Day 1: Hanoi Arrival
Upon arrival at Hanoi’s international airport, pick up and transfer to hotel in centre of Hanoi. Rest of the day is free. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 2: Hanoi - Son La (B/L/D)
Today we visit the Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi before leaving the city to enjoy a long drive to Son La, the capital of the province with the same name. Mainly hill-tribe people, notably the Black Thai, H’mong, Muong and White Thai, populate this area. The drive is peaceful since the road is newly upgrade. We will pass lots of scenic hill-tribe villages and stop whenever we want. Overnight in Son La.
Day 3: Son La - Dien Bien - Lai Chau (B/L/D)
Early in the morning we will drive to Lai Chau via Dien Bien, a small town nestled in a beautiful valley carved from spectacular mountains by the Da river. Rather than exploring the stones of dead lovers, you will begin to turn over the stones of dead soldiers on the battlefield. You can spend time at the Dien Bien Phu museum, visit the former headquarters of the French Generals on Hill A1 and wander the tombstones in the cemetery. Continue your journey out west to Lai Chau to visit villages of the Dao and H'mong minorities. Overnight in Lai Chau.
Day 4: Lai Chau - Sapa (B/L/D)
After breakfast we will visit Binh Lu plateau where the Dao, Lu and Nhang convene before, and then drive to Sapa. We will pass over one of the highest passes in Vietnam (2000m) and enjoy one of the most stunning sceneries on its summit, which is named “Gate of heaven”. On arrival in Sapa we check into hotel. Overnight in Sapa.
Day 5: Sapa (B/L/D)
As a counterpoint to yesterday’s drive, today is an opportunity to visit some of the hill tribe villages around Sapa. After breakfast, you will head out with your guide to walk around the colorful hill tribe market. Then we will trek downhill to Lao Cai, a village of the Black H’mong minority. On the way we will enjoy stunning views of mountains and valleys. In Lao Cai we come to see the village’s catholic church and have a chat with the Black H’mong people before we continue trekking to Ta Van, a village of the Dzay ethnic minority. You will return to the Hotel in the late afternoon to enjoy the special market on Saturday evening. Overnight in Sapa.
Day 6: Sapa - Bac Ha - Lao Cai (B/L)
If yesterday was market day in Spa, today is market day in Bac Ha (Open on Sunday). You get up early in the morning then transfer to Bac Ha. You can photograph the hill tribe people carrying their wares to sell. When you are exhausted, you can repair to one of the small cafes that line the streets to drink beer, sip Vietnamese coffee, dine on pho, the local soup, or just people-watch. The afternoon is for visiting around and the abandoned H’Mong King Palace. Return to Lao Cai in the late afternoon to catch the night train back to Hanoi. Overnight on train.
Day 7: Hanoi - Halong (B/L/D)
Car pick up at Hanoi railway station then transfer to a local restaurant in Hanoi for breakfast. Then we depart for Halong. Boarding the Boat Junk. Each day, you will explore complicated rock gardens, paddle long dark sea caves, and visit cliff-lined inland lagoons (phongs in Vietnamese). Note that outside of certain destinations, such as Haeng Toi, the itinerary will depend on the season and the tides. Thus, few stops are detailed and each trip is different. During your time with the junk, all your meals are included. At night, you will sleep in a private cabin on your renovated junk, which is fitted with a full galley, showers, and a western toilet. There may be an optional night paddle for those who wish. Overnight on the Junk.
Day 8: Halong - Hanoi (B/L)
Today you will continue to explore the bay in the morning. After lunch, you will dock in Halong. Here you will be met and driven back to Hanoi for the night.
Day 9: Hanoi - Departure (B)
Day at leisure till time transfer to airport for departure flight.