Day 1: Arrival to Hanoi. On arrival at Noi Bai Airport, you are met and transferred to hotel. Ha Noi, Vietnam's capital, 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 short cycle excursion 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. This morning we enjoy a half day city tour, seeing the the Ho Chi 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. The complex also comprises the One Pillar Pagoda, whose origins date back to the foundation of Hanoi. The next stop of our trip is the impressive Ethnological Museum, dedicated to Vietnam's 54 ethnic minorities, some of which we will see on our forthcoming days. We also visit the Temple of Literature and the peaceful lake of Hoan Kiem with its sacred temple. The reminder of the day is free for your own exploration of Ha Noi until transferring to the rail way station for 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 - Sapa - Sin Chai. Arrive Lao Cai and transfer to Sapa. Check in the Victoria Sapa for shower and breakfast. After a shower at the hotel, short briefing with local guide while having breakfast, we leave Sapa by jeep and wind our way to the end of the dirt track at Su Pan. The Jeeps are left behind, and with a beautiful view of the valley below us we move down to the river and the village of Ban Ho. Cross the river by a suspended bridge and move slowly eastwards through a landscape dominated by verdant mountaintop and rice-terraces climbing up the slopes. Gradually learn to recognize the different tribes who have been using these paths for generations by their varied, colorful traditional dress.
After crossing one more river, this time on foot, we reach the lively Tay village of Than Phu, with its rice mills scattered around the banks of a small stream. Enjoy lunch in local house, as curious children peek in and giggle, before leaving the village and heading up a nearby valley. The path rises gradually to an altitude of 1040 m, and on the other side we descend to the small, isolated village of Sin Chai (940 m). Before 1998 the village had few visitors, so enjoy the rustic surroundings and the beauty of the people's life in harmony with nature. Overnight at a local house (or in a tent, if you prefer) after a simple meal prepared by the family. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: Sa Pa Valley. The day start early, so wake up to the sound of a cock crowing, the grunts of free-roaming pigs, and the creaking of water-mills grinding rice. Some families will turn the flour into rice-paper, which you may see hanging out to dry around the homes. Sin Chai is a Dzao village, where the women wear beautiful jewelry and huge, red headgear. Those interested in learning more about the area can set out after breakfast on an easy two-hour walk to another Dzao village, Suoi Thau (1030 m). Along the way enjoy a magnificent view all the way across the valley to the mountains before reaching a unique wooden bridge with a thatched roof that connects the village to the rice fields. After lunch here, return to Sin Chai to spend the rest of the day relaxing or exploring the village. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: Sin Chai - Sa Pa. After the H'mong porters pack our gear, say goodbye to Sin Chai and hit the trail. Stop for tea and a swim in the river in Than Phu before heading to the Tay village of Ban Ho. A local family is expecting us, and the cook has prepared lunch for us to enjoy on the porch before heading back up the escarpment towards Su Pan and the waiting jeeps. Back in Sapa, after check-in at the local hotel you may be surprised by how much you appreciate the modern convenience of a hot shower and a cold drink. Perhaps at dinner you'll want to reflect on how quickly you can get in touch with a different culture largely unaffected by the modern world. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: Sa Pa-Lao Cai - Bac Ha. In the morning after breakfast, drive down to Lao Cai and then drive up to boat dock at Bao Nhai for boat trip to Coc Ly River (3 hours). Continue to Bac Ha and arrive late in the afternoon. Check in hotel. Dinner and over night at Sao Mai hotel in Bac Ha. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: Bac Ha - Lao Cai - Hanoi. Wake up early in the morning and join Bac Ha market, which takes place only on Sunday. After the market, return to the hotel for lunch. An easy walk to visit the String H'mong village near by. Return to Sao Mai Hotel and transfer down to Lao Cai. Dinner in Lao Cai and night train back to Hanoi. Over night on the train. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Hanoi - Ha Long-Kayaking. Arrive Hanoi early in the morning. Pick up and transfer to restaurant for breakfast. Leave Hanoi for Halong Bay and arrive around noon. Board a traditional wooden junk and begin your exploration of magical Halong Bay, one of Southeast Asia's premier tourist destinations. An excellent, fresh seafood lunch will be served on the boat while cruise to the most beautiful areas in Halong for afternoon paddling. Overnight on board the comfortable and charming junk. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: Kayaking - Ha Long - Hanoi. Wake up early in the morning to enjoy the aquamarine water of the bay at its best. After breakfast and early swim, we continue for 2 hours paddling visit to the isolated beach, floating village. Meet the junk again for lunch while cruising back to Halong harbor. Transfer back to Hanoi by vehicle. Farewell dinner at the restaurant in town and overnight at the hotel in Hanoi. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 10: 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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