Vietnam is famous for both its fine, rugged scenery and also its rich culture. If you are looking for absolute authenticity in a real home, then this is the choice for you. What better way to expose yourself to the cultures and colour of Vietnam's ethnic minorities on a trek through terraced rice paddies, bamboo groves and traditional villages in the North, while experience Vietnamese wet rice planting with authentic farming tools and fishing with local fishermen‘s nets in the Center and South of Vietnam. You can cook and eat with your host family and generally enjoy the hospitality of the local people. Here you will find no welcome mats or rehearsed “cultural” parades, just real people living real lives who greet visitors with genuine warmth and real smiles.
Day 1: Arrival at Hanoi
Arriving at Noi Bai International airport in Hanoi, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel. You’ll have time to relax after your journey. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 2: Hanoi/Mai Chau/Pu Luong (Hang village)
After breakfast you’ll drive to Mai Chau passing through mountainous landscape on the way. When you arrive, you’ll have lunch in a Thai ethnic minority group’s stilt house in Lac village. After your meal, a wander around the houses provides an overview of the community’s daily life. The village operates as a community co-operative, set up by the people themselves. The villagers specialise in weaving brocade products and are always keen to show visitors their skills. Later, a 15km drive takes you to board a motorboat along the Ma River, pausing en-route to visit some of the nearby ethnic minority villages. After docking, you’ll hike to Hang village where you’ll spend the night in a stilt house.
Mai Chau is the nearest ethnic minority community to Hanoi, and is therefore a popular trip for foreigners. Consequently, it’s the most commercialised community you’ll visit in the tour. However, the villagers manage the site well, and are an example of successful community development.
You might consider a traditional folk song and dance performance by the local people. The show usually lasts about an hour and the artists are the peasants who work on the fields at daytime. Although it’s very much amateur entertainment, it’s good fun and an opportunity to mingle with the villagers and understand their traditions and customs.
Day 3: Pu Luong (Hiking Through Minority Villages in the Nature Reserve Area)
After breakfast, you’ll stroll around Hang Village, a small Thai minority community where you can visit local families in their stilt houses, and drink green tea. You’ll then hike through pristine scenery will take you to Eo Ken village, well off the beaten track high on a slope of a mountain. It’s a stiff hike, but the effort is worth it. Lunch will be prepared by a local family, after which a short hike takes to meet a waiting land-cruiser for a one-hour drive. When you step down, a stroll downhill will take you to Kho Muong village where you’ll spend the night with a family in a traditional stilt house complete with a natural stream for your bathroom!.
You’ll be surprised when you sample the villagers’ hospitality and their competence in serving and preparing meals. The explanation is that the Pu Luong trekking route is a good example of effective collaboration between foreign NGOs (non-governmental organisations), mainly Flora and Fauna International (FFI - a UK-based environmental charity), local authorities and individual communities. Apart from assisting families to convert their homes to be able to host visitors, they are taught recipes, cooking techniques, and other hospitality requirements. We are pleased to be involved with this community-based development project.
Day 4: Pu Luong Hiking
After an early breakfast, you’ll walk to a large limestone cave near the village. It’s is worth visiting but the route can be dangerous in some places. To avoid accidents, it’s important that you wear suitable clothing and stout non-slip shoes, and follow the guide’s instructions in full. From there, you’ll continue your route through the forest and villages with a picnic lunch en-route prepared by tour guide. Your dinner and overnight stay will be in another stilt house.
Day 5: Pu Luong/Thanh Hoa/Hanoi
This morning, you’ll drive through villages to visit to a local market - on the way, you’ll see many local people heading in the same direction. It’s an excellent opportunity to see the local commodities, watch the interaction between buyers and sellers, and get insights into the culture of Pu Luong’s minority communities.
From there, you’ll drive to a small town for lunch, stopping on the way to visit the remarkable water wheels of the Muong people. After lunch, you will cross Ma River to visit Cam Thuy ‘Sacred Fish Stream’. Afterwards, you’ll return to Hanoi arriving in the late afternoon.
The Sacred Fish Stream is a unique and mysterious experience. Fast-flowing water gushes out of a cave at the base of a limestone precipice. Just outside the mouth of the cave where the current is strongest, dozens of large freshwater fish with pink-tipped fins congregate and jostle to be as close to the cave entrance as possible. They remain there all day, occasionally breaking off to swim downstream to feed, and then return to rejoin the group. They are entirely oblivious to people – you can paddle amongst them it you wish, but beware of slippery stones and the strong current. The nearby villagers revere the fish and protect them from poachers, which may account for the fish’s’ indifference to human interlopers.
Day 6: Hanoi/Danang/Hoi An (Homestay)
In the morning, your car will drive you to the airport for your flight to Danang. Upon arriving in Danang and a brief look at the remarkable Hindu statuary in the Cham Museum, you’ll arrive at Hoi An. You will spend the night in a local homestay in Hoi An.
Hoi An town is a UNESCO World Heritage area. An ancient trading port, once the largest in Indochina, Hoi An was a meeting point for many cultures that left their mark in the different architectural features of its wooden buildings. The original traditional street pattern still exists, as does the quay that once welcomed ships from all over East Asia and beyond. Many remained there for months at a time, waiting for favourable trade winds to carry them home.
Day 7: Hoi An Country Life Experience:
Today you will have a full experience about Vietnamese countryside, including Vietnamese wet rice planting with authentic farming tools and fishing with local fishermen‘s nets. After breakfast, you will be picked up by a tour guide and be introduced about the tour program. You will start your trip by starting biking to the countryside (If you don't know how to ride bicycles, please use the scooter "XE OM" services). You will have chance to take pictures about beautiful countryside views before getting arrived to Tra Que herb garden veggie village. You will visit around the village garden, meet the local farmers, listen to tour guide explained why it is called “Organic farm” and how it is consumed around Hoi An and local people. You will join into farming activities like: hoeing soil, using seaweed, transplanting and watering vegetable.
After the tour to Tra Que village, you will bike to the rice paddy field throughout the shrimp farm, on the ways, taking picture about duck farms, shrimps farms, cows, birds, and bamboo. Arriving to Mr. Nhi house, the local farmer at Cam Thanh Ecological village, you will talk and share about the daily life of his family before joining how to grow wet rice with him. You will start the farming work like plough and rake with buffalo, ride water buffalo, learn how to transplant rice, flood farm, grind rice, pound rice, and cook rice into a meal. You will have lunch with Mr. Nhi family.
After lunch, you will take a rest and enjoy your therapist foot massage at his family. You will relax with 30 minutes on Jack Tran's B.M.W Buffalo Pulling Cart over the countryside paddy field. Then transferring you down to a local fishing village by Jack Tran's mini-van. You will join to go fishing with local fishermen at Phuoc Hai local fishing boat to experience local cast net “CHAI”. Arriving water coconut palm jungle, you will enjoy the basket boat demonstration performed by Eco-tour’s crews and visiting the water coconut palm forest. You will have a fun to catch crab around the water coconut palm forest.
Then, you will walk around the Eco-village and meet local former guerrilla telling about his/her memory of history about the U.S/VIETNAM WAR from the period 1968 to 1972 between V.C soldiers and U.S Armies. Returning boat and arriving at the end of the world Beach area, you’ll learn more about the local people how they are living and fishing. You will enjoy your Vietnamese traditional snacks on board with coldest beers or drinks while seeing The Sun setting down behind Phuoc Hai fishing village where fishermen go back to the ocean for fishing. After the tour, you will be transferred back to your homestay where you will spend your night.
Day 8: Hoi An Free
The day is free at your leisure, lazing on the beach, or strolling in the town to explore daily life of local people or relaxing at your hotel. You’ll spend the night in the homestay.
Day 9: Hoi An/Danang/Ho Chi Minh City/Vespa Night Life tour
After breakfast, you will be transferred to Danang airport for your flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, you will be picked up and transferred to your hotel for some time to relax.
In the evening, you’ll get on the back of an Vespa for a part excursion, part street food tour around Saigon. Your Vespa riders will arrive at your hotel to pick you up and take you to Café Zoom in District 1 to enjoy a drink and “watch the world goes by” (quoted by the Lonely Planet). Throughout the night, you’ll “live the night as a local” – going from places to places on the back of a scooter, tasting food at local’s eating spots, enjoying live music in a Vietnamese-style coffee shop and wrapping up at an exciting bar. You’ll spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 10: Ho Chi Minh City Textile/Wood Craft and Visit to a Music House
After breakfast, your guide will arrive in the hotel at 08:30AM to pick up you for a tour to discover the beauty of Ho Chi Minh City. Not like other classic tour, we will follow the non-touristy track which will take you to the small textile community right in the heart of the dynamic city. You’ll have chance to see their local textile working, talk to the host before leaving to the wood craft pictures to see their products. You’ll also arrive in the “Instrumental music street” where you will find out many local guitar and mandolin shops which they are selling and manufacturing guitars and mandolin. Later, the lunch time will be organized for our small talk and it would be a pleasure for me to enjoy the nice lunch with you. After lunch, you’ll visit Truc Mai Music house and enjoy the show performed by Artist Dinh Linh. Mr. Linh will explain the different musical instruments in three main regions of Vietnam. You’ll spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 11: Ho Chi Minh City/Ben Tre/Mo Cay Homestay
After escaping from Ho Chi Minh City’s urban sprawl, you’ll travel to Ben Tre. You’ll then take a boat around Ben Tre River to see the view of rural lifestyle of the people who live along the river bank on the way. Arrival at My Thanh An, you’ll enjoy grapefruit – a famous specialty in Ben Tre before a motor-boat leads you through the myriad of Mekong’s tiny channels to a family house in a canal-side orchard to have lunch.
In the afternoon, you’ll wander around to see the rice fields and vegetable farm with an opportunity to join with their daily work of planting and watering vegetables. Thence, “Xe loi” – a three wheels bike will take you to Nhon Thanh village for a rowing boat ride to visit the traditional family run brick–inn and the coconut processing. You’ll then take a bicycles (or xe om - motorbikes) to visit the rice factory and Mr. Sau Khanh house for the ancient porcelains collected. Later, a boat trip to Mrs. Mai house in Cai Cam canal will lead you to the homestay which you’ll enjoy the cooking with the family. Having dinner and make conversation with them and enjoy the Southern traditional music. Your overnight stay will be in a homestay.
Day 12: Ben Tre/Cai Thia Homestay
In the morning, you’ll take a bicycle (or motorbike – xe om) to around the village sight –seeing activities, visit local market and workshop, rice field before return to the homestay and drive to Vinh Long where another adventure will begin. You’ll arrive in Cai Thia local market of Cai Be district of Tien Giang. On arrival, you’ll walk a long Cai Thia canal to visit Cai Thia church, My Luong temple, brick factory. Then, a boat will take you to see how to make rice paper at local house. We have one more option to see more about Mekong Delta if we have a biking trip in one hour to explore the famous village of Hoa Loc mango on the small beautiful roads. It is so interesting to see traditional houses made of wood and palm tree leaves and see some activities of the local farmers with an opportunity to make contacts with them and see how they catch fish or pick up fruits by ancestral ways in Mekong Delta. Later, you’ll come to a local and peaceful home; we can prepare some local cakes and taste it with hot tea.
Back our boat and enjoy our lunch on boat when the boat is toward to An Binh Island. The rowing boat will take you deeper into the countryside on smaller canals and to enjoy the peaceful time. It is so interesting to see traditional houses made of wood and palm tree leaves and see some activities of the local farmers with an opportunity to make contacts with them and see how they catch fish...
Arriving in the homestay, you’ll cook some dishes with the owners. We enjoy diner and have cup of tea or rice wine when enjoying local music. Also, you can ask the locals about the culture, people, and history of this Island. They do not mind to answer some personal questions for you. You will spend the night in a local homaestay.
Day 13: Cai Thia/Cai Be Homestay - Local Life
After breakfast, you’ll have free time to walk along the village to enjoy the fresh air in the morning. Our boat will go along the floating village. We will learn how to farm catfish on Mekong River
Your boat will then take you to Phuoc Hau Village where your bicycle (or motorbikes) will be waiting for your ride along shadowy zigzagging paths, passing canal-side villages, orchards and the many small and narrow bridges that are such an iconic feature of the area. You’ll see rice fields and visit a vegetable farm with an opportunity to join in the daily work of the farmers, planting and watering vegetables. On the way back we can see how people are making some handmade products by bamboo.
Lunch will be served at the local house. The trip continues to the fruit orchards where you’ll have a small chat with the gardener and find out some of the various fruit kinds. You’ll spend the night in the local house.
Day 14: Vinh Long/Ho Chi Minh City
In the morning, you’ll enjoy the breakfast then walking around the village to see the real life in Mekong Delta. After that, you’ll say good bye the owner of homestay and take a boat to visit the floating village where they are farming a lot of catfish under their houses. You’ll then stop by Vinh Long to visit the “Van Thanh Mieu Temple”, a 5 minute drive from the town, to see this Confucian structure built in 1866, a relic in the style of the Nguyen Dynasty.
After having lunch at local restaurant, you will head back to Ho Chi Minh City and spend your night in the city.
Day 15: Ho Chi Minh City Departure
You’ll be free until your driver arrives to take you to the International airport in Ho Chi Minh City in a good time to connect with your international departure flight.