ITINERARY BY DAY
DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN HANOI
Arrive in Hanoi, the capital of unified Vietnam, one of the most charming cities in South East Asia with its authenticity, large shady avenues, numerous lakes, manicured gardens and well-preserved architecture. Meet your guide & driver, then transfer to your hotel. Free time for a stroll around the city. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hanoi
DAY 2: HANOI CITY TOUR (B/L/-)
Breakfast. 08:00 Departure to the ancient ceramic village Bat Trang, about 12 km to the north-west of Hanoi, on the edge of the red river, renowned for centuries for its products in traditional porcelain with blue decorations. Arrive at Bat Trang at around 08:45. Visit a teapot factory where you can learn the ceramic production process. Enjoy drinking some tea served into the teapot made by this factory and admire their collection in a very beautiful bonsai garden house.
Walking along the ceramic alley, you can stop in the workshops specialized for vases and decor. Then, visit the house of one of the most famous pottery artists of Vietnam, where you will have the opportunity to admire his precious artwork that made this house become the first family ceramic museum of Vietnam. After that, visit the porcelain market where you can see thousands of authentic products and you can do some shopping.
Continue discovering the ancient village of Bat Trang by traveling through narrow lanes, with many workshops and family temples. You will also visit the old town hall dedicated to the Genius Protector of the village (Dinh Lang). Have lunch in an old colonial house in the village (or in a restaurant, as your other choice).
Return to the center of Hanoi. The afternoon is dedicated to the discovery of the cultural capital of Vietnam, visiting the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, imposing marble and granite monument which takes the form of a stylized lotus, built from 1973 to 1975 thanks to the voluntary work of young pioneers (the tour takes place outside the mausoleum). Orientation tour to West lake. Then continue to visit the temple of Literature dedicated to Confucius, built in 1070 and soon after became the seat of the first Vietnamese university. Stroll in the old authentic area of the “36 old streets” in the late afternoon.
In the evening you can attend a performance of your choice which depends on their schedules (Water puppet, Golden Bell, Ionah, Four Palaces, My Village). Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 3: HANOI – NINH BINH – LAO CAI (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. 8.00 Our guide will meet you at your hotel for transfering to Ninh Binh through the lush vegetation of the Red river. Continuation to Tam Coc. Bike (about 2.5 km, optional) through rural villages, limestone rocks and impressive rice towards Thung Nham. You will have the opportunity to admire a magnificent panorama of the region that is considered the Halong Bay on land. A rowboat ride on a small river through 3 caves that give you the impression of being in a magical space. Inside the 3rd cave, there is a large stone resembling an elongated Buddha that brings luck, happiness and prosperity to man. This place is called the cave of Buddha.
Then landing for a walk (10 minutes) in the amount up to Thien Ha cave (Celestre river) where you will continue a boat ride inside the cave over 300 meters with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites . Back in the boat at the pier Thung Nham, then back to Tam Coc by bicycle (optional). Lunch in a local restaurant. Back to Hanoi. Arrive at your hotel at about 17.30.
Return to Hanoi for your next destination by train to Lao Cai . Dinner on your own. Overnight on the train (air-conditioned sleeper car, compartment 4 people to share).
Note: In place of Thung Nham and Thian Ha cave, you can opt to visit either Trang An or Tam Coc
DAY 4: LAO CAI – BAC HA – SAPA (B/L/-)
At around 05:30, You will arrive in Lao Cai, a small border town by the Red river. My guide will meet you at the exit gate, and take you to a local restaurant in Lao Cai for breakfast. Then you will leave for Bac Ha (70 km) via a winding road with breath-taking mountain views. Visit Bac Ha fair (on Sunday only), considered the liveliest and crowded in the region. It attracts a large number of Flower H’mong and other hill-tribe groups (Nung, Phu La, Tay). It is no doubt one of the most attractive places for photo hunters in Vietnam. Lunch at local restaurant. Then, back to Lao Cai and continue an interesting trip to Sapa (38 km). Nestling on Fansipan mount, Sapa offers spectacular scenery and is home to different hill-tribes. Dinner on your own. Night at hotel in Sapa.
Remark: Bac Ha market is open on Sunday only, the following markets may replace Bac Ha market according to your arrival date:
– Can Cau market (20 km from Bac Ha) on Saturday morning.
– Coc Ly market on Tuesday morning.
– Cao Son market on Wednesday morning.
DAY 5: SAPA (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. 08:00 You start the tour from Sapa. Take a short road transfer along the motor way southwards for 4 km with a stop along the way for stunning scenery of Fansipan mountain and Muong Hoa valley. Trekking uphill along a large and rocky path for 2 hours to Hang Da village of the Black H’mong which hides itself under lush trees on high elevation of the Den Thang Mountain. Explore the village, paying visiting to local families. Lunch break in the village.
After lunch, continue trekking along the same trail which goes on the high mountain side for about an hour which offers a great view of Muong Hoa valley until arriving at Thao Hong Den, another village of the Black H’mong to pay a visit to several local families. To continue, you will go downhill for another hour along a dirt track to Pho village at the center of Hau Thao commune. You will be picked up and transfer by road back to Sapa. Dinner on your own. Overnight in hotel in Sapa
Remark: The program of trek can be adjusted depending on the weather conditions, your age and your healthy status:
– Option 1: Lao chai / Ta Van (5 km, soft trek, very touristy)
– Option 2: Cat Cat / Y Linh Ho / Lao Chai / Tavan (14 km, medium trek)
– Option 3: Xau Chau / Xa Xeng / Hau Thao / Giang Ta Chai (14 km, medium trek, off the beaten tracky)
DAY 6: SAPA – LAO CAI – HANOI (B/L/-)
8:00 Start a short walk (3 km) downhill through beautiful orchid gardens and pine forests. You will reach the village of Suoi Ho, home to H’mong minorities from where you can enjoy views over endless rice paddies. Continue our trek on a trail through rice paddy fields toward Ma Tra village, another village of H’mong minorities. Their house is normally built of land and has no windows because of the cold in the winter. It is possible to stop by a primary school (close at weekend and summer time) for a quick visit. Transfer to Hanoi by shared Limousine or by bus (6 hours). Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hanoi.
DAY 7: HANOI – HALONG (B/L/D)
Breakfast at hotel. 08:00 Depart Hanoi for the world famous Halong Bay, ‘the descending dragon’, a journey of approximately 3.5 hours. Listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, Ha Long Bay is a stunning limestone archipelago stretching over some 1500 square kilometers and comprising nearly 2000 islets. You will board our junk for a memorable cruise through the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ gliding gently past fishing communities and hidden cave systems. Lunch.
During our time on board , you will visit the ‘Cave of Surprises’, where you can marvel at strangely formed stalactites and stalagmites. After anchoring at a nearby beach you can go for a swim or climb to the top of Titop Island to get a panoramic view of the bay and surrounding islands. Dinner will be served with delicious local seafood onboard, with other options available. Overnight on the junk.
Note: Cruise itinerary and schedule are subject to change due to weather and operating conditions.
DAY 8: HA LONG BAY – KY SON VILLAGE (B/L/D)
Wake up early in the morning to enjoy aquamarine water of the bay at its best. After an early swim (subject to weather conditions) and breakfast on board, the junk continues to cruise quietly through the spectacular limestone formations of Ha Long Bay. Enjoy this more isolated bay’s spectacular and unique islands of the bay. Brunch or light lunch on board before back to the pier and disembark around late morning.
Depart to Ky Son village (4-5 hours) and arrive at Moon Garden homestay at Ky Son village. You will be greeted by the host with a welcome drink of local tisane. Then, it is all your free time to discover Moon garden home stay by yourself. Enjoy the traditional & refreshing bath with fragrant herbs (Lemon grass, pomelo leaves, holy basil leaves).
In the evening, you can assist to the Buddha worship with the familly. After dinner, enjoy your foot bath in warm water with ginger, salt and medicinal herbs before bedtime, which brings you a deeper sleep. Overnight at Moongarden homestay.
DAY 9: KY SON VILLAGE – HANOI – HUE (B/L/-)
07.00: Joining Yijinjing traditional exercises.
07.30: Breakfast is served
08.30: You can have choice of a short ride of 6 km or a long ride of 12 km round trip:
Short ride: Take a bicycle ride with local guide to discover the Ky Son, Tam Son, Van Minh, and Cham farming communities, you can stop at any home you like for a cup of tea. Chat with local people about their daily life and farming. You can help with plowing or making rice beds, transplanting seedlings, harvesting rice (or cassava, corn, sweet potatoes…) depending on the harvest season.
Long ride: Take a bicycle ride with local guide to discover the Ky Son, Van Minh farming communities, Duong Lam ancient village and visit Mia pagoda, Mong Phu communal house. Then bike ride back along the ritual paths of Thang thac village to discover the Ngo Quyen tomb.
11.30: Cooking class is offered after bike ride
12.30: Lunch is served. Then enjoy having your fingers dipped in a fragrant lime bowl and the traditional herbal hand massage.
Free until your departure. ( You can make yourself at home relaxing on the hammock in our garden, taking pictures with Vietnamese traditional cloths, chatting with people or further discovery of the Ky Son village. ) Transfer directly to the airport for the flight to Hue. On arrival in Hue, transfer to your hotel. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hue
DAY 10: HUE CITY TOUR (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. 08:00 You will spend a full day to visit Hue, former capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945 during the reign of the Nguyen dynasty emperors, declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1993. Cruise in a sampan on the Perfume river to Thien Mu pagoda, or pagoda of the Heavenly Lady, a Buddhist shrine dated from the mid-seventeenth century. Located on the banks of the Perfume River, it is easily recognizable by its octagonal tower.
Continue your tour with a visit to the Citadel, the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors. The construction began in 1804 under the orders of the first Emperor Gia Long after the carefully selected using principles of geomancy (Feng Shui). The citadel was inspired by Vauban fortifications and is composed of three sections; the Capital city, the Imperial city and the Forbidden City. Lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, visit the Tu Duc’ tomb, which is one of the most impressive of the royal mausoleums. Emperor Tu Duc designed it himself, for use both before and after his death. Finish your day with a visit to Minh Mang’s tomb, located on the left bank of the Perfume River, which represents the perfect harmony between nature and architecture. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hue
Note: You can replace the Tu Duc’s tomb by the Khai Dinh’s tomb
– Option 1 (extra cost): Royal performance of ancient dancing and music, a world intangible heritage recognized by UNESCO in 2003, is presented in the citadel.
– Option 2 (extra cost, minimum group size: 10 persons): A typical royal dinner with a presentation of ancient music is arranged
DAY 11: HUE – HOI AN (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. 08:00 Transfer to Hoi An along Highway 1 which links Hanoi to Sai Gon. This drive is reputedly the most beautiful in all Vietnam, taking you past coastal fishing settlements, most notably Lang Co with its stunning lagoon backdrop. The drive also takes you over Hai Van Pass (or ‘pass of the ocean clouds’). Lunch at a local restaurant in Hoi An.
The afternoon is spent strolling through the narrow streets of this atmospheric old town. This former port, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is full of architectural gems that show a range of influences. Around the seventeenth century Hoi An was one of the busiest ports in South East Asia. Enriched by the proceeds of this trade many merchants constructed beautiful homes. You should start by visiting Japanese bridge, Quan Cong temple, Fujian temple, one of the old houses and the local market. Then , take a boat trip on Thu Bon river. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hoi An.
DAY 12: HOI AN FISHING TOUR (B/L/-)
08h30: Meet our guide and start your cycling to Cam Thanh village, we have chance to enjoy the rice paddy-field view and learn the traditional method of rice production of the local people. At this village, we will be amazed how nice is the coconut characteristic house of the countryside, and enjoy the handicraft man manipulating the furniture made of water coconut and bamboo.
Continue to the fishing village to explore the water coconut palm with the unique basket boat and visit the lake of shrimp, there you will have chance to touch the fishing life by catching fish with the local fishermen’s net , that will be an unforgetable experience on your trip to Vietnam. Relax with lunch at local family.
Take a ride back to your hotel
DAY 13: HOI AN – DANANG – SAIGON (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. Transfer to the Danang airport for your flight to Sai Gon. Arrive in Saigon, transfer to your hotel.
Saigon is not only the most important economic centre in Vietnam, it also has some very imposing colonial architecture which was the center of attention in our fascinating past. Almost a hundred years of French rulers bestowed upon the city with some pearls of colonial architecture. Begin your exploration of this frantic city with lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, visit the Central Post Office, designed by Gustave Eiffel, and the Notre Dame Cathedral, inspired by its counterpart in Paris. Next, visit the moved War Remnants Museum which presents a partial, but riveting, view of the American war, as it is known in Vietnam. Continue your city tour with a visit to District 5, formerly known as Cho Lon or Chinatown. Cho Lon, or ‘big market’, with its congested streets is where most of the city’s ethnic Chinese population lives. The district lives up to its name in the form of Binh Tay wholesale markets. Founded in 1778 the market sells a stunning array of goods and produce, ranging from fish to incense. We will finish our city tour with a stop at the Thien Hau temple, otherwise known as ‘The Temple of the Heavenly Lady’, to marvel at its intricate friezes and coils of incense. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Saigon.
DAY 14: SAIGON – BEN TRE – CHO LACH (B/L/D)
Breakfast at hotel. 08:00 Transfer to Ben Tre. Arrive at Ben Tre town at about 10:00. Take a boat trip on the Mekong river, sight-seeing local activities on the river. You will stop on the way to see how people make bricks and salts, as well as to observe a coconut workshop. Your boat will pass the Cai Son and Nhon Thanh creeks to see local families making mats. You will continue by taking a pull cart (xe loi) to pass rice fields and vegetable plains. Stop at Mr. Hai Ho ‘s house to learn how to cook local food. Enjoy lunch at Mr. Hai’s home in the village.
In the afternoon, you will take a rowing boat along a water palm creek back to Ben Tre City to head to Cho Lach (40 km). You can join with a family to prepare dinner. Dinner and overnight at homestay Jardin du Mekong.
DAY 15: CHO LACH – CAI BE – VINH LONG – CAN THO (B/L/-)
Breakfast at homestay Jardin Du Mekong. 08:00 You can take a bike ride around the village (3-8 km, depending on your health). Then transfer to Cai Be by car (40 km).
You board on the Mekong Eyes around noon. After a refreshing welcome drink we will show you our on-board facilities and your cosy cabin. As lunch is served, the boat starts cruising. Sit back and watch the fantastic scenery and the daily life of the Mekong people.
In the afternoon you can disembark for a guided leisurely stroll through the village and the surrounding fruit orchards or rice fields. Meet the friendly locals and taste the local produce and fruits. Get back on board and enjoy a drink at the bar or relax on deck as the sun sets over the magnificent water landscape. The boat will anchor for the night. The day ends with a delicious on-board dinner. Overnight on Mekong Eyes boat.
Note: Mekong Eyes goes from Cai Be to Can Tho (on even dates, 2, 4, 6, 8 etc…)
DAY 16: CAN THO – SAIGON (B/-/-)
After breakfast, we will board a sampan boat to Cai Rang (or Cai Be) floating market, the region’s busiest and most lively markets. Marvel at the sheer abundance of exotic fruits, vegetables and skilfully handcrafted regional products. We will pull up to the boats for talking and bargaining with the merchants. We will also visit some of the local candy and cake making factories or boat through the green water landscape to see local houses, verdant orchards and ship-building yards.
The boat trip ends at around 11.00 – 11.30 on the pier. After lunch, we will take you back to your hotel in Saigon. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Saigon.
DAY 17: SAIGON – DEPARTURE (B/-/-)
Breakfast at hotel. Free at your own time until the driver meets you then transfers to the airport for your flight home.