The North Vietnam pilgrimage

11 days
VIETNAM, PARC NATIONAL DE BA BE//VIETNAM, BA BE NATIONAL PARK

This package is a must for every traveler who does not have unlimited time but is in search of varied travel experiences. This package includes a large array of different sceneries, a multi-activities program, and a choice of community-based accommodation. You’ll stay away from mass tourism and journey in intimacy with the country and its people.

Experiences

  • See Hanoi beyond its tourism clichés
  • Meet the Dao apprentices of Lavievulinh and venture on the lake they call home
  • Be hosted by ethnic families in the high Sino-vietnamese mountains of Lao Cai
  • Trek and cycle on various grounds: forest, steep mountainside, valleys and terraced rice fields
  • Spend one overnight on a small fishing boat and kayak to hidden lagoons of Halong

Day 1. Hanoi, arrival
Meals: N/a | Accommodation: Hotel

You are welcomed at the airport and driven to your hotel in the city center. End of the day at leisure. Consult us to get some hints about what to do in Hanoi.

Day 2. Hanoi, half-day alternative city tour
Meals: Breakfast, lunch | Accommodation: Hotel

Get ready for a fun morning wandering around a surprisingly calm and rustic side of Hanoi. We start from your hotel and go to visit the Tran Quoc pagoda as a warm up. We then hop on a small electric cart that takes us for an enjoyable ride all along the West Lake. We will visit another less known pagoda on the way and witness some daily scenes of Hanoi: fishermen standing “on” the lake, future bride and groom taking pre-wedding pictures, people practicing their tai chi or chatting over a cup of coffee, etc. The loop ends at the Hanoi’s central flower market. It should be pretty quiet at this time as this is more kind of a wholesale night market. From there we walk to the Red River’s shores and stroll around the numerous tiny flower farms. We end the walk in a little charming house for a homemade lunch.
End of the day at leisure.

Day 3. Hanoi – Duong Lam – Lavievulinh
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner | Accommodation: Community-run ecolodge

Depart from your hotel, we head Northwest and quickly get to our first destination, Duong Lam. It is an ancient village of the Red River delta featuring the traditional social organization and architecture. It was amazingly preserved throughout the centuries. We stroll around, visit a temple and a pagoda, it feels like we jumped to a past era. We have the opportunities to meet a family or two and to enjoy a homemade lunch.

We then hit the road again and arrive at Ngoi Tu village in the afternoon. We take a short walk on small paths bordered by palm trees and bamboo forests to reach the banks of the Thac Ba lake. A warm welcome awaits us from our hosts at the Lavievulinh ecolodge. Lavievulinh is a development project co-initiated by the Dao community living around. You’ll have the opportunity to learn more about it during your stay there.

End of the afternoon at leisure. The sun sets over the lake and the dinner is served. Overnight in a private studio or in the traditional house on stilts.

Day 4. Lavievulinh, forest trekking
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner | Accommodation: Community-run ecolodge

We leave the lodge after breakfast. We have a full day of exciting exploration ahead. We trek across the village and through the forest. Our local guide is a plants and herbs expert, she will explain all along the way the potential culinary or medicinal use of leaves, fruits, and woods. The lunch is prepared by an apprentice of the project who came along: Jungle lunch, Dao style!

We keep hiking in the afternoon, some wild parts and some cultivated ones. We may have the chance to meet some farmers up there who travel a long way from home to cultivate a piece of land. We then walk down to a small village near by the road. We can sit in a local pub and enjoy a refreshing bath in the waterfall running next to it.

We are back at the lodge in the late afternoon, time for shower before dinner on the terrace.

Day 5. Lavievulinh – Nghia Do
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner | Accommodation: Homestay

Easy pace in the morning, we’re not in a rush and may even take the time for a last swim in the lake. We walk back to our vehicle and drive on a small winding road along the lake and its foothills. We arrive at the Northern edge of it about noon, time for lunch. We visit a Tay family living nearby for a homemade meal.

After lunch, we hit the road again, heading North and getting closer to the southern part of Ha Giang province. The mountains start showing up as we arrive in Nghia Do. We settle at the house of our hosts in a scenic spot. We have time to take a leisure walk around in the afternoon before coming back home for dinner.

Day 6. Nghia Do – Bac Ha
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner | Accommodation: Homestay

We leave our hosts in the morning and keep heading North toward Chinese border. We enter the Sino Vietnamese mountain ranges of Lao Cai. We will arrive in Bac Ha town for lunch (we may try to get there earlier if we are on a market day).

The afternoon is dedicated to hiking, on small trails and paths, across valleys and villages. We enjoy any opportunity to exchange with the locals. We are on lands of dense ethnicity; the dwellers wear colorful clothes and are always happy to have guests for a cup of tea.

We end the day in a small charming village. Another evening, another host but the warm hospitality remains. Dinner and overnight in a wooden house on stilts (it is getting usual).

Day 7. Bac Ha – Lao Cai
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner | Accommodation: Night train to Hanoi

After breakfast, we take a drive for about 20km to reach the spot where our hike starts. We walk for about 2 hours on an easy little path and arrive in a village lying near by the Chay River. We wander a while around the village and stop in a local home for lunch.

After lunch, we head to the pier and board a small boat for a nice ride through the gorges of the Chay River.

We finally get back in our vehicle to drive to Lao Cai. We will arrive in the late afternoon. Time for shower and for dinner before we hop on the night train to Hanoi.

Day 8. Hanoi – Haiphong – Cat Ba
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner | Accommodation : Fishing boat

Arrival in Hanoi very early morning. We go for breakfast around and then start our way to Haiphong to be at the coast on time and catch our speedboat to Cat Ba Island. We board a private fishing boat refitted to host guests and hit the sea. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the show. We evolve in one of the less travelled areas of Halong, across wide floating villages with the giant limestone rock formations standing all around. We can take the kayaks to the water, there is no better mean to socialize up with the “floating locals” and to explore the hidden lagoons.

The program is totally flexible and will follow your preferences. Meals are served onboard. The boat is equipped with 2 cabins for overnight. Each cabin can accommodate up to 5 guests.

Day 9. Cat Ba – Haiphong – Tam Coc
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner | Accommodation : Family guesthouse

In the morning we can either take some more time for cruising and kayaking; or get back earlier to the pier and explore Cat Ba Island for a while. We could propose you for example to visit the seafood market and to climb up the Canon Fort for a great view over the bay. We then transfer to an ancient house set in a beautiful lush garden for a home prepared meal. You may even have a chance to participate in the preparation if we arrive at the house early enough.

In the afternoon, we take a speedboat back to Haiphong and then drive to Tam Coc. We stay overnight away from the tourism chaos in a small and charming family guesthouse.

Day 10. Tam Coc – Trang An – Hanoi
Meals: Breakfast, lunch | Accommodation : Hotel

We have a full day dedicated to the regions of Tam Coc and Trang An. The program is pretty flexible and the guide can easily adapt and re-arrange according to your preferences. What we suggest initially goes like that.

We start after breakfast with a gentle bike ride on the byways of Tam Coc and its surroundings. Many stops along the way to check out a market, a temple or simply a daily life scene. We pass by Hang Mua, 400 stairs to a breathtaking panoramic view of Tam Coc mountainous circus. Photographers, raise your hand!

The way finally leads us to Trang An nature reserve, where we start a scenic sampan trip through waterways in beautiful decors made of rice fields and limestone rocks.

After lunch in a local restaurant, we propose you to either combine some more leisure cycling with the visit of the temples of Hoa Lu ancient capital; or to dedicate more time to one of those activities.

We drive back to Hanoi in the afternoon to arrive about 5pm. End of the day at leisure.

Day 11. Hanoi, departure
Meals: Breakfast | Accommodation : N/A

We arrange a car to take you to the airport in time for your flight out of Vietnam.

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This package includes a large array of different sceneries, a multi-activities program, and a choice of community-based accommodation. You’ll journey in intimacy with the country and its people.

Prices and conditions

Prices from 959 US Dollars per person

Included:

  • Accommodation during the tour
  • Meals as indicated in the program
  • Transfers in private, air-conditioned vehicle
  • Nigh train from Lao Cai to Hanoi
  • Private fishing boat from Cat Ba
  • English speaking tour guide
  • All mentioned activities
  • Airport transfers
  • All tickets and entry fees
  • VAT

Not included:

  • Beverages
  • Gratuities and donations
  • Personal expenses and individual insurance
  • All services not mentioned above in the “included” list