Discover the very best of northern Vietnam on this superb Schoolies escape to Vietnam. Take in the sights and sounds of Hanoi, explore a lesser known, more authentic hill tribe walk in the Mai Chau region and no journey to this part of the world is complete without a visit to the natural wonders of the famous Halong Bay. Start your Schoolies adventure by taking in the many highlights of the French colonial chic city of Hanoi, such as the Ho Chi Minh complex, before heading east to the Mai Chau region to gain a fascinating insight into the life of the different ethnic minorities who live in this enchanting part of the world during your amazing walk. Your hill tribe trek will showcase the real Vietnam, from terraced rice paddies to genuine cultural exchanges with local villagers. After your trek, transfer to the World Heritage listed lime stone pinnacles of Halong Bay where you'll stay on a traditional junk boat as you explore the highlights of the regions 3000 limestone islands, caves and grottoes. Here, you can swim, kayak or just chill on the decks under the sun. Your tour concludes with a transfer back to Hanoi where you'll have time for some last minute shopping.
This Schoolies adventure rated 'adventure touring' level. Although there is no commitment to extended physical activity on this journey we nonetheless want to keep the ‘accent on the active’. We therefore advise that any physical training you complete before undertaking the trip will be to good effect and enhance your travel experience. Remember the fitter you are the more enjoyable your experience will be.
Welcome to Hanoi!
On arrival in Hanoi, you will be met at the airport by your guide and transferred to our centrally located hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure to explore Hanoi or just relax from your flight.
There will be a group meeting in the hotel foyer at around 5.30pm. In the evening, we have tickets for a performance of Hanoi's famous water puppet theatre, a series of 17 stories presented by 11 puppeteers whom traditionally performed during the monsoonal period when rice farming in the Red River Delta was not possible. It’s great way to start your journey through Vietnam as the stories reflect the local way of life, their dreams as well as provide respite from their demanding work schedule. It’s then off to celebrate with a welcome dinner in a local restaurant and an opportunity to sample specialty dishes of the north.
Overnight in Hanoi
This morning, we start our day visiting the Ho Chi Minh complex, starting at the President’s Mausoleum. We continue to his humble “house on stilts”, see the French colonial Presidential Palace and the 11th century One-Pillar Pagoda. Afterwards we visit the impressive Museum of Ethnology, the finest museum in Vietnam. This museum is dedicated to Vietnam's 54 ethnic minorities, several of which we will see on our forthcoming trek.
In the afternoon, we depart Hanoi for Hoa Binh province and the town of Mai Chau. This scenic drive takes around three hours. Along the way, we pass fields of tapioca and sugar cane as well as rice paddies. Around noontime, we will arrive in Mai Chau. Mai Chau is located in a beautiful valley with a patchwork quilt of rice, farms and stilt-houses. Only 60km southwest of Hoa Binh province are the homes of hill tribes of White Thai and H’mong hill-tribe people. Upon arrival, we will check in at our homestay in Poom Cong village. After check in, we will take some leisurely walks to visit Poom Cong Village to learn more about their culture and the daily life of the Thai Ethnic minority people. This also provides the chance to purchase Thai hand-made items. Tonight, it's dinner and a very special traditional dance performance by the local Thai hill tribes. Accommodation will be in a simple homestay, dormitory style with shared toilet facilities.
Overnight homestay at Poom Cong Village
Today we will spend several hours trekking to visit the local people and discover more about their fascinating culture. We drive about 24km on the paved roads before we leave the vehicles to start trekking through the village dirt roads passing local Thai villages of Na Mon, Phay. The undulating trails are surrounded by rice fields, rural countryside, local houses and local villages with beautiful scenery. You will reach Pung village by noon in time to enjoy a lunch with a local family. After lunch, we take a short rest before continuing to trek to remote waterfall & places offering even more local insights. We will reach the main road in the afternoon where your driver will be waiting to pick you up and transfer you back to your homestay for the night.
Overnight homestay at Poom Cong Village
Following an early breakfast we bid farewell to the members of the family and thank them for their hospitality. We continue our rural journey further southwards to Ninh Binh province following the back roads and passing several local villages in Hoa Binh, Ha Noi and Nam Ha provinces along the way. Upon arrival at Trang An we'll board a traditional sampan for a ride through the karst landscape to visit amazing grottoes. The sampan rower will drive the boat through shallow rice paddies and several splendid long grottoes. Lunch is at a local restaurant.
For the remainder of the afternoon we will visit Hoa Lu - the capital of the Dinh and early Le dynasties in Vietnam in the 10th and 11th century. Yen Ngua Mountain provides a scenic backdrop for Hoa Lu’s two remaining temples, the first being Dinh Tien Hoang, dedicated to the Dinh dynasty, and the second temple dedicated to Le Dai Hanh, an early Le monarch. Following this visit we transfer back to our hotel before heading out to dinner at a local restaurant.
Overnight in Ninh Binh
Our time in the less visited, rural regions of Vietnam comes to an end this morning, when we depart Ninh Binh for the World Heritage listed Halong Bay in our private air-conditioned coach. On arrival at Halong Bay, we board our deluxe traditional junk for a journey through the 3,000 limestone islands dotted with caves and grottoes.
After lunch your captain will find a secluded spot and from how you spend your afternoon is completely up to you. You've finished High School and now is the time to unwind from the months of study by taking your time and exploring the Bay at a leisurely pace. Go swimming, sunbake or relax and experience the tranquility of drifting asleep on board the junk in this beautiful part of the world. The boat will stop at the emerald waters of the Bay where we can try some kayaking. After you have finished exploring, head back to the junk and relax on the top deck with a refreshing drink from the bar.
In the evening your cook will prepare a delicious seafood extravaganza using beautifully prepared fresh ingredients straight from the sea as we find a secluded place to anchor for the night.
Overnight on board junk on Halong Bay.
PLEASE NOTE: The cruise itinerary and schedule is subject to change due, but not limited to, the weather, tide levels and operating conditions.
It's worth getting up early this morning to enjoy the sunrise, the lapping waves, and the fresh sea air, or if you want sleep in and get up later in time for the hot breakfast. Today we cruise to Lan Ha Bay and Three Peach Beach where you can swim, kayak & snorkel on a pristine, private beach before lunch is served on board. In the afternoon we discover Ho Ba Ham Islet, the most remote point in Lan Ha Bay which borders the Gulf of Tonkin, and visit its quaint ?shing village and lagoon. There is also the possibility to kayak through an amazing tunnel under a karst mountain.
Overnight on junk, Halong Bay.
Early risers can enjoy a final morning swim or start their day with Tai Chi Class on the sundeck followed by complimentary tea and coffee. This morning, continue your cruise through the Bay passing beautiful spots like Trong (Drum), Trinh Nu (Virgin), Mekong Caves, Coc Ngoi (Toad) islets and explore the Sung Sot cave (Surprise cave), one of the real highlights of Halong Bay. A buffet brunch is served on board before the vessel cruises back to harbour.
Back on shore we return to Hanoi, arriving in the afternoon with hopefully enough free time for you to explore the city on your own and do some last minute souvenir shopping.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Depending on your flight time you may have free time to explore the city on your own. Your guide will co-ordinate your airfare transfer times with you and on arrival to the airport the trip concludes.
Per Person, Twin Share