Water Puppet Tours

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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

Motorcycling the Ho Chi Minh Trail – Half Challenge 11 Days

The legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail was the supply line used by North Vietnam to link North and South Vietnam during the American War. Soldiers, ammunition, weapons and supplies were carried by hand, bicycle and truck for hundreds of kilometers through the otherwise impenetrable jungle that covered Vietnam’s mountainous border with Laos. A testimony to the ingenuity, fortitude and commitment of the northern Vietnamese, the trail slipped from use at the end of the war and was taken back by the jungle. Recent road work that follow original sections of the trail have changed this.

Besides incredible driving, deep in the Vietnamese countryside, this ride takes in the charming ancient trading town of Hoian, Khe Sanh battle site and DMZ. We also take time to stay overnight in a traditional Thai hill tribe and visit to some tribal villages on the way.

Destinations: Hanoi – Mai Chau – Vinh – Huong Khe – Phong Nha – Dong Hoi – Dong Ha – Khe Sanh – A Luoi – Hoi An – Da Nang

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. End the evening with a walk along Hoan Kiem Lake for dessert at Hanoi’s most famous ice-cream street. 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 (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. You will then enjoy a cyclo ride through the Old Quarter also known as the ‘Hanoi’s 36 streets’. This bustling area of narrow streets and alleys is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It's a great place to explore with plenty of photo opportunities all around you. After that, you will enjoy a water puppet show, an art form in which puppets are suspended over water, directed by puppet masters who must sit semi-submerged for hours at a time. The tradition of water puppetry is at least 1,000 years old, originating with peasants in the Red River Delta of the north. The puppets, which the French used to call “the souls of the Vietnamese rice fields,” are made of the water-resistant wood of the fig tree and depict villagers, farm animals, dragons, and more. You will spend the night in Hanoi.

The Ho Chi Minh mausoleum is closed every Monday and Friday (outside grounds and garden area will be open on these days) and normally closed from September 4 through November 5 for preservation and maintenance of the building.

On Mondays, the Museum of Ethnology is closed. If our tour of Hanoi is on a Monday, our visit to the Museum of Ethnology will be replaced by a visit to Hanoi's History Museum or Fine Arts Museum.

Alternative for Day 2: Hanoi street food tour (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast, you will depart for an insider’s tour of the capital.

Take a walking/street food tour of Hanoi’s best culinary spots with a food blogger. A local hospitality industry insider, with an enormous passion for his country's cuisine, created a blog that gained a large following both in Vietnam and internationally. Here he created awareness of locally know street food dishes combined with cultural adventures, entertaining his readers since 2005. Quirky observations also found their way into both local and international media and his experience managing some of Hanoi 's finest dining establishments along with his special interest in street-food (he's shared many hours trawling the street stalls and markets) make him the genuine, local authority on  Hanoi 's food scene.

Your specialist street food guide and your private vehicle and driver will meet at the hotel then take you to the centre of Hanoi. Once in the centre of town the tour will be mostly conducted on foot so be sure that you are wearing comfortable walking shoes

Your guide will take you to stroll through Old Quarter then past the old east gate to Thanh Ha market. Along the way delicacies, strange food items and an explanation of Vietnamese food practices will be given. This busy, eclectic market is alive with the sights and sounds of Hanoi and is the essence of Vietnamese culture.

You will then continue through the streets of the Old Quarter to Dong Xuan market to sample some local treats such as Pho Tiu and Bun Dau. Your guide will explain the routine of Vietnam meal times and indigenous/unusual ingredients eaten. Stroll up ‘food alley’ to see other dishes on offer.

From here, you will visit the food sections of Hanoi’s main market, Dong Xuan then see dried goods and aromatics, the essentials of Vietnamese cuisine.

After that, you will walk down to Hang Than Street to view ceremonial cake stalls and taste a special French influenced dessert. An explanation on traditions and food gifts for celebrations will be given. You will then continue back into the Old Quarter via Hang Cot Street – check specially treated fruit which are dependable on the seasons and a common snack in Vietnam. After that, you will walk along Phung Hung Street through temporary market stalls where you can see the changing market scene in Hanoi and how modernization is shaping tradition. At the end of the tour stop at one of the Old Quarter busiest (yet smallest) coffee shops for a well-earned sit down and coffee before transferring back to your hotel.

In the afternoon, your guide will take you to West Lake and one of the oldest Buddhist pagodas in Hanoi, Tran Quoc, and the nearby Taoist temple of Quan Thanh which dates from the Ly Dynasty before coming back to your hotel to stay overnight.

Day 3: Hanoi – Mai Chau (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide) – 140km

You will leave Hanoi around 8.30am then ride your motorcycles west to Mai Chau, an area of beautiful landscape and home to the Thai ethnic minority. You will ride on road No6 passing expansive rice paddies and scenic villages. You will have a stop for refreshment before tackling 70km of undulating road with great view of mountains and valley. You will have lunch on the way. After that, you will continue riding to Mai Chau. You will ride straight to Pom Coong, a peaceful village of White Thai ethnic minority where you will have dinner and spend our night in a traditional stilt-house of a Thai family.

Day 4: Mai Chau – Tan Ky (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide) 268km

After breakfast, you will say goodbye to the villagers then head south on a beautiful winding road which follow the banks of the Ma River. After some hours riding on undulating quiet road, you will join the new Ho Chi Minh Highway. This newly carved route leads us due south, through remote back country, not far from the Laos border. Your lunch will be on the way with local foods. In the afternoon, you will cut eastward towards the coast and stay overnight in the peaceful city of  Tan Ky, which is close to where Ho Chi Minh was born. You will have dinner in local restaurant and overnight in hotel.

Day 5: Tan Ky – Huong Khe (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide) – 160km

This morning, you will head inland towards the Laos border after 40min riding, you will then reach the birthplace of Ho Chi Minh in  Kim Lien Village. The place is truly a shrine to the Vietnamese and visited by few westerners.

After paying respects to Uncle Ho, you will head to the HCM Highway via Thanh Chuong District.  You cross the  Lam River on the  Ro Bridge and then drive primarily on the beautiful new highway of Ho Chi Minh.  You will have lunch break in Pho Chau Town, a tiny town about 40km from Thanh Chuong.

After lunch, you will continue on the quiet highway to  Dong Loc Intersection, (main junction for supply lines during the war) which is widely regarded in Vietnamese eyes as the beginning of Ho Chi Minh Trail. You then pass through remote back country, close to the border, as the scenery steadily becomes dominated by karst limestone rock formations. You will reach our overnight spot,  Huong Khe Town, around 5pm. Dinner in local restaurant and overnight in a mini hotel.

Day 6: Huong Khe – Phong Nha – Dong Hoi (Quang Binh) (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide) – 210km

Today’s ride is on a very quiet section of the new highway. En route, you will come to Khe Ve Intersection and  Pheo – the very first branch of the Ho Chi Minh Trail into Laos.

Continuing on from Pheo, you will arrive in Phong Nha around noon. After lunch in local restaurant, you will board a dragon boat to explore the famous Nature World Heritage Site of Phong Nha cave.

After the exploration of Phong Nha, you will ride 30km eastward to the coastal town of Dong Hoi, your today’s overnight spot. You will spend the night in Dong Hoi.

Day 7: Dong Hoi – Dong Ha (Quang Tri) – 256km

Today’s ride is also on the new, quiet highway.  Along the way, you will have a short stop at Truong Son National Cemetery to pay respect to the soldiers who fought and died on the trail during the American War. After here you will head to  Dong Ha Town passing  Ben Tat Bridge, built by the VC over the  Ben Hai River.

Arriving in Dong Ha, you will check into the hotel, and have some lunch.  In the afternoon, you will ride to the mystic Vinh Moc Tunnel and the famous  DMZ,  Doc Mieu fire base and the historic  Hien Luong Bridge. You will spend the night in Dong Ha.

Day 8: Dong Ha – Khe Sanh – A Luoi (Thua Thien Hue Province) – 200km

After breakfast, you will be continuing west on Highway 9, you will climb into the Truong Son foothills. About 16km from Khe Sanh is the  Dakrong Bridge  and the road turns winding and narrow.  A bit further, you will come to Huong Hoa, once known as  Khe Sanh Base, which was established as a forward base by General Westmoreland near Laos to secure Highway 9.  About 3km from Khe Sanh is Ta Con Airbase.

Lunch in Khe Sanh and then head out across the famous Dakrong River Bridge on Rte. 14  near the town of Ta Rut, you will stop for a visit with the  Pa Co people and a walk through their village.  From Ta Rut, you will head over  scenic Pe Ke Pass and then down to  A Luoi for the night.

Day 9: A Luoi – Hien – Thanh My – Hoi An (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide) – 240km

Today’s riding is the best riding of the whole route. For the first 110km, you will cross one of the longest and most stunning pass on new and quiet road, through stunning scenery of primitive forests backed by the imposing Truong Son mountain range. There are also two long tunnels and very little traffic. The next 68km from Hien to Thanh My are on good road with some gentle climbs. You will then have lunch on the way in local restaurant. The last 40km of the day are on an older, bumpier road all the way from  Ai Nghia to the charming ancient town of  Hoi An. You will stay overnight in Hoi An.

Day 10: Hoi An – Free at leisure (Breakfast)

Hoi An, nestled on the banks of the Thu Bon River.  Before the river silted up, Hoi An was one of the most important trading ports in Southeast Asia, and a center for East-West exchange and trade. The rooftops of Hoi An retain a magical old world Oriental feel and are a favorite subject for Vietnamese artists.  In the early 1980s Hoi An’s ancient quarters and historical monuments came under the protection and restoration efforts of UNESCO and the Polish government.

Alternative for Day 10: Hoi An – From Farmer to Fisherman Tour (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 your hotel.

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 11: Hoi An Departure (Breakfast, Driver Pickup)

Transfer from Hoi An to Da Nang to take flight to onward destination. Trip ends.

Note on client safety

We reserve the right to deviate from this itinerary for any reasons, including road and weather conditions, frequency of visits to a village, or for any other factor which may influence client safety.

Inclusive:

  • Vietnam Visa Invitation letter
  • Support vehicle (supplement luggage van to carry your motorbike and baggage).
  • Honda (or Yamaha) 125CC (semi-automatic gear)
  • Helmet
  • Gasoline for the ride
  • Mechanic (for group from 6 passengers)
  • 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
  • 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 motorbikes for all days in the programme
  • Drinking water and local fruit for all motorcycling days in the programme
  • Simple first aid kit.
  • VAT and other taxes.

Exclusive:

  • 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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