From this year I am now offering to lead cultural-historical tours of Vietnam, from north to south. The journey begins in the north, the cradle of Vietnamese culture and identity, with visits to sites important in Vietnam’s history and cultural development, emphasizing what is uniquely indigenous. This part of the tour will include the Old Quarter and historical monuments in Hanoi, temples and craft villages across the Red River, a traditional Vietnamese village and a citadel west of Hanoi, a visit to the ancient capital of Hoa Lư and an overnight excursion to Hạ Long Bay, a World Heritage Site for its breathtaking scenery and the site of many famous naval battles in Vietnamese history.
From here we proceed to Central Vietnam to follow the historic migration of the Vietnamese people. Here we will visit Huế to see the relics of the last native dynasty, Hội An, a World Heritage Site and an important port until the late 18th century, Mỹ Sơn, also a World Heritage Site, and other vestiges of ancient Chăm civilization in Bình Định, Nha Trang and Phan Rang. Various Chăm states used to rule over Central Vietnam from Quảng Bình to Bình Thuận and in this part of the tour you will learn how and why Vietnamese first migrated here, what adaptations they had to make, the history and legacy of the Chăm and what influence they had on the Vietnamese. You will also learn about how Vietnam became divided from the early 17th century, what caused its civil war and how it was ultimately resolved at the beginning of the 19th century.
The last part of our tour takes us to the Mekong Delta. Until the late 17th century this part of the country was largely swamp and forest, sparsely populated, mainly inhabited by Khmer, concentrated at the mouth of the Mekong and further west near the modern border with Cambodia. On this part of the tour we will see Saigon and learn of its history by visits to its oldest temples, the Chinese quarter and the History Museum. We will then make excursions to Sọc Trăng and Trà Vinh, home to the most ancient Khmer communities and learn about their history by visits to famous temples, museums and contemporary villages. Our last stop will be Vĩnh Long, where we will take a boat ride through the rural canals of the province and learn how the Vietnamese transformed the Mekong Delta into the agricultural wonder it is today.
My tour differs from the ordinary programs, even when it covers many of the same attractions, by its in-depth explanations of what the visitor sees and its significance. The itinerary basically follows the history I’ve written up in my newest book, to be published later this year, Delta to Delta: The Vietnamese Move South. This work narrates the story of how Vietnam, divided into three separate parts in the 15th century, became one by the end of the 18th century. I don’t ignore developments outside this time frame, but by concentrating on this period you will understand the nature and character of Vietnam, one of the fastest growing and most interesting countries in Southeast Asia. It will be the equivalent of a university course on Vietnam‘s history and culture and an unforgettable adventure.
I have arranged with a respected Hanoi tour company the accommodations, transport, meals, etc for the logistics of the tour. The schedule is full, but not physically demanding. The hotels are all comfortable, three-star or better, in convenient locations at each stop. For more information on the tour and its destinations, see http://deltatoursvietnam.com