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Vietnam Adventure Holiday: The Unseen Northern Vietnam in 4 Weeks

Explore Vietnam’s most remote and rugged region with an unforgettable scenic road trip. The journey rewards with visits to colorful hill-tribe villages and a chance to summit Vietnam’s highest peak. From the charming Bai Tu Long Bay to the exciting Ban Gioc Waterfalls, from the calming Ba Be Lake to the shaking Ha Giang, all makes an unforgettable journey.

HIGHLIGHTS

Various activities on sites

  • Cruise the World Heritage Site of Bai Tu Long Bay & and the Ha Long Bay on land of Tam Coc
  • Trekking the northern part of Vietnam passing some of the most breathtaking sites
  • Joining plenty of local colorful market and admire the various hill tribe people of northern Vietnam
  • Experience the cuisine and share the homestay with the tribe people.

Unforgettable moments

  • Walking through the small streets of Hanoi whilst the sea of motorbike running around
  • Admiring the panoramic view from Khau Pha and O Quy HO pass (Heaven Gate)
  • Admiring the amazing rice terraced field in the northern Vietnam
  • Driving through the zigzagging mountain paths of northern Vietnam and watching the life of tribe people

Nature exploration

  • The amazing nature of northern Vietnam in Sapa, Mu Cang Chai, Lai Chau or Son La
  • The calming countryside of Mai Chau, Pu Luong, and Tam Coc 
  • The exciting Ban Gioc Waterfall & breath-taking Nguom Ngao Cave

Culture experience

  • The never-fading culture of Hanoi emerging with the new way of life of a big city
  • The culture of various ethnic tribe people in northern Vietnam
  • The peasant culture of the countryside people in Pu Luong or Tam Coc

Map

Detailed schedule

Day 1 - Welcome to Hanoi

Upon arrival at Noi Bai International Airport, Sonasia’s guide & driver will pick you up and transfer directly to the hotel in the old quarter of Hanoi.

Vietnam's capital races to make up for time lost to the ravages of war and a government that as recently as the 1990s kept the outside world at bay. Its streets surge with scooters vying for right of way amid the din of constantly blaring horns, and all-around layers of history reveal periods of French and Chinese occupation – offering a glimpse into the resilience of ambitious, proud Hanoians.

Notes

Check out the Hanoi travel guide

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Day 2 - Hanoi - Bai Tu Long Bay

Depart at 8:00 AM for Ha Long Bay. The journey out runs along the rich farmlands and rice fields of the Red River Delta.

Upon arrival to Halong, check in at the Huong Hai sealife Junk. Enjoy welcome drink as Cruise Manager gives you a brief overview of the itinerary and important safety guideline. Check in your cabin.

13.30–14.30: Have lunch while cruising to magnificent Bai Tu Long Bay; Start sailing among famous Islets (Indochina studio, Am Islet…) of Bai Tu Long Bay, the wildest beauty with the panoramic natural views.

15.00–16.30: Visit and explore the well-hidden Co Cave (known as Thien Canh Son Cave) where you can hiking to the middle of the mountain to see the wild and mysterious beautiful cave, contemplate numerous sparkling stalactites appear like ’hanging lamps’ inside the Cave. (No swimming)

Return to the boat and enjoy Happy hour. You will have 30% discount off from the special menu drinks including of cocktail, mock-tail and mixed drinks (from 16.30 pm to 19.00 pm.).

16.30–17.30: Enjoy kayaking/swimming at Cong Do or relaxing on the cruise.

17.45–19.00: Attend our chef’s cooking demonstration and try your skills in the art of traditional Vietnamese cooking (spring roll).

19.00-21.00: Dinner is served in the restaurant. You can enjoy the charm of Bai Tu Long Bay at night.

21.00-22.00: Enjoy evening activities (Squid Fishing, Movie Night, Board Games, Massage & Spa services) or relax at the leisure then overnight at private cabin at Cong Do area.

Overnight in sharing cruise

Notes

Hanoi to Bai Tu Long: 4-hour transfer | MAPS

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Day 3 - Bai Tu Long - Bac Son Valley

06.30-07.00: Welcome a new day with an amazing dawn on Bai Tu Long Bay. Refresh your body and soul with a Tai-chi session on the sundeck.

07.00-07.30: Catch the morning view of seascape while enjoying the breakfast with cookies and tea, café in the restaurant.

07.30-08.30: Visit Vung Vieng fishing village - the famous fishing farm by bamboo boat and discover life of local people living on the surface of Halong Bay. (No swimming)

08.30-9.30: Pack up the luggage and check out of the cabin.

09.30-10.40: Enjoy the brunch in the restaurant while cruising back to Vinashin tourist harbor.

11.00: Disembark from boat and transfer directly to Bac Son valley via Noi Bai – Ha Long highway (5-hour transfer)

Arrive at Quynh Son village, check in to a local house of the ethnic Tay people for dinner and homestay tonight.

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Day 4 - Bac Son Valley - Exploration

After the local breakfast, we will get a short transfer to visit a local workshops where you can get to know how the villagers making stilt-house’s roof tiles, bricks and see how they burn the tiles at simple kilns. 

Get dropped at a back road for trek to the peaceful valley. The scenery along the trek is also amazing. Your private vehicle will pick you up around noon at the other end of the trek and take you back to the house for lunch and rest. 

Continue the adventure with a short walk to the foot of the telephone-station mountain. From here, you will start hike up to the summit of the mountain for a stunning panorama view of Bac Son Valley. 

This is marvelous and a great place for photographers and it is worth after a hard-working hike for everyone. 

Dinner and spend the second night at the local house.

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Day 5 - Bac Son - Ba Be Lake

After having breakfast with local family. Then we leave Bac Son for Ba Be Lake. With the distance 163 km and 3.3 hours on car, it will give you more chance to see beautiful landscapes and spectacular mountain scenes. Arrive in Ba Be at noon time. Have lunch at local food stall.

This is a great time to discovery the biggest lake in Vietnam by boat. Then spend a visit to Dau Dang waterfall, Puong cave. Have dinner at the family. Homestay in Pac Ngoi village with Tay ethnic minority.

Optional: In the evening you can enjoy Tay traditional music performance and the fee is additional charge base on you share with other people or have a private.

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Day 6 - Ba Be Lake - ATK Bac Kan - Cao Bang

Have breakfast with the family. This morning our guide and driver take you to leave Ba Be lake for visiting ATK Bac Can. ATK is "An Toan Khu", meaning "Safety Zone". It was constructed during the revolution against the French. ATK is a complex of underground tunnels and rooms emboldened by a missile defense system in Cho Don of Bac Can.

This distinctive and invincible advanced was one of the vital venues of the Vietnam Military from 1946 to 1954, the place President Ho Chi Minh and plenty of different leaders gathered, mentioned and made important choice involving the future of the nation. Have lunch on the way.

In the afternoon, we will drive further north to the province of Cao Bang, which is famous for its Ban Gioc waterfall, the base for our adventure in the next some days.
Overnight in Cao Bang

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Day 7 - Ban Gioc Waterfall - Nguom Ngao Cave

This day is likely to be your highlight of the tour, as we take you to one of the most incredible natural wonders in Northern Vietnam; Ban Gioc Waterfall. 

The drive here from Cao Bang is roughly two hours, and this breath-taking 300-metre wide cascade sits right on the border between China and Vietnam, amidst a beautiful mountainous landscape. 

While you’re here you can spend your time relaxing in the glow of the natural beauty, take some amazing photos, and board a bamboo boat that will take you so close to the falls you’ll feel the spray on your face, practically sitting at the very edge of Vietnam, so close to China that you can actually touch it. 

After enjoying the waterfall, you will venture deep underground into the magical Nguom Ngao Cave to discover the rock formations which have been carved by erosion over millennia. 

After visiting the waterfall and cave, you will travel down a beautiful road which is unknown to many, which winds through the mountains before reaching the Cao Bang.

Overnight in Cao bang

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Day 8 - Cao Bang - Meo Vac

Breakfast at the hotel.

Travel on the less-traveled road with wild landscape of sensational beauty for Ha Giang. Later in the day, we will have to climb steep mountain slopes leading to the jaw-dropping Dong Van Plateau. Overnight at a hotel in Meo Vac Township.
 

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Day 9 - Meo Vac - Dong Van

Breakfast at the hotel.

Check out of our hotel and enjoy a couple of hours adoring the heavenly beauty of the Ma Pi Leng Pass, among the most stunning mountain passes in Vietnam. Then travel further northward through the heart of the Rock Plateau for Lung Cu which is close to the northern-most point of the Vietnamese territory.

Climb the Lung Cu Flag Tower to behold the sublime landscape with several serrated ridges all around. Visit a village of the Flower Lo Lo. Then travel further through the amazing landscape at Lung Tao. We’ll arrive back at Dong Van Town later in the day. Have free time.

Overnight at Dong Van.

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Day 10 - Dong Van - Ha Giang

Breakfast at the hotel.

Enjoy getting lost amid an exotic ethnic market of Dong Van whose gathering is on Sunday morning only. It is lovely to engage into the authentic daily of the local ethnic groups and to learn about their culture. Then we come back to the hotel to get our luggage and travel to the Vuong Family Residence, former residence of the “Hmong King” of Dong Van Plateau. The residence has a lovely Chinese architecture and a lovely story of the construction process.

Leaving the house of the Hmong King, we will travel through the unreal beauty of the Karst Plateau of Dong Van for Ha Giang. We will stop at various places on the way at Quan Ba and Yen Minh for photographs.

Overnight at Ha Giang City.

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Day 11 - Ha Giang - Hoang Su phi

Departure in the direction of Hoang Su Phi (80km - 3h drive) while admiring the region stretching vastly before your eyes.

Until recently, this region was entirely untouched by tourism and remains one of the best places in the country for an authentic glimpse of the daily life of the mountain tribes.

The road to Hoang Su Phi is simply beautiful, with twists, valleys, and cliffs - while admiring the countryside and rice fields. It is a remarkable route with more than 100 km of karst and lots of beautiful turns.

Arrival in Thong Nguyen in the late morning. After lunch, start trekking from Giang village to Sao Do village where you will spend the night with the locals, passing through Giang Ha village and Nam Hong. Enjoy beautiful landscapes on the road (the rice terraces and the waterfall).

Installation at the hotel with simple comfort. Dinner and overnight with the locals.

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Day 12 - Hoang Su Phi - Bac Ha

Morning: Departure for Bac Ha passing Pho Rang (about 175 km), discovery of the beautiful landscapes along the way.

Arrival at Bac Ha, light hikes to Na Hoi villages, or Ban Pho village Meeting with colorful H’mong ethnic minorities, Phu La or Tay

Dinner and free evening. Overnight at hotel in Bac Ha

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Day 13 - Bac Ha Market - Sapa

Morning: Visit of the Bac Ha market which is held only on Sunday (it depends on your date, we will arrange the visit of a market suitable for your trip: Bac Ha market on Sunday, Can Cau market on Saturday, Sin Cheng market on Wednesday , Lung Khau Nhin market on Thursday, Coc Ly market on Tuesday).

It is one of the largest, most colorful, and typical markets in the mountainous region of North Vietnam. We find everything there: buffaloes, pigs, horses, chickens, dogs, tobacco, peppers, vegetables, medicinal plants, fabrics ... in short, all the products brought from fields and households, ...

Visit the village of Ta Van Chu (a hike off the beaten track in the kingdom of the colorful H'mong ethnic group), the landscapes are fabulous, you will have a beautiful view of the rice terraces, the houses on stilts.

Transfer to Sapa (110km - 3h drive) enjoying beautiful landscapes on the road. Visit the Den Mau temple, dating from the 18th century, dedicated to the mother of the Vietnamese people, and also marking the border with the powerful neighbor, China. We will therefore have a direct view of the border bridge.

Arrival in Sapa, visit of the church and the local market. Overnight in Sapa

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Day 14 - Sapa - Y Linh Ho - Lao Chai - Ta Van

At 9:00 am the tour will start from Sapa town, take a 6 km walk down to the South East of Sapa along the side of Muong Hoa Valley to Y Linh Ho Village of the Black H’mong. Continue to get over 3km for trekking down to Lao Chai Village of H’mong people. 

To go inside the village, you will trek through a small bridge which lead to Muong Hoa valley. Lao Chai is a village of black H’Mong ethnic group. Lao Chai is a commune composed by three large villages with over 100 families of the Black H’mong ethnic, and people here are quite hospitable. It is about 7-8 km southeast of Sapa town, also the beginning of Muong Hoa valley.

After a picnic lunch with a local family in Lao Chai or in a drink shop nearby the riverbank, we keep on hiking to Ta Van Village of the Giay where we stay overnight in a local family. Here you have opportunity to experience their daily life, work, and original costume.

Notes

Trekking: 12km of trekking.

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Day 15 - Ta Van - Giang Ta Chai - Supan - Sapa

In the morning, have breakfast at homestay. Take 8 km walk to visit 2 villages of the Red Dao and H’mong which are Giang Ta Chai Village and Supan Village. Giang Ta Chai village is far from the center of Sapa about 15km. 

Located at the right side of Muong Hoa Valley, Giang Ta Chai is the village of Red Dao and has become one of the attractive places for visitors who want to experience the colorful traditional customs. 

Occupying the highland on the east side of the main road about 17 Km from Sapa town, Supan Village is one of the desolate villages in Sapa because the number of inhabitants here is very small. After visit Giang Ta Chai village and Supan village, head back to the main road to catch the jeep and return to Sapa Town.

Tour ends at around 15:30 or 16:00. Check in your hotel again.

Free for the rest of the day. Overnight in Sapa

Notes

Trekking: 8 km of trekking, 10 km of driving back to Sapa.

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Day 16 - Sapa - Tam Duong - Lai Chau - Phong Tho

After having breakfast, depart to Lai Chau. The drive from Sapa to Phong Tho (Paso) is on one of the most beautiful mountainous stretch on road in the whole Vietnam with magnificent scenery. 

From Sapa Town, you will drive uphill to the highest pass "Heaven Gate Pass" which is 2000 meters in height. From here you have bird-eyes view of the enormous picturesque Muong Hoa valley and Fansipan Mount. 

Running 30 kms further to the other side of the pass, you will arrive in Tam Duong where you have time to visit a small market and some surrounding villages. The run then takes you along Binh Lu valley and you will arrive in Lai Chau town at lunch time.

In the afternoon, the road weaves its way through the picturesque valley, past many small villages of Red and White H'mong, Kho Mu and White Thai ethnic minorities. You eventually reach Phong Tho town in the late afternoon, where you stay tonight at Lan Anh II hotel

Notes

Approx: 150 kms/ 4.5 hours driving

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Day 17 - Phong Tho - Dien Bien

Today's run is also on spectacular roads through the mountains. After a short drive backward Lai Chau, you make a right turn to a small zigzag road, which runs precipitously up to Sin Ho. 

Sin Ho is home to many different minorities people such as the Nung, White Thai, Black Dao, and Dao Tien, who will gather in the town's market every Sunday for purchasing and socializing. 

The run downhill from Sin Ho to Muong Lay is still one of the nicest one Even though some parts of the road might be under-construction. 

From Muong Lay it takes around 2 hours to Dien Bien on a much easier road, in compared with the precious ones. If you arrive in Dien Bien early enough, you will visit the historical sites such as De Castries's bunker, the Dien Bien Phu museum, the A1 hill and so on. Overnight at Him Lam Hotel

Notes

Approx: 240 kms/ 7 hours driving

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Day 18 - Dien Bien - Son La

After breakfast, depart Dien Bien Phu for Tuan Giao, where you will get on board for a cruise on Pa Khoang Lake. There will be possibilities for visiting one or more villages of the Kho Mu or the Thai minorities. You will then have a transfer back to Dien Bien Phu for lunch.

In the afternoon, continue to Son La. Upon arrival, visit Son La prison, which was built by the French in 1908, on the mountain of Khau Ca where belong to Son La City.

Then transfer to your hotel to take some rest.

Overnight in Son La

Notes

Approx: 100 kms/ 2 hours driving. 

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Day 19 - Son La - Mai Chau

Set off after breakfast, this morning for a four-hour drive to Mai Chau. The drive goes through beautiful Hoa Binh Province, located in the mountainous area southeast of Hanoi: a region dotted with limestone karsts. Pass through several villages along the way (home to Thai, Hmong, and Dao people.)

Descend the last 14 km along a steep mountain road into the stunning valley of Mai Chau. Enjoy a hot lunch here, served by the trekking cook in one of the small villages. The homestay this evening is inside this quaint village and is a great way to experience the cultures and traditions of the Thai people.

After lunch and a bit of relaxation, take a short 1-2 hour walk around the village and the valley. Depending on the day of the week, visit Mai Chau Market and Van Village.  

Overnight homestay in a Thai village

Notes

Transfer: 3.5 hrs // Trekking around the village: 1-2hr // Difficulty: Easy

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Day 20 - Mai Chau - Pu Luong - Hang Village

After breakfast, drive 22km further into the reserve to begin the trek. The trek lasts for approximately 3 hrs before arriving at Hang Village, home to Thai ethnic minority. Spend the night with a local Thai family in their traditional house built on stilts. Enjoy a stroll around the village to observe daily life activities before dinner.
Overnight homestay in a Thai village

Notes

Transfer: 4 hr Trekking: 3hrs Difficulty: Easy

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Day 21 - Hang Village - Kho Muong Village

For those who do not mind the early wake up, take part in the local morning activities or take a stroll around Hang Village before breakfast.

Then, embark on a more difficult day of hiking where there will be 50% village paths and 50% on an old, disused, unpaved French road. There are some steep climbs throughout the day, as well as some stream crossings. When the trek gets more remote, one is never far from a villager tending fields or walking back from the early morning market (subject to availability).   

While lunch is being prepared, relax from the heat of the day in a local home inside the village. After lunch, continue along the old jeep road to a village nestled between steep karst mountains.  Arrive early with spare energy to hike a two-hour return trip to a newly discovered and incredibly large cave. Hidden on high ground surrounded by thickets and hanging vegetation, the cave is now protected by forest rangers due to the delicate ecosystem and bat species inside.

Overnight at homestay in Kho Muong Village.

Notes

Trekking: 4 hrs or 12km Difficulty: Medium

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Day 22 - Kho Muong - Lan Village - Hin Village - Nua Village

This morning, hike through the forest and the peaceful villages of the ethnic Thai people. Beginning at Ban Uoi, hike through rice terraces, Ban Lan Trong and Lan Ngoai with beautiful houses on stilts preserving the traditional architecture of Thai. Continue walking through villages Cao, Trinh and Hin. The path of hiking goes uphill and downhill through the forest with scenes of rice terraces and pretty ethnic villages.

Spend the night with an ethnic Thai family in the village of Nua.

Notes

Trekking: 5 hrs (14km) Difficulty: medium

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Day 23 - Nua Village - Hieu Village

Wake up early to the sound of chickens and ducks, and village children preparing to go to school. Take an early morning walk through the village to experience morning life in a farming community. Hike approximately 4-5 hours to reach the village of Hieu located at the east end of the reserve. Nice walk in easy terrain with a picnic en route. On arrival at the village, visit a beautiful waterfall near the village.

Overnight in a house on stilts with a Thai ethnic group.

Notes

Trek about 4-5 hours ( or 12km) Difficulty: medium

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Day 24 - Hieu Village - Pho Doan - Tam Coc

Take a morning walk around the village of Hieu to observe daily life of local people then trek towards Ma River Pho Doan. The trek is quite a gentle descend to a wide-open valley. Arrive at Pho Doan Town.

If this day falls on a Sunday, pay a visit to the busy Pho Doan Market.

Lunch at Pho Doan before heading back to Tam Coc / Hoa Lu, which is known as Halong Bay on land.

Spend some time at leisure or choose to walk to Thai Vy Temple which is in a beautiful corner in the middle of the green rice fields.

Overnight at the hotel.

Notes

Transfer: 4 hours Trekking: 2.5 hrs Difficulty: easy

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Day 25 - Tam Coc - Galaxy Cave

Upon arrival, begin a leisure 5 to 15 km (according to preference) cycling trip around Tho Ha Village passing by peaceful villages and enjoying the rustic countryside landscapes. Continue to Dong Tam Hamlet to join in some engaging agricultural activities such as catching crabs, fishing and transplanting, watering vegetables and more.

Enjoy lunch before cruising on a 2-hour boat trip through small canals among the paddy fields (rice fields seen between March and early June), then stroll along the winding rocky path of the foot for 200m and go up 20 steps to reach the Galaxy Cave Gate. Get inside the cave and admire the spectacular stalactites above the cave ceiling.

Continue to discover But Hien Cave and be attracted by many natural sparkling stalactites with shapes and figures before returning to the pier and transfer to the hotel.

Notes

Transfer: 1 hrs Cycling: 5-15km Difficulty: easy

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Day 26 - Tam Coc - Hanoi

You have ample time in the morning to relax and enjoy the fresh air of the countryside.

There is the option to cycle, walk, or join a cooking class if you wish.

In the afternoon, we will drive back to Hanoi, where we will spend the last night in Vietnam

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Day 27 - Hanoi - Departure

You are free to stroll around the town for your own exploration before taking the departure flight

Notes

Tip: We recommend getting up early today to visit Hoan Kiem lake. A visit here is a good idea at any time of the day, but in the morning you are likely to catch the locals out and about exercising, jogging, dancing, and doing their morning tai chi. 

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Check below our detailed tips & guide for every places to visit in Vietnam, recommendation regarding the inclusion in each theme you prefer, and what you can do based on the time frame you have.

PLACES TO VISIT IN Vietnam
Hanoi
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Ha Long Bay
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Unique experience combined with top-notch services

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Easy excursions combined with unique experience making the long-lasting romantic memories

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Easy excursion combined with week-long beach break

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The combination of some must-see experience and the cruise tour along the mighty rivers

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The combination of fun and educational activities

Unseen
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Reveal off-the-beatentrack routes, least explored destinations, and unknown tribe groups

Cycling & Biking
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Explore every corners of the destination on two wheels

Trek & Hike
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Explore the least visited destinations and unknown experience on foot

Vietnam PLANS BY TIME FRAME
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Vietnam BLOG ARTICLES

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Vietnam would scrap the Covid-19 testing requirement for all arrivals starting Sunday, May 15th 2022, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has directed.

In a document issued Friday, the Prime Minister requested the Ministry of Health to closely follow the coronavirus situation and provide proper guidance. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should direct Vietnamese authorities outside the country to inform people who wish to enter Vietnam to follow appropriate disease prevention measures, he said.

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Children under two don’t need to be tested.

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