15 Days Yunnan (China)-Vietnam Overland Tour via Dien Bien Fu

Day 1 Arrive in Kunming
Day 2 Kunming-Stone Forest-Jianshui
Day 3 Jianshui-Yuanyang
Day 4 Yuanyang
Day 5 YUANYANG – HEKOU – SAPA (300km / ca 5 hrs.) (B)
After breakfast we leave Yuanyang towards Hekou. For most of the way, the road follows the luscious, fertile valley of the Red River (Hong He), which flows in an almost straight line through deep canyons and picturesque valley in a south-eastern direction across the border into Vietnam. After completing the border formalities meet your guide in Vietnam and continue travelling towards Sapa. We leave the red river valley and travel into the rugged mountain area that covers most of Northern Vietnam. The road to Sapa offers stunning views over surrounding mountains and lush forests belonging to Hoang Lien National Park. We travel across the the” Heavens Gate”, the highest stretch of road in Vietnam as well as the provincial border of Lao Cai and Lai Chau provinces.

Day 6: SAPA (B)

Today you will take a bike ride through the beautiful surroundings of Sapa. The brilliant green terraced rice fields stand in a vast contrast to the rugged mountain slopes and the often snow-capped peaks surrounding the valley.
A mostly downhill ride along a winding road brings us to the village of Su Pan, an idyllic village that is mainly inhabited by the Black Hmong. It is believed that the Black Hmong (Huong) may have migrated from Persia or Babylonia via Siberia and China to the north of present-day Vietnam.
Continue to the village of Ban Ho where we have lunch. Time at leisure. If you feel like it you can take a swim together with the locals in the nearby river. The extremely friendly Ta form one of the largest ethnic groups in Vietnam and migrated here from southern China. On foot we explore the nearby village of Nam Bong which is inhabited by the Red Dao. We visit one of their traditional houses built on stilts. Walk back to Ban Ho from where we take the car back to Sapa. (Bike: 25km mostly downhill = easy)

Day 7: SAPA – DIEN BIEN FU (B) (300km / 4,5 hrs)

Away from the usual tourist paths we travel through the remote mountain areas of northern Vietnam to Dien Bien Fu. Along the way there is the possibility to visit some more villages of the Hmong or the Dzao ethnic minority. The Dzao ethnic minority can be found in southern China as well as in Laos and northern Vietnam. The Dzao are known for their elaborate and colorful traditional dresses.
With a bit of luck we come across one of the colorful local markets where you can witness the people of the nearby hill tribes socializing and making their weekly purchases. Lunch along the way at a local restaurant. We reach Dien Bien Fu in the afternoon. Overnight accommodation is in Dien Bien Fu.

Day 8: DIEN BIEN FU – SON LA (B) (drive: ca 3 hrs)

Only 35km separate Dien Bien Fu from the border to Laos. 1954 Dien Bien Fu was the scene of a brutal and decisive battle between the former colonial power France and the troops of the Vietnamese independence movement Vieth Minh under the command of General Giap. In the evening of May 7, 1954 the French commander of Dien Bien Fu, Colonel de Castries, hoisted the white flag over his command bunker. A battle that lasted for 55 days was over. The defeat at Dien Bien Fu ultimately led to the withdrawal of the French from Vietnam and ended the French presence as a colonial power in Southeast Asia.
We visit the interesting war museum and the command bunker of Colonel de Castries.
In the afternoon, drive along the recently upgraded road No. 6 through spectacular scenery to Son La. On the way we travel across the Pha Din Pass. According to a local legend, Pha Din Pass is the place where the sky meets the earth, so it is considered as the “connecting point” where Heaven and Earth meet. Overnight in Son La.

Day 9: SON LA – MAI CHAU (drive: ca 3 hrs) (B)
If possible we visit the bustling morning market of Son La. Son La was once the site of a French penal colony where anti-colonial revolutionaries where imprisoned and “re-educated”. Many of these prisoners died of illnesses like Malaria or Typhus. The Son La prison was built in 1908 but later partially destroyed by American bomb raids. We take a tour through the Son La prison and the attached Museum.
We continue our journey through one of Vietnams major teas growing areas to Moc Chau. We visit a tea plantation and learn more abut the cultivation of tea in that area. The scenic drive to Mai Chau offers many photo opportunities along the way. The surrounding villages are mainly inhabited by the Black Thai and the Hmong ethnic minorities. We reach Mai Chau in the late afternoon. Overnight stay is at a tastefully furnished boutique lodge in Mai Chau.

Day 10: MAI CHAU – HANOI (B) (drive: ca 4 hrs)

After breakfast we travel to Hanoi. En route we stop at a village which is inhabited by the Muong ethnic group and we also take a short boat tour on the Hoa Binh Lake. We reach Hanoi in early afternoon. Hanoi is the capital and the second largest city in Vietnam. In the year 1010 King Ly Thai To chose Hanoi for the first time as capital city of Vietnam under the name of Thang Long (Soaring Dragon). It stayed the capital of Vietnam until 1802, when Emperor Gia Long, the founder of the Nguyen Dynasty, decided to move the capital to Hue.

The city was named Hanoi by (The city in a bend of the river)by Emperor Tu Duc in 1831. From 1902 to 1953 Hanoi served as the capital of French Indochina. During this time, the French set up south of the old town a modern administrative city with wide, tree-lined paralleled avenues with opera, churches and numerous luxury villas, which nowadays provide Hanoi with a very peculiar charm.

Full day city tour of Hanoi, the oldest city and definitely the most charming capital in Asia. We visit the Ngoc Son Temple which is located on a small island of Hoan Kiem Lake. The temple is dedicated to the war hero Tran Hung Dao, who is said to have beaten an army of Kublai Khan in the 14th century.
Then we will visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Museum of Ethnology. Opened in 1997 by the Vietnam government, the Museum of Ethnology provides fascinating insights into the complex cultures, traditions and ways of life of the 54 ethnic groups who are native to Vietnam.
In the afternoon we visit the “One Pillar Pagoda”, a unique wooden structure which was built in 1049 by Emperor Ly Thai Tong. The present structure is a replica as the original structure was destroyed by the French in 1954. Continuing on our way through Hanoi, we will pass the Temple of Literature. The temple of literature was built in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Thong who dedicated it to Confucius in order to honor scholars and men of literary accomplishment.
Afterwards we visit the charming old town of Hanoi with its countless colonial style houses and take a tour with a traditional Vietnamese “rickshaw”. Overnight in Hanoi.

Day 12: HANOI – HALONG BAY (B/L) (drive: ca 2 hrs)

Drive to the Halong Bay where we check into our cabins aboard our comfortable Junk. Halong Bay is one of the most breathtaking scenic spots in all of Vietnam and was designated as a World Natural Heritage in 1994. It is a picturesque bay with some 1969 islets rising from the clear emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. The limestone basin has been carved into stalactite caves, crescent beaches and odd-shaped formations. It is also famous for its varied ecological system with thousands of kinds of fish, hundreds of sorts of coral and other sea creatures.
The fantastic cruise of the Halong Bay brings us to some of the most prominent and impressive features in the Ha Long Bay area. At a leisurely pace the „Marguerite“ sails past rock formations with romantic names such as “Burn of incense”, “Dog” or “fighting cock”. During our first stop you visit the magical and beautiful Sung Sot cave (surprise cave). 144 steps lead up to the entrance of the cave from where you’ll enjoy a magnificent view over the Halong Bay. We continue to the Titov Island where we make a short walk with, once again, breathtaking views of the entire Halong Bay. There is also time to explore the island by kayak or for a swim in the emerald blue water. Dinner and overnight on board in front of the magnificent scenery of Halong Bay.

Today we explore some of the remoter parts of the Halong Bay. By our dinghy or by Kayak you explore hidden caves and tunnels that have been artfully created by erosion over million of years. Lunch on board the Junk. After lunch you can relax on the sundeck, take a swim or take one of the Kayaks and explore the area together on your own or together with your tour guide. We sail further out into the Halong Bay. We paddle with our Kayaks to the fishing village of Van Gia. We take a walking tour around the village before returning to the Junk. After dinner you can try your luck in fishing or simply relax on the sundeck. Overnight on board.

While you enjoy an extensive breakfast the captain steers the Junk back towards Bai Chai. en route we drip anchor at the fishing village of Ba Hang. We take time to explore the village before heading back to the boat for lunch. In the afternoon we say good by to the crew and head by our dinghy back to the mainland where our driver is waiting for us. Drive back (ca 1.5 hrs) to Hanoi. Check-in at the hotel. In the evening we visit a performance of the traditional art of water puppetry. The art of water puppetry dates back to the Ly Dynasty (1004-1224). The stage is in form of a square tank of waist-deep water where the puppeteers, while standing in the water, operate their puppets with considerable skills. Overnight accommodation in Hanoi.

Transfer to the airport.