OTHER TOUR OPTIONS
For groups who may not have the time for a tour of two or three weeks of the whole of Vietnam, but have a special interest in its history and culture, other options are available. We also offer tours of one week (seven nights) to each of the three regions. For the north, the concentration would be on the formation and development of Vietnamese culture. In Central Vietnam, the tour’s emphasis would be on the Chăm legacy and Vietnamese migration. In the south it will be about the indigenous Khmer and the final expansion of Vietnamese culture.
In general the one-week itineraries follow those listed in Tour B for each section of the country. Some changes will be included. In the North, after Hạ Long Bay we will return for a last night in Hanoi and attend a ca trù musical performance. If foul weather prevents that excursion we will instead visit four craft villages between Hanoi and Phủ Lý and on our last day in Hanoi visit Cổ Loa, West Lake temples, Hanoi’s History Museum and spend more time in the Old Quarter. i
For the single week schedule, for our tour of Central Vietnam we will meet in Đà Nẳng, skip Hué and allow for two nights in Hội An. It will include a visit to the Chăm Museum in Đà Nẵng and stops at other Chăm sites in Quảng Nam province, besides Mỹ Sơn. Afterwards it will be two nights in Quy Nhơn, two in Nha Trang and one in Phan Rang.
In the south our one-week program will include the same full day tour of Saigon, one night in Sóc Trăng, two nights in Trà Vinh, one night in Vĩnh Long and a final night in Bến Tre, famous for its scenery and its orchards.
It is also possible for us to design a tour fitting your most specific interests. Write to us of your requirements.
We are now ready to offer tours to Yunnan, China, in association with our partners there. For twenty years Jim Goodman made regular excursions to Yunnan, covering virtually the entire province, and published several books on Yunnan and its people, especially the ethnic minorities. He can lead you to places away from the crowded tourist routes to places much less traveled, where traditional culture is still the norm of life. Yunnan has a huge variety of interesting places and peoples and it is impossible to appreciate all of it in a short time. We offer five itineraries of two weeks each (longer on request) that cover a substantial number of its attractions. See our Yunnan pages for details.
Ailaoshan, Yuanyang County Wa Hills, Lancang County
CULTURAL TOUR OF THE NORTHERN MOUNTAINS
MEETING VIETNAM’S ETHNIC MINORITIES
Vietnam’s northern mountains are home to a great variety of ethnic minorities. In this part of the country most of them still maintain their traditional lifestyles and customs, annual festivals and preference, at least among the women, for their ethnic style of clothing. While we can arrange programs according to our clients’ specific needs to any part of the north, we also offer a standard tour of places in Hà Giang and Lào Cai provinces to meet people of the Tày, Nùng, Hmông, Dao, La Chí, Bộ Y, Giáy, Lừ and Hà Nhì minorities.
The maximum opportunities for observing and meeting ethnic minorities are at the regular market day venues. The best of these are on Sundays, so our schedule revolves around two weekends in the hills.
First stop: Hanoi
After arrival in Hanoi and settling in the hotel we will take a walk around the old town, Hoàn Kiếm Lake and other sites within the vicinity. On the following morning we will visit the Women’s Museum, which features a floor devoted to the traditional apparel of the country’s ethnic minorities, one exhibiting all the tools, implements, baskets, traps, nets and so forth used all over the country in daily life, a room on the life of women, another on the roving street vendors of Hanoi and an exhibit on the unique Holy Mothers cult. In the afternoon we will visit the best of the city’s crafts/antiques shops.
Other worthwhile sights in Hanoi, like the Temple of Literature, One-Pillar Pagoda, French Quarter, West Lake and so forth, as well as performances of the water-puppets and traditional singing, will be worked into the schedule according to your arrival days, either before we leave for the north, or afterwards. Ideally, we should depart Hanoi Friday night for the train to Lào Cai, or Saturday at the latest, in order to make the market day scenes on Sunday.
Second stop: nw Hà Giang
We arrive early morning in Lào Cai, have breakfast and then drive first to Bắc Hà for a short break and continue on a high road in the mountains to Xín Mân, in nw Hà Giang. We will have lunch here and if it is Sunday stay some time for the market activity. Our next stop, after passing a mountainous landscape of terraced hillsides, will be Hoàng Su Phì, which also has market day on Sunday. From here we proceed another 25 km to the lovely Panhou Village Resort, where we will stay in forest cottages for the night.
Next morning we will return over the same route as far as Bắc Hà. If it is Sunday that day we will experience market days in Hoàng Su Phì and Xín Mân at peak times and in Bắc Hà as it is ending. If it is Monday we will still be able to see Tày, Nùng and Hmông from villages near Hoàng Su Phì in the town’s morning produce market. We will arrive in Bắc Hà mid-afternoon and have time for a short hike to a nearby Flowery Hmông village.
Third stop: Bắc Hà
We spend three nights in Bắc Hà. On Tuesday we will spend the morning at the Cốc Lý market, dominated by the Flowery Hmông, with the adjacent field featuring the sale of water buffaloes. On our return to Bắc Hà we will visit the Hoàng A Tưởng Palace, built by the French for a local Tày chieftain and with exhibits evocative of the colonial period. Our last excursion is a walk to the orchid gardens outside the town.
Depending on which day we arrived in Bắc Hà, either Monday or Wednesday we will drive out to Bản Liên, a traditional Tày village of stilted houses 25 kilometers from the town. On our return we will stop at Chiu Cái, a Phù Lá village.
On our departure from Bắc Hà we go south and stop at the Tày village of Trung Đô, home to one of the district’s oldest temples. If it is Thursday we will make a short stop at nearby Bảo Nhai for its market day, with mainly Flowery Hmông, but also Red and Black Dao. From here we continue to the border city of Lào Cai and then drive up to Sapa.
Fourth stop: Sapa
A former French colonial resort and the north’s most popular tourist destination since the 90s, Sapa lies high up in the mountains at 1640 meters altitude. On clear days visitors can see Phansipan, at 3141 meters Vietnam’s highest mountain peak. Somewhat smaller mountains back the picturesque valley south of the town. Within Sapa the main attractions are the old Catholic Church, the park at Hàm Rồng Hill, with its array of small caverns and weirdly shaped boulders jutting up from the ground, the lake and fountain at the top of the town, the Ethnology Museum, featuring detailed exhibits on the Black Hmông and Red Dao, and the handicrafts markets.
All or part of these sites can be worked into our itinerary there, for we will spend four or five nights in Sapa, depending on which day we arrive. If it is Wednesday, we will then go west to Tam Đường Đất for its Thursday morning market day. We will see a different kind of Flowery Hmông, plus White Hmông, Black Dao. Lừ and Giáy. On our return to Sapa we will stop at Bình Lư, a large village of the Lừ minority.
While Vietnamese dominate Sapa’s urban population, the district is mostly home to colorful ethnic minorities, noted for their maintenance of old traditions and preference for their ethnic style of clothing. Over half the villages are Black Hmông. The Red Dao are the next largest group, with smaller numbers of Giáy and Xá Phó. We will likely see all of them, along with Lừ and Flowery Hmông, on Saturday morning’s market day.
On Friday and Saturday we will also visit Hmông and Dao villages in the vicinity. For those with a special interest in Dao culture, we can arrange a session with a specialist in traditional culture—a Red Dao woman who speaks good English.
Our final excursion comes Sunday, when we head north over the mountains on a scenic route down to Mường Hum for its market day. Though it’s a Giáy settlement, the market action features a different kind of Red Dao, as well as Hà Nhì, local Giáy and up to five branches of Hmông (Flowery, White, Green, Red and Black). After lunch we return to Sapa, where you can explore those attractions you have not yet seen.
Return to Hanoi
Monday morning we return by car or van to Hanoi. Our itinerary there until your departure will depend upon your specific interests. It will include at least one excursion outside the city, the options being a visit to craft villages, a day west to the traditional Vietnamese village of Đường Lâm and other sights in the vicinity, south to the ancient capital of Hoa Lư and a boat ride through the karst landscape of Ninh Bình, or southwest to Mường or Dao villages in Hoà Bình province.
For arrangements and other information, contact our tour leader Jim Goodman at firstname.lastname@example.org
EXCURSION TO HA GIANG PROVINCE
We can also alter or extend this program to include a few days exploring Hà Giang Province in Northeast Vietnam. This province features the country's most majestic, breath-taking scenery, a karst landscape of high, rugged limestone mountains. Our itinerary will include beautiful Đồng Văn, set beside steep hills, a ride through the mountains to Mèo Văc, then Yên Minh and back to Đồng Văn. We will also make side-trips to Lũng Cú, the most northern point in Vietnam, the former Hmông King's Palace, Quản Bạ and Dao Aó Dài villages and whatever market day will take place during our stay.
Ethnic minorities make up most of Hà Giang's population, though the Vietnamese Kình dominate the towns and cities. Various branches of the Hmông, especially the White Hmông, comprise the largest segment. The province is also home to two main branches of the Dao--the Dao Tá Pàn in the north and the Dao Aó Dài in the south. Small groups of Tày, Giáy and Lô Lô also reside in Hà Giang villages.