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Jewels of Vietnam
16day Package Tour Vietnam

Our Clients Reviews: 9.6/10 Excellent
16 day tour vietnam  reviews 366 tour reviews

From: Carl Johan Ahderseh [carlja@online.no]
Sent: 2013-04-04 18:09:10 CEST
To: Thai Dang [info@deluxevietnamtours.com]
Subject: How is your trip back to Norway

Hi again my friend and thanks a lot for the e-mail.
We have a good trip back to Norway, but its a long jurney. 13 hours from Hanoi to Paris...and after 4 hours in Paris...2 hours to Oslo. I want to say thank you again for the great job you done for us. I think the hole programme you and me had make was perfect. The restaurants we choose etc etc...

Everybody was so happy with you and me for what we do for my friends. Its was a great group....friendsship, laughs and so on...somebody said it was the best jurney ever. The driver was very clever....safe and a good driver in the traffic. What about our guide , the driver and the boy...was all of you happy with us?

Best Regards,
Carl Johan

16 day Tour Vietnam Overview:

16day Vietnam tour with all top destinations: Hanoi - Halong Bay - Sapa - Hue - Hoian - Myson - Mekong delta. Watch Videos to learn how Vietnam trip will be.

16 days Package Tour Vietnam Itinerary
Day 1: Hanoi Arrival
Day 2: Hanoi Orientation - Lao Cai
Day 3: Lao Cai - Lung Khau Nhin market - Sapa
Day 4: Sapa - best of Vietnam tours
Day 5: Sapa - Hanoi
Day 6: Hanoi - Halong Bay
Day 7: Halong Bay- Hanoi
Day 8: Hanoi - Hue
Day 9: Hue - Danang - Hoi An
Day 10: Hoi An - My Son - Hoi An
Day 11: Hoi An - Ho Chi Minh City
Day 12: Ho Chi Minh City
Day 13: Ho Chi Minh City - Vinh Long - Can Tho
Day 14: Can Tho - Ho Chi Minh City
Day 15: Ho Chi Minh City - Tay Ninh - Cu Chi
Day 16: Saigon - Departure.

Contact Mr. Fish from Australia: ajmfish@gmail.com - Phone +61 (0) 353608226 / Mobile 0406721727 to learn how they enjoyed their 31 day Tour Vietnam and Cambodia with us!
vietnam tour reviews

Day 1: First Glance at Hanoi

You will be welcomed and picked by our guide of Deluxe Vietnam Tours Hanoi base company. Transfer to your hotel in Hanoi Old Quarter for leisure. If time is permited, enjoy a performance of traditional Water Puppetry (an unique art form for culture tour Vietnam). Overnight in Hanoi.

Pakcage Tour Vietnam Includings :
Car, tour guide, hotel

Day 2: Hanoi tour to Laocai

Explore Vietnam’s capital city with the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam dating back to the 11th century, and a popular attraction, as is Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, his simple stilt house where he lived and worked, and the museum dedicated to his memory.

In the afternoon, tour Hanoi with the serene Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest in Hanoi, on a small island of Westlake. Then, take a cyclo ride around bustling Old Quarter - a maze of commercial streets and restaurants with a hotchpotch of architecture - traditional tube houses, religious buildings, artisans’ workshops and cottages, colonial houses and modern concrete edifices. It’s noisy and hectic, but definitely a ‘must-do’ on your Vietnam tour package. Then, deeply explore Vietnamese culture with street food tour in Hanoi. Boarding on the overnight train to Lao Cai. Overnight on the train.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, train, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L

Day 3: Lao Cai - Lung Khau Nhin market - Sapa

Arriving in Lao Cai station in the early morning, you’ll be met by the guide of Deluxe Vietnam Tours at Lao Cai office. Then, drive to Lung Khau Nhin market of ethnic minority peoples. Discover the social market and continue your journey to Sapa, a small mountain town perched on the mountainside opposite Mt. Fan Si Pan, the highest peak of Indochina. Spend the night in a hotel with good mountain views.

Although it’s quite a long drive, the landscape is attractive and the ethnic markets are a fascinating experience. Unlike those in the tourist areas, the markets that we choose are for not only for buying and selling, but are also meeting places for ethnic minority people to meet and exchange news. There will be plenty of colour and authentic costumes, but very little to buy as souvenirs unless you want to barter for a water buffalo or a sack of fertiliser! The trips to ethnic minority markets must be on Tuesday (Coc Ly or Ban Cam market), Thursday (Lung Khau Nhin market), Saturday (Can Cau) or Sunday (Bac Ha, Muong Hum or Muong Khuong markets).

Package Tour Vietnam Including :
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L

Day 4: Sapa - Best Vietnam tour in eco style

After breakfast, you’ll hike down a scenic Muong Hoa valley calling in at the H’mong ethnic minority villages on the way. After a streamside picnic lunch at Ta Van village, continue to trek to Giang Ta Chai village, you’ll drive to more villages belonging to the H’mong, Dzay and Red Dao ethnic minority groups. Overnight in Sapa.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L

Day 5: Sapa - Laocai - Hanoi

A morning stroll to the town’s busy market. Free time for shopping. Afternoon, Visit Ta Phin village of Red Dzao and Black H'mong people. Then, drive to Lao Cai station for the overnight train to Hanoi. Overnight on the train.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L

Day 6: Hanoi to Halong Bay

Arriving in Hanoi station in the early morning, you’ll be picked up by the local tour guide of Deluxe Vietnam Tours Hanoi office for breakfast. Then, leave for Halong Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. Boarding Indochina Sails, one of the best wooden Halong bay cruises, takes you through Bai Tu Long Bay. Then, continue your cruise to the busy World Heritage area to visit the water cave for investigating one of the bay’s sea level caves and surrounding area in a small sampan. Your halong bay tour include a visit to an island beach. Weather permitting, you’ll be able to swim, fish, and climb a hill for the remarkable seascape.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L

Day 7: Halong Bay to Hanoi

Start your Halong bay tour by joining Taichi class on the sundeck. After morning tea, Visit Surprising cave - one of highlights on Vietnam tour package. 9:30 Enjoy delicous brunch while cruising Halong Bay through stunning scenery of many naturally shapes islands 11:00 Drive back to Hanoi. On the way, visit Dong Trieu pottery village. Overnight in Hanoi.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L

Day 8: Hanoi - Hue, UNESCO Heritage site for Vietnam trip

After breakfast, transfer to the airport to take your morning flight to Hue - the imperial of the Nguyen Dynasty between 1802 and 1945. As such, it is well known for its monuments and architecture. Our guide of Deluxe Vietnam Tours will meet you in Hue and drive to hotel to check-in. Visit the Imperial Citadel, and Emperor Khai Dinh’s mausoleum. Free shopping in Dong Ba market. Overnight in Hue.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L

Day 9: Hue - Hoian

Today, tour Vietnam with Thien Mu pagoda, the most beautiful pagoda in Hue city. Then, visit Tu Duc Emperor's mausoleum - a wonderful park. Here, you will see how the king prepared and welcomed his after-life. Drive to Hoian through Hai Van pass for the panorama. Take a short trip to the Cham Museum famous for Cham scupture arts and handicraft villages on the foot of Marble Mountain. Overnight in Hue.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L

Day 10: Hoian - Myson - Hoian

Deeply being impressed by the holy towers built by Cham people - highlight of your Vietnam tour, you will have chances to experience their construction techniques which are still unknown to all scientists. Enjoy Cham music show if come a litle early in the morning to learn more their culture. Afternoon, take a walking tour through the narrow winding streets of the Ancient Quarter visiting Chua Ong Pagoda, Chinese Assembly Halls, the 200 - year old Tam Ky ancestral house, and the Japanese Bridge. Overnight in Hoian.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L

Day 11: Hoian - Saigon

Morning free for your own activities at the hotel This afternoon, we will take a flight to Saigon. Upon arrival in Tan Son Nhat airport, you are met by our guide of Deluxe Vietnam Tours and transferred downtown for check in. Rest of the day is for your own activities. Overnight at hotel in Saigon.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L

Day 12: Saigon city tour

Your Vietnam tour to visit Central Post Office – the old office with colonial architecture, The Opera House – one of the best opera house in Vietnam, City House and Presidential Palace – the building is the Southern Vietnamese President office during the American war. China Town and Thien Hau Pagoda. Free time for shopping in Ben Thanh market. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

Package Tour Vietnam Including :
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L

Day 13: Saigon - Mekong Waterways

Coach trip to My Tho (2-hour drive from Saigon). My Tho is a prosperous town of 170,000 inhabitants in the Mekong Delta. It is famous for its extensive orchards and immense rice fields. Enjoy a boat ride on the Mekong River to discover their water life and visit a fish farm, an orchard on an island, with lunch en route. Visit a coco candy factory where you can taste local specialties. Take a coach to visit a garden house and enjoy tea with honey and fresh tropical fruits. Continue with a visit to a snake farm and then drive Can Tho City - the largest city in Mekong Vietnam. Overnight in Can Tho.

Package Tour Vietnam Including :
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L

Day 14: Mytho - Vinhlong - Saigon

Take a boat trip on the Mekong River to visit Cai Rang Floating Market, most famous and biggest floating market in Mekong Vietnam . Expereince the waterlife: a maze of hundred boats packed with vegetables, fruits, , foods, plants... The buyers can see from a distance a sample of what the sellers have from the top of a long pole. After lunch, drive to Saigon. Overnight in Saigon.

Package Tour Vietnam Including :
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L

Day 15: Saigon - Cui Chi tunnels

Departure for the Cu Chi Tunnels. Cu Chi Tunnels are an impressive network of tunnels with a length of over 250 km. This strategic place was used by 15,000 Viet Cong fighters during the war. A section of the tunnels has been widened to allow tourists to get a feel for what the life underground must have been like (please note that this will be hot and sweaty and also a bit claustrophobic!).. Back to Saigon. Free and leisure. Overnight in Saigon.

Package Tour Vietnam Including :
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L

Day 16: Saigon Departure

Free and leisure until transfer to the airport for flight home. End of 16day Vietnam Tour

Tour Vietnam Including :
Car, tour guide, meals: B

Other Vietnam tour packages 2016

The daily report of the 31 day tour Vietnam and Cambodia

The report written by tour leader - Rodda
From: rodda524@gmail.com
To: Thai - deluxevietnamtours@gmail.com
Subject: Cambodia & Vietnam tour package review

Hi Thai,
Please see what we did on our Vietnam and Cambodia tour and review for better future trips.

DAY 1. 30 JULY 2013 Australia departure
The day was spent travelling from Australia to Singapore where all the group got together and spent the night at the Park Regis hotel.

Day 2. 31 JULY 2013 TO Hanoi
The morning was spent with a 3 hour flight to Hanoi where we all met our Local Tour guide, Mr Thai from Deluxe Vietnam Tours Hanoi, who took us to our hotel and booked in. In the late afternoon, we were taken on a tour of the Old Quarter of Hanoi in rickshaws where the streets are narrow and the buildings old and historic. We returned to the hotel where we had our Welcome Dinner

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: D

Day 3. 1 August 2013. Full day city tour Hanoi
The day began with a tour of Hanoi. The first visit was Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum which was built in 1975. It houses the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh which is preserved in a cool and darkened hall. He was born in Vietnam in 1890 but left in 1911 to travel around the world. He returned in 1941 and formed the Vietnamese Independence League. In 1955, he became president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Although he died 6 years before reunification, Vietnam’s independence is considered his greatest achievement.

We then visited two of the 600 plus pagodas in Hanoi, the oldest being built in 444. We visited the Temple of Literature which was established in 1070, in honour of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, and which became the first national university in Vietnam. After lunch, we travelled out to a village to visit the Bat Trang Pottery village which is famous for its ceramic items. We visited a family run business called Minh Hai Ceramics which exports products all over the world, including Australia. They use top class white clay to make their unique products. Their turnover currently is $1-2million(USD). We saw how they prepare the clay and make a wide range of products. We then went to another pottery which specialised in ceramic crucifixes, before returning to Hanoi.

We were then taken to a Water Puppet Show which was very interesting and unique of package tour Vietnam. It was held in a theatre where the whole stage was a pool. At the end, the curtain was raised to show all the puppeteers standing waist deep in the water. We returned to our hotel and then had dinner at a local restaurant.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 4. 2 August. Tour Vietnam with farming villages
Following an early breakfast, we set off from Hanoi and drove to a nearby village, Ha Thai. We walked through the main street in which the local market was being held. This market is conducted every day of the week. We walked through some of the narrow side streets and we were surprised at the number and variety of small businesses operating in the village, most of which had nothing to do with agriculture. We found out this was normal in most rural towns and villages as families needed these businesses to survive. Farming is really struggling in Vietnam for a number of reasons (see Introduction) so farmers and their family members work in these businesses in the off seasons to supplement their incomes. We visited a small business that made items out of wood and paper (dragons, elephants, paper money etc.) for display and use at festivals and shows. A lot of these items are burnt at the festivals as part of the local traditions so that’s why they are made out of paper. The paper and wood comes from gum trees, imported from Australia and grown locally, which we discovered was a regular practice in many regions of Vietnam where we saw Australian eucalyptus trees being grown. We then went for a walk through nearby rice fields and banana plantations to visit a farm that was producing ducks, pigs and dogs. The 5ha farm produces about 3000 ducks per year which are bought in A Duck Farm as ducklings and sold locally when they are about 1,5 months old. When sold, the ducks weigh 6-8 kg each and the farmer gets 40,000 dong ($2) per kilo. The ducks are fed on a mixture of rice and corn and are regularly vaccinated. The pigs are bred for meat and sold at 80-100kgs weight. The dogs are bred for protection of the ducks but we also found out later on that they were also bred and sold for meat. After lunch, we visited the Vietnam Dept. of Agriculture’s Fruit and Vegetable Research Institute (FAVRI) situated on the outskirts of Hanoi. It is over 100ha in size and was established in 1990 with a major reorganisation in 2005. FAVRI consists of 6 Research Departments (Fruit Crops, Vegetable and Spice Crops, Handling and Processing, Quality Control, Biotechnology and Marketing \ Economics). There are 3 supplementary departments – Science and International Co-operation, Administration and Personnel and Finance. There is also a production company associated with the Institute whose job it is to sell the new technology to commercial companies which raises money for FAVRI’s running costs.

In the past 10 years, FAVRI has selected and bred 17 new fruit cultivars, 24 vegetable and spicy crops, and 19 flower and ornamental crops. Many improvements and developments have been made, such as mangoes which can be eaten green or yellow (the GL6 variety imported from Australia), a new type of thin skinned pineapple, an early harvest orange variety with fewer seeds and higher quality fruit, new tomatoes with a short maturity of only 60 days, a new type of grafted tomato, chillies selected for high production and anti-virus properties, cucumbers with higher quality and production, and new hydroponic production systems. The Institute does have an extension program for farmers. They conduct one Field Day per year at the Institute plus a few other programs but a nearby farmer, when questioned about these extension programs, was not impressed, telling us the top farmers have to continually seek information from FAVRI all the time to keep up with the latest, rather than waiting for the Institute to promote new developments in the industry.

We then were given a tour of Vietnam with some of the research sites at the Institute before returning to Hanoi for dinner. Afterwards, we all boarded the overnight train for a 9 hour trip to Lao Cai.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 5. 3 August. Tour Vietnam with farming in Sapa
After arriving at Lao Cai station at 5.20am, we transferred to 2 smaller buses for our trip up into the mountains to the city of Sapa - Thai said it is one of the best sightseeing for package tour Vietnam. We had to use smaller buses because the roads were very narrow and winding and big buses cannot travel along these roads. We went straight to our hotel where we dropped off our luggage and then went to another hotel for breakfast.

Following this, we visited a Catholic Church, built by the French in the early 1900’s. Sapa was just a village prior to the French taking over Vietnam. The French saw the location as a great holiday spot for French people so they developed it as a tourist resort which, today, is still a very popular tourist place with plenty of French influence with the buildings etc. and a population of about 100,000 people.

We then spent a couple of hours visiting the Sapa market, a huge place which operates 7 days a week and has large meat and vegetable sections. In the meat market, we saw beef, chicken, fish ducks and dogs (all body parts were available for sale!). The fruit and vegetable markets also had an incredible range of products including baluts (these are fertilised duck eggs that, when cooked, are a real Vietnamese delicacy!).

After lunch, we drove out to Cat Cat village - one of beautiful sightseeing villages for package tour Vietnam and went for a 3km walk up and down a beautiful, picturesque valley. There were small, rice cropping fields everywhere, on steep, terraced areas. They only get one crop per year in this region due to the cold weather at these higher altitudes. One interesting thing we saw was how the local farmers used running water to “power” small grain crushing implements situated on local creeks and channels.

We visited a local farm house where a big family lived. It was very poor and basic. The region is the homeland to the Black Hmong, one of the 84 tribes in Vietnam, and they live in houses made of mud, wattle, bamboo and thatch, surrounded by vats of indigo coloured liquid which is used to give a distinctive coloured dye to their clothing. We then returned to our hotel for the evening.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 6. 4 August. Tour Vietnam with farming villages
We set off at 9.00am for a trip up through the Heaven Gate area. Heaven Gate is the highest pass in Vietnam at 2,070 metres high, with magnificent views of package tour Vietnam. Unfortunately for us, the weather was foggy so we missed these views. On the way we saw a lot of caged dogs being transported to markets on the back of motorcycles. Dogs are considered first class meat in Korea, China and North Vietnam and so the industry is quite big.

Our first visit for the day is the Sapa Cold Water Fish Institute, a business which was established in 2005 with the help from other countries. The location of the Institute was selected because the climate suited the different breeds of fish that were to be trialled here, particularly salmon and sturgeon. About 25,000 salmon eggs were imported from Finland to set up the research institute together with sturgeon from Russia and Siberia. Now there is one other similar breeding centre in Vietnam as they are trying to develop a new industry - One of famous institute for Vietnam farming tour.

We saw the breeding tanks for salmon where the breeders each weigh 30-35kgs. There are 25 different varieties and they are the longest living fish in the world (up to 150 years). The baby salmon are either sold as babies or they are kept for about 3 years, by which time they weigh about 4kgs. The fish are sold at local markets as well as markets all over Vietnam and other Asian countries, with the wholesale price being about $15 per kg.

This year, 2013, has been a difficult year for the Institute. Due to very hot weather and lack of water in the Sapa region, they have lost 10 tonnes of breeders. On top of this they are facing increased competition from Chinese producers who are producing chemically fed fish at much lower prices. The China species are much different in appearance, being longer but thinner. The sturgeon fish are bred and grown to weights of 1.5-2.0 kg when they are sold as breeders for $3-5 each.

The next visit was to a family farm growing roses and vegetables, including chokos. This region is not very suitable for most vegetable production but chokos do well here. Chokos grow on trellised vines but they have to be covered with nets as the fruit ripens to protect the crop. Farmers get 20-30 cents/kg for the vegetables but due to high transport costs, the price in Hanoi is 3-4 times dearer. They also produce roses which they sell locally and at a roadside stop/cafe which they have set up on their farm.

After lunch, we drove to a hill overlooking Lao Chai valley - one of the most beautiful terraced rice field for all package tour Vietnam where we got dropped off for a 4km. walk down through villages (Lao Chai and Tavan) where the hill tribes of Hmong and Red Dzao live. These minority tribes tend to be in the northern parts of the country, up in the mountains, where they struggle to make a living because the bigger tribes took over the more fertile, flatter regions earlier on. Following this beautiful scenic walk, we drove back to Lao Cai where we went to the Vietnamese-China border for a visit and photos. After dinner, we caught the overnight train to Hanoi.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 7. 5 August. Tour Vietnam with Halong Bay
We arrived back in Hanoi at 5am and were taken straight to the Long Bien Wholesale fruit and vegetable market. It operates 7 days per week, commencing at 1am in the morning and closing at 9.00am. The reason for the very early opening is that it is a wholesale market so local retailers can get their supplies in time to sell them that day. There are hundreds of stalls and they sell flowers and vegetables in bulk. Most flowers are grown locally but a lot are imported such as tulips from Holland and banksias from Australia. Leading up to big events or major national days, prices can rise 5-10 times the normal prices.

We then headed off on a 3 hour drive to Halong. On the way we stopped at the town of Hai Duong to visit a centre set up by the government to employ people who have been disabled by Agent Orange. The company which runs it is Chan Thien My Co. P/L, and they make and sell a huge array of items at the centre. You could also buy sweets and have meals there.

On arriving at Halong - the best place for package tour Vietnam, we visited a farm which was producing and selling pearls. The business, “Viet Pearl”, is a joint Vietnam/Japanese company which sells a lot of pearls to Japan as Japanese people use pearls for many celebrations such as engagements and weddings. Pearls are cultivated in 2 different ways – saltwater pearls such as the ones here in Halong Bay and freshwater pearls that are produced in 2 other areas in central Vietnam. The freshwater pearls come from large shells that have 40-50 pearls per shell and take 1 year to grow. The saltwater pearl shells are much smaller and produce only 1-3 pearls per shell every 2-3 years. These are much more expensive to buy. We were shown how they farm and feed the pearl oysters to produce the saltwater pearls. The main market for Vietnamese pearls is Hong Kong from where the pearls are sold all over the world. In Australia, we do produce some pearls up at Broome but we also import a lot. We then went down to Halong Bay and boarded a boat to go sightseeing around Halong Bay. This was a magnificent trip with very scenic views. At one point we disembarked on to smaller boats and were taken through small caves. At the Surprising Cave, we actually were able to walk through the enormous cave which was spectacular. Once back on the boat we went to a nearby beach for a swim and then back to the boat for a shower and a cooking lesson on how to make Vietnamese spring rolls. We had a Happy Hour and dinner on the boat and spent a lovely, peaceful night sleeping on the moored at.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 8. 6 August. Tour Vietnam with Halong Bay
After breakfast on the boat, we were taken on small rowing boats to see some of the monkeys on shore but due to the rainy weather, we did not see any. We then sailed back to Ha Long - best place for Vietnam tour packages and caught the bus back to Hanoi. We had another stop at the Disabled Centre at Hai Duong before heading to the Hanoi University of Agriculture.

This was established in 1956 on a 200ha property on the outskirts of Hanoi - a big stop for all Vietnam tour packages. It has 1270 staff in 13 faculties plus a Consulting Company and 25,000 students. There are 9000 students enrolled annually of which 7000 are full time and 2000 are part time students, plus 60 foreign students. The biggest faculties are Economics, Natural Resources and Animal Science. The University has established academic co-operation with more than 80 institutions throughout the world, including Sydney and Queensland Unis. The University is largely government funded although students do have to pay some fees. Courses generally run for 4-5 years but they do run about 30 short courses per year on a range of subjects.

We then had a talk from Dr. Vu Than regarding the different agricultural systems in Vietnam. These systems vary enormously because of the big variations in soil and climate. The population of Vietnam is 87 million people, about 4 times larger than Australia, but, in size, Vietnam is only 1/27 that of Australia. The population density ranges from 932people/sq. km. in the Mekong Delta to 94 people/sq.km in the Central highlands, with the average being about 260/sq.km. There are 8 different agricultural regions in Vietnam.

1. North East region. This region has 4 normal seasons although they do have some tropical conditions and occasional monsoons. The major crops are rice (2 crops/year in the valleys), cassava, corn, forestry and local animals (buffalo, cattle pigs and poultry, with low to medium productivity). The proportion of poor people (ie earning less than $25USD/month) is 25%.

2. North West Region. Similar to the NE but corn is more prominent and they also have some dairy cattle. Proportion of poor people is 40%.

3. Red River Delta. The climate is tropical with monsoons. There is plenty of water both in big rivers and underground supplies. Brown coal is a big industry in the region. Livestock production is the major industry with plenty of different crops and fishing. The area has about 10-12 typhoons a year but these are becoming more common due to climate change. It is estimated that sea levels will increase by about metre which will drop agricultural production by about 20%.

4. North and South Central Coasts. Very variable climates with rice and cassava being the major crops with sheep being common in the South Coast region.

5. Central Highlands. The major crops are coffee, rice, rubber and pepper.

6. South East region (Ho Chi Minh city). Mainly an industrial region although farming is still prominent.

7. Mekong Delta region. The climate is equatorial, being hot and plenty of rain. Rice is the major crop from this region with farmers getting 3 crops per year. About 95% of the exported rice from jackfruit), aquaculture (catfish, shrimps etc.) and animal production (ducks, pigs and poultry). Agricultural production is steadily increasing in Vietnam. Between 2000 and 2010, animal production rose 10%, pork (11%), beef (9.5%), poultry (8.5%) and milk (32%). Most of the dairy milk is sold in 2 big cities – Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Holsteins are the main breed with the average dairy herd size being only about 4 cows per farm.

Overall , agriculture is a 27 billion dollar industry with about 65% of producers being small scale farms. Land ownership has been a big issue for farmers. From the 1960’s to the 80’s, ownership was done on a co-operative system but since 1993, much of the farming land is owned and managed privately. In recent years, there have been major changes – more and more small farmers are getting off farm jobs to earn a living. At the same time, a lot of the good agricultural land is being sold for commercial use or housing. There are virtually no Government subsidies for farmers. Extension services face big language problems due to the many small minority groups having their own languages and not being able to understand the research and extension officers. The animal industries are facing many challenges such as controlling epidemic diseases, huge fluctuation in prices for animal products, low competitiveness for these products and environmental pollution.

Following our visit to the University, we had dinner and then caught the overnight train from Hanoi to Hue

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 9. 7 August. Tour Vietnam with Hue
Due to a typhoon overnight, our train was delayed for 3 hours so we did not get into Hue until 11.00am. Hue was the capital of Vietnam for 143 years until 1945, and now has a population of about 400,000, located on the Perfume River. After lunch, we were taken on a trip around the city, visiting temples, local markets and the tomb of King Tu Duc before returning to book in at our hotel for the night.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 10. 8 August. Tour Vietnam with Hue
The day was mainly spent sightseeing. We visited a local traditional handicraft village where we saw the ladies making incense sticks and bamboo items and conical hats from palm trees. Local highlights included the tomb of King Minh Mang who ruled in southern and central Vietnam from 1820 to 1840, the Thien Mu Pagoda and then a lovely boat trip along the Perfume River.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 11. 9 August. Tour Vietnam with Danang and Hoi An
After an early start, we set off from Hue south to Danang - a famous topover for Vietnam tour package. On the way we passed a 20,000ha lagoon which is used for fishing, grazing animals, mainly buffalo, and growing rice, fruit and vegetable crops. As we got into some hilly areas, we noticed a lot of eucalyptus trees being grown. These trees were imported from Australia over 50 years ago and today they are used to make eucalyptus oil (which we saw being sold in stalls on the side of the road) and making paper from the wood.

We passed through a 6km tunnel, the Hai Van Tunnel, which was built by the Japanese between 2000 and 2005. Motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians are not permitted in the tunnel which is closed everyday from 1-3pm for cleaning and maintenance.

We passed through Danang which has the 3rd largest city economy in Vietnam, behind Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Their economy is based on industry and fishing and is one of Vietnam’s largest ports. It was also an important military base during the Vietnam War. Every year they have a spectacular fireworks festival in late April, and each year, they invite different countries from all around the world to participate in the celebrations.

After arriving at our hotel in Hoi An, we had lunch and then went for a walking tour in the old part of the city which has many ancient houses and temples. Hoi An is famous for its tailor shops. There are over 1000 tailor shops in the city and this particular place we visited was run by a company which had 3 shops/factories and employed 300 tailors. People were able to order tailor made suits, jackets, shirts etc which were delivered the next day.

During the walk, we dropped in at a free singing/dancing concert being held at one of the old theatres and visited a couple of the old temples. We then returned to the hotel for dinner and overnight stay.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 12. 10 August. Tour Vietnam with Hoi An and The countryside
Following breakfast, we drive out to the village of Tra Que which is on the outskirts of Hoi An. This 400 year old village is widely known for its quality vegetables. There are 265 families living in the district, of which 250 work on the local vegetable farms which cover an area of 35ha. The village was originally a fishing village but because the soil around was so fertile, the locals swapped to vegetables, herbs and flowers.

We visited a farm owned by Mr Qui whose family have farmed this place for 6 generations. His farm is 700sq.m in size and six of Mr Qui’s family work this area. All the vegetables are sold as fresh produce, both locally and to supermarkets in nearby cities three times a week. The vegetables are always fresh, produced with no pesticides and fertilised mainly using natural fertilisers such as weeds collected from a nearby river and the shells and straw from peanuts grown locally. However, it is not strictly organic as sometimes they have to use a little NPK fertiliser. The crops are sown using either seeds or seedlings grown by each family, with each family responsible for the growing and selling their own produce.

Vegetables are grown the whole year round and include spring onions, corn, cabbages, rice, asparagus and cumquats. The herb crops include mint, coriander, lemon grass and basil whilst the flower crops are mainly marigolds and chrysanthemums. The whole setup is an example of small scale traditional farming where the biggest problems are output and lack of technology. For example, the crops are watered either by hand (buckets and hoses) or machinery, with all the irrigation water coming from underground.

The Government owns and controls the land, and it is reviewed every 20 years. The government assesses how many family members depend on the farm for a living (including children) and each person is allocated 70 square metres. If a family member dies, the government will take back the 70 sq. m. The farmers don’t pay any taxes for their land.

There is a village leader who is usually university trained and is paid by the government to oversee the running of the village. While we were at the farm, we all had the opportunity to go out and plant and water some basil seedlings and to enjoy a drink and foot bath in natural herbs.

We then returned to Hoi An - One of the main stop for all Vietnam tour packages for lunch followed by some sightseeing walks around town to see such things as a Japanese Covered Bridge which was built in 1700’s and now has a Chinese temple attached to it and a Vietnamese roof. We then visited an old 2 storey house near the river which has been owned by the same family for 7 generations. It gets flooded quite often with the worst one being when the water level nearly got into the top storey. We then had the rest of the day to ourselves.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 13. 11 August. Tour Vietnam with Nha Trang
A very early start, 6.30am, as we had a long day of travelling from Hoi An to Nha Trang - a famous beach city for package tour Vietnam, a distance of 511km. The drive was very picturesque, especially when we were driving along the coast which was a magnificent version of the Victorian Great Ocean Road. We did not arrive at our hotel until 7.45pm after having dinner. Travelling anywhere in Vietnam was slow because of the narrow roads and highways and the congested traffic. There were trucks everywhere and to pass them on 2 lane highways was often difficult and so average speed times were only 40-50km/hr.

On the way, our guides gave us a lot of background information on agriculture in Vietnam and the economy in general, plus the opportunities and the problems facing Vietnam in the present climate. These are summarised in the Introduction Section of the Report.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 14. 12 August. Tour Vietnam with Nha Trang
The first visit was to the Po Nagar Towers which is an old temple built over 1000 years ago. It was built by a local minority group to worship the Hindu god. The biggest temple was originally built with wood in 817 but was rebuilt with bricks in 965. It is now used by Hindus and Buddhists and many people come here to pray for good health and having babies.

We then caught a bus to the port of Nha Trang. Nha Trang has a population of 400,000 and the main industries are fishing and tourism. It has the longest cable car ride over water in the world (3 km long) to one of the islands off shore. We then visited the Tri Ngyuen Aquarium which was really impressive. The aquarium is built out of stone in the shape of a big sailing ship. Inside there are numerous tanks with a wide variety of fish, sharks, starfish, eels etc.

We then boarded a boat and set off for Lang Chai Island, visiting a floating fishing village nearby. To get to the island from the village, we were taken in small boats in which the crew pulled the boat along by a rope that was tied between the floating fish tanks and the “wharf” on the island. We had lunch there, mainly fish, then headed back by boat to Nha Trang. We visited the local market which was huge and was situated around a circular shopping centre.

After a rest at the hotel, some people went down to a local beach for a swim. We then returned to the hotel and had dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 15. 13 August. Tour Vietnam with Dalat
After an early 7.30am start to the day, we set off from Nha Trang to travel inland to Da Lat - a highland central city for package tour Vietnam. Da Lat is a city of 200,000 and was founded in 1893 by a French doctor. Prior to this, the inhabitants were minority groups who made a living out of cutting wood from the surrounding forests.

On the way, we stopped for a visit to a mango farm which was set up and run by an Australian, Mr John, in 2001 (EMU company) in conjunction with the local government. The farm is 13ha in size and the mango varieties are a cross between Australian and Vietnamese varieties. The first trees were planted in 2003 and produced the first fruit in 2006. There are 50 staff working on the farm and they currently produce about 100tonnes of top quality mangoes plus a lot more second grade fruit which is sold locally. He also has established a factory 20km away to handle the processing and packaging of his mangoes and from other mango producers in the area. There are now about 1000ha of mangoes in the region. The fruit is exported to 15 countries, including Australia, in May and June every year. He also has an orchid plantation, 3ha of a range of orchid varieties plus shade cloth houses filled with other types of flowers which are all sold locally. With the orchids, trees sell for $5 each and flowers for $2 each. Each orchid tree is naturally pollinated and produces 4-7 flowers per year which will last about 20 days once picked. Disease is not a problem although salty water can ruin the plants.

We then headed off to visit another farm, a coffee plantation. Coffee was introduced by the French in the 1800’s and Vietnam is now the world’s biggest exporter of coffee beans. However, they mainly export raw beans for which they only receive about $1/kg. Germany imports 160,000tonnes of raw coffee beans every year, which they process and sell to other countries for 10 times the price that they buy it for.

There are 3 different types of coffee beans; Mocca which produces beans one year after planting but yields are quite low, plus Arabica and Rubista which take 3-5 years to produce beans. Arabica coffee is more suited to regions 1500metres or more above sea level whereas Rubista is suited to land which is 700m plus above sea level. Some experts are forecasting that Arabica coffee will die out due to climate change. Local production is about 3tonnes per hectare which is 2-3 times more than most other countries.

Trees are planted 1.5m apart except Rubistas which are planted 3m apart. They are fertilised with urea and NPK three times a year, and pruned regularly three times a year. This is done to expose the lower branches to the sun. This also discourages insects from attacking the trees. Another protective strategy is to plant banana, pepper or coconut trees between the rows to protect the trees from too much sun.

Harvesting can be done in 2 different ways – once the beans have been picked off the tree, they are soaked in water, then they remove the cover and extract the actual coffee bean. The second is to dry the beans in the sun and then remove the outer skin. Coffee trees can live to an age of 35 years old but research has shown they should be replaced after about 20 years when production drops below 2 tonnes per hectare. However the problem with this is that replanting trees costs $7-10,000AUD per hectare but the government will only loan about $!,000AUD/ha so the farmer has to fund the difference.

The coffee beans are sold to local businessmen and wholesalers plus in Vietnam, there is a stockmarket for buying and selling coffee. After leaving the coffee farm, we drove into Da Lat. Along the way, we saw numerous plastic housing growing all types of vegetable and flower plants. These plastic houses were only introduced to Vietnam about 10 years ago by the Dutch. Da Lat’s economy is based on agriculture and tourism.

After lunch, we all walked around the beautiful Central Gardens, where there are over 300 different kinds of flowers, and visited a Catholic Church built by the French. It had very beautiful picturesque windows but was quite plain inside. We then returned to our hotel for dinner.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 16. 14 August. Tour Vietnam with Dalat
After another early start, our first farm visit was to a flower farm. The farmer was growing roses and gerberas in plastic houses. The climate in the region is suitable for all year round production. There were a variety of rose varieties being produced, with grafting techniques used to breed the roses. The rose plants will last up to 15 years old. They are irrigated by sprinklers as drip irrigation does not work with these plants. They are fertilised 5 times per year using natural fertilisers. The gerberas are also harvested all year but these plants only last 5 years.

The flowers are sold all over Vietnam, especially for special occasions when prices rise dramatically up to 10 times the normal price. There has been plenty of overseas investment in these flower farms in the region, particularly by Holland. The plastic houses are 400sq.m. in size and cost about $5000US to build. The annual income from each plastic house is $3-4000US.

They also grow a lot of vegetables in the plastic houses in the region. Vietnam exports vegetables to more than 50 other countries with the USA and Japan being the major markets. Australia is another big market for these vegetables with the annual sales being about $US10-12million.

Between 1953 to 1983, the Government set up farmer cooperatives in the Da Lat region to encourage production, but the system did not work so producers now do all their own marketing. The Sapa region in northern Vietnam has a very similar climate to here, and the Vietnamese government at one stage tried to encourage farmers in that region to use the plastic house systems for production and cooperative marketing but these efforts failed because, firstly, the local government wanted too much money for the program and secondly, the minority tribes in the Sapa region have very different attitudes to investing in new technologies.

We then drove down to the town of Namban where we visited a nearby farm that specialised in two unique products. The first was weasel coffee, a Vietnamese speciality. The farmer has a coffee plantation from which he selects the best coffee beans to feed to the 24 weasels he has in his shed. These weasels are very selective also, only eating 1-2 of every 10 beans given to them. After about 24 hours inside the stomach of the weasel, the beans are expelled as dung. These are washed, then dried in the sun before the covers on the beans are removed, roasted, then ground. The weasels only get 3-4 lots per week as any more tends to kill them. The high temperature inside the stomach of the weasel contributes to improving the taste of the coffee.

The cost of weasel coffee is 5 times dearer than ordinary coffee and in Vietnam, the cost of a cup of weasel coffee is $6-7US per cup which, by Vietnamese standards, is very expensive. Weasel coffee is apparently available here in Australia.

The second product on this farm was rice saki or wine (65% alcohol). In Vietnam, wine is made from a number of plants such as sweet potato, corn, bananas and cassava but the rice wine is the most popular. The rice is steamed, mashed, cooled, then water and yeast are added and the mixture is left to ferment. Normal saki is 40% alcohol but if they repeat the cooking process, the alcohol % increases. Most rice wine is made in small home distilleries. There used to be a tax on rice wine during the French eras, but most people found ways of avoiding having to pay this tax, so now there is no tax.

The next visit was to the Cuong Hoan Silk Factory. We saw the whole process from extracting the silk from the cocoons right through to making the silk material for weaving. One silk worm can produce about 800metres of continuous silk thread. The silkworms are placed on bamboo racks and fed mulberry leaves for about 20 days during which time the silkworms spin their silken cocoons.

Vietnam has been producing and exporting silk for many years. The main areas of production are in the Hoi An region and up in Northern Vietnam.

Our next farm visit was to a cricket farm, owned and operated by Mr Huy. The males and females are kept in plastic lined pens with dried banana leaves on the bottom. Once the eggs are laid, it takes about 10 days to hatch then another 2 months to mature when they are then sold. The young crickets kept for breeding will do so after about 3 months but the life expectancy is only about 12 months .The cricket varieties being used come from Thailand. Vietnam does have its own varieties but these take a lot longer to mature. The young crickets are initially fed with milk, then as they get older, they are fed corn powder. There are about 900 crickets per kg for which the farmer receives $10US per kg. The crickets are usually deep fried and they have a good nutritional value, being high in protein, iron and calcium and low in fat. We tried tasting the cooked crickets, with a chilli sauce and they were quite tasty.

After a long day of farm visits we returned to our hotel, visiting the Elephant Waterfalls and a Buddhist Pagoda on the way.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 17. 15 August. Tour Vietnam with Ho Chi Minh city
Another very early start (6.30am) as we headed off on a 320km drive to Ho Chi Minh (HCM) city. Our first visit was another minority village, Lang Ga, called the Chicken Village, because there is a huge stone statue of a chicken in the main street. The village is home to the K’ho people who grow fruit and vegetables plus produce clothing and textiles. Basically, it is a poor, struggling town.

Along the way, we passed a lot of Tea plantations and Thai gave us a lot of background information of the tea industry in Vietnam. Vietnam is the fifth largest tea exporter in the world, behind Kenya, India, Indonesia and China. Tea is grown in 43 provinces in Vietnam with the best quality coming from plantations that are 700m above sea level. There are 3 different methods of planting tea trees. The first is by planting seeds which are soaked in water for 24 hours before planting and which take 4 years to produce a crop. The second method is to use grafting which only takes 2 years to get the first harvest and the third is to use plant cuttings from old tea trees which also produce their first crop after 2 years. The trees are all irrigated, fertilised 4 times a year and pesticides need to be applied regularly to control insects. The trees are planted in rows 2 metres apart and trees will produce fruit for 10-15 years although they can live a lot longer than this. Harvesting is done for about 10 months of the year.

Most of the tea harvested is sold as raw material because of the lack of local processing factories. Besides the ordinary tea as we know it, there are other uses for the tea leaves. Dried tea leaves are commonly used to put in coffins at burials whilst green leaves are also used for making green tea which reduces heart diseases, lung complaints and eczema in children. They also produce other varieties such as Lotus tea, Jasmine tea, Artichoke tea, Chrysanthemum tea and Kudingcha tea. The cost of Vietnamese tea is only 70% that of other countries, including China.

After our lunch stop, we crossed a bridge on Lake Ho Tri An where we saw numerous floating fishermen huts. These are popular because it is much cheaper to live there than buy a house on land. The traffic was quite heavy so our average speed was quite low. At one stage, we travelled for about 20km on a really terrible part of the highway and it was obvious that this section had not been maintained for years, apparently due to local government.

Once we got out into the rural areas again, we saw plantations of cashews and rubber trees. Rubber trees are a booming industry in Vietnam and in many areas, farmers are swapping over to producing rubber. It is now the 3rd largest exporter of rubber. Rubber trees were introduced by the French in 1897 and up until the 1920’s it was a small industry but now it is expanding and it is grown in 25 provinces in Vietnam, with more than 900,000ha being grown in 2012,making up 7% of the total global rubber area.

We stopped at a plantation and walked through the trees to see how they were planted and how the rubber was harvested. Trees are planted in rows 6 metres apart with 3 metres between each tree, resulting in 450-500 trees per hectare. The trees start producing rubber when they are 5-7 years old. Their peak production period is between 11-30 years of age. After 30 years, the trees are usually cut down and the timber is used for building and making furniture. Returns from this are about $10,000AUD /ha. The rubber is “harvested” by attaching pots to the sides of trees, and the sap, from inside the tree, leaks into the pots. Trees each have 4 sap layers going up and down within the tree and the best supplies come from the inner layers (layers 2 & 3). These pots are emptied from once or twice a day to once or twice a week depending on the age of the tree. The trees are trained to grow at an angle to help the sap flow into the pots. Yields vary up to 1.7tonnes per hectare with the average rubber export price about $2,800AUD per tonne. It costs about $6,600AUD to plant a hectare of rubber trees. In Vietnam in 2012, the rubber output was over 1 million tonnes which was a 23.8% increase from 2011. The earnings from this were $3.14 billion AUD despite a drop on the value of rubber. Last year over 65,000 tonnes of rubber were exported to India, the value of this being about $187 million. Recently, the Government approved plans to further develop the rubber industry with the view of using 30% of the rubber for local industry and the rest for export. We arrived in HCM quite late and went straight to a restaurant for dinner, then to our hotel to check in for the night.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 18. 16 August. Tour Vietnam with Saigon
The day was spent sightseeing around HCM also known as Saigon - one of biggest cities for package tour Vietnam. We visited the Old Post Office built in 1891 by the French who got the architect of the Eiffel Tower to design the building. HCM is the largest city in Vietnam with a population of 9 million people. We then went to Notre Dame, the Catholic Cathedral of Mary Immaculate which was built in 1880 in a very European style - One of famous stop for South Vietnam tour package.

We then went to the Reunification Palace which is now a museum. It was the residence of former Vietnamese and French leaders before it was almost destroyed in 1962 in the war between North and South Vietnam. It was rebuilt in 1966 and survived the Vietnam War. It has many beautiful rooms and furnishings but the most interesting areas are the basement and bunker areas which were the military operations centre during the Vietnam War which lasted for 17 years - One of famous stop for package tour Vietnam.

After lunch, we had a tour of the old China Town which was set up when over 1 million Chinese came to Vietnam in the 17th Century. We then returned to our hotel for some free time.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 20. 17 August. Tour Vietnam with Cu CHi Tunnels
We set off for a visit to the famous underground tunnels - the very famous for package tour Vietnam. On the way we stopped and visited another rubber plantation where we got more details of the rubber industry and production methods (see Day 17 report).

After this farm visit, we drove on to the famous Vietnamese tunnels. This was a very enlightening experience as we got the Vietnamese side of the story. One fact which surprised everyone was the reason for dropping Agent Orange everywhere and the unfortunate side effects of this. Over 19 million litres of the chemical was dropped by US forces to defoliate the forests so they could locate the Viet Cong soldiers. Apparently the US did not know the full effects of the chemical which affected so many innocent people, which is still happening now.

Following this visit to the tunnels, we drove to our first farm visit which was a mixed farm owned and run by a Veterinarian, Max Phuong Dran and his wife. Their farm was 2000 sq.metres in size, double the local average. It was a mixed farm, producing rubber, chickens, pigs, cows and sugar cane.

They had 300 rubber trees which produced about 20kgs of sap every 2 days. They had 30 breeding chooks, producing chickens for local outlets. They also had a few special large footed chickens which are used for meat for wealthy customers. They get about 2 million dong ($100AUD) for each one. They have 8 sows which are producing piglets using AI, plus 6 beef cows, which are fed on grass and rice and corn powder, also using AI to breed young cattle for the local markets. Max also does Vet work for local farmers.

The next visit was to Mrs Yung’s dairy farm, a family run business. They have 40 Friesan cows which are fed on rice (grown on the farm), wheat, tapioca and hay. About half of these are milked at the one time. The farm size is 8000 sq. m. The cows are milked by machines which are generator driven. They get 20litres/cow/day and receive 13,000 dong/l., which is about the same price being received by Australian farmers. The demand for fresh milk has increased a lot. About 7 years ago, they were only getting 6000dong/litre. The male calves are sold for meat and the female calves kept as replacements.

The next visit was to another dairy farm, owned and operated by Mr Bay. This was only 3000sq.m. in size but he had 55 Holstein cows of which he milked half of them at any one time. He fed them with bags of cow food which costs $20AUD per bag and consists of corn, rice, rice powder, fish powder, vegetable oil and multi vitamins. The cows are milked by a generator driven milking machine. Male calves are kept for 2 years and are then sold, uncastrated, for about $7/kg.

On the way back we stopped to look at the Opera House before heading to our hotel for the night.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 21. 19 August. Tour Vietnam with Saigon
We set off to visit the Southern Vietnam Engine and Agricultural Machinery Company (SVEAM) in Bien Hoa. On the way, we crossed the Saigon River which is huge. Ships weighing 100,000 tonnes can come up to the Saigon port which is the largest in Vietnam. The French selected HCM (Saigon) as the centre because it was flat and had a good climate. Land along the river is not cheap - $4000 US/sq.m. Bien Hoa is an industrial centre with a lot of cheap labour available. We passed a lot of second hand machinery places with mainly tractors and diggers from Korea and Japan.

We arrived at SVEAM and were first shown their showroom. SVEAM was established in 2009 following the merger of VINNAPRO Co and VIKYNO Co, two government owned companies. At first, Vinnapro and Vikyno were companies that imported all spare parte and assembled them under the brand names of Kubota and Yamaha, but up till 1990, they were unable to export their products. The embargo was lifted in 1993 and they commenced exporting their products. In 2009, they merged and today SVEAM exports machinery to 30 countries, but not Australia. The company now has 3 factories in Vietnam and, whilst they do import some parts for their machinery, mainly from Japan and India, most of the parts are now made in Vietnam. In the factory we saw production lines for crankcases, diesel generators and diesel engines. All of them looked clean and modern. They have 750 employees and most products are sold locally in Vietnam. Our next visit was to the Trung Nguyen Coffee factory. The private company has four factories in Vietnam. This one, which has 220 employees, produces instant coffee and a 3 in 1 coffee mix (it includes coffee, milk and sugar). They use two varieties of coffee – Arabica and Robusta. They make about 8 tonnes per day or 2,500-2,700 tonnes per year.

They took us through the process for making instant coffee. It begins with roasting the green coffee beans using natural gas, grinding the beans, extracting the coffee, then evaporating, drying and packaging it. They have a system of retaining the aroma throughout the whole process because the aroma is the key to quality in coffee. The staff regularly taste the coffee at the end of the process to ensure the quality is good.

They sell locally plus export to 60 countries including Australia. Nestle is a major competitor. They use German made machinery for the processing and employ permanent onsite technicians from Germany to look after the fully automated process. They have 3 shifts per day and because everything is fully automated, they only need 9 workers per shift on the processing line. The company also has Halal certification. We then sampled some of their products including the 3 in 1 coffee which was very nice. We then returned to HCM for some free time, then dinner.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 22. 20 August. Tour Vietnam with Mekong delta
After breakfast, we set off for a 2 hour drive to My Tho - famous stop for package tour Vietnam, a city in the Mekong Delta which has a population of 170,000. The Mekong Delta is the rice basket of Vietnam, producing 90% of the country’s rice from 3 crops per year. Vietnam is the second largest rice exporter in the world, behind Thailand, which actually imports a lot of Vietnamese rice and sells it on to other countries. The Mekong river is 4,600km long making it the 13th longest river in the world, flowing through 6 countries from China to Vietnam. Over 16 million people live along the Delta. Fishing is another huge industry in the region, producing 20 million tonnes of fish per year whilst the rest of the Vietnamese fishing industry produces 16 million tonnes annually. Fruit is another big industry here with the actual fruit being sweeter than fruit grown in other regions.

We stopped to see rice being harvested by a Kubota harvester. Two men were on the back of the machine, manually bagging the rice. In this particular rice field there was a grave site which is quite common in Vietnam. It was the custom to bury people in paddocks on the farm but this is no longer allowed and burials are confined to cemeteries. The rice harvest this year has been quite poor due to disease affecting crops and very low prices for the rice (25centsUS/kg cf 50-80cents/kg normally). Up until about 10 years ago, the rice was harvested by hand but more and more harvesters are now being used, mainly owned and operated by contractors. This has taken a huge workload off the farmers and many of them now have part time jobs in town to supplement their incomes.

Along the way we saw a man walking along a canal with an electric prod in his hand. Apparently he was trying to locate and capture frogs to sell at the local market. Our next stop was a poultry farm owned by Mr Tam. The business houses 2,500 hens which produce about 2000 eggs per day, consuming about 150kgs of feed mill per day which is supplied by an investment company from Thailand. This company buys all the eggs for a price of 1 cent(AUD) less than the market price. They buy in 4 month old chickens which are used for about 12 months for egg laying then sold off for meat. The chooks are vaccinated every 3-4 months and regularly checked by a veterinarian. The chook manure is sold locally as manure for other crops. In the sheds, the lights are kept on for 16 hours per day which increases the quantity and quality of the eggs.

After leaving the egg farm, we were taken to a port on the Mekong river where we got on a boat and taken to Unicorn Island. Here we went to a village and tasted some very special honey tea. Some of the group had their photos taken with a python around their neck. Further on at another “cafe”, we were offered some of the local fruits for tasting plus we were entertained by a traditional musical show. We then got into little rowing boats and were taken up some of the narrow canals for a beautiful, restful trip.

We then had lunch at the Mekong Reststop Restaurant where we were given grilled whole fish from the Mekong plus the usual rice. Our next stop was a snake farm, more formally known as the Dong Tarn Scientific Research Station, on the outskirts of May Tho. It was established by a retired military officer in 1949, initially as a place to grow medicinal herbs to treat people for snakebites and to develop vaccines to protect people bitten by snakes. We saw a range of animals including cobras (one species we saw can spray venom up to 2 metres away), king cobras, monkeys, pythons, crocodiles, Indonesian Komodo dragons, salvators, peacocks, ostriches, emus, bottle nosed turtles and green snakes. The biggest King cobra we saw was 19 years old, over 2 metres in length and weighed 20 kg. Following this visit, we set off for Can Tho which is the largest city on the delta and the fifth largest city in Vietnam with a population of 1.5 million. It is a major agricultural centre with rice milling as its main industry. On the way to our hotel we crossed the Hau River on the longest (2,750 meters) cable bridge in south east Asia.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 23. 21 August. Tour Vietnam with Mekong delta
After another early breakfast, we were taken down to one of the many tributaries of the Mekong River where we caught a boat upstream to a floating wholesale fruit and vegetable market. There were boats everywhere, each one with a tall bamboo pole, with fruit or vegetables that were for sale on that boat attached to the pole. Each boat also had a distinctive number which indicated where that particular boat came from.

The boats were powered by outboard motors, each attached to one end of a long pole with the propeller attached to the other end. This allowed these boats to travel in to shallow water areas. We stopped to buy and taste some bananas and pineapples.

We continued up the tributary to a mulberry farm, owned and operated by Mr Ba Xinh and his family. The farm was 1ha in size, about twice the size of most other farms in the district. The farm mainly produced fruit as well as having ponds for fish and turtles. The fruit crops included grape fruit, dragon fruit, rambutans, mangoes, quinces and mulberries which tasted nothing like Australian mulberries as they had much more of a lychee taste. They also grew coconuts and we had a drink of the coconut milk straight out of the coconut plus tasted a range of their fruit. All the fruit is sold at the floating wholesale market downstream.

They also have homestay accommodation at the farm for tourists. Six people work on the farm, two being employees and the other four are family members. We then visited another farm nearby which was smaller and more basic. This was also a family farm, 2000 sq. meters in size, producing chickens pigs, fish and mulberries. The fish are bred in a dam which they top up by pumping water from the nearby river. The pump used to be powered by biogas but now electricity is available and used. The fish are sold to agents who transport them to HCM city to sell at wholesale markets.

We returned to our bus and continued our route to the border town of Chau Doc - another town in Mekong delta for package tour Vietnam. After booking in at our hotel , we were taken down to the Mekong river for another boat trip, this time to a floating village. The houses float on pontoons or empty drums and many of the houses have fish traps under the floor. These fish traps are made of large nets made from either bamboo or steel and once the fish are caught in these traps, they are kept to maturity until they are ready to eat. We returned to our hotel where we had our last dinner in Vietnam before we head into Cambodia the next day.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 24. 22 August. Tour Vietnam and Cambodia
The morning was spent travelling up the Mekong river on a speed boat and into Cambodia at the town of Vinh Xuong. After being cleared through customs, we continued up to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The population of Cambodia is 15 million with about 2.2 million living in Phnom Penh. There are 2 seasons every year with the rainy season from May to October and the dry season from November to April. The temperatures don’t vary much throughout the year, ranging from 22C to 35C. Prior to 1983, the country was under communist rule but since then, democracy has taken over and elections are held every 5 years.

After booking in at our hotel and having lunch, we were taken on a tour of the city’s highlights, including the Silver Pagoda, the Royal Palace, the National Museum and the Independence Monument. We then returned to the hotel for the night.

Package Tour Vietnam Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 25. 23 August. Tour Cambodia
The first visit this morning was to the Killing Fields, situated about 17km from the capital. This was very confronting to see the remains, literally, of the 2 million people (25% of the country’s population) killed by Pol Pot and the Kymer Rouge between 1975 and 1979.

We then went to the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA). It was initially set up in 1964 by the French but closed down during Pol Pot’s reign. It re-opened in 1980 with support from the Soviet Union, but today, it receives support from the European Union and the American and Australian Governments. There is little support from the Cambodian Government so the Uni depends on student fees and overseas aid to keep going. There are 3 other Agricultural Universities in Cambodia plus an Agricultural College in Phnom Penh which gives lower degrees to graduates.

We first visited some small rice fields where we saw students carrying out research projects. We then went to the Ag. Industry Research Centre which does many different research projects such as developing new milk varieties from soya beans and corn, new juice varieties from plums etc. and new wines from cashews, bananas etc. Many of these projects are done in collaboration with other countries such as China, Tibet, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and Australia. They do raise some revenue by selling some of the new products under patent.

The University has 5000 students, 30% of which are female. This is a big increase from a few years ago when there were only 2000 students but the Government has a program to promote agriculture and now there is a lot more interest in this field. The Uni courses are for 4 years and there are 8 faculties. The University also runs training courses for farmers in rural areas.

Agriculture contributes about 30% of Cambodia’s GDP. However, currently, food products are allowed to be imported without regulations regarding safety so the Uni is developing methods of measuring and increasing food safety across the country. An example is that a lot of chemicals used in farming could be leaching into the groundwater which, in many areas, is used for drinking water so they are investigating methods to solve this problem.

After the University visit, we were taken to the town of Kien Svay, a small village that specialises in producing Krama (cotton scarves) using semi-automatic looms. The scarves are sold locally and throughout Phnom Penh. There are 85 families involved in the weaving industry in this village and most of the weaving looms are underneath the houses. Most houses in this village are two storied because of the frequent floods in the town, so the living quarters are all on the top storey. Other features of the housing were the grand gates and front fences compared to the actual houses which were very often old and derelict.

Package Tour Vietnam - Cambodia Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 26. 24 August. Tour Cambodia
The day began early with a 230km drive down to the Preah Sihanouk province which is on the coast of Cambodia, south west from Phnom Penh, where we visited a huge palm oil processing factory and palm oil plantation. This whole business was set up and operated by Dr Oknha Mong Reththy, reputably the richest man in Cambodia, plus being a Senator in the Cambodian Government and an adviser to the current Prime Minister. He established the first palm oil plantation in Cambodia in 1994, with the help of Government funding. They imported trees from Thailand and seeds from Malaysia and Costa Rica, and planted 11,000ha. This has now increased to 14,000ha of which they are harvesting about 8000ha annually. There are about 140 trees per hectare and it takes 4 years from planting to start getting fruit. The trees are not irrigated and they are harvested by hand, using long handled knives to prune the palm branches shielding the fruit and to cut down the fruit balls. Trees can last about 25 years and yields are 15-18tonnes of fruit/ha/yr. We had a walk through one of the plantations to see how they pruned and harvested the trees.

The business also produces pigs, fruit, fish and rubber trees on the 30,000ha property. They have 2000 workers in the field plus another 500 office and other staff. The staff wages are $150(US)/month plus overtime. Free accommodation is also supplied for those who need it. The pig enterprise started with 600 Yorkshire pigs imported from England. This has now grown to 30,000 pigs which are housed in air conditioned sheds. The pig manure is used to make biogas which generates one megawatt of electricity. The fruit enterprise is 120ha in size, mainly mango trees. The rubber tree enterprise is relatively new, with 3000ha of young trees .

We then went to have a tour of the palm oil processing mill, the only one in Cambodia, although there are plenty of other mills in Asian countries. The mill was built in 2002 and they processed 30t/hr. Now they have machinery that can process 45t/hr but this still cannot keep up with the amount of fruit being harvested, so plans are in place to build another mill. Once the fruit is harvested, it needs to commence being processed within a couple of hours, otherwise the acid builds up in the fruit and reduces the quality.

Most of the oil is used in food or for processing food, with the lower quality oil being sold to companies who use it for making cosmetics. The mill operates for 8-9 months per year. Last year the company made a profit of nearly $6 million (US).

We had the honour of having lunch with the owner who gave us some interesting background to his business. He moved into the region in 1996 and it was a very poor place. It had been dominated by the Kymer Rouge for many years but when they got ousted, there was no development in the region to offer employment for the locals. He himself was originally a farmer and he could see that there was huge potential for developing new agricultural industries in the region using overseas knowledge and experience. The opportunities he saw were more meat production (hence pigs), better quality new crops (hence palm oil and now rubber trees)and more milk production (they import nearly 100% of their milk). He also saw the need to bring in new technology from overseas.

The whole project has been very successful and it has created new opportunities. The main one has been to establish and run a huge new port nearby to export not only the Company’s products but a lot of others. This is now thriving, creating many more jobs for locals and helping the regional economy. After a very long but interesting day, we returned to our hotel in Phnom Penh for the night.

Package Tour Vietnam - Cambodia Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 27. 25 August. Tour Cambodia
Today’s agenda was a 270km drive from Phnom Penh to Kamphong Thom. Our first stop was at a little village that specialised in making silver ornaments. The village appeared very poor and basic. The next stop is the Spider Village. We walked through the local market which was being held in the main street and did we see some interesting things for sale! Products included cooked spiders (you could buy live spiders and take them home to cook yourself ), baluts (cooked fertilised duck eggs), cooked crickets, cockroaches and frogs plus poultry such as doves and quail. Some members tasted the cooked spiders which weren’t too bad. The next city we visited was Kamphong Cham where we had lunch and visited a local temple. This area has a lot of Muslim residents. The temple was built by the Buddhists in the 12th Century but was partially destroyed by the Kymer Rouge. It was re-established in the 1980’s with a lot of paintings on the roof and inside walls with each painting having the donor’s name and contribution to the restoration. After the arrival of the Muslims, the Buddhists opted to share the temple with the newcomers.

After lunch, we were taken a rubber factory owned and operated by Sopheak Nika Co. It was built in 1924 by the French to export rubber back to Europe. Even though it was a Sunday, the factory was operating, with the workers being paid overtime to work on Sundays and holidays. The processing operates 7 days per week and there is one day off per month for maintenance work. The average daily output is about 35 tonnes. There are over 4000 employees in this company with 100 workers in this particular factory

We saw the liquid rubber from the plantations being delivered by trucks. The liquid rubber is mixed with water, poured into long narrow tanks where it is heated, then left for 10 hours, in which time the rubber floats to the top. The rubber is then skimmed off and pumped through a compressor, emerging as white material. It is then washed again and any impurities removed before being compressed again. The rubber sheets are then broken down into small portions, steam cooked again, then put through a dryer for 3.5 hours. The rubber pieces that emerge are now yellow coloured, and these are compressed into 30kg lots and put in plastic bags which are then put into boxes for delivery, each box weighing 1.26t. The rubber is sold locally and exported to China, South Korea and Malaysia. There are 7 companies that have rubber factories in Vietnam. Originally they all belonged to the Government but since 2008, they are now privately owned and operated. The current price for raw rubber is $2,250US/tonne.

The rubber industry in Vietnam is growing quickly, at the expense of other crops such as tobacco, and now there are over 20,000ha of rubber plantations. Originally, they could only grow rubber trees on the rich, red soil areas but now with new technology, the plantations are growing in other areas. We then drove on to Kampong Thon where we booked in at our hotel and had dinner at which we celebrated Thai’s birthday. Along the way there, we passed through a village that specialises in making Buddha statues. It has been interesting to note how some villages specialise in one industry to attract buyers and tourists.

Package Tour Vietnam - Cambodia Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 28. 26 August. Tour Cambodia
The morning was spent travelling from Kampong Thom to Siem Reap. The countryside and villages we drove through were very basic and poor. In one of the villages, we crossed the Nagar Bridge, which was built in the 12th century and is one of the few Kymer Empire bridges to have survived to the present day. At one of our stops along the way, we saw how the locals make rice cake. They mix the rice and red beans with coconut milk and then cook the mixture in hollow bamboo sticks. They then skim off the outside layers of the bamboo sticks so that people can peel off the inner layers and eat the cakes. On arriving at Siem Reap, we had lunch then booked in at our hotel. We were then taken for a tour of the town and along the river to a nearby huge lake where we saw more floating villages which are mainly occupied by Vietnamese inhabitants. This lake is the Tonie Sap Great Lake which is the largest freshwater lake in south east Asia and provides 50% of the fish consumed in Cambodia. Along the river leading to the lake, there were numerous houses, all of which looked very poor and basic. Apparently the Government is in the process of moving all these people into new living quarters in Siem Reap. We then visited a small family farm, only 4ha in size. Half of this is used for rice production and the other 2ha is used for producing fruit, sugar palms, fish and ducks, mainly for the family’s food plus chooks, some of which are for the family but some they sell as fighting cocks. They also have a few Kanena cows and sell the female calves for breeding. A mature breeding cow costs about $3000US to buy whilst the young calves sell for about $1000US each. The cow manure is used to fertilise the crops. We then returned to our hotel for the night. Dinner was at the Apsara Theatre where the local dancers put on a lovely concert.

Package Tour Vietnam - Cambodia Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 29. 27 August. Tour Cambodia
The day was spent sightseeing, mainly around the famous temples of Angkor , particularly the World Wonder of Angkor Wat temple which was built in 1113 with the stones being brought from a quarry 60kms away. After lunch, we visit the old city of Angkor Thom which was built soon after the Angkor Wat temple. It is enclosed by a square wall and moats, with 5 monumental gates. The third visit was the temple of Ta Prohn. We returned to our hotel for our farewell dinner which was a great celebration for a superb tour.

Package Tour Vietnam - Cambodia Includings:
Car, tour guide, hotels, sightseeing tickets, meals: B, L, D

Day 30 -31. 28-29 August. Tour Cambodia
After an early breakfast, we packed our luggage before visiting another famous temple in the area, the Banteay Srei Temple. We then were taken back to the hotel for a shower and to change and prepare for our flights back home. We headed for the airport to catch the 6.25pm plane to Singapore. Here we said goodbye to Thai who did a wonderful job as our full time guide. From there we split up and caught planes back to the various capital cities in Australia, arriving on Thursday 29 August.

A special thanks to Deluxe Vietnam Tours Team who organised and conducted this educational tour which was a very enjoyable experience for everyone. Also a special thanks to our main guide, Thai, and all the local guides who did a great job. I wish to personally thank each tour member for his/her contribution towards making the tour such a success and it was a pleasure for Maree and I to be involved with you all.

Greg Rodda
Tour Leader

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