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From the Ground: New Culture and Cooking Tour in Duong Lam Village

By Jay Austin

We are excited to offer this new tour, located in Duong Lam Village, outside of Hanoi, provides guests with the rare opportunity to experience a more traditional part of Vietnam, away from the typical travel routes and provides a nice contrast to the frantic pace of bustling Hanoi. This tour offers a mix of culture, cooking and exploring which provides a well-rounded list of activities for the day!

What you can expect from this tour:

Duong Lam Village is located in a farming district of the Red River Delta region. Starting early, you will meet your local guide and take part in a quick workshop in Vietnamese language and market tactics, before you try shopping and bargaining to source the ingredients for your cooking session. Absorb the bustling atmosphere from the authentic village market, and then turn your attention to cooking and enjoying your traditional Northern Vietnamese home-cooked meal.  This village is well known for its tradition of candy-making and you’ll have the chance to try a selection of tasty treats, and perhaps try making some candy yourself! Our team favorite is Kẹo Lạc (peanut brittle) – delicious! After lunch, walk or cycle through narrow alleyways of the area’s villages and open roads of the countryside. Explore age-old ancient houses, observe the unique architecture, and meet the locals.

Vietnam Offers E-Visas to Arriving Guests

By Jay Austin

In February 2017, the Vietnamese government began offering 30 day single entry visas electronically to entrants from 40 countries including the USA and Canada. The E-Visa (Electronic Visa) system requires travelers to complete an online form, upload a copy of their passport along with a passport photo. The process requires a non-refundable online payment of $25USD per person to be made by the traveler to complete the application.

 A Normal Tourist E-Visa on Arrival Approval Letter takes approximately 3 days from the date of application. Once approved, a visa approval letter will be forwarded to your specified email address. Guests traveling to Vietnam must carry a printed copy of the visa approval letter and their passport (with validity of at least 6 months from the date of arrival). Vietnam immigration officials will take your visa approval letter on arrival which includes a code, visa number and barcode and will place a stamp in your passport granting you entry into the country.

This new E-Visa application process replaces the previous process of applying through a Vietnamese Embassy and negates the need to send your passport to an Embassy as part of this process. This is a wonderful step in the direction of ease for travelers wishing to take care of their own entry requirements for the country. Our local Vietnam offices have noted a few warnings to be heeded by guests wishing to arrange their own visas through this new system:

E-Visas are only valid for a single entry of 30 days or less

Guests who have an itinerary that takes them into Vietnam on more than one occasion or for more than 30 days are not able to secure an E-Visa for entry. In this situation, the visa must still be processed via the nearest Vietnamese Embassy, or through an agent such as Journeys Within.

Guests have been experiencing long wait times on arrival at international airports

Our offices in both Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the country’s capital of Hanoi have both reported the E-Visa line being the longest line of arrivals in Vietnamese Immigration halls.

If there is the slightest mistake on your approval letter, you may not be allowed entry into the country

The Vietnamese Immigration office is a stickler for detail. As with many countries in the world, your visa information must match your passport exactly, without any variation. Even one letter, or number, out of place may see you denied access to the country.

E-Visas are valid for land border crossings & international airport arrivals

Below are the land border crossings and international airports that can process E-visa arrivals into Vietnam:

  • Can Tho International Airport
  • Danang International Airport
  • Noi Bai International Airport (Hanoi)
  • Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City)
  • Phu Bai International Airport (Hue)
  • Phu Quoc International Airport
  • Cat Bi International Airport (Hai Phong)
  • Cam Ranh International Airport (Khanh Hoa)
  • Nam Can Landport
  • Song Tien Landport
  • Tinh Bien Landport
  • Xa Mat Landport
  • Mong Cai Landport
  • Moc Bai Landport
  • Lao Bao Landport
  • Ha Tien Landport
  • Huu Nghi Landport
  • Cau Treo Landport
  • Cha Lo Landport
  • Bo Y Landport
  • Lao Cai Landport
  • Ho Chi Minh City Seaport
  • Quy Nhon Seaport
  • Nha Trang Seaport
  • Hai Phong Seaport
  • Hon Gai Seaport
  • Danang Seaport
  • Vung Tau Seaport

You must have at least 3 blank pages in your passport to enter the country

Our Vietnam offices warn guests that in all circumstances, no matter how you obtain your entry visa into the country, every guest must have at least 3 blank pages in their passport on arrival. The Vietnam Visa stamp requires 1 full page in your passport. It is advised that guests have at least 3 blank passport pages available per country visited to ensure that no complications are experienced on arrival.

While the E-Visa process seems simple, we still recommend allowing Journeys Within to take care of your Vietnamese Visa on your behalf to ensure a smooth and hassle free arrival into the country. The Journeys Within visa service in Vietnam includes a fast track VIP arrival which includes a personal meet and greet on arrival, much less time in visa queues and personal support to ensure a smooth arrival process.

*Please note: All details were confirmed by Vietnam Immigration officials to be correct at the time of writing, however regulations may change without notice at the discretion of the Vietnam Immigration Office.

From the Ground: New Sunset Hoi An Kayaking Tour

By Jay Austin

Our new Sunset Kayaking Tour in Hoi An provides guests with the opportunity to see Hoi An from a different viewpoint and take in the serenity of life along the river and escape a little of the tourist bustle from old town Hoi An. This is the perfect addition to the beach portion of a tour, as it provides a little activity without intruding too much on your relaxation time at the beach.  This tour also pairs well with our ‘Wander the Ancient Town’ tour, which leads guest through the historical houses and community halls of beautiful Hoi An.

What you can expect from this tour:

Enjoy a leisurely paddle through the palm islands as you explore the Thu Bon River from the islands to the ancient town of Hoi An. The tour starts at 3pm allowing plenty of time to capture stunning images from your kayak of the passing scenery before you reach your sunset location. As the sun goes down enjoy the reflections of the ancient houses in the calm waters, while the area takes on a fantasy-like glow. For the more adventurous guests, there is an option to swap your kayak for a Stand-Up Paddleboard, providing a higher viewpoint of the surrounding scenery.  This tour is guided by an adventure guide, highly trained in safety procedures.

Please note: Dry bags are not provided, so those who are planning on bringing camera equipment should be sure to carry either a waterproof camera or a dry bag for the experience.

Returning Veteran Tours

Journeys Within guest and returning veteran, Dave, with Mr. Nam, a Vietnamese Veteran

We often work with returning veterans heading back to Vietnam to revisit the areas where they served and to see Vietnam as it is today, along with their families.  These tours are very meaningful to us and each is tailored to specific experiences, needs and desires of each veteran.  For those who are interested, we often incorporate meetings with Vietnamese veterans in the spirit of reconciliation and healing.  Our returning veterans always give us very positive feedback and we are proud to offer 10% discounts to all active duty and retired members of the armed forces.

Southern Vietnam Director Khoa with Journeys Within guest and returning veteran, Marc

Here is an example one of our favorite returning veteran tours that we put together this spring for a guest who had served in Central Vietnam:

01 May 17   Hoi An: Arrival

Arrive on your flight – Cathay Dragon CX 5224 departing Hong Kong at 17:30 and arriving in Danang at 18:20. (guest booked flight)  Your guide will meet you at Danang Airport for your private transfer of about 45 minutes to your hotel in Hoi An for check in.

Please note: May 1st is a National Holiday in Vietnam so their airports may be particularly crowded on this day.

Meals Included: None

Overnight at Little Hoi An Central Boutique Hotel – 1 Double Grand Deluxe Room

02 May 17   Hoi An: Wander the Ancient Town

Your guide, Hieu, will meet you at your hotel at 8am and together you will head out on a walking tour of Hoi An for a few hours. Visit the Ancient Town, which is home to the beautiful Chua Cau, (roofed bridge), as well as Hoi Quan, the ancient meeting places, some ancestral family homes and some of the lovely hidden pagodas. Time permitting, you have the option to head outside the Ancient Town and learn more about the Hoi An of today. In the spirit of tradition, you’ll also have the chance to enjoy the famous cuisine of Central Vietnam in a local restaurant in the old part of town. You have up to 4 hours to explore with your guide today.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner (Discuss today’s schedule with your guide.)

Overnight at Little Hoi An Central Boutique Hotel – 1 Double Grand Deluxe Room

03 May 17   Hoi An to Tam Ky and Chu Lai: Military Historical Customized Tour – Day 1

Your guide, Hieu, will meet you at your hotel reception at 8am. We will have a “then and now” file prepared for you to refer to together as you make your trip down memory lane over the next few days. Your days are at your pace and your experience will depend on the locations you choose to visit and the people you will interact with along the way.  Some of the times in transport may be longer than we would normally prefer, and so please feel welcome to request your guide for additional stops whenever you need them, and we will also have cushions in your road transport for added comfort.

We recommend that you will visit the Tam Ky area first before making your way Chu Lai and then to Tam Hoa Dock for your speedboat to your resort for check-in. Your road journey today south from Hoi An to Tam Ky will take around 2 hours, with an additional hour’s drive from Tam Ky to Chu Lai, your furthest point southwards.

Hieu will discuss plans with you in advance for your first military historical day highlights in Tam Ky and Chu Lai.  Options include: Chu Lai Airport, the Martyr Cemetery (for Vietnamese guerilla soldiers), Ky Anh Tunnels (completed around 1967 for moving medical supplies and rescue assistance for the guerilla resistance), Tam Ky City, and Chu Lai Airfield (All that remains is a landscape of bomb craters and airstrips, although in the far distance you can still make out some old airplane hangars to the east of the airstrip). Chu Lai Airfield is located south of Highway 1 near the city of Tam Ky and was of critical importance during the Vietnam War for the American military for reconnaissance and security missions. Chu Lai was not a Vietnamese town, as many thought. It was named after the Marine general officer Krulak’s Chinese Mandarin pronunciation of his initials. Approval to build Chu Lai was worked out in March-April 1965 by Defense Secretary McNamara. Chu Lai was an important base for the American Army, Navy and Air Force during the war, and one which was heavily bombed by the North Vietnamese towards the end of the war.   Uncle Ba Lai would also like to welcome you both to his home to join him for a drink and discuss the past, present and future (he joined the guerilla resistance when he was 17).

Although not related to the war, you may also be interested in visiting: Nuoc Mam Fish Sauce Factory, Khong Mieu (Confuscism Temple), Caodaism Temple, Bich Hoa Village (a former fishing village turned art village), and Khuong My Champa Temple.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, snacks en-route

Overnight at Le Domaine De Tam Hai Resort – 1 Double Villa

04 May 17   Tam Ky: Military Historical Customized Tour – Day 2

Meet your guide, Hieu, in your resort reception area at your agreed time. Today will be a big day as you will visit Fire Support Bases and Landing Zones LZ Baldy and LZ Ross, which were based along route 611, and performed daily clearing and securing of route 535 from ambush and mines with the aim to enable the movement of supplies and personnel along the route.  LZ Ross was also a refueling point between LZ Baldy and the Hiep Duc area.  In 1965, the Killer Kane operation in Hiep Duc valley saw a high proportion of “radio men” lose their lives. Often anyone near an antenna was shot by NVA snipers. Following the operation, the valley earned the nickname “Antenna Valley” in honor of the casualties. Antenna Valley runs from the Thu Bon River to the Que Son Pass. Hiep Duc Valley connects with Que Son Valley. The area was a free fire zone and reconnaissance in the area brought in artillery or air-strikes as needed to secure the area from enemy forces. Antenna Valley is also sometimes known as Dragon Valley, and is quite hard to identify today, but take your time to explore with your guide as the main base changed location from time to time during the war between Hiep Duc and Que Son and you may discover more together with local support and your guide Hieu’s interpreting help today.  At LZ Baldy – There is still some existing evidence such as the Vietnam Army Base (former LZ Baldy US base), and you’ll have the chance to visit Provincial Road No.611, Huong An Town (the area around LZ Baldy), Vung Che Bridge, and LZ Ross which is now a strip of low mountains with a large monument to the Cam Doi area to one side.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, snacks en-route

Overnight at Le Domaine De Tam Hai Resort – 1 Double Villa

05 May 17   Tam Ky: Military Historical Customized Tour – Day 3

Today you have a guide and driver with you to continue to explore the surrounding region. This day has been built in to revisit places you wanted to spend more time, or to catch places you missed in the previous two days. Discuss with your guide what you would like to do today.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, snacks en-route

Overnight at Le Domaine De Tam Hai Resort – 1 Double Villa

06 May 17   Tam Ky to Hoi An: Military Historical Customized Tour – Day 4

Today you will be met by your guide and driver will be transferred back to Hoi An.

Meals included: Breakfast

Overnight at Little Hoi An Central Boutique Hotel – 1 Double Grand Deluxe Room

07 May 17   Hoi An: Departure

Your guide will meet you at your hotel for your private transfer of about 45 minutes to the airport in Danang and will ensure that you arrive in time for your onward flight – Cathay Dragon CX 5221 departing Danang at 09:50 and arriving in Hong Kong at 12:45. (guest booked flight)

Meals included: Breakfast

Tour Rate:           $ 2,480.00 total for two travelers

                                $ 1,240.00 per person based on two people traveling

Journeys Within guest and returning veteran Lewis, with his wife Susan and guide Ms. Nguyen at the West Gate of Dong Du Base

Thank you from Wendell Alderson & Ken Nather

Photo Credit: Wendell Alderson & Ken Nather

Our mission is to make each and every trip a unique and memorable experience, so we especially love it when we hear back from guests and get to see their photos.  This note and these photos are from Journeys Within guests, Wendell Alderson and Ken Nather:

We loved our holiday in Vietnam and Cambodia.  You did a great job picking out hotels and things for us to do that matched the way we travel. There seemed to be enough down time for Ken and I to explore on our own which we love to do. Thanks for that.

We really enjoyed the moped tours of the HCMC and Hoi An. That was one of our highlights.

The staff at every place was stayed was above and beyond our expectation. Everyone so very nice and accommodating to us.  Ending our holiday at a beach resort was perfect. Loved the place we stayed.

I liked having some flexibility as well. When we got to Siem Reap it was very hot in the afternoons. After speaking with the guide we changed our bike ride to a morning ride instead of an afternoon ride. We drove to the village for the tour and that was great and the next am at 7 we did a bike ride around Angkor Tom and the jungle area. That was perfect. Each day there we were done touring/biking by 2pm and back at the pool with a drink in our hand.

The bike rides were leisurely and very beautiful. I know we would never have seen these areas without the bike rides. We loved our lunch the day we did our bike ride outside of Ha Noi. We learned how to make spring rolls and even shopped in the market for the ingredients.

Thanks again for wonderful holiday.

Best, Wendell & Ken