Last Modified: 10 Mar 2016
Mai Chau Adventure
Trip code: TVAX-B
Validity: 01 Jan 2013 to 31 Dec 2016
Escape the beeping horns and bustling bikes of Hanoi by venturing out into the serene Mai Chau region. Make the acquaintance of curious locals and learn about their lifestyle and culture over a traditional lunch. Snack on weird and wonderful delicacies, and discover a slice of rural paradise while cycling through remote villages and along paths that border spectacular rice paddies. After the sun sets on an action-packed day, fall asleep in a village homestay before waking up early to see this stunning region bathed in morning sunlight. Then, with batteries fully recharged, wave goodbye to new friends and make tracks back to the enigmatic Vietnamese capital.
Table of Contents
Short Breaks, Walking & Trekking
Why we love it
- Escape to the mountains near Mai Chau
- Fill up on delicious Vietnamese treats
- Spend time getting to know the friendly locals
- Ride a bike through stunning hillside villages
- Learn about customs of the White Thai minority group
- Trek through pristine rural vistas
Day 1 Hanoi / Mai Chau
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam.
Your Short Break Adventure starts at 8.00 – 8.30 am on Day 1, or from your alternate hotel in Hanoi's Old Quarter (advised prior to departure), between 7.30am - 8.30 am.
Our trip starts with a transfer from Hanoi to Mai Chau (approx 150 km/3 hours). Leave behind the hectic pace of life in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi and journey to the clean air of the mountains surrounding Mai Chau valley. Stop at a vantage point to take in the view of Mai Chau, home to a variety of minority groups with their own unique culture and languages. There's also the opportunity to help local farmers plant rice seeds into the field along the way. The break presents a great photo opportunity.
Upon arrival in Mai Chau, head to the village of Pom Coong where our local guide will introduce us to our hosts for lunch and provide information on the region's people, their lifestyles, customs and culture. Lunch is a traditional affair with examples of local cuisine on offer. This is a great opportunity to experience the local area, chat with our hosts and gain a real insight into life in this fascinating and picturesque region.
After lunch you have time to relax before taking part in a bicycle trip visiting nearby villages. This breathtaking ride takes us on small footpaths through the rice paddies of the spectacular Mai Chau Valley with its ring of mountains rising up at every turn. There are plenty of photo opportunities as we journey through the majestic scenery, as well as chances to interact with the locals.
We return to your homestay and relax with a cold drink while watching the sun set over the peaceful mountains. Alternatively, for the food lovers, why not help the landlady to cook dinner!
At our homestay we'll be sleeping on mattresses in a communal room. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Shared toilet and bathroom facilities are basic.
Homestay (1 nt)
1 lunch, 1 dinner
Day 2 Mai Chau Trekking / Hanoi
After breakfast at the homestay, strike out on a trek through the local area. The people that live in this region are from the White Thai villages. We have an opportunity to visit a number of villages and learn more about their lifestyles, culture and customs from our local guide. The trek is approx. 3 hours in length and not overly strenuous, however a good solid pair of shoes is recommended as we will be walking on uneven trails and up and down hills. There are plenty of opportunities to take a break, enjoy the pristine scenery, take some photos or just relax in this stunning setting where few outsiders venture.
We return to the homestay for lunch before heading back to Hanoi. Your Mai Chau Trekking adventures ends at around 5:00pm.
1 breakfast, 1 lunch
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Guided biking tour
1. This Short Break Adventure starts at 8.00 – 8.30am on Day 1, and finishes at approximately 5.00pm on Day 2.
2. You will be picked up on Day 1 from the Joining Point Hotel listed in the Essential Trip Information for this itinerary. Pick-up will take place between 8.00 – 8.30am in the hotel foyer.
3. If you require pick up from another hotel in Hanoi's Old Quarter, please inform your booking agent at least 14 days prior to departure.
Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
On some trips accommodation is available only on a shared basis with other travellers, who might not necessarily be Intrepid travellers. Arrangements vary depending on the trip from twin to multishare, so refer to the daily itinerary for more details on your accommodation. In some situations you may have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure you have your own room.
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in your selected accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for your arrival, especially if you're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible, which means you won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, you can store your luggage and explore the new destination.
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
While travelling with us you'll have the opportunity to experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility.
1 breakfast, 2 lunches, 1 dinner
The official currency of Vietnam is Dong (VND).
US dollars are also accepted for some payments. It is almost impossible to change VND into US dollars without a flight ticket showing your onward destination.
Only change money at official money exchange counters with a clear sign showing this status. Illegal exchange places like gold shops may offer a higher rate you may risk losing your money.
Credit cards are becoming more widely accepted, but outside main centres you may find cash the only acceptable currency. It may be difficult to cash travellers’ cheques.
ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas.
You can have funds transferred to Vietnam via international money transfer companies like Western Union or Moneygram.
When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Although can be difficult to source we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier.
The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$1. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
Local guides: We suggest US$2-3 per day for local guides.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest US$1-2 per day for drivers.
In total, we recommend you budget approx US$5-10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
Budget for meals not included: 180.00
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
This Short Break Adventure is a 'join in' group departure, which means you are not accompanied by an Intrepid group leader - our local representative fills this role - and the configuration of any fellow travellers in the group might change during the trip.
The aim of our local representative is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. On this style of trip you might have one person stay with you for the entire journey, or you might get to enjoy the variety of having someone different for each day and/or activity. They will be able to provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and, where possible, introduce you to our local friends. While some may not be guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
In addition to any included activities on your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. Our local representative may be able to assist you with available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that our local representative has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Some hotel balconies don't meet western standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
Please take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water, where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It's expected that anyone taking part in water activities is able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.
Hanoi Legacy Hotel - Hoan Kiem (BASIX)
1 Ngo Gach Street Hoan Kiem District
Phone: +84 39290702
Fax: +84 39290704
Joining point description
Hanoi Legacy Hoan Kiem Hotel is located right in the centre of Hanoi Old Quarter, 300 metres from Hoan Kiem Lake, and 50 metres from Dong Xuan Market. The hotel is also just 3 km from Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and One Pillar Pagoda. Hotel rooms have ensuites and air conditioning, while the hotel also offers free Wi-Fi, 24 hour reception, luggage storage, laundry service, and a restaurant. It takes approximately 45 minutes to drive between the Noi Bai International airport an the Hanoi Legacy Hoan Kiem Hotel.
Joining point instructions
Metered taxi ranks are available outside the airport entrance. Go out of the customs hall and walk through the airport exit gates A4 and A5 on level 1, you will find Noi Bai Airport taxis (+84 4 3886 8888) readily available outside. Noi Bai Airport taxi drivers wear yellow uniform shirt. Taxi fare to your hotel in town will cost approx. US$18 (VND350000) in total. Please note these taxis are not on meter - but generally charge per trip. Please AVOID taxi touts who tell you that they have a metered taxi parked outside the airport.
Alternatively a arrival transfer from the airport is available if arranged at the time of booking. Transfers cannot be arranged on arrival. Please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your departure. If you plan to arrive earlier, this arrival transfer can only be offered in conjunction with pre-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer you will be met on arrival, and your driver will be waiting for you as you get out of the customs hall and will be holding an Intrepid sign bearing your name.
If you cannot find your pre-booked transfer, or you have any concerns about your transfer, please call our hotline at +84 903 117 770.
Your Short Break Adventure starts at 8.00 – 8.30 am on Day 1, or from your alternate hotel (advised prior to departure), between 7.30am - 8.30 am.
Hanoi Legacy Hotel - Hoan Kiem (BASIX)
1 Ngo Gach Street Hoan Kiem District
Phone: +84 39290702
Fax: +84 39290704
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.
Most nationalities require a visa to travel to Vietnam.
Some nationalities are exempt from visas for a stay of under 15 days. If you are planning on staying in Vietnam for longer than 15 days you will need to obtain a visa extension in advance (please contact your relevant Consulate or Embassy). Effective from 1st July 2015 - 30 June 2016 exempt visa nationalities include British, German, French, Spanish and Italian citizens travelling to Vietnam (for all purposes) for a period of up to 15 days, and on the basis of meeting all conditions prescribed by Vietnamese laws.
Vietnam visas need to be arranged in advance. When obtaining your visa you should allow 3 weeks for processing, the cost is approximately US$60 to US$100. Check with your embassy or consulate for further details.
Keep the customs and immigration form you receive on arrival, as you need it to complete exit formalities on departure.
If your visa application asks for a point of contact, please write: Intrepid Vietnam 57A Nguyen Khac Hieu St, Hanoi, Vietnam Ph +84 4 3715 0996.
Most nationalities do not require a letter of invitation for Vietnam but if you do need one, please contact your sales agent for more information.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.
Climate and seasonal information
During the rainy months (approx. June to October), our mode of transport can be changed at short notice due to weather conditions.
Tet is Vietnam's New Year festival, held annually in late January or early February based on the lunar calendar. Departures are unavailable during this time.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Rare instances of dengue fever have been reported in this region. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing and always using repellent. Please note that this mosquito is most active during daylight hours however care should be taken at all times.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the trip until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by our local representative.
If you have credit card insurance our local representative will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact telephone number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader or local representative has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller.
When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in the predominantly hot Asian climate. In many rural areas in Asia women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Vietnam include:
* The Blue Dragon Children's Foundation works in northern and central Vietnam with the most vulnerable children: street kids, children with disabilities, children from rural families living in extreme poverty, and victims of human trafficking and slavery. Their primary aim is to rescue kids from danger, reunite them with their families when they can, and provide all the services needed for recovery and growth.
* Children's Hope in Action (CHIA) provides vital health and disability programs and educational services to vulnerable families in Hoi An and surrounding rural areas. CHIA’s holistic Special Education program facilitates the social, physical and intellectual development of children who have motor disabilities and little, or no intellectual impairment.
* The KOTO Saigon Training Centre provides training in life skills and hospitality to former street children. Trainees at the Saigon centre will go on to work at KOTO's restaurant in the city (to open in 2011). Travellers may also visit the KOTO restaurant in Hanoi, which also provides training opportunities for disadvantaged youth and great food.
For more information, or to make a donation please visit: www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/?projectcountry=vietnam
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