Wonders of Northern Vietnam

About the Experience

Your trip to Vietnam is an immersion in wonder. You revel in the wonderful food – the noodles, the tang of spice, and the delicate rolls. You stroll the grounds of an austere Hanoi monastery, where you enjoy a private chat with a monk. You stretch your limbs to the sun doing Tai Chi with a true master. And at the Vietnam Women’s Museum, you are humbled by the fascinating history and culture of these fierce females.

As you sail northeast of Halong Bay, amongst the conical karst hills of the pristine Tu long Bay, you feel like you are floating into a fantasy world of enchanting emerald islands.

You will hike through the breathtaking trails of Thong Nong. The misty morning rises up around you, as you stand in the belly of lush valley. The verdant hills rise around you on all sides, too, and it’s like being nestled in a bowl of the deepest green.

Before you, the Lolo people tend to their fields, the bright colours of their garb the smallest of rainbows rising out of the fog. They carry cassavas and sweet potatoes. Bushels of corn. And you move with them throughout their day, taking in the small wonders and enormous beauty of this little corner of the globe.

Vietnam unfolds around you like a gorgeous mystery, and you open your eyes each morning eager to see what new treasure the day will gift you, your heart filled with the peacefulness of this gentle, wondrous land.

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Wonders of Northern Vietnam

About the Experience

Your trip to Vietnam is an immersion in wonder. You revel in the wonderful food – the noodles, the tang of spice, and the delicate rolls. You stroll the grounds of an austere Hanoi monastery, where you enjoy a private chat with a monk. You stretch your limbs to the sun doing Tai Chi with a true master. And at the Vietnam Women’s Museum, you are humbled by the fascinating history and culture of these fierce females.

As you sail northeast of Halong Bay, amongst the conical karst hills of the pristine Tu long Bay, you feel like you are floating into a fantasy world of enchanting emerald islands.

You will hike through the breathtaking trails of Thong Nong. The misty morning rises up around you, as you stand in the belly of lush valley. The verdant hills rise around you on all sides, too, and it’s like being nestled in a bowl of the deepest green.

Before you, the Lolo people tend to their fields, the bright colours of their garb the smallest of rainbows rising out of the fog. They carry cassavas and sweet potatoes. Bushels of corn. And you move with them throughout their day, taking in the small wonders and enormous beauty of this little corner of the globe.

Vietnam unfolds around you like a gorgeous mystery, and you open your eyes each morning eager to see what new treasure the day will gift you, your heart filled with the peacefulness of this gentle, wondrous land.

DAY ONE: HANOI ARRIVAL

Upon your arrival in Hanoi, you and your fellow wild women will be picked up and transferred to your hotel to be greeted by your tour leader for a trip orientation.

Satisfy your travel day appetite with dinner at Cau Go, a restaurant serving contemporary Vietnamese cuisine with the finest view.

DAY TWO: MONASTERY TO MUSEUM

Early morning, you will follow a Tai Chi course lead by a master. Then, you transfer to Truc Lam Sung Phuc Zen Monastery where you will visit the main hall, and have a private talk with a monk. Travellers are free to pose questions about Buddhism, meditation, daily life, and human relationships. You’ll have a chance to learn how to meditate in the right sitting position and about the right way to breathe, as well as Zen principles. Enjoy some free time to walk around and discover the Monastery. Then, share a vegetarian meal with monks and nuns.

Spend the afternoon at the Vietnam’s Women Museum to discover the fascinating history of Vietnamese women and their association with feminism, traditional costumes and cultural traits expressed through elegant handicrafts. Embrace the opportunity to browse around the museum and grasp a deeper insight into the extensive history of Vietnamese women.

Then, visit Tran Quoc Pagoda, regarded as the most ancient Pagoda in the city. This Buddhist centre possesses spectacularly striking architectural features whilst resting in the peaceful ambience of West Lake. Enjoy a local Vietnamese coffee or the refreshing taste of a coconut drink whilst observing local fishermen in a picturesque scene at sunset on the lake.

Evening, dinner at a local restaurant serving “Cha Ca”, a Hanoi specialty of grilled fish with dill.  

Overnight in Hanoi.

DAY THREE: BLUE BA BE

Today, you’ll wake for a morning drive via Bac Kan, passing through heart-stopping landscapes. See various tea plantations and stop en-route in Thai Nguyen to visit the Ethnological Museum. Identify with the multiculturalism of Vietnam and take in knowledge of the ethnic minorities dotted all around this tremendously diverse country.

Lunch is served at a local restaurant in Ba Be. Wander tea plantations, sample Thai Nguyen green tea – known as one of the best tea in Vietnam.

In the afternoon, you will arrive in Ba Be, a region of karsts and land of various ethnic minorities. Step outside the vehicle at Pac Ngoi village, inhabited by the Tay. From here, embark by kayak around the deep blue waters of Ba Be lake. Then take a short boat transfer to Coc Toc, a Tay hamlet nestled at the foot of a wooded mountain on the lake southern arm. Settle in with a Tay family and share an open discussion, learn about Tay traditions and customs.

Overnight in a Tay stilt house. (Shared bedroom, mosquito net, shared bathroom with hot water).

  • Car Transfer: 5-6 hrs
  • Car Transfer Distance: 24o km
  • Kayaking: 1-2 hrs

DAY FOUR: RAPIDS OF NA HANG

Rise and shine this morning for a hike towards the highest massif overlooking Ba Be Lake. Trek through corn, cassava, and sweet potato plantations across the Hmông and Dao villages nestled in a thick jungle scattered with giant ferns and lianas that twist like the thousand arms of a Hindu god. On the way, take in the view on Na Hang Lake on the west along the provincial boundary of Bac Kan – Tuyen Quang. Your picnic lunch will be served in a Dao house today. 

Hike from here toward the river-weir of the Ba Be lake as it plunges in rapids around Na Hang. You will sail up the river in a boat across a rugged landscape of limestone peaks covered with green jungle. Before dusk, participate in a hands-on lesson about local fishing techniques with the host.

Get cozy tonight for your overnight in a Tay stilt house. (Shared bedroom, mosquito net, shared bathroom with hot water.)

  • Hike Distance: 16 km
  • Hike Time: 5-6 hrs
  • Elevation: 400 m ascent/400 m descent.

DAY FIVE: VISITING LOLO 

You will be Bao Lao-bound this morning as you move along the scenic roads of Ban Na and Na Phac villages and the Pia Oac range. Visit a colonial era house along the way before stepping out of the car for a short hike up to Khuoi Khon, a village inhabited by Black Lolo. A rare and cherished experience for any traveller that wishes to learn about real life in northern Vietnam is to spend time with Lolo people of Cao Bang Province. Originating in southern China, the Lolo are a Tibeto-Burmese people of the Yi group. 

Mid-afternoon, you will settle into a local home and meet your host. Take a short hike to a pass overlooking the village and meet its inhabitants, gaining insight into local traditions and customs.

You will curl up at night in a Lolo house. (Shared bedroom with mattress. Mosquito net. Shared bathroom with hot water).   

  • Car Transfer: 5 hours
  • Distance:  170 km

DAY SIX: INTO THE VALLEY

An hour drive from your bed you will find your trek of the day, on the edge of the Thong Nong mountain range. The trail follows Nguom Nan mountain range’s western arm on a long ascent toward the heart of Thong Nong. You and your wild sisters will hike across a scenic lunar landscape made of limestone pinnacles and granite outcrops before lunching in a village inhabited by the Dao.

In the afternoon, you will traverse Mi Loun, a Hmông hamlet, and the Lung Peng valley dominated by craggy reliefs.

Now you make your way to Va Tai, a Red Dao village surrounded by about ten limestone pitons recovered by secondary forest. Settle in a local Dao house and learn more about their customs and traditions. (Shared bedroom with mattress. Mosquito net. Shared bathroom without hot water).   

  • Hike Distance: 15 km
  • Hike Time: 7 hrs
  • Elevation: 850 m ascent/600 m descent

DAY SEVEN: LIMESTONE TRAVERSE

Rise and shine for another adventure! Depart at dawn for your move over a craggy circus, over a pass, and then over the jungle’s sides before reaching the narrow Hmông-inhabited Va Tai Pen valley. Inside the valley, ascend toward Hmông hamlet, Lo Lung Xitung, before descending in to an impressive limestone circus. Continue on your path inside the massif jungle, primary forest before reaching a narrow passage for a picnic lunch.

Next, you will find yourself in Co Phat, a Hmông hamlet where France settled a military post in the 1950s. You’ll descend toward the Thong Nong southern arm, in front of a massive limestone range, and onwards to the south along a limestone pitons labyrinth.

You’ll arrive in Nam Ngu next, an ethnic Nung hamlet of seven families surrounded by rice fields and limestone peak. During the rainy season, the village has a view on a high cataract located on its northern side, bordering the Na River and a clear mountain stream above a series of smaller cataracts.

Meet the villagers and settle into the Mr Ke stilt house. (Shared bedroom with mattress. Mosquito net. Shared bathroom without hot water).

Note: depending on the weather conditions and physical abilities of the group, we may adjust today hike with a shorter version: 8 km ± 4h00 // 250 m ascent 800 m descent

  • Hike Distance: 18 km
  • Hike Time: 7 hours
  • Elevation: 500 m ascent/600 m descent

DAY EIGHT: THONG NONG

This morning you will depart for a hike along eastern Thong Nong range. From Nam Ngu, you follow Na River, cross on a bamboo bridge, pass-by Dao hamlets, ascent and reach the upper valley of Nam Ngu. Follow a narrow path between Dao hamlets and cornfields before continuing through a stone labyrinth and across valleys surrounded by woody ridges, the old forest edge. After a small pass, you will arrive in Sac Xay, a Dao village located in a circus surrounded by a dozen limestone peaks recovered of dense bush. Enjoy the company of Dao people over a cup of tea in a local house. Now you will be recharged to continue east along a rocky trail leading to a narrow pass overlooking a deep valley, the Mo Xat mountains sumptuous ridges, and the North Chinese border.

At around noon, start your steep descent to the valley before a pick-up and short transfer to Thong Nong City. Your picnic lunch will be served on the way or you will eat at a local restaurant in Thong Nong.

You will drive to Cao Bang city through Mo Xat southern arm, with an option to pass by the Chinese border gate. On arrival, check in at the hotel and enjoy a short tour in the old town before an overnight stay in Cao Bang.

  • Hike Distance: 10 km
  • Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
  • Elevation:400 m ascent/300 m descent
  • Car Transfer: 1 hour
  • Car Transfer Distance: 40 km

DAY NINE: DAI LAI DELIGHTS

Spend your morning driving along Historical Road 3 on a section that goes through Bac Kan Province, the most sparsely populated in Vietnam. This will be a scenic drive across forested mountains and remote minority villages. And if your schedule allows, you will visit an ethnic market and eat lunch at a local restaurant en-route.

You are Dai Lai-bound next: the artificial lake bordered north by the famous glorious Tam Dao range. Nestled in the middle of a pristine valley surrounded by the evergreen rainforest, Dai Lai is a harmonious coalescence between majestic mountain-landscape with soothing water, surely  a highlight in the province of Vinh Phuc.

Upon arriving in Dai Lai, you will check in to your resort and spend the day enjoying the facilities and services along with your choice of spa treatments.

After dinner delighted in the hotel restaurant, those who wish to gather for a night of laughter can make their way to a karaoke room in the hotel for some group singing.

Car Transfer: 6 hours

Car Transfer Distance: 250 km

DAY TEN: CRUISING BAI TU LONG

Embark on your journey to Bai Tu Long whilst taking in the beauty of The Red River Delta and rice fields along the way. You’ll arrive at the pier at noon and proceed with your check-in and welcome aboard a cruise to Bai Tu Long Bay. Bai Tu Long Bay is an untouched, quiet, and unspoiled area.

Lunch is provided during the cruise, and you’ll have an opportunity to view the scenic landscape composed of steep cliffs and semi-immersed limestone peaks of the Gulf of Tonkin, a sensational watery milky way. Cruise around Bai Tu Long and be surrounded by unique, awe-inspiring scenery. You’ll explore hidden lagoons and head for a kayaking or swimming experience at the foot of the verdant giant stones before dropping anchor in an isolated area for the night. 

Savour a cooking demonstration this evening, with dinner on board and an opportunity to join the local crew in a spot of squid fishing.

  • Car Transfer: 4 hours 30 mins
  • Car Transfer Distance: 175 km

 

DAY ELEVEN: DAYS ON THE WATER

Morning mists and evening sunsets are the perfect time for you to capture the awe-inspiring scenery of this spectacular region.

Cruise by huge intricate honeycomb rocks, hidden caves, and enchanting lagoons. Lose yourself in the stunning landscape and spy interesting shapes in the rocks. The ever-changing light, fog, and clouds reflect off the waters of the bay, creating a magical and mercurial atmosphere. Explore an impressive cave which has thousands of stalactites and stalagmites shaping a marvellously natural palace. You will swim in the crystal waters here or go kayaking around the extraordinary limestone towers.

 

DAY TWELVE: THE DANCING GROTTO

After breakfast, you will visit an additional site before the vessel cruises slowly through majestic karst peaks and back towards the pier.

Hop in a car and head to Ninh Binh province, passing through the living environment of the Red River Delta. Drive across Trang An eco-tourism complex to reach Hang Mua Cave, which translates to the ‘dancing grotto.’ Here, you will climb up the 450 steps until the peak summit for a breathtaking panoramic view of Tam Coc. Then, your group will take a short transfer to Tam Coc Garden and settle into the resort for the night. Let your self be completely relaxed by soaking your feet in a soothing herbal infusion.

The rest of your day is free to relax and enjoy the resort’s stunning setting and facilities, such as the swimming pool.

  • Car Transfer: 4 hours
  • Car Transfer Distance:Distance: 200 km

DAY THIRTEEN: BY BIKE AND BY BOAT

In the morning, you will transfer by car to De Bridge. From here, embark on a bicycle ride of 12 km across the glorious scenery of the Red River Delta; the fruitful artery of North Vietnam. You’ll bike along Boi River until Vien market, and continue the bike until Hoa Lu Cave, also known as Thung Lau. Continue cycling along this natural scenery until the Van Long Natural Reserve. These routes offer sceneries of limestone mountains, wetlands, paddies, rivers, temples, and rural hamlets. All the while you will be absorbing the breathtaking limestone peeks and stunning karst mountains that surround this truly angelic landscape.

After the bike, transfer to Tho Ha, a petite charming village; an insight into authentic rural life. From here, embark on a rowing boat and meander along the serene waterways and idyllic rivers, all in arms’ reach of green rice paddies, water lilies, lotus and reeds whilst approaching Galaxy Grotto. Enjoy the amazing stalactites in different shapes and colors in the quiet ambiance; only hearing the sounds of the boat rowing and water dropping down from the ceiling. Then heading out of the grotto, passing through the Bird Valley where various white stocks build their nests.

Disembark at Linh Coc jetty and enjoy a short leisurely stroll towards the graceful ambience of Tam Coc Garden; all the while absorbing the breathtaking limestone peeks and stunning karst mountains that surround this truly angelic landscape.

Next you will transfer back to your hotel by car  for lunch and enjoy the rest of the afternoon to yourself.

In the evening, your dinner will be served at Thai Vi Temple’s yard. Built in the 13th century, it is one of the oldest temples in Vietnam. The temple was erected in remembrance of Tran dynasty’s victory against the Mongolians. Meet with the Women’s Association of Tam Coc, and enjoy local folk shows and Vietnamese traditional games.

  • Car Transfer: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Car Transfer Distance:  60 km

DAY FOURTEEN: DEPARTURE DAY

You have today free for your leisure until transferring back to Noibai airport for international flights home. You will stop at a local restaurant on the way back to the airport for a proper goodbye with your newly made adventure family.

Car Transfer: 2 hours 30 minutes
Car Transfer Distance: 110 km

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