ARRIVE IN HANOI
Upon arrival in Hanoi, be greeted by our representative and driver and transfer to your hotel in this bustling city. Hanoi is the newest capital city of Vietnam, and is a cultural hub.
Check-in to Essence d’Orient Hotel, one of the city’s top boutique hotels perfectly situated in Hanoi’s buzzing Old Quarter. The hotel and spa have a stellar reputation for their obsession with good service. The décor is simple but elegant and marked with a Vietnamese touch.
Once you’ve settled in, you are welcome to spend the rest of your evening at leisure, relaxing at the hotel or exploring the twisting roads of the Old Quarter.
Overnight Essence D'Orient Hotel
HANOI LIKE A LOCAL
In typical Vietnamese fashion, your guide will meet you early in the morning to start your day. Head to Hoan Kiem Lake, where locals will be doing their morning exercises: tai chi, aerobics, and dance! Feel free to join in, or move on to explore Hanoi’s intricate temples. Try a traditional Vietnamese iced coffee, made with strong coffee and condensed milk, or a delicious egg coffee.
Continue strolling through the Old Quarter, admiring the old French architecture and historic buildings. For lunch, try traditional bánh mì, typical baguette sandwiches, or homemade pho. Visit the Hao Lo Prison, where prisoners of war were held and see Huu Tiep Lake, better known as “B-52 Lake” for the airplane wreckage that can still be found there. Finally, visit the Temple of Literature, built in 1076, where Vietnamese elites were educated. Round out the day with a cold local beer outside on a busy side street.
Have some time on your own before your guide transfers you to the train station for your overnight journey to Sapa in a private, air-conditioned cabin.
Overnight Train to Sapa
Day 3 - 4
Upon arrival in Lao Cai, our representative will meet and drive you to Sapa where you can relax and enjoy a coffee in one of the town’s quaint cafés.
Begin the day with a 3km trek to the village of Suoi Ho, home to the Hmong minority people. Sapa is well known for its exquisite mountainous terrain and endless rice paddies. Docile buffalo graze lazily by the roadside and playing children create an idyllic atmosphere.
Move on to the village of Ta Phin, where you can connect with women from the Hmong and Red Dao minorities. Stay in homestays with Red Dao families. You’ll join in their daily route, assist with the cooking, and enjoy traditional meals. The Red Dao are known for their expertise in herbal medicine, and your host family will be happy to run you a herbal bath to soak away the soreness from the days’ hikes.
Overnight local homestay
Red Dao Trek
Wake early to the sound of roosters and enjoy a delicious breakfast of pancakes, fruit, and coffee. Today’s trek will bring you to Trung Chai Village, a small picturesque town surrounded by exceptional landscapes. Enjoy a picnic lunch en route. Once ready, transportation will be available to take you back to Sapa Town.
Spend a few hours relaxing in Sapa and exploring the quaint cafés and shops. A driver will escort you back to Lao Chai to catch the overnight train back to Hanoi.
Overnight train to Hanoi
Day 6 - 10
BLUE DRAGON CHILDREN’S FOUNDATION
For the next 4 days, dedicate your time and energy to volunteering at the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Hanoi.
From humble beginnings in 2003, the charity has been working with children in crisis in Vietnam. With an organizational staff of 67 that supports 1,500 of the country’s most vulnerable youths that include children with disabilities and victims of human trafficking, every new set of hands helps.
Guests can assist Blue Dragon in their mission to promote recovery and personal growth by getting involved in numerous projects within the organization. In addition to spending lots of one on one time with the kids, guests are encouraged to leverage their personal skillsets to make a lasting impression on the program and contribute to its long-term sustainability.
Overnight Essence d’Oriental Hotel
HANOI – HAI PHONG – CAT BA
Head to Hai Phong to take a speed boat to Cat Ba Island, the gateway to Vietnam’s famed Ha Long and Lan Ha Bays. These two extraordinary bays are dotted with great limestone islands that jut vertically out of the water’s emerald surface.
After a short coffee break, board your eco-friendly boat and lounge on the sundeck as you glide peacefully through the network of islands to one of the vibrant floating villages in Lan Ha Bay, the less touristy of the two bays, where you will be able to enjoy a fresh seafood lunch.
Keep cruising to explore the Bay’s scenic highlights and UNESCO World Heritage Sites before hopping in a kayak to navigate the narrow lagoon and tunnel caves. In the afternoon, the boat will anchor allowing you to swim and enjoy the sunset as it casts a warm red glow over the water. Sleeping in this peaceful oasis is an incredible experience!
Overnight Eco-friendly boat
After breakfast on the boat, head towards Viet Hai Port. Start your day with a walking and cycling trip to Viet Hai Village, located inside of Cat Ba National Park. Learn how locals live in the mountainous terrain, and embark on a climb to check out a nearby cave.
Return to the boat for lunch and some time to relax. This afternoon, you have an opportunity to visit locals who live in the floating villages to learn about their lifestyles and livelihoods. Once back at the boat, take some time to swim and relax before dinner.
On dark nights, slip into the water after sunset to swim in the bioluminescence – collections of tiny plankton that light up when disturbed. Swimming in the bioluminescence is a magical and otherworldly experience.
Overnight Eco-friendly boat
CAT BA – HANOI
Spend the morning lounging on a secluded beach in the bay, protected from strong waves and the crowds that frequent Ha Long’s coves. Later, board the boat again and head for the pier in Cat Ba.
Enjoy lunch in a bustling local restaurant in town, and take some time to explore this quirky little city with its numerous street vendors, shops, and visitors from all walks of life.
At around 2pm, take the speed boat towards Hai Phong. Your driver will be waiting at the pier to take you back to Hanoi. Once back in Vietnam’s capital, check-in to Essence d’Oriental Hotel once more and enjoy the rest of your evening at leisure.
Overnight Essence d’Oriental Hotel
The day is yours to spend at leisure up until three hours before your departure time, when your guide will transfer you to Hanoi’s International Airport for your flight home.