This is a trip of contrasts, taking you from the colonial architecture of Hanoi to the dramatic tiered landscapes in the valley of Mai Chau, to the sublime beauty of the karst islands in Halong Bay. Explore the mist-shrouded mountains, cascading rice terraces and enjoy wonderful opportunities to meet indigenous tribes. A terrific blend of adventure, culture and fun that will provide truly amazing memories.
This trip can also be varied to include a project element where we can get stuck into a project that will help improve the day to day lives of the local villagers. Simple projects include helping to provide fresh water from the mountains into villages for local households, planting trees, building buffalo or cow pens, repairing schools and local community buildings.
Days 1 & 2 - Arrive in Hanoi, a wonderfully elegant, colonial Indochinese city. It's vibrant and welcoming, chaotic and charming, but is a must for any group tour to Vietnam. Take time to explore the magical Old Quarter of Hanoi, get your taste buds tingling with some of the best street food in the world and sample ‘egg coffee’… it tastes far better than it sounds!
Days 3 & 4 - We visit the magnificant Mai Chau Valley for a trek and cultural experience. The Mau Chai Valley is Northern Vietnam's little secret. In Spring, its paddy fields are at their most vibrant green, before turning golden in Autumn as the rice nears its harvest. The valley is nestled between two towering cliffs and makes an idyllic rural retreat. Here you can experience the truly traditional Vietnamese way of life, as little has changed for the villagers and age-old traditions are firmly in place. It is here that you can enjoy the hospitality in a local community, learning how they make some of the world’s best dishes and sampling their potent rice wine! We trek between settlements and homesteads and see the remarkable contrast between the lush valley basin villages of the White Thai tribes and the more remote and less affluent mountainous villages of the H’Moung tribes. We trek through cornfields and rice paddies, exploring local village markets and enjoying the local hospitality delightful stilted guesthouse, all with a back drop of spectacular scenery.
Day 5 - Travel to Cuc Phuong National Park, the oldest national park in Vietnam, jam-packed with tropical forest and grottoes. Explore the prehistoric caves and trek through the rich green forest to admire the ‘1000 year Old Tree’. You will visit the inspiring Endangered Primate Rescue Centre, which is hidden deep in the dense forest and provides vital protection for some of the world's rarest animal and plant species. Once Vietnam’s forests were rich in wildlife, with elephants roaming freely and rhinos bathing in muddy pools. Sadly, these larger mammals as well as many other reptile and bird species have been hunted to the brink of extinction, but the Centre successfully houses over 15 species with the aim of releasing captive animals back into the wild. You will see the amazing work carried out by the Centre while learning about the vital educational programmes in place to help conserve the environment and prevent the exploitation of the forest by the local people.
Day 6 – Hoa Lu was once the ancient Royal Capital of Vietnam during the Dinh Dynasty. After you arrive here, you can visit the temples of King Dinh and King Le, admire the unique architecture, and explore the sanctuaries and tombs that have survived the years.
Day 7 - From Hoa Lu, you make the short journey to Tam Coc where you can hop on board a traditional sampan cruise and soak up the majestic limestone cliffs and mysterious caves, as well as catch the stunning views of the patchwork of rice paddy fields and deserted green fields. You then take to the roads, cycling in traditional Vietnamese style as you journey through the villages and see the real way of life, weaving your way around chickens, children and water buffalo.
Days 8 – 9 Travel to Halong Bay, also known as the 'Bay of the Descending Dragon'. A highly popular Hollywood film back drop, (James Bond, anyone?), you are guaranteed to be impressed by the spectacular scenery, a labyrinth of peacock-green peaks jutting out from the pale green ocean. Enjoy a cruise on a luxury junk, staying overnight in beautiful teak cabins and enjoy the magic of this very special place. On your trip, there is plenty of time to take a dip in the sea, seek out hidden caves and islands, visit floating villages and spot oyster pearl farms. You can also try your hand at squid fishing or simply relax on the sundeck, while looking forward to tucking into the catch of the day as you cruise towards a different island.
Day 10 – Travel back to enjoy your final evening in vibrant Hanoi.
Day 11 - Home
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