Day 1 - Hanoi
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. A welcome pack containing a welcome letter, your trip itinerary, a Sapa information sheet and feedback card will be waiting for you at your hotel. Please ask your hotel's reception for the Intrepid welcome pack upon arrival.
In any free time, dive into the barrage of bikes, boulevards and bustling life that characterise Hanoi. Take time to explore the French colonial architecture that decorates the tangled laneways, indulge in a decadent Vietnamese coffee while people-watching from street-side cafes, or step back in time on an exploration of the Old Quarter.
This evening you will be picked up by your local guide from your Joining Point Hotel (see below), or from an alternate hotel located in Hanoi's Old Quarter (advised prior to departure), between 6.00pm-6.30pm. You guide will first take you for an included dinner and to explain more about the Sapa region. After dinner, you'll be transferred to the train station, where your guide you will give you your tickets for return train journey. Say farewell to your local guide before you board the overnight sleeper train bound for Lao Cai (departing approximately 9.30pm, approximately 8 hours journey time). The train journey is unaccompanied, and you may be sharing with locals or other travellers.
Day 2 - Sapa Trek
You’ll be met on arrival into Lao Cai in the early morning (approximately 6.00 am), and meet your local driver. Your driver will be picking up several other passengers travelling on to Sapa. Transfer to Sapa by minibus (approximately 1 hour), passing through dramatic scenery along the way.
You have a free morning to relax and explore this fascinating hillside town. If the weather is feeling generous, enjoy unhindered views out towards the giant staircase of rice terraces that cascade down the side of the mountains. Otherwise, delight in the enigmatic mists that often shroud the Sapa hillsides.
In the afternoon, begin a guided 2-3 hour moderate trek down to the hilltribe villages of Cat Cat, often taking a paved path and passing a waterfall. The villages are home to the H'mong people who originated from China about 300 years ago. The H'mong people are easily recognisable by their dark-blue or black clothing. The dye is made from the indigo plant, which is native to the area. H'mong women wear long aprons with embroidered waist-coats and have their hair rolled up into a turban-like hat, while the men wear a black skullcap. You are likely to encounter local H’mong traders, who are often described as persistent and aggressive in their sales techniques. Please respect that this approach is usually the result of the competitive nature of business, and only purchase items if you wish too. In the late afternoon, return to Sapa to spend the night in a hotel.
Day 3 - Sapa Trek
This morning after storing you main luggage at your Sapa hotel, set off on a six hour guided trek (approximately 12 - 15 kilometres). Pass along buffalo paths and trails, as well as through several hilltribe villages and resident minority groups such as Red Zao and Tay people. This is a spectacular walk, winding through stunning scenery and elegant rice paddy terraces. Be sure to watch your footing here as there can be uneven slopes, muddy patches, and rocky inclines. The idyllic countryside scenes are like something out of a storybook, and you will encounter some of the friendliest people you could ever hope to meet. Stop for a picnic lunch along the way, and finally spend the night in the home of a Zay family in Ta Van Village. Perhaps take some time to explore the village after you arrive, wandering down to see the locals paddling in the Mua Huon River and the Hmong guys cruising around on their motorbikes. You’ll enjoy an included meal of delicious Vietnamese dishes for dinner tonight, prepared by your hosts.
Day 4 - Sapa/Overnight Train
After a hearty, energy-giving early breakfast, set off on a 2-3 hour walk to Su Pan Village. Today’s trek is shorter, but the scenery is still beautiful. Take the road to Giang Ta Chai village of the Red Dzao minority via the paths between terraces and through bamboo forests. Walk past waterfalls where buffalo might cool themselves from the heat and cross a suspension bridge. Be sure to take it all in and make the most of the last of your time in these incredible surroundings. Cross Muong Hoa River, then head up to the mountain to visit the last village of the trek – Su Pan. Maybe grab a quick bowl of pho before meeting up with your vehicle for the 30 minute drive back to Sapa. Arriving in Sapa, you have a free afternoon to explore the town. Maybe get a massage to sooth trek-tired muscles, check out the local market selling produce, herbal remedies, and (very fresh) meats, pick up any Hilltribe crafts you might have had your eye on, or sit back with a drink while you look over the misty mountains.
You will be picked up from your Sapa hotel between 5-5.30 pm today by a local driver. You’ll then be transferred back to the to the Lao Cai train station this afternoon (approximately 1 hour). You will have some free time for an optional dinner before you board the overnight train to Hanoi. Boarding commences approximately 7.30pm for an 8.30 pm departure (journey time approximately 8 hours).
Day 5 - Hanoi
Your adventure ends upon arrival at Hanoi train station in the early morning (around 5am). The rest of the day is free for you to soak up the grace of this dynamic city that's the epitome of modern Vietnam.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
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