Hanoi to Halong Bay cycling holiday, Vietnam
Description of Hanoi to Halong Bay cycling holiday, Vietnam
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As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we've screened this (and every) holiday so that you can travel knowing it will help support the places and people that you visit, and the planet. Read how below.
PlanetOn cycling trips, it is easy to use plastic excessively, especially in hot climates or during the summer months. Rather than use single-use plastic bottles we refill our water bottles from a large drum kept on our support vehicle. We also encourage people to snack on fresh, seasonal fruits rather than processed fruits in plastic wrappers, and avoid unnecessary items like plastic straws.
On this trip we stay in an old-style stilt house homestay in a rural community. This house, featuring a single large sleeping room, is constructed using locally-sourced materials and traditional construction methods, helping to preserve the cultural heritage of this small community, as well as highlighting to locals the value we put on their history and way of life.
Our greatest contribution to minimising our transportation's impact on the environment is to travel by bike, avoiding any use of energy or fuel. When we do use a vehicle, we are committed to providing local experiences and as part of this philosophy we use local forms of transport wherever possible. Where we use private transport, we stick to the small back roads minimising our impact on locals using the main roads for daily routines. Where we do use a support vehicle, we will always ensure that it is an appropriate size to suit the cyclists it supports i.e. no using a 30-seater coach if we only have five people travelling.
On this trip we use our own local Vietnam-based supplier who shares our commitment to responsible business, from waste and water management to ensuring we are leaving as minimal a foot(tyre)print as possible. Where we also work with other suppliers to assist in the running of the trip we ensure they are educated on all aspects of responsible business, and supported in making any changes they need to improve in this regard.
PeopleAn important part of travel is mixing with the locals and experiencing “real life” in your chosen destination. On this trip, along with staying in locally-owned homes and guesthouses we visit small cafes and restaurants and buy locally produced crafts and fresh produce. This gives locals the opportunity to earn money directly and our travellers the chance to interact with local Vietnamese people in their everyday environment.
We also use only Vietnamese cycling guides and support staff, as well as local guides in many destinations.
We source local activities which we believe are sustainable to the economy in that they allow the flow of income from visitors to be distributed to a greater audience. This could be as simple as spending time in a local café, to cooking classes in a home and shopping at small local stores. On this trip you have the opportunity to spend a night in a stilt house homestay in Poom Coong, enjoying some locally produced rice wine, visit Cuc Phuong, Vietnam's first National Park and one of the most important conservation sites in the country, join the queues of locals viewing the resting place of 'Uncle Ho', and of course laugh with the locals with a bia hoi (freshly brewed draught beer). Our local leader will also break the language barrier and help you interact with the locals along the way, from small traders in the rural villages to the farmers working their crops under the towering limestone mountains.
The role of females in cycling has often been that of support staff. To help combat this we try and ensure as many of our cycling trips as possible have a head female cycling guide.
All aspects of this trip (on the ground) are operated by Vietnamese (most of whom live locally) including all our cycling guides, support vehicle drivers, local site guides, and accommodation providers. We provide our cycling leaders with a formal 4-5 day cycling training so that they are up to speed with the needs of our travellers as well as building their skills. As our local experts we are also careful to ensure that we consult them about the itinerary, and take into account any concerns they have, or improvements they may suggest.
Locals know where the best food, souvenirs, local crafts and entertainment can be found. This trip is operated by local Vietnamese and we ensure any shopping opportunities, from the larger centres like Hanoi to the delightful small villages such as Poom Coong offer an authentic experience that showcases northern Vietnam's rich and unique culture and crafts.
Food is often a highlight and a great way to meet locals in Vietnam and we offer a variety of opportunities to sample the full range, from a fiery pho to the ubiquitous Banh Mi and Vietnamese spring rolls. Fresh food is abundant and delicious in Vietnam with fruits such as pineapple, lychee and durian perennial favourites – we purchase these along the way from local street stalls. For a truly local experience we also recommend trying the famous egg coffee, Vietnam's answer to eggnog – it's delicious! Our included dinner at the Mai Chau homestay is a highlight, featuring food prepared form locally grown produce.
Vietnam also has a rich arts and craft culture, with a special emphasis on lacquerware, wood and stone carving and textiles. Rather than shopping in larger tourist shops we recommend checking out the small village morning markets that often feature the work of local craftspeople. If you can't find what you need along the way then Hanoi's Old Quarter is also a great place to shop.
Our cycling trips usually have a maximum group size of 16 to minimise our impact on the smaller communities we cycle through. We believe this is the perfect size for a cycling trip in Vietnam while respecting the capabilities of the destinations we visit. Overtourism is an issue we are very conscious of and we are taking measures to ensure our impact on the communities we visit and their environment is our top priority.
We are also careful to respect the varying aspects of Vietnamese culture, from dressing respectfully while visiting religious sites to understanding and educating our travellers on the importance of family in Vietnamese society. Our local leaders are keen to share their intimate knowledge of Vietnam with our travellers, and have formed long standing friendships with many of our local friends so that you can be assured of a warm and respectful welcome. They will also teach you a few Vietnamese phrases along the way, to help you with local interaction and of course help bring a smile to the faces of the people you meet.
As part of our commitment to responsible travel a portion of your trip cost will be donated to Bicycles for Humanity – a not-for-profit, volunteer run, grass roots charity focused on the alleviation of poverty through sustainable transport – in the form of a bicycle. In the developing world a bicycle is life changing, allowing access to health care, education, economic opportunity and wider community. A bicycle means you can travel twice as far, twice as fast and carry four times the load, providing a profound and lasting positive effect for the individual as well as their community. Bicycles for Humanity collect donated (used or new) bicycles, repair them if needed and send them to Africa. Along with donated bicycles each of the 40ft shipping containers that Bicycles for Humanity sends becomes a bike workshop, providing employment, skills, training, business, opportunity and economic development for the community in which it's placed, helping the community to move away from aid dependence.