5 Days 4 Nights
Highlights include: Vintage train journey to Lao Cai (Sapa); hiking Sapa’s hills and valleys, home to colourful ethnic minority groups; scenic seaplane flight over some of Halong Bay’s 1,600 islands and islets; a boutique overnight cruise visiting caves, islands and more.
Depart from your Hanoi hotel for the train station where you will board the Express Train to Lao Cai, gateway to fabulous Sapa. Check in to your Superior Cabin and perhaps send off a few emails or surf the net with our complimentary Wi-Fi before settling in for the comfortable overnight journey with the gentle swaying of the vintage Pullman carriages to rock you to sleep.
Awaken at dawn, refreshed and ready for your first day in the former French hill station of Sapa, known for its cool temperatures and delightful mix of Nature and Culture in its postcard-pretty terraced rice fields and colourful ethnic minority groups. Transfer 1 hr from the Lao Cai Train Station, just minutes from the Chinese border, to the stylish Sapa Resort & Spa where a beautiful buffet breakfast awaits. Sip a velvety smooth Vietnamese drip coffee as you look out over Mount Fansipan, Indochina’s highest peak.
The day is yours to enjoy as you like. Walk down to the nearby central square dominated by the colonial-era Stone Church and people-watch as locals come out to play volleyball or sit and talk over snacks sold by vendors. The town of Sapa is compact and pedestrian-friendly with scores of quaint boutiques and homey cafes. You’ll also want to take advantage of the many complimentary services from Sapa Resort & Spa including one-way transfers to the Sapa Market where handicrafts, ethnic-style clothing and all sorts of dried local fruit are for sale, or to the Fansipan Station for a trip to the “Rooftop of Indochina” on the highest and longest cable car ride of its type in the world. After a full day of exploring, book yourself for a complimentary 30-minute Couples’ Package at the Spa, with time to enjoy its heated pool and outdoor tennis courts.
In the evening, sit down to a lovely dinner (included) at Ta Van Restaurant, with a seat by its large central fireplace or on the outdoor terrace with views over the nearby mountain range. The restaurant also features traditional performances by H’mong and Thai minority dancers on select evenings.
Overnight at Sapa Resort & Spa, a 77-room boutique property designed to embody the spirit of Sapa, from its stone and wood buildings that evoke the feel of an exclusive Alpine lodge to the wooden floors and locally-woven textiles in each stylish guest room.
After a hearty buffet breakfast to fuel you for the morning’s hike, travel approximately 1 hr to the small village of Suoi Thau. This picturesque village on the edge of the Hoang Lien National Park is the starting point for a 2 hr walk through the gorgeous Sapa highlands. Go on a peaceful hike through this area inhabited by Red Dao ethnic groups with the opportunity to interact with these friendly locals. Explore the village to gain insight into how they live – spending their days tending the terraced rice fields, caring for their homes and creating the most elaborate and colourful of textiles. Finish your 4 km walk with a beautifully prepared picnic against jaw-dropping landscapes of green forested mountains, golden rice fields and big blue sky.
Return to Sapa Resort & Spa in the early afternoon and enjoy 20% off in-house services (advance reservation required) before a late check-out and evening transfer to the Lao Cai Train Station for your return journey to Hanoi aboard the Express Train.
Arrive in Hanoi just in time for a leisurely breakfast in the Lounge before traveling approximately 180 km to beautiful Halong Bay by private vehicle. From the Tuan Chau Island Marina, take an unforgettable 25-minute scenic sightseeing flight for bird’s eye views of the highlights of this UNESCO-listed World Heritage Centre. Fly over the spectacular seascape of some 1,600 islands and islets, most untouched by humans and marked by towering limestone pillars rising out of the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.
At noon, check in to your Deluxe Cabin aboard the Emeraude, a boutique sailing vessel modelled after a turn-of-the-century paddle steamer. Enjoy a superb buffet lunch in the stylish restaurant that recalls the Golden Age of Travel with dark woods, vintage photographs and elegant table settings.
The rest of the day is a pleasing mix of relaxation and exploration with shore excursions to visit Surprise Cave, the largest and most spectacular in the bay, and Titov Island where you can climb the hill for 360-degree views or swim on the golden sand beach. The afternoon’s activities also include crepes on the sundeck, a cooking demonstration and time to watch the ever-changing scenery of glorious Halong Bay glide on by. A delicious BBQ dinner is served in the restaurant, followed by a movie.
You are invited to wake up with the sun and participate in one of the most scenic Tai Chi sessions you’ll ever encounter on the sundeck of the Emeraude. Enjoy pastries and a morning cup of coffee or tea with the glittering islands of Halong Bay as a backdrop before visiting a pearl farm or kayaking around the islands (nominal fee applies). After checking out of your cabin, sit down to a final brunch at the restaurant as the ship cruises through the bay.
Disembark at the Emeraude Cafe just before noon with private transfer back to Hanoi, arriving late afternoon.