Hanoi, Vietnam?s vibrant capital, is where our adventure begins. Arrive by early afternoon to meet your fellow travelers and guide at our hotel in the scenic Old Quarter. A mix of old and new, modern and colonial, Hanoi?s architecture is a fusion of Chinese and French influences. We set off with our guide on a fun-filled food tour. As we wind through the streets, we experience the pulse of the city. Here, food stalls steam and crackle, emanating fragrant smells of traditional recipes perfected over generations. Bustling with locals and visitors alike, the energy on the streets is electric and the food is simply delicious. Dinner included.
Walking: 2 hours
For the early risers, join in (or simply observe) the Vietnamese morning routines of tai chi, aerobics, and calisthenics at Hoan Kiem Lake. It?s Hanoi?s equivalent of Central Park and a great way to experience the daily life of city residents. After breakfast, we depart for the port of Halong Bay where we board our private boat for the more remote area of Halong, Bai Tu Long Bay. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this area is filled with limestone karst islands that jut from the clear blue waters. After lunch, we kayak and swim in this spectacular bay. Following a sunset dinner, relax on the deck or try your hand at night fishing from the boat. All meals included.
Walking: 1 hour; Kayaking: 2?3 hours (on calm waters); Van transfer: 3 hours
Wake up with tai chi on the sundeck and breakfast on the water. Afterward, we slip into our kayaks to explore Vung Vieng, a sheltered, floating fishing village in an idyllic cove. Here, many families carve out a unique lifestyle of trade, mostly in marine resources, which dates back generations. Our paddle continues to the eerie and expansive ecosystem of Thien Canh Son Cave, where we walk past dripping stalactites and through the massive lantern-lit cave. Take a break and enjoy a delicious lunch as we cruise to our next destination. At Hai Quan, we slip back into our kayaks to explore its stunning karst mountains. For dinner, join a cooking demonstration on the deck where we'll learn the secrets of Vietnam's revered cuisine, and then enjoy a freshly prepared feast. After dinner, play a spirited card game or try your luck at fishing. All meals included.
Kayaking: 2?3 hours; Cave exploring: 1 hour
On our way back to Hanoi, we visit a small village where traditional water puppetry is performed by local artists. Water puppetry dates to the 11th century as a form of entertainment in villages. In rice paddy fields, villagers would stand in waist deep water using puppets to perform on the water. It's an entertaining show for kids and adults alike. From Hanoi, we fly to Hue for the next leg of our adventure. On arrival, we head to our hotel and have the evening free. Our family-friendly resort has an inviting pool and a wide variety of Vietnamese and other international cuisines. For those who want to venture into Hue for dinner, many options are just a short distance from the hotel. Breakfast and lunch included.
Flight: 1.5 hours; Van transfer: 3 hours
Hue is a beautiful city with both ancient and modern significance and was of strategic importance during the Vietnam War. A morning boat ride on the Perfume River takes us to the famous Citadel. We take time to explore the highlights of this iconic structure, then hop on bikes to venture out on quiet rural roads to visit a kite-making shop. Kites have a long tradition in Vietnam, and we learn firsthand the art of kite-making from a famous local artisan. Decorate your kite and keep it to fly at home! Tonight, dinner is a team effort as we help prepare a delicious home cooked meal in the home of a local family. All meals included.
Walking: 1 hour; Cycling: 6 miles (flat terrain)
Gear up for a beautiful morning ride along colorful Lap An lagoon. Fishermen and stilted houses dot the water while the coastal mountains in the background finish off this storybook view. Afterward, we jump in the van and drive up and over Hai Van Pass, the "Pass of the Ocean Clouds." This iconic mountain range is the unofficial demarcation between North and South Vietnam. it's a stunning drive on a long and winding road that offers jaw-dropping vistas of the South China Sea and the Da Nang cityscape. This evening we stay in a small mountain village of the Co Tu people. The Co Tu are an ethnic minority in Vietnam and neighboring Laos who live a life that's been virtually unchanged over the past 100 years. The setting is rustic, but the stilted bungalows provide some modern-day comforts. Traditional food, music, and dance fill our evening and the sounds of the forest lull us to sleep. All meals included.
Cycling: 7 miles (mostly flat terrain); Van transfer: 4 hours
Morning in the village comes early. Before leaving, our village host takes us on a tour to demonstrate their traditional farming practices and the artful weaving technique that's been passed down through generations. We may even catch a Co Tu crossbow demonstration! After saying farewell to our hosts, we head back down the mountain, then along the coast to the Son Tra Nature Reserve. Known locally as Monkey Mountain, it?s home to more than 370 animal species. Joined by a local naturalist, we hike to discover the unique plants and animals that call the reserve their home. This is one of the few remaining habitats of the endangered red-shanked douc langur, one of the most colorful primates on the planet. Our hotel this evening is near the beach in beautiful Hoi An. All meals included.
Hiking: 4 miles; Van transfer: 2.5 hours
We head out on bikes this morning, riding through the quaint alleyways of Hoi An, then along its rural pathways. We pedal past villages, rice fields, and family farms where many artisans and locals live the same life as their ancestors. Along the way, we stop for a hands-on demonstration at a rice cake shop, tour a wooden boat building shipyard, and visit a traditional weaver?s shop. We return to our hotel and have the afternoon to ourselves. Relax by the pool, hit the beach, or go sightseeing in the ever-charming Hoi An. Hoi An is famous for its hand-tailored clothing, with stores to fit every budget and style. Your guides can provide great recommendations. Dinner is in Old Town, followed by a performance of Vietnam?s world-renowned acrobatic bamboo circus, the AO Show. Breakfast and dinner included.
Cycling: 16 miles (mostly flat terrain)
This morning we take a boat ride from Hoi An?s riverfront to Thanh Ha pottery village. Local families have been making clayware for centuries here, and it?s still a thriving production center. We?ll see local artists demonstrate their skills and then the whole family gets a chance to try their hand at the potter?s wheel. We head back to the hotel around lunchtime with the afternoon free to relax, shop or explore on your own. Our farewell dinner starts with a sunset paddle on the Thu Bon River to Hoi An?s Old Town. After dinner, stroll the colorful, lantern-filled streets one last time. Breakfast and dinner included.
Kayaking: 1?2 hours
Our final day allows time to relax on the nearby beach or do any last-minute exploring or shopping in Hoi An. Transfers are available throughout the day from the hotel to Da Nang International Airport. Breakfast included.
Van transfer: 1 hour to airport