Day 1: Arrival-Hanoi. On arrival at Noi Bai Airport, you are met by our guide and transferred to hotel. The capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is a stylish and gracious city that retains an unique old world charm and some Asia's most striking colonial architecture. The many lakes and parks make for relaxing atmosphere. If time permits we enjoy a cycle ride through the bustling old quarter streets named after the specific goods once offered for sale at these places. Overnight in Ha Noi.
Day 2: Hanoi-Lao Cai. Today we spend a half day exploring the charming Hanoi City. The first stop is Ho Minh Complex containing the mausoleum of the nation's founder Ho Chi Minh, the Presidential Palace and the Ho Chi Minh's house on stilts. Close to this complex is the One Pillar Pagoda, whose origins date back to the foundation of Hanoi. We follow it with the Temple of Literature, which is well known as the first university of Vietnam and the impressive Ethnological Museum, dedicated to Vietnam's 54 ethnic minorities, some of which we will see on our forthcoming days. Afterwards we drive back to the town center to visit the peaceful lake of Hoan Kiem with its sacred temple and the vibrant old quarter streets. The reminder of day is free for your own exploration of town. By mid evening you are transferred to Hanoi rail station and board a night train to Lao Cai. The train conditions are very basic however we will travel in soft sleeper class which is compartment for 4 passengers. Overnight on board. Includes: (B).
Day 3: Lao Cai-Bac Ha (Sunday). The train journey ends once arriving at Lao Cai Station. You are greeted by our local guide and begin a rugged but scenic drive towards Bac Ha. This remote hill town is a world famous site with the lively and colorful Sunday market. There are various ethnic minority groups including Dao, Phu La, La Chi and Tay but the dominants are the Flower Hmong people. These ethnic minorities wear distinctive costumes and come in town for trade on every Sunday. On arrival we stroll around this colorful congregation to see the different hill tribe groups and their amazing trading way. The remainder of day is for some trekking options. There are several footpaths but we walk from Hmong King's former residence through corn fields to Ban Pho Village where we see the Flower Hmong making the potent local maize alcohol. Overnight in Bac Ha. Includes: (B).
Day 4: Bac Ha-Nam Mon. Heading out of Bac Ha Town we embark on a walk using the local track to Nam Mon. This mountainous region is inhabited by the Variegated Hmong and Tay ethnic minorities. They have settled there longtime ago and made for the main local population. Along the way we make stop at several seldom visited villages, catching a chance to understand a little more about the culture and lifestyle of these tribal groups. Tonight we will be toasted as honored guests of a Thai family and sample some of their homemade rice wine! The accommodation is very simple and dormitory style, no western facilities but the experience is definitely unique. Overnight at Tay Village. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: Nam Mon-Coc Ly-Sa Pa. The following destination of our trip is Coc Ly. We spend one hour walking through Trung Do village to the Chay River. Here, we board a boat for a two hour cruise along this scenic watercourse to the colorful market of Coc Ly, which is also an important trading hub for many tribal groups. We visit this market and wind our way on a scenic drive uphill to Sa Pa. At an elevation of 1,500 meters, Sa Pa has warm days and cool evenings. This mountainous region is home of various ethnic minority groups such as Hmong, Dao, Xa Pho, Tay and Zay people. They may be our fellow passengers since we will use their footpath in coming days. We check in hotel and begin our exploration of Sa Pa Town. The ethnic minority people are frequently seen in this hill town and small vendors along the street sell local textiles and handicraft. We visit the lively market of Sa Pa and pack for the trekking expeditions. Overnight in Sa Pa. Includes: (B).
Day 6: Sa Pa-Y Linh Ho-Lao Chai-Ta Van. The extremely beautiful mountain region of Sa Pa is ideal for anyone seeking a true adventure and trekking expedition. Today we get well and truly off the beaten track and venture into the remote and beautiful mountain areas around Sa pa Town. The footpath traverses some hamlets of San Sa Ho and Lao Chai which are conquered by the Black Hmong ethnic minorities. We make stopover at these sleepy villages and see various ethnic minority people on daily business. They still retain their age old cultural traditions and are recognizably distinct by their dress. We finish our walking day on arrival at Ta Van village where we are toasted as honored guests and are able to sample some of their homemade foods. Overnight at Ta Van village. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: Ta Van-Giang Ta Chai-Ban Ho. The undulating mountainsides will involve some uphill and downhill walking, but it is still an unforgettable expedition. We continues our trek passing through many different hill tribe villages. A part of the pleasure of our adventure is the simple joy of seeing the scenic mountain scenery and the varied customs of local people. The next stop is Giang Ta Chai which is home of the Red Dao People. They are some of Vietnam's most colorful tribal groups. We walk down to Ban Ho village and see many mountaineers their daily works such as logging, herding buffalo and tilling the field. The blend of rugged mountain backdrop and colorful population makes for an unimaginable view. Overnight at Ban Ho. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Ban Ho-Nam Tong-Nam Ken-My Son-Thanh Phu. The remoteness and the simple lifestyle of ethnic minorities are a highlight of our expedition although the conditions are very basic. Upon leaving the village of previous night we blaze a trail with our local guide and walk into the lowland of Sa Pa, past Nam Tong, Nam Ken and My Son hamlets, getting a chance to explore the Red Dao, Xa Pho and Tay people. By mid afternoon we reach the charming Thanh Phu village and have time to stroll around this charming village, allowing us to understand a little more about their culture and lifestyle. They are very poor but have an interesting local culture and colorful history. Overnight at Thanh Phu village. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: Thanh Phu-Ben Den-Pho Lu-Hanoi. Today we spend few more hours walking along the local trail through the lush plantation to Ben Den. At this small village we take a short drive using the local transport towards Pho Lu. There are nothing to see in town but it is still a necessary stop to catch the night train back to Hanoi. The day room in a simple guest house will be arranged for our group to freshen up and leave luggage. By mid evening we board our train and travel overnight to Hanoi. The train conditions are basic; however this journey is in keeping with the adventurous nature of our trips and allows you to experience a taste of the "real Vietnam". The food on board is not the best you will have in Vietnam, so we recommend you to prepare some foods, water, snack. Overnight on board. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 10: Hanoi-Tho Ha Village-Halong. The train journey delivers you to Hanoi Station in early morning. You are met by our guide and transferred to a small hotel for breakfast. By mid morning we travel by roads along the scenic Cau River towards Tho Ha village. This former craft center has remained detached from the world by a boat ride for hundreds of years. We stroll around this charming village to see various ancient style houses and home works such as rice paper making and rice wine distilling. The pace of our walk is very relaxing and different from the previous day activities. Upon leaving this area we set forth to Halong Bay and pass trough Dong Trieu pottery village. The remainder of day is free for a well earned rest on a beach Overnight in Halong Bay. Includes: (B).
Day 11: Halong-Hanoi. The legendary Halong Bay is truly one of Vietnam's most impressive scenic sights. Today we board a traditional boat for a five hour trip around Halong Bay. The exciting cruise provides a fantastic view of the picturesque scenery blending with the sky and some 3,000 limestone islands, which rise amazingly from the clear and emerald water. These limestone karts formations are littered with beaches, grottoes and beautiful caves. Along the way we will anchor for a leisurely swim in a secluded cove and an enjoyable visit to one of the many hidden grottoes beneath towering cliffs. We end up our excursion with a seafood lunch served on board and make our way back to Ha Noi, arriving in time to see an evening performance of Hanoi's famous water puppets. Overnight in Ha Noi. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 12: Hanoi-Departure. There is a free time for you to relax or further explore Ha Noi. The trip ends after your transfer to Noi Bai Airport for departure. Includes: (B).
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