The mountainous North West provides spectacular scenery and perfect terrain for trekking routes. Winding roads through mountain ranges take you past communities with varied lifestyles. The final two days are spent trekking to stay in ethnic minority villages around Sa Pa with warm, friendly people in their stilt houses
Highlight: Minority villages, Home stays, Highest mountain pass in Indochina
Day 1: Hanoi- Mai chau - Son La
The journey northwards begins as we depart Hanoi and pass through the undulating terrains of tea plantations and the many timeless villages linked to the road which is the main artery of trade between the northwestern region and the capital city. This is our first glimpse of rural Vietnam and sets the tone for the days ahead. Depending on road and traffic conditions our drive will deliver us in Son La by mid or late afternoon. After checking into hotel we take a walk around this mountain town. There is a little traffic on roads and many Black Thai in traditional costume scurry in all directions
Day 2: Son La- Dien Bien Phu
Son la, was the once the site of French penal colony in which anticolonial revolutionaries were incarcerated. Visit Old French Prison and museum before depart for Dien Bien Phu. You'll enjoy the picturesque scenery as you pass the villages of Black Thai, White Thai, Meo and Muong peoples. The winding roads cross over the Pha Din Pass before reaching Dien Bien Phu, the site of the decisive battle in Vietnam’s struggle for independence in 1954. After checking into our central located hotel we enjoy a walk around to see this fast growing town. Our main stop is Dien Bien Phu’s Museum which details the event in place. We also pay a visit to the old battle field where the lush vegetation grows behind many war relics including old French tanks and artillery pieces.
Day 3: Dien Bien Phu – Tam Duong
Heading out of the town, we spend a full day travelling into Vietnam’s most mountainous region. The roads are difficult at times, but the spectacular landscape with a mixture of terraced fields and hill villages makes the hardship all worthwhile. On the way, we have some opportunities to encounter the Red Hmong, Kho Mu, Mang, Dao people who still retain their age old cultural traditions and are recognizably distinct from each other by their dress. We arrive in Tam Duong by late afternoon and have time strolling around to catch our first glimpse; a small town surrounded by breathtaking mountains and tea plantations. O/N in Tam Duong
Day 4: Tam Duong - Sapa
The scenery of the north is unequalled although the conditions are very simple. After breakfast we set off on a half day drive following the mountain roads to Sa Pa, our final destination. At an elevation of 1,500 meters, Sapa was founded in the early years of the last century as a hill resort for French administrators when the heat on the plain became unbearable. We arrive in Sapa by mid afternoon and can soak up the fresh climate as much as we want by spending our time wandering this famous hill town. The ethnic people are frequently seen on the main street of Sapa and small vendors along the street sell local textiles and handicraft.
Day 5: Sapa – Bac Ha
After breakfast we continue venturing into northern Vietnam, travelling through the Chinese border town of Lao Cai to the colourful Sunday Market at Muong Khuong. This market also attracts a wide variety of ethnic minority groups including the Variegated Hmong, Dao, Phu La, La Chi, Tay who still retain their age old cultural traditions and are recognizably distinct from each other by their dress. The experience of this congregation is unique. Upon leaving Muong Khuong, we drive to Bac Ha. As option, we can embark a walk this afternoon, visiting the Hmong King’s former residence and Ban Pho where the villagers make the potent local maize wine
Day 6: Bac Ha- Hanoi
The return journey begins as we depart Bac Ha Town and pass through the verdant and rugged mountain scenery to Hanoi. These back roads are a great way to explore the real Vietnam. We see very few other travellers, mostly rural dwellers who are just as interested in finding out about our lives as we are of theirs. The drive is very long, but we can make many stops along the way to stretch our legs and take some wonderful photographs.