From dramatic mountains that rise up in disarray to the order of the rice-fields, terraced into the hills appearing like ripples in a green puddle, Vietnam’s dream-like landscapes make for the perfect activity holiday.
Vietnam offers visitors a plethora of options from sightseeing in bustling cities such as Hanoi, once described by Lonely Planet as “Asia’s most atmospheric capital“, to serene mountain scenery and trekking. The Hanoi, Sapa Valley Trek & Halong Bay tour takes you on a journey by train, by foot and on colonial steamship through the beguiling north of Vietnam.
The trip begins in Hanoi. A city that brings together old-world charm and the vibrancy usually associated with a major Asian city. As well as the French influenced architecture and broad, tree-lined boulevards there is delicious street food at every turn and street markets that buzz with activity. The city’s Old Quarter which dates back to the 13th century is worth spending some time exploring and will be high on the agenda of the local guide who will take you on a full city tour, stopping off at The One Pillar Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. A meal is included however if you really want to live like a local enjoy a French baguette and a coffee from one of the many street stalls. In the evening you are transferred to the station for your overnight train to Sapa.
After disembarking at Lao Cai on the Chinese border a short drive takes you to Ta Thang where your 3-day trek in the Sapa valley begins. The trail leads you through small minority villages of the Tay people and bamboo forests in this fabulously mountainous area and most remote part of Sapa, before finishing in Nam Cang village. From Nam Cang an ascent of half an hour takes you to the cardamom fields maintained by the Red Dao people who use it in traditional Vietnamese and Chinese medicine. Back in Nam Cang spend some time learning how the locals make writing paper, jewellery and embroidery.
The next stop is My Son village which is home to one of the smallest minorities in Vietnam, the Xa Pho, who still maintain a nomadic lifestyle passing on skills and techniques to live off the land from generation to generation. The final minority group you spend time with whilst in the Sapa Valley are the Black H’mong people, an ingenuitive people who still weave and dye their own clothes.
Having spent 3 days in the Sapa Valley walking through the green landscapes and learning about the minority groups that work the land you begin the journey to Halong Bay. Board the classic steamship, the Emeraude, and cruise through the turquoise waters and limestone islets before enjoying award-winning cuisine and after watching the sun gradually drop beneath the horizon settle down for the night in a superior air-conditioned cabin. A magical way to end your Vietnamese adventure.