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Southeast Asia

10-Day Northern Vietnam Trek with Halong Bay

Northern Vietnam Trek with Halong Bay -- Trip Photo of Southeast Asia trek  Southeast Asia map

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Day 1 : Arrive Hanoi

Visiting: Hanoi

Arrive at Hanoi airport where you are met and transferred to your downtown Hanoi hotel. This afternoon, if time allows, discover Vietnam´┐Żs unique cultures at the Museum of Ethnology and the Hanoi Hilton, the former US pilots prison. Then enjoy a personal orientation tour of Hanoi's fascinating Old Quarter by rickshaw with your local guide.

*** Feel free to come in a day early - we can easily arrange a pre-trip hotel night in Hanoi on request.

  • Meals: D
  • Budget Lodging: La Dolce Vita

Day 2 : Hanoi - Ba Be

Visiting: Ba Be Lake

Today, drive about 5-6 hours from Ha Noi to remote Ba Be Lake, a beautiful region of massive karst spires and the homeland of various ethnic minorities. This afternoon, after arrival at Ba Be Lake, embark on a refreshing 2-hour boat trip to Coc Toc.

Arrive in Coc Toc, a remote Tay hamlet situated at the foot of a forest, on the south side of lake. Settle into your homestay with a local Tay family (private bedroom with bed, mosquito net, and private bathroom with hot water).

Located in the North-East of Vietnam, in the middle of a national park covered by jungle, the lake of Ba Be is the largest natural lake in Vietnam. The panorama is stunning, with blue and deep waters surrounded by towering limestone peaks coated with thick jungle. Coming from busy Hanoi, you'll be amazed by the complete change of scenery and atmosphere.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Budget Lodging: Homestay at Tay village

Day 3 : Explore Ba Be - lake crossing, remote villages, waterfalls

Visiting: Ba Be

Trek today for about 3 hours. Start the day with a short 1.5 hour cruise across the lake where we disembark at the trail head. From here, we'll hike to Tay and Hmong communities. We continue on to Ben Tau village. We'll visit with the villagers, rest, and continue on to a more remote Hmong village, then descend to the village of Cam Ha. Here we meet the boat again, and head to Dau Dang waterfalls. After our waterfalls experience, we'll continue back to Coc Toc for a late lunch. This afternoon, we'll meet some of the local fisherman and learn their traditional methods of fishing. We'll overnight in the homestay in the Tay village (private bedroom with bed, mosquito net, and private bathroom with hot water).

  • Meals: BLD
  • Budget Lodging: Homestay at Tay village

Day 4 : Ba Be - Khuoi Khon

Visiting: Khuoi Khon

This morning, travel 4 hours via a scenic drive north to the Bao Lac district and hike up to and visit Khuoi Khon, the black Lo lo ethnic minority village. Here we'll chat with the locals to better understand their fascinating history and lifestyle. Overnight tonight inside an authentic Lolo home (shared bedroom with mattress, mosquito net, and shared bathroom without hot water).

  • Meals: BLD
  • Budget Lodging: Lolo homestay

Day 5 : Khuoi Khon - Va Tai

Visiting: Va Tai

This morning, bid farewell with the Lolos and drive an hour away of the village to the start of the next trekking trail, on the edge of Thong Nong mountain range The trail follows the west arm of Nguom Nan massif. During the dry season, you'll see an other-worldly landscape of limestone pinnacles and granite outcrops. Along the way, we'll encounter a number remote Dao ethnic hamlets. We'll have a picnic in a village inhabited by the Dao minority.

Located northwest of Cao Bang province, bordering China, Thong Nong range is a unique succession of limestone peaks and remote valleys scattered in a wild manner. During Colonial times, the area was partially fortified by French army, and due to his remoteness and the 1979 war against China, was closed to foreigners between 1950 and 2011. Thong Nong center is partially covered with the remains of a primary forest which formerly recovered the region, in her depth composed of impressive specimens such as dipterocarpus alatus, lythraceaes, geant palm trees; habitat of monkeys, pythons, sun bear and local birds. The population is composed of Hmongs, Tys, Nungs and Daos.

Hmongs are established on the heights, living in semi-autarky, they cultivate banana trees, corn, various legumes, practice slash-and-burn cultivation.

Daos settle on middle highs, Tays, Nungs occupy the valleys, with master terraced rice-fields. These community's belong to Yen Son municipality, Thong Nong district and represent a population of 235 380 inhabitants.

Afternoon, traverse Mi Loun, an ethnic Hmong hamlet, slow ascending to the col and arrive in Va Tai, a Red Dao village surrounded by about ten limestone pitons recovered by secondary forest. Homestay in Vai Tai (shared bedroom with mattress, mosquito net, and shared bathroom without hot water). Today's hike is physically demanding, with about 9.5 total miles of hiking, and featuring 2,800 feet of ascent and 2,000 feet of descent.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Budget Lodging: Dao homestay

Day 6 : Va Tai - Nam Ngu

Visiting: Nam Ngu

Trek 4 hours / Ascent 1,300 feet, descent 2,000 feet / 8 miles total

This morning, departing at dawn, we'll hike over a craggy cirque, over a pass and through the jungle covered side before traversing to narrow Va Tai Pen valley inhabited by a tiny population of Hmongs. Inside the valley, we'll ascend toward a Hmong hamlet, Lo Lung Xitung, before descending to an impressive limestone amphitheater. Traverse about one hour inside the massif's jungle. A narrow footpath makes a passage through, with both sides thick with rainforest.

This afternoon, arrive in Co Phat, an ethnic Hmong hamlet where the French had settled a military outpost in 1950. Continue and descend to the South of Thong Nong, in front of a massive limestone range, a mountain range that stretches out the North-South along the Chinese border. Descend to the South along a limestone pitons labyrinth. Arrive in Nam Ngu, an ethnic Nung hamlet of seven families surrounded by rice-fields and limestone mounts, during rainy season by a high cataract, on its northern side bordering Na River, a clear mountain stream, just above a series of small cataracts.

Meet the villagers and settle into kindly Mr. Ke's stilt house (shared bedroom with mattress, a mosquito net, and shared bathroom without hot water).

  • Meals: BLD
  • Budget Lodging: Homestay in the Nung village

Day 7 : Nam Ngu - Cao Bang

Visiting: Cao Bang

Trek about 4 hours / Ascent 500 feet, descent 1,500 feet / 6 miles

This morning, departure for a hike along the eastern Thong Nong range. From Nam Ngu, we'll follow the Na River, cross on a bamboo bridge, pass-by Dao hamlets, ascend a short hill and reach Nam Ngu's upper valley. We'll follow a narrow path between Dao hamlets and cornfields, continuing through a stone labyrinth and across the valley.

After a small pass, we arrive in Sac Xay, a Dao village located in a huge limestone bowl surrounded by a dozen limestone peaks covered by dense foliage. We'll visit with the locals, enjoying a cup of tea in a local house.

We continue east along a rocky trail leading to a narrow pass overlooking a deep valley, the Mo Xat mountains, a host of sumptuous ridges leading north to the Chinese border.

Steep descent to the valley, pick-up and short bus transfer to Thong Nong City for lunch.

Afternoon, about 2.5 hour's drive to Cao Bang city through Mo Xat southern area, with an option to pass-by the Chinese border gate.

Overnight in a simple guesthouse in Cao Bang (private room).

  • Meals: BLD
  • Budget Lodging: Local guesthouse

Day 8 : Cao Bang - Lang Sang

Visiting: Lang Son

This morning, we have a short drive along historical Road 4, heading to Dong Khe, the theater of the famous Cao Bang battle (Oct 1950) - Dien Bien Phu - Indochina's bloodiest battle. From Dong Khe, transfer 3 miles east on a new road heading to Coc Xa area, continue 4kms to Coc Xa upper cirques cross a Tay hamlet and follow a trail across fields, and arrive at a narrow pass named La Source, site of the main combat with a rugged cliff. Descend 30 minutes between Coc Xa cliffs on a jungle trail leading to Coc Xa hamlet and Quang Liet valley.

This afternoon we'll walk 1.5 hours along Quang Liet, a valley used by the French Expeditionary Corps to avoid Road N4, under Viet Minh control.

Pick-up north of Quang Liet and continue on road N4. We'll cross the infamous Lung Phai pass where numerous ambushes were staged between 1947 and 1950. Drive toward That Khe, Na Phac, reach Lang Son, a border city with China. We'll go for a stroll, visit the Central market, and take the bustling scene in. Overnight in Lang Son.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Budget Lodging: Muong Thanh Lang Son

Day 9 : Ha Long Bay

Visiting: Halong Bay

Today we'll drive to Ha Long Bay. Embark on your comfortable cruise boat, beginning with a refreshing a welcome cocktail. Visit Bai Tu Long Bay and enjoy some swimming or kayaking. We'll visit a floating school and one of the area's famous caves. Dinner and overnight on board.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Secret Halong, Deluxe Cabin

Day 10 : Ha Long Bay - Phu Lang - Ha Noi - Departure

Visiting: Depart Vietnam

Continue the cruise, enjoying a walk on Titov Beach Island or visiting a cave. Disembark around noon and transfer back to Hanoi (approximately 4 hours) for your departure flight home. En-route, visit the But Thap Pagoda, one of the largest pagodas in Vietnam and possibly the most beautiful. Be sure to schedule a night flight out tonight or else plan an overnight in Hanoi with a departure the following the day.

  • Meals: BL

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