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Absolute Vietnam

From ancient cities, beachside towns to Vietnam’s natural landscapes, go on this absolute Vietnam trip that will cover all things essential for an in-depth understanding of the country. From historical walks pass colonial and national monuments, to visiting a 700-year old university, trekking Vietnam’s hillside tribes and tasting the local flavors, this trip will be sure to leave an experience like none other.

HIGHLIGHTS

Various activities on sites

  • Exploring the city of Hanoi, Hoi An, Hue, Da Lat, and Ho Chi Minh city
  • Cruising the beautiful Ha Long Bay and exploring the surrounding area.
  • Local interaction in Ninh Binh, Sapa, and Ben Tre
  • Relaxing and enjoying the virgin sun & sea of Phu Quoc Island.

Unforgettable moments

  • The beautiful countryside life of Ninh Binh, Pu Luong, and Ben Tre.
  • The amazing and peaceful scenery of Ha Long Bay during sunrise and sunset.
  • The panoramic view from Hai Van Pass with sea of cloud under your feet.
  • Crawling through the small tunnel of Cu Chi

Nature exploration

  • The amazing atmosphere of Lan Ha bay & Tam Coc, Ninh Binh, “Ha Long Bay on Land”
  • The evergreen nature of northern Vietnam & the surrounding of Sapa
  • Enjoy the four seasons of Da Lat with the fresh air of the central highland.
  • The authentic nature of Ben Tre and the evergreen fruit garden.

Culture experience

  • Learn about the never-fading culture of Hanoi and the century-old town of Hoi An
  • Amazed by the colorful culture of ethnic Vietnam with various ethnic tribes in Sapa
  • Learn about the unique religion of Cao Dai with its amazing temple in Tay Ninh
  • Learn about the peasant culture in Ninh Binh, Pu Luong, Chau Doc and Can Tho

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 - Exploration

Today’s tour starts at 08:30. Begin with a drive pass the historical Ba Dinh Square where Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of Vietnam in 1945.

Be dropped off at Lenin Garden, a communal space for locals and take a leisurely stroll through the area where sewing shops have been in family hands for generations and admire the daily life of local people who still practice old an old way of life in the alleys of Hanoi.

Proceed to the millennia-old Temple of Literature and explore its role in the country’s past, as both a university and a temple.

If interested, make a stop at the last courtyard where Vietnamese traditional instruments contribute to the oriental feel. For travelers who are musicians, opportunities to play some notes will present themselves, all under the guidance of the artists.

Then visit the fascinating Ethnology Museum (closed Mondays), which is both a research center and a public museum exhibiting the ethnic groups of Vietnam.

Lunch will be served before taking an easy stroll around the charming Hoan Kiem Lake to enjoy local daily life passing by. Then stop at the home of Hanoian for tea break and listen to the story of family in each period.

Finish the day with a Water Puppet show. This is a uniquely northern Vietnamese art form depicting scenes from rural life and episodes of national history.   

Overnight in Hanoi.

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Day 3 - Hanoi Countryside Biking - Sapa (O/N Train)

Today’s tour will begin at 8:00. Leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind for this experience of cycling the Hanoi countryside.

After a safety briefing and bike fitting, start pedaling through small back alleys of Bac Bien Village. Arrive at the banks of the Duong River and board a local ferry for a short crossing, enjoying the scenes as the boat glides across the water.

Back on the bikes, pedal parallel to the river then turn in to quaint villages. This presents the perfect opportunity to discover traditional local houses, ancient pagodas and temples, lively markets and gardens. Stop often for photos or simple to enjoy the atmosphere of authentic Vietnamese country life. Pop into a family’s house for a visit, learning about their daily life while sipping tea.

Responsible Travel: Traveling by bicycle is an eco-friendly, emissions-free way to sightsee.
In the afternoon, return to the hotel (late checkout is arranged until 18:00).

This evening, met by the guide who will assist with a private transfer to Hanoi Railway Station for an overnight train to Lao Cai.

Overnight on train.

FORM REQUIREMENTS: Participants in any adventure travel will be required to complete and submit a signed terms and conditions agreement including the voluntary participation, assumption of risk, release from liability and hold harmless provisions. Where minors are involved, parental or guardian permission may also be required. Travel documentation will not be released unless these forms are complete and on file with Sonasia adventures.

Notes

This program may alter due to local conditions, the strength of the group and other unexpected circumstances. We will do our best to adhere to the set itinerary, however we cannot be held responsible for any last-minute changes that might occur. In all such circumstances, the biking or guide will have the final say.

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Day 4 - Lao Cai - Sapa

Arrive Lao Cai early in the morning and be greeted by the guide and transfer to a local restaurant for breakfast. Then driving to visit a local market (Ban Cam on Tuesday/ Cao Son on Wednesday/ Lung Khau Nhin on Thursday/ Y Ty on Saturday/ Muong Hum on Sunday. (Note: The market visit may be on the arrival day depending on the day).)

Here, see mostly Flower Hmong however Phu La, Black Dao, Tay, Nung hill tribe groups also gather here. The market offers a variety of local products, which could not be found in other areas such as an interesting animal market where pot-bellied pigs, cows and buffalos can be seen.

Continue the tour on a short walk to a hill-tribe village. Here, take the opportunity to visit some local homes to understand more on the daily life of these tribes as well as their culture and traditions. Transfer to visit the former hill station of Sapa before finishing the day at your hotel.

Overnight in Sapa.

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Day 5 - Sapa - Sa Seng - Hau Thao (Easy Walk)

This morning, take a short 15 minute drive to Sa Seng Village for a hike.

Begin walking on a small concrete path with beautiful views of the rice terraces that lead to a village of the Black Hmong people. Experience how the local people set up their homes with the surrounding rice and corn farms. Then, continue ascending uphill on a small rocky trail with lush green bamboo forest and bushes.

Lunch is prepared at a nice spot on the top overlooking the large and beautiful Muong Hoa Valley.
This afternoon, descend downhill passing some small hamlets of Hmong ethnic tribe in Hau Thao Village. Be sure to snap some great photos of the mountain that looks towards Fansipan Mountain - the highest in Vietnam.

Get a chance to visit a local’s home and learn about the Hmong ethnic culture and their way of life. The last part of the trip is an easy walk in between villages and rice terraces.

End with a pick-up by car at the main road to be transfer back.

Overnight in Sapa.

Notes
  • Tour summary: Road transfer 45 mins/ Easy walk and visiting local homes for about 5 hours.
  • This trip can be organized the whole year around.
  • Moderate trekking with distance ~13 km
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Day 6 - Free Morning - Hanoi

Spend the morning at leisure before being picked up by the guide and driver for a drive back to Hanoi. 

Overnight in Hanoi

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Day 7 - Hanoi - Ha Long Bay

After breakfast leave Hanoi for a 3hr30mins drive to Halong Bay including a 20-minutes stop on the way. Arrive at the jetty in Halong City towards noon and proceed with check-in formalities. After a welcome onboard, lunch will be served while cruising towards the bay itself.

In the afternoon, enjoy some visits and/or activities (depending on each boat’s itinerary) or just spend some time relaxing on board. Towards the end of the day the boat sets anchor for the night among the karst formations.

inner is served on board.

Overnight on Halong Bay

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Day 8 - Ha Long Bay - Tam Coc (Ninh Binh)

The sun rises on Halong in the morning and breakfast is served (also brunch on some boats) while the vessels cruises slowly back towards port. It is time to say goodbye to the cruise team.

From there, our guide and driver will transfer you directly to Ninh Binh, which will take about 4 hours.
Arrive around noon, enjoy delicious lunch served at the bungalow’s restaurant with Vietnamese cuisine.

In the afternoon, we will board a sampan boat rowed by a local for about 1.5 hours.  

Known as “Halong Bay on land”, the boat trip is a nice journey along the river with the peaceful scenery of limestone mountains, rice paddy if traveling during harvest season.

After that, visit a local family in Tam Coc. They are a traditional Vietnamese family with three generations living together. Here you will get the chance to see the house architecture and their daily life and their handicraft job of making traditional embroidery.

You have ample time to relax or stroll around the village before having dinner with Vietnamese cuisine while sharing the experience you have during the day with the host family, then stay overnight at the bungalow.

Notes
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Day 9 - Tam Coc - Exploration

After breakfast at the Bungalow, take a bike to Mua Cave, which is one of the most alluring places to view in Ninh Binh.

Hiking up to the peak of Ngoa Long Mountain to take your amazing views of the Tam Coc, Ninh Binh area.

In the afternoon, you will continue the ride to explore the rice fields and limestone mountains with a unique route.

Continue the tour and board a small sampan to visit Thung Nham bird park, discover the most features of this area with more than 50.000 birds of 40 species flying to inhabit every day.

Departure to Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam in the 10th century, visit the temple of King Dinh. Under the introduction of our local guide, you will get to know more about the Vietnamese history.

Before the dust falls, cycling back to the host family for free time relax with afternoon tea break.

Overnight at the bungalow.

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Day 10 - Ninh Binh - Hanoi - Hue

You have ample time to relax or stroll around the nearby area before transferring back to Hanoi to take the onward flight to Hue, the ancient capital of the last kingdom of Vietnam, the Nguyen Dynasty.

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Day 11 - Hue - Exploration

This morning at 08:30 depart the hotel in Hue. Start at the Imperial Citadel where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945. 

From here take a cyclo through dai noi ‘Old City’ visit Tran Dinh Son private museum with a collection of everyday items that past Kings have used and learn how royal descendants are keeping the family’s traditions alive today. 

Continue to visit Thien Mu (Celestial Lady) Pagoda overlooking the Perfume River; constructed in 1601, the 21-meter tall tower is the centerpiece of the pagoda and represents seven reincarnations of Buddha. 

In the grounds of the pagoda is the Austin car made famous when in 1963, a resident monk drove the vehicle to what was then Saigon to protest against the southern regime, the photo of his self-immortalization was captured and was one of the most well-known images of the war.

Lunch at a local restaurant for an authentic Hue style cuisine.

Continue to former emperor Minh Mang’s tomb located in a tranquil setting of gardens and ponds, inspired by the Chinese Confucianism, a harmonious design of balance and symmetry for the emperor’s resting place.

Journey on to Khai Dinh’s Tomb designed in traditional Vietnamese style with a European touch making it unique from the other tombs in Hue.

Overnight in Hue.

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Day 12 - Hue - Da Nang - Hoi An

In the morning we will pick up you at your hotel to go to Hoi an. We drive on highway 1A. From Hue to Hoi An we will stop at the fishing village and paddies fields along the lagoon. 

After that we go to Elephant Waterfall where you can swim and relaxation. 

Next, we stop for photos at Lang Co Beach and have lunch there before traveling over the Hai Van Pass, Thousand-metre-high barrier forms a climatic frontier blocking the southward penetration of cold, damp winter airstreams which often bury the tops under thick cloudbank and earn it the title Hai Van, and when crossing the top of the Pass you are literally surrounded by clouds on one side with stunning ocean views on the other.

On the Top of Hai Van pass also the border line between Hue and Danang city. 

Arrive in Hoi An around early evening, check in your hotel.

Overnight in Hoi An

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Day 13 - Hoi An - Tra Que Village - My Son

Spend a morning like a local in charming Tra Que herb village. Travel to Hoi An’s countryside and join farmers in the garden, chit-chatting about their lives while assisting in their daily tasks. Having worked up an appetite, prepare a delicious lunch of traditional Hoi An dishes with a local family

In the afternoon, take a half day trip to visit the capital and religious centre of the former Champa Kingdom, My Son. Here, 40km southwest of Hoi An in a lush green valley, are dozens of red brick towers and sanctuaries dating from between the 7th and 13th centuries. 

On the way back to Hoi An visit Tra Kieu, formerly known as Simhapura or the Lion Citadel, the capital of Champa between the 4th and 8th centuries. Some of the finest sculptures in Danang’s Cham Museum originated from here.

Overnight in Hoi An. 

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Day 14 - Hoi An - Da Nang // Da Lat

Transfer to Da Nang airport for the 70-minute flight to Dalat.

Dalat is located 300 km from Ho Chi Minh City. Established as a hill station at the beginning of the century, Dalat is reminiscent of an alpine town with its French chalets and pine forests.

Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel for check-in.

Overnight in Dalat. 

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Day 15 - Da Lat - Exploration

This morning, go on a sightseeing tour of Dalat. 

First, visit Bao Dai's Summer Palace that sits on a hill just outside the main centre. Bao Dai was the Last Emperor of Vietnam and the Palace has been preserved exactly as he left it in 1954. It is a classic example of art deco that is a tourist attraction itself. 

Continue the tour with the former railway station (in use only for an optional steam train ride) which is remarkable with its architecture and its old steam locomotive.  

Visit Xuan Huong Lake and Lam Ty Ni Pagoda where the folkloric a Buddhist monk, Vien Thuc, produces his abstract paintings and writes poetry. 

End the tour at the town's bustling central market, renowned for its fresh vegetables and fruit that is rarely found in a tropical country.

This afternoon, enjoy a chillout atmosphere of the central highland.

Overnight in Dalat. 

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Day 16 - Da Lat // Ho Chi Minh City

This morning, be met by the guide and driver at your hotel and be transferred to Da Lat Airport for the onward flight to Ho Chi Minh City.

In the afternoon, head to Cholon, Saigon’s Chinatown district to start a walk through one of the biggest fabric markets, which is known far and wide for its long-established role as a crucial distribution hub of fabrics, not only for the city but the entire southern region. 

Continue strolling down the street and pass by Le Chau Clan House, the temple of silver. Listen to the stories of Vietnamese traditional silver handicraft before paying a visit to Cha Tam Church built in 1900.

Walk down one of the busiest streets in Cholon, as well as the wholesales tobacco market, observe the street life of the area by venturing through a lively local fruits market. (This area is a bit crowded with traders and vehicles).

Be picked up by a car on standby at the end of the market for a drive to one of the most famous Chinese clan houses. Dedicated to Chinese General Quan Cong, Nghia An Hoi Quan was most impressive for its exquisite gilded woodwork, where devotees gather to perform daily prayers. Take time to make a wish, write it on a small card and attach it to one of the incense coils in the local custom.

Then hop on a xích lô, a traditional form of transportation and ride around the area to admire the beauty of Old Chinese architect and ancient buildings of 19th – 20th century, ride along the herbal street and take a chance to learn about various kinds of herbs before making a stop at another corner of Cho Lon for an insider look at Silver Street and its neighborhood, which is considered as the wholesale center for silver in Southeast Asia because Vietnamese silver handicrafts remains the best ones in the world with their designs, skilled silversmiths & quality of silver.

Then, get a true experience of traditional handicraft by going on a join-in hands-on silver jewellery-making class and create a personal jewellery piece. After this insightful visit, return to the hotel.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh city.

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Day 17 - Saigon Coffee - The History & Culture

This tour begins at 08:30. Be met with the guide for a morning discovery of Saigon, the habits of the local people and the significance of coffee drinking in Vietnamese culture.

Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by the French in the late 19th century but the country quickly became a strong exporter as vast swathes of the highlands were given over to this important new cash crop. Today, the Vietnamese have taken coffee to new gastronomical levels!

Start with a stroll through a buzzing local residential area and delve right into local life while browsing the street café, watching people enjoying their morning coffee, reading newspapers or chatting with each other. The locals usually drink coffee after having breakfast. 

Join in the typical daily routine by ordering ‘bun thit nuong’ consisting of fresh noodles topped with grilled pork at a eatery. Then, walk around to observe the bustling street eats scene and try a piece of sticky rice or hollow donut snack. 

Continue to discover an 80-year old coffee shop and warehouse. Get to know the unique way of making coffee while listening to tales related to this trade.

Conclude the morning tour by heading to Barista Saigon coffee studio. Meet with a certified barista, be introduced to Vietnamese specialty coffee and learn expert coffee brewing techniques. Choose from a variety of courses, focusing on espresso, latte art or professional ways to judge the quality of coffee.

This afternoon, start with a visit to the iconic Saigon Central Post Office built between 1886 and 1891. Based on the design of French architect Foulhoux, it is the creation of a unique vaulted ceiling with wrought iron beams and columns reminiscent of industrial architecture, which is now considered a symbol of Saigon and one of its most famous landmarks.

Walk along Dong Khoi street, formerly la rue Catinat and pay a visit to Gialong Palace – Ho Chi Minh City Museum for its beautiful architecture and listen to its history through times. Continue to ‘Le Loi Street’ to meet a local artisan who specializes in traditional engravings.

Next, stroll through the old central market (Note: the vehicle will be available)  before arriving at the city’s oldest colonial-era apartment, built in 1886, and see what the young creative Vietnamese are up to from their funky boutiques and coffee shops. Sit down at one of the stylish coffee shops and interact with a local resident who moved here in 1975.

Leave the compound and have a look at the building on the other side, which used to be ‘Banque de l’Indochine’ (Indochina Bank) during the 1920s. It is a stunning example of the ‘Indochinois’ east/west fusion style of architecture that this area is known for. After this last stop, head back to the hotel.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

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Day 18 - Ho Chi Minh - Tay Ninh - Cu Chi

Depart Ho Chi Minh City at 08:00 in the morning for the drive to Tay Ninh. Observe the scenery as it changes from a city view to rice paddies, villagers drying noodles by the side of the road and other scenes typical of southern Vietnam. Visit the Cao Dai great temple at Tay Ninh, with its flamboyant architecture, where all the major faiths of the world blend together in a unique religious mosaic.

After lunch in a local restaurant visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels which consist of an incredible underground tunnel network constructed by Vietnamese resistance fighters (Viet Cong) during both the French and American wars. Start the visit with the Ben Dinh or Ben Duoc sections of the tunnel.
Here, imagine what it was like to be a guerrilla complete with Russian Carbine rifles and AK 47’s on display. In the late afternoon journey back to Ho Chi Minh City.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

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Day 19 - Ho Chi Minh - Ben Tre (Homestay)

We will depart from Ho Chi Minh City for Tien Giang and travel for around 2 hours. 

Upon arrival in Tien Giang, we will travel by boat to Cai Be Floating Market. The boat trip will take you along the where you will have a glimpse into the life of the working locals. 

We will have lunch at a local house. 

In the afternoon, you will be able to try your hand at fishing with traditional tools by casting nets and laying traps on the canal. Then, you can help to prepare dinner with the host. 

Overnight at the local house with the host family.

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Day 20 - Rural Life Experience

After breakfast, travel by bicycle to a local market. It is similar to the flea market where local people gather together and trade. 

Afterward, we will return to the homestay, where you will participate in farming with the local people to experience the work of farmers in the area. Lunch will be served at a local home. 

In the afternoon, you will have the opportunity to dress in the typical style of Southerners in Vietnam. You will bail out water and catch fish in the traditional outfits. Next, you will lend a hand in preparing dinner with the host. 

Relax after dinner on a hammock near the river shore. Surround yourself with peacefulness and quiet that the city cannot offer. 

Overnight at the homestay.

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Day 21 - Ben Tre - Cai Mon Fruit Orchards - Ho Chi Minh City

After breakfast, we will visit the Cai Mon Orchard Garden (also known as the “kingdom of fruits”), in Ben Tre Province. 

Continue your trip to visit the Cai Mon Church - one of the oldest churches in the Mekong Delta. 
According to the history, Caïman, French word was read off by Vietnamese equivalent “Cai Mon” because in the past there were a lot crocodiles here. 

The church was built in the 1800s by a French priest, that is famous for its unique architecture works: steeples, main hall… 

The last stop on this tour is the potted plants and saplings in Vinh Bac. 

After lunch, it is time to bid the farewell to the rural life with unforgettable memory, board on a transfer back to Ho Chi Minh city.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City

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Day 22 - Ho Chi Minh // Phu Quoc Island

After breakfast, be transferred to the airport for a flight to Phu Quoc.

On arrival in Phu Quoc, be transferred to the resort by the resort’s scheduled shuttle bus. 

Spend the rest of the day to relax by the pool or on the sandy beach.

Overnight in Phu Quoc.

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Day 23 - Phu Quoc Island - Leisure Day

A full day at leisure in the resort or on the beach. There are plenty of water sport offered by the resort for you to spend the day. 

Overnight in Phu Quoc.

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Day 24 - Phu Quoc Island - Leisure Day

A full day at leisure in the resort or on the beach. There are plenty of water sport offered by the resort for you to spend the day. 

Overnight in Phu Quoc.

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Day 25 - Phu Quoc Island // Ho Chi Minh - Departure

Spend the morning at leisure before checking out. Be transferred to the onward departure flight to Ho Chi Minh City via the resort’s shuttle bus.

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PLACES TO VISIT IN Vietnam
Hanoi
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Ha Long Bay
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Sapa
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Reveal off-the-beatentrack routes, least explored destinations, and unknown tribe groups

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Explore every corners of the destination on two wheels

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Explore the least visited destinations and unknown experience on foot

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Vietnam BLOG ARTICLES

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Lantern Festival is celebrated in China and other Asian countries that honors deceased ancestors on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar (usually falls around mid-February of Gregorian calendar). The Lantern Festival aims to promote reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness. 

Originally, the holiday marks the first full moon of the new lunar year and the end of the Chinese New Year. In some other Asian countries such as Thailand or Laos, the festival is celebrated around late October or early November to mark the end of the Buddhist Lent & the beginning of the festive season.

During the festival, houses are festooned with colorful lanterns, often with riddles written on them; if the riddle is answered correctly, the solver earns a small gift. Festival celebrations also include lion and dragon dances, parades, and fireworks. 

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