Day 1: Hanoi-Arrival. Meet upon arrival and transfer to the hotel. Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is a delightful and exciting city. The Old French Quarter and the many lakes and parks give Hanoi a very special atmosphere. The city is located on the right bank of the Red River. It's history goes back more than 1000 years and the city boasts numerous buildings of historical significance from centuries old pagodas and back alleys to opulent buildings from the French colonial era. You won't be bored in this fantastic city. Overnight: in Hanoi. Transport: Car.
Day 2: Hanoi-Lao Cai. Today you have the opportunity to explore Hanoi on your own. Highly recommended is a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Museum and Mausoleum. We have arranged a late checkout for you (18:00). In the early evening you will be transferred to the railway station.You will travel to Lao Cai by overnight sleeper train. Overnight: Sleeper Train Vietnam. Transport: Car and train. Includes: (B).
Day 3: Lao Cai-Sapa. In the early morning you will arrive in Lao Cai. Your driver will be waiting for you to transfer you to Sapa. Sapa is only 38 km from Lao Cai and it will take approximately one hour to get there. You can have breakfast on your own while waiting for your room to be ready. Rest of the day is free at leisure. Sapa, originally built as a hill station by the French in 1922, is well known for its spectacular scenery and the various hill tribes that live nearby.
Sapa is at around 1500 meters elevation and it can become very chilly in the winter months (October until February). Most visitors are here to visit the hill tribes (mostly H'mong, Dao and Kinh people) who live in the area. Especially worthwhile is the Saturday market, where various tribes come to sell/buy goods. The ground floor is for food products, but on the first floor the minorities sell their handicrafts, such as blankets, traditional clothes, hats etc. Also during weekdays there are plenty of minority people of different tribes in Sapa. Overnight: in Sapa. Transport: Car.
Day 4: Sapa. Today you will embark on a day trek to Hmong villages around Sapa. Your guide will be from the Hmong tribe and will tell you all about their customs, tradition and history. During this exciting walk you will be able to enjoy the magnificent landscapes of Sapa to the fullest. In total you will walk about 8 km today which will take from 4 to 5 hours. A picnic lunch is included.
Although you will not be the first foreigner to visit the villages the local people are welcoming and friendly. On clear days the scenery is simply breathtaking and there is nothing better than having a drink on one of the terraces and enjoying the views and the fresh mountain air. Overnight: in Sapa. Transport: On foot. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 5: Sapa. Today is a free day. It is possible to go on a one day trek around Sapa. Several Hmong and Dzay villages are within walking distance of Sapa. Terrain is mountainous and you might have to cross the river more than once. Although you will not be the first foreigner to visit the villages the local people are welcoming and friendly. On clear days the scenery is simply breathtaking and there is nothing better than having a drink on one of the terraces and enjoying the views and the fresh mountain air. Overnight: in Sapa. Includes: (B).
Day 6: Sapa-Muong Lay. Today you will drive to Muong Lay, formerly known as Lai Chau. Total distance today is about 200 km and it is a fantastic drive. It will take approximately 6 hours. The day starts in spectacular fashion with the drive over the Hoang Lien pass. Enjoy the beautiful vistas. Drive to Binh Lu. Continue to Tam Duong, which has been renamed Lai Chau. Along the way you will pass numerous minority villages and there is plenty of time for a photo stop. At the end of the day you will arrive in Muong Lay. Muong Lay will be flooded in a couple of years time as part of a huge hydro power project on the Da River. You will have time to wander around this charming town. Overnight: in Muong Lay. Transport: Car. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 7: Muong Lay-Dien Bien Phu. After breakfast you will depart for another day of spectacular scenery and minority villages. Driving distance today is 105 km which will take about 2 hours. You will see different ethnic minorities as in Laos. You will pass villages of Flower Hmong, Red Zao, amongst others. Not everyone wants his picture taken so please be considerate in this matter. In the early afternoon you will reach the fertile valley of Dien Bien Phu.
Dien Bien Phu was the site of a historic battle in 1953 in which the Vietminh defeated French forces, an Asian "Waterloo" for the French. The victory at Dien Bien Phu was an important step on the road to independence for Vietnam. The valley is dotted with villages of ethnic minorities. After breakfast there will be an excursion to the historical sites of Dien Bien Phu in the morning. You will visit Hill D1, the Dien Bien Phu Museum and the former headquarters of French general De Castries. Most fun is to watch groups of Vietnamese having their pictures taken standing on top of French tanks. Overnight: in Dien Bien Phu. Transport: Car. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 8: Dien Bien Phu-Udomxai. After breakfast you will head for the border. From Dien Bien Phu it takes about 45 minutes (38 km) to the Tay Trang-Ban Panghok border crossing. The border checkpoint where you will enter Laos has been opened in 2007. Say goodbye to your Vietnamese guide and driver.You will have to have a Lao visa stamped already in your passport as there is no visa upon arrival available at this checkpoint. After having completed immigration and customs formalities you will meet your new guide and driver and you're on your way to a new episode of this adventure: into the highlands of Laos.
First stop will be the village Muang Khua where you will have your first taste of Lao food as we will stop here for lunch. The drive from the border to Muang Khua will take about 4 hours. The road is in bad condition. Along the way you will enjoy a simple picnic lunch. After Muang Khua you will set course for Udomxai, a drive of approximately two and a half hours. Overnight: in Udomxai. Transport: Car. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 9: Udomxai-Luang Prabang. In the morning you will have some time to walk around the market of Udomxai until we depart for the Pac Ou Caves set in a limestone rock wall. Pac Ou is 250 km from Udomxai, a drive of about 5 hours. The road leads through the mountains and the views are spectacular. You will pass many villages of the Hmong minority. The Hmong build their villages above 1000m altitude unlike others. They usually still wear their traditional attire.
Lunch will be in a local restaurant along the way. There are two caves in the steep rock cliff at the confluence of the Mekong River and Ou River: Tham Ting, the lower cave and Tham Phum, which can be reached by a long stair case. They are full of Buddha images of varying styles, ages and size. After this visit you will board a private local slow boat and set course for Luang Prabang. This boat trip will take about one hour. At a leisurely pace you will cruise the majestic Mekong River until you reach Luang Prabang. Your stay in Luang Prabang will be one of the highlights of this trip. Overnight: in Luang Prabang. Transport: Car and boat. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 10: Luang Prabang. The town Luang Prabang is an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the French colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. The town has been declared a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1995. From your hotel you can easily explore the town on foot which is what we recommend you to do today. Just breathe in the atmosphere, wander through the small alleys, visit the mystical temples (don't forget to dress properly and take off your shoes).
Enjoy the wonderful Lao and French food. Go shopping for textiles (Luang Prabang has some of the best textiles of the country) or take a Bia Lao on one of the terraces along the Mekong River. From Phousy Mountain you have a commanding view over the town. Luang Prabang has an attractive evening market in one of the side streets of Sakkarine Rd., the ideal place to find some great bargains to take home. Overnight: in Luang Prabang. Transport: On foot. Includes: (B).
Day 11: Luang Prabang. After breakfast you will be picked up from the hotel by your guide. He will bring you to the Elephant Camp, about 15 km from Luang Prabang. The camp is located on the banks of the Nam Khan River. You will be introduced to your elephant who will carry you for an entertaining ride of 1 to 1,5 hours to the wonderful Tad Sae waterfall. There you can take a swim and have lunch. After lunch you will go back to the camp by local boat. You will stay overnight at the Elephant Lodge, a renovated 100 years old farmhouse. In the afternoon you can enjoy the tranquility of the surroundings or engage in one of the activities offered by the Lodge. Overnight: in Luang Prabang. Transport: Car, elephant and boat. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 12: Luang Prabang-Muang Singh. Today you will depart early. The drive to Muang Sing is a long one. Muang Sing is 440 km far from Luang Prabang and it will take approximately 8 to 10 hours to get there. It is a charming town located in a beautiful valley with endless rice fields and minority villages. Muang Sing used to be part of a group of principalities loosely linked under the Muang Sing originally formed part of group of principalities loosely linked under the leadership of a political entity called Sipsongpanna in southern Yunnan province, China, the current Xishuangbanna district. It is now the commercial center of a valley with numerous villages of different ethnic minorities, each with their own fascinating culture and traditions. In the evening you can walk around Muang Sing, which is in fact a large village, and enjoy a delightful dinner in one of the small restaurant. Overnight: in Muang Singh. Transport: Car. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 13: Muang Singh. Muang Sing's main attraction are the different minorities that live in the vicinity. What better is there to explore villages by foot and that is what we are going to do today. With your personal guide you will embark on a full day trek through the Muang Sing valley. It is an easy walk as the valley floor is flat. You will pass through villages of K'mu, Akha, Thai Dam (Black Thai) and Hmong, amongst others. Your guide will tell about their traditions, their way of living and their history. Many of these minorities live in several different Southeast Asian countries. Your guide will prepare a tasty lunch which you will have along the way.
At the end of the day you will return to Muang Sing and look back on an exciting day with many impressions and pictures to take home. Enjoy a bottle of the ever present Bia Lao. Overnight: in Muang Singh. Transport: On foot. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 14: Muang Singh-Chiang Khong. Today you will depart early. First destination will be Luang Namtha, a drive of about 1 1/2 hours (50 km). The road from Luang Namtha to Ban Houaysai has been upgraded recently. What once was a harrowing two day drive is now a mere 4 hour drive. The scenery is still magnificent. Enjoy the views. You will pass many small villages. The children delight in meeting foreigners. After you have reached Ban Houaysai you will say goodbye to your Lao guide and driver. Cross the Mekong River to Chiang Khong by local boat. After having your passport and visa stamped you will have to transfer to the hotel by yourself. Overnight: in Chiang Khong. Transport: Car and boat. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 15: Chiang Khong-Chiang Rai-Bangkok. Pick up from your hotel and transfer to the airport of Chiang Rai. This will take about 2 hours (130 km). Upon arrival in Bangkok you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight: in Bangkok. Transport: Car and airplane. Includes: (B).
Day 16: Bangkok-Departure. Check out time is 12:00 (noon).End of services. Includes: (B).
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