If you're flying into Hanoi today you will be met at the airport and transferred to the group hotel. Please look for the WORLD EXPEDITIONS welcome sign outside Gate A1 of the arrivals hall. Following some time to relax and refresh, later in the afternoon your guide will hold a trip briefing in the hotel lobby after which you are invited to a welcome meal with a local family. Learn and share customs and traditions over an authentic Hanoian meal with your friendly host family. Vietnamese cuisine emphasises the use of fresh seasonal produce and a vast array of herbs and spices to produce its distinctive flavours. Perhaps you'll also pick up a few Vietnamese phrases to use throughout your trip.
Today we enjoy the sights of Hanoi, starting the morning with a walk through the Ba Dinh Square where President Ho Chiu Minh read the Proclamation of Independence in 1945. The large square is dominated by the Soviet inspired Mausoleum of the revolutionary leader. Surrounding the square are the Presidential Palace and National Assembly Building. We then visit the UNESCO World Heritage listed Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. This location marks the centre of unbroken political stronghold of the region for over 1000 years. Only the foundations of the original fort remains but many later structures provide a great insight into the site's historical importance including during the Vietnamese American War. We continue on to the Temple of Literature which hosts the Imperial Academy, Vietnam's first university dating back to C11th. Dedicated to to Confucius, sages and scholars, the Temple is a fine example of the ancient architectural styles of several dynasties. Next up is the Museum of Ethnology which features a fascinating and well presented collection of art, artifacts and everyday objects gathered from Vietnam's diverse ethnic minorities. The afternoon will be spent exploring the heart of the city, the buzzing Old Quarter. Each street in the district used to be specialised in a specific art, manufacture or commerce and many streets still retain those original names. In the evening we head out to enjoy a water puppet performance, a traditional art form closely linked with the agricultural roots of the Vietnamese people on the Red River Delta.
Note: Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum opens in the morning only and closes on Mondays & Fridays and the whole months of September & October for anual maintenance. Ho Chi Minh's house-on-stilts is closed on Monday & Friday afternoon. Most of Hanoi's museums also close on Mondays, except Museum of Vietnam Women & Museum of Vietnam Fine Arts.
This morning we'll head out for breakfast as the locals do. We'll enjoy a bowl of Pho, Vietnamese noodle soup and a coffee the local way before taking the drive to Mai Chau in Hoa Binh Province. En route we'll stop by the Muong Cultural Space, a private museum dedicated to the Muong ethnic group, the biggest minority group in Hoa Binh province. We continue on, stopping in Van Village for lunch before reaching Xa Linh Village from where we'll start our hiking adventure. We pass through idyllic valleys with lush woodland and terraced tea plantations hemmed in by hills. Our destination for the night is a homestay in Hang Kia, an ethnic Hmong village surrounded by peach and plum trees.
Hiking distance: ~6.5km
Overnight at homestay in Hang Kia Village.
After breakfast bid farewell to your host. Walk further through Hang Kia Village before entering the unpaved road leading to Thung Mai. You'll then turn to small dirt trails through the jungle. Most of this morning's route is going downhill to land of Thai ethnic minority. Nearly reaching Cun Pheo you can see rice fields and typical local house-on-stilts. Enjoy a picnic lunch in Cun Pheo.
Hop on your bike and cycle on flat trails through the villages and fields of Buoc and Muoi Villages where you can see Thai farmers on their daily works. Continue walk through the villages of Sun, Ngoa and Den where you have plenty of opportunities to meet friendly local people and enjoy scenic landscape of fields and mountains. From the foot of Den Bridge embark on a bamboo raft and paddle down Xia Stream. Enjoy the scenery along the stream banks, with bamboo groves, karst mountains and buffals leisurely eating grass. Continue to Mai Hich Village.
Have dinner while enjoying Thai traditional music performed by villagers.
Hiking distance: ~9.5km
Cycling distance: ~18km
Overnight at homestay in Mai Hich Village.
After breakfast, we bid farewell to the host and head out of Mai Hich. Cycle on the quiet and peaceful backroads on the way to Cuc Phuong National Park. Arrive at Khanh village of Muong ethnic minority people where you will spend the overnight here. This will be an unforgettable experience as you could explore the lifestyles of local people here and enjoy the local dishes.
Cycling distance: ~30-60km (adjusted to suit group)
Overnight at homestay in Khanh Village.
After breakfast, start hiking along the jungle trail then gradually climbing uphill to enter the dense jungle of Cuc Phuong National Park. During the trek, you will see many different types of plants and trees, and take on a lot of ascents and descents. Enjoy a picnic lunch under the shade of giant trees. You'll reach Bong at the center of the park in the mid-afternoon where your vehicle pick you up and transfer to the National Park's headquarter.
Explore the Visitor Centre, Endangered Primate Rescue Centre, Turtle Conservation Centre and Carnivore & Pangolin Education Centre to learn about animal conservation efforts of the National Park.
Hiking distance: ~16km
Overnight at National Park's Guethouse.
After breakfast drive to Ninh Binh to have a full day to explore Ninh Binh by bike. Start cycling along Van Long Nature Reserve Cycle through the countryside and villages. Next is Hoa Lu, which was the capital under the Dinh and Early Le dynasties in Vietnam in the 10th and 11th century. Its palaces, pagodas, tombs and pavilions, built by different dynasties, still carry the features of an ancient imperial capital. Board a sampan for an extended journey along the winding river lined with trees and limestone mountains of Trang An. You will stop by several small, historic temples which are the pride of the area's inhabitants. The lush forests, clear river water, fresh air, magical caves and dramatic mountains will charm you from first glance.
Cycling distance: ~30-40km (adjusted to sit group)
Overnight in Ninh Binh.
Breakfast at hotel before heading out to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On arrival we will join our traditional 'junk' sailing boat and head out into the Gulf of Tonkin amongst the huge limestone outcrops and emerald waters. We will spend the rest of the day cruising in our boat around the myriad of tiny islands and exploring the many grotts created by the wind and the waves. While on board we will have a fresh seafood lunch.
In the afternoon explore Vung Vieng floating village by kayak before swimming, sunbathing and relaxing at Ban Chan beach. Relax back at the boat as we cruise to docking area where the boat will anchor overnight.
Kayaking duration: ~1 hour
Dinner and overnight on board.
Note: Cruise itinerary and schedule are subject to change due to weather, tide levels and operating conditions. Swimming or kayaking excursions may be cancelled due to poor weather. Unused services are not subject to a refund.
Start your day with tai chi exercise on the sundeck. After breakfast, transfer to the day boat to Cap La area for kayaking. After lunch, cruise to Cong Do area for further kayaking and swimming. Return to main boat. Relax and enjoy the rest of the day on board.
Kayaking duration: ~4 hours
Dinner and overnight on board.
After breakfast kayak around Thien Canh Son Cave area. Enjoy the last of the Ha Long Bay scenery over lunch as the boat cruises back to shore. Disembark and transfer back to Hanoi.
Kayaking duration: ~1 hour
Overnight in Hanoi.
The day is free at your leisure until transfer to Noi Bai International Airport for your departure flight. We wish you a pleasant flight!