From Hanoi we drive 135 km westwards through Hoa Binh province to the hill tribe village of Mai Chau. This is a beautiful area and most of the local inhabitants are ethnic White Thai minorities. We will walk through the countryside past verdant rice fields and trek to nearby minority villages. For 2 nights you will be hosted by a local hill tribe family in their home on stilts. You will eat and sleep with the family and wake up early each morning with the crowing roosters and grunting pigs. It is basic accommodation but also an experience you will never forget! Another unforgettable experience will be our 1 night sleeping on board our junk moored in Halong Bay amongst over 3,000 limestone karsts. The boat crew will prepare your meals for you so all you have to do is take plenty of photos and relax.
Day 1: Hanoi
Day 2: Hanoi – Mai Chau
Day 3: Mai Chau – Daytrip Hiking
Day 4: Mai Chau – Hanoi
Day 5: Hanoi – Ha Long Bay
Day 6: Ha Long Bay – Hanoi
Day 7: Hanoi
DAY 1: HANOI
On arrival in Hanoi you will be transferred to your hotel. Please remember that hotel check-in times are after midday – unless the hotel has some rooms already available. If you do arrive early you can leave your luggage at reception and we would encourage you to get out and explore Hanoi – but please take a hotel business card so that you will be able to find your way back. Before leaving the hotel, please look in the reception area for a notice advising your tour leader’s name, mobile phone number and other helpful local information. There are no activities planned until your 6 pm tour briefing. It is important you attend the tour briefing and afterwards, for those interested, your leader will be happy to escort you to a local restaurant to sample the delights of Vietnamese cuisine and toast the start of what will be an unforgettable journey.
DAY 3: MAI CHAU – DAYTRIP HIKING
After breakfast, we take a short drive before setting off on a full day’s trek from Sam Khoe village through bamboo forests, undulating hillsides and paddy fields. We will pass through villages, home to various ethnic minorities, all friendly and welcoming. As we return to our longhouse accommodation of the previous night, we need only carry a daypack and camera for the walk.
DAY 5: HANOI – HA LONG BAY
Halong Bay became firmly entrenched as one of the “must see” sights of Vietnam after the filming of the 1992 French movie, “Indochine” (starring Catherine Deneuve) and later the 1997 James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies” (starring Pierce Brosnan), The images of red sailed junks navigating through the 3,000+ limestone karsts (islands) jutting out of the bay are nothing short of spectacular. It’s approximately a three-hour drive from Hanoi to Halong port where we board our boat and head out into the bay enjoying a seafood lunch (non-seafood also available) on the way. During the cruise we will stop to visit a cave and, in the warmer months, there is a chance to enjoy a swim and maybe do some kayaking (optional and extra cost involved). After we have moored up in the bay for the night our crew will busy themselves preparing a sumptuous dinner whilst, weather permitting, we watch an incredible sunset. Conditions are more communal compared to staying in a hotel; however it is a wonderful experience to be spending a night on the bay. All boats have twin-share cabins with en suite facilities and bedding and towels are provided.
DAY 7: HANOI
Free at leisure, it is subject to your flight schedule you might have some free time once we transfer you to the airport for taking your international flight back home. Today is the last day of your tour. You can use your hotel room in Hanoi until check out time (most times at 12 pm noon). We wish you a comfortable journey home and are sure you will take some wonderful memories of Vietnam with you.
DAY 2: HANOI – MAI CHAU
We can leave some luggage behind at our hotel before heading southwest of Hanoi to Hoa Binh province. This area is home to many hill tribe people whom we have a chance to meet. We also have the chance to walk though some of the countryside, which is quite spectacular. The walking is not too strenuous; however, some physical preparation will enable you to appreciate it a bit more, as the terrain can be a bit hilly. Anyone of reasonable fitness should have no problems. After a short walk in the afternoon we arrive in the hill tribe village near Mai Chau, where we will stay overnight in a local longhouse. The accommodation is simple and dormitory-style, but friendly and communal, with basic washing and toilet facilities provided.
DAY 4: MAI CHAU – HANOI
This morning we bid farewell to our hill tribe hosts and return to Hanoi. Although there has been a permanent settlement here since the 3rd Century AD, the city of Hanoi can trace its origins back to 1010 B.C., when Emperor Le Thai To moved his capital from Hoa Lu to this site. When the French occupied Vietnam from the 1880s to World War II, Hanoi was developed as their colonial Indochinese capital with many of the ancient and historical structures being razed to make way for new French buildings. Today, the people of Hanoi take a lot of pride in their grand old colonial buildings which, together with the wide spacious boulevards and tree-lined lakes, help make Hanoi one of most graceful and charming cities in South East Asia.
This afternoon we enjoy a city tour, showcasing some of Hanoi’s most interesting attractions. We begin by visiting the One Pillar Pagoda which is near to the Soviet-inspired Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. One Pillar Pagoda was first constructed in 1049 and is one Hanoi’s oldest structures. If it does not look that old, it is because the French blew it up in 1954 as a parting gesture and the current building is a replica. Afterwards, we’ll visit the Temple of Literature. Founded in 1070, it was Vietnam’s first institute of learning and the place where candidates for the position of Mandarin were examined. Finally we will visit the Hoa Lo Prison, better known to many as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’. These days the prison serves as a museum.
The evening is free to wander around and one of the best places to do this is the city’s Old Quarter, situated to the north of the Hoan Kiem Lake – a great (and easy) place to get lost in for a couple of hours
DAY 6: HA LONG BAY – HANOI
In the morning we cruise back to Halong port, where we disembark and drive back to Hanoi. The afternoon is free at leisure for you. Maybe you would like to do some shopping and sightseeing or relaxing in one of the lakeside cafes.
Accommodation as mentioned in the program, based on Double/Twin Room with breakfast
Meals as indicated in itinerary
English speaking guide in Vietnam
Tours, transfers and all services as mentioned in the itinerary
Private driver and vehicle for city tours, train and airport transfers
Private cabin with the twin share on Ha Long Bay Junk
Entrance fees for all sights visited
Vietnam visa arrangements
International flights to and from Vietnam
Any other meals not mentioned above
Personal expenses are such as laundry, telephone, drinks, camera and video fees, etc.
Tips for guide and driver
All other services which are not mentioned in INCLUSIONS
``Our guide Duong was absolutely fabulous! He made our trip. I also thought Duong’s team – Mr Ming, Yo and Ty never so accommodating and always so happy. We will come back again with our 2 young bous. I know w’ll be looked after be safe also shown around first class.``