Day 1: Hanoi arrival.
On arrival in Hanoi airport, you are met and transferred to your hotel by tour guide. Free at your leisure and Overnight in Hanoi. If you wish to have city tour today we will arrange accordingly.
Day 2: Hanoi - Mai Chau.
Our journey takes us west, towards Hoa Binh province. This scenic area is home to many ethnic minority groups including Dzao, Muong and Black Thai. We visit some villages en route on the way to the beautiful valley of Mai Chau, where we are welcomed by a local family and spend the night in a long house. We may also do some walking today. A mattress, blanket and mosquito nets are provided. The washing and toilet facilities are also provided. Stay overnight in Thai house on stilt. Includes: (B, D).
Day 3: Mai Chau - Son La.
Upon leaving Mai Chau we see many villages dotting the hillsides and the undulating terrain, which makes for an interesting journey. Along the way we stop for a short trek near Xa Linh, visiting the Hmong and the Muong people. Traveling across the Moc Chau Plateau we pass many tea plantations en route to Son La, which is our overnight stop. There we have the opportunity to visit the old Son La Prison, which the French used to imprison Vietnamese revolutionaries in the latter years of the colonial era. We also visit a small museum that has interesting displays on hill tribe lifestyles. Overnight in Son La. Includes: (B).
Day 4: Son La - Dien Bien Phu.
Leaving Son La, we stop at a market in Thuan Chau, which is populated by many hill tribes. Crossing over the Pha Din Pass we travel to Dien Bien Phu, the site of the decisive battle in Vietnam's struggle for independence from the French in 1954. Today the town houses a recently renovated museum, which details the events that took place. On display are relics from the battle including old French tanks and artillery pieces. Of special interest is the reconstruction of the bunker where the French commander, Colonel de Castries, surrendered to Viet Minh forces. We spend the night in Dien Bien Phu, which has developed into a fast-growing frontier town. The Lao border is not very far away from here. Stay overnight in hotel in Dien Bien Phu. Includes: (B).
Day 5: Dien Bien Phu - Lai Chau.
A long day’s drive though scenic, winding roads as our journey continues to Lai Chau, which encompasses an area formerly known as Tam Duong. This mountainous region is populated by many hill tribe villages and interesting markets where the local villagers come to trade their goods. We stay overnight in a very simple hotel, but it must be noted that all accommodation options here are very basic, as we are staying in an area that sees very few visitors. Stay overnight in Lai Chau. Includes: (B).
Day 6: Lai Chau – Sapa.
Sapa was founded in the early years of the last century as a hilltop retreat for the French administrators when the heat of the plains became unbearable. At an altitude of over 1000 meters, there are warm days and cool evenings. The local minority groups such as Hmong and Dao come to Sapa to trade. The imposing Fan Si Pan range of hills encourages an alpine feel to this colonial-influenced town. Stay overnight in Sapa. Includes: (B).
Day 7: Sapa.
Our trek into this mountainous region begins as we depart Sapa and pass through many different hill tribe villages. On our journey we will have the opportunity to meet some of the local people. The Black Hmong, Tay, Red Dzao and Sa Pho are some of the minority groups who have settled in this remote region. We trek through this forested region to a Red Dzao village called Giang Ta Chay, where we have lunch and then return to Sapa in the late afternoon for stay overnight. Includes: (B).
Day 8: Sapa - Bac Ha (market only on Sunday).
An early start departing Sapa as we again pass the frontier town of Lao Cai and head for hills towards the east. We visit the lively and colorful Sunday market in Bac Ha, arguably one of the most colorful markets in the world! Here we see many ethnic minority groups, but the dominant are the aptly named Flower Hmong. All these ethnic minority tribes wear their distinct costumes and come into town to trade on this one day of the week. In the afternoon we transfer to Lao Cai, where we board the overnight train back to Hanoi.
We travel in "soft sleeper" class, which is a compartment for up to four people. Blankets and pillows are provided. The food on the train is not the best you will have in Vietnam, so we usually buy food in Lao Cai to eat along the way. This journey is in keeping with the adventurous nature of our trips and allows you to experience a taste of traveling local-style in Vietnam. Catch night train back Hanoi, overnight in train. Includes: (B).
Day 9: Hanoi.
This morning we arrive early at Hanoi's train station and transfer to hotel. Hanoi is one of Asia's most enchanting cities. Its relaxed ambiance is a joy, with exploration best on foot or bicycle. The shopping is fun and the many lakes and parks provide enjoyable escapes. In the morning we enjoy a city sightseeing tour including Ho Chi Minh Quarter, One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature and the Hoa Lo Prison (also known as the "Hanoi Hilton").
As part of our responsible tourism approach, we enjoy lunch at Koto restaurant which aims at providing hospitality training and life skills to disadvantaged children in Hanoi. We have enough free time this afternoon to explore the Old Quarter streets named after the goods once offered for sale there, such as Silk Street, Rice Street and Jewellers Street. Stay overnight in Hanoi. Includes: (B).
Day 10: Hanoi Departure.
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