne Cooking School, we learn how to cook a Vietnamese feast.

Day 10: Tuesday, October 26
Vietnamese Cooking School

Our day begins with a trip to the local market. Our local hosts (a local cook and a Dutch, long-time resident of Mui Ne) will teach us how to shop for the freshest ingredients. Then, we head back to their outdoor kitchen where we'll spend several hours learning how to cook (and then, of course, eating) course after course of Vietnamese specialties such as a fresh seafood salad, rice paper spring rolls, pho bo (beef noodle soup), and banh xeo (sizzling pancakes with shrimp and bean sprouts). We'll also learn about the most popular sauces used to accent Vietnamese cuisine, and taste some local banana wine. If you prefer, vegetarian options are available for all courses. The later part of the day is yours to catch up with Dave for more writing tips, or go out and explore on your own. (Sleep in Mui Ne.)

Mui Ne’s beaches hug the South China Sea. They’re the perfect spot to write, splash, or just take deep breaths and gaze at your flip flops.

Mui Ne’s beaches hug the South China Sea. They’re the perfect spot to write, splash, or just take deep breaths and gaze at your flip flops.

Day 11: Wednesday, October 27
Free Day in Mui Ne

You didn't think we were going to stay in a beachfront resort without some time to relax, did you? Today is yours to do whatever you like! Take a splash in the South China Sea or our hotel swimming pool. Find a shady spot under a palm tree and watch the kite surfers get airborne. Luxuriate with a massage in one of Mui Ne's bargain-priced spas. Or... soak up more authentic culture. For a couple of dollars, you can rent a bicycle or motorbike and ride to the original village. The tourism of Mui Ne's resort area falls away as you pass local shops, homes, temples, and more. This is especially fun around sunset, when it seems everybody is out visiting with their neighbors. You'll be greeted with friendly smiles, and lots of cheap and yummy street food to refresh you when you get hungry! (Sleep in Mui Ne.)

Day 12: Thursday, October 28
Phan Thiet and Back to Saigon

Hundreds of colorful fishing boats bob along the quays of Phan Thiet, a town just 20 minutes from Mui Ne that is bigger than its counterpart down the beach, and a center of commerce for the area. We'll take time to wander and find lunch before getting back on the road to now-familiar Saigon. We'll check back into our Saigon hotel in the late afternoon or early evening. (Sleep in Saigon.)

Saigon motorbikes carry more than you can fit in your car!

Saigon motorbikes carry more than you can fit in your car!

Day 13: Friday, October 29
Farewell Saigon!

Most of your day is free today to take in any sights you want to see, slurp one last bowl of pho at your new favorite restaurant, double back through the markets for some final bargain hunting, or polish up an essay for tonight's reading. Dave will be available to help with any final writing questions you have. We'll meet as a group in the late afternoon for a final happy hour and open mic where, if you like, you can share some of your writing from our journey together. We'll wrap things up with a final feast and a chance to reflect upon our two weeks together in this vibrant land. (Sleep in Saigon.)

Day 14: Saturday, October 30
Fly Home or Keep Exploring!

If you're heading straight home to the States or Canada, you will likely be boarding a very early flight out of Saigon. Taxis will be available to get you to the airport on time. For anyone staying longer in Southeast Asia, Dave and Phúc will be available to help with your independent travel plans.

To reserve a spot on the tour, or if you have questions, e-mail us at info@GlobejotterTours.com, or call 1-206-922-2292.

Itinerary specifics are subject to change if deemed necessary.


Life in hiding: The Cu Chi Tunnels offer a solemn look at Vietnam’s troubled past.

Life in hiding: The Cu Chi Tunnels offer a solemn look at Vietnam’s troubled past. People lived underground for weeks on end.

 

Private motorboats will zip us to floating markets and weave through the Mekong Delta’s narrow tributaries.

Private motorboats will zip us to floating markets and weave through the Mekong Delta’s narrow tributaries.

What's Included with this Tour?

The cost for this tour is $2,895 per person, based on double occupancy. Solo travelers may either share a room with another solo traveler, or pay a supplement of $350 for their own room throughout the trip (with the exception of the one homestay night).

Late Summer Sale: Sign up now and save $400 per person!

Here’s what’s included:
  • Accommodations for 12 nights in air-conditioned, three-star hotels with private bathrooms, plus one night at a traditional Mekong Delta “homestay.” Please see the Accommodations page for full details.
  • Breakfast every morning
  • Seven lunches and seven dinners
  • Seven travel journaling and creative nonfiction /travel writing classes with best-selling author and travel writer Dave Fox
  • Transfer from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) airport to the tour hotel
  • Transportation along the tour route by private, air-conditioned bus (and/or boat or private taxi as needed)
  • Sightseeing and entrance fees including: Saigon’s War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market, day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels and Cao Dai Great Temple near Saigon, the Vinh Trang Buddhist Pagoda in My Tho, visit to the Mui Ne sand dunes and fishing village, and more!
  • A cruise on the Mekong River, including lunch and a writing class on board our private boat
  • Private motorboats to visit the legendary floating markets of the Mekong Delta
  • A Vietnamese cooking class
  • A copy of Dave Fox’s book, Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and still have time to enjoy your trip!)
  • Ample free time to explore on your own and find topics to write about. (Orientation walks will be included in Saigon and Can Tho to help you feel comfortable getting around on your own.)
  • A local guide who is fluent in both Vietnamese and English
  • All tips and gratuities covered for guides, drivers, group activities, meals, etc.
  • Two free follow-up writing critiques via e-mail with Dave Fox after the tour is finished
  • Travel insurance through Travel Guard, including coverage for emergency medical care, medical evacuation, lost or delayed luggage, and more. (Tour cancellation coverage may be added for an optional extra fee of $100. Please contact Globejotter Tours for details.)
Ride a bike to the places tour buses can’t go.

Ride a bike to the places tour buses can’t go. A network of paths connects jungle villages.

Expenses you will need to cover include:
  • Airfare or other transportation to and from Ho Chi Minh City at the beginning and end of the tour.
  • Vietnamese visa fees (currently $65 for a single-entry visa for US citizens, though the fee occasionally changes. Once you sign up, we will supply you with the latest info on the best way to get your visa. We do NOT recommend using a so-called “visa service” as they simply charge you lots of money to forward your paperwork to the Vietnamese embassy or consulate when you can easily take care of things on your own.)
  • Roughly half of your lunches and dinners. (You can eat very affordably in Vietnam if you choose to.)
  • Beverages at group meals.
  • Any extra sightseeing you choose to do during your free time. (Admissions are generally cheap by Western standards.)
  • Optional tour cancellation insurance through TravelGuard if you are not able to travel due to a personal emergency ($100 for coverage of the tour only. If you would like additional coverage for your plane tickets, etc., please contact Globejotter Tours).
Motorbike mayhem in bustling Ho Chi Minh City.

Motorbike mayhem in bustling Ho Chi Minh City. (Don’t worry! We’ll teach you how to safely cross the street!)

Frequently Asked Questions About Our Vietnam Tour

Is Vietnam safe?

With basic precautions, most travelers find Vietnam to be an easy and comfortable place to travel. In spite of America’s turbulent history with the country, most Vietnamese are very friendly toward Americans, and to foreigners in general.

Ho Chi Minh City is big, and, as is the case in any big city, there are a few unscrupulous people to watch out for. We will fill you in ahead of time on how to minimize your risks and have a comfortable time there.

One legitimate risk in big Vietnamese cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho is that crossing the street often requires wading through a sea of motorbikes. This can actually become a fun experience once you have mastered it… and we’ll teach you how to do it on our first morning!

As most flights from America to Vietnam arrive late at night, we include a transfer for you from the airport to the hotel. Once you have cleared customs, someone will meet you in the arrivals terminal and whisk you safely to the tour hotel. (Of course, if you are arriving by some other form of transportation, you are free to make your own way to the hotel. If you’ll need a taxi, let us know and we can fill you in on which taxi companies are most reliable.)

We introduce you to the local cuisine at fun group meals so you know what to order when you’re out on your own.

We introduce you to the local cuisine at fun group meals so you know what to order when you’re out on your own.

What is the food like?

Scrumptious and healthy! Our group meals will feature food that’s representative of the local cuisine, yet agreeable to the Western palate. If you are a more adventurous eater, Vietnam does have some delicacies that might make some Westerners squirm, but which we’re happy to help you order.

One of the staples in the Vietnamese diet is pho, a fragrant soup made with rice noodles, herbs, vegetables, and meat or tofu. It’s mild in its most basic form, and you can always spice it up with some hot pepper sauce if you like.

Much of the food in Vietnam is both wheat/gluten-free and dairy-free, making it an easy place to travel for people with common food allergies. Vegetarian options are plentiful and tasty. The array of fruits — from mangos and lychees to more exotic fruits like durian and dragonfruit — is vast.

When it comes to beverages, there’s nothing quite like poking a straw through the husk of a chilled young coconut and slurping the milk. Vietnamese coffee has a unique, rich and earthy flavor. It is strong and delicious, and can be ordered hot or iced. When it comes to beverages of the adult persuasion, the Vietnamese brew some good lager beers and make locally produced wine. They also make some of the tastiest rum on Earth and a variety of liquors distilled from sweet sticky rice and fruits.

Buy fresh papayas, mangos, lychees, and dragonfruit – fresh off the boat in the Mekong Delta floating markets.

Buy fresh papayas, mangos, lychees, and dragonfruit – fresh off the boat in the Mekong Delta floating markets.

What are the people like?

At the risk of generalizing, you’ll find most people in Vietnam to be friendly, easy-going, cheerful, and industrious. While Vietnamese is a challenging language for most native English speakers to pronounce, many Vietnamese people, especially younger people, speak enough English to make communicating easy.

Are there health issues I should be concerned about?

Before departing on this tour, you should talk to your doctor about basic precautions. The following information is NOT professional medical advice and should not be treated as such. Hepatitis A and B, and Typhoid (now available in pill form) are recommended inoculations, as well as the usual jabs that doctors recommend you stay up to date on (i.e. Tetanus, Measles, etc.) Your doctor will also likely suggest you bring medicine for upset stomachs (i.e. Immodium and/or Pepto Bismol). In addition, your doctor might want to prescribe an antibiotic, such as Cipro, used to treat more stubborn cases of traveler’s diarrhea. While travelers occasionally do encounter such unpleasantries, they are usually mild and short-lived.

Pharmacies in Vietnam carry many of the medicines available in the West; however, it’s not a bad idea to stock up on the basic medicines that are familiar to you before you leave if you think you’ll need them.

Your nose will lead you to prickly piles of durian fruit.

Your nose will lead you to prickly piles of durian fruit.

Visitors to Vietnam are advised not to drink tap water; in fact, even most local residents drink bottled water. Bottled water is easy to find, inexpensive, and safe to drink. The good news is, unlike many parts of the world, ice in restaurants is usually safe. Most restaurants have ice delivered from factories, who freeze it using purified water.

Do I need a visa or other legal documents for Vietnam?

Yes. For starters, your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your date of entry into the country, even if you do not intend to stay that long. In addition, Americans and citizens of many other countries need to have a tourist visa. For Americans, this visa must be obtained in advance from a Vietnamese consulate in the United States (or elsewhere). At the present time, the fee for Americans for a single-entry visa is $65. We do not recommend obtaining your visa through a “visa service.” These so-called “services” just tack on needless service fees and forward your paperwork to the embassy or consulate when you can do that yourself just as easily. Once you’ve signed up for a tour, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help obtaining your visa.

Is it possible to visit other parts of Asia independently after the tour? Can Globejotter Tours help with these arrangements?

If you have more than two weeks to explore, there’s so much more to see in the region! Northern Vietnam offers more magnificent scenery. The legendary temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia are an easy journey from Ho Chi Minh City, and cheap flights to many other parts of Asia are easy to find. Once you’ve booked a tour, we’re happy to make suggestions if you have more time to spend…and we can also steer you toward Vietnamese travel companies we know and trust.

Colorful characters offer spontaneous entertainment at our favorite Saigon park.

Colorful characters offer spontaneous entertainment at our favorite Saigon park.

Will I feel comfortable by myself when there is free time for the group?

We certainly hope so! We realize that for many people on our tours, Vietnam offers a new and foreign culture. Furthermore, Saigon’s traffic can seem crazy at first, but as time passes and you get more comfortable, it becomes crazy in a fun way. We’ll give you a thorough orientation in each new city and town, so you’ll know about things to see and do, as well as how to get around safely and comfortably.

Why does this tour only explore southern Vietnam?

Vietnam is a long, skinny country, with far more to see and do than we can squeeze into two weeks. Rather than blitzing through the entire country, we focus our tour on the southern highlights and take our time to get to know each place we visit. If there’s interest in the future, we will consider separate itineraries that cover the north, or nearby countries such as Cambodia and Laos.

What are the accommodations like on this tour?

Safe and comfortable, for starters. We do not believe in isolating ourselves in luxury hotels. We do believe in safe, clean, central locations. On 12 of our 13 nights in Vietnam, we’ll stay in air-conditioned 3-star hotels with private bathrooms. On one night, we’ll experience a fun and traditional Vietnamese homestay. Please see our Accommodations page for more information.

What will the weather be like?

Southern Vietnam has a tropical climate — with daytime temperatures around 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit / 25 to 30 Celcius, and evening temps between 60 and 70 Fahrenheit / 15 to 20 Celcius. It occasionally gets cooler and/or breezy at night, so a sweater or lightweight jacket is good to have in the evenings. By late October, the rainy season is winding down so we hope for mostly sunny weather. However, there are occasional downpours, most of which are short-lived but heavy. These tropical cloudbursts are great fun to watch, as long as you’re not caught in one unprepared. A lightweight jacket, rain poncho, or umbrella is advised.

For general questions about Globejotter Tours, please see our main FAQs page.

Our Accommodations in Vietnam

Our Vietnam tour will enjoy a nifty and diverse range of accommodations: Comfortable three-star hotels in Saigon and Can Tho, a beachside resort in Mui Ne, and a fun and unique “homestay” experience in the Mekong Delta. With the exception of our one-night homestay, all hotels will have air conditioning and private baths.

On most nights, we sleep in cozy, air-conditioned, three-star hotels.

On most nights, we sleep in cozy, air-conditioned, three-star hotels.

Ho Chi Minh City: Our Saigon hotel will offer three-star accommodations with air-conditioning, laundry service, minibars (with reasonably priced cool drinks after our hot days of exploring), and more. We’ll sleep in the heart of Saigon’s District 1 / Pham Ngu Lao neighborhood, a convenient walk to restaurants, shops, and anything else you are likely to need. One of the best things about this neighborhood is a large park where friendly students gather each night to hang out, play games, and — if you linger and smile — practice their English. Since many of our tour members will be arriving late at night, the tour will include a free pick-up and transfer to our hotel for anyone arriving at the airport. When it’s time to leave at the end of the trip (and if you are arriving by a different means of transport at the beginning, or staying at a different hotel prior to the tour) we will help you organize safe and reasonably-priced transportation to wherever you need to go. (4 nights in Ho Chi Minh City at the start of the tour, 2 nights at the end.)

Can Tho: As in Saigon, we’ll stay at a comfortable three-star hotel with similar amenities in Can Tho. Again, we’ll be centrally located, a short walk from the shores of the Mekong River. (2 nights)

We spend one night at a simple and traditional Vietnamese “homestay.”

We spend one night at a simple and traditional Vietnamese “homestay.” At Vinh Long, cool evening breezes lull visitors to sleep after a hot day in the delta.

Mekong Delta: We’ll be “roughing it in style” for one night in the Mekong Delta at a traditional Vietnamese “homestay.” The Mai Quoc Nam Homestay is not actually a house. Rather, it's a family-owned complex of covered piers overlooking the Mekong River. Lush palm trees fill the surrounding river delta. Early risers might be lucky enough to catch one of the Mekong's fiery sunrises.

One pier serves as a communal sleeping area for our group. Another is our outdoor "dining room." For this one night, we'll sleep on cots in one big, partially-enclosed space. Roll-down shades and mosquito nets help keep our sleeping quarters critter-free. The one part of the homestay that's inside is the bathrooms, which include clean, western-style toilets and showers. (This is the one night on our tour when solo travelers who pay a single supplement will share sleeping quarters with the rest of the group.)

Think of it as a big group slumber party, or, as our local guide Phúc calls it, "summer camp with a beer fridge." (Not to mention delicious home cooking, freshly caught fish, decadently juicy tropical fruits, locally distilled sticky-rice wine, and more!) You'll have free time to lounge by the river, catch up on your writing, or rent a bike and explore nearby villages and the network of paths that weave through the jungle. While we realize some travelers might shy away from this friendly, communal living experience, the Mai Quoc Nam Homestay is clean, comfortable, and super fun. It's common for Vietnamese people to snooze outside in hotter weather, and families often share sleeping quarters, so this is a quintissentially Vietnamese living arrangement. We considered staying at a hotel instead, but feel that a homestay offers a more unique cultural experience. We sincerely believe that the types of travelers we like on our tours will have way more fun in a homestay than at a more upscale hotel. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Mui Ne resort.

By the pool or by the ocean, our beachfront resort in Mui Ne offers plenty of spots to write and relax.

Mui Ne: If you’re going to hang out on the shores of the South China Sea, you might as well live it up a little! For four nights in Mui Ne, we’ll stay in a three-star beachside resort with the same comforts as our Saigon and Can Tho hotels, plus a swimming pool and private beach. Mui Ne is a fascinating place with a split personality of sorts — one part sleepy fishing village, one part tourist resort area. Large scale tourism did not arrive in Mui Ne until 1995, when the town happened to fall directly in the path of a total solar eclipse. People from all over the world flocked to the town to view the phenomenon, and residents suddenly discovered that outsiders were enthralled by their expansive stretch of beach and nearby sand dunes. Since then, dozens of resorts have sprouted along the coast, but most of the tourism has been kept a non-disruptive distance from the more traditional village. As visitors, we get the best of both worlds: a spiffy resort, and small-town Vietnamese culture in easy reach by taxi or rented bicycle.