Mountains_ Beaches_ Yoga _ Walking

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                                               Mountains, Beaches, Yoga & Walking
                                               This trip is based around two of Vietnam’s most scenic and interesting locations
                                               and offers a study in contrasts between the mountainous North and the tropical
                                               beaches of Phu Quoc island off the coast of Vietnam / Cambodia. Both offer great
                                               opportunities for walking in a relaxed environment. Our trip in March will be
                                               accompanied by Yoga instructor Cheryl Griggs, so there will be time for practice
                                               each day as way to further relax body and mind.

                                               The area around Sapa in Northwest Vietnam offers magnificent mountain scenery
                                               and was once the hill station retreat of French Colonials, escaping the heat of the
                                               lowlands. It is an area that is still relatively underdeveloped and populated by a
                                               fascinating mix of Mountain peoples. Our trip to the highlands starts in Hanoi where
                                               we board a train to Lao Cai in the North, the jumping off point for Sapa. We’ll have
                                               two night’s in a mountaintop retreat and enjoy walks in the area during the day.
                                               The Topas eco-lodge is a wonderful base for exploring the area and has comfortable
                                               rooms and modern facilities. We’ll hike through the surrounding valleys and see
                                               villages of the H’mong, Thai, Dzao people for an indepth experience of Vietnam’s
                                               ethnic minority hill tribes, where you will notice different styles of housing amongst
the various tribes and watch families (wearing their traditional, intricately embroidered clothing) plough their fields using water
buffalos. Then it’s off southwards to Phu Quoc, a jewel of an Island lying in the Gulf of Thailand off Vietnam’s Southern Coast.
Phu Quoc is an up and coming destination as more Intrepid travellers have discovered it’s laid back charms, tropical beaches, and
jungle clad mountains. Here’ll we’ll enjoy a complete contrast and more short walks and time to explore and relax in beautiful

Day 1 Arrive into Hanoi
Arriving at Hanoi airport transfer to your hotel near the old quarter. The rest of the day is free for sightseeing with your guide
around some of Hanoi’s more well known sights such as the temple of Literature and the Old Quarter. That night your guide will
outline the plan for the week in a briefing. (D)

Day 2 Hanoi - Lao Cai
After a morning at Leisure to look around Hanoi we ‘ll depart on the afternoon by train to Lao Cai near the Chinese border.
You’ll be sharing a comfortable soft sleeper cabin ( 4 berth) and if you’ve never experienced an overnight train before you’ll
enjoy the adventure. Meals are taken onboard the train and refreshments available. Tonight you can prepare for your walk the
following day. (B,LD)

 Day 3 Sapa valley walks
Today we’ll arrive early into Lao Cai and be met with a bus transfer to Sapa, arriving in time to have breakfast. Sapa is a busy hill
town that is the centre of commerce for all the outlying villages and you’ll meet many hilltribe people hawking their wares here
or on their way to the market. At 9h00, you will commence walking today with a walk through the town of Sapa and along a
dirt trail through vegetable gardens and rice paddy terraces. The spectacular scenery of Muong Hoa valley gradually appears
within sight. You will then reach the river running at the bottom of the valley and continue the walk on the bank of the river. You
eventually arrive in Y Linh Ho village of Black H’mong minority, where you will take a rest and have lunch at a nice spot.
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After lunch, the walk from Y Linh Ho village to Lao Chai village of Black H’mong minority is almost on the hillsides. The view of
the valley is more and more extending and stretching to the horizon. You take a stop at Lao Chai village to visit a local house,
before following the dirt path linking the village with Ta Van village, the only one in the valley inhabited by Giay minority. From
Ta Van, you will have a transfer to Topas Ecolodge. You check in to your bungalow and enjoy the view into the valley and dotted
mountain surroundings. Dinner at Topas Ecolodge.
Overnight at Topas Eco-lodge. (B,LD)

Day 4 Topas Eco - lodge & Valley walks
After having breakfast, you will take a half day walk to visit the Lech village of Red Dao minority. You will follow the road for
a while before descending towards a river. Going through rice paddy terraces gives you many opportunities to enjoy the
magnificent valley view. You cross the river by a bridge made of stone and then follow a trail going up to the village. You will
be able to spend some time at the village to experience daily life, and learn how the women in their doorways doing their
embroidery. From the village, you head back to the Lodge for lunch. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy and practice Yoga.
Overnight at Topas Eco-lodge. (B,LD)

Day 5 Topas Eco-Lodge & Transfer to Lao Cai
The morning is free for you to relax and perhaps more Yoga practice. We then leave the tranquil surrounding of Sapa and transfer
back by vehicle to Lao Cai where we have another night train back to Hanoi. (B,D)

Day 6 Hanoi – Phu Quoc Island
We arraive into Hanoi early and stranfer across to the Airport for a morning flight to Saigon followed by a change of plane and
short onward flight to Phu Quoc Island. Enjoy the change in pace as we land in this tropical environs of Phu Quoc which is
Vietnam’s largest island and lies in the Gulf Of Thailand, just off Cambodia. The island’s beauty is often compared to Phuket (its
also a similar size), but without the people and infrastructure. The Vietnamese government has big plans for tourism on the
island, so it is a good time to see it now. It has Mountains, aquamarine water, idyllic beaches, great sunsets and a serene island-
style atmosphere.

Phu Quoc is called The Island of 99 Mountains because of sandstone chains which gradually descend from north to south.
Ham Ninh, the longest, stretches 30km along the eastern edge. Mu Chua is its highest peak at 603m. In the 17th century the
desolate area is where Vietnamese and Chinese earned their living from the highly coveted sea cucumbers. In 1869 the French
set up rubber and coconut plantations. Between 1967 and 1972 the Saigon regime built a POW detention camp holding 40,000
inmates. After the war, Phu Quoc became the tourist destination it is today.

We’ll transfer to our resort at Mango Bay, a self styled eco –resort which has bungalows built of rammed earth, surrounded by
protected forest and long beaches. Spend the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying your surroundings. (D)
Overnight at Mango Bay Eco-lodge

Days 7 & 8 Phu Quoc island
We have two full days to explore the island and take early morning walks before the day heats up. We will also offer a Vietnamese
Cooking class for those who are interested (optional extra) . . ou may wish to take a visit to Duong Dong Riverside Market, which
has a cheerful atmosphere and vendors in conical palm hats sell their produce and wares. Phu Quoc National Park covers more
than 31,000 hectares, around 70 percent of the island. It has 929 tree species, 19 of which were only recently discovered. They
provide home and shelter for many species of birds and small mammals such as flying squirrels and sloth monkeys.

Diving opened up in Phu Quoc just five years ago so there is plenty of uncharted reef to explore. If you would rather snorkel
that’s very rewarding too. Water temperature is higher than 25°C year round so it’s perfect for both activities.
Overnight at Mango Bay Eco-lodge (B,L,D x 2 )

Day 9 Phu Quoc Island – Saigon
Enjoy a last tranquil morning in Phu Quoc before boarding a plane to Saigon arriving that afternoon ( one hour flight). We
transfer into the heart of this dynamic and bustling city, Vietnam’s commercial heart. Explore it’s busy markets, French Boulevards
and buildings, War Museums and enjoy your last night in Vietnam with a night on the town.
Overnight in Saigon (B,D)

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Day 10 Saigon depart

Today is your last day and depending on your flight arrangements you either depart or we can help extend your time in Saigon
by booking additional nights.

Yoga Practice

From Yoga Instructor Cheryl Griggs:
“Just a short note to introduce myself and give you some idea of our daily practices we will embark upon each morning and
evening of our adventure through Vietnam. My goal for us all is to thoroughly enjoy ourselves by keeping our bodies and minds
alive to experience all that Vietnam offers. I will lead us each morning in a stretching practice to suitably prepare us for our day’s
walking and in the evenings, a gentle soothing recovery session.

Our daily practices will include
•	       Postural	Awareness
•	       Breathing	and	Relaxation	Techniques
•	       Salute	to	the	Sun	and	Tibetan	Rites	Routines
•	       Yoga	Postures	and
•	       Thai	Massage	Partner	Work

Hopefully these activities will heighten our awareness, clear our minds, restore our energy levels and deepen our experience
with the people and the land of Vietnam.

Let’s breathe the air together
Let’s touch the earth together
Let’s taste the flavours together
Let’s feel the spirit of the people and culture together
Let’s enrich our lives together
Let’s laugh together
Let’s enjoy!

Can’t wait….looking forward to our adventure.”


Accommodation is a mixture of local hotels and lodges. The accommodation in Sapa and Phu Quoc has been chosen for it’s
character and location, not it’s star rating and western amenities though both are very good. In Hanoi and Saigon we use great
hotels which are very centrally located with comfortable rooms and facilities (the equivalent of four star) . Generally speaking,
the accommodation on this trip is a good standard though some patience maybe required in the Sapa and Phu Quoc where
the plumbing and standards of English may not always be as you like it! This is all part of the travel experience and the reality
of travelling to more remote locations. You will also spend two nights in a comfortable soft sleeper cabin from Hanoi to Lao Cai
return, which is often a highlight for any travellers with a sense of adventure.

Meal Inclusions

Most meals are included in this trip and the food is generally of an excellent quality. The only exclusion is on free days in Hanoi
and Saigon - please refer to the itinerary for exact inclusions: We like to sample the best of local dishes and produce so you enjoy
an authentic taste of the region which you’re travelling through. Vietnamese food is rightly regarded as one of the great Asian

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cuisines with its own distinctive flavours and influences from China and France.
(B,LD) stands for breakfast and lunch and dinner.


Any transport required is generally by private vehicle.

Physical Rating

Introductory - Moderate
You don’t need to be a highly experienced walker to join these multi-day trips but a reasonably good level of fitness is required
to participate fully. Be prepared for moderately strenuous physical activity as you will be walking for several hours some days if
you choose to join the walks and some pre-trip training is recommended to get the most from your adventure.


Please note that visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on
where you are from and where you are going. We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do
change. It is important that you check for yourself.

If you would like someone to take the hassle out of your visa application please visit the following website:

Allow 5 working days and don’t forget to attach a copy of the itinerary. The cost for a single entry tourist visa is approximately
AUD $70.

For all Australian residents please send your application to:
Consulate General of Vietnam
Suite 205, Level 2, Edgecliff Centre
203 -233 New South Head Road
Edgecliff, NSW 2027
Tel: 02 9327 2539 / 9327 1912
Fax: 02 9328 1653                   

A visa application form can be downloaded by clicking on this link:
Check list for a postal application:
- original passport
- 1 completed application form
- 1 passport photo
- copy of challenge itinerary
- stamp addressed envelope
- cheque or postal order

For the section on the application form ‘proposed address for contact in Vietnam’ please put:

Buffalo Tours/ RAW travel
94 Ma May Street

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Hoan Kiem District
Tel: 84-4-3828-0702
Fax: 84-4-3826-9370

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We strongly recommend that you take out insurance the moment you register for
a trip as you are then covered should you not be able to go in the event of illness or accident. Please send these details (name of
insurer, policy number and their 24 hour emergency contact number) to RAW prior to departure.

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 group trip, you will not be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance
company’s 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader. If you have credit card insurance your tour leader
will require proof of purchase of the trip (a receipt of credit card statement) with a credit card in your name. Contact your bank
for details of their participating insurer, the level of coverage and emergency contact telephone number.
Our preferred insurance company is CoverMore as they provide an excellent service. You can apply on line directly by clicking on
this link:

What to take?

You should pack as lightly as possible. You will only need a day pack to carry your personal items when walking. You are
expected to carry your own luggage on & off the bus and though you will not be required to walk long distances with your
luggage we recommend keeping the weight under 12kg. Big suitcases are not recommended as they are awkward to store in the

Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel
lightly. Smaller bags with wheels are acceptable, although we recommend your bag has carry straps as well.

Checklist (suggested list):

Travel Documents:
- Passport (with photocopies) and Cambodia visa
- Copy of travel insurance
- Airline ticket
- USD cash
- Credit card
** Tip: use a money belt for security (put documents inside a plastic bag)

Personal Items
•	 First Aid kit (see the health section)
•	 - High factor sunscreen

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•	   - Mosquito repellent
•	   - Sunglasses
•	   - Toiletries (biodegradable)
•	   - Watch or alarm clock
•	   - Ear plugs (in case room mate snores!)
•	   - Plastic bags for wet or dirty clothing
•	   - Wet wipes or antiseptic hand gel

•	   - 3 T-shirts or long sleeve tops (lightweight quick drying fabric) / long sleeved T-shirt
•	   - 1 pairs walking shorts
•	   - 1 pair of comfortable shoes for walking
•	   - pair of sport sandals
•	   - 1 pair of knee length shorts
•	   - 1 pair lightweight long trousers
•	   - Lightweight waterproof top
•	   - Light sweater/fleece for evenings Sapa
•	   - swim wear
•	   - Sun hat
•	   - Clothes to relax in

Other Suggestions:
•	 Camera and plenty of film
    Yoga mat
•	 - Adapter for recharging digital camera (American style with 2 parallel flat pins)
•	 - Spare batteries
•	 - Reading / writing material
•	 - Penknife (put in main luggage at airport)
•	 - Torch
•	 - Small calculator (when out bargaining!)
•	 - Photos of family or postcards of Australia (great way to have fun with locals you meet)
•	 - Phrase book, map and Lonely Planet guide
•	 - Small padlock for securing your luggage during flights

Local Dress

When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia. We will be spending a lot of time in the more
conservative rural regions of Vietnam. Please remember that as visitors to someone else’s home it is our responsibility to fit with
the local customs by wearing appropriate clothing (irrespective of what other travellers are wearing). Loose, lightweight, long
clothing is both respectful and cool in the predominantly hot Asian climate.

As a general guideline shoulders and knees should be covered at all times in villages. The wearing of swimwear, short shorts and
halter tops away from the beach or swimming pools is not encouraged as they will restrict your entry into buildings of a religious
nature and family homes. Long shorts / skirts and loose tops are ideal.


All RAW travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully in the group travel experience. If, in the opinion

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of our group leader, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the
group, RAW reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.

Please let us know of any medical conditions on the registration form and if you are currently
taking prescription medicine as it is important that our leader is aware of your circumstances. We therefore ask that you read the
itinerary in these trip notes thoroughly and then realistically self-assess your physical ability to complete the trip as described.
Please consult with your doctor if you have any doubts.

There are no specific health requirements for entry into Vietnam. However, you should consult your doctor or travel clinic for up-
to-date information and prescriptions for vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements. We would suggest that you are up to date
with immunisation protection against typhoid, polio, tetanus and hepatitis. These countries are also a low risk malarial area and
we recommend that you take a course of suitable malarial prophylactics. As some vaccinations require a course over weeks or
months, contact your doctor as early as possible prior to departure. Generally, six to eight weeks’ notice is adequate.

We recommend that you carry a First Aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (such as a spare pair of prescription
glasses). Please be aware that for legal reasons our leaders are prohibited from administering any type of drug including
headache tablets/antibiotics etc. Your first aid kit should include:
- headache tablets
- diarrhoea treatment (both a blocker to bring relief from the symptoms and an antibiotic)
- band-aids
- antiseptic for cuts & scrapes
- lip balm
- insect repellent
- high factor sunscreen.

Given the physical nature of this trip we strongly advise bringing some sachets of an oral rehydration solution (available at
chemists) as this aids recovery following activity and dehydration and also helps replace lost body salts should you suffer from
‘gastro’. Just add a sachet to your water bottle each day. Please scroll down to the Special Safety Notes below for
information on dehydration.

If you are 65 years or older a completed Medical Certificate is required.

Please let us know and we can post you a copy which then needs to be signed by your GP and posted faxed through to 03 9787
0136 prior to departure.

Physical Preparation

Build up your base endurance by long and frequent walks which will ensure that you are in peak condition for the trip. You can
also mix this up by taking other forms of regular exercise which you currently do such as yoga, spinning classes, walking and

The heat is a consideration as your body make take a few days to adjust to the more humid climate. We try and avoid walking at
the hottest times of day and favour early mornings and late afternoons on long days.

Money Exchange

Currency exchange rates often fluctuate. For the most up to date rates please refer to the following
Vietnam: $1 AUD =19,000 Dong.

Clean bills of small denominations are best Travellers cheques can be difficult to change. ATM’s are appearing in larger cities in

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Vietnam and more so in Cambodia. Credit cards can be used to advance cash in banks in major towns but attract a high fee. We
recommend that you don’t use money changers on the street. When changing money try and get a mix of denominations (your
leader will advise you on this). Keep smaller notes with you when on the walk as it can be difficult to change larger notes once
out of the city.

Spending Money

Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others
while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to
allowing for drinks, shopping and tipping.

Any tip that you wish to give to your local guides or leader in recognition of excellent service is always appreciated. We
recommend approx. US$30 each to go into a kitty to be distributed to the local leader (s) at the end of the trip. Usually we do this
on the last night at the celebration dinner or at the end of a day with a local guide. employed for the day

Emergency Funds

Please also make sure you have access to an additional USD$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances
outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route. This is a rare
occurrence but it is well worth being prepared!

Keeping In Touch - communication while on the road

If you need to be contacted while travelling we recommend that you set up an email address that can be accessed on the
road. Email cafes are commonplace throughout the regions we visit. If someone wishes to contact you in an emergency we
recommend that they refer to our Emergency contact. We don’t recommend that family and friends try to contact you through
hotels, as they are subject to change and the reception staff may not speak English.

Emergency Contact

In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please call the RAW Office. Tel: +61 3 9787 4366.

Outside of office hours please call 0413 703 632

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.
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.

Group Leader

RAW has both resident western and local leaders who lead our trips in this region. . Where the group size is smaller or with a
private booking for a few persons you will have a local leader. All our staff are first aid trained and experienced with the special

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nature and demands of our tours and are able to give you support and insights into the local culture.

The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. They will
provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great
local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends.

While not being tour guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the countries
visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. We also use local area guides where we think more
specific knowledge will add to the enjoyment of the places we are visiting - we think it’s the best of both worlds.

Responsible Travel

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.
When we are cycling children will ask you for pens, money etc. It is always hard to resist giving them small gift. However we ask
you not to do this as it encourages a culture of begging and often parents will take their children out of school and get their
children to prey on tourists. Ask your leader what is the best way to give.

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 RAW travellers.

RAW’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 has
the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.


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.

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.

Your leader will accompany you on all included activities however during your trip you will have some free time to pursue
your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available
options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your itinerary, and makes
no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good
judgment when selecting an activity in your free time.

Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it is deemed
necessary due to safety concerns.

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Halong Bay Extension (post yoga trip - 3rd and 4th March 2010)

Jump on board one of the fabulous junks and cruise around UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay, located in the North
East of Vietnam. It is one of the world’s natural wonders and a stunningly beautiful tourist destination of Vietnam. Halong Bay
features more than one thousand awesome limestone karsts and islands of various sizes and shapes along the 120-km coastline
of Bai Chay Beach.

Day 1 – 03rd March
Your journey will begin in Hanoi; you can arrive any time during the day.
Overnight: Hanoi

Day 2 – 04th March
Pick up from your hotel and drive to Halong Bay the next morning. The road trip will take approximately 3 hours to the main
harbour of Halong Bay (pick up from your hotel between 8-8.30am). You will join an existing group and spend the next 2 days
cruising around the bay, sampling the yummy food and perhaps even try some kayaking…….or just relax and take in the natural
beauty of Halong Bay.
Overnight: Halong Bay aboard junk boat

Day 3 – 05th March
Continue cruising around more of the bay, perhaps take in another swim and enjoy a scrumptious breakfast before you transfer
back to Hanoi and arrive approximately mid afternoon where you will then begin your next adventure: Yoga and Walking.

AUD $330 per person
Trip price includes for 2 days/1 night in Halong Bay
•	Round	trip	transfer	Hanoi	-	Halong	-	Hanoi	by	air-con	car	or	minivan
•	Boat	cruise	and	kayaking	as	indicated	within	the	itinerary	
•	English	speaking	customer	service	manager	on	board	junk
•	Accommodation	in	double	bed	or	twin	en-suite	air	condition	cabins	
•	All	meals	on	board	
•	Admission	fees,	permits	and	kayaks
•	Taxes	and	services	charge