Day 1: Hanoi Arrival
Arrive at Noi Bai international airport. Visa arrangements. Welcomed by your local tour guide and driver. Transfer to your hotel in the city center. Take an orientation on the tour. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 2: Hanoi City Tour (B/L)
Depart at 8: 00 am, after checking out, from your hotel by van. We will begin our day by visiting Uncle Ho, learning about his great life at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Presidential Palace, and his residential place. Next stop is the nearby Temple of Literature. The site of Vietnam's first University, built in twelfth century, to teach the royals the Confucius theory. Here we will also have a chance to see a traditional music performance. Lunch will be served at a local restaurant for a taste of authentic Hanoi Pho. In the afternoon, choose one from the numerous museums or temples around Hanoi (Museum of Ethnology, Woman's Museum, History Museum or Quan Thanh Temple).
A late afternoon walk around Hoan Kiem Lake and Hanoi's fascinating Old Quarter for some great fun, shopping, and street side traditional food. This is your chance to be part of typical Hanoian style and its traditional Vietnamese culture. We finish our relaxing but informative day by attending a Water Puppet Show, a favorite experience for all visitors to Vietnam. We can help you get back to your hotel if you wish, but often our guests would just rather spend the early evening enjoying a drink with a view of the city. Dinner on your own. At 8: 30 pm transfer from an prearranged meeting spot to the station for your night train to Sapa.
Day 3: Sapa–Ta Phin, trekking and home stay (4 hours) (B/L/D)
The train arrives in Lao Cai at about 6: 30 am where your guide will welcome you. Then take a morning drive through the clouds by car/van to Sapa (about 1.5 hours). When you arrive in Sapa you will be taken to a local restaurant for a morning shower and breakfast. Then we will take a short ride from Sapa to our trekking base where we start our trek through terraced rice fields and Hmong villages. Chances to meet and talk with locals working in the fields are plentiful. We will break for a picnic lunch en route then continue trekking to Ta Phin village of the Dao people (4 hours). Your Dao host family will warmly welcome you to their traditional home where we will share in an ethnic style dinner and stay the night.
Day 4: More trekking and back to Sapa (B/L)
At the first of gleam of daylight, you will see and hear the sounds of morning village life. You can join them in some of their activities, like feeding the animals, cleaning the house, gardening or preparing breakfast. After breakfast, we will complete our trek on valley route to the main road (4 hours) linking Lao Cai and Sapa. Alternatively, for this long trek, you can choose take a short morning wander around the village for about 1 hour, resulting in more time spent with the host family and other villagers. For both options, you will be supported by our car/van back to Sapa (30 minutes). When we arrive back in Sapa we will check in to the hotel, shower, and break for lunch. At 2: 30 pm we will visit the gardens of beautiful Ham Rong mountain and take part in a traditional ethnic music performance put on by the ethnic minority people. Then return at your own leisure with free time to discover the secrets of this colorful town. Overnight at the hotel in Sapa town. Dinner on guest's account.
Day 5: Sapa - Tam Duong by Jeep (B/L)
Morning preparations, breakfast, check-out, then it is time to take a wonderful journey by jeep. We will go up and over Tram Ton pass and then descend, zig-zagging to the valley below. The views on this trip are absolutely incredible! Our destination is Tam Duong, but before we get there we will visit Binh Lu and see hill tribe people carrying with them their hand crafted products or leading animals on the way to market. You will be free to wonder around but please be respectful of the people here as they are reluctant to have their picture taken without permission. This area has not seen many tourists. We will have lunch here, then continue through the untouched villages with frequent stops to visit and talk to the locals. Overnight in Tam Duong. Dinner on guest's account.
Day 6: Tam Duong - Sapa - Hanoi (B/L)
Breakfast then back in the jeep for the uphill climb back to Sapa. Time for capture yesterday's missed photographs of this fabulous areas. If this day falls on Sunday then 2 beautiful markets can be visited on our way. You will return to Sapa in late afternoon and finally depart for the Lao Cai train station at 5: 30 pm. Dinner on guest's account. The train leaves Lao Cai at 8: 50 pm and arrives after a pleasant sleep in your first class, shared AC soft berth to Hanoi by 4: 30 am.
Day 7: Hanoi - Halong Bay (B/L/D)
Train arrives Hanoi at 05: 00. Pick up and transfer to a hotel for relaxation and breakfast. At 8: 00 am we will pick you up, by private mini-van, at the hotel and begin our journey to Halong city. After 3.5 hours driving and viewing simple, countryside, rice paddy life, we arrive at the at port. Board the Junk, and start your amazing cruise through this World Heritage Site. Lunch is served on board, a selection of the freshest seafood. We visit "the amazing cave", followed by a swim in the tranquility of Halong Bay and its emerald water. We will cruise further into a quiet area where we will anchor and stay overnight. Dinner and relax as the sun sets. Then you are free to swim in the phosphorous water, retire to your cabin, or fall asleep under the stars amidst the magic of Halong on the top deck.
Day 8: Halong Bay - Hanoi (Br)
Wake up early in the morning for a great sunrise and a breath of fresh ocean air. Breakfast served on boat then we do a leisurely cruise through thousands of seemingly never ending islands. These are great opportunities to capture some amazing photographs. We stop to visit a floating fishing village and listen to some legendary stories of the fisherman's daily life. Take one last swim somewhere in the middle of the bay to refresh before cruising back to the Halong city pier. Brunch is served while cruising back to the habour. Pick up and transfer back to Hanoi. Free on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hanoi.
Day 9: Hanoi to the traditional handicraft villages (B/L)
We leave after breakfast at 8: 00 am by van rambling along the dike of the Red river. Today we will visit the traditional handicraft villages, pagodas, and temples that lie just on the outskirts of the Hanoi capital. There are a multitude of interesting things to see an learn about. See the places where they make ceramic wares, paper paintings, bamboo arts and do outstanding woodcarvings. Back to Hanoi for overnight. Dinner on guest's account.
Day 10: Hanoi - Babe Lake (B/L/D)
Pick-up at your hotel is at 7: 00 am and head for Bac Kan, the province of Ba Be Lakes. During the 6 hour drive, we will make a stop at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Thai Nguyen city. Take a coffee break here if you wish. We continue our drive, stopping for lunch at a local food stall in Bac Kan town. Our destination is a small village of the Tay minority people situated inside Ba Be National Park. Arrive at our homestay and refresh with a short afternoon walk around the park and even a swim in the nearby lake. Back home for dinner and talk with our very warm and friendly hosts. Learn about this interesting culture and way of life. Then retire to our beds for a delightful sleep in a traditional stilt home.
Day 11: Ba Be Lakes, boating and canoeing (B/L/D)
Wake up with the chirping of birds and sounds of village life. Well rested, take in the moment of natural tranquility away from the stresses of the city. Breakfast then we start to discover the imposing beauty of the area on a local hand-crafted canoe. Glide along the river, through a pretty cave and onto a powerful waterfall. The whole journey offers great natural scenery and photo opportunities. After lunch at a local food stall near the waterfall, we canoe till our hearts' content into Ba Be Lakes and all its majestic. Enjoy great swimming and water fun. Finish the day with a light trek through ethnic minority villages back to our new home. Dinner, followed by a second night's sleep in the traditional stilt home.
Day 12: Babe Lake - Hanoi (B/L)
Again, take advantage of the morning's fresh air and village energy. Have breakfast and enjoy a last leisurely walk in the park. A bicycle or scenic motorbike ride is a great alternative and also great fun. Pack up your things then say goodbye to your new friends. Leave the village for Hanoi by 10: 00 am. If we're lucky, and it is Sunday, we will make a stop on the way to visit Kermis, a typical local market, in the highlands area. Have lunch on the way. We arrive in Hanoi by 5: 30 pm back at your hotel. Dinner on guest's account.
Day 13: Your free day in Hanoi (B)
Today is your free day in the Hanoi capital and all of its fascinating historical charm. Spend your day relaxing or shopping. Some suggestions include waking up early (about 6: 00 am) and joining in some exercise around Hoan Kiem Lake; or taking a cycle tour around the Old Quarter for a different point of view; or visiting the numerous markets, shopping and trying the all of street side traditional foods. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 14: Hanoi - Departure (B)
We will pick you up at your hotel and transfer to Noi Bai International airport for your flight to home, your luggage full of a lifetime's worth of memories. We wish you a pleasant journey.