Vietnam Trekking, Kayaking and Caving
13 nights/ 14 days

Vietnam is legendary for its culture and history as well as its rich beauty. Brilliant green rice fields, exotic temples and pagodas, grand colonial buildings, bustling city streets, thatched bamboo huts, deserted sandy beaches, and breathtaking mountain scenery… it’s all here. Its ecological treasures make it a truly unique destination that is intoxicating and full of adventure! Trek through dense jungles to explore the world’s largest caves, cruise it’s many river deltas, and relax on the pristine beaches.

Highlights

  • Experience bustling Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, and discover why it is one of Asia’s most fascinating cities as you taste your way through “36 streets”
  • Soak in the scenery of rural villages, farms and rice paddies as we travel through this incredible country aboard a night train
  • Hike through the beautiful rice terraces of Sapa and discover what life is like in the local villages
  • Embark on a cruise and kayaking adventure on Halong Bay
  • Explore the remarkable Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, home to the world’s largest caves, karst mountains, underground rivers, and historic sites
  • Visit Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh, or Saigon, as it is still known to many

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip has a number of activities to get your pulse going and is rated moderate. It is suitable for physically active guests who are comfortable being active approximately 4-6 hours a day. You’ll also need to be a confident swimmer.
  • Accommodations on this trip vary from 4-star hotels to camping and also include local homestays, an overnight train, and a junk cruise. When staying at the homestays, accommodation is multishare rooms with simple bedding and shared bathroom facilities. While accommodation is simple, the warm welcome and home-cooked meals will be comforting after a day of exercise.
  • The tropical climate of Vietnam means conditions can be really hot and humid. Always carry plenty of water with you and stay hydrated, especially on walking tours.
DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh
TRIP LEADER(S) Stacey
PLACES VISITED Hanoi, Lao Cai, Giang Ta Chai Village, Sapa, Su Pan, Thanh Kim, Thanh Phu Village, Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay, Dong Hoi, Phong Nha, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Ho Chi Minh
ACTIVITIES Trekking, kayaking, cruising, culinary, caving
GROUP SIZE Max. 16 people
PHYSICAL RATING Moderate
WHAT’S INCLUDED
Trip Leader & English Speaking Local Guides 5 Breakfasts, 8 lunches, 6 Dinners
Accommodations (3-nights hotel, 2-nights on overnight train, 2-nights homestay, 2-nights on junk cruise, 2-nights farmstay, 2-nights camping)(s) All transfers listed in the itinerary
Welcome drink on Halong Bay Cruise Park Entrance Fees
Junk Boat Cruise Day boat to Lan Ha Bay
Halong Bay Kayaking (Single/ Double Sit in Kayak, subject to availability) Sapa Trekking
Camping gear (tent, camp light, sleeping bag, mattresses, pillow) Caving & safety gear (caving helmet, caving headlight, life jacket, gloves)
Light PVC backpack (if you do not want to take your own, as it will get wet) Dry bag (for caving & kayaking)
Basic canvas trekking boots (if you do not have your own) Porter team at Phong Nha to carry all your personal belongings and camping gear and prepare all meals
Shared dry box for phones and small cameras (limited availability for larger cameras) Water filter and purifier for caves (used only by guide and porters)
Basic camping facilities with eco-friendly compost toilet using western toilet seat First Aid Kid and Medical Rescue Equipment
Secure luggage storage while trekking
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED
International airfare Airport taxes & excess baggage fees
Travel Insurance Beverages & meals not specified
Personal Expenses Gratuities
Flight from Hanoi to Dong Hoi (7:45am-9:15am) Est $115 Flight from Dong Hoi to Ho Chi Minh (11:45am–1:20pm) Est $51
1

Hanoi

Today is arrival day and there are no planned activities, so you are free to arrive at any time. Vietnam’s capital city must be one of Asia’s most fascinating cities offering a unique blend of oriental and western charm. It is a city of exotic brightly painted temples and pagodas, elegant ochre-washed colonial villas, bustling narrow streets and alleys, grand tree-lined boulevards and shaded lakes. First established as Vietnam’s capital in 1010, when it was known as Thang Long, the city’s name changed several times before it eventually became Hanoi in 1831.

Overnight at Essence Hanoi or similar

2

Hanoi to Lao Cai (B, L)

This morning, our guide will meet us in the hotel lobby and then we’ll set out on foot to the Old Quarter, also known as “36 streets,” to visit some famous and specialized food families or local restaurants/ stalls where you will learn about Vietnamese cuisine, culture, people and language.

The Old Quarter in Hanoi is over one thousand years old and today retains much of the old flavor that made the area special in earlier times, each street was the exclusive domain of one trade so there are whole streets of blacksmiths, silver ships, paper shops, headstone makers and more. Originally, there were just 36 streets in the old quarter, but today there are more than 50.

This evening, we’ll be picked up from our hotel and taken to the Ha Noi Railway Station and catch the overnight train to Lao Cai.

INCLUDED:

— Hanoi Walking/ Food Tour (3 hours)
— Night Train to Lao Cai (9 hours)

Overnight on Night Train

3

Lao Cai/ Sapa/ Giang Ta Chai Village (B, L, D)

We’ll arrive in Lao Cai at 5:30 or 6am and our guide will be waiting for us at the train station and we’ll drive about one hour to the beautiful town of Sapa. The ride gives a you a glimpse of the stunning vistas and impressive rice terraces. Enjoy a hot, delicious breakfast then prepare for a great trek down to the picturesque valley of Muong Hoa. Commence your Sapa trek from the town center by car to Lao Chai village, a Black Hmong village. You will be trekking from Lao Chai to Tavan village where the Giay hill tribe lives. After lunch, the walk continues through a bamboo forest to Giang Ta Chai, a Red Dao village where we’ll have a unique homestay experience. In the terraced hills and mountains of this area, the expansive green landscape is enlivened by the colors of its hill tribe population – flashes of shining silver jewelry from the necks and wrists of indigo-clad H’mong and the scarlet hues of the turbans worn by the Red Dao can be seen. It is here you will find hands stained with color from fabric dyes and shades of blue, red and green intricately embroidered and stitched into jackets, waistcoats, pants, skirts, caps, purses, and leggings.

The Red Dao women have very colorful red embroidery and coins on their clothing. On their head, they wear a red scarf. Some of the women have shaved off their eyebrows because of nice Red Zao Legend.

INCLUDED:

— Transportation from Lao Cai to Sapa (30km; 1 hour)
— Trek to local villages (4.5 hours)
— Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Overnight at Homestay in Giang Ta Chai

4

Giang Ta Chai Village/ Su Pan/ Thanh Kim/ Thanh Phu Village (B, L, D)

Following breakfast with the local people, enjoy the breathtaking scenery this morning as we leave the village and continue our trek along small paths in the rice fields, cross the Muong Hoa River and trek up to Su pan village. We’ll have a short break near a hanging bridge made from cane and a beautiful waterfall before continuing on to Thank Kim for lunch.

After lunch, we’ll trek along a narrow valley downhill for 2 hours to the Ngoi Bo River followed by another hour of uphill hiking to the Muong Bo Village at the center to Thanh Phu Commune. This is the home of the Tay minority and where we will also spend the night in a wooden Tay stilt house.

INCLUDED:

— Trek to Thanh Phu Village (7 hours)
— Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Overnight at Homestay in Thanh Phu Village

5

Thanh Phu Village/ Sapa (B)

Today, we will make our return to Sapa with an easy downhill hike to the Thanh Phu bridge where we’ll meet our driver again. We’ll have a beautiful drive back to Sapa.

Upon arrival, we’ll take a shower and spend the rest of the day exploring the town of Sapa with its market, square and abandoned church. At 5:30pm, we’ll be transfer to Lao Cai for the night train back to Hanoi.

— Trek to Thanh Phu Bridge (1 hour)
— Transportation back to Sapa (1 hour)
— Night train to Hanoi
— Meals: Breakfast

Overnight on Night Train

6

Hanoi to Halong Bay (L, D)

We’ll arrive back in Hanoi early in the morning. Here, we’ll be picked up for our transfer to Hon Gai International Harbor where we’ll embark on a 2-night/ 3-day cruise and kayaking adventure on the majestic Halong Bay. Halong Bay is recognized as one of the Natural Wonders of the World by UNESCO and is famous for thousands of islands, beautiful beaches, and historical monuments. Because of the wonderful view, it is an ideal place to explore the marvels of nature. We’ll spend the next three days getting acquainted with the bay’s natural beauty as we cruise to Lan Ha Bay, where we’ll go kayaking through magnificent limestone islands.

We’ll arrive in Halong Bay after 3.5 hours of driving where we’ll be welcomed by our junk crew then enjoy a fine seafood lunch while the cruise set sails to the bay. Our first day will be spent exploring the Sung Sot Cave, the most beautiful cave in Halong Bay. Hidden among the thousands of jungle-covered peaks rising dramatically out of the emerald waters of Halong Bay are illuminated caves, isolated grottos and picturesque hidden coves of all shapes and sizes. The Sung Sot Cave features fascinating rock formations illuminated by a kaleidoscope of color. The French names this cave “grotte des surprises” (grotto of surprise).

We’ll then cruise to Titov Island where we’ll go swimming and relax on the beach of Titov or climb up to the top of the island for a panorama view of Halong Bay.

Around 5pm we’ll return to the main boat and continue cruising while enjoying a beautiful seascape. Back onboard, there will be an evening party on the sundeck just in time for sunset, so we’ll enjoy a few cocktails before dinner.

INCLUDED:

— Transfer to Hon Gai International Harbor
— V’Spirit Cruise in Halong Bay
— Meals: Lunch & Dinner

Overnight on V’Spirit Cruise

7

Halong Bay to Lan Ha Bay (B, L, D)

This morning, take in the view of the Bay’s landscape with a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy a full breakfast in the fresh air to prepare for the day’s physical activities. After transferring from a support boat, we’ll arrive at our check point to start our kayaking adventure. We’ll explore small, untouched caves which become untouchable during high tide. Under a million years of geographical structure, some caves thrust right through islets, some make the sole entry into a hidden lagoon.

While a cruise is an excellent way to enjoy the spectacular scenery of Halong Bay at a relaxed pace, the only way to get an upclose look at the limestone mountain is by kayak. Paddle out to the calmer, less-visited corners of the bay, which the bigger boats cannot maneuver, and discover hidden caves, isolated lagoons, unspoiled islands and much more with the direction of your guide.

Upon returning to the boat, we’ll sail to Lan Ha Bay, which is smaller than Halong Bay but much more interesting with lots of secluded beaches.

INCLUDED:

— V’Spirit Cruise in Halong Bay
— Kayaking Tour (6 hours)
— Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Overnight on V’Spirit Cruise

8

Halong Bay/ Hanoi (B, L)

This morning, start the day with a Tai Chi demonstration on the sun-deck before enjoying a delicious breakfast. Dawn is especially peaceful in Halong Bay, and a Tai Chi lesson in the morning will surely bring balance back to your soul. The sights and sounds and sensations of a gentle Tai Chi session at sunrise will lead you to find your inner peace in harmony with nature.

Get your last view of the bay before we head back to the harbor, passing the Ba Hang fishing village, Dog Islet, and other areas of interest. While heading back to the harbor, watch the fruit carving demonstration and participate in the cooking class before enjoying a traditional Vietnamese lunch.

After disembarking, we’ll transfer back to Hanoi for an overnight stay.

INCLUDED:

— Transfer to hotel
— Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Overnight at Essence Hanoi or similar

9

Hanoi/ Dong Hoi/ Phong Nha (B)

This morning, we’ll have an early morning flight to Dong Hoi, the gateway to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed park located 50km northwest of the city. It is home to the world’s largest and most spectacular caves.

Upon arrival, we’ll be transferred to the Chay Lap Farmstay, located on the doorstep of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National park and a tranquil river just a short stroll away.  Scenically positioned amongst the local grazing and farming fields, Chay Lap Farmstay is a charming Farmstay retreat in this unspoilt region of Vietnam. Designed with low level houses that are strategically spaced out throughout the 1.8 hectares of landscaped gardens and farm plots.

You’ll have the afternoon free to ride mountain bikes, go swimming, kayaking, play volleyball or badminton. You may also opt to delve into Vietnamese culture with language, cookery and weaving classes. Savour authentic local dishes and familiar home comfort foods in casual settings. Meetup up at the social hubs of the Farmstay either indoors or outdoors to talk about the day’s discoveries with other world travelers passing through or laze by the pool and rest up for tomorrow’s adventure.

INCLUDED:

— Flight from Hanoi to Dong Hoi (1.5 hours; 7:45am-9:15am)
— Transfer to Phong Nha (1 hour)
— Meals: Breakfast

Overnight at Chay Lap Farmstay

10

Phong Nha/ Tan Hoa/ Tu Lan (L, D)

This morning, we will be picked up between 7:30am and 8am and driven to the little village of Tan Hoa for your initial safety briefing. We’ll then set off across sweeping fields for 2.5km to the Rao Nan River, making our way up to the short hill into Rat Cave.

Explore 300m in Rat Cave with spectacular calcite stalagmites, then make your way back out for a picnic lunch served next to the river in La Ken Valley.

You’ll then climb 150m increasing in elevation up Lom Com Mountain. Keep going through Flat Rock Peak and make your way to Mango Peak on Mango Mountain. After a quick break, the trek continues down into Tu Lan Valley (2km).

You’ll finish your afternoon on a more relaxed note with swimming around the waterfall, followed by a BBQ dinner, and singing around the campfire until sleep overcomes you.

INCLUDED:

— Visit Tan Hoa village
— Hike to Rat Cave and Tu Lan Valley
— Meals: Lunch & Dinner

Overnight Camping

11

Ken Cave/ Tu Lan/ Hang Kim/ To Mo (B, L, D)

The morning arrives with another full day of adventure. Shortly following breakfast comes a swim directly into Ken Cave.

After exploring this longest cave in the Tu Lan Cave System, you’ll return back to camp for more waterfall swimming, a rest, and picnic lunch.

Post-lunch, it’s a 200m swim into Tu Lan Cave, followed by a 1.5km trek to Hang Kim were swimming (450m) and exploration continues before adventuring 500m on through to Mo Valley to the To Mo Cave campsite.

Enjoy another beautifully prepared dinner, and camping within graceful To Mo Valley.

INCLUDED:

— Swim to Ken Cave, Tu Lan Cave
— Hike to Hang Kim and Mo Valley
— Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Overnight Camping

12

To Mo/ Tan Hoa/ Phong Nha (B, L)

The last day of trekking continues to exude less adventure and balance between trekking and swimming, and then a morning swim 100m upstream past the waterfall and through Hung Ton Cave via what is usually the exit of the cave.

Investigation of the dry passage leads to a 15m ladder climb up to the entrance of Hung Ton. After trekking across Hung Ton Valley, you will squeeze your way into the Secret Cave and discover the most untouched cave in the Tu Lan Cave System.

Early afternoon holds the return trip across Rao Nan River, the beautiful fields, and back to Tan Hoa (2.5km), where a cold drink will be calling your name.

We’ll return to Phong Nha by 5:30pm and spend one more night at the Chay Lap Farmstay.

INCLUDED:

— Hike out of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park
— Meals: Breakfast & Lunch

Overnight at Chay Lap Farmstay

13

Dong Hoi/ Ho Chi Minh City (B)

This morning, we’ll transfer back to Dong Hoi for our flight to Ho Chi Minh, or Saigon as it is still known to many.  You’ll have the rest of the afternoon free to explore Vietnam’s largest city with a growing population of around 7 million. This is a city on the go 24 hours a day where everybody seems to be busy either buying, selling, studying, working or just enjoying themselves. Even though modern high-rise buildings have begun to dominate the skyline in recent years, there are still many fine examples of French colonial architecture in Ho Chi Minh city such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Old Saigon Post Office and the former Hotel de Ville.

Ho Chi Minh City is a real shopper’s paradise with modern shopping centers and trendy boutiques rubbing shoulders with traditional street markets. The city’s best-known market is Ben Thanh Market here you can buy anything from fresh fruit and flowers to the latest imported electronics and cosmetics.

One of the most interesting places to visit in Ho Chi Minh City is the former Presidential Palace, now renamed the Reunification Hall. This building remains almost exactly as it was on the morning of April 30, 1975 when the Saigon regime surrendered to the victorious liberation forces and the country was reunified for the first time since 1945. For more war-related history, the War Remnants Museum with it thought provoking display of weapons and photographs, is also worth visiting.

This evening, we’ll choose one of the city’s hundreds of restaurants for our final dinner and possibly hit a few bars afterwards to enjoy some nightlife for our final evening together as a group.

INCLUDED:

— Transfer back to Dong Hoi (1 hour)
— Airport transfer to hotel
— Meals: Breakfast

Overnight at The Alcove Library Hotel or similar

14

Ho Chi Minh City (B)

Today is departure day and there are no planned activities. At the appropriate time, you can take a taxi to the airport for your flight home or to your next destination.

INCLUDED:

— Meals: Breakfast

Departure

2018 Small Group Departures
March 26-April 8 $2250 (Single Supplement $350) Due in Full by December 26, 2017 Book Now
Price is per person based on double occupancy. Initial deposit is $500 and is payable by credit card. Once submitting your deposit, you’ll receive an invoice for the remaining balance, plus any trip add-ons and extensions. Payments can be made online with a credit card.
Solo Travelers: We provide roommate matching, so you never have to pay for a single supplement unless you want your own room. Should there be an odd number of men to women, you may be asked to join a triple occupancy room if you are one of the last to join.
> SIGN UP WITH NO RISK Your deposit is fully refundable or transferable

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