This trip is a great chance for those who want to reveal the real Vietnam from the coastal areas to the remote mountainous regions where the foot prints of the first tourists are still new. From brant cities to stunning mountains in the North and Central Highland, natural landscapes of Ha Long & Ninh Binh to anciently Hue & Hoi An… You will get different experience, different surprises everyday from place to place.
Destinations: Hanoi – Ninh Binh – Hue – Hoi An – Kon Tum – Bac Ha & Surroundings – Hoang Phi Su – Ba Be Lake – Halong Bay – Hanoi
- Cyclo ride in Hanoi old quarter & water puppet show.
- Cycling & bamboo boat rowing amongst breathtaking karst formations
- Explore royal relics at Imperial Citadel and city of Hue.
- Walking tour in Hoi An ancient town and authentic cuisine
- Visit to local Montagnard villages, take part in traditional ceremony
- Great local interaction & home stay in Kon Tum, Bac Ha and Ba Be
- Imposing scene of Northern mountainous and colorful hill tribe markets.
- Hike in Hoang Su Phi. Herbal bath and traditional hill tribe massage.
- Glide on mirror-lie Ba Be Lake
- Weave between thousands limestone islands of Halong Bay and overnight aboard
Day 1: Hanoi Arrival (Dinner, Guide pickup)
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. North of the lake are the bustling streets of the Old Quarter, each street named after the trade that used to take place there. Much of the city was transformed by the French when it became a French protectorate in the 1880s and there are wide boulevards and large colonial buildings which are now home to government departments and foreign embassies. You will have time to relax before 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.
In the evening, you’ll have a ‘Welcome’ dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant in a restored French colonial building. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 2: Start to visit Hanoi, all the highlights of Hanoi (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast at your hotel, you will be taken to visit the Ho Chi Minh Complex where you will hear about the man who led Vietnam’s campaign for independence from French colonial rule. Then you will see the One Pillar Pagoda and the Presidential Palace before heading to the Imperial Citadel. Once the apex of regional political power for more than a millennium, the area is now undergoing archaeological excavation and research. In the afternoon explore the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university and the iconic Long Bien Bridge, followed by 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. 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.
Please be aware that the One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi is closed for renovation work until January 2015. Day tours will now visit Ho Chi Minh’s Museum as an alternative touring attraction.
Day 3: Hanoi - Ninh Binh - Cuc Phuong national Park (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide) - Cycling distance: 18 km
Leave busy Hanoi for a drive to Ninh Binh (2hours). You will arrival Van Long natural reserve - Van Long - an area of astounding natural beauty with limestone peaks whose splendor is often said to surpass that of Ha Long Bay. It is true that this area is often referred to as the new “Ha Long Bay on Land” take a boat tour rowed by hands for 2 hours, along the way you will see caves, green rice fields, limestone mountains and the rural life of the locals. After the boat tour you continue to drive to Cuc Phuong national park Cuc Phuong National Park. This is the foremost and largest national park in Vietnam and is home to rich fauna and flora system. You will have lunch at the park's restaurant before taking your ride on bike for 18 km into the central area of the park.
On the way there you will take a visit to the Cave of Prehistoric Man, a site that left with relics of human from thousands of years ago. Start your 2 hours exciting trek after lunch in the park’s restaurant. This 6 km light trek will bring you through the core of the park where you will see many special tropical plants including huge creeping plants, strangler trees and thousand years old trees some reach up to nearly hundred meters as well as different types of small animals and insects. The remainder of the day is for your relax in the bungalow on the bank of beautiful Mac lake.
An optional night spotting tour is available if you wish to see nocturnal animal such as giant flying squirrels, civets and so on. Enjoy sound sleep in the middle of original rain forest.
Day 4: Cuc Phuong – Hoa Lu Tam Coc – Hanoi, gourmet night adventure by motorbike (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
After breakfast at park, you will be transferred by bus thru the country land to Ninh Binh, a province in the southern part of Red River Delta that famous for its stunning rural scenery and karst landscapes. Visit to Hoa Lu ancient capital and temples dedicate to Kings of the Dinh and the Early Le Dynasty.
Continue driving or cycling for 1 hour to Tam Coc through stunning limestone karst valleys surrounded by picturesque fields and villages with lots of chance for photographs. Lunch upon arrival in Tam Coc before boarding a small sampan and gently glide on the water along rice paddies, natural tunnels and spectacular mountain landscapes of Tam Coc. This area, dubbed as the Halong on land, surely give you a great impression about natural beauty and authentic local life.
Continue with a visit to Bich Dong Pagoda dating to 1428 and comprising three structures on the mountain cliff. This place described as second most beautiful place under the Viet sky by the Lord Trinh Sam in 1770. You will come back to Hanoi in the late afternoon. You will then check-in hotel and take a short rest before enjoy a special gourmet tour by motorbike.
Tour guide will see you at your hotel, ride to visit unique market held on 100-years-old bridge, admire fascinating sunset and meet up with very friendly vendors. We then head to the first nightly eatery for tasty seafood & drink Bia Hoi before continue along impressive ceramic road for Hanoi specialty – Pho Cuon.
After partly satisfy your tummy, we will explore a romantic Hanoi by visit West Lake and be a part of typical “drive-through” eating in Vietnam with an ice-cream. Because of not being a “tasting tour” so you will discover the architecture, history and lifestyle of Hanoi between each tasting location. During the tour, your eyes-opening, heart-touching in local atmosphere.
Ride to the Hanoi Old Quarter at late evening, the area now looks reality back with its ancient capital, which beauty has never find by chaos and crowded vehicles during the daytime for enjoy water-mouth pancake while talking and watching the stall-owner process must be unforgettable memory. Stop for a cup of coffee served in Hanoi-style coffee shop to feeling Hanoi’s soul. Hanoi culture and beauty now is alive with you than ever.
Day 5: Hanoi - Hue (Breakfast, Dinner, Guide)
After breakfast, you will be free until your car and driver arrives to take you to the airport for your noon flight to Hue. When you arrive, you’ll be met by our guide and driven to visit the Emperor Minh Mang’s Tomb and return to Hue to visit the Dong Ba market.
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.
Each Royal Mausoleum reflects the personality of the Emperor it commemorates. The most majestic is that of Emperor Minh Mang, a staunch follower of Confucianism with many wives, concubines and a small army of children. Planned by the Emperor and built shortly after his death in formal Chinese style, it’s opulent and exotic, and a good example of classic Sino-Vietnamese architecture.
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 6: Cycling to get closer to Hue’s lifestyle (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 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 specializes in a single product range of traditional cakes - ‘banh it’ and ‘banh phu the’ before looping back to your hotel for overnight accommodation.
Day 7: Hue - Danang - Hoi An (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
In the morning, your car will drive you to Danang. On the way, you'll cross the Hai Van mountain pass. The views from the top are excellent – you should be able to see Lang Co beach and village, and the lagoon far below, with Danang spread out before you to the south.
Upon arriving in Danang and a brief look at the remarkable Hindu statuary in the Cham Museum, you’ll arrive at Hoi An. After lunch, you’ll have a guided visit to the Ancient Town of Hoi An and spend the night in Hoi An.
Day 8: 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.
Alternative for Day 8: Cooking Class in Hoi An (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide at cooking class)
In the morning, you’ll join a cooking class at the Red Bridge Restaurant. After visiting a market to purchase ingredients, a boat will take you along Hoi An River to the restaurant where you can investigate its herb and vegetable garden before learning how to cook traditional Vietnamese dishes. After lunch at the restaurant, your time will be free. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An.
- Fresh Rice Paper Shrimp Rolls – including making rice paper.
- Warm Squid Salad served in half a pineapple
- Grilled Eggplant stuffed with market vegetables
- Hoi An Pancakes (Banh Xeo)
- Food Decoration - pineapple boat, three coloured flowers and Vietnamese hand fan
Day 9: Hoi an - Kon Tum (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
After breakfast, you will leave Hoi An and drive up back to Ho Chi Minh Trail for Kon Tum through beautiful stretches of stunning mountains. On the way you will have several stops to visit to lovely villages of the ethnic minorities. You will arrive in Kon Tum in the late afternoon.
Kon Tum is a little town of mountain feel in the Central Highland of Vietnam that is home to several ethnic groups. The town is known in the tourist map for its beautiful natural setting of surroundings and typical hill tribe culture as well as some colonial vestiges. It is also a great place for trekking and cultural discovery.
Day 10: Kon Tum (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
After breakfast, you’ll drive to KonKoNang village. From there, you’ll have a gentle six-kilometre hike through the forest to the source of the DakBla River. Next, you’ll climb into an inflatable dingy to ‘raft’ down the DakBla River, stopping on the way for a riverside picnic lunch. After lunch, you’ll carry on down the river for a couple of hours, eventually returning to Konkotu for dinner and a well-earned night’s sleep in the village Rong house.
The Konkotu village, home to the Banar ethnic, where you’ll stay overnight, lies beside a wide river that’s good for bathing, although care must be taken as the current can be quite strong in places. The whole area is very beautiful and unspoilt, the village is very attractive, and the people are welcoming and friendly. You’ll sleep in a traditional Rong House (not one with a tin roof!).
Day 11: Kon Tum/Pleiku/Hanoi by air (Breakfast, Guide)
You’ll be driven to Kon Tum Town to visit its charming Wooden Church, and then continue to Pleiku for your flight to Hanoi. When you arrive Noi Bai Airport, you will be picked up then taken to your hotel. You will spend the night in Hanoi
Day 12: Cycling and exploring villages around Hanoi – Lao Cai (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
In the morning, you’ll be picked up to drive to Bat Trang. On arrival, you’ll pick up your bicycles and ride around the village. You will be able to continue with your bicycles or stroll in the small alleys of this old village to watch local people producing their fine products and visit some of the houses used as workshops and showrooms.
You’ll then drive to Dong Ho village - famous for its traditional paintings. After a picnic lunch, your vehicle will take to Tam Tao village to enjoy its traditional Quan Ho music performed by villagers in the commune house. The singers have been officially designated as part of Vietnam’s ‘living heritage’ by UNESCO. After that, you will be transferred back to your hotel for refreshment before taking the overnight train at 21.00 PM to Lao Cai. You will spend the night in Lao Cai.
Day 13: Lao Cai - Bac Ha & Surroundings (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
You’ll arrive in the early morning, where you’ll be met and taken by car to visit a market frequented by ethnic minority peoples. After a picnic lunch, you’ll take a motorboat cruise downstream on Chay River. You will stay overnight in Bac Ha.
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 for 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 or Ban Cam market), Thursday (Lung Khau Nhin market), Saturday (Can Cau) or Sunday (Bac Ha, Muong Hum or Muong Khuong markets).
Day 14: Bac Ha – Hoang Su Phi (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
After breakfast, your guide will take you to Xi Man Distric where you will have a great time to trek about 7km. After lunch, you will travel to Ha Giang province. The region still remains as a less-visited tourist destination in the North of Vietnam. The drive offers great countryside scenery with house-on-stilts of the Tay people located on the hillsides with palm trees. Have stops sometimes on the way for taking photos and visit villages. Arriving your hotel in the late afternoon, dinner and overnight in Hoang Su Phi
Day 15: Hoang Su Phi Trek (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
You have a whole day trek to different villages of the Black Dzao and the Red Dzao people whose villages are scattered throughout the beautiful landscape of Hoang Su Phi. The landscape is also amazing with rice terraces interspersed with lush bamboo forest. Have lunch at a local family on the trek before coming back to your hotel.
Day 16: Hoang Su Phi – Ba Be Lake (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
After breakfast at the lodge, you have a whole day drive to Ba Be Lake National Park in a comfortable vehicle. It’s a long trip, but there will be breaks en-route, and the latter part of the journey takes you through striking mountain scenery. You’ll arrive with time for a sunset stroll in the crisp forest air before dinner. You’ll spend the night in Ba Be National Park's Guesthouse.
Day 17: Ba Be (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
You’ll have a full day to visit the park. In the morning, you’ll travel down the river in a motor launch through Puong Cave. After lunch, you’ll reach the lake, the Fairy Pond, set in dense forest with many birds, and Widow’s Island, where the ‘river ghost’ punished greedy villagers by creating the lake. It’s a pleasant opportunity to relax as the boat glides through the unruffled crystal-clear water. In the late afternoon, you’ll disembark at a Tay ethnic minority village for dinner and spend the night in a ‘stilt’ house in Ba Be National Park.
Day 18: Ba Be - Hanoi (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
In the morning, you’ll return to Hanoi, visiting a weekly ethnic market and stopping for lunch en-route, and arriving in the late afternoon. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
You might consider an extra day mountain hiking from the National Park headquarters through primitive forest to the Dao ethnic minority village of Hin Dam. The hiking is arduous, but the panorama over the lake, the forest flora, and the hospitality of the Dao people more than compensates. Your overnight accommodation would be in the park.
Day 19: Hanoi - Ha Long (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 while you are having lunch to visit Cua Van Fishing Village. After that, you will return to the boat and enjoy the Cooking Class with some traditional foods will be held by our Chef then you can taste the food after practice.
At night time, you can relax in the dining room and lounge or on the upper deck. You also can try your luck at squid fishing with help from the crew. The cruise route is designed to avoid busy areas and includes a very quiet location for your overnight stay.
Cua Van Floating Fishing Village is the largest fishing village on the Bay with about 600 residents living in about 150 floating houses, where you can do kayaking around the village or visit it on the bamboo boats (Sampans).
For your two-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 20: Ha Long Bay (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
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. The day’s activities include cruising to less trafficked areas of the Bay for swimming, kayaking at the Bat Cave and a visit to the Pearl Village where there are extensive fish farms and a working pearl processing factory and showroom. 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 21: Ha Long - Hanoi (Brunch, Guide)
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 leave the boat at 7:45 for a walking tour on Titov Beach Island. If weather permitting, you can able to swim or clime the hill (not a mountain) for an overview of the bay’s remarkable seascape. After that, you’ll return to the junk for brunch while cruising back to the main dock and around noon you’ll leave for Hanoi then you will be transferred to the airport to take the departure flight.
- Vietnam Visa invitation letter.
- Private door-to-door pick-up & drop-off services.
- Travel in an appropriate private air-conditioned vehicle with an experienced safe driver.
- Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
- Domestic flight tickets: Hanoi – Hue, Pleiku - Hanoi, including domestic airport taxes.
- Return train tickets: Hanoi – Lao Cai (air-conditioned soft four-berth cabin, good local standard in Fanxipan Train carriage or similar)
- The services of experienced English-speaking guides as indicated in the itinerary
- Boat cruises as specified in the programme. All Ha Long Bay boats will be fully licensed and comply with current safety regulations.
- Lunches and dinners (as specified in the itinerary) in the best local restaurants and full board on the boat in Ha Long Bay.
- All sightseeing tickets.
- VAT and other taxes
- 24/7 hotline support guaranteed
- International flight tickets and airport tax.
- Lunches and dinners, except as specified above.
- Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses.
- Travel insurance
- Surcharges for Peak seasons (if any)
- Vietnam visa stamp fee
- Other services not mentioned above.
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