Tailor-made Tour 11 days from £2790 per person
Places Visited: Halong Bay, The Kinh Thay River, The Duong River, Hanoi, The Lower Red River, The Upper Red River, The Da River, Hoa Binh, Mai Chau
Explore a region little visited by tourists, experiencing a diverse cross-section of Vietnamese scenery and culture in Pandaw’s signature retro-style.
The Pandaw cruise company are old friends of TransIndus, and we absolutely love this ground-breaking route they’ve devised in North Vietnam. Beginning with the spectacular limestone landscapes of Halong Bay, it traces a winding course around the Red River Delta, pausing at the capital Hanoi before delving into the Highlands of the interior.
Rather than a string of famous landmarks, the route emphasizes authentic rural life, yielding a vivid sense of the varied and fascinating commerce, industries and culture revolving around the waterways. Every day features a visit to a village, often miles off the tourist trail, where you’ll learn about local crafts, explore forgotten temples and generally soak up the atmosphere of off-beat Southeast Asia – all from the splendid base of Pandaw’s colonial-style river cruiser.
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Fly from the UK to Hanoi.
On arrival in Hanoi, you’ll be met by your driver and guide and escorted to your hotel for a two-night stay. Spend the rest of the day recovering, perhaps venturing out later for dinner at the 1901 Sofitel Regent Metropole – the High Temple of retro Indochina elegance.
Enjoy a day’s guided sightseeing in the Old Quarter of the capital today, the liveliest and most atmospheric district of Hanoi. In the afternoon, visit Hoan Kiem Lake and the Water Puppet Theatre.
Sometimes referred to as the ’36 Streets’, Hanoi’s Old Quarter teems with life: ‘36’ refers to the number of crafts guilds that arose over the centuries in the neighbourhood, and many survive here today. Highlights include the vibrant paper votive offerings on sale along Hang Ma Street, and the shops selling freshly ground coffee and local sweets on Hang Buom.
As the shadows lengthen, cross the red-painted Huc, or ‘Sunbeam Bridge’, on Hoan Kiem Lake to visit the delightful Turtle Temple – the best place in the city for sunset – before catching a performance of traditional puppetry at the nearby water theatre.
Travel by road in the afternoon to Tuan Chau Marina on Halong Bay, where you’ll board your Pandaw ship for an evening cruise.
After a welcome drink and briefing, you’ll be served a light supper as the Pandaw cruiser chugs through the otherworldly karst limestone stacks and islets of Halong Bay, dropping anchor for the night in a sheltered cove with a spectacular backdrop.
Enjoy a full day’s cruise around Halong Bay today, featuring a visit to a local village and a breathtakingly exotic cocktail venue in the evening.
As you cross the bay, the Pandaw ship will pass some of the area’s more famous formations, such as Hang Dau Go (the ‘Cave of Marvels’), with its extraordinary stalactite’s and stalagmites, and Hang Sung Sot (‘Cave of Awe’).
Visit Viet Hai village in the afternoon by mountain bike or electric buggy along a pretty backroad flanked by towering rock formations. Later you’ll head further south, pausing in Lan Ha Bay to visit a floating fishing house. Weather permitting, the day will end with cocktails at a remote, white-sand beach.
RED RIVER DELTA
Your exploration of Halong Bay continues with a visit to the ‘Dark and Bright Cave’ in the morning. Later, the Pandaw ship enters the Red River, dropping anchor near Hai Phong, the region’s second largest city.
Passengers transfer to kayaks or a basket boat rowed by local fishermen to enter this remarkable cave-arch, which is hidden in an enclosed area resembling a crater.
Sweet-scented orchids and wild Benjamin fig trees carpet the sides of the hollow, while a colony bats nest amid the massive stalactites encrusting the cave’s ceilings. In afternoon, your ship enters the Red River Delta for the first time.
The Lower Red River
Sail through the day from Hanoi up the Red River to Viet Tri, not the most picturesque of towns but an excellent base for going deeper into Highland Vietnam. Leaving the ship behind you will visit Tay village, hardly known, yet with exquisite temples dating from the 8th and 11th century and home to some fine Buddhist statues carved from jack-fruit trees. In the afternoon you can visit an orphanage in Viet Tri. The kids are encouraged to live together with their own responsibilities in manageable family units under a foster parent.
The Upper Red River
The Red River flows down from China’s Yunnan province and has for centuries been a key trade route between these nations. Between Viet Tri and Hoa Ha the mountains loom large and the river narrows and flows fast. The ship will stop at Hoa Ha, a typical riverine village and a pleasant place for a hike to stretch your legs.
The Da River
Enjoy a day sailing downstream through the unspoilt beauty of the Da River. The ship will pass the Ba Vi National Park with its rich and diverse tropical and subtropical flora and fauna, before arriving at Hoa Binh.
Hoa Binh was the site of a major battle in 1951 and 1952 with the French and is home to the Muon ethnic group. Visit a museum and a local village where villagers still wear traditional dresses. The largest power station in Southeast Asia was built here by the Russians between 1979 and 1994 and is still fully operational and, subject to security clearance, tours can be arranged deep inside the mountain where at one point 1,000 Russian engineers toiled. You will also visit a 400-ton statue of Ho Chi Minh which commands spectacular views over the Hao Binh valley.
Early this morning you will head for the sleepy town of Mai Chau, home to the Black Thai and White Thai, an ethnic minority who still live in Thai bamboo stilt houses. In the afternoon the ship will continue downstream towards the town of Viet Tri where the cruise ends and you will disembark.
Tailor-made Tour 11 days from £2790 per person
✓ 10 nights accommodation
✓ All internal transportation and transfers
✓ English-speaking guides
✓ Full board on the Pandaw cruise including local beers and spirits, and crew tipping
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary
Places and Experiences in this tour
Rising in majestic fashion from the northern shore of Vietnam, the karst limestone formations of Halong Bay create a unique, spellbinding landscape. Around 2,000 islands, islets, ...
Vietnam’s charismatic capital, on the Red River, may be expanding and modernizing at an extraordinary pace, but it’s a great city to explore on foot. Surrounded by parks and tranq...
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