Vietnam and Bhutan Tour Itinerary

Monday, October 8
Depart from Minneapolis or Chicago (depending on cost and availability) to Hanoi (Meals in-flight)

Tuesday, October 9 - Hanoi, Vietnam
Arrive in Hanoi in the early evening. Transfer to May De Ville Hotel Old City Quarter (http://www.maydeville.com/oldquarter/home.htm) (Meals in-flight, D)

Wednesday, October 10 - Hanoi
Today we will have an all-day trip to Trang An, a beautiful National Park and World Heritage Site. Activities will include bike riding, photography, a short hike on Skull Island, and maybe a nap on the way back to the May De Ville Hotel. Our welcome group dinner will be held at a nearby restaurant in Hanoi. (B,L,D)

Thursday, October 11 - Nghia Lo
We will take a bus from Hanoi to Nghia Lo town where Thai tribes reside with a stop to visit Suoi Giang and its vast ancient tea plantations. We will stay overnight at the Muong Lo Hotel at Nghia Lo town and enjoy traditional dishes as well as the daily life and cultural aspects of the Thai people. (B,L,D)

Friday, October 12 - Tu Le
Our bus will take us to Tu Le, the villages of the H'Mong and Dao tribes. We will hike 5-6 miles through the Mu Chang Chai which is well known as the most beautiful spot for trekking and taking in the rice terraces and mountain views. Lunch will be served on the road. We will continue on to Sapa to enjoy a group dinner and an overnight stay at the Sunny Mountain Hotel. (https://sunnymountainhotel.com/) (B, L, D)

Saturday, October 13 - Sapa/Bac Ha
Enjoy a free morning to explore Sapa town. Lunch will be on your own today. After lunch we will head to the town of Bac Ha with a stop to take a peek at the China border. We will check in to the Sao Mai Hotel (http://www.saomaibacha.com/) and meet for a group dinner. (B, D)

Sunday, October 14 - Bac Ha/Sin Man
We will begin our day wandering the Bac Ha Sunday Market. It is famous throughout Southeast Asia for the originality and authenticity that the traders still preserve. It is a blur of colorful plaids and stripes from women of many ethnic tribes. After lunch the bus will take us to Sin Man to trek about 5 miles through the village of the La Chi people. Our overnight stay will be at the Tay Con Linh Hotel in Hoang Su Phi. (B, L, D)

Monday, October 15 - Pan Hou
Today our bus will take us approximately 20 km where we will start our 7-mile hike to Luoc village. The bus will pick us up at the end of our hike on the main road that will take us to Pan Hou village resort (http://www.panhou-village.com/en/). (B, L, D)

Tuesday, October 16 - Hanoi
We will have time to relax at this picturesque resort in the morning before our bus drive back to Hanoi. In the early evening we will fly to Bangkok with an overnight stay near the airport. (B, L, D)

Wednesday, October 17 - Paro, Bhutan
This morning we will fly to Paro, Bhutan, arriving around 10:00 AM. After landing in Paro, our tour guide will take us on a short 1 1/2 hour drive along the Paro and Thimphu river valleys to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. After checking in to the Namgay Heritage Hotel we will gather for refreshments. This will be followed by a bit of sightseeing that includes the Memorial Chorten, Buddha Point, and Tashichho Dzong.
The Momorial Chorten is a stupa built in 1974 in the memory of Bhutan's third king. He is regarded as the Father of modern Bhutan. Buddha Point is the world's largest sitting Buddha which houses a monastary and visitors center. Tashichho Dzong has been the seat of government since 1952 and presently houses the throne room and offices of the king.
This evening we will explore Thinphu Town, the handicraft stalls, and the local market. (B, L, D)

Thursday, October 18 - Thimphu
Our morning starts with a hike to Cheri Monastery. The monastery was established in 1620 and is now a major Buddhist teaching and retreat center for the Southern Drukpa Kagyu sect. A riverside picnic will be followed by a visit to the School of Thirteen Arts & Crafts. This is the primary center of learning for Bhutanese artists and the best place for visitors to learn about traditional Bhutanese arts and crafts. Next we will hike or drive up to the National Takin Reserve where a herd of Bhutan's traditional animals reside. Legend has it that the Takin is a cross between a goat and a buffalo, but biologists agree that it's nearest relative is the arctic musk ox. We will return to the Namgay Heritage Hotel. (B, L, D)

Friday, October 19 - Thimphu/Punakha
This morning we will travel to Punakha. Along the way, enjoy the views and take pictures of the Dochula Pass with it's panoramic views of the Himalayas. We will stop to take a short hike thorugh the rice field to Chimmi Lhakhang, a 15th century monastery. Another stop along the way will be Punakha's Dzong. The name means Palace of Great Bliss and is the place where Bhutan's first king was crowned in 1907. It is also the winter residence for the Je Khenpo (spiritual leader) and the entire central monk body. The Punakha's suspension bridge will give photography enthusiasts a great opportunity for some exciting photos. Finally we will check in to the Drubchhu Resort (http://drubchhu.com/) for an overnight stay.

Saturday, October 20 - Punakha/Paro
We start the day traveling back to Paro where we will visit the National Museum and the Ta-Dzong (watchtower). This was built in the 17th century to guard the Paro Rimpong Dzong (fortress) below.  Regal and imposing, dzongs are the most distinctive and important structures in Bhutan. This dzong is the headquarters of the Paro district, housing the head administrator, staff, and about 200 monks. Next is a visit to Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines in the kingdom. This shrine dates back to the 7th century and is composed of two temples. The first was built by the Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo and the second temple was built in 1968 in the original pattern of the first temple. We will round out our day with a visit to a local family farm to talk to the locals and see how they live. Our overnight stay will be at the Naksel Boutique Hotel and Spa. (B, L, D)

Sunday, October 21 - Paro
Today we will hike Bhutan's most scenic icon and most important landmark, Taktshang the Tiger's Nest. The temple clings to the side of a steep cliff 300 m above the Paro Valley. It was originally built in the 17th century but was consumed by fire in 1998. The temple was rebuilt to it's full glory in 2003. Taktshang is considered to be the 10th holiest site in the Buddhist world. The hike will take approximately 3-4 hours to go up, a bit shorter to go down. After our hike and sightseeing, relax and enjoy the Manchu Spa at Naksel Resort. (B, L, D)

Monday, October 22 - Departure
Following breakfast we will transfer to the Paro airport for our return flight to Bangkok. We will arrive at around 5PM then fly from Bangkok to the US that evening.

Ann and Jerry plan to spend another five to six days in Thailand, including a trip to Chieng Mai, an interesting city north of Bangkok and/or perhaps some beach time in the south, tour participants are welcome to join them.