Alumni, Alumnae and Parent Trip - Vietnam: Ancient and Modern

Ha Long Bay

Tour Leaders

Professor Jack Harris, P'02, P'06, of the HWS Anthropology and Sociology Department, and his wife Deborah ’73, P'02, P'06, will lead their third alum tour to Vietnam. Jack and Deb have a great passion for Vietnam, its people, its landscapes, and its culture. Jack’s varied academic experiences abroad include serving as faculty director of the Vietnam semester abroad program twice, most recently in the Fall 2012, and leading groups of HWS and ASIANetwork faculty to Vietnam several times. He has coordinated faculty members to lead the abroad program and, with their help, has developed it into a successful joint program with Union College. Taking this interest to the classroom, Harris teaches "Sociology of Vietnam: Conflict, Colonialism and Catharsis," which studies Vietnamese history, culture and social relations. Professor Harris has served as presenter and respondent at the International Conference on Vietnamese Studies in Hanoi, and has published papers in both Vietnam and in the United States. At HWS, he is a member of the Asian language and cultures program.

Temple of Literature, Hanoi                 Previous HWS alum/parent trip                       Saigon at night          

Trip Details

Hanoi Family Travels Together

This excursion for HWS alumni, alumnae and parents explores the culture and history of Vietnam as we visit both urban centers and countryside, and experience meaningful personal contact with the Vietnamese. Vietnam is dominated by three very distinct regions: the ancient north, the charming coast, and the modern south. We will arrive in Hanoi, perceived as the traditional, intellectual, and ancient capital for the last several thousand years. During our five days in the north we will become familiar with Hanoi's vibrant ancient quarter, and sites such as the Temple of Literature, the Water Puppet Theater, and Hoa Lo prison - to name just a few. Expanding into the environs outside of Hanoi, we will visit villages with famous pagodas and those where ancient crafts such as ceramics, paper and silk are practiced in much the same manner as centuries ago. We will experience the extraordinary and diverse geography of Vietnam through an excursion to Halong Bay, and an overnight stay at Mai Chau, where we will sleep at an old weaving village made up of homes on stilts surrounded by lush, terraced rice paddies. For the still more adventurous there will be a lunch at the snake village - with other menu choices available.

Ho Chi Minh Museum, Saigon

Delicious Vietnamese Cuisine

We then fly to Hue, the old and charming imperial capital. We will visit the Citadel, palace of the Emperors, visit several Emperor’s tombs, and take a musical boat tour on the Perfume River. We will travel over the Hai Van (Heavenly) Pass to the old port and beaches of Hoi An. Hoi An is best seen by walking and by bicycle, and is a great place to visit a tailor for custom made clothing. Here we will also attend a Vietnamese cooking class.

For the last leg of our adventure we will fly to the third distinct region, the south and modern Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). It is considered young (at only 300 hundred years), hip, international and the vibrant economic hub of the country. We will tour the city and its markets by land and water, and visit the War Remnants Museum and the Ho Chi Minh Museum. On our excursions outside of Saigon we will visit the unique Cu Chi Tunnels and the phantasmagorical Cao Dai temple, and we will stay overnight at a farm house on the Mekong Delta. You will fly out of Saigon for home.

At all points along the way there will be free time for individual exploring. We will experience wonderful Vietnamese cuisine, with many meals included. We will meet with old friends who will provide a welcoming embrace within a culture very different from our own and who will make us feel at home. We will also meet with some HWS alums who, having become so enamored by their experience on our Vietnam semester abroad, chose to return to live and work there. Come join our journey to this fascinating and breathtaking country.

Saigon Street Scene

General Itinerary

Leave the U.S.: Monday, January 2, 2017
Arrive in Hanoi: Tuesday, January 3 (you cross the dateline)
Hanoi and vicinity: Tuesday, January 3 -  Sunday, January 8
Hue and Hoi An: Monday, January 9 – Wednesday, January 11
Saigon (HCMC) and vicinity: Thursday, January 12 – Monday January 16
Departure from Saigon: Monday, January 16
Arrive in U.S.: Monday, January 16 (again crossing the dateline)

A more detailed itinerary will be provided closer to the departure date, including the names of the hotels.

Water Puppet Theater, Hanoi


$2750 per person, double occupancy
$2950 per person, single occupancy

"Traffic" on the Mekong River

What's included:

Vietnamese Multi-Course Meal

  • 11 nights' accommodation in hotels of 3 stars or higher
  • 3 overnight excursions with 3 nights' accommodation in more basic, traditional Vietnamese lodging
  • 12 breakfasts, 12 lunches, 12 dinners
  • Transfers to and from airport to accommodations in Vietnam
  • Internal flights from Hanoi to Hue and Danang to Saigon
  • Local transportation – chartered buses and taxis
  • Entrance fees for all sites visited as part of the tour
  • A Vietnamese cooking class

What's not included:

  • Any meals not stated above
  • International flights
  • Visa - all travelers are required to have a single-entry tourist visa and we will provide more details on this to confirmed participants.
  • Immunizations - immunizations for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, typhoid and an updated tetanus shot are strongly recommended for all travelers to Vietnam. A rabies shot is also something you might want to consider, as we will be around animals in Mai Chau. Malaria is unlikely to be a problem for this trip as it is mainly in the central highlands and we will take strict precautions on the overnights (spray, mosquito netting) so malaria medication is not recommended.
  • Medical and travel insurance:
    • Every traveler needs to have medical coverage while in Vietnam so check with your current medical insurance provider to see if you are covered abroad. If you are not, you can purchase a short-term travel medical policy online from companies like CMI or Med Ex Assist, to name just two.
    • We also strongly recommend that everyone purchase travel insurance to cover trip cancellation (not just trip interruption) in case you are unexpectedly unable to travel after you have paid for the trip.
    • Some companies offer a combined medical/travel policy if you need both. The best place to start the search for insurance is at where you can choose medical, travel cancellation or both, and compare policies from different companies side by side.

Chua Thay, Water Puppet Village

Weather in Vietnam

January Overview

Vietnam returns to its best with dry conditions expected throughout much of the country. Both the north and south enjoy sunshine whilst the central region steps out of its wet season. There is a variation in the temperature from one end of the country to the other with the south being close to its hottest and the north experiencing cooler weather.

North Vietnam

Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa, Mai Chau

Whilst you can expect plenty of sunshine and clear blue skies, temperatures in the north will remain quite cool (avg temp: 18 °C). Rainfall is at its lowest in January although a misty haze is not unusual, especially in coastal areas. In the far north conditions are dry but chilly and sometimes foggy, especially at night, so suitable clothing is recommended.

Central Vietnam

Hoi An, Danang, Hue

The weather in the centre of Vietnam is improving as the wet season draws to an end and prolonged rainfall becomes unlikely. The change sees the beaches at Hoi An, Danang and Nha Trang shake off their winter coats and return to their glory days.

South Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta

It is all good news in the south with some of the best conditions of the year; blue skies and little if any rain expected across the region. Ho Chi Minh City remains a little cooler with low humidity (avg temp: 26°C).

Trip maximum

We can accommodate a maximum of 20 people on this tour, so book early to ensure your place. Our previous alum/parent trips have sold out within weeks!

Reserving a place on the trip

Vendor in Hanoi

  • In order to reserve a place on the trip, you are requested to fill out the reservation form online. We will accept reservations on a first-come-first-served basis and we suggest that you reserve as soon as possible, as we expect this trip to sell out. Please note that alums and parents of HWS students have priority in booking this trip. Once we reach the 20-person maximum, we will start a waiting list.
  • Within 10 days of making the online booking, we require a non-refundable deposit of $500 per person. We prefer payment by check but credit card payment can be arranged by calling Michelle Robbins in Alumni House at (315) 781-3771. The deposit will be applied to the overall cost of the trip.
  • The remaining payment of $2250 per person (double occupancy) or $2450 (single occupancy) due by August 1, 2016.
  • Checks should be made payable to "Hobart and William Smith Colleges" and mailed to:

Michelle Robbins
Office of Advancement
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
300 Pulteney St.
Geneva, NY 14456
Tel: (315) 781-3771

Cancellation policy

Once you have paid the deposit, if you cancel the trip before August 1, we may, at our discretion, refund your deposit if we are able to find a replacement for you.

If you cancel the trip after August 1st, you will lose your $500 deposit and you will be responsible for any fees or deposits that we have paid to vendors on your behalf that are non-recoverable by us.

Cao Dai temple, Saigon

Group Flight

We will not be arranging a group flight option. You should expect round trip fares to be approximately $1400 – 1800. We suggest that you book a flight (or a flight that arrives earlier than group is gathering), so that you can be included in the transport from Hanoi airport to the hotel. If you arrive later, you will be responsible for making your own way to the hotel. Note that the trip will begin in Hanoi and will end in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), so be sure to take this into account when booking flights. Do not book any flights until we have contacted you about group pickup at airport, so you are aware of the flight times, etc. You are welcome to check with Professor Harris about pre or post trip opportunities.



Dates: January 2 – January 16, 2017
(11 nights and 12 days)

$2750 per person, double occupancy
$2950 per person, single occupancy

Register: Complete and submit the online registration form.

Deposit: non-refundable deposit of $500 per person.


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