Day 1: Arrival at Hanoi (D, 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 a ‘Welcome’ dinner at a restaurant in a restored French colonial building. In the evening, you’ll have tickets for 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: Motor biking in Hanoi (B, L, G). You’ll have the whole day to explore Vietnam’s capital city from the back of a motorbike. Your guide will take you to the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam dating back to the 11th century, and a popular attraction, as is Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, his simple stilt house where he lived and worked, and the museum dedicated to his memory. After that, you’ll visit the bustling Old Quarter with its eclectic mix of architectural styles - traditional ‘tube’ houses, religious buildings, colonial houses, vernacular dwellings and modern concrete edifices.
This day also includes a two-hour ‘Street Life Experience’ - see Vietnam’s Old Quarter from the back of a motorbike with an opportunity to try a street food brunch. You can choose from a selection of local specialities: Pho Bo (Hanoi’s excellent beef noodle soup), Nom (green papaya salad with seasoned beef), Banh Goi (Pillow-shaped pastry with minced pork and mushroom), Banh Cuon (hot rice paper with pork and fried onion) or Bun Cha (fresh noodle with grilled pork).
Day 3: Hanoi/Kayaking in Ha Long (B, L, D, G). After an early breakfast, you’ll leave for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. Weather and tide permitting, you’ll be able to swim, fish and paddle in a kayak to the rocky islands to explore sea-level caves. The silence, broken only by the lapping of the water and the cries of sea birds, is a truly memorable experience.
For your two-day Ha Long excursion, you'll board one of the best quality boats on the Bay, a wooden junk based on the model of the old Vietnamese court vessels, with sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure. The boats vary in size, accommodating between ten and eighteen people, so you're likely to be joining other travellers for the cruise. Your cabin will be about six metres square, and furnished with twin bunks, two fans, an air-conditioner, pillows, white cotton sheets, and an en suite toilet and shower. All your meals, usually based on fresh seafood, will be provided on board.
Day 4: Kayaking in Ha Long/Ha Noi/Lao Cai (B, L, G). You’ll cruise and kayak to some of Ha Long Bay’s little-visited islands, followed by lunch just before docking around noon and leaving for Hanoi. In the late afternoon, you’ll return to Ha Noi for dinner and your overnight sleeper train to Lao Cai and Sapa. You’ll have an opportunity for a shower and to freshen-up both before boarding the train and upon your arrival in Lao Cai.
Day 5: Lao Cai/Ethnic market/Sapa (B, L, G). You’ll arrive in the early morning, where you’ll be met and taken to visit a market frequented by ethnic minority peoples. After a picnic lunch, you’ll return to Lao Cai and continue your journey into the mountains to Sapa, a small town perched on the mountainside opposite Mt. Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest peak. You’ll arrive with time to relax and stroll around the town. You’ll spend the night in a Sapa hotel with good mountain views. Although it’s quite a long drive, the landscape is attractive and the ethnic markets are a fascinating experience.
Unlike those in the tourist areas, the markets that we choose are not only for buying and selling, but are also meeting places for ethnic minority people to meet and exchange news. There will be plenty of colour and authentic costumes, but very little to buy as souvenirs unless you want to barter for a water buffalo or a sack of fertiliser! The trips to ethnic minority markets must be on Tuesday (Coc Ly Market), Thursday (Lung Khau Nhin market), Saturday (Can Cau) or Sunday (Bac Ha, Muong Hum or Muong Khuong markets).
Day 6: Sapa/Su Pan/Thanh Phu/Sin Chai (B, L, D, G). After breakfast, you'll mount a mountain bike to explore Sapa valley. You’ll cycle downhill on a winding road which runs along Muong Hoa valley, home to Black Hmong, Giay and Red Dao minorities. From the road you’ll have many opportunities to enjoy scenery of mountains and rice paddy terraces as far as the eyes can see. After a short break in Su Pan, you’ll cycle downhill until you reach Thanh Phu village of Tay minority. Here you stop for lunch in a traditional Tay house. After lunch, your ride will be mostly uphill; you’ll head toward Sin Chai village of Red Dao minority. Here you’ll have a tasteful dinner in a local house and stay overnight in a bamboo hut. Timing: 5.5 hours cycling with an hour for lunch. Data: Uphill - 10km. Level - 0km. Downhill - 30km.
Day 7: Sin Chai/Nam Nhiu/My Son/Ban Ho/Sapa/Lao Cai (B, L, G). Today’s ride will be a little softer. You’ll pass by some villages, stopping by a local school. You’ll also be able to meet Xa Pho minority, one of the smallest ethnic group, which cannot be found in other areas. You will pass by Thanh Phu and continue to Ban Ho. In Ban Ho you will enjoy lunch in a local house. After lunch, you will take a short walk to the nearby river, where you will be able to have a swim (if weather permits). You can take a break and have a cup of tea in a Tay house before you get on a car for a journey back to Sapa and, later to Lao Cai station for the overnight train to Hanoi. Timing: 4 hours cycling with an hour for lunch. Data: Uphill - 4km. Level - 3km. Downhill - 8km.
Day 8: Free day in Hanoi (B, DP). You'll arrive in Hanoi early in the morning and taken to your hotel with a free day in prospect to allow you to recover from your exertions. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 9: Hanoi/Nha Trang (B, L, G in Nha Trang). After breakfast, you’ll be driven to Noi Bai airport to board the noon flight to Nha Trang. On arrival, you’ll find a car and driver waiting to take you to your hotel overlooking the Bay. After checking-in, you’ll visit the impressive Ponaga Cham Tower after which you’ll be driven to the nearby Thap Ba hot spring spa. After relaxing in the mud baths and mineral water pools, you’ll be driven back to your hotel.
Day 10: Full day private boat trip in Nha Trang (B, L, G). After breakfast, a car will arrive to take you to board a boat for a whole-day cruise to some of the small islands in the bay. You’ll anchor off Mun Island for snorkelling and a glass bottom basket boat ride to see colourful corals and the mysterious marine life. You’ll then cruise to Tam Island for swimming or relax on the beach before heading to visit Tri Nguyen Aquarium on Mieu Island. If you wish, you can join with other tourists to the ‘music entertainment’ with a wine and fruit party, followed by a seafood lunch on Tre Island. In the late afternoon, you’ll get back to the mainland and drive to your hotel. You’ll spend the night in Nha Trang.
Day 11 to Day 13: Nha Trang/Whale Island (B, L, D). In the morning, you’ll be picked up by the Whale Island Resort minibus to drive to Ninh Hoa where you’ll board a speed boat to spend three nights on the island. Whale Island Resort is a ‘get-away-from it all’ hideaway, the only buildings on a sand island 80km north of Nha Trang. It’s small and basic but exclusive and comfortable – a bit more expensive, but as all meals, transfers are included. Sailboards, small catamarans, and equipment and a motor boat for snorkelling are available fore hire. You can dive at Whale Island – the coral is considered better than in Nha Trang.
There is a pleasant bamboo restaurant and a beachfront bar serving drinks at sensible prices. Accommodation is in simple bamboo bungalows on the beach. Don’t expect resort hotel conveniences – you’ll have to put up with occasional insects and geckoes in your room, no telephones or televisions, and very few people. This is a place for relaxing au naturelle! Whale Island, at the extreme north of the bay, offers very safe beach diving to 15m. More advanced diving includes wall diving to 40m, coral gardens at 15m, and racing drift dives. Whales and sharks are occasional visitors.
Day 14: Whale Island/Nha Trang/Ho Chi Minh City departure (B, DP). The Whale Island staff will take care of your transfer from the resort to Nha Trang airport. From there you’ll fly to Ho Chi Minh City for your transfer or departure flight from Tan Son Nhat airport. Trip ends.
- Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
- Pick-ups and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicle as specified in the itinerary above.
- Returned train tickets Hanoi – Lao Cai – Hanoi in air-conditioned sharing four berth cabin.
- Well-maintained mountain bike as programmed.
- Boat cruise as programme. For Ha Long Bay, you’ll join other passengers on a high quality wooden boat with comfortable accommodation, good facilities and an experienced crew. The boat will be fully licensed and comply with current safety regulations.
- Road travel in an appropriate private vehicle.
- The services of experienced English-speaking guides as indicated in the itinerary
- Where necessary, entry fees for all visits as mentioned in the programme.
- Lunches and dinners, as specified, in the best local restaurants, picnics where suitable restaurants are not available, and full board on the boat in Ha Long Bay.
Prices vary depending on level of accommodation, group size and dates of travel. Contact us to customize a vacation itinerary and price to meet your needs and budget.
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