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Vietnam Backroads & Ecolodges - 11 days

Take the time to meet and observe different minority people in the highlands away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities. Get to stay in a variety of accommodation options from eco-lodges, village homes, Halong Bay wooden junk and modern in-style hotels.

Learn more about food production of various types across Vietnam and sample some of the cuisine that has made this country a gastronomic Mecca. Get to experience three remarkable, iconic destinations from 3 different regions that make Vietnam such an interesting place to visit, on the North: Halong Bay, Central Highlands and The Mekong Delta.

Highlights

  • Delve into the 36 streets of 36 trades in Hanoi’s old quarters
  • Enjoy the fresh air and admire the natural beauty of Hoa Binh Nature Reserve
  • Explore the Ninh Binh Krast mountain by boat
  • Cruise through the unique Karst bay in Halong
  • Watch the traditional fishing activities of Tam Giang Lagoon
  • Feel the charm of ancient Hoi An on foot
  • Experience with local farming and fishing communities in Hoi An
  • Experience Saigon nightlife from the back of a vintage Vespa scooter
  • Explore the maze of small cannels in the Mekong Delta

Tour Price Includes:

  • 07 nights’ shared accommodation in twin/double room with daily breakfast (check in and check out around noontime)
  • 01 Night at lodge by riverside in Mekong
  • 01 Night at Suoi Mu Ecolodge
  • 02 Days/1Night cruise on boat in Ha Long Bay (shared cabin on shared boat)
  • 10 lunches, 4 dinners
  • All transfers with air-con vehicles and the mentioned boats
  • English speaking guide
  • All entrance fees as program
  • 02 bottles of mineral water per person per day on bus on days of transfer and sightseeing only

Tour Price Excludes:

  • International airfares
  • USD 114 per ticket Hanoi – Da nang on Day 6
  • USD 114 per ticket Hue – Saigon on Day 9
  • Food & Beverages (other than mentioned in the program)
  • Visa to Vietnam
  • Early check in or late check out
  • Optional excursions and activities
  • Additional transfer required due to any emergency situation
  • Personal expenses (Phone calls, laundry, beverages…)
  • All not mentioned above

Itinerary

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Day 1
ARRIVAL IN HANOI

Driver and guide welcome you at the airport and drive you to your hotel in the city center. You drop the luggage, refresh and get ready for our first foray into Hanoi’s bubbling atmosphere.

You walk around the 36 streets of the Old Quarter, pass by the big Dong Xuan covered market, witness the crafting and trading activities around each street’s speciality, visit temples and communal houses to finally reach Hoan Kiem Lake.

Around noon, the guide takes you to discover some local street food. Several options available, you’ll choose. Back at the hotel after lunch, end of the day at leisure.

Meals: Lunch

Accommodation: MK Premier Boutique Hotel – Luxury Room

Note:

Fun fact: Ask your guide to take you eat a bun cha on Dao Duy Tu street. It is THE specialty of Hanoi’s gastronomy. Flame-grilled pork served with rice noodles in a nuoc mam-based sauce. It is delicious and you can also try the “tra chanh”, lemon green tea, nearby.

day 2
HANOI HIGHLIGHTS AND THE AUTHENTIC LOCAL LIFE

The guide meets you at 9 am. Start your day with a visit to Temple of Literature, a little architectural gem, the first university of Vietnam and a temple devoted to Confucius. You then walk north to reach the Ho Chi Minh complex and visit the gardens of the Presidential Palace, the one-pillar pagoda and the house on stilts where Ho Chi Minh lived out the last days of his life.

Done with the classics, let’s see Hanoi like locals do.

For lunch, you go to Truc Bach Peninsula to eat the specialty of the neighborhood: the “pho cuon” and “pho xao”. There is a choice of several dishes based on pho noodles, sautéed beef, and fresh herbs.

You then hop on a small electric cart to ride around the largest lake of the city. The journey takes about 1 hour over 18 kilometers to see a different Hanoi with a stop en-route at one of the oldest wooden pagodas in town.

Leg stretching walks throughout Ngoc Ha Village lead you through a maze of narrow alleys with a market, schools and shops everywhere. Stop at the B52 Lake where you can still see the aircraft shoot down during American war.

You exit the labyrinth and spend the afternoon with a slice of real Hanoian daily life: a cool beer and some fresh peanuts at a popular “bia hoi” – aka draft beer. Here people gather after work to enjoy a draught beer in a relaxed atmosphere. You drive back to the hotel, end of the day at leisure.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Accommodation: MK Premier Boutique Hotel – Luxury Room

Note:

Fun fact: Chuc Suc Khoe (pronounced choop sook kway) is the wish of good health people make to one another when drinking alcohol. In Vietnam we must have a toast together everytime we take a sip of the beverage.

day 3
HANOI – HOA BINH – ORIGINAL MOUNTAIN VILLAGE

Depart the hotel at 7am and head to a mountainous area of Hoa Binh province. You drive up a pass and reach, at its top, the entrance of an almost unknown Muong Village. If road conditions are good, the car can access the village, otherwise, you slowly descend into the valley and reach the first plateau. The scenery is beautiful, terraced rice-fields with mountains covered in jungle as a backdrop. Then it is a walk on a single trail, passing a high waterfall and winding along the river and its natural pools.

You will reach your accommodation which is a traditional house on stilt, overlooking cascades and natural pools. You are hosted by a family of Muong ethnic people, given a warm welcome with easy time until dinner.

Sustainability guidelines: Several mountain villages in Vietnam have been endangered by the upsurge of tourism, meanwhile we have searched and developed products such as Ngoc Son Ngo Luong to introduce you to the original culture of really authentic villages. Our mission is to promote but maintain and we cannot do this without your good and active collaboration. So please kindly follow the guidelines below to maintain the beauty of the area untouched during your trip there.

Culture guide line:

  • Please respect the local culture by observing it and taking the different gently.
  • Please do not give kids candy/ toys/money directly, especially on the road. Stationary and book are preferred. Please leave gifts to local schools or to the leader of the community.
  • No direct tipping, although you can buy local products to support the community.
  • Do not pay more than you are asked for
  • Please respect the environment and do not litter on the way.
  • Purchasing products from wild animal is not recommended.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation: Suoi Mu Lodge – Homestay

day 4
HOA BINH – NINH BINH

After breakfast there will still be plenty of time to enjoy the cascades or go for a walk across the village or farther into the valley. At 11am, you will hop on moto-taxis (or get on the car if the car can access) and ride back to the entrance of the nature reserve.

You have lunch at a local restaurant before driving to the Ninh Binh region, the so-called inland Halong Bay.

After arriving in Ninh Binh, you will have a visit to Trang An, a karst landscape with shallow rice fields and several beautiful long grottos.

Next is Hoa Lu, Vietnam’s capital under the Dinh and Early Le Dynasties in the 10th and 11th centuries. From here, cycle along the village road to Tam Coc and Thai Vi Temple, built during the Tran Dynasty in the 13th century and used for worship by four generations of Tran kings. Returning to the main road, your vehicle will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel in Ninh Binh.

Recommend: If you travel by May or early June, we would recommend to visit Tam Coc – Bich Dong instead which is the best time to see the rice fields while rowing boat.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Accommodation: Tam Coc Garden Resort – Deluxe Room

Note:

  • Recommend: If you travel by May or early June, we would recommend visiting Tam Coc – Bich Dong instead which is the best time to see the rice fields from your rowing boat.
  • Fun fact: For dinner, order goat meat at the lodge or in a restaurant of the center town. This is the specialty of the region.
day 5
NINH BINH – HALONG BAY

Early wake up, early breakfast, and early departure to Halong. You drive across the Red River Delta and reach the pier a little before noon.

You embark on a beautifully crafted wooden junk for an overnight cruise in the leagendary seascape of Halong Bay. Once on board, you are served a delicious seafood-based buffet lunch, while the limestone rocks are set the décor.

In the afternoon, you reach a less traveled area and will devote ourselves to relaxation, swimming and kayaking. The program is not fixed and depends on the time of the year and weather, but there might be some sandy beaches on the menu. We end the day on the sundeck watching the sun set. It is time for an aperitif or to attend a cooking demonstration before dinner. Overnight in a comfortable private cabin with en-suite bathroom.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation: Bhaya Classic Cruise – Deluxe Room

Note:

Fun fact: The Vietnamese term for Halong bay is “Vinh Ha Long”, refers to Halong Archipelago that stretches from Quan Lan Island on the north to Cat Ba Island on the south. This is a large geological relief formed over 300 million years ago.

day 6
HALONG BAY – HANOI – HOI AN

While cruising back to the pier, brunch is served as you get closer to disembarkation. An early Tai Chi session is on offer, and coffee and tea are served for the early birds wishing to see the beautiful lights of sunrise. You have the chance to visit a grotto before starting our way back to the coast. Disembark and drive straight to Hanoi’s airport to catch a flight to Hoi An. Arriving in Da Nang, your guide and driver will meet you and continue with a short drive to Hoi An.

Check-in to a centrally-located hotel. Evening free at leisure.

Meals: Brunch

Accommodation: Vinh Hung Riverside Resort – Superior Garden View Room

Note:

Fun fact: For a perfect evening in Hoi An, have some local food around the old quarter. Then visit the night market located on An Hoi Islet, across the Thu Bon River at the western edge of Bach Dang Street.

day 7
HOI AN ANCIENT TOWN - BOAT TRIP AND CYCLING TO THE SUBURB

The guide picks you up at 8:00 am at the hotel. You start with a short orientation walk around the old quarter to learn more about the architecture and different monuments of the ancient port town.

You get on a traditional long tail boat and start our journey on the waterways of the region. You glide along the Thu Bon River and reach the Cam Thanh mangroves. The canals decorated by coconut trees make you feel like cruising through Mekong Delta. You set foot on land and visit the workshop of probably the most skillful bamboo craftsman of the entire region. Hop on a bamboo electric cart to reach the house of our boatman who is hosting us for lunch.

In the afternoon, you cycle on the small rural pathways of the Cam Thanh Peninsula. About an hour ride, you reach Tra Que Organic Village made famous across the country for its tasty herb. You will be welcomed by a farmer who will take us around and introduce the different plants.

Drive back to hotel. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Accommodation: Vinh Hung Riverside Resort – Superior Garden View Room

Note:

Fun fact: For the beach, head to An Bang, about 4km north of the town following Hai Ba Trung Street. You’ll find several restaurants and bars to chill out on the beach in a very relaxed atmosphere. Look for the H’mong Sisters Restaurant, or the Deck our favorite choices for their good food and less crowded atmosphere.

day 8
HOI AN - HUE – DAM CHUON LAGOON

In the morning, take it easy or enjoy a walk around the Hoi An old town before back to your hotel for check out by noon.

Driver and guide pick you up and driver through Da Nang and up the Hai Van Pass to reach Lang Co Bay.

Upon arrival in Hue, check in your hotel.

Later this afternoon, take a 12-km drive along the impressive road of tombs to the Chuon Lagoon. You will meet another Hue community, the fishermen of the lagoon. Joining them on a boat as they will show us their particular fishing techniques. The lagoon is large and provides a daily supply of seafood to the whole village. Time to enjoy the magnificent sunset over the lagoon and help local people do fishing if you want. Come back to a local restaurant and enjoy the fresh seafood-based dinner under the purple sunset.

Come back to the city.

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Accommodation: Hue Ecolodge – Homestay

Note:

Fun fact: The Hai Van Pass is a real climatic barrier in this region of Vietnam protecting the Southern side from cold winds coming from the North during winter. It was also a natural frontier between the two kingdoms of Champa and Dai Viet back into 7th century.

day 9
HUE - SAIGON

Start your rather zen morning by visiting Tu Hieu pagoda and Emperor Tu Duc’s tomb, the idea of the living and the life after death are well transform into the 2 places architect and layout.

You then veer off the common path for an easy cycle around the village of the Mandarins. You discover centuries-old houses set in beautiful orchard-gardens. You meet the Mandarins’ descendants and have lunch at a local house.

You then transfer to the airport to catch a flight to Saigon. On arrival, you are welcomed and transferred to your city center hotel.

Activate your exploration mode and enjoy your free time this afternoon walking the street of Saigon. Mac Thi Buoi road and Nguyen Hue Walking street are great area for dinner, grab a great coffee and see life goes by.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Accommodation: Alagon d’Antique Hotel & Spa – Deluxe Window Room

Note:

Fun fact: If your are not in a backpackers district mood, try the The Raffinery on Hai Ba Trung street. This is an old opium factory transformed into a food court with nice eateries and bistros of different styles around a common yard.

Coffee workshop on 27 Ngo Duc Ke is a wonderful place to claim your cup of best organic coffee in Vietnam

day 10
SAIGON – MEKONG DELTA

At 8am start in the lobby to depart on our 2-day trip to the Mekong Delta. You exit busy Saigon and make our way to Cai Be. Reaching a small pier, well hidden away from the busy Cai Be tourist center, you get on board to start exploring the mighty river and the life it generates.

You can walk or ride a bicycle to discover an island, its orchards and local workshops. Having lunch at a local home. Later in the afternoon you arrive at a small Ecolodge, get our rooms and have a resting time. Enjoy a cooking class before dinner.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation: Mekong Lodge – ROH Room – New Wing

Note:

Fun fact: The Mekong Delta generates nearly half of Vietnam’s rice production. People also cultivate fruit such as coconut, mango, banana, orange and pineapple. This is the most important agricultural region of the country.

day 11
MEKONG DELTA – SAIGON - DEPARTURE

In the morning, we get on board to see the Cai Be floating market. This is not as big and busy as in the past but you will still have chance to see the barges loaded with fruit and vegetables from the delta.

You then start our way back to Saigon. You have lunch on the way arriving in the early afternoon. If time allows, you will go for a short walk around the Saigon Historical Center to spot few monuments dating back to colonial times. Then transfer to the airport for your departure flight.

If you are not sure about your departure date or want to add more time at the end, we are happy to extend this program with an extension night in Saigon for today or connecting to another beach or island program, Just lets us know if you need any extra service at this date.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Note:

Fun fact: If you have time, pass by the Central Post office of Saigon. It is a colonial building whose roof structure was designed by Gustave Eiffel, who also conceived the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris.