Water Puppet Tours


With its numerous national parks, white sand beaches, colourful villages, pagodas and ancient monuments, forests and islands, Vietnam is a land of often surprising beauty, offering cultural depth and history, increasingly combined with tourism-friendly areas offering all the facilities a modern traveller could wish for.

Vietnam’s people are its greatest asset: gregarious, friendly and eager to meet visitors. In the bustling cities, the often chaotic streets contrast ox carts with limousines, ancient rituals with sophisticated technology, and are ruled by the ubiquitous moped.

Our strength is in translating these opportunities into detailed, practical itineraries. We do luxury travel and event planning, as well as a wide range of beach, family, honeymoon, adventure, golf, veteran and cultural tours.

There is no better way to experience a destination than through the perspective of the local people. At Water Puppet Tours, this key element of local insight drives every step of our process of tour design and delivery. We provide tailor-made tours individually crafted for each client, achieving this by emphasizing the direct working relationship between the client and the tour designer and operator.

Travel Style

Travel Destination

Backroads of Vietnam 24 Days

This cycle-journey combined with sport activities like trekking, kayaking and classic sightseeing is to the relatively unexplored the best of of Vietnam, from colorful lands of hill tribes in Sapa to magnificent Halong bay, from ancient Hoi An town to immense Lak Lake in Buon Ma Thuot and the tour ends in bustling Ho Chi Minh city with a side trip to visit the Mekong Delta…

Day 1: Hanoi arrival (Dinner, Guide pick up)

Arriving at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel, the capital city of Vietnam, is an elegant city located on the banks of the Red River with tranquil Restored Sword Lake at its heart.

With food stalls on every corner Hanoi is famous for its street food cuisine and Bia Hoi, a draft beer that is brewed daily and sold on street corners. Start your evening at ‘Bia Hoi corner’ and pull up a stool to taste the local brew and do a spot of people watching.  Then walk through the bustling streets of the Old Quarter as your guide introduces you to the various foods on offer. You will stop at one of the many pop up restaurants and try a Vietnamese barbeque of flame grilled meats, tofu and vegetables on skewers just like the locals. In the evening, you will enjoying the famous traditional water puppetry show in Thang Long Theatre where you will have chance to get a general picture of the daily activities typical to Vietnam's rural areas. You will spend the night in Hanoi.

Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, ranks amongst the world's most attractive and interesting cities. It was first the capital of Vietnam in A.D. 1010, and though the nation's capital moved to Hue under the Nguyen dynasty in 1802, the city continued to flourish after the French took control in 1888. In 1954, after the French departed, Hanoi was declared Vietnam's capital once again. The remnants of over 1,000 years of history are still visible here, with that of the past few hundred years wonderfully preserved.

 Day 2: Hanoi Orientation – Lao Cai (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast at your hotel, you will be taken to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and historical presidential relics and then the Temple of Literature nearby. Afterwards you will head to Ngoc Son Temple and Hoan Kiem Lake. The Ngoc Son temple is set on a tiny island on the Hoan Kiem Lake and dates back to the 13th century. The lake itself is a picturesque focal point of Hanoi, frequented by tourists and locals alike. In the afternoon, you will visit   Museum of Ethnology, widely acknowledged as the best in the country which houses a display dedicated to Vietnam's 54 ethnic minority peoples. Then you will take 1 hour by cyclo ride through Hanoi's Old Quarters to experience daily life of people, who are living in the oldest parts of the city. After that, you will come back to your hotel to refresh before being transferred to the railway station to catch the night train to Lao Cai. You will stay overnight on the train.

Day 3: Lao Cai - Sapa (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

You’ll arrive in the early morning, where you’ll be met and taken up into the mountains by car to Sapa, a small town perched on the mountainside opposite Mt. Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest peak. After breakfast at your hotel, you’ll hike down a scenic valley calling in at the H’mong ethnic minority villages on the way. After a streamside picnic lunch, your route will take you to a Day ethnic minority village. You’ll spend the night in the house of one of the village’s families.

Hiking around Sapa can be quite arduous. The tracks are rough in places, and your route will take along undulating terraces and through the villages. Stout walking shoes and good sun protection are essential. The total distance is 12 kilometres on the first day and about 4 km on the second day. However, travel by car can be arranged as an alternative.

Day 4: Sapa (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

After breakfast and an early start, you’ll hike to visit the Red Dao ethnic minority people of Giang Ta Chai village, where you’ll have lunch. Later in the afternoon, you’ll be picked up by jeep to travel to Ban Ho village where you’ll have dinner and spend the night in a Tay ethnic minority group stilt-house.

Day 5: Sapa - Hanoi (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

After breakfast, you will have the opportunity to explore the Tay village of Ban Ho where you stayed overnight before crossing the suspension bridge over a stream. The route will continue taking you through the rice fields to the Red Dao village of Nam Toong where your guide will prepare your lunch in a local house. After lunch you will ascend back to Supan where your driver is awaiting for you to take you back to Sapa, later in the evening, to Lao Cai station by car to catch the overnight train to Hanoi.

Day 6: Hanoi - Halong Bay (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

Arrive in Hanoi in the early morning,  you will be picked up at the railway station to your hotel to refresh and have breakfast, you’ll then leave for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. There you’ll board a wooden junk that takes you first through Bai Tu Long Bay. You’ll continue your cruise to an island beach. Weather permitting, you’ll be able to swim or climb a hill (not a mountain!) for an overview of the bay’s remarkable seascape. You’ll then continue your cruise to visit Cua Van floating fishing village where you’ll have an opportunity explore the village by rowing bamboo boat. The cruise route is designed to avoid busy areas and includes a very quiet location for your overnight stay.

For your three-day Halong excursion, you'll board Indochina Sails, one of the best wooden boats on the bay. It’s a wooden junk modelled after the old Vietnamese court vessels with two barge sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure. The boat has 14-15 cabins in total, 11 Superior cabins in the lower deck and 4 Deluxe cabins in the upper deck, accommodating a maximum of 30 people, so you're likely to be joining other travellers for the cruise.

All cabins are air-conditioned and have windows overlooking the bay. In size, the Deluxe cabins are 14.5 m2 and Superior cabins are 13m2. Each cabin is furnished with two twin beds or a double queen size bed. The interior panelling, floor and furniture are of hardwood. Each cabin has a wardrobe, desk, pillows, white cotton sheets, and an en-suite toilet and shower with a good selection of high-quality toiletries. All meals, usually based on fresh seafood, will be provided on board. Kayaking is available upon request and at a surcharge.

Day 7: Ha Long Bay Kayaking (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide on boat)

The Indochina Sails’ route is for two days only, starting from noon of the first day to noon of following day. If you book a three-day cruise on the bay, you’ll be transferred after breakfast to your day–trip boat with private crew to cruise to the bay’s most deserted areas with opportunities to swim from quiet beaches or kayak to visit water tunnels, fishing villages, or your choice of other locations. A personal chef will prepare and serve your lunch on board. In the late afternoon, you’ll return to the Indochina Sails boat for dinner and your overnight stay.

The smaller boat’s facilities are limited and at a lower standard compared to the Indochina Sails boat, but you’ll have its exclusive use to cruise around the further reaches of the bay well away from the tourist area. Pack lightly; you’ll want swimwear and a set of dry clothes, and, as there are different activities during the day, bring both shoes (such as trainers) and flip-flops or sandals.

Day 8: Ha Long - Hanoi – Hue (Brunch, Driver Pickup)

You’ll awake to the fresh air of the bay, and can take a swim or enjoy a Tai Chi session on the large sundeck (beginners welcome!) After a light breakfast of pastries and tea or coffee, you’ll dock to visit one of the most famous caves in the bay. You’ll return to the junk for brunch while cruising back to the main dock and drive you back to Hanoi airport to catch the flight to Hue. When arrival, your guide will pick you up then take you to your hotel to check in. This quiet city is widely known for the magnificent architecture of its citadels, palaces, royal tombs, pagodas and temples built under the Nguyen Dynasty. In the evening, you will make your own exploration to see Hue city by night. Overnight at hotel in Hue

Day 9: Cycling to get closer to Hue’s life (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

In the morning, your bicycles will be at your hotel ready for you to ride through Hue’s rural villages towards the Thanh Toan Bridge (roofed in Chinese style). Nearby, a local market will provide you with views of daily life and local products. You'll then return to Hue’s city centre with en-route visit the Ngoc Son Princess ‘garden house’. It has an attractive family altar and the owner is an expert on Hue’s culture and history – he will be pleased to explain the geomantic principles underpinning the building and garden’s construction.

After lunch, your route will take you past the Imperial Citadel to visit some of the garden houses in Phu Mong Kim Long village, thence ride toward one of the handicraft villages in Hue’s hinterland that specialises in a single product range of traditional cakes - ‘banh it’ and ‘banh phu the’ before looping back to your hotel for refreshment.

In the evening, you’ll sit down for dinner in the pleasant surroundings and a comfortable atmosphere of another of the garden houses. The owner will prepare and serve a traditional meal based on the distinctive characteristics of classic Hue cuisine. You’ll spend the night in Hue.

The garden houses are a unique feature of Hue. The houses are traditional, privately owned, and set in attractive formal gardens. Some have connections with the old Royal Imperial Court. Hue traditional architecture has long had close associations with the natural environment. The garden houses reflect this association. Each is highly individual - house and garden, people and scenery, plants, clouds and water co-exist and blend with each other in a harmonious context. The narrow streets and abundant flora give the garden house area a country village feeling.

Day 10: Hue - Hoi An (80km) (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

A classic cycling trail for people with average fitness - taxing, but not exhausting! You’ll be driven to the coast, about 18km (or 2O minutes) beyond Hue’s city limits. The first 40km is off the beaten track along a picturesque lane shaded by coconut palms running alongside a peninsula from Thuan An beach to Vinh Loc. A pause to explore the hundreds of ancestral tombs scattered across the high sand dunes is a welcome break.

Upon reaching the end of the peninsula, a local ferry will take you across the Perfume River’s estuary and, after reaching dry land, the route takes you a further 11km arrive at Highway 1. At this point you have two options – brave the traffic on Vietnam’s busiest road or be transferred to the start of today’s three hill climbs. Unless you enjoy following heavy juggernauts belching diesel fumes, we recommend the latter!

After the first two moderate climbs, each about 3km, a break to relax, sunbathe, splash in the azure waters of Lang Co beach and seafood lunch, you’ll be ready for the Hai Van Pass. You’ll ignore the tunnel, full of commercial traffic and noxious gasses, in favour of the 11km mountain road. Since the tunnel was built, it’s very quiet - the gradient is manageable and the views breathtaking!

Finally, you’ll then be transferred the rest of the way to Hoi An Ancient Town, a historic old port and trading post where you’ll spend the night.

Hoi An town is a UNESCO World Heritage area. An ancient trading port, once the largest in Indochina, Hoi An was a meeting point for many cultures that left their mark in the different architectural features of its wooden buildings. The original traditional street pattern still exists, as does the quay that once welcomed ships from all over East Asia and beyond. Many remained there for months at a time, waiting for favourable trade winds to carry them home.

There are plenty of good restaurants offering a variety of cuisines and price levels. The town is also a good place for shopping for silk. You can have your clothes tailor-made within a day or two at reasonable cost.

Day 11: Hoi An – From Farmer to Fisherman Tour - Hoi An City (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

The day starts with cycling the narrow roads through the countryside, passing by rice paddy fields, water buffalos, bamboo bridges and local farmers on their daily work. You’ll then board a boat to the mouth of the Thu Bon estuary where the river meets the Cua Dai Sea and cruise along the coastline observing the lives of the local fishermen.

After joining the fisherman to try your hand at catching fish in a traditional ‘Thung Chai’ basket boat, you will meander through the water palm coconut canal. During the American War, Viet Cong soldiers made use of this area as a highly effective hiding place from enemy attacks through their long struggle. Following an insightful visit to a local fishing village, you’ll be free to relax and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch before cycling back to the Ancient Town, your guide will explain its considerable significance in the history of Vietnam to you. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An..

Thung Chai Basket boats, similar in style to coracles in use throughout the ancient world, are widely used throughout Central Vietnam, and are highly suited to the local terrain and lifestyles of local fishermen due to their relative light weight and portability, often doubling as a carrier for various handy items. Circular and constructed of bamboo and tarred for waterproofing, these small boats can typically carry up to five people, and represent a fun-filled opportunity to touch the authentic rural soul of Vietnam. As a precaution, life jackets are provided for your safety during this excursion.

Day 12:  Hoi An - Danang - Buon Ma Thuot (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

After breakfast, you will be free until driver arrives to pick you up and take you to the airport for the flight to Buon Ma Thuot where you driver is waiting for you to take you to your hotel. You will spend the night in Buon Ma Thuot.

Day 13: Buon Ma Thuot - Gia Long Waterfall - Fairy Pond - Lower Day Sap Waterfall - Buon Ma Thuot (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

This morning, you’ll drive to the other bank of the river to hike for about two kilometres. After clambering down a slope, you’ll be able to bathe in the ‘Fairy Pool’, a small natural swimming pool with a sandy bottom. From there, you’ll hike a further six kilometres to Lower Dray Sap waterfall where your picnic lunch will be served beside the cascade. In the afternoon, you’ll return to Buon Ma Thuot City to visit the local Ethnology Museum and A Co Thon village, home of many Ede ethnic minority people. You’ll spend the night in Buon Ma Thuot.

Both waterfalls are spectacular and little visited, but their settings are different. Gia Long is surrounded by lush vegetation. Bao Dai, the last Emperor of Vietnam, built a bridge across the falls - the remains are still visible among the undergrowth. The forest on the other side of the falls is old, with huge trees and full of birds. Dray Nur falls are larger and more powerful, but the area is comparatively barren with only a few trees. Huge black boulders lie in a jumble at the bottom. Gia Long has a few small bamboo huts for overnight stays and a small shop. Dray Nur has no development at all.

The Ethnology Museum is small, but has some interesting exhibits relating to the ethnic minority groups in the immediate area.

A Co Thon village is remarkable. Despite its location almost in the centre of the city, surrounded by Kinh ethnic majority households and farms, the Ede people’s traditional buildings and many of their ethnic customs are still prominent. During the 1950’s, French Catholic missionaries helped the Ede families to update their homes to include modern conveniences and standards of hygiene, and more efficient farming techniques, but simultaneously retaining their traditions of architecture and ceremonial.

The result is one of the very few examples of ethnic groups that have achieved a comfortable standard of living in the Vietnamese social mainstream without being assimilated. Ask your guide to let you hear some Ede music – its very unusual and very closely linked to traditional rituals.

Day 14: Buon Ma Thuot - Dalat (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast, you’ll head to Don Village in Yokdon National Park, about 45km from Buon Ma Thuot where you’ll visit the oldest house in a community of M’Nong people. You’ll see the tomb of an elephant and the rites and techniques involved in training these majestic animals. Next, your car will take you to another village to ride an elephant along the Serapok River.

Later, you’ll leave for Dalat, on the way the driver will stop on the way to take photos. You will spend the night in Dalat

Day 15: Dalat City tour from the back of a motorbike (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

Today will be devoted to Dalat and its surroundings. The city is quite compact, but its hinterland extends well beyond, so we suggest a tour on the back of a motorbike. You’ll visit the Linh Phuoc Pagoda and an embroidery workshop in an attractive garden setting. Alternatively, you could visit Dalat’s railway station instead of the embroidery workshop. After lunch, Emperor Bao Dai’s Summer Palace, the Crazy House and Dalat market are on the itinerary. The day will end at a café at about 4.00 p.m.

Alternative for Day 15: Trekking around Dalat (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After a sustaining breakfast and a drive from Dalat to Tiger Falls, you’ll begin hiking down a succession of waterfalls. The first section of the trail takes you through steep-sided pine forest heading downhill to Lang Bian River. By the time you arrive, you’ll probably be ready for a rest break beside of the falls and if you wish, a cooling splash in the water. A further 1½ hour mainly following the river reveals human activities in the form of coffee plantations and suspension bridges. The land is farmed by the K’oho and their sub-groups, the Lat and the Chil people. Together, they make up the largest ethnic minority population in the area

From there, we hike uphill to a viewpoint offering a panorama of the valley below with lunch and a rest on the mountaintop. Then it’s downwards for a while before climbing upwards to the neighboring peaks to a remote village accessible only by foot. It’s a good example of the privations and benefits of the lives of isolated rural minority peoples, their homes, work and culture.

After a hike through the rolling hills, another waterfall and several small market gardens you’ll see Tiger Falls in the distance. Then it’s a well-earned rest in the car as you return to Dalat!

Please note that this is a six-hour trek along a rugged trail demanding plenty of physical strength and stamina. However, the exceptional alpine scenery makes the trek well worth the effort. The area was first documented in 1893 by Dr. Alexander Yersin, a student of Louis Pasteur and a revered figure in Vietnam. His wanderings in the area and his love for the area led him to establish the hill-station that is now Dalat

 Day 16: Dalat - Bike to Nha Trang (Beakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After beakfast, you will start your journey to Nha Trang. This ride to Nha Trang starts with a 45 minute transfer 33km to the north east of Dalat on a new road and through the newest national park in Vietnam (Bidoup Nui Ba). It offers fantastic cycling in the highlands as well as down a 28 kilometer pass to the coast. The first section of the ride starts in pine forest and rolls through the hills with beautiful views of farms, countryside and Nui Ba Mountain. There is one final 3 kilometer climb to the top of the pass before some serious downhill. The 28 kilometer, uninterrupted downhill section is the longest section of downhill that we offer.

After reaching the bottom of the pass you’ll have picnic style lunch by a river. The section of riding after lunch offers a beautiful sampling of country living in Vietnam, passing through small villages and farms. This section of riding, although pleasant, can be challenging as the hills roll continuously. Average riding distance is 70 kilometers with an option to ride more, or less. The support vehicle can be used at any time if you need to.

Day 17: Cycling through rural villages around Nha Trang (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast, you’ll pick up a mountain bike to cycle across the countryside around Nha Trang City, you will be stopping off at several villages, a working brick kiln and a good example of typical 19th century Vietnamese architecture en-route. You’ll meet local people, find out about their rural lifestyle and see how they earn a living. Your journey will take you across the rice fields where the farmers work with the water buffalos, and visit hamlets producing

  • Rice paper
  • Conical hats
  • Woven rice-stalk mats
  • Charcoal stoves

Lunch will be at a riverside restaurant

Day 21:  Nha Trang – Ho Chi Minh City (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast, you will be free at your leisure until your driver arrives to take you to the airport for the flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Arriving at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel.

In the afternoon, You’ll call in at the Jade Emperor Temple. It’s one of the best Taoist temples in Vietnam, with superb effigies, remarkable carved panels of the descent to Hell and somewhat incongruous terrapin and tortoise sanctuaries. You’ll then return your hotel for freshen up or wander around the huge Ben Thanh market, one of the liveliest areas of Ho Chi Minh City, is packed with every conceivable commodity. You’ll spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.

 Day 22: Ho Chi Minh City - My Tho - Cai Be (approximately 60km cycling) (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

After escaping from Ho Chi Minh City’s urban sprawl, you’ll be taken to the starting point. You’ll then pick up your bicycles and ride along the many stunning leisurely villages with stop en-route as often as you wish. After lunch, you’ll reach Cai Be for your home-stay with a Vietnamese family.

Day 23: Cai Be - Vinh Long - Tra Vinh - Ho Chi Minh City (approximately 80km cycling) (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

In the morning, you’ll be taken to Vinh Long, cruise on the Mekong River, visit fruit orchards, a traditional family-run brick kiln, and drop in to look at some traditional cottage industries - a workshop making the huge coffins unique to the Mekong is particularly interesting. You’ll bike along narrow country lanes, easy dirt tracks and trails. This is biking at its most glorious - through tiny orchards, witness colourful life along the riverside, pedal past picturesque delta homes, pause to chat with welcoming villagers, clack across innumerable wooden bridges. You’ll cross a narrow canal on a local sampan, before finishing at the main ferry for a refreshing boat trip across the expansive Co Chien River. You’ll then ride a few km to the Khmer town of Tra Vinh. There will be plenty of time to explore side tracks and trails as the cycling distance today is not far. This gives a great first impression of the ‘heart of the Mekong’. Late in the afternoon, you’ll return to Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 24: Ho Chi Minh City departure (Breakfast, Driver pickup)

Your time will be your own until your private car and driver arrives to take you to Tan Son Nhat airport for your departure flight.


  • Free Vietnam Visa Invitation letter
  • Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
  • Pick-ups and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicle as specified in the itinerary above. For description, see below
  • Domestic flight tickets: Hanoi – Hue, Danang – Buon Ma Thuot, Nha Trang – Ho Chi Minh City, including domestic airport taxes.
  • Road travel in an appropriate private vehicle for transfer and back up when cycling as itinerary (supplement luggage van to carry bike and baggage).
  • 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.
  • Good quality touring cycles for all cycling days in the programme.
  • Drinking water for cycling days as itinerary.
  • Snack, soft drink and local fruits for cycling days.
  • Simple first aid kit.
  • VAT and other taxes.


  • International flight tickets and airport tax.
  • Lunches and dinners, except as specified above.
  • Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses.
  • Insurance
  • Surcharges for peak season (if any)
  • Compulsory meals (if any)
  • Alternative in blue



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