Most people think that this can’t be done, but we’re doing it anyway. YPT is combining a tour to Vietnam, China, North Korea and Russia, and we’re going to be visiting the mausoleums of all the ultimate leaders – Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin!
In three weeks of action-packed communist history, local rural adventure, train rides and stunning scenery, this is not just the Ultimate Leaders Tour, but maybe YPT’s ultimate tour!
We start in Ho Chi Minh City – Saigon – before heading up the coast to Nha Trang and Hue before ending our Vietnam leg in Hanoi. A night train takes us into China’s southwestern Guangxi province where we’ll be hitting up Xingping and Yangshuo, one of the most picturesque parts of the country famed for being on the back of the 20 RMB note.
After seeing the main sights in Beijing we’ll be taking the train to Pyongyang, travelling past the ‘Broken Bridge’ bombed by the US during the Korean War. In Pyongyang, we’ll see even more captured US military hardware, even the USS Pueblo, climb the Juche Tower and have a quick drink in one of Pyongyang’s microbreweries.
Then we head via Beijing all the way to Moscow, where we finish with a dose of Lenin in Red Square, a quick hello inside the Kremlin and the infamous Soviet Statues Graveyard, a fitting place to end the Ultimate Leaders Tour.
1: Uncle Ho’s Vietnam to South West China
2: Chairman Mao Zedong, President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il
3: From Tiananmen Square to Red Square and Lenin’s Mausoleum
This tour is divided into three groups, you can join any or all groups and there are discounts for ALL return Pioneers!
Group 1: Uncle Ho’s Vietnam to South West ChinaMonday 12th October – Ho Chi Minh City
Monday 12th October – Ho Chi Minh City
Arrive at your own leisure in Ho Chi Minh City – Saigon
Meet your YPT guide at our centrally located hotel at 2:00 pm
Head straight into history with a walk past South Vietnam’s Presidential Palace, now the Reunification Palace, to the War Remnants Museum, complete with scenes from the French occupation of Indochina, US military equipment from tanks to planes and vivid descriptions of the effects of Agent Orange and other leftovers from the war on Vietnam still today
Dinner of Vietnamese pho – rice noodles – and other dishes before we grab a cold Saigon beer, a plastic stool and sit on the street for some refreshment and people watching, before seeing where the night takes us!
Overnight in Saigon
Tuesday 13th October – Ho Chi Minh City
Head out after breakfast to the Cu Chi Tunnels, where we see and experience the tunnel warfare carried out by the Viet Cong against the US military in South Vietnam
Drive back into the city for some street food, we’re particularly fond of the famous banh mi thit pork sandwich!
Visit the Ho Chi Minh Museum
#TRIP HIGHLIGHT# Head to the old American Embassy and see if we can climb up to “that place” where the last evacuations happened!
Check out the war surplus market. YPT does love a good Soviet market but we’ll make do with looking for Vietnam War trinkets!
Gather supplies for the train and head for our farewell dinner in the notorious District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City – The original Saigon
Our first major train journey, the relatively short trip from Saigon to Nha Trang, in our 4 berth private cabins
Overnight on the HCMC – Nhra Trang train
Wednesday 14th October – Nha Trang
Morning arrival in Nha Trang – where we have early check-in into our hotel, so will have some time to relax and freshen-up before heading out for the day.
Breakfast in the hotel before we go for a walk through the backstreets of Nha Trang – the best place to see the real city far from its beachfront – up to the Po Nagar Cham Towers, built in the Cham Civilisation between the 7th and 12th centuries and which is located on a hill with good views
Walk back through a traditional Vietnamese fishing village, and remind ourselves that fish definitely does smell like fish
After lunch walk past Nha Trang Cathedral and visit the Thanh Dien Khanh Fortress, an old citadel designed by a French officer in the late 18th century
Dinner and drinks — we might just head to Crazy Kim bar, because we like the place and the name!
Overnight in Nha Trang
Thursday 15th October – Nha Trang
After a relatively late rise, we will head out on a short drive to Bai Dai beach, getting away from the city and into one of the best coastal areas of Vietnam.
Stop on the way for a jungle walk and a dip in a waterfall pool
Swim in the sea or relax on the beach with a cocktail or two
Head back to Nha Trang, grab supplies and head for dinner by the sea, before heading up to pick up our bags and supplies
We are treated to another relaxing, and beautiful train journey with our overnight trip in private 4 berth cabins from Nha Trang to Hue
Drinks and overnight on the train to Hue
Friday 16th October – Hue
Morning arrival in Hue, the old imperial capital of Vietnam where we transfer to the Jade Hotel
After a bite to eat we head to Hue’s main attraction – the Imperial Citadel. It’s huge, and we’ll wander around the rooms and gardens for a few hours taking in different parts of ancient Vietnamese history
After lunch, we head out for a slice of more modern history, hiring motorbikes and heading to Phu Bai Airport, built and garrisoned by the Americans in this key part of former South Vietnam
Grab our motorbikes again for some countryside exploration. It just wouldn’t be Vietnam without motorbikes and rice paddies, and the countryside around Hue is some of the most beautiful in the country, and its people the most welcoming
Head back in Hue and go for dinner and drinks in this bustling Vietnamese town, starting of course and unavoidably at The DMZ Bar
Overnight in Hue
Saturday 17th October – The DMZ
TRIP HIGHLIGHT Early rise and drive out to the old Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between North and South Vietnam, at the 17th parallel. The journey takes 2 hours, with us stopping at a war memorial on the way, as well as various other places.
Lunch on the way to the DMZ
Visit the Hien Luong Bridge that was the official border crossing for much of the war, with classic halfway point selfies a must.
Vinh Moc Tunnels and museum, the main part of the DMZ Tour
See Khe Sanh Combat Base, Camp Carroll, and The Rockpile, former US military bases and outposts
Before driving back to Hue, we stop for dinner at a quiet seaside village for fish BBQ, and an amazing sunset.
Stop back at the hotel for a freshen up and to pick up supplies for our last train journey.
Night train to Hanoi in our private 4 berth rooms. This truly is one of the most stunning train journeys you can take in Vietnam, as we witness the countryside roll into what is bustling capital city of Hanoi
Overnight on the train
Sunday 18th October – Hanoi
Morning arrival in Hanoi
Transfer to hotel and a super quick transfer to the highlight of our trip to Vietnam, by joining the hordes of people that line up daily to see the father of the nation, Ho Chi Minh, lying in state. People still take this very seriously, and it is a big deal
Head straight to the Ho Chi Minh Museum for an in-depth look at his life
Lunch of pho
Visit the Museum of the Vietnamese Revolution, detailing history going right back to the struggle against the French
We head to Lenin Park, complete with statue, before some people-watching then go for dinner and drinks in the Old Quarter, our last Vietnamese night out!
Overnight in Hanoi
Monday 19th October – Hanoi
Free morning to sleep in or go out for some last-minute shopping in Vietnam
Head out to Hoa Lo Prison, otherwise known as the Hanoi Hilton, where the French imprisoned and executed Vietnamese revolutionaries during the colonial period, and in which the US POWs captured by the North Vietnamese were kept, including a certain John McCain
End of Group A
Those continuing on Group B get dinner and grab last minute supplies
Catch the 9:25pm night train to Nanning, China, stopping and getting off at both borders
Overnight on train
Tuesday 20th October – Nanning and Xingping
9:30 am arrival in Nanning where we head for a late breakfast/early lunch before heading to Nanning East Railway Station
12:48 pm train from Nanning East to Yangshuo Railway Station arriving at 4:24 pm
Yangshuo Railway Station is actually located in the gorgeous town of Xingping, which is where the picture on the back of a 20 RMB note is from. We head directly to our hotel in the old town, before doing a short city tour, followed by dinner and drinks in this amazingly picturesque old town
Overnight in Xingping
Wednesday 21st October – Yangshuo
Morning transfer from Xingping to Yangshuo
Here we head out on our Yangshuo Motorbike tour exploring the countryside and amazing karst geological scenery
Lunch of local Guangxi food
Carry on our motorbike tour, stop for beers by the river and spot cormorant fishermen or go for a swim yourself!
Head back to Yangshuo and go for dinner and drinks in this small but lively town!
Overnight in Yangshuo
Group 2 – Chairman Mao, President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il
Thursday 22nd October – Yangshuo-Beijing
Morning transfer to Guilin as we catch a flight to Beijing
Group arrive by flight from Guilin, or at their own leisure, where we check into our perfectly located hotel in the Qianmen district of Beijing, which is next to all the great things you need to see in the capital!
Lunch in Qianmen
Head straight out for a tour around the Qianmen Gate, through Tiananmen Square to the Forbidden City. We also take in China’s Modern History Museum which tells the tale of China’s rejuvenation after 100 years of humiliation at the hands of foreign powers.
Watch the sunset over the Forbidden City from the top of Jingshan Hill, with a bottle of baijiu liquor to warm the cockles
Head to Wangfujing for dinner, which will include an optional tasting of insects, or real food if you prefer
A few drinks at our favourite communist themed bar
Overnight in Beijing
Friday 23rd October – Beijing
We get an early start to watch the flag raising ceremony in Tiananmen Square and join the lines of people that queue every day to see Chairman Mao lying in state – whilst it is quite different to other mausoleums you will see people getting genuinely worked up at the final resting place of the founder of modern China.
We head for Peking duck for lunch. After all, we are in Peking.
Head back to the hotel to check out and collect our bags before heading to Zhong Gu Hotel for the pre-tour meeting for the North Korean part of our journey.
Catch the 5:27 pm overnight train to Dandong, the border city with the DPRK
Overnight on train
Saturday 24th October – Dandong-Pyongyang
7:00 am arrival into Dandong, we jump off the train and head straight down to the banks of the Yalu River, getting our first glimpse of North Korea on the opposite bank and the ‘Broken Bridge’, standing half demolished across the river which was bombed by the US during the Korean War
Board the 10:00 am train from Dandong
Arrive in Sinuiju to go through DPRK entry procedure
Continue the train ride onto Pyongyang and enjoy the beautiful countryside along the way.
Optional lunch on the train (50RMB extra)
6:45 pm arrival in Pyongyang to be met by your guides
Evening city tour of Pyongyang, including us stopping at Kim Il Sung Square for a walk and pictures
Check into the Chongnyon Hotel
Dinner, drinks and overnight in the hotel
Sunday 25th October – Pyongyang
We get up early put on our suits (you will need to bring smart clothing) and visit the Kumsusan Memorial Palace where we will see President Kim Il Sung, and General Kim Jong Il lying in state. Whilst our 3 weeks will take us to lots of Mausoleums nothing comes even close in scale to this
Walk through Mansudae Fountain Park and see the mosaic pictures of President Kim Il Sung and the leader Kim Jong Il
Visit Mansudae Grand Monument – the two large bronze statues of President Kim Il Sung and Leader Kim Jong Il overlooking the city. (Optional extra- you can present flowers if you wish: small bunches are 2 euro, larger ones 4 euro.)
Lunch in the KITC restaurant to try the famous Pyongyang Cold Noodles or Korean Bibimbap.
Visit Kim Il Sung Square and a short walk to the Foreign Language Bookshop – shopping central for books, pins, DVD’s, CD’s and periodicals in English and other foreign Languages
Pyongyang Metro – ride 5 stops on the famous Pyongyang Underground!
Exiting at the Arch of Triumph – the largest Victory Arch in the world, built to celebrate the triumphant return of Kim Il Sung after the anti-Japanese war.
Visit the recently renovated Korean War Museum. Let the expert local guide show you around the enormous museum featuring dioramas, locally used weapons, tanks, etc., and captured American equipment!
USS Pueblo – the only US Naval Ship still held captive by another nation
Juche Tower – a monument to the everlasting Juche Ideology (optional 5 euros to go to the top)
Mansugyo Beer Bar – seven different microbrews on tap, 10RMB each
Dinner at the National Restaurant with a performance!
Overnight at the Chongnyon Hotel
Monday 26th October – Pyongyang-Dandong
Slow drive to Pyongyang train station stopping at a few interesting places in the city for last photos.
Depart Pyongyang by train at 10:25 am
Optional lunch on the train (50RMB extra).
Arrive in Sinuiju at 3:30 pm, go through immigration and exit to Dandong at 5:00 pm where we’ll grab a quick dinner before catching the overnight train back to Beijing
Overnight on the train
Group 3: From Tiananmen Square to Red Square and Lenin’s Mausoleum
Tuesday 27th October – Beijing
Arrival in Beijing and end of Group 2 at 9 AM
Free day in Beijing for some much need relaxation or to grab supplies for the next and most truly mammoth train journey
Meet up for dinner with your traveling companions and guides and head out for a few beers.
Overnight at Beijing Zhong’an Hostel.
Wednesday 28th October – Train
Departure by K3 train at 7:27 for the six-day cruise to Moscow via Mongolia, with your fearless YPT leaders keeping everyone stocked up on vodka, bread and Russian cheese!
20.18 arrival at the border town of Erlian, for a stop of “technically” around 4 hours, for border formalities, customs and immigration. Previously, it was possible to leave the train at this point, but most likely we will be kept on board for immigration formalities. Departure at around midnight.
Thursday 29th October – Train
1.15 am arrival in Mongolian border town of Dzamyn Ude, for the second set of immigration and customs formalities usually lasting about two hours. Again, we may remain on the train or will possibly be allowed to get off.
14.35 arrival in Ulan Bator, the capital city of Mongolia, for a quick 45 minute stop with breathtaking views all the way there. This stop is a good chance to buy a few bits for the rest of the journey, with money changers and cheap shops aplenty.
Friday 30th October – Train
Entry to Russia.
Enjoy the breathtaking views past the world’s biggest lake: Lake Baikal, on your way to a 9.37 stop in Irkutsk
Saturday 31st October – Train
Afternoon stop in Novosibirsk and evening stop in Omsk
Sunday 1st November – Train
Stops in Tiumin, Swerdrowsk and Perm where we can get out, take pictures, and stretch our legs.
Last boozy night on the party train
Monday 2nd November – Moscow
Arrival in Moscow at 13.58
Transfer to hostel for a much needed freshen up and a rest!
We head first to one of our favourite places for a stroll around the haunting Soviet Statues Graveyard, a fitting place for the end of this tour
Dinner and night out in Moscow. Communist times are truly gone
Tuesday 3rd November – Moscow
Our trip comes to an end with a morning jaunt to Red Square and our final mausoleum, that of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
We pay a visit to the Kremlin and maybe take a sneaky look in to the grave of a certain Josef Stalin too
Final lunch in Moscow and end of tour, YPT can help organize airport transfer and onward travel from Moscow or you can join us on our Eurasian Adventure even further. Next stop: Minsk!
• Transport to and from the tour
• Visas if required (YPT can provide visa support)
• Single Supplement (€30/€40 per night)
• Food on the trains, dinners (except in North Korea) and drinks
• Personal spending
• Tips for the Local Guides
We have expert guides ready to help answer any questions you may have.