Vietnam

Live Like a Local


Embark on a journey to explore the natural beauty of prime forests throughout the country while discovering the storied history of Vietnam. Learn about the influences from the colonial time in Hoi An, and explore the cultural heritage of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Marvel at endless rice fields and majestic limestone peaks dotting the landscape of Pu Bin, Mai Hich and Ninh Binh. Delve into Vietnamese life through its remarkable nature and culture, but also dive deeper through immersive experiences with local communities.

 

 




Sample Itinerary

Our itineraries are designed to let the country and its people guide your experiences. Please be flexible and allow the program to unfold.

DAY 1

Arrival in Hanoi

Welcome to Vietnam!
Upon arrival at Noibai airport, you'll be welcomed by your local guide and transferred to the hotel. Check-in and relax.

If time allows (depending on your arrival time), embark on an afternoon orientation walk, following the traces of ancient Hanoi’s 2,000-year history. Hanoi’s vibrant Old Quarter is a captivating array of narrow streets, where merchants once traded goods according to which street they were situated. You'll pass by various hang which means 'goods' or 'shop' in Vietnamese, absorbing the ambiance of the bustling streets.

You'll start from Phan Dinh Phung, one of the most beautiful streets in Hanoi and a haunt of many poets and writers. On the way, stop at Dong Xuan Market to stroll through the narrow, crowded lane. In Lan Ong, meet a traditional medicine expert at his local shop to learn more about his work preserving his ancestors' profession. Visit 11th century Bach Ma Temple or White Horse Temple, Hanoi’s oldest place of worship, and walk along Hanoi’s railway where locals reside alongside the rumbling tracks. En-route, stop at Zo Project, which preserves Vietnamese traditional paper and the technique to produce it in a sustainable and creative way, and then you'll reach Mr. Truong’s Hanoian traditional house. There, share an open talk with this personality full of knowledge about his story and his heritage while drinking a local tea. Pass also by St Joseph’s Cathedral and Hanoi’s Sword Lake (Hoan Kiem Lake) as far as Ly Thai Tho Statue. Optionally, cross over to the splendid Metropole Hotel, and share a refined cocktail at the cozy bar.

Although the old section of Hanoi is often called the “Thirty-Six Old Streets,” there are more than thirty-six actual streets. Some researchers believe that the number thirty-six came from the 15th century when there might have been thirty-six guild locations, which were workshop areas, not streets. When streets were later developed, the guild names were applied to the streets. Others attribute the thirty-six to a more abstract concept. The number nine in Asia represents the concept of “plenty.” Nine times the four directions make thirty-six, which simply means “many.” There are now more than seventy streets in the area.

Later, consider taking in the amazing view of Vietnam’s Red River, the fruitful artery of North Vietnam, and the city lights by night from the ancient Long Bien Bridge.

Overnight in Hanoi.

MEALS:  None


DAY 2

Hanoi - Pu Bin

In the morning, drive to Hoa Binh Province, a breathtakingly colorful journey to the home of Muong and Thai ethnic groups. Winding around Mai Chau valley, witness magnificent views ff karst peaks and gorgeous rice fields.

Around noon you'll arrive in Pu Bin village and meet up with an ethnic Tay Don (White Thai) family. Enjoy a delicious lunch with the family and sample some local cuisine.

Situated at the forest's edge and on the mountain's top, appearing on the winding way from Thung Kheat, Pu Bin is the home of Thai and Muong ethnic groups, a concealed and undiscovered part of Hoa Binh Province possessing a pristine beauty, unembellished yet mysterious.

In the early afternoon, hike from the homestay to Xa Loong village through the jungle to the Love Valley, where you can meet with local people in their stilt houses. Enjoy an herbal foot bath after the hike.

Then, enjoy a cooking demonstration by a local chef. After dinner, enjoy “Mua Sap” a famous local bamboo dance performed by young local girls and boys from the village.

Overnight at Pu Bin homestay. The homestay is in a traditional house on stilts, with dormitory-style mattresses on the floor, and a shared toilet and bathroom with hot water.

Drive time: 4 hours / Distance : ± 140 km
Hike: ± 2 hours 30 minutes

MEALS:  B,L,D


DAY 3

Pu Bin

After breakfast, trek through the jungle to Nang village (approx. two hours) to visit one of the local White Thai families. Enjoy Pu Bin’s beauty and see the deep roots of the ethnic Thai culture through local encounters before going back to homestay for lunch.

After lunch, from Na Phat village, spend the afternoon walking further through the villages of Pieng Dau, Noong O and Bin. Along the way, you'll visit traditional stilts houses and witness the local way of life, learning how they work in their terraced fields. Return to Na Phat village to relax and prepare for a warm dinner.

Overnight at Pu Bin homestay.

Hike: ± 5 hours 30 min

MEALS:  B,L,D


DAY 4

Pu Bin - Ban Don

After breakfast, take an hour walk around the village and visit the local shaman's house. Watch (and maybe help!) the local people feed their animals, such as buffalo and chickens, with the sugar cane leaf and banana leaf.

Enjoy a lunch served at the homestay. Then, bid farewell with villagers and travel across Pu Luong Nature Reserve to Ban Don village.

The Pu Luong Nature Reserve covers an area of 17,662 hectares between the mountainous districts of Quan Hoa and Ba Thuoc in Thanh Hoa province. It extends along two parallel mountain ranges, running from the north-west to the southeast, separated by a long central valley. These two massifs have very contrasted reliefs, thanks to their different substrates. The smallest consists mainly of igneous and metamorphic rocks, lined with wooded and rounded hills, as well as broad, shallow valleys. The most imposing of these is the karst mountains, representing the continuity of the limestone range extending from the Cuc Phuong National Park to the province of Son La.

Make a stop for lunch at Mai Hich village, where you'll be welcomed by a local family in their classic Thai wooden stilt house overlooking the sensational scenery. After a delightful lunch, continue driving to Ban Don village.

Upon arrival, meet up with your host family, and enjoy the rest of the day to relax and enjoy the fantastic surroundings. Take a leisurely stroll around to discover the area and encounter villagers.

Dinner and overnight at the homestay. This homestay offers private rooms with mattresses, blankets, mosquito nets, toilet, and hot shower – simple comfort.

Drive time: 2 hours 30 min / Distance: 55 km

MEALS:  B,L,D


DAY 5

Ban Don - Tam Coc

In the morning, take an easy hike to enjoy the amazing landscapes of the Pu Luong Nature Reserve. You'll follow a path that enters through a patchwork of rice growing in steps drawn between the limestone mountains. Walk to the valley facing the village of Ban Don via the picturesque village of Ban Uoi, sheltered under groves of palm trees spread over the Pu Luong massif. Here, trekking trails wind through the middle of a fascinating landscape speckled with traditional wooden stilt houses covered with palm leaf roof. Arrive in Pho Doan, where you can see traditional handicrafts being made by locals.

Next, you'll be driven south of the Red River Delta to Ninh Binh province, also known as “Ha Long Bay on Land”. The valleys widen and gradually become immersed in the plain of the delta.

Settle into a local resort and enjoy its stunning setting and facilities. Complimentary bikes are available to explore the surroundings at your leisure.

Optional activities, directly organized by the resort, are available. They include instructional classes in traditional embroidery, calligraphy, bamboo basket weaving, kite making, or cooking classes to learn to make local delights such as bong (Vietnamese pop-corn), candied coconut ribbons, or 'Chung cake'. You can also hit the water to go fishing or take a sampan rowing class.

Overnight in Tam Coc.

Drive time: 3 hours 30 min / Distance: ± 125 km
Hike: 50 m ascent. 250 m descent. 5 km. ± 2-3h00

MEALS:  B


DAY 6

Tam Coc

In the morning, enjoy a short drive to Yen Mac. After a warm welcome from a local family, follow your host to an authentic rural market with a lively atmosphere amidst the glorious sunshine. Experience a truly heart-warming welcoming from the local people while wandering the market and purchase fresh food in preparation for lunch with the family. Learn about the history of the village and discover its mysteries under the expert guidance of the local family. Wander the narrow streets, visit a local pagoda and absorb the spirit of this fascinating area. Get some hands-on immersion in local life by joining in on gardening and cultivating rice.

Around noon, share lunch with the family. After lunch, return to the resort and relax. Mid-afternoon, take a short walk to Linh Coc jetty and embark on a rowing boat to meander along the serene waterways and idyllic rivers, lined with green rice paddies, water lilies, lotus, and reeds, arriving at Galaxy Grotto. Enjoy the amazing stalactites in different shapes and colors and take in the quiet ambiance; only hearing the sounds of the boat rowing and water dropping down from the ceiling. Heading out of the grotto, you'll pass by the Bird Valley en route back to Linh Coc jetty.
Disembark and enjoy a short leisurely stroll back to the resort. Remainder of the day is at leisure.

Overnight in Tam Coc.

Drive time: 1 hour / Distance: 40 km

MEALS:  B,L


DAY 7

Tam Coc - Lan Ha Bay

In the morning transfer to Haiphong, Vietnam’s major port on the Red River Delta, passing through colorful rice fields and authentic rural villages along the way. Upon arrival at the pier around noon, receive a warm welcome on board the boat and begin the cruise to Halong Bay.

Enjoy lunch while taking in the outstanding landscape made of steep cliffs and partially-submerged limestone peaks on the Gulf of Tonkin; considered a ‘sensational watery milky way'. The phenomenal scenery continues to unfold as you cruise around Lan Ha Bay. Explore astonishing hidden lagoons and floating villages, or go swimming and kayaking at the foot of the verdant giant stones before dropping anchor in an isolated area for the evening in the peaceful ambiance of the bay. Under clear skies, the upper deck offers a vista onto the magical beauty of the Lan Ha sunset.

During the evening, observe a cooking demonstration and indulge in some fine cuisine before casting out into the enchanting waters to enjoy a bit of squid fishing, or relax with a comfortable massage on the top of the deck within the marvelous landscape.

Overnight on board.

Drive time: 3 hours 30 min / Distance ± 165 km

MEALS:  B,L,D


DAY 8

Lan Ha Bay - Hanoi - Hue

Before enjoying breakfast, participate in Tai Chi on the sundeck under the rising Southeast Asian sun. Then continue the journey by heading out in a day boat to explore an impressive cave engulfed with thousands of stalactites and stalagmites, creating a marvelous natural palace. You'll slowly cruise back through the majestic karst peaks as you head back to the pier.

Transfer to your private vehicle and drive back to Hanoi. You can make a stop en-route; choose one of below options:

Option 1: Water Puppet Show at Dao Thuc village

On the way to the airport, stop at the village of Dao Thuc, famous for hundreds of years for its puppets on the water. On arrival, watch a show performed by local artists. Then meet a craftsman and learn about the making of these wooden dolls which move as if by magic on the water to the rhythm of the folk music.

Water puppets developed in the Vietnamese rice villages of the Red River Delta in the 12th century. This aquatic theater was probably part of the rites of invocation of rain or fertility cults as farmers flooded their rice paddies. It has become popular entertainment and is usually played during the Lunar New Year festivities (Tet) in the pools adjacent to religious monuments (pagodas, temples and communal houses). The stories offer a pastiche of peasant life with the mockery of village notables – typical of the popular opera cheo – against a backdrop of Confucian scholarly culture. The showmen, half immersed in the water and invisible, animate to the sound of percussion and cymbals.

Option 2: Drum and mask workshops at Lieu Xa village

On the way, stop at the village of Ong Hoi in the community of Lieu Xa, known for its ancestral crafts related to traditional toys. On arrival, meet Mr. Hoi - a craftsman with rough hands forged by decades of practice of his craft of making the small drums called “ong hao”, which are used during the mid-autumn festival. A one-hour workshop allows you to participate in the different steps of creating a drum. These circular drums are perforated in their center to create the sound box, forming a small barrel. A buffalo skin is nailed at both ends of the barrel for the drum's head, and as a final touch the barrel is often painted red.

Continue towards the house of Mr. Vu Huy Dong and Mrs. Vu Thi Hanh, a family specializing in the creation of traditional papier-mâché masks. Under their expert advice, take part in a hands-on workshop to paint the masks with various animal figures (including in particular tiger, dog, cat, and pig). These masks are moulded on children’s faces and then covered with a paste based of cassava powder, allowing the paint to adhere more effectively. Visitors can bring home their creation.

The mid-autumn festival celebrates the day when the moon is the roundest and most beautiful of the year. It is the second most important traditional festival, after the lunar new year. The family meal is the first step in this tradition, before the parade ritual, eagerly awaited by the children. It is at this precise moment that the masks representing the imaginary figures of the moon, the lanterns of stars, as well as the drums are removed to create a cacaphony of noise.

After your activity, head to Hanoi's Noibai Airport for an evening flight to Hue. Upon arrival, you'll be greeted by your guide and transferred to hotel. Check in and relax.

Overnight in Hue.

Drive time: 2 hours 30 min / Distance ± 130 km

MEALS:  B,L


DAY 9

Hue

In the morning, you'll visit Thien Mu pagoda, Hue’s most preserved religious monument, a seven-story tower standing on the banks of the Huong River. The car that carried the monk whose self-immolation became an iconic photograph of the war is on display here.

Then we'll continue a short way to the Dong Ba River, a tributary of the Perfume River, for a meet up with Mr Thanh, a Hue local. Passionate about cuisine, he worked for a Vietnamese restaurant during his one-year stay in the USA, where he also learned about Western cuisine and culture. Mr Thanh happily takes responsibility for the daily cooking for his family, rejecting the Vietnamese custom that assigns kitchen chores to the wife.

Walk towards the grand central Dong Ba market, accompanied by Mr Thanh. Together you'll stroll across this authentic market teeming with stalls of local products (meat, fish, seafood, vegetables, spices, textiles, and famous conical hats) and get all the ingredients needed for the cooking class.

On the way back to his house, take a refreshing stop along the Dong Ba River. Then start the cooking class with the preparation of typical dishes of Hue, such as banana salad, spring rolls, pumpkin soup, or stuffed squid. Around noon, enjoy lunch on the balcony of the house and share a candid chat with the family.

In the afternoon, discover the Imperial City of the Nguyen Dynasty (1804-1945). Delve into the history and beauty of this revered World Heritage destination by visiting the Flag Tower, the South Door, the Edict Pavilion, the Supreme Harmony Palace, the Forbidden Purple City (the royal family’s residence), and the Museum of Royal Antiquities located just outside of the Citadel.

If time allows, visit Tu Hieu pagoda and attend a monk chanting ceremony as well. The pagoda was originally a small hut built by a monk named Nhat Dinh in 1843, who was famous for his respect to his mother. The name Tu Hieu was given by Tu Duc Emperor, “Tu” means Love, and “Hieu” means “Filial piety”. In Confucian philosophy, filial piety is a virtue of respect for one’s parents, elders, and ancestors. The pagoda was later restored by monk Cung Ky with the help of the king’s eunuchs and courtiers in 1848 and their graves are ensconced within its grounds. Tu Hieu pagoda epitomizes the tranquil setting one expects of a Buddhist place of meditation and learning.

Overnight in Hue.

MEALS:  B,L


DAY 10

Hue - Hoi An

This morning, you'll visit the former Emperor Tu Duc’s Tomb, designed by the Emperor himself and built amid frangipani and pine trees. The Tomb is one of the most beautiful works of royal architecture of the famous Nguyen Dynasty.

Then, head to Hoi An, a treasured cultural and historical heritage site. En-route, stop at the scenic Lang Co fishing village. Meet a local family and embark on a sampan, navigating the lagoon and learning about local fishing techniques while visiting their fish farm. Around noon, have lunch in their fishing stilt house.

Continue the drive to Hoi An, crossing over the Hai Van Pass, also called “the road over the clouds”, where you can catch a spectacular panoramic view of the central coastline. Passing Danang, the third biggest city in Vietnam, drive along the coast and arrive in Hoi An. Upon arrival, settle into the hotel and relax.

Overnight in Hoi An.

Drive time: 3 hours / Distance: ± 120 km

MEALS:  B,L


DAY 11

Hoi An

Start the day early to explore Hoi An old town at a less crowded time. Take a leisurely stroll on pedestrian streets from the colorful fresh market, marvel at the historical Assembly Halls, the well-built Japanese Bridge and the mysterious Tan Ky House. It's a great opportunity to discover the local lifestyle in the early morning.

Next, travel to the outskirts of Hoi An for a half-day experience at a family farm. Go Noi village means “floating mound” because the village is surrounded by the Thu Bon River and its tributaries. Arrive at the modest house of Mr. Phap, who belongs to a collective organic farming group.
This group brings together ten young people from the village, who, despite a job and stable income in the city, decided to devote themselves to organic farming. The group sells 50 to 80 kg of vegetables every day, mainly to Da Nang.

Upon arrival, visit the farmhouse and help prepare a typical Central Vietnamese dish, banh xeo, before sharing lunch with the family.

In the afternoon, cycle through the rice fields, visiting farms and lending a hand watering vegetables including spinach, squash, edible chrysanthemums, and herbs. Depending on the season, you can help with various activities such as harvesting vegetables, planting, weeding, tilling the soil or even fertilizing crops with organic compost. Ride further to the pier on the Thu Bon River and embark on a local boat for a 10 minute crossing to reach a pumpkin plantation. Harvest some specimens and return by boat and bike to Mr. Phap’s house.

Note: During the months of October, November and December, the boat crossing and the pumpkin / watermelon harvest are not available.

Return to the hotel mid-afternoon. The remainder of the day is at leisure for wandering or relaxing on the pristine An Bang beach.

Overnight in Hoi An.

Bike: ± 4 km

MEALS:  B,L


DAY 12

Departure

Enjoy the morning at leisure until your departure time.

MEALS:  B


PRICE

$2,585 based on 2 people

DURATION

12D / 11N

DEPARTURE DATES

Custom departures available year-round


ACTIVITY LEVEL

Easy-Moderate

ROUTE

Hanoi - Pu Bin - Ban Don - Tam Coc - Lan Ha Bay - Hue - Hoi An

PROGRAM ELEMENTS

Customizable, village experience



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