Remote far north Vietnam
This tour is for those who are adventurous but who maybe are not up to long treks. It explores the remote far north of Vietnam, often close to the Chinese border. This is the land of the ethnic minorities, and it is one of the few places left in this global world where one’s family and locality can be identified by dress alone. Prepare yourself for a riot of colour, from the ethnic clothes to the rice paddies. You will have a chance to interrelate with the locals by staying in Homestays, in a variety of villages and mountainous regions.
Exploring the unique cultures and customs of rural Vietnam.
Trek to see the well-known ethnic communities of Giang Ta Chai in Sapa
Enjoying tour with unique itinerary through rural villages, rice paddy fields and history landscapes in Mu Cang Chai
Enjoy the vast lakes and chalky karsts of Ba Be National Park
Visiting the spectacular Ban Gioc waterfall is one of the biggest waterfall in the world
Spend the night with local people to see their culture
We leave Hanoi Old Quarter and travel for about 2 hours to Duong Lam, which is an ancient village with UNESCO protection as of 2006. The houses date back 100-400 years, and the temples and gardens are edged with laterite walls. This is an important historical site with temples in honour of two kings, national heroes, who defended the land against the Chinese about 1200 years ago.
Duong Lam village
We will have lunch in a local house here, before continuing our drive through the rural countryside, first surrounded by flat paddy fields, then, as we gain altitude we will begin to see tea plantations, and then finally corn or maize amongst the karst limestone outcrops. We will overnight with a delightful White Thai family in a traditional stilt house in Nghia Lo.
We will rise early and take an early morning bike ride around the paddy and corn fields, enjoying the peaceful sight of ducks, chickens, pigs and buffalos, and observing the quiet manual labour of the villagers. Breakfast will be enjoyed in the open air, looking over the fields, before we check out and set out over the dramatic Khau Pha mountain pass.
Khau Pha pass
The rice fields of Tu Le are spectacular and we stop at a local restaurant for lunch. We continue the drive to Nam Co village where we’ll see the flower H’mong ethnic minorities in their lovely traditional costume, as well as the local market if it’s the right day. We drive to La Pan Tan and the Mam Soi terraced rice fields and take a short walk up the hill to a viewpoint. Then finally dinner and overnight at Mrs Chon’s Homestay in Kim Noi village, another White Thai family home.
After breakfast we will drive from Mu Cang Chai through Tan Uyen and then to Sapa. The road is very dramatic with many hairpins, each opening up a new vista of the mountains, and also crosses the Sin Ho pass. You will have lunch in Sapa and a chance to look around, before we trek to Giang Ta Chai village, where you will have dinner and overnight in a Dao’s ethnic house.
We set off bright and early with a drive to Bac Ha. If it is a Sunday we will make for the market, one of the most colourful markets in the north, where you can become expert in spotting the different ethnic costumes, and enjoy the antics of the livestock market. There are marvellous photo opportunities at these markets, and after lunch in a local restaurant, we will visit the palace of Hoang A Tuong, a curious mixture of baroque and oriental, built in 1920 with the aid of the French.
The palace of Hoang A Tuong
Then we will drive up a small mountain road with views of the most amazing rice terraces, with villages dotted here and there. We reach Ban Phung village and have a chance to see the La Chi ethnic people, their ladies in black knee length skirts and jackets, with a little delicate coloured embroidery, and their heads wrapped in a strip of cloth knotted about their hair. They have a truly hard life up in these mountains often carrying a heavy load in a bag from a band on their heads. We will descend to Hoang Sun Phi for dinner and overnight at a hotel.
Hoang Su Phi is also a very famous area for rice terraces which curl around the hills like contour lines. There are also beautiful tea plantations, some of which have been there for a hundred years. We continue via Tan Su Phin pass and Cong Troi pass, which are incredibly dramatic and the whole area is full of magnificent views with plenty of photo opportunities.
Rice terraces in Hoang Su Phi
We will have lunch on the way at a local restaurant, then continue north again to Ha Giang. We will overnight at a stilt house of a Tay family.
We set out in the morning for Dong Van, passing through Cong Troi heaven gate and then continuing on to Yen Minh.
Cong Troi heaven gate
On the way we will also visit the King’s Palace in the H’mong village of Sa Phin, built in the early 20th century. The area is also notable for its many corn plantations, where the harvest is collected by hand.
The palace of H’mong King
As we pass reach Dong Van we disembark for a lunch break in the colourful old market. Here you can admire the Ancient houses and the local people in their traditional garments. After lunch we set off again and pass through the spectacular Ma Pi Leng Pass, on the way to Meo Vac
Ma Pi Leng pass
This road is justly considered one of the most beautiful in the country, and the views are appropriately stunning. Once we reach Meo Vac we settle in for an overnight stay.
Meo Vac is a small town, home to the ethnic groups Tay, Dao, H’mong and Lo Lo. If we are here on a Sunday we will visit the market, another fantastic riot of colour. There is a lot of clothing and fabric sold here, and sometimes men making the men’s indigo dyed jackets on old sewing machines can be seen among the stalls. There is a livestock section which is a frenzy of squealing pigs, screeching birds as well as cows and horses.
The traditional market
We drive to Bao Lac for lunch with some stops in ethnic villages along the way. The road is again pretty mountainous with several passes. Then we visit the Nung ethnic village of Pac Rang, a traditional farming village which is known for its blacksmiths and their work in making farm tools. We’ll have dinner and overnight at a Nung house.
After breakfast we continue from Cao Bang and journey to the Ban Gioc waterfalls, a photo of which must be in every hostel and tour agent’s office in Hanoi! The falls mark the border with China, so this is truly the frontier.
Ban Gioc waterfall
There will be time to appreciate the breath-taking sight of these falls before making our way to Nguom Ngao “Tiger Cave”, with its amazing limestone formations, and stalactites of various shapes and sizes.
Nguom Ngao cave
This is the most famous limestone grotto in the province of Cao Bang, and you will be awestruck by its sheer size! We then drive to Ba Be National Park and feel the peace and serenity of the lake, before dinner and an overnight stay at Mr Linh’s Homestay.
After a breakfast on the terrace, we will walk a short distance between rice fields, through the village of Bo Lu to the boat station to embark on a 3 hour boat trip across the lakes of Ba Be. If you need to cool down, it’s a great time to jump into the peaceful water. The boat takes you along a river with time to gaze up at the dramatic karst limestone outcrops which will have become quite familiar to you by this point.
Ba Be lake
The park is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna so you are likely to catch sight of birds and butterflies, and you’ll definitely be aware of the thousands of bats in Puong Cave which tunnels its way through the mountain and through which the river flows. We return by boat to Bolu and then you will have a chance to relax on the drive back to Hanoi, stopping on the way for lunch. We should arrive back in Hanoi about 5.30PM and you will be ped off at your hotel.