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Inside Vietnam 2015

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Trip Extensions

Pre-trip: The Hill Tribes of Northern Vietnam

Before your Inside Vietnam adventure, discover the diverse ethnic groups of Vietnam’s remote northern hill towns, where lush rice paddies and bamboo forests flourish in the shadow of Fan Si Pan Peak. Venturing where few Americans go, you’ll stay with a local family in their stilt house … trek through villages where daily life follows ancient rhythms … and witness centuries-old traditions, from performance to handcrafts.

It's Included:
    All internal transportation
    Accommodations for 1 night in Hanoi, 1 night in a private village home, 2 nights in an overnight sleeper train, and 2 nights in Sapa
    14 meals—6 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 4 dinners (including 1 Home-Hosted Dinner)
    9 small group activities
    Services of an expert OAT Trip Leader
    NEW for 2015: Gratuities for local guides, drivers, and luggage porters
    All transfers
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    Since your overnight flight to Hanoi, Vietnam departs Los Angeles very early in the morning, travelers are advised to arrive at LAX the night before.

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    Arrive in Hanoi this morning. An OAT representative will meet you at the airport and escort you to our hotel.


    Lunch is on your own today, and you’re free to settle in before we take an afternoon orientation walk around the neighborhood and gather for a Welcome Briefing. Dinner will follow at a local restaurant.

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    We leave behind the city and travel into rich, agricultural territory today, traveling overland to the Mai Chau Valley, a three-hour drive from Hanoi. A valley lush with terraced plots, rice paddies, and emerald mountains, Mai Chau is home to many of Vietnam’s hill tribe cultures.

    Today, we get to know the White Thai people in a visit to Poong Coong village. Originally from China, the White Thai emigrated to Vietnam in the 19th century and are recognized by the color of their women's clothing. They are known for their intricate woven goods, which we may notice when we when we gather for lunch in a traditional thatch-roofed stilt home of a local White Thai family.

    Following lunch, we enjoy some free time on our own. Later, we take a guided walking tour, in which we’ll have a chance to interact with members of the local hill tribes.

    After a cultural performance of folk music and dancing, we enjoy dinner together in the local home, where we spend the night among three generations of the same family.

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    Today, we experience the world of the White Thai in a hiking trek that takes us through rice paddies and bamboo-covered hillsides to several White Thai villages before returning us to Poong Coong. After a final lunch with a local family, enjoy time to explore the village on your own.

    Then we transfer to Hanoi, arriving in time for dinner together in a local restaurant. This evening, we board our overnight sleeper train for northeastern Vietnam. Air-conditioned sleeper cars feature simple private twin berths for the nine-hour trip to Lao Cai.

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    This morning we arrive in Lao Cai City, located at the heart of the Red and Nanxi Rivers, bordering China. We enjoy breakfast together before departing for Sapa. After checking into our hotel, we'll explore nearby Ta Phin village. Populated by Red Dao people, this village of 20 homes welcomes travelers to experience its agricultural and textile traditions.

    We return to Sapa in time for lunch together. Sapa sits at an elevation of over a mile above sea level, with a lush, vivid green landscape of rice paddies, bamboo forests, and waterfalls. The heart of the timber industry, Sapa is also the place where members of many hill tribes gather to socialize, share their produce, and sell their handcrafts.

    After some free time, we convene again this evening for an orientation walk to familiarize us with the town, including its local market and the French-built “Stone Church.” Tonight, enjoy dinner on your own.

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    After breakfast this morning, we travel overland outside Sapa to begin our hike down the main road on the mountain slope. From this vantage point, we’ll enjoy sweeping views of villages below, mountains beyond, and the meandering river. Our trek takes us down into the Lao Chai Village, home to 100 Black H’mong people. Recognized by their embroidered indigo clothing, the Black H'mong work and live off the land. They are also known for their hemp and brocade goods, which we'll notice in many places in and around Sapa.

    We continue trekking past terraced corn and rice fields to Ta Van Village, arriving in time for lunch together. Here, we spend time among the Giay people, who are devoted farmers known for their love of folktales, fables, and humorous sayings.

    Late this afternoon, we return to our hotel in time for dinner on our own in Sapa.

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    After breakfast, we depart for the H’mong village of Cat Cat. You'll have the option to travel by motorbike or bus.

    One of the oldest H’mong villages in all of Vietnam, Cat Cat preserves the practices of brocade-making, flax-twisting, and silversmithing. The traditional three-room homes outline hundreds of rising and falling stone steps following the contours of the hillside, as we’ll discover this morning.

    We return to Sapa in time for lunch on our own. After leisure time here, we depart for Lao Cai City, pausing en route to view the border with China and see beyond to the Chinese village of Ha Kou across the river. We enjoy dinner together in the city before boarding our overnight sleeper train to Hanoi.  

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    • Meals included:

    This morning, we arrive in Hanoi. We'll transfer to our hotel, where we'll enjoy breakfast and some free time to settle in before meeting our fellow travelers on our Inside Vietnam adventure.