Our trip starts today with your arrival in Hanoi. No activities are planned, so you may arrive at any time. There will be a pre-departure briefing with your tour Leader around 6pm this evening.
Day 2: Hanoi (Breakfast)
Although there has been a settlement here since the 3rd century AD, the city of Hanoi can trace its origins back to 1010 when Emperor Le Thai To moved his capital from Hoa Lu to this site. From the 1880s to World War II, Hanoi was developed as the French colonial capital of French Indochina and many of the old structures in Hanoi were razed to make way for new French buildings. Today's inhabitants of Hanoi take a lot of pride in their grand old colonial buildings and this together with the wide spacious boulevards and tree-lined lakes help make Hanoi one of most graceful and charming cities in South East Asia. After breakfast we'll set out on a half-day tour of the city, showcasing some of Hanoi's most interesting attractions. We'll begin our tour with a visit to the 'One Pillar Pagoda' situated near the dour, soviet inspired mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. One Pillar Pagoda was first constructed in 1049 and as such it was Hanoi's oldest structure. If it doesn't look that old to you, it's because the French blew it up in 1954 as a parting gesture and the current edifice is a replica of the original. From here we'll walk to the Temple of Literature, a wonderful name for a wonderful place. Founded in 1070, it was Vietnam's first educational institute and a place where candidates for the position of Mandarin were examined. Finally we'll visit the Hoa Lo Prison, probably better known to most of us as the 'Hanoi Hilton'. Hanoi's tallest building now occupies most of the original site, and no, it doesn't belong to the Hilton Hotel chain, but the eastern wall and a small section of the prison behind have been retained and today serve as a museum. It mostly serves as a reminder of the Vietnamese who were incarcerated here by their French masters. The remainder of the afternoon is free for us to wander around town and check out the lifestyles of Hanoi's people. One of the best places to do this is the city's 'old quarter', situated to the north of the lake. It's a great place (and an easy place) to get lost in for a couple of hours. However, it's easy to find our bearings if we remember that its boundaries are the railway line to the west and the north, the Red River to the east and Hoan Kiem Lake to the south. This evening we have the option of attending a performance of Vietnam's world famous 'water puppet, troupe.
Day 3: Halong Bay (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
Ha Long means 'descending dragon' and legend has it that a giant dragon plunged into the ocean at this point cutting the bay from the rocks as it thrashed its way into the depths. We prefer Mother Nature's version and awe-inspiring Halong Bay with its 3,000 limestone karsts thrusting skyward out of the sea is one of her finest pieces of work. Our Halong Bay excursion begins with a 3½-hour drive through the fertile Red River Delta to the bayside resort town of Bai Chay. We'll board our chartered boat shortly before midday and enjoy a full afternoon lazing on the deck as we cruise through this most amazing seascape. A seafood lunch will be served on board and we'll have the opportunity to go for a swim before going ashore on one of the islands to explore its colourful limestone caves. With any luck we'll witness a fabulous sunset over Halong Bay before enjoying dinner prepared by our crew. Accommodation tonight is on board our boat in simply furnished cabins. Bedding will be provided but if the weather is fine you may prefer to sleep on the top deck under the stars. There are showers and sometimes there is hot water and sometimes not!
Day 4: Hanoi And Overnight Train To Lao Cai (Breakfast)
Following breakfast we make our way back to Hanoi and arrive shortly before lunchtime. Our remaining time in Hanoi is free for shopping and sightseeing, or relaxing in one of the lakeside cafes. This evening we begin our exciting journey up to Sapa when we board the overnight train for the Vietnam - Non Nuoc border town of Lao Cai.
Day 5: Sapa - Overnight Trek (Breakfast/Dinner)
We'll catch a glimpse of Non Nuoc over the other side of the river this morning as we disembark from the overnight train and begin our drive into the mountains and on to the picturesque minority hill tribe town of Sapa. Set amidst some magnificent mountain scenery and in the shadow of Vietnam's tallest peak, the 3,143-metre-high Mt. Fansipan, the former French colonial hill station town of Sapa is home to some of Vietnam's most colourful minority hill tribes. Like Dalat in the south, the French developed Sapa in an effort to replicate parts of the Alps and the Pyrenees. A number of their villas remain but many were lost in 1979 when the Vietnamese army evicted the invading Chinese. We'll spend the afternoon discovering the charms of this magic little town and set out the next morning on an adventurous two-day trek up the Muong Hoa River Valley with its lush vegetation and rice terraces. There are no hotels up here so we spend the night at a minority village in the cosy longhouse of one of the village's families. The next morning, after a hearty hill tribe breakfast, we trek back into Sapa. In the evening we make our way back to Lao Cai, where we once again board the overnight train, for the return trip to Hanoi.
Day 6: Hanoi (Breakfast)
Northern Escape comes to an end with our arrival back in Hanoi at approximately 5am. Additional accommodation is available on request
Tour Prices with Luxury Hotels
Tour Prices with Standard Hotels
Prices are per person in US Dollars based on double occupancy.
Any parts of the itinerary e.g. tour length, activities & hotels can be tailored to your individual interests.
An experienced Vietnamese tour leader and, on occasion, the services of local guides at some sites. All transport, accommodation, meals (4 breakfasts, 1 lunch & 1 dinner) as indicated in the above itinerary.
International flights, entrance fees, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.<
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