Day 1: Hanoi arrival (GP, D). 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 good restaurant in a colonial building. In the evening, you’ll have tickets for a performance of traditional Water Puppetry (an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and an interesting, light-hearted introduction to its rural culture). Your overnight stay will be in Hanoi.
Day 2: Hanoi/Lao Cai (B, L, G). You’ll have the whole day to explore Vietnam’s capital city. 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. You’ll then drive to the excellent Ethnology Museum for an overview of Vietnam’s 54 distinct ethnic groups in anticipation of your trip to Sapa. After lunch, you’ll call in at the serene Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest in Hanoi, on the banks of Hanoi’s Ho Tay (West) Lake. The centre of Hanoi, including Hoan Kiem Lake, the Ngoc Son temple and the bustling Old Quarter, is a magnet for visitors – it’s noisy and hectic, but definitely a ‘must-see’ attraction. The Old Quarter is a maze of shopping streets and restaurants with a hotchpotch of architecture - traditional tube houses, religious buildings, artisans’ workshops and cottages, colonial houses and modern concrete edifices. At 9.00 p.m., a car will take you to Hanoi railway station in time to board the 10 p.m. overnight sleeper to Lao Cai. We’ll arrange your city programme to avoid the busy times at popular destinations, but if there’s anything you particularly want to see, let us know.
Day 3: Try the Tay ethnic minority’s lifestyle in Sapa (B, L, D, G). You’ll arrive in the early morning, where you’ll be met and taken up into the mountains by jeep to Sapa, a small town perched on the mountainside opposite Mt. Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest peak. After breakfast at your hotel and a drive along a scenic valley to Ban Ho, a Tay ethnic minority village, you’ll meet some of the members of the hiking management board and ‘check-in’ to the stilt-house where you’ll spend the night. For the rest of the morning, you’ll be able to help with the owner’s domestic tasks and thus find out about the Tay lifestyle. After lunch, you’ll hike to the Nave waterfall (swimming if the weather permits). In the evening, you’ll join some of the locals in the village’s communal house to listen to folk songs and watch the traditional dancing of Tay and Red Dzao people to music played on the community’s vernacular musical instruments.
Day 4: Sapa (B, L, D, G). A 6km route developed by local residents takes you through bamboo thickets along the mountainside to Jumping Fish waterfall. After lunch, you’ll be able to join in some traditional sports such as archery, one-legged racing, and tug-of-war, visit another H’mong ethnic minority village and plant a tree as a contribution to the re-forestation of the area. In the evening, you’ll probably find the householder will be eager to learn some simple English sentences from you! In return, liberal amounts of rice ‘wine’ will help you to acquire some of the H’mong language.
Day 5: Sapa/Hanoi (B, L, GP). After breakfast, you’ll plant a tree to contribute to the re-forestation of the area, help with painting the local school, or whatever else needs to be done. After lunch, you’ll return to Sapa, and thence to Lao Cai to shower and freshen-up before boarding the sleeper train to Hanoi.
Day 6: Hanoi free (DP, B). You’ll arrive in Hanoi railway station in the early morning - our representative will be waiting to take you to your hotel. The day will be your own to unwind after your trip to Sapa. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 7: Hanoi/Mai Chau/Pu Luong (Sai Village) (B, L, D, G). After breakfast, you’ll drive to Mai Chau, passing through mountainous landscape on the way. When you arrive, you’ll have lunch in a stilt house in Lac village, the home of a Thai ethnic minority group. After lunch, you can wander around the houses to see the daily life of local people. They specialise in weaving brocade products, and are happy to show visitors their skills. The village is operated as a community co-operative, set up by the people themselves. You’ll then drive a further 15km to board a sampan on the Ma River, stopping en-route to visit some ethnic minority villages. Later, you’ll dock and hike to Sai Village where you’ll spend the night in the stilt house.
We’ll arrange a traditional folk song and dance performance by the local people. The show usually takes an hour or so. This isn’t a standard tourist event - the artists are peasants who work on the fields by day. Don’t expect professionalism. Instead, look forward to mingling with the locals, understand their traditions and customs, and have a jolly time – needless to say, rice wine will be much in evidence so the show could over-run an hour or two!
Day 8: Pu Luong (hiking to ethnic minority villages in Pu Luong) (B, L, D, G). After breakfast, you’ll set off for a three-hour hike to Hang Village. It’s a Thai ethnic minority community where you can stroll around to visit local families and meet in their stilt house for a cup of green tea. After a short break, your route will take you to Eo Ken village. You’ll have lunch in prepared by a local family. You might be surprised at how hospitality they are and the way they serve and prepare the food. After lunch, you’ll hike up for about 10 minute before being taken by a land-cruiser for one more hour. You’ll continue your hike down a slope to reach Kho Muong Village where your bathroom will be a natural stream. You’ll spend the night with a local family who will be your host in a traditional house built on stilts. Eo Ken village is far from the beaten track, high on the side of a mountain. It’s a stiff climb requiring stamina and much effort. We’ll allow plenty of time, and your guide will assist you, but if you feel it’s too much you just say so and you’ll return to the lower slopes.
Day 9: Pu Luong (hiking continues) (B, L, D, G). After an early breakfast, you’ll explore a large limestone cave near the village. Care must be taken as the route can be dangerous in some places. Your guide will be on hand to see all goes smoothly - the cave is worth the effort! From there, you’ll continue through the forest, passing thorough villages on the way with a picnic lunch en route. Your dinner and overnight stay will be in a stilt house.
Day 10: Pu Luong/Thanh Hoa/Hanoi (B, L, G). This morning, you’ll drive through several villages to visit a local market. You’ll see the local people heading to the market and going about their business. From there, your route takes you a small town for lunch. On the way, you’ll see the remarkable water wheels of Muong people. After eating, a ferry crossing over the Ma River and a single kilometre walk takes you to Cam Thuy’s ‘Sacred Fish Stream’. Not only will you see these obliging fish in a shallow stream, but also be able to paddle among them! Then it’s back to Hanoi, arriving in the late afternoon.
Day 11: Hanoi/Danang/Hoi An (B, DP, L, G). After breakfast, your car will arrive to take you to the airport for the morning flight to Danang. Upon arrival, you’ll have a brief look at the remarkable Hindu statuary in the Cham Museum before leaving for Hoi An. After lunch, you’ll have a guided visit to the Ancient Town. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An.
Day 12: Hoi An rural life (B, L, G). After breakfast with your guide (‘Cao Lau‘ - a typical Hoi An dish made with fresh noodles, meat and sauce), you’ll cycle through the rural scenery of Hoi An to a small village located on the banks of the Tra Que lagoon, three kilometres northeast of the old town. You’ll join local people in their daily work of planting and watering vegetables. You’ll then return to the old town to learn how to make simple silk lanterns at a local house. You’ll also be able to view the complex process of creating Hoi An-style lanterns. Your lunch will be prepared and served by the family.
Your afternoon will be free for strolling in the town, lazing on the beach, or whatever takes your fancy. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An.
Day 13: Hoi An free (B). The day will be free for strolling in the town, lazing on the beach, or whatever takes your fancy. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An.
Day 14: Hoi An/Danang/Ho Chi Minh City departure (B, DP). After breakfast, you’ll be picked up to the airport for a flight to Ho Chi Minh City in good time to connect with your international departure flight.
- Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
- Homestay condition in villages as specified.
- Pick-ups and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicle as specified in the itinerary above.
- Overnight train Hanoi – Lao Cai – Hanoi in air-conditioned sharing four berth cabin.
- Boat cruise as programme.
- 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.
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.
Also see tour packages in:
Asia Vietnam Outdoor: Land Rambler Hiking & Trekking Cultural Journey
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