Day 1: Hanoi arrival (GP). Arriving at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi. You'll be met and driven to your hotel, you'll have time to relax after your journey before enjoying a performance of traditional Water Puppetry, an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and a good, light-hearted introduction to its rural culture. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 2: ‘Secret Art Tour’ of Hanoi (B, G). In the morning, you’ll visit Hanoi’s Fine Art Museum for an overview and historical perspective of Vietnamese art. Then you’ll call in on two or three of the better commercial galleries in the city. If there are any good exhibitions running at the time, they could replace one or more of the gallery visits according to your preference.
After lunch, you’ll visit a local artist and his stilt house and a nearby warehouse where craftspeople create antique replicas (better known as ‘fakes’!). You can view his (real) antique furniture collection and restoration work. Next, you’ll visit the home of another talented painter to see his lacquer and oil painting artwork. Finally, you’ll meet another artist who brush-paints traditional Vietnamese calligraphy at the Old House in the Hanoi Old Quarter.
Day 3: Hanoi - Duong Lam ancient village - Hanoi (B, L, G). Duong Lam Commune is a community of six traditional villages some 50 km from Hanoi. It’s notable for a number of reasons, not least its extraordinary longevity. Considering its close proximity to Vietnam’s sprawling capital city, it not only emerged almost unscathed from half a century of warfare, but also escaped the recent rampant urbanisation of the area. The latter owes much to the commune’s atypical local traditions and beliefs – your guide will explain.
It’s a picture postcard patchwork of verdant fields, shady trees and small huddles of cottages and pagodas built of raw laterite blocks. One village in particular, Mong Phu, is an architectural treasure house with dozens of buildings dating back to the 17th century.
After visiting the commune house, the Mia Pagoda and the local market, you can drop in to a typical ancient house where you’ll be welcomed with a cup of green tea and an opportunity to talk about the daily life of the commune and its main occupation - farming. Lunch will be awaiting you in nearby Son Tay Town after which you’ll return to Hanoi, stopping en-route to visit the Van Phuc silk village. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 4: Traditional Villages around Hanoi 1 day (B, L, G). In the morning, you’ll be picked up to drive to Bat Trang. On arrival, you’ll be able to stroll in the small alleys of this old village to watch local people producing their fine products and visit some of the houses used as workshops and showrooms. You’ll then drive to Dong Ho village - famous for its traditional paintings.
After a picnic lunch, your vehicle will take to Tam Tao village to enjoy its traditional Quan Ho music performed by villagers in the commune house. The singers have been officially designated as part of Vietnam’s ‘living heritage’ by UNESCO. In the afternoon, you’ll return to Hanoi for your overnight accommodation.
Day 5: Hanoi - Hoa Lu - Tam Coc - Hanoi (B, L, G). In the morning, you’ll be picked up to travel to Hoa Lu – the former capital of Vietnam, about a two-hour drive from Hanoi. On arrival, you’ll visit two temples, one dedicated to Emperor Dinh and the other in memory of Emperor Le, followed by a brief visit to the remains of the Old Palace.
After lunch at a local restaurant, you’ll visit Tam Coc (three caves), a peaceful valley among limestone ‘karst’ hills, There, you’ll be rowed along a gentle river between paddy fields and through the caves. On the way back, you’ll disembark for a pleasant stroll (about 2km) through the rural scenery to Thai Vi temple. In the late afternoon, you’ll return to Hanoi for overnight accommodation.
Day 6: Hanoi Departure (B, GP). You'll be free until being driven to Noi Bai airport for your departure flight home. Trip ends.
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