Australian - New Zealand Visitors Rating: 9.8/10 Excellent
based on 338 holiday reviews
Travel style: Private holiday
Highlights: Exotic Cultural, Natural Heritages
Hoian, UNESCO Heritage Site, is voted as the nicest city in Vietnam by Australian and New Zealand travelers. All Australian and New Zealand travellers would like to stay there at least a few nights here. Hue is the ancient capital of Vietnam, a peaceful and charming World Cultural Heritage Site. Amazing Halong Bay, Trangan, Sapa can not be missed on their Holiday Hanoi Vietnam from Australia. Exotic cultures of 7 ethnic groups in Sapa. Unbelievable monuments of Hue, Hoian - UNESCO Cultural Heritage Sites.
Hanoi Holiday Itinerary 15 Days:
Day 1: Give a nice kiss to charming Hanoi
Day 2: Explore stunning Sapa
Day 3: Off beaten tracks to small villages, exploring exotic cultures
Day 4: Sapa - Hanoi(night train or day bus)
Day 5: Explore amazing Hanoi + Food tour on foot
Day 6: Hanoi to Halong bay
Day 7: Heaven on earth
Day 8: Halong bay - Hue
Day 9: Explore UNESCO Trangan Natural Heritage Site
Day 10: Hanoi - Hue, World Cultural Heritage Site
Day 11: Explore Charming Hue
Day 12: Hue - Hoian street food tour
Day 13: Explore Hoian ancient town, Cultural Heritage Site
Day 14: Hoi An cooking tour/ Myson Cultural Heritage Site/ Biking trip
Day 15: Danang departure(to Singapore, Bangkok, Siemreap, Saigon).
Book your Hanoi holiday package here
Detailed Hoian - Hue - Hanoi Holiday 15 Days:
You will be welcomed and picked up by our tour guide at the airport on arrival. Transfer you for check-in at hotel in Hanoi centre(Old Quarter recommended) and get recovery after long flight. Overnight in Hanoi Vietnam.
Hanoi Holiday Package Included:
Luxury Boutique Hotel in The Old Quarter or requested hotel, Private car, Meals: N/A
1day Holiday Hanoi with your journey to the mountainous town of Sapa. The drive is worthwhile as the scenery on your northward journey into the highlands is both dramatic and breathtaking. Your tour guide will choose the best stops with good position for wonderful photos of amazing nature - Best nature for all for all Vietnam holiday packages from Australia.
Arriving in Sapa in noon time. Check into your hotel. In the afternoon, your tour guide will pick up you for short drive to Taphin village. There will be 2options for you - easy walking around the village and visit some H'Mong and Red Dzao families to discover the life or hard trekking from Matra village up and down the mountains in the buffalo trails through many fields to the Taphin village. Drive back to Sapa town and free at leisure. Overnight in Sapa.
Hanoi Holiday Package Included:
Requested hotels, Private car English speaking tour guide, Meals: B, L
Today you have a full day trek from Sapa town along buffalo paths, trails and through several hill tribe villages. This is an absolutely spectacular walk through stunning scenery inhabited by some of the friendliest people you will meet.
Note: Please feel free to tell your tour guide what you prefer. Customize with our professional tour guide: there are 2 ways to do the trekking: Easy walking through villages of Lao Chai & Ta Van and mix with stunning nature of terrace rice fields.
Enjoy a short drive down to Muong Hoa valley. Our tour guide will stop at the right corner for the most beautiful photos of the rice terraced fields. Start walking to Lao Chai and Ta Van villages down in Muong Hoa valley. Enjoy the spectacular views of beautiful valley towards Fansipan – the highest peak of Vietnam and Indochina. Trek through the villages of Black H’mong ethnic minority to learn the way people weaving and embroidering their clothes. Have a break in a local restaurant for lunch then keep going down to enjoy colorful rice paddy fields and reach Ta Van village where the Dzay ethnic people inhabited
Hard trekking from Y Linh Ho village along the buffalo paths up and down the mountains to Lao Chai and Tavan. This could be said a lifetime experience with stunning scenery. You have lunch at restaurant near the river on the way while enjoy the local music show - Sapa is the best place to discover exotic cultures of all Vietnam tours from Australia. Then, transfer back to Sapa for overnight.
Vietnam Tour Package Included:
Requested hotel, Private car, Tour guide, Meals: B, L
After breakfast, your tour guide and driver pick up you to Cat Cat village. Enjoy walking tour through lush rice terraces towards villages, experience Black H’mong people’s daily life and traditional culture. Visit some local families to discover a totally different world. Here, local people live on very basic conditions, but they are so happy with their life.
Entering the bottom of the charming valley, you will meet a wonderful waterfall. It offers many beautiful photos. Our tour guide will manage the right time for you to enjoy the local music and dancing show in which you will learn more the unique culture of Northern mountainous ethnic people in Vietnam. Then, drive back to Hotel for check-out. Enjoy lunch and drive back to Hanoi. Overnight in Hanoi.
Hanoi Holiday Package Included: Luxury Boutique Hotel in The Old Quarter,Private car, Tour guide - English speaking, Meals: B, L
8:00 am your tour guide will pick up you at the lobby of your hotel to explore charming Hanoi. The recommended destinations for Hanoi city tour are Uncle Ho complex, One pagoda, Fine Art museum, Temple of Literature, Museum of Ethnology, Hoa Lo prison... Based on your interest, your tour guide will customize your Hanoi trip. Please feel free to tell our tour guide your style - Culture, History, Real daily life...
Afternoon, enjoy the rickshaw cycled by a local guide for 1 hour to explore the bustling Hanoi Old Quarter will amaze you. The cycling route starts from Hanoi Opera Theater - Most famous French colonial architecture built in 1911 to Trang Tien street and along Hoan Kiem lake - The most charming lake of 52 large natural lakes. The cycling tour also takes you through shoes street, silver street, bamboo street.... Everything in between. The colorful street is mixed with the traffic music of so many motorbikes, bicycles, vendors offering you a wonderful series of movies.
More amazing feeling is that you are living in the happiness, chatting and love of the local Hanoians. Now, you will know why Hanoi city is voted as the city of peaces and ranked as the 2nd favorite city in the world for tourists 2014.
Visit Bach Ma temple where one of the most 4 important lords in Hanoi to learn the spiritual life of the local people. Then, enjoy the water puppet show which was created in 11th century. It is the unique puppetry art of the world in which the puppets dance beautifully on the surface of water. Surely, you can find this type of art nowhere in the world.
Amazing time of today is a food on foot tour. This also offers many amazing daily life and cultural photos of local Hanoian people in the Old Quarter. Visit some famous & special food families/stalls or local restaurants. Your six senses will be used from smell, feel, see… to taste. Keep on ordering food and try what your tour guide suggests with many dishes voted by CNN and Travel Magazine as top of 40 dishes in the world.
Your food expert will give you an insight of the intricacies and traditions of Hanoi Street Food Tour - Vietnamese cooking art with details on ingredients and historical backgrounds of popular dishes in Hanoi and north Vietnam. Most interesting is to visit wet market - Hang Be. Here, it is so busy with shoppers buying what they need for day's meals such as all alive fish, frogs, fresh meats, fragrant herbs, fresh flowers....
Try seasonal fruits on the bustling streets in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. First stop at a local eatery. Here, see how the chef makes the famed dish - Banh Cuon in Hanoi with the explanation from your guide. Now, it is time to taste it. You can not find it on your own because it is run by a local lady in a small lane off the street.
After Banh Cuon, take a little walk in the atmospheric heart of the Old Quarter, where you can see local daily life. Here, try a very best dish called “Bun Cha”(fresh rice noodles with grilled pork and herbs), beef noodle soup(Pho Bo) and chicken noodle soup(Pho ga).
It is amazing experience to try Vit Lon(baby duck). Take a small walk to fruit stalls for "Hoa Qua Dam” (fresh fruits served in a cup and smothered with crushed iced and condensed milk). Now, you have chances to taste special egg coffee which you will find it nowhere in the world. Join the food tour Hanoi with Deluxe Vietnam Tours to learn how to make egg coffee. Surely after the tour, you will make egg coffee by yourself at home. This will be special gift for friends' visits to your home - They will say Specal, Special...! If they often visit you for egg coffee, it is not our fault. If coffee is not your style, Hanoi draf beer awaits - Hanoi is the kingdom of all Vietnam street food tours from Australia. Overnight in Hanoi.
Hanoi Holiday Package Included:
Luxury Boutique Hotel in The Old Quarter Private car, English speaking - tour guide, Meals: B, L, D
8:00 Your tour guide and driver will pick up you at the hotel for 3.5 hour driving through the lush Red River delta to Halong city, offering chances to take wonderful photos of local farmers working on their fields. The more amazing sense is that you may see 4 big alive pigs, near 100 chicken or an alive cow/buffalo on motorbike. You can not help taking this unbelievable photo. Welcome aboard and sail through Halong Bay. Allow your eyes to swim across the azure waters of this magical place, where thousands of sculpted limestone islands rise from the water like gigantic teeth of dragons.
A delectable lunch is served shortly after boarding and you find yourself getting acquainted with the facilities of the boat. The boat starts to cruise into the Bay and within the first hour you can enjoy this World Heritage Site.
A first visit will take our guests by tender to the Tien Ong Cave. The Cave is very large – about 1000 sqm – and is peppered with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, formed out of ancient limestone karsts about 700,000 years ago. The cave is five meters above sea level. This visit will last approximately 20 minutes (we strongly recommend that you do not wear high heel shoes for this excursion).
The voyage continues with the arrival at the Cua Van Fishing Village, the biggest and oldest floating fishing village in Halong Bay. The village is explored via a pleasant boat ride (a maximum of four persons per boat). You will pass through this ancient village which comprises fishing boats and floating houses – simply irresistible.
After returning to the boat in the late afternoon guests can sharpen their culinary skills at our cooking class performance conducted by our energetic chef. Surely you can give him a helping hand any time and try your skills in preparing special Vietnamese dishes. The boat cruises slowly with the evening sun to its mooring point. If not now, when then is it time to enjoy a massage or at least to quaff a drink – in the miraculous descending sun – on our Sundeck.
At 07:30pm another delicious meal – dinner is served. After dinner the night is yours; kick back on a comfy pillowed chair or watch the stars from the Sundeck and inhale the surreal beauty whilst sipping a glass of wine. Not many places in the world offer those special feelings. The mooring place is a fantastic overnight spot with glittering lights from the other boats and a calm sea, perfect for your first dream in the middle of the Bay where once Dragons played amid sparkling jewels
Hanoi Holiday Package Included: Suite Cabin on Huong Hai Sealife cruise, Syrena cruise – Deluxe cabin, Garden bay – Suite cabin Private car, Tour guide, Meals: B, L, D
Today, all guests will embark on our day boat – the Sunset. You will cruise to the Bay’s more untouched areas, deep in Lan Ha Bay. Take a light bike ride along the coast line of Cat Ba, through the rain forest to the Viet Hai village. A fantastic way to get in touch with the nature of the biggest Halong Bay Island. Please read below the options of this day:
A. If weather conditions are good: In the morning, the Sunset crew welcomes all guests from Ginger, Jasmine and Violet. Breakfast is served in the cozy restaurant while the Sunset moves deeper into Halong Bay straight to Cat Ba Island. The nature is simply marvelous in this area of the Bay.
We arrive at Viet Hai dock and take a leisurely bicycle ride along the water front, passing forests and a stone tunnel on the way to the Viet Hai Village. If one does not want to travel by bicycle they may ride the back of a motorbike or travel by electric car. We explore the village with its traditional houses and its residents. Guests can take a short walk to the surrounding jungle. The journey continues to the local primary school (Heritage Line supports this school with teaching equipment). A memorable way of interacting with the children in the classroom is to become their substitute teacher or sing along with the kids – if you dare.
After this, guests head back to the dock and board the junk. The cruise continues unhurried to the Bat Cave. During this slow trundle, lunch is served. At the Bat Cave guests kayak through water tunnels and close to stunning rocks and islets.
This beautiful lagoon allows as well to jump from the boat for a refreshing swim. Back on board take your seat or sunbed on the Sundeck and simply dive into the nature on the way back to your mother junk for your second night.
B. If weather conditions are not good (strong waves prohibit cruising to Viet Hai Village) In the morning, the Sunset crew welcomes all guests from Ginger, Jasmine and Violet. Breakfast is served in the cozy restaurant while the Sunset moves to the bat Cave. Although the weather might not be that suitable still the Bay offers mysterious views and photo opportunities from the Sundeck.
At the Bat Cave guests kayak through water tunnels and close to stunning rocks and islets. This beautiful lagoon allows as well to jump from the boat for a refreshing swim. The cruise continues unhurried to the Pearl Village. During this slow trundle, lunch is served. At the Pearl Village there are fish farms for viewing and an operating pearl farm and pearl processing factory. The guests will be guided through the process which results in the final product. There is also a pearl jewelry showroom. After the tour there is opportunity for swimming from the boat before heading out. Back on board take your seat or sunbed on the Sundeck and simply dive into the nature on the way back to your mother junk for your second night. Halong bay is the best of Vietnam sightseeing tours from Australia.
Preparation and inclusions on this day: Biking helmet, First aid kit, durable shoes, water bottle during cycling, rain coats in case of light showers, (in the event of heavy rain, biking will be cancelled), kayaks/paddles and life jackets
Hanoi holiday package included: Suite Cabin on Huong Hai Sealife cruise, Syrena cruise – Deluxe cabin, Garden bay – Suite cabin Private seat car, Tour guide: English speaking, Meals: B, L, D
Complimentary tea, coffee and pastries are served in the restaurant followed by-if you so desire – a Tai Chi Class on the Sundeck (07:00am). A great morning activity to feel one with this natural wonder.
Then it is time for an early morning swim – in the Bay. By tender boat we bring the guests to a natural white sandy stretch of a beach. Sporty ones can also climb up to a hill top to have a last view from above over Halong Bay before we return to the boat and cruise slowly back to Halong City, passing picturesque areas like the Tam Cung Cave and Poem Mountain.
During our trundle breakfast is served before we arrive at the shore at around 11:00am. The crew will bid you farewell and you disembark with our tender boat to Tuan Chau Marina. Your driver is waiting to take you to Hanoi.
Vietnam Holiday package included: Luxury double room at Silk Queen Hotel or similar Luxury Boutique Hotel in The Old Quarter Private seat car, Tour guide: English speaking, Meals: B, L,D
After 120km drive along the highway No 1 and through the countryside of the Red River delta, you will arrive in Trang An eco-tourism area.
First stop is at Bai Dinh pagoda, the largest one in Vietnam. Join a electric car to be transfered to a large Tam Quan gate - the entrance of the pagoda with stunning landscape. A few steps lead you inside the peaceful buddhism world. It is time to enjoy the best collection of over 500 stone sculptured buddha statues on Hanoi tour. Keep walking along the corridor to see these statues, you will get to the bell tower with the biggest bell in Southeast Asia and the main pagoda where the 3 incarnation statues weighting over 100 ton of brone for each.
After having lunch. Take a seat on a boat rowed by the local ladies to explore the fascinating scenery of Trang An eco-tourism area, one highlight for all tours in Vietnam. Haft an hour cruise, you get to Trinh temple where the officals of the Dinh dynasty are worshipper(if you do not want to get off your boat, you can leave it behind and continue cruising).
There are 4 times you can get off your boat to relax and immerse yourself with stunning landscape of fascinatingly shaped rock formations, water and pagodas. The second time offers you a chance to do some trekking for half an hour to get to Den Tran temple where a god under Hung Vung time is worshipped.
Back to your boat for further cruising, you will go through Hang Toi cave, Hang Nau Ruou( the cave was used to make traditional rice wine. If you do not get off to visit pagodas and temple, your boat trip will take 2 hour. If you visit pagoda, it may take from 2.5 to 3.5 hour for the whole trip.
After the exploration from the 1st to 8th water tunnel caves in a circle, you will understand why we advise you to join Trang An legendary cruise tour in Vietnam. Drive back to Hanoi.
Hanoi Holiday Package Included:
Requested hotels, Private car English speaking tour guide, Meals: B, L
Enjoy big American breakfast at your hotel and free to explore Hanoi until your driver transfers you to Noi Bai domestic airport for the flight to Hue – a former capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945.
Arriving at Phu Bai airport, you will be picked up by the local tour guide of Deluxe Vietnam Tours. Then, transfer you to the central of Hue Royal capital. Start your tour of Hue by boarding a private dragon cruise to enjoy Hue's beautiful scenery along the romantic Perfume River. The boat trip begins from the city center to Thien Mu Pagoda.
The next visit of Hue tour today is the ancient charming Thien Mu Pagoda built in 1601 on a hill on the river bank. This charming pagoda offers chances for many beautiful photos. Here, you will also have chances to see the aged, pale blue Morris automobile which transferred a local monk to Saigon. He immolated himself here in 1963 in protest the anti-Buddhist laws of Ngo Dinh Diem - The South Vietnam President. Overnight in Hue city.
Vietnam Holiday Package Included:
Deluxe room at Moonlight hotel or similar 4star hotel, Private car, Tour guide, Meals: B
Formerly the capital of Vietnam, Hue was listed as UNESCO Culture Heritage Site in 1993. Besides the up and down history of Hue, you will explore the peaceful and charming city in the romantic setting of river, mountains, trees and the Royal architecture.
Enjoy a short drive from your hotel over beautiful Huong river to the forbidden city. With your tour guide’s introduction of the historical Capital, start to climb on the Flag Tower for a beautiful view of the charming riverside, the front of Ngo Mon gate and the forbidden city. Then, see 9 cannons carted in 1803, which Vietnamese people consider as the god of the citadel.
Then, you will explore the Citadel with a visit to the Imperial Museum where you see hunders of ancient objects in the Nguyen dynasty such as throne, kiệu vua, king bed, ngự y, dress of king's mother, Queen shoes, paintings.....
Following of today tour is the Forbidden Purple City. Here, your tour guide will show you where the King met the officials, how the King ran the meeting here and what evens could be arranged here. Your tour guide will show the difference of Hue Royal Palace and Bejing Royal Palace.
Continue your tour in Hue with the King Tu Duc tomb - Tomb but not tomb because it was also used as the second palace to relax when he was alive. Visiting this place you will learn the Royal life of the Kings in Nguyen dynasty. The place is divided into 2 parts - One with theather, family altor and the room where he took rest, the other part is a huge, romantic park including his believed tomb. Visiting a tomb, but you will have the feeling of getting lost in a romantic park. Overnight in Hue city.
Hanoi Tour Packages' Inclusion:
From 3star hotel, Private car, Tour guide, Entrance fees, Meals: B, L
After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy 2 hours scenic drive from Hue over Hai Van pass to see the whole charming scenery of the bay. Then, drive through Danang city to Hoi An – UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site.
Arriving in Hoi An ancient town, check-in at your hotel. You and our local guide will head into the charming town to discover the local taste - Hoi An street food tour. The food on foot tour around the old town with your guide offers chances to enjoy the specialty of the local food – Com Ga, Banh Mi Kep Thit, Hen Chon, Cao Lau, Bun Thit Nuong. Eat some of this, some of that.... so you can taste more difference.
Free time to explore Hoi An in the late afternoon. Enjoy a cup of coffee on the top roof of the Chef bar to see the whole Hoian is also amazing experience and explore the night market just about 5 minute walk from the resorts.
Vietnam Tour Package Included:
Requested or our recommended hotel, Private car, Tour guide, entrance fee, food tour, Meals: B, L
Hoian is the best town in Vietnam for Australian travelers. Enjoy a nice walking tour around this enchanting town through the narrow lanes lined with ancient houses influenced by Chinese, French, Japanese and European architectures. First stop at the 400 year old Japanese Covered Bridge with the mixed Vietnamese and Japanese architecture - Such a simple bridge but contains so much meanings. Then, explore the Phuc Kien Assembly Halls where you will learn how Chinese came here and did business since the 15th.
After that, your tour guide will take you to visit the 200- year old Tam Ky ancestral house where a Vietnamese family has been living and doing business here. It is the oldest traditional house and a typical model of combination for both doing business and living. After a cup of tea, the house owner will introduce their ancestors and the meaning of the decorated motifs in their house. It is so interesting to talk directly with them in English and French. Your Hoi An tour today also includes a visit to Chinese Assembly Halls where the Chinese coming here from different parts of China met and talked about their business opportunity and difficulty here. It was also time they could ask for help from the community. Next on your tour of Hoi An is your visit to Chua Ong Pagoda, one of the most charming pagoda in Hoian. There are many famous tailor shops for you to have a new wardrobe made up. Overnight in Hoi An (Meals: B)
Hanoi Holiday Package Included:
Hotel, Tour guide, Entrance fee, Meals: B
Note: Customize your Vietnam tour itinerary with us. Based on your style, we will plan your Hoi An tour today with Myson Culture Heritage Site of UNESCO( half day tour), Biking trip to the countryside(full day tour) or one of the famous tour activities in Hoi An - cooking class as follow:
8:00am your tour guide will meet you at the lobby and walk to cooking school where you will meet the chef for the market tour by boat in a small group. In the market you will learn the uses of different fresh noodles and how to buy the fresh fish, fresh and dried spices, fresh herbs and the uses in the recipes with medicinal purposes. Here, you also learn different types of rice and taste many different exotic fruits.
Join the boat back to Vy’s Market Restaurant where you will be introduced with many live food counters in this unique first-of-its-kind interactive dining venue in Vietnam. Here, you can see, smell, taste, tough and interact with many different food making processes. You can try samples from over 10 different food counters including Banh Mi, Dumplings, pickles, weird & wonderful foods, our rationing foods in Vietnam that were in place for 45 years… You can see rice paper being made from ground rice and water, laid out to dry on bamboo and then later roasted for rice crackers to be eaten with Hoi An chilli sauce and salads, various shapes and sizes of noodle. Experience the famous local noodle Cau Lau, see the noodles rolled out by hand and cut in the traditional way with long life and then steamed over an open fire. You may participate in many of the street food counters; cutting noodles, making rice papper and wontons, using the bun noodle machine and more.
The cooking lesion lasts about 2.5hours. Our teacher first demonstrate each dish before you prepare the same dishes yourself. After the lesion, you will eat what has been cooked. You will get a copy of the recipes and Vietnamese cooking utensil to take home. Recipes: 1/ Cabbage leaf parcels shrimp mouse in broth 2/ BBQ chicken & lime leaves 3/ Mango salad with prawns 4/ Crispy Hoi An pancakes with pork, prawns and bean sprouts
Hanoi Travel Packages' Inclusion:
Luxury hotel, tour guide, market tour, cooking tour, meals: B, L
Free at leisure until transfer to Danang airport for the flight home. From Danang international airport you can flight to Singapore, Bangkok, Siemreap…. End of the services
Vietnam Tour Package Included:
Private car,tour guide, meals: B
This Vietnam tour package can be extented to include amazing Mekong delta Vietnam or Angkor Wat in Siemreap.
Australian traveller rating
based on 338 holiday reviews
Mr. John & Mrs. Maureen - members of Australian group
From John Fish - email@example.com
To Thai - Deluxe Vietnam Tours - firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope this email finds you and your family in good health and prosperity. We have a very good friend of ours wishing to travel to Vietnam next May 2015 for a wedding and would like to have a tour of your beautiful country.
We have taken the liberty of giving them your email address so that they can contact you to organize a tour for them.We have also included their email address. They are David and Mary Currie.
Thank you and all the very best
John and Maureen Fish
Australian rating: 9.7/10 Excellent
Mr & Mrs Maureen Fish - a member of group
Phone +61 (0) 353608226
Add: 4059 Geelong Balland RD - MT Wakkace VIC 3342
Day 1: On the way to Vietnam From Australia
All tour members make final arrangements to depart for their 24 day tour of Vietnam and Cambodia, and travel to their respective capital cities to catch flights to Singapore. As usual there is a mixture of excitement, anticipation and slight trepidation as a number of the group assemble in Hamilton at 8.00 am to board a bus for the first leg of the journey to Tullamarine International Airport. We check in our large cases on arrival at the airport, and are free to enjoy a light lunch. Some of us browse the duty free shops and purchase Vietnamese Dong from the foreign currency exchange. How exciting: we now have a group of multi-millionaires travelling amongst us! $100 Australian dollars is equivalent to 1.9 million dong!
After clearing customs and immigration, we stroll through the final duty free area and slowly make our way towards our boarding gate for our flight SQ228 to Singapore. Our flight today is aboard the very spacious and impressive A380, and we enjoy a very smooth and remarkably quiet voyage, with the usual high standard of catering. On arrival at Changi International Airport, we meet up with the tour members from Queensland and New South Wales. The South Australian Contingent had an earlier flight and are already safely tucked up in bed at the hotel. We are met by a local guide who escorts us to a nicely air-conditioned bus for the very interesting drive to our hotel, with a spectacular view of the lights of Singapore. Check-in runs smoothly. We are very quickly allocated our room keys and all luggage is delivered to our rooms, which is very welcome after our flight.
Day 2: First amazing experience on Hanoi holiday
The start of our day is heralded with an early wakeup call so that all members can enjoy a delicious and impressive buffet breakfast before our early flight to Hanoi. During breakfast we catch up with the South Australians who all look a little fresher than the rest of us. We return to Changi International Airport by coach to board flight SQ176 to Hanoi. Although we proceed easily through check-in and board the plane on time, our flight is delayed and we are left in a queue on the tarmac waiting for clearance to take off. It is 12.10 noon when we eventually land at Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport, having made up time during the flight. There is a long delay passing through customs, with very long queues, and an additional delay waiting for luggage to be unloaded and arrive on the baggage carousel.
When all formalities are completed, we are greeted by the happy smiling face of Thai, our guide for the remainder of our Hanoi holiday. Thai escorts us to our coach for transfer to Sunway Hotel. En route to our hotel, Thai gives us some basic information on Vietnam, a country which extends along the Indochinese peninsula 11 degrees north of the equator within the tropics. Vietnam covers an area of approximately 128,000 square miles or 331,000 km , and borders China, Laos and Cambodia. It has a coastline of 3,260 kilometres stretching from the South China Sea to the Gulf of Tonkin. Today Vietnam has a population of 90 million and is divided into 64 provinces.
He also explains that although Hanoi is the capital, Ho Chi Minh City dominates the national economy. Hanoi has a population of approximately 6.5 million and is the second largest city in Vietnam. Most of Hanoi’s area lies within the low flood plain of the Red River, traditionally the site of int ensive wet rice agriculture.
On our drive from the airport, which is approximately 40 kilometres north of the city, we pass the Hanoi ceramic mosaic mural. Work commenced in 2007 and the 4 kilometre wall was completed in 2010 to commemorate the Millennial Anniversary of Hanoi in October 2010. The mosaic wall is made of era i tessera fro t r n or elain. Hanoi features a warm humid sub tropical climate with plentiful precipitation. Put simply, the weather is divided into 2 main seasons: the rainy season from January to September and the dry season from Oct to April. The city experiences the typical climate of northern Vietnam with hot and humid summers and cold and dry winters. The majority of rainfall (1,680 mm or 66.1 inches) is received in summer from May to September. Today is no exception with a temperature of 34° C. The average humidity in June is 75%.
It is 3.00 pm when we arrive at our hotel and all members enjoy some time to rest and freshen up before re-assembling in the hotel foyer for our first real taste of this amazing city. At 5.00 pm we all board our individual rickshaws for a truly breathtaking and memorable ride through the Old Quarter to the Opera House. What a phenomenal experience! We weave our way through literally thousands of scooters and pedestrians and soak up the sights, sounds and smells of this extraordinary city. The government statistics indicate that there are 3.5 million bikes in Hanoi, but the suggestion is that this figure is a very conservative one. The Old Quarter is the oldest and most lively commercial district in Hanoi. It is simply buzzing with noise and activity. We have had first amazing experience on Hanoi holiday.
On our ride we experience the extreme contrasts of the city seeing the designer shops such as Louis Vuitton, Cartier etc and the local produce and goods being sold in the street. We reluctantly disembark from our rickshaws (which are all registered) and stop to admire the Hanoi Opera House which opened in 1911 and is a fine example of French-colonial architecture.
This evening, we have a welcome dinner at Wild Lotus Restaurant During the dinner we enjoy some typical Vietnamese music as well as a rendition of “Click to the Shears”, which is very leasing to a group of Australian travelers.
Day 3: Hanoi city tour
All tour members assemble in the Hotel foyer at 8.30 am after a lovely breakfast in the rooftop restaurant. It is very warm and humid. The top temperature for today is 34° C, with an overnight low of 27° C. This morning we have a city tour and we pass through tree lined streets in heavy traffic. The streets are choked with scooters, many laden with produce, and to our amazement many of the drivers are also talking on mobiles phones. No-one is obeying road rules but everyone is driving sedately, including our bus which is cruising along at a very respectable 35 kmph. Thai has already given us the heads up on traffic and road etiquette in Vietnam. We initially thought he was joking, but we now realize he was very serious!
Hanoi City comprises an area known as Hoan Liem District bordered by the Red River embankment in the east and the rail line in the north and west. West of this central district are so e of Hanoi’s most impressive monuments: the former Imperial City, Ho Chi Min h’s Mausoleum and in the south the ancient walled gardens of the Temple of Literature. The large lake, called West Lake, sits north of the city, harbouring a number of temples and pagodas as well as some upmarket residential areas and luxury hotels. We enjoy a visit to Quan Thanh Temple which was estalished from 1010-1028. The temple has been renovated many times and a very large black bronze statue of Tran Vu which measures around 4 metres and weighs 4 tonnes dominates the altar. Locals often come here to worship and pray for health, luck and happiness. The temple is only a short walk from Truc Bach Lake where we see a memorial to an American Pilot who was shot down in October 1967, crashed into the lake, was rescued, and subsequently imprisoned. The pilot was a future American Senator and presidential candidate, John McCain. Walking around the lake is one highlight of our Hanoi holiday in term of peace, beauty and friendness of local people who you meet and talk here.
There are 600 or more Pagodas in Hanoi, with the oldest built in 444. We also visit the Temple of Literature which was established in 1070. It served as a centre for higher learning, educating future Mandarins for more than seven centuries, and was founded in honour of the Chinese Philosopher Confucius. I am sure that temple of literature is the best temple to visit on Hanoi holidays. We then join a long queue in searing heat to visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. Inaugurated on the 29th August 1975, the mausoleum is 21.6 metres high and 41.2 metres wide. In the central hall of the mausoleum the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh lies, preserved in the cooled and darkened hall protected by a military honour guard. The doors of the mausoleum are made from precious Tay Nguyen wood and in the lobby the words “nothing is more valuable than independence and freedom” are insprised with Ho Chi Minh’s signature lated with gold.
Around the mausoleum there are 79 viva trees to represent 79 years of the life of the former President. He was born in 1890 at Hoang Tru village, and after studying in Hue left Vietnam in 1911 to travel the world. Influenced by socialist ideologies, during his stay in Europe he founded communist organizations in Paris, Moscow and China. He returned to Vietnam in 1941 and formed the Vietnamese Independence League. He became president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1946. Although Ho Chi Minh died six years before reunification, Vietnam’s independence is considered his greatest achievement.
The group then enjoys lunch in the local restaurant Thang Long, along with some lunchtime musical entertainment. We enjoyed not only food butalo the traditional music. You should take a chance to listen to Vietnamese music on your holiday Hanoi. After lunch we re-board the bus for the drive to the Bát Tràng pottery village. We drive along the top of the dyke again, noting the price of fuel: 21,250 dong per litre ($1.09 AUD). When we arrive at the village, we stop at Minh Hai Ceramics, a family run business. The bulk of their product is exported to countries such as New Zealand, America, Japan, Korea, Brazil, Australia, Turkey and the Netherlands. The manufacturing area is 3, 000 m , and they also have a large 2 shipping area of 1, 000 m . They are currently exporting between 1-2 million USD per annum. The company has recently made gifts for APEC leaders. We walk through the various manufacturing stages and then finish our visit in the showroom.
It is now very hot and we return to the comfort of the air-conditioned bus to venture back to the city for a performance at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. Water puppetry dates back almost one thousand years, originating in the Red River Delta. It is an authentic expression of Vietnamese culture and a unique experience for us all. The program consists of a musical prelude, and 9 further items. The performance concludes with the curtain rising to show the puppeteers standing waist deep in water. There is sufficient time to shower and change before dinner at Thien Thai Hotel Restaurant.
Day 4: Hanoi countryside tour - Sapa
It is 8.30 am when we leave our Hotel under overcast skies. Hanoi suffered a significant storm overnight with lightening, thunder and rain, which has at least tamed the humidity slightly. We have condensed our luggage to facilitate loading and unloading of carry-on luggage for our train journey. Once again, we find ourselves in heavy traffic during peak hour for our journey to a farming village, As progress is slow in the traffic, we have plenty of time for Thai to give us some valuable information on agriculture, his family and their farming background. Although his father is a retired university teacher, his mother continued farming until five years ago and is currently leasing her farm. The meagre earning from farms is a major factor for his family not continuing on with farming. If they do not plant on their land, they are required to give it back to the Government. Consequently his mother pays local neighbours to plant on their land. His mother pays an amount of $25 per 360sqm to plant.
There are two different types of holdings: land owned by the local bureau stipulates that you can build a house and grow food; land that belongs to the Government requires a fee paid for insect protection, security and water taxes, however you cannot build a house. Fertilizer is a major expense for farmers here, and it is 20-30% higher than the cost in surrounding countries. They can buy fertilizer from China for 4,500 dong, but with added tax and transaction fees it sells for 8, 000 dong per kg (0.41 cents). A lot of factories do produce fertilizer locally, but 60% of their production costs are for gas and electricity. The cost for local farmers to buy feed for animals is approximately 20% higher than surrounding countries. In response to a question, Thai explains that small transactions are paid for by cash and there is no paperwork involved. This is a big problem for the Government as they are missing out on significant tax collection. The normal tax rate here is 10%, but income under 9 million dong is tax exempt. We pass many large car outlets, including Hyundai, Honda and Toyota. We now turn off the highway and are travelling in a north west direction.
On reaching the local village we have to leave our bus and walk through the narrow streets to the farm land. Figure 1 Daily life in the fields There is so much activity: we see people working in fields attending to rice crops, and we see a rice harvesting machine, some men making boomerangs and even cock fighting! When we reach our destination, we are addressed by the farmer who is producing ducks, pigs and dogs. The ducks are fed on a mixture of rice and corn mill and are sold live at 6-70 days old. They produce around 3, 000 ducks and sell five times a year. When sold, the duck weighs around 6-8 kg and they are paid 40,000 dong per kilo ($2.06 AUD). The pigs are bred for meat and sold at 80-100 kg. Each sow has between 8-15 piglets. We are amazed at the number of dogs, but nervous to ask the reason why. We are told they are for protection and are also bred for meat which is sold for food.
Figure 2 Sow and her piglets Thai's family farm After thanking the farmer and making a small presentation, we weave our way back through the fields inspecting ducks, pigs, dogs, cattle and our first close look at water buffalo. It is now a very hot 36° C and incredibly humid, a real energy zapping at os here. In the middle of the villa, we are very fortunate to meet hai’s wife and children who have travelled out from the city especially. Our bus returns us to the city for lunch at Ngon Restaurant. There are security guards in green uniforms who see our bus pull up and they stand by to oversee us embarking and re-boarding the bus. It is 1.15 pm when we leave the restaurant after another very tasty typical Vietnamese lunch. We are now travelling on the highway and cross the Red River. There are banana plantations, with various fruit and vegetables growing amongst the bananas and corn plots.
The speed limit is still only 50 kmph on this major highway, so the scenery outside the window of the bus is not whizzing by! Our first technical visit this afternoon on Hanoi holiday is to the Hanoi University of Agriculture. The University is located in Trau Quy township in Gia Lam district. Upon arrival, we are met by 4 staff and escorted to the Conference room in the first floor of the administration building. We are welcomed by an Associate Professor of Agriculture and made to feel very welcome as their first group of Australian visitors. We reply explaining that we are a delegation from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, and we elaborate on the purpose and duration of our visit. The staff then gives us a brief introduction to the Hanoi University of Agriculture which was established on the 12th October 1956 and was one of the first in Vietnam. It is now one of 16 national key Universities and has a campus area of 200 hectares. The University has 13 faculties comprising Agronomy, Animal Science and Aquaculture, Veterinary Medicine, Land Resources Management and Environment, Engineering, Economics and Rural Development, Accounting and Business Management, Political and Social Sciences, Food Science and Technology, Information Technology, Biotechnology, Education and Foreign Languages, and National Defence Education.
There is a total of 1,262 staff, including 4 Professors, 72 Associate Professors, 104 Senior Lecturers, 507 Lecturers and administration staff overseeing 25,000 students. Annual enrolments total 9, 000, with 7, 000 full time and 2, 000 part time graduates. Included in this number are around 1,250 Master students and 100 Doctoral students. International cooperation is a strength of the Hanoi University of Agriculture. They have student and staff exchanges from all over the world, including the University of Sydney, and the Queensland University of Technology from Australia, and countries such as Belgium, America, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, China, Mongolia and Africa. Associate Professor Dr Vu Dinh Tan then gives us a presentation on the production of animal husbandry in Vietnam. The Professor explains that Vietnam is only 2, 000 kilometres in length from North to South and has 8 ecological regions – Northeast, Northwest, Red River Delta, North Central Coast, South Central Coast, Central Highlands, Southwest and Mekong River Delta. Within these regions are villages, communes, districts and Provinces.
He then gives us an overview of agriculture in Vietnam. Vietnam is the second largest exporter of rice in the world, with mainly 2 crops per year. Of all the rice exported, 95% comes from the Mekong River Delta. The Central Highlands produces coffee, rubber, pepper and cashew nuts, with the largest areas planted to coffee. Other major food crops are sugarcane, cassava (manioc), corn (maize), sweet potatoes and nuts. There are many plantations of bananas, coconut and citrus trees, most of them found in the Mekong Delta and southern terrace regions. Sheep graze only in the South Central Coast. Animal production has enjoyed an average growth rate of 10% from 2000 to 2010. Respectively, pork meat has increased by 11%, 9.5% for beef meat, 8.5% for poultry meat, and up to 32% for milk. The country is home to approximately 3 million buffalo, 8.9 million cattle, 82.3 million ducks, 28.2 million chickens, and 27 million pigs. He claims agriculture is a 27 billion dollar business, with most (65%) being small scale farms. These farms have less than 10 animals. They face many challenges in animal production, but the main ones are the control of epidemic disease, a strong fluctuation in the price of animal products, low competiveness of animal products and environmental pollution. They are also affected by climate change. The sea level is increasing and if it increases by 1 metre they will lose 20% of their country. They are trying to limit the effects of climate change, n evertheless, they are experiencing colder winters, shorter springs and more typhoons. At the completion of his address we have an opportunity to ask questions. Some of the more interesting are regarding the import system. We are told the Government decides what type of meat can be imported and the quantity. They do not have a fly problem, but foot and mouth disease is a concern here. We also learn that they are using organic fertilizers to improve cultivated land. As we have another pressing appointment, we show our appreciation, with a presentation of Australian gifts before returning to our bus.
Our next visit on Hanoi holiday is to the Fruit and Vegetable Research Institute (FAVRI) Viên Nghiên Cuu Rau Qua. Ironically, we have to drive through a flower and fruit and vegetable market to reach the Institute. Once again, we are warmly welcomed by one of the Doctors, and Thai works as our interpreter. The Institute was founded in 1990 and has a total staff of 308, including 156 permanent staff, with the remainder contracted employees. There are 2 Professors, 19 Doctors, 85 Masters and 92 Bachelor engineers, and 25 research assistants. The Institute manages an area of 117 hectares, comprising 86.5 hectares for the head office and 30.3 hectares for the Citrus Research and Development Centre. The major role of FAVRI isfor research and for imparting the technology of selecting, breeding and developing varieties of vegetables, fruits and flowers. FAVRI also tests the quality of fruits, vegetables and flowers, establishes programs, projects and scientific plans, and oversees the technology of post- harvest and processing. There are six departments: biology, technology, harvest, quality, market and economy. In the past 10 years, FAVRI has selected and bred 17 fruit cultivars, 24 vegetable and spicy crops and 19 flower and ornamental crops. Many improvements and developments have been made, such as mangoes which can be eaten green or yellow (the GL6 variety imported from Australia), a new type of thin skinned pineapple, an early harvest orange with fewer seeds and higher quality fruit, new tomatoes with a short maturity of 60 days, a new type of grafted tomato, chilli es selected for high production and anti-virus properties, and cucumbers with a higher quality and production. All tour members then walk through the fruit and vegetable plots before thanking our hosts and returning to our bus for the journey to our local restaurant for dinner. It appears a storm is brewing and while we enjoy our dinner the light show begins and the heavens open. Thai has raced out and bought us all ponchos to keep us dry.
Day 5: Laocai - Sapa tour
That is only the beginning of our evening’s entertainment. We board our train “The Orient express” for our overnight journey to Lao Cai. What an experience! SATURDAY 8TH JUNE –Day 5 Our train pulls into Lao Cai station at 7.00 am, a little behind schedule. We are met by our local guide who has two vans waiting to transfer us to Sapa, a distance of about 40 kilometres. Lao Cai is 200 metres above sea level and Sapa lies 1, 600 metres above sea level. It is a windy climb to our breakfast stop. The journey is picturesque and we see corn crops, buffalo strolling on the road and our first glimpse of the terraced fields. During our journey this morning, Thai , our tour guide explains that they grow only one crop a year in this area, as it is too cold in winter. The farmers are starting to plant rice now, which fortunately coincides with our visit. The local petrol station is selling fuelfor 24,000 dong per litre ($1.23 AUD). We see the proposed new highway from Hanoi to Sapa under construction. After a long train trip everyone is looking forward to breakfast which is presented as a buffet style. Sapa is incredibly picturesque, perched on the eastern slopes of the Hoang Lien Mountains (also known as the Tonkinese Alps). Some 8 kilometres from Sapa is Mount Fansipan, the ountry’s highest peak at 3, 143 metres. It is the cascading rice terraces and lush vegetation that are most appealing and provide so many photo opportunities. Sapa is a quiet mountain town set on several levels joined by small sloping streets and steep flights of steps. It is home to a great diversity of hill and ethnic people. After disembarking from our two buses, we congregate in the foyer of our hotel where we are able to leave our luggage in storage, so that we are free to peruse the local Sapa market. With stall after stall, it is almost overwhelming and we are fortunate to have Thai to keep an eye on us all. We have to say Sapa scenery will be the highlight of our Hanoi holiday.
There is an enormous variety of fresh produce which is extremely interesting to us all. Many of the goods are unfamiliar to us, especially in the meat section. We note that the fresh whole fish is selling for a very reasonable 80,000 dong per kilogram ($4.13 AUD). Figure 3 Fresh produce Sapa market It is then back out into the lovely fresh air to walk through the township to the local Catholic Holy Rosary Church. The 6, 000 m2 church is built entirely from stone, including the walls, floors and belltower. The church was built by the French in the early 20th century. Lunch today is in the Sapa View Restaurant and we are fortunate to be sitting upstairs with an uninterrupted panoramic outlook.
After lunch, we walk back to check into the Chau Long Hotel which has a beautiful outlook of the mountain range. We return to our buses for the short drive south of Sapa township, where we leave our buses and set off on our hike to Cat Cat village. Cat Cat is at the bottom of the Muong Hoa valley and is home to the Black Hmong, who live in houses of mud, wattle, bamboo and thatch surrounded by vats of indigo-coloured liquid which is used to dye their clothing. It is a fairly steep descent down to the lovely waterfall where we take a break to see a local dance performance. We then face a steep climb back up the slopes to meet our bus. Figure 4 Terraced rice fields Sapa In total we have walked over 7 kilometres. Some members who are enjoying an afternoon of “rest” eet u with an Australian businessman from Adelaide. The businessman is having a brief holiday in Vietnam. They engage in an interesting and frank discussion over a cup of coffee. The businessman is very open and explains that he works for a Chinese based company which buys wine from South Australia. The wine is labelled and packaged (with a Chinese label) and then exported to China. The owner of the business apparently has “strong Government connections”, which seems to be very important for the development and success of any business venture. The gentleman travels regularly to China and in fact has come directly from China to Vietnam before returning to Australia. Coincidentally, the businessman and his wife are having dinner in the Red Camelia Restaurant with us this evening.
Day 6: Sapa tour - second top of Hanoi holiday
We have the luxury of a late start this morning, after a relaxed breakfast in the restaurant, with an extraordinary view of the mountains. We leave the hotel at 9.00 am in two buses, with Thanh as a guide on one bus and Thai on the other. The road is narrow and winding, flanked with bamboo. When we turn onto the highway the vegetation is very lush and green and the roads are lined with birches. Sapa has a population of approximately 100,000 and the Province is home to 800,000. The residents experience sub-tropical summers, temperate winters and 160 days of mist annually. The rugged mountainous hinterland of Northern Vietnam is covered in a thick canopy of evergreen forest, with a diverse biosphere of flora and fauna. These thick forests shelter tropical and sub tropical flora ranging from towering rainforest, dwarf bamboos and tiny ferns to creeping vines, exquisite orchids and colourful rhododendrons. Many animals, in particular some endemic to Vietnam, are under threat. There are now sustained conservation and reforestation measures in place to protect endangered species. Low cloud now covers the mountains but we see many roses growing on terraces, and fruit stalls on the side of the road selling pears, apples, plums and peaches. We also have a view of Silver Waterfall. Heaven Gate is the highest pass in Vietnam at 2, 070 metres. In winter, light snow falls here. However, today, we have low cloud obscuring our view and a brisk breeze. Photos are not really an option but we have a few minutes to purchase local products and handicrafts from stalls.
Our next stop is to a Salmon farm which was established in 2005 with 25,000 eggs. This privately owned business had its first crop in 2006. The owners have improved their operation over time and with experience, but initially, checking water temperature and oxygen levels was a big issue. Currently they have 20 engineers working full time. They have Silver and White Salmon here however, this year, 10 tonnes of Salmon died due to hotter weather than usual which resulted in the water reaching a temperature of 17 C° (too high). There is an opportunity to inspect the various tanks housing baby fish up to the mature fish ready to sell. The baby fish need special care and their food is important. The fish are sold fresh to markets as well as all over Vietnam and Asia. The fish are transported live and not refrigerated. The wholesale price to Asia is $15 per kg. The only fish they kill here are the fish used in their own restaurant. They also have Sturgeon (a Russian fish) which gains 2 grams in 2 months and 10 grams in weight after 4 months. They sell these young ones for 45,000 – 50,000 dong. We then see fish being weighed and moved to a separate tank ready for sale. They weigh out 24 kg of water and add 16 kg of fish for a total weight of 40 kg. This is done manually and the young women are doing all the heavy lifting. Our bus then takes us to a farm growing choko. Thai explains that Sapa is not the best area for growing fruit and vegetables. The climate is not suitable for most varieties grown under the sky. If glass house is built, Sapa will produce the best quality of vegetables, and the majority of produce here is imported from China (around 50%). The other problem is that the farmers receive no advice on what is best to plant. Farmers tend to plant what they like, instead of what is suited to the conditions. However, the choko are growing very well and they sell for between 7,000 – 5,000 dong per kilogram depending on the time and size of harvest. The fresh air has made us hungry (surprise surprise) ! Lunch is once again a real celebration of Vietnamese cuisine. After lunch we board our buses for the short journey to the villages of Lao Chai and Tavan - best villages for Hanoi holiday. En route we see some buffalo for which you can expect to pay between $3,000 to $19,000 USD per beast. The cold climate is harsh and can kill the buffalo, so they are hard to look after in winter.
The Hmong or Meo are one of the largest ethnic minority groups in Vietnam. They emigrated from China to Vietnam in the early 19th century and settled in the northern highlands. Although each group has its own unique costume with distinctive designs, nearly all the clothes of minority ethnic groups are made from hemp, dyed with a deep indigo blue colour and embroidered with decorations. The women usually wrap their long hair along the head and wear a turban of their group. The Black Hmong are distinguished by their black dyed clothing. The men usually do the more physical work like building houses, making agricultural implements, ploughing and threshing, whilst the women do the planting, weeding, harvesting, preparing food and making clothes. It is a long walk along a winding track to the village. We have the opportunity to talk to the local ladies who are keen to sell us their products. We also see rice being transplanted in the fields, and some buffalos wandering. These are certainly agricultural processes unfamiliar to us. The scenery is just superb and there is so much to see.
Day 7: Sapa - Queen of Hanoi holidays
After a busy few days, everyone enjoys some free time this morning and many enjoy a massage which they not only find beneficial but good value, with a reasonable fee for the various types of massages. It is 12.15 pm when we check out of the hotel and walk up a steep incline to our restaurant for lunch. After lunch we board our coaches to drive to Ta Phin village, about 10 kilometres from Sapa. We pass through a low -slung valley that is carved with curved rice terracing. This is so beautiful: a postcard picture. We pass buffalo grazing on the side of the road and see corn and choko growing. There is a fee of 20,000 dong ($1.03 AUD) to pay to enter the village which goes towards maintaining the road.
As our buses approach the village we are mobbed by the local Red Hmong ladies keen to greet us and make a sale! Figure 5 Red Hmong ladies with handicrafts & baby What an experience – their enthusiasm and persistence is to be admired. Their questions are embedded in our brains forever : “What is your name?” “Where you from?” “How many children?” “How many boys?” “You buy from me?” The ladies all speak a degree of English, but some have an excellent grasp on our language, which they apparently learn from tourists like ourselves. They act as personal tour guides for our walk throughout the village and are very friendly but respectful. We are able to go inside one of the houses where 11 people from 3 generations live. We also inspect rice fields as well as a number of vegetable plots growing cabbage, corn, artichoke etc.
Figure 6 Rice fields Ta Phin Village At the end of our visit, tour members purchase some local handicraft from the ladies before re-boarding the bus. When we turn back onto the highway it is 31 kilometres to Lao Cai. On arrival at Lao Cai we drive to Lao Cai Border gate in the north of the city to see the Ho Kieu Bridge which connects Vietnam to Yunnan Province in China. Whilst there, we witness some pomp and ceremony as a delegation from each country crosses and meets in the centre of the bridge. After dinner at Viet Emotion Restaurant it is back to the railway station to catch our train for our overnight return trip to Hanoi.
Day 8: Hanoi - Halong bay, king of all Hanoi holidays Although our train arrives late into Hanoi, our bus and driver are waiting for us. We depart the station at 6.05 am and the streets are already congested. It is overcast this morning, but less humid than when we left Hanoi. The local parks and squares are full of groups doing Tai Chi and participating in morning exercise classes. Most notably the streets are adorned with red and gold banners to commemorate the 65 year anniversary of Ho Chi Minh’s insti ation of his oli y for good work and development of the country. Our first stop is to our old Hotel to check off, collect and load all our cases to continue our journey today. We then drive to Quang Ba wholesale flower market, which is a sea of stalls, people, colour and blooms from orchids, hydrangeas, chrysanthemum, lotus flowers, roses, banana flowers, miniature agapanthus, white sta tice, gerberas, cosmos, snapdragons, lisianthus, gladiolas, everlastings, sunflowers and lilies, just to mention a few. Many of the flowers are grown locally like the lilies from Dalat, whilst some are imported from Holland and Thailand.
Long stemmed roses Personnel at the stalls selling the long stemmed perfect roses firstly unwrap the paper off the blooms, remove any non-perfect petals and re-wrap the bloom with clear plastic tape. There are literally thousands of roses: that is dedication and quality control at its best. It is now time for breakfast with Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su restaurant which is familiar to us, being where we enjoyed our welcome dinner on our first night in Hanoi. After breakfast we re-board the bus for our journey to Halong bay, a distance of about 180 kilometres. We see a large Buddhist cemetery and with many questions posed to Thai, he explains the process of burial in simple terms. The dead are buried in a wooden coffin but after at least three years the coffin is taken up and moved to a permanent house. Usually the children of the deceased wear white. They also believe that the Spirit of the deceased has to go through 7 gates. The position and direction of burial is in accordance with Feng Shui and the year of birth and the year of death. For example, Thai was born in 1976, the year of the dragon.
we are stopped by the traffic Police who check the driver’s licence and check in our bus. There are many people working in the fields picking up “ baby rice” which was planted approximately 25 days ago and is between 20-25 centimetres in length. After a stop for the “happy room ” we continue on our way and Thai has an opportunity to give us more detailed information on rice production and harvesting. Rice is still the most important crop in Vietnam and involves 70% of the working population. There are two types of cultivation: wet rice and dry rice. In Vietnam the dominant rice growing system is irrigated lowland. Despite advances in rice production, much of the work involved is still carried out manually without modern machinery. Fields are ploughed and harrowed with water buffaloes, seeds are planted by hand, and when the seedlings reach a certain age they have to be individually uprooted and transplanted to another field to avoid root rot. This process is mostly undertaken by women and we have seen plenty of examples of this, with the women in their conical hats bent over in the fields. The three major cropping seasons are winter-spring, summer-autumn and the wet season. When the rice is ready to harvest the plants are thigh high and turning yellow. At this point they are in about 30 centimetres of water. The drooping fronds are cut by hand, and then transported to thrashing machines that separate the husk from the plant. Other machines are used to dehusk the rice to produce brown rice or polish it for the white rice. At this stage they spread the rice along the road to dry before milling. Other interesting facts on rice Thai imparts to us are that at 4 weeks the rice needs 5 centimetres of water to keep it alive, and it usually matures in 2½-3 months. In winter the farmer often covers his field with plastic at night to protect the baby rice from the cold. Dry rice cultivation is only in areas where there is a shortage of water. There is no cost or tax for the water used in the rice fields. A little further along we see pineapples growing and shrimp breeding ponds.
On arrival in Halong City we drive directly to the port where we disembark and transfer, along with our luggage, to our very impressive boat, which is our home for the next day. The crew are well prepared and we enjoy a delightful lunch with magnificent views of the bay. Halong Bay which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site covers an area of 1,500 km2 and is bordered on the South and Southeast by the Gulf of Tonkin, on the north by China and on the west and southwest by Cá Bà Island. It has a coastline of 120 kilometres and boasts more than 2,000 pinnacle shaped limestone and dolomite outcrops. Figure 9 Halong Bay Halong Bay has a tropical wet sea islands climate with two seasons: a hot and moist summer and a dry and cold winter. The annual rainfall is between 2 and 2.2 metres. After lunch there is just enough time to check into our rooms, shower and head off to explore the island of Dao Titop. The beach is an attraction for some, while a hike to the top of the inlet is more appealing to the athletes amongst us.
Before dinner we have a Vietnamese Cooking Class which is informative and entertaining. Dinner this evening aboard our boat provides a wonderful display of Vietnamese cuisine. Figure 10 Incredible detail in the food presentation There are spectacular views as the sun sets this evening. WEDNESDAY 12TH JUNE – Day 9 After a very early breakfast and some more photos on the deck, it is off to explore the Sung Sot cave, a short boat ride to Bo Hon Island. The cave covers an area of 12,200 m2 and has 3 main compartments. It is well worth the effort to climb the stairs to experience the display of rock formations. We are returned to our oat “Vi tory” id ornin where we enjoy a deli ious brunch. It is 11.30 am when we leave our floating hotel, load our luggage and board our bus. It is very hot again today with the temperature already at 35° C. The highway traffic is constant and there are notably fewer scooters, with more buses and mini buses in this area. We pass through another tollway before stopping at Viet Pearl at 12.00 noon. The group is ushered into an air-conditioned conference room and is addressed by a representative of the company. The purpose of our visit this afternoon is to investigate and learn about pearl production. We also watch a short video and handle some of thejewellery. Most pearls are produced by oysters in both freshwater and saltwater environments. Oysters are bivalves and their shell is made of two parts or valves. These valves are held together by an elastic ligament which keeps the valves open so the oyster can eat. As the oyster grows, its shell also grows. The antle is the or an that rodu es the oyster’s shell and the aterial reated y the mantle is called nacre which lines the inside of the shell. A natural pearl is formed when a f oreign substance slips into the oyster between the mantle and the shell. These are rare and very expensive. Cultured pearls are created in the same way, but the harvester opens the oyster shell and cuts a small slit in the mantle tissue. Small irritants are then inserted under the mantle. For the freshwater cultured pearls, cutting the mantle is sufficient to induce the nacre secretion in order to produce a pearl. Pearl oysters are sensitive and following this grafting procedure they are returned to the water for growing. Healthy oysters are less likely to reject a nucleus and produce higher quality cultured pearls. In this area the oyster shells are returned to water between 5-6 metres deep. The seed pearls are cultured in Halong Bay, whilst freshwater pearls are cultured in central Vietnam.
We are shown how to test if the pearl is real by burning the side of the pearl. A change in colour signifies that the jewellery is made from plastic and is not genuine. Another test is to scratch the item on glass; if powder comes off and the remaining piece is rough, once again the item is not genuine. Real pearls will still feel smooth and not scratch. Another handy tip to preserve the pearls in a good condition is to keep them out of heat and sit them near a glass of water. They can also be cleaned with fresh water and a soft cloth. Apparently the southern pearls are the most expensive and if we were to buy a necklace it would cost $8, 000 USD. Many group members do buy various pieces of pearl jewellery from the helpful and efficient staff.
We reboard our bus at 1.00 pm. Continuing on our way we see a coal mine on the right-hand side of the bus. Thai explains that Vietnam has around 52 active coal mines. The coal is mainly anthracite coal which is ideal for the production of electricity. The mines are majority owned and controlled by the state owned Vinacomin via the Coal and Mineral Corporation (TKV). They control all aspects of the operation from the amount of coal produced to the selling price of the coal. Consequently TKV controls the revenue and profits of every coal mine. This is a major problem and coal is still taken illegally, with a lot of coal taken into China. Mu h of Vietna ’s oal reserves lay thousands of etres under round beneath the Red River basin, estimated to be 20 times larger than the largest coal mining area in Quang Ninh.
Because the coal mines are generally open cast mines which generate a lot of air and water pollution, the coal is mined at a huge environmental cost. From this area alone 4 million tonnes have been extracted. Most extra coal requirements are met by importing coal from Indonesia and Australia. On the left-hand side of the bus, we see the mining of limestone and Thai flippantly adds that many mountains have been eaten by cement factories.
Vietnam also has significant deposits of gemstones, especially rubies and sapphires, predominantly in the northwest. Vietnam exports a lot of tea, especially the “snow ountain” la k tea whi h is grown at a high altitude (more than 1, 000 metres). This partic ular tea has a sweet floral and honey aroma. A little further along we stop to see some rice harvesting. In this case the farmer has engaged a contractor. For an area of 360 m2 the farmer pays $9 (USD) to harvest his crop and $10 (USD)for the truck.
Our next stop is at Hoang Tan to look at the produce made by disabled people, who live and work on the premises. We are able to see them making a variety of goods, and of course we purchase some of their products. We are reassured that they receive a portion or percentage of the income from the goods sold. On our journey we encounter a lot of road works, with major road developments taking place to widen the 2 lane highway into 4 lanes.
What makes your Hanoi holiday a lifetime experience? There are many flights connecting Australia and New zealand to Vietnam, flying either direct or via some Southeast Asia gateway airports like Bankok, Hongkong, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. The direct flights to Vietnam are provided by Vietnam airlines and Qantas.
From Australia, there are frequent direct flights to Hanoi and Saigon with Qantas and Vietnam airlines. From New zealand, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Singapore airlines fly to Hanoi. There are low season price and high season price. The low season starts from May 1st to the end of Sept. It is a great chance for Australian travelers on Hanoi holidays to stay away from the cold winter. They can get soaked with the sunshine in Trangan - World Natural Heritage Site 120km from Hanoi and kayaking and relaxe for sunbathing on the beach in fascinating Halong bay - among one of 7 New Natural Wonders.
Also located in Asia, the Hanoi holiday style for the travelers from Australia and New zealand is very different in comparision with tourists from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and The Philipines. The same destinations in and around Hanoi with different activities are arranged for Australian and New zealand tourists
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