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

Paddling and Trekking 16 Days

Through a moderate 16-day schedule, you will have an insightful discovery throughout the splendors of bustling metropolis of Saigon city, the cool retreat of Dalat with magnificent Lang Biang mountain on the bike, the capital city of thousands years of culture Hanoi, wonderful Halong Bay and colorful land of hill tribes Sapa…

Destinations: Ho Chi Minh City – Dalat – Halong Bay – Sapa – Bac Ha – Hanoi

Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City arrival (Dinner, Guide)

Arriving at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel. You’ll have time to relax after your journey before a Welcome dinner. 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 Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 2: Ho Chi Minh City orientation (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

After breakfast, your guide will arrive to show you around Ho Chi Minh City. You’ll visit the History Museum where there is a special exhibition of the 5th century ‘Oc Eo’ civilisation. (Alternatively, you’ll visit the Fito Museum (First Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine) is host to a large collection of relics, including traditional Vietnamese medicinal implements, and chronicles the history of medical practice in Vietnam from 2000 BC). The Museum of War Remnants provides a very partial, but riveting, perspective of the ‘American War’: not for the squeamish! The Binh Tay market and the China Town are worth a stroll to explore the local daily life and the culture mix.

You’ll also 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 3: Ho Chi Minh City – Dalat (Breakfast, Guide)

After breakfast, you will be free until the driver arrives to take you to the airport for the flight to Dalat city - The former French colonial hill station town of Dalat was founded over 100 years ago by a French scientist, Dr Alexander Yersin. In the afternoon, you will visit the Summer Palace of the last emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai, and Hang Nga Guesthouse, known as the ‘Crazy House’ to locals because of its bizarre architecture. You may also wish to pay a visit to Dalat market. You will spend the night in Dalat.

Day 4: 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 neighbouring 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 5: Dalat - Hanoi (Breakfast, Dinner, Guide)

After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport to catch flight to Hanoi. 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 6: Hanoi - Duong Lam - Hanoi (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)

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 7: Hanoi - Halong Bay (Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

After breakfast, you’ll 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 8: 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 9: Ha Long – Hanoi – Lao Cai (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 around noon you’ll leave for Hanoi. You will arrive at your hotel in Hanoi in late afternoon, and then your time will be free until the driver arrives to take you to the railway station to catch the overnight train to Lao Cai. You will spend the night on the train.

Day 10: Cycling from Lao Cai  to Bao Nhai - Trung Do (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

You will arrive in Lao Cai between 6-6:30 am then your guide will take you to your hotel for refreshment and having breakfast then gear up for our bike trip with cycling 46 km from Lao Cai to Bao Nhai. The roads wind through luxuriant mountains with views of rice paddies stacked like mossy pancakes. You cycle on paved with slight to moderate elevation changes. This is a very colorful ride, bursting with cultural encounters. You'll pedal alongside commuting locals doubling and tripling up on bicycles. Afterwards, you'll board a longtail boat for a relaxing float up the Chay River. This is a good opportunity to observe rural life along the river  to the 'Fairy Cave' a limestone cavern punched through the canyon walls, then head back down river to the sleepy hamlet of Trung Do where we'll meet our host family from the Tay hill tribe. Here you'll dine on a homemade dinner and be overnight guests in their family home with their warm and gracious hospitality. The accommodation here is basic, but the cultural experience is worth every moment.

Day 11: Trung Do - Coc Ly - Bac Ha (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

After breakfast with the family, then you will have time to wander around the village and meet the locals. The photo opportunities are abundant with water buffalos plowing through the rice fields, fleshy pigs grazing beneath t wooden homes on stilts and ponds of ducks swimming in huddles. You'll walk about one hour along a dirt road where your driver and vehicle will meet you with the bikes. Here you'll switch gears and bike 10kms/16 miles to Bac Ha. The support vehicle follows closely for weary riders who want to catch a lift up the steep glute burning stretches. The hearty can attempt the ascent all the way to the top of the high pass of Bac La. Midday you will reach our hotel in Bac La and break for lunch. Afterwards you'll hop back on our bikes and ride 8 kms/5 miles around town with a stop in Ban Pho Village to have tea with an ethnic family. Your final leg on the bikes is a stretch of single-track that winds through plum gardens, rice fields and past the mud homes of the local inhabitants. You return to Bac Ha for dinner and overnight at a comfortable hotel.

Day 12: Bac Ha - Lao Cai - Sapa (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

After breakfast, You'll walk to the Sunday market in Bac Ha. This experience is rich with culture as the Flower H'mong, Black Dzao, Tay and Nung Hill Tribes all gather for this important social and economic event. Once we've had time to fill our bags with goodies and for the adventurous, sample some of the exotic food dishes you'll walk back to our hotel and drive up to Lung Phin. Here, you ditch the vehicle and hop on the bikes for a thrill-filled ride to Seng Sui, Lung Sui. This scenic loop is dramatic with staggering high mountains laced with rice paddies, corn fields and colorful Flower H'mong villages. The route is rated moderate, with a good mix of rolling hills and dirt and rocky roads. In Can Cau our support vehicle will await to transfer you back to Lung Phin. From here it's back on our bikes for the last stretch, a 12 km/6 mile glide on a paved road back to Bac Ha town. Later in the afternoon, you’ll return to Sapa for your overnight accommodation.

Day 13: Sapa - Topas Ecolodge (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

After breakfast, you will have a short time to relax before being transferred uphill to Heavens Gate (Tram Ton Pass), the highest pass of Vietnam. Here is the breathtaking view over the Muong Hoa valley, where you will have the opportunity to pass by during the days cycling trip. You will get on your bike and start descending into the Sapa valley, observing the fantastic scenery of mountains and rice paddy fields along the way. After leaving Sapa town behind for a while, you make a turn and follow a dirt road to the Black H'mong village of Lao Chai.

From Lao Chai the road will take you to a village inhabited by the Giay tribe. You stop in a local house where you will enjoy lunch and have time to explore the village. After lunch you continue your ride along the valley. You arrive at Topas Ecolodge in the mid afternoon. You check in to your bungalow and enjoy the view over the valley and dotted mountain surroundings.

Day 14: Village Trek (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)

The ride today starts from Topas Ecolodge and goes to Ban Ho, the village next to the river which you may already have seen from the balcony of your bungalow. Descending almost all the way will give you more time to enjoy the amazing scenery of mountains and rice paddy terraces. Upon arrival at the beautiful village, which is inhabited by the Tay minority, you will walk around the village, experiencing the normal life of minorities in the highland. After a short break in Ban Ho, you will continue the ride deep into the valley to Thanh Phu village. Here you stop for lunch in a traditional Tay house. After lunch, your ride will be mostly downhill back to Ban Ho where you will get in your supply jeep for a drive back to Topas Ecolodge

Day 15: Sapa – Lao Cai - Hanoi (Breakfast, Guide)

The morning is at your leisure at Topas Ecolodge. At 11h30 you will take the Topas Ecolodge shuttle bus to Sapa. The afternoon is at your leisure to visit the town. At 17h30, you will take the shuttle bus to Lao Cai for the night train back to Hanoi.

Day 16: Hanoi Departure (Driver Pickup)

Arrive in Hanoi in the early morning. You will be pick up and tranffered to your hotel to refesh before being taken to the airport to take the departure flight.

Our prices include:

  • 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
  • Return train tickets: Hanoi – Lao Cai (air-conditioned soft four-berth cabin, good local standard in Fanxipan Train carriage or similar)
  • Domestic flight tickets: Ho Chi Minh City – Dalat, Dalat - Hanoi, including domestic airport taxes.
  • Boat cruises as specified in the programme. All Ha Long Bay boats will be fully licensed and comply with current safety regulations.
  • 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.

Our prices exclude:

  • 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)

 

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