North discovery tour (12 days)
This tour allows you to capture the Vietnamese soul. In a concentrate of wonders of North Vietnam, you will be entitled to an incredible diversity of landscapes: karst formations, rice fields, sea bay. It is especially the proximity with the Vietnamese population that you will live. You will meet a lot of people: nights at their homes, street food, handicraft workshops.
GROUP SIZE : 02 pers
Price per adult: 1615 USD
TTB Travel, our partner, is a Vietnamese travel agency based in Hanoi.
The family business on a human scale, with 8 employees, is an expert in Vietnam. The agency elaborates original trips, putting forward the authentic discovery and the exchange with the local population.
Spoken language: French
Contact us :
@ : https://ttb-travel.com
Email : email@example.com
DAY 1 HANOI
Arrival at Hanoi airport in the morning (around 06h25)
Welcome by your English speaking guide and transfer to the hotel for luggage deposit. Rooms are available from 2pm on the day of arrival.
Access to your room is not guaranteed for early arrivals, it depends on the goodwill of the hotelier.
In the afternoon, we start a panoramic tour of the capital. Get away from the traditional tours and let yourself be transported through the alleys of Hanoi with Xe Ôm (typical motorbike taxi). This program is the result of a collaboration with the SOS Angels association whose mission is to help victims of road accidents. All drivers are volunteer members. The typical motorbike taxi takes you through the authentic districts of the capital.
The typical motorbike taxi takes you through the authentic neighbourhoods of the capital.
In the evening, enjoy a Hanoian aperitif in a local Bia Hoi. This is a brewery where locals go to hang out in the time slot between 5pm and 7pm. This is an opportunity for you to immerse yourself in the masses, as these places are mostly frequented by Hanoians. Bia Hoi is a place of social cohesion par excellence, as all social strata mix: executives, workers, students, bankers, shopkeepers, etc. In a relaxed In a relaxed atmosphere, the Vietnamese bia hoi culture reflects a very outward-looking lifestyle. The draught beer flows freely and the delicious food reminds us of the Spanish tapas culture. NOTE: the aperitif includes 04 dishes to be enjoyed and a draught beer beer (or other soft drink).
The guide will pay for you.
Night Rua House, a new concept developed by a young Vietnamese architect
DAY 2 HANOI
We take a culinary walk in the Old Quarter (36 guilds district) to understand this typical way of life. Street food is probably one of the cultural characteristics of Hanoi. So put on a good pair of shoes, because the best way to discover Hanoi is on foot!
Lunch at leisure
In the afternoon, we take you to visit the Museum of Ethnography. This museum is one of the most interesting and allows you to become aware of the ethnic diversity of this country. To finish the afternoon, visit the first university of Vietnam, the Temple of Literature.
This place of meditation dedicated to Confucius, made up of several buildings, offers a real oasis of tranquillity;
Dinner at leisure
DAY 3 HANOI / MAI CHAU
Morning departure to Mai Chau (160km, ~4h). The road to get there crosses beautiful and the mind is quickly taken in by the authentic scenes of life along this road dotted with the road through rice fields, small villages and landscapes that become more and more mountainous as The road is dotted with rice fields, small villages and landscapes that become more and more mountainous as we get closer to Mai Chau.
Around noon, we arrive at the hamlet of Ban Nhot to have lunch with the locals.
In the afternoon, we get on our bikes for a quiet ride through the rice fields.
This 10-15km bike ride (flat terrain) is characterized by a harmonious succession of green mountains This 10-15km bike ride (flat terrain) is characterized by a harmonious succession of green mountains, rice fields, rivers and houses on stilts of the Thai ethnic group.
Dinner at leisure
Night at Mai Chau Valley Retreat (https://www.maichauvalleyretreat.com/)
DAY 4 MAI CHAU / PU LUONG
In the morning, there is an opportunity to learn traditional weaving techniques. A complete workshop takes 2-3 hours.
In the afternoon, we do the first stage of hiking (3 hours) inside the Pu Luong Reserve. With a variety of flora and fauna and the harmony of several biosystems: limestone reliefs, mountains, rice terraces and forests, Pu Luong is a great destination if you are looking for an unspoiled nature spot.
Dinner and overnight stay at Ban Hang village, still with the White Thai people.
DAY 5 / PU LUONG
Walk through the rice fields (7km, ~3h walk, elevation gain +150m). Crossing of small rivers. Hike on the old Ho Chi Minh trail towards the village of Dong Dieng. Unlike the Sapa region, here you will not get the feeling that tourism is taking the place of agriculture. All the farmers work their land to grow rice, bananas, corn, sugar cane and cabbage. In the Pu Luong Reserve, there is only one rice season per year. The transplanting of rice takes place in April-May. The rice fields turn dark green in June-July-August. In September, the rice fields start to turn golden all over. Between the end of September and October, the rice is harvested. With the development of sustainable tourism, the life of Pu Luong Reserve goes on, and that’s fine!
In the afternoon, continue up a small limestone track to the village of Kho Muong (4km, ~2h walk). Tucked away at the bottom of a valley, Kho Muong village is inaccessible by car. Currently, there are only two host families willing to receive visitors. Free time to rest or discover the village, walk in the caves of the valley. Dinner and overnight stay in Kho Muong in a Thai house.
DAY 6 PU LUONG / NINH BINH
Free morning to participate in the daily life of the host family.
Lunch at leisure
Afternoon transfer to Ninh Binh region (140km, ~3h). In this province, the Red River spreads out its last arms before the sea, in a surprising landscape of cliffs, limestone peaks and karst caves. That’s why it’s called “Halong Bay on land”.
Dinner at leisure
Overnight at Nguyen Shack Ninh Binh (nguyenshack.com/ninhbinh/)
DAY 7 NINH BINH
The morning is dedicated to a bike ride through the rice fields (about 5km). During this ride, we first visit the Jade Cave Pagoda where there are three pagodas and a monastery built in the 17th century. Then it is the Hang Mua pagoda. To get there, you have to climb 450 steps and at the top of a hill, you will have the best view of the whole area.
Lunch at leisure
Afternoon, three-hour boat trip to Trang An, a UNESCO listed site. A real open-air geological museum, it is a strange marriage between the typical limestone mounts of the plain and those of the coast.
Dinner at leisure
Night at Nguyen Shack Ninh Binh (nguyenshack.com/ninhbinh/)
DAY 8 NINH BINH / NAM DINH
Morning departure for Nam Dinh Province, the stronghold of Vietnamese Catholicism. This region is particularly marked by the Christian faith. The origin of this dynamism comes from the 117 martyrs of the 19th century who shed their blood without denying their faith. All of them have been canonised by Pope John Paul II. Among them, there are 6 Frenchmen. Stop en route to visit the Phat Diem cathedral, an architectural jewel of the Vietnamese Church. Today, the parish is composed of 5000 faithful. Phat Diem is a unique Vietnamese-style cathedral, whose stone buildings are built on a swampy area. The main sanctuary appears as a Buddhist pagoda due to its Asian architectural style. Then, via a path dotted with canals, ferry transfers, we cross this Nam Dinh Province, also one of the cradles of rice cultivation in North Vietnam. We will head to Mr.Van’s house, where we will sleep tonight. The accommodation at Mr.Van’s is part of our community tourism project. Set up in 2016 by ourselves, this project aims to introduce you to the cradle of Vietnamese culture, based on rice farming. We have chosen a host family that represents a very typical model of the Vietnamese countryside. On arrival, Mr.Van, the head of the family will serve you a welcome tea typical of the region. Afterwards, he will show you the family chapel dedicated to ancestor worship and his 4,000 square meters bonsai garden. He will be delighted to show you his beautiful bonsai collection and the secret techniques behind each work of art. Bonsai plays a very important role in Vietnamese homes as its presence brings happiness and balance to the living space.
Lunch at Mr.Van’s house
In the afternoon, we discover the surroundings. Not far from Mr.Van’s house, you can discover the distillation techniques of rice alcohol at Mr.Tuc’s. This liquor of about 30 degrees is widespread in North Vietnam and is used at the table when we receive guests. Afterwards, we drive to the coast to visit a seafood market.
Return to Mr.Van in the late afternoon.
In the evening, you will participate in the preparation of the meal, with several ingredients that are grown in the family’s garden. This is an opportunity to discover regional specialties (depending on the season) such as: Tôm Thuyền (sea cicely) , Nem Thính cuộn lá sung (pork lard wrapped with fig leaf).
DAY 9 NAM DINH / HAI PHONG
In the morning, it’s the initiation to bonsai techniques with Mr.Van. Then, we leave for Hai Minh village, specialized in woodcarving. The village was founded in the late 19th century and has hundreds of family factories. We visit a workshop that shows the manufacturing process and a beautiful collection of products (decorative accessories, mother-of-pearl inlaid furniture, cult objects, gold lacquered statues, etc.). The walk continues along paths with a bucolic charm. From here, you will easily spot Catholic churches scattered behind hedges of areca trees and rice fields as far as the eye can see. We head to the Red River estuary where several family fish sauce businesses are located. We learn about the fermentation process of this national sauce.
Afternoon drive to Hai Phong city (120km, ~2h)
In the evening, with an inhabitant of Hai Phong city, we do a culinary tour of the city
Overnight at Hoang Long Hotel ***.
DAY 10 HAI PHONG / CAT BA
Departure to Pha got port (150km, ~3h) attached to Hai Phong city. From there, a short ferry transfer takes us to the left bank of Cat Ba Island (our car also boards the ferry). Then the car drives around Cat Ba island before going to Ben Beo pier. Around noon, you board a junk boat for a two-day cruise in Lan Ha Bay, a geological extension of Halong Bay. Please note that our English speaking guide will stay at the quay and pick you up the next day at noon.
Lan Ha Bay is an alternative to the already very touristy and polluted Halong Bay. To give you an idea: Halong Bay is 700 boats, most of which are floating hotels (18 – 36 cabins) and 5 million tourists (including 2 million Chinese). Cat Ba Island is home to 70 boats, most of which are small (02-06 cabins) and 400,000 tourists (mainly Vietnamese holidaymakers). Sailing to the floating village of Ben Beo. Hundreds of wooden houses painted in different bright colours can be seen on the horizon and there are water farms everywhere. The structures float on the water thanks to a system of plastic drums that serve as buoys.
The boat stops in a quiet place for lunch.
In the afternoon, we continue to a kayak station. For an hour, we paddle along the sugar loaves and then the tunnels. (NOTE: if you are not comfortable with kayaking, the boat staff will be available to either accompany you or paddle for you). The rock formations here are given rather fanciful names. The tunnel we pass through is called the Cave of Darkness. Just like in the movies, we enter a 100-metre long corridor, accessible only by kayak at low tide. Plunged in the dark, we hear the sound of bats and then suddenly we enter a kind of closed lagoon. The serenity of the place and the immensity of the steep cliffs surround us. We anchor in a place sheltered from the wind.
Overnight on board (NOTE: you can put all your luggage in the boat’s cabin. The average size of the cabins is around 16m2. After disembarking the next day, all your luggage will be transferred back to our private car)
DAY 11 CAT BA
Depending on the weather conditions, the boat captain may decide on two options for the morning:
Option 1: Extended Bay Sailing
The second day of sailing starts with a deserted beach. Bear in mind that it’s not too difficult to find a beach lined with white sand around the ȋle of Cat Ba. The captain is a local so he knows every little beach hidden behind the karst formations. Back at Ben Beo pier, the boat stops at a floating fish farm. In fact it is more of a marine police station and the fish farm is a side activity that provides additional income. The floating cages are classified according to the age and type of fish. The farming technique is set up to ensure a more stable production than fishing in the open sea, which is very dependent on weather conditions.
Option 2: Discover the right side of Cat Ba Island by bike
We disembark at the port of Viet Hai. From there, we get on a bike (or electric shuttle at your expense) and go for a ride (5km, 30mn) towards Viet Hai village. Tucked away at the bottom of a green valley, the village was established in the early 1990s to retain the forestry guard. In the village, the guide will explain the issues of the Cat Ba National Reserve, where many animals are endangered. You will also visit a rice alcohol factory. Return to Viet Hai port in the late morning
Around 10:30 am, return of the cabins for cleaning. If necessary, you can use the cabin toilet.
A light lunch will be served on board the boat at around 11:30.
Around 12:00, disembarkation.
Collection of the car and transfer to the hotel
Dinner at leisure
Overnight at Sea Pearl Hotel ***.
DAY 12 CAT BA / HANOI
Free morning to enjoy the beaches on Cat Ba Island
In the late afternoon, transfer directly to the airport for the return flight
END OF PROGRAM **
GROUP SIZE : 02 pers
Price per adult : 1615 USD
this price includes
- Private car tour with driver according to the program. All the expenses of the driver are included in the price: salary, accommodation, meals, parking fees, tolls, fuel consumption
- English-speaking guide throughout the tour
- Meals as mentioned in the programme
- Accommodation in 3*** (local standard) with breakfast
- 02 nights in a local house in Pu Luong Reserve
- 01 night at a local’s house in the Nam Dinh region
- 01 night on board a private cruise boat in Lan Ha Bay
- Entrance fees to monuments and all tourist activities mentioned in the programme
this price does not include
- Late check-out supplement (check-out no later than 12:00)
- Travel insurance
- International flights
- Drinks and personal expenses
- Meals not mentioned in the programme
- Services not mentioned in the programme
- Tips for the driver and local guides
- Entry fees for optional cameras and video equipment at some sites
- Optional donation to NGOs or local communities
- Any expenses incurred due to causes beyond our control such as: natural disasters, flight delays, flight plan changes, accidents, strikes, riots, …