Responsible travel: Family holiday in Northern Vietnam
Vietnam offers a truly unique culture, including some of the most friendly people you could hope to meet, not to mention some of the most varied landscapes - from mountains and lush green rice paddies to breathtakingly beautiful beaches and awesome seascapes.
Whilst including some of the northern Vietnam’s most un-missable and unforgettable sights, this itinerary will also take you far away from the well-beaten tourist track. To experience rural life in the north, most trips head to Sapa which is now becoming increasingly over-commercialised, however, you’ll avoid all that by heading instead to the lush, green mountains of the Mai Chau district, where, only a few hours by road from Hanoi, you’ll find a completely different and more peaceful world.
We’ll encourage you to explore on foot (short treks tailored to your family’s abilities), by bicycle, or even by bullock cart, which will allow you to fully experience the stunningly beautiful countryside and its people first hand, whilst also minimising the environmental impact on the area.
No visit to northern Vietnam would be complete without a few days exploring the World Heritage seascape of Halong Bay but rather than pack you onto the larger tourist boats which all tend to follow exactly the same routes and are consequently causing increasing problems within the very limited area in which they operate, we charter smaller boats (often with only one or two cabins) which will allow you to explore hidden coves, floating fishing villages and tiny, unspoilt beaches on routes where very few other tourists venture.
Throughout your visit, you’ll stay in small, locally-owned accommodation in order to ensure that as much of the price you pay remains within the communities you’re visiting. In Hanoi, you’ll stay in a charming, boutique hotel located in the heart of the Old Quarter which remains much as it has been for centuries, bustling with life and shop-keepers who sell their wares in streets specifically named after the goods that are traded there… names such as Silk Street, Silver Street etc. will give you a guide as to which kind of souvenirs you might find in a particular area, although things are a little more mixed up these days you’ll find all kinds of locally-made handicrafts being sold amongst the more traditional goods.
In Hanoi, and in the delightful old fishing town of Hoi An, our local guides will be pleased to help you to support the local traders by seeking out genuine local craftspeople – woven bags, silk goods or perhaps even a tailor-made suit or dress can make wonderful gifts to take home, as well as helping to support the local economy.
In Mai Chau, you’ll have the opportunity to visit several ethnic villages belonging to minority tribes such as the H’mong, and on Halong Bay, we’ll take you to a fascinating floating fishing village where the many of the inhabitants live their entire lives literally afloat in a secluded bay far out to sea. Not only will you gain a unique insight into the lives of the villagers, but your interest in their culture will also help to encourage their sense of pride in the traditional ways of life which were previously in danger of dying out, yet are now being re-generated as community-based tourism is seen as a valuable new source of income, meaning that fewer of the young people are forced to leave the villages to seek work elsewhere.