The Dong is a comprehensive trip through Vietnam, for travellers with two weeks or more.
Start in the chaotic capital city of Ho Chi Minh, and travel north to the refreshingly cool French town of Dalat. Stay in a local homestay on the shores of Lak Lake, and venture off the beaten track to the popular Vietnamese holiday destination Quy Nhon.
Visit the popular town of Hoi-An with its excellent tailors, funky bars and restaurants, and gaze upon elaborately decorated pagodas and temples in Hue. Stay on the lakefront in the spectacular Phong Nha-Ke National Park, just outside of Dong Hoi, and visit one of the largest caves in the world - Thien Duong Cave. See monkeys and gibbons at the Primate Centre in Cuc Phuong National Park, and enjoy the excitement and energy of the capital city Hanoi. From newly discovered caves, to rice paddies, National Parks and tunnels from the Secret War, The Dong gets you closer to the action in the ‘real’ Vietnam.
Stray operates an adventurous hop-on, hop-off guided bus network across New Zealand and Southeast Asia. With your pass you will enjoy comfortable private transport and a knowledgeable guide who will assist you with booking accommodation and activities. Stray has designed a route that will take you to the ‘must do’ places along with some more intriguing off the beaten track destinations. With multiple departures per week, you have the freedom to hop on and off along the route to spend time exploring the places you love. Simply book yourself on and off the bus with an easy to use online booking tool. It’s a fun, friendly, hassle free way to ensure you get more out of your travels.
Arrival in Ho Chi Minh City
Welcome to Stray! Your adventure kicks off in bustling Ho Chi Minh City. If you arrive early in the day, feel free to spend time exploring the narrow streets on foot, hop into a cyclo for a comfortable cruise among the millions of motorbikes or find a restaurant teeming with locals for a taste of the best cuisine. At 6pm you’ll meet your Tour Leader and new travel mates at the Khoi Hostel for a Welcome Night introduction. We’ll cover how Stray works and answer any questions you have about travelling in Vietnam. Afterwards, make the most of your first night by getting to know each other over a delicious Vietnamese dinner and a few cold beverages.
Accommodation: Centrally located hotel or guesthouse
Free Inclusions: Welcome Night meeting with Stray Tour Leader and group
Ho Chi Minh City
Today is a free day to explore the hot and lively Ho Chi Minh City. Learn about the history of the American and Vietnam War at the War Remnant Museum, visit the French Colonial Saigon Opera House, browse the surrounding shopping plazas or see a cultural show. Ho Chi Minh even has its own Notre Dame Cathedral, which is said to be a connection between the physical and spiritual life for the Ho Chi Minh people. We recommend taking a trip out to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, a complex of over 200kms of tunnels used by the Viet Khong in the war against the US. Discover how the people lived and survived in these tunnels, built schools and hospitals underground and eventually gained victory. This evening enjoy a traditional performance at the Water Puppet Theatre, or dine out on delicious street food at one of the city’s many restaurants or bars.
Accommodation: Centrally located hotel or guesthouse
Optional Paid Activities: Cyclo tour of the city, War Remnants Museum, Old Presidential Palace, Ben Thanh Market, guided tour of Ho Chi Minh City and Cu Chi Tunnels, Water Puppet Theatre
Ho Chi Minh City to Da Lat
Leaving behind the chaos and heat of Ho Chi Minh City, we head for the refreshingly cool climate of Da Lat, known as the ‘honeymoon capital of Vietnam’. Our journey today takes us through fertile farmlands that specialise in rubber, coffee and tea, locally produced wine, vegetables and flowers. Just a short distance from Da Lat we make a stop at the beautiful 20m high Datanla Waterfall, where legend has it K’ho fairies often come to play and bathe at the base of the falls. You can either walk down to the waterfall or,for those who like a little bit of adrenalin, you can drive your own mini rollercoaster to the site. Afterwards we’ll head to Da Lat, where you can spend the rest of the day checking out the large market near the guesthouse or at one of many friendly cafes selling excellent coffee on every corner.
Accommodation: Local guesthouse in the centre of town
Free Inclusions: Datanla Waterfall entrance
Use this free day to explore. Da Lat vaguely resembles a French town with sprawling old villas and towering pine trees. It is not on the main tourist trail so locals are curious and very friendly to Western visitors. There are plenty of adventurous activities on offer here, but many people opt for an adrenalin-packed canyoning trip where you abseil over waterfalls and jump off a 5 metre high drop into the pool below. If that’s not for you, you can visit the last Emperor’s Art Deco-style summer palace, explore the never-ending local coffee or strawberry plantations, or hire tandem bikes at the market and cycle to the Hang Nga ‘Crazy House’, an unconventional example of surrealist architecture.
Accommodation: Local guesthouse in the centre of town
Optional Paid Activities: Grab a bargain at the local market, rock climbing, see Crazy House, tandem bike cycling, cycling tours, motorbike tours, coffee & tea plantation tours, abseiling and rappelling.
Da Lat to Bai Xep
Leaving behind the cool climate of Da Lat we’ll head for the Vietnamese coast, stopping for refreshments at the coastal city of Nha Trang, a popular spot to hop off for those who have the time. Driving on your destination is the tiny fishing village of Bai Xep located along a stretch of sandy white beach. Kick back and relax in this peaceful village setting well off the beaten tourist track and as yet untouched by rampant tourism. Don’t be surprised when the locals wave and greet you with welcoming smiles.
Accommodation: Dorm accommodation on the beach, light breakfast included
Included activities in Vietnam:
My Lai Memorial
Vinh Moc Tunnels
Thien Duong (Paradise) Cave
For all Stray passes, your guide will reserve and book your accommodation at each overnight stop but the cost is not included in your pass. Prices vary depending on location and season, but expect to pay from USD $5 for a shared room to USD $24 for a twin or double (up to USD $60 for top end private rooms in the main cities). You need to pay as you go, directly to the accommodation. Our preferred accommodation is usually in guesthouses - but in some remote stops we have homestay and camping options. You are welcome to stay at other accommodation where there are alternatives, however, we only reserve beds and pick up from our preferred accommodation. For an idea of where we stay and prices at each overnight stop, have a look at the itinerary section of your Stray pass.
You'll need to book your own accommodation at stops along the route if you hop off between overnight stops.
You don’t need to bring a sleeping bag but a sleeping bag liner/inner can be good.
We use our own mini-coaches for much of the route, which means we can go where we want and ensure safety, reliability and service. However, be prepared to take on any form of transport as you will be on buses, boats, trains and tuk tuks! Your train, bus and longboat transport is included in your pass as well as entrance fees as listed under "Activities". Your guides will help you book accommodation and additional activities, and give you commentary on the local history, wildlife and culture of the area. You can hop on and off the Stray bus anywhere en route at the recommended night stops and as often as you like, as long as you verify your trip changes online or with our reservations team.
Meals are not included in the price of the pass. Western food is sparse outside the main centers so be prepared and open minded about eating local food. At our stops we will recommend tasty restaurants but when you get into local villages and homestays be prepared to eat simple local fare, with maybe the odd wild-card ingredient (which is part of the fun). Supermarkets are not the norm, but we will point out places where you can stock up on food for the day. Depending on what you eat, you can spend USD5 - 15 a day on food. Please note vegetarian meal options may at times be limited but there is always rice, noodles and soups, and excellent fruit and vegetables are plentiful at the local markets.
PLEASE NOTE: The itinerary is seasonal and subject to change.
Top reasons to go with Stray!
- Discover Where No One Else Knows
Pioneering into the remote Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodian landscape is a daily occurrence on Stray. Some of the villages you will visit are so off the beaten track they aren’t even on the map! We also ensure you tick everything off your Southeast Asia “must-do” list - those great destinations we all know and love.
- Go Guided
One of the best things about travelling with Stray is our local and western tour leaders. They amplify your Southeast Asia experience with invaluable knowledge, support and local insight… plus they can book accommodation, activities and connections on your behalf. You won’t get this on public transport!
- Make Friends For Life
It might be a cliché, but you will meet like-minded travellers and you will make life-long friendships. Stray attracts adventurous people of all ages, with a common attitude of exploration, open-mindedness and trailblazing.
- “Stray” Safe and Stress Free
Relax in the knowledge that our experienced crew have done the hard work for you. We have worked out the best routes, times to depart and must-do inclusions. Need help with something? Our Tour Leaders are there for guidance and support. Lastly, we use our own mini-coaches for the bus travel, which means not only we can go where we want, we can ensure safety, reliability and a high quality, comfortable service.
Frequently asked questions for Stray!
- Is it a full on party bus or a nature bus?
Stray's main priority is the culture and nature. What you do in the evenings is your choice but we do have a couple of big nights out on the circuit if you're keen. It is important to respect the local culture and customs at all times.
- What is the average age of travellers on Stray?
Stray is not an age but a mind set. If you enjoy being active and meeting people you are of the right age for Stray.
- Is it ok to travel alone on Stray?
Absolutely, you will find friends and roommates and we can make your trip fun and hassle-free
- Can I hop off and hop on the bus anywhere or just at the overnight stops?
You can hop off at any place around the circuit.