Length: 12 Days
Group Dates: Size: 2 – 12
Sep 25 – Oct 06, 2013
May 01 – May 12, 2014
Private Dates, for 2 or more
Level: Easy – Moderate
Hike, kayak, cycle
Price: From $1,995
Days 1-2- Hanoi, Vietnam
Day 3- Ngoc Son Luong Reserve
Days 4-5- Moc Chau
Day 6- Hanoi
Day 7- Cat Ba Island
Day 8- Cat Ba. Night train
Day 9- Hue and Hoi An
Day 10- Hoi An
Day 11- Fly Hanoi
Day 12- Return
This trip has it all: bustling Hanoi, meaningful interactions with highland communities, kayaking around secluded beaches and karst limestone towers, UNESCO treasures of Hoi An, stunning natural scenery at every turn, tantalizing food, comfortable hotels and the friendliest people around!
Offering hiking, kayaking and cycling, this multisport provides responsible adventure travel with making a difference.
Making it Meaningful
Support income generation and sustainable livelihood projects in rural Moc Chau. Dine at a KOTO restaurant that gives underprivileged street teens a chance to learn hospitality skills.
Note: Day 1 is the day you arrive and meet the group. This may require departing your hometown one or more days in advance or taking an overnight flight.
Note: B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
Day 1 - Arrival in Hanoi
A guide and vehicle welcome you at the airport to drive you your comfortable hotel in the Old Quarter. Welcome dinner in a typical Hanoian Bia Hoi.
Day 2 - Hanoi city tour
Discover the two faces of Hanoi. In the morning, stroll the noisy, chaotic streets of the old quarter and visit the Ho Chi Minh complex. Take lunch at KOTO, a unique restaurant that provides street kids with culinary training and so much more.
Later, we head to the banks of the Red River for gentle bicycling along its dyke. Enjoy this other side of Hanoi. Photograph the beautiful flora, watch boats unload their ceramic wares and share a laugh with a farmer.
B, L, D
Day 3 - Hanoi – Ngoc Son Ngo Luong Nature Reserve
Depart at 8 am and drive southwest, getting to the Ngoc Son Ngo Luong Nature Reserve around noon. Meet with forest rangers who will explain about the nature conservation and livelihood improvement efforts taking place. Proceed on foot to Chieng village where we have lunch. From Chieng descend a verdant valley to Mu village, stopping to see the waterfalls. Continue across the terraced rice fields to Sat village and our cozy homestay. After a warm welcome there’s time for relaxing in the stream and natural pools by the house while dinner is prepared and the sun slowly sets.
Accommodation is in a wooden stilt house. There is one common shared space that serves as living room, dining room and sleeping room depending on the time of the day. We have our meals in a traditional way, sitting on the floor around big trays. At nighttime, beds are set in rows, each bed consists of a thin traditional mattress, bed sheets, blanket, pillow and individual mosquito net. It is simple but comfortable.
B, L, D
Day 4 - Ngoc Son Ngo Luong – Moc Chau
We’ll get an early start and walk through one of the most beautiful parts of the Reserve following the river on the valley floor. The mountains surrounding us are limestone. Hike through a wonderland of green as tall betel nut trees stand as guardians watching over us.
Share lunch with a family in Mon village before motorbike taxis bring us back to the entrance of the reserve and after a refreshment, we’ll drive to Moc Chau. Here, our in-country partner and NGO, Handspan have developed community-based tourism projects. Follow the guide for a gentle walk around the village and its tea hills. The homestay in Moc Chau is fairly similar to the night before.
B, L, D
Day 5 - Moc Chau
In Moc Chau, several ethnic minorities share the land to grow tea, corn and plum trees. Visit with a French agricultural association that settled in the region to assist local farmers develop techniques and optimize their production.
Accompany local farmers to visit their plum orchards and the processing factory. Learn about sustainable technologies such as solar powered fruit drying process and perhaps even get a taste of plum liquor. We will be back at the homestay late in the afternoon.
B, L, D
Day 6 - Moc Chau – Hanoi
From the main road, it is a 1-hour walk along corn and rice fields to Phieng Canh, a H’mong hamlet nested in a deep valley. Get lost in time, then say goodbye to this enchanting area as we hit the paved road and return to our Hanoi hotel, arriving around 6 pm.
Day 7 - Hanoi – Cat Ba
Depart Hanoi early for a 2-hour drive through the Red River Delta to Haiphong to catch our hydrofoil boat to Cat Ba Island. A smaller vessel then whisks us to a lovely, sheltered beach where you’ll meet your kayak guide. Kayaking is a fun and safe sport, and even total beginners will become pros in the first 20 minutes.
After instructions and learning basic paddle strokes, it’s time to start exploring the amazing limestone karst formations and grottos. Paddling up close to these rocky sentinels rising from the clear water is an unforgettable experience. Dinner and overnight in a wooden thatched-roofed huts near the water.
B, L, D
Day 8 - Cat Ba – Hanoi – Night train to Hue
In the morning we take a boat cruise to explore nearby Lan Ha Bay. If you like we may find a good spot for some swimming or to do a bit more kayaking before lunch on board. After lunch we catch the hydrofoil from Cat Ba back to Haiphong.
We’ll arrive in Hanoi about 6 pm and have a shower and dinner before taking a night train to Hue. For the overnight train, you will share a 4-berth cabin with fellow travelers. Cabins have AC and soft mattress. There is one toilet per coach on the train.
B, L, D
Day 9 - Hue – Hoi An
This MeaningfulTrip delivers two UNESCO World Heritage Sites today! A guide meets us upon arrival into Hue train station in late morning. Visit the main site of the old ‘Imperial City, the citadel. Later in the afternoon we drive to Hoi An. Evening at leisure. Dinner is on your own.
If you liked your KOTO experience up north, you may also want to try ‘Streets Restaurant Café. STREETS International is an innovative social enterprise that operates sustainable programs for street kids and disadvantaged youth in SE Asia. Our comfortable hotel for next two nights is located on the banks of the romantic Thu Bon River.
Day 10 - Hoi An
Ask people who have visited Vietnam about Hoi An – and the response typically goes something like – “Aaaaaah Hoi An”. Hoi An is one of the most charming towns in all of Southeast Asia. It’s an ancient port-town dating from the 15th century and now part of UNESCO thanks to its exceptionally well-preserved architecture. Get a shirt, dress or pants personally tailored for you. There is also a beach 3 miles from the center, with beautiful, calm water.
Day 11 - Hoi An – flight to Hanoi
Morning at leisure. In the afternoon a vehicle drives you to Danang’s airport to catch a flight to Hanoi (included). You are welcomed at Hanoi and driven to the hotel. Enjoy our final group dinner at a traditional restaurant and share favorite stories from our memory-filled adventure.
B, L, D
Day 12 - Departure
After breakfast, there are transfers to the airport.
Note on Itinerary
Sep 25 – Oct 06, 2013
May 01 – May 12, 2014
Group Size: 2 – 12 persons
Private Dates, for 2 or more
Minimum Age: 15 (see below)
5 – 12 persons: $1,995
2 – 4 persons: $2,195
International Airfare is not included.
Rates quoted are per person, based on sharing double accommodations.
Own Room: $300
Only guaranteed in Hanoi (3 nights), and Hoi An (2 nights). See below.
- Airport transfers on first and last day
- Expert leadership
- Accommodations, meals, sights, entrance fees as noted in itinerary
- Ground transportation
- Overnight train
- Internal flight: Hoi An to Hanoi
- In-country support team
- Contribution to one or more global NGO, nonprofit or organization we partner with
- Contribution to Global Giving. (Meaningful Trips is proud to partner with nonprofit,
Global Giving, specifically to support hunger and poverty needs in the USA.)
What’s Not Included
- International airfare
- Any hotel costs while en route prior to Day 1
- Meals not noted on itinerary
- Tip for your leader/driver (optional)
- Excess baggage charges; airport taxes
- Cost of medical immunizations
- Cost of obtaining a passport or tourist visa ($ 25 + service fee)
- Items of a personal nature (sodas, alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.)
U.S. citizens traveling to Vietnam do need a visa for a tourist stay of 60 days or less. Check with the U.S Dept. Of State website for the most up-to-date information on obtaining a Vietnam visa: www.travel.state.gov/visa. You must also have a valid passport. Passport must be valid for 90 days after trip conclusion.
International airfare is not included. Please always check with us before purchasing your airline tickets to verify your arrival and departure schedule and to ensure your trip has the necessary minimum number of participants required to operate. Contact your local travel agent, airline, or preferred on-line booking service for airfare needs.
Meaningful travel works best with a small group of people and some trips have tier pricing. We initially invoice you at the highest tier level price (the smallest group size we can operate). If the price drops due to an increase in group size, your final invoice will reflect the lower price. Note: trips are priced according to the number of full-price passengers on the trip. (MeaningfulTrip staff, travel writers and other discounted travelers are excluded from the count for this purpose.)
If you specifically request single accommodations, you will be asked to pay the full single supplement noted above. If you wish to share accommodations, we will assign you a same-gender roommate if one is available. If a roommate cannot be found, you will be asked to pay a reduced single fee which is half of the full single supplement. There are only a limited number of single rooms available on most departures.
Note: Single supplement is ONLY for hotel nights in Hanoi and Hoi An (5 nights total). There are no requested single accommodations in the home stays or overnight train. Single accommodation at the beach cabin, while possible, cannot be guaranteed.
Choose your own Departure
Small groups of six or more can pick their own desired departure dates between September 20 – October 20th 2012 or in May 2013 (based on availability). So grab your family, your neighbors, or your best friends and call us.
Customized Private Groups
Family reunions, corporate groups, wedding parties, student groups, church groups, and any groups interested in a customized departure are welcome to contact us.
Private Group Discount
For private groups with 12 or more full-paying passengers, each person receives a $100 discount.
Payment & Cancellation Policy
Deposit of $400 due at time of reservation.
Final balance due 90 days prior to trip departure.
If you cancel prior to departure (we need written notice), cancellation fees are:
91 or more days… $0
61 to 90 days… $400
31 to 60 days… 50% of Trip Cost
0 to 30 days… 100% of Trip Cost
MeaningfulTrips strongly recommends the purchase of travel insurance. Our preferred travel insurance provider is World Nomads. Links can be found on our Deposit and Sign-up pages.
Trip Level and Qualifications
Easy – Moderate
All welcome. Travel at a relaxed pace. May include driving of three to four hours on some days. Activity: easy walking and light hiking, one to three hours, at low elevation. May include less demanding, activities such as bicycling and kayaking, but these activities are optional. Travel to Vietnam requires a certain flexibility and sense of adventure. In major cities such as Hanoi, it is typical to encounter pollution, traffic noise and delays.
Minimum Age: 15
As most all of our travelers are adults, our minimum age on this trip is 15 years old (unless on a specifically-designated ‘Family Trips’ or ‘Private Trips’). Ages 15 – 20, must be accompanied by an adult.
The spring (April, May) and fall (September, October, beginning of November) are the two best seasons to visit both North and Central Vietnam. Weather is generally clear, dry and sunny; temperatures can go from 78 to 90 degrees and do not vary much from daytime to nighttime. Spring and fall also offer the excitement of harvest time.
Food holds specific importance in the daily life of Vietnamese people. It reflects social, historic and philosophical aspects of life. Rice and or noodles are the mainstay of every meal. Most Vietnamese dishes are a combination of a variety of vegetables, herbs and meats. Of course, vegetarian options can be found. Common herbs may include lemon grass, lime or kaffir. Popular meats are pork, beef, chicken, prawn and various fish.
Fish sauce and soy sauce are used as both flavorings and dipping sauces for nearly every dish. Peanuts are also used widely in Vietnamese cuisine. Whether its pho (noodle soup) at a bustling sidewalk stall, or Bo Mon (stir-fry beef) at a crowded local restaurant, the food will be fresh and tasty. We encourage you to try something different.
Our hotels were carefully selected for their comfort, service, staff friendliness and commitment to sustainability. Hanoi’s May de Ville Old Quarter is a beautiful 3-star hotel located right in the center of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
Hoi An’s gorgeous Vinh Hung Riverside Resort has a swimming pool, garden area and great location. Home stays consist of sleeping in shared quarters on mats.
This trip is subject to the booking information set forth in the Meaningful Trips Terms and Conditions. Please read this information carefully. Additional pre-departure information including a Packing List, Medical Form and Liability Release Form is emailed upon sign-up.
Signing up is Easy!
A no risk $400 deposit reserves your spot and is 100% fully refundable if you change your mind for any reason at all, more than 90-days out! Call or click today. Reserve your spot. Then leave the rest to us.
Your meaningful trip awaits. Space is limited. Reserve today.
Make It Meaningful
In Moc Chau, our local partner is involved in capacity building projects which bring to the hill tribe communities new sources of income through tourism and to help them understand and value their natural and cultural assets. Ecotourism also gives small farmers an alternative income stream. Once income generation through responsible tourism is established, more effort will be made to target the main development problems of health and education.
In Ngoc Son Ngo Luong, we support a project initiated by Spanish NGO to support nature conservation and improve farming practices. Ecotourism efforts here over the last year have served as micro-credit for 4 families to start new organic vegetable- growing enterprises.
In Hanoi, we have a meal at a KOTO restaurant. In Hanoi alone, there is upwards of 19,000 young people living on the streets, in poverty, uneducated and without hope for the future. KOTO is a not-for-profit restaurant and vocational training program that is changing the lives of street and disadvantaged youth in Hanoi and Saigon.
KOTO’s philosophy is that disadvantaged youth should have access to holistic and vocational skills development, in a nurturing environment, where they will build their self-confidence and be empowered to live a life of dignity and happiness. The young male and female KOTO graduates are in high demand at all the top restaurants and hotels in Vietnam, and now, Cambodia too.
You will, no doubt, be touched by the warmth and friendliness of the people of Vietnam.
These people have many things to tell and share about their lives, their challenges, their successes, their hopes for the future. Meaningful people-to-people exchanges rely on your engagement, spontaneity and curiosity… so jump in!
What We Believe
At our core, we believe that meaningful and responsible tourism is a conduit for peace and global understanding. Way beyond tourism… we gain insight, discover new perspectives, develop lifelong memories, we become change agents for creating a better world.
All our tours support environmental, economic and social endeavors in the areas we visit. We hire locally. We choose hotels based on their efforts toward sustainability. We promote women’s employment, education and empowerment with all our partners. We support local livelihoods on every element of our tours.
MeaningfulTrip’s Triple Give
In addition to all of the above, we:
- Make contributions to selected global projects, NGO’s, or causes in countries we visit.
- Make a contribution to Global Giving, a non-profit that connects donors with grassroots projects around the world. MeaningfulTrips is proud to partner with Global Giving and we will specifically target projects that support hunger and poverty needs in the USA.
- Pledge 1% of our end-of-year net profits to a MeaningfulTrip Trust.
Lodging & Amenities
US State Department (passports) – Everything you need to know about passports.
US State Department (visas) – Visa and entry & exit requirements
Zierer Visa Services – ZVS has offices in San Francisco, New York, Houston, Miami, Washington DC, and Florida
Geographia – This site contains concise profiles of major countries in Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Europe, and Latin America. Provides information on: geography, climate, culture, people, history.
TheTimeNow.com – Find out what time it is, anywhere in the world.
Information on vaccines and advice on how to stay healthy while traveling.
Center for Disease Control – Travel health information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Includes reference material and recommendations by geographic region.
High Altitude Issues
ISMM, International Society for Mountain Medicine – Comprehensive information on Acclimatization and Acute Mountain Sickness, including prevention, recognition, and treatment of altitude illness.
Intellicast Weather Site – This site gives current weather all over the world, as well as historic average temperatures and rainfall, and sunrise/sunset, moonrise/moonset, and the phases of the moon.
Clothing & Gear
Meaningful Trip’s recommended outdoor retailers specializing in adventure and responsible travel.
Altrec – The number one source for all your favorite outdoor adventure brands including Mountain Hardwear, Arc’Teryx, Mountainsmith, Oakley, Marmot and many more! A true leader in online shopping.
Columbia Sportswear – “Trying stuff takes us to places we never imagined”
Dana Design – At Dana Design, we seek comfort for those who travel far. It’s why serious trekkers aren’t just partial to Dana Design. They’re devoted.
EagleCreek – Eagle Creek offers the most comprehensive selection of packs, wheeled luggage, duffels, packing, and travel accessories.
ExOfficio – Ex Officio’s adventure travel and urban travel clothing collections are designed to play an active role in your comfort when traveling. The perfect blend of function, low maintenance and multi-climate comfort for everything from hiking, rafting, safaris and cultural tours.
Kelty – Manufacturer of quality outdoor apparel, backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, travel gear and child carriers.
The NorthFace – The North Face provides an extensive line of performance clothing, equipment and footwear.
Patagonia – Patagonia is world famous for its quality clothing and gear. MeaningfulTrip loves Patagonia for their environmentalism and their 1% for the planet program.
Salomon – Find out why their boots are the best in the business.
Teva Footwear – Teva Footwear. Buy your Tevas direct from Teva.com. Select from over 100 models.
Books & Maps
Lonely Planet – With content sections labeled The Thorn Tree, World Guide, On the Road, and The Scoop, you know Lonely Planet’s site is much more than just their terrific guidebooks.
Maps – An online World Atlas which covers 7 continents, 12 regions, 190 countries, and 50 US States.
Activity Levels and Qualifications
All welcome. Travel at a relaxed pace. May include driving of 3 – 4 hours on some days. Activity: easy walking and light hiking, 1 – 3 hours, at low elevation. May include less demanding, half-day trips that may include: bicycling, sea kayaking, or rafting (Class I-II rapids), and these activities are optional. Minimum Age: 16* (see note below).
Recommended for fit travelers with a spirit of adventure. Travel at a moderate pace. Activity: moderate walking and hiking, 3 – 4 hours daily, at elevations which may range from 5,000 – 10,000 feet. May include less demanding half-day or day-trips that may include: bicycling, sea kayaking, or rafting (Class I-II rapids), and these activities are optional. May include driving of 3 – 4 hours on some days.
Minimum Age: 16* (see below).
Recommended for fit travelers. Moderate hiking experience and conditioning are required. Activity: 5 – 8 hours trekking daily at high elevation, while carrying your own small daypack (water, essentials and warm layers). Surfaces: mountainous, exposed terrain with steep ascents/descents and uneven trails. Elevations: will range from 6,000 – 14,000 feet. It is important that you read our information about Altitude Mountain Sickness. A doctor’s release is required for persons age 60 or older. Minimum Age: 16 (see below).
Designed for very fit travelers. Typically, for extended high-altitude trekking or mountaineering. Activity: 8+ hours/day. Distances: Trek 10 – 12 miles most days. Elevation change: up to 4,000 ft/day. Altitude: may exceed 15,000 ft. Surfaces: remote, mountainous, exposed terrain with steep ascents/descents, uneven trails with loose features. Experience and conditioning required. A doctor’s release is required for all participants. Minimum age: 18.
As most of our travelers are adults, our minimum age on all trips is 16 years old (unless on a specifically-designated ‘Private Group Departure’ or ‘Family Departure’). Ages 16 – 20, must be accompanied by an adult.