2019 Cave Tour

cavetour

 

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ITINERARY DETAILS:

Tour 1

 

Day 1/ Apr 01 Arrival in Chiang Mai
Arrive in Chiang Mai and transfer to hotel, check­‐in.
Day 2/ Apr 02 Wat Ton Kwen – Lanna Traditional House Museum – Street Food Tour (B, D)

In the morning, we will visit Wat Ton Kwen.  The old temple dates back about 150 years, which is still preserved in traditional Lanna Style. You will enjoy the peaceful surrounding with less travelers. We will stop at Organic market and visit Lanna Traditional House Museum; learn the insight of the architect and how people lived in the former time. Return to hotel late afternoon, enjoy tuk tuk drive to Kad Luang, then take a walk getting to know the area, and visit a well­‐known 100-year-old local market.  Here you can enjoy various local specialty dishes, snacks and sweets from different food stalls.  Try the delicious Kao Soi or eff noodle curry, yummy northern sausages or even steamed plain sticky rice with incredibly sweet mango.  The list is endless.  Then we will stroll down to a night market before transfer back to your hotel.

Day 3/Apr 03 Chiang Mai – Elephant Experience (B, L)

In the morning, transfer to the Patara Elephant farm for a hands-on experience in training and caring for an elephant.  The training program includes the following:  an overview of the elephant farm management and breeding program, daily care procedure and instructions on how to approach, control, feed, bathe, and walk both adult and baby elephants and hiking to find elephants in the bush.  At noon, we begin a long up-hill trip to the waterfall area for a picnic lunch and the chance to be refreshed in the water with the elephants.  After lunch, ride the elephants back to the farm, where we will have the opportunity to take pictures and say our farewells to the elephants.  Transfer to the hotel late in the afternoon.

Day 4/Apr 04 Lisu Lodge – Araksa Tea Garden – Cooking Class (B, L, D)

After breakfast, take a scenic drive to Araksa Tea Garden, located in Mae Tang District. Upon arrival, enjoy the beauty of the lush tea plantation and learn all about the tea growing process.  You will be invited to join resident tea pickers, watch how the leaves are processed according to age-old traditions and then enjoy a cup of tea and traditional Thai snack.  Then continue to Lisu Lodge.  Upon arrival at Lisu Lodge, a traditional welcome drink will be served followed by a sumptuous Thai lunch served on the balcony of the house.  After lunch, our Lisu guide will then take you for a walk through the village.  You will start at the Ton Lung temple to view the herbal garden and visit some local families, with a stop for a cup of tea and a spot of traditional medicine at the shaman’s house.  Late afternoon, Thai cooking class at the Lisu lodge.  The lesson will be an introduction to an authentic Thai meal (4 dishes).  You will receive a Thai recipe book that explains local herbs and their nutritious benefits.  Enjoy the dishes that you have prepared and the following traditional Lisu dance performance.  Overnight at Lisu Lodge.

Rejoin Group from Options 1 and 2

Day 5/ Apr 05 Chiang Mai – Luang Prabang (B, L, D)
Breakfast at the Lodge. In the morning you have a choice of activities:
o Guided bike tour around the Lisu Lodge area.
o Steam bath.
o Massage.
Notes: A second additional 1­‐hour activity can be booked at a nominal charge, but as a free activity you are welcome to go cycling by yourself and we will give you a road book of recommended itineraries. Thai lunch will be served before transfer to the airport for flight to Luang Prabang. Arrive in Luang Prabang, you have a warm welcome from your guide and transfer to hotel.

Day 6/ Apr 06 Luang Prabang – Khuangsi Waterfalls (B, L)
In the morning our guided city tour begins with Wat Mai, a temple renowned for its golden bas‐relief. Then drive to the National Museum (former Royal Palace), Wat Visoun, and the magnificent Wat Xiengthong, with its sweeping low roofs, the classic architecture of Luang Prabang. We will have traditional Laotian lunch at a famous restaurant in town. After lunch, we will drive to the beautiful Khuang Si Waterfalls to cool off by relaxing in the turquoise pools or walking along the forest paths. Return to Luang Prabang. Climb up to Mount Phou Si (328 steps) to see the sacred, gilded stupa and the beautiful panoramic views of the sun setting over the ancient city and the Mekong River. In the evening, we enjoy dinner at an authentic restaurant in town.

Day 7/ Apr 07 Luang Prabang – Pak Ou cave (B, L)
You must wake up before dawn to witness and participate in offering alms to hundreds of saffron-­robed monks – an awe-­inspiring sight. Please tell your guide a day in advance if you wish to make an offering so he/she can prepare some food for you to give to the monks. This early morning ritual dates back generations in Laos. Watch the town come to life in the morning. Then return to the hotel for breakfast or join the locals for a bowl of delicious noodle soup after the alms giving ritual. (If you do not wish to make an offering, please keep an appropriate distance and observe the ritual in silence. Dress appropriately – shoulders, chest and legs should be covered. Before returning to the hotel for breakfast, visit the Morning Market, where you will see such diverse offerings as dried buffalo skin, local tea, saltpeter, chickens, vegetables, and hill tribe weavings.

After breakfast, transfer to Wat Xieng pier for a boat trip upstream on the Mekong River from Luang Prabang to the Pak Ou Caves, a destination for local pilgrimages. The two caves of Tham Ting and Tham Phoum are carved out of towering limestone cliffs and contain thousands of gold­‐lacquered Buddha statues. Lunch will be served at a local restaurant. On the return trip, stop at Ban Xang Hai, a small village on the riverbank, known for its production of local rice alcohol “lao lao”. Continue to visit Ban Xang Khong, a village well known for hand woven silk and traditional Saa paper-­making. Back to hotel in the afternoon.

Optional -­ Experience one of Laos’ oldest traditions, The Baci, a ceremony to celebrate special events such as weddings, births, travel, welcoming friends and farewells. The purpose of this ancient tradition is to call back escaped souls to the body which will re-establish harmony and balance to the body.

Day 8/ Apr 08 Luang Prabang – Flight to Hanoi (B, L)
Morning is free at leisure for your own activities. Transfer to the airport for evening flight to Hanoi. Upon arrival, meet your guide, and transfer to hotel check in.

Day 9/ Apr 09 Hanoi Street Food Tour (B, L)
In the morning, we drive to one of the biggest markets in Hanoi – Chau Long market, a fascinating market where locals purchase their food supplies. From here we walk to Truc Bach Lake and stop at a restaurant famous for Hanoi’s specialty dish of Pho Cuon with flat rolled noodles, grilled beef and vegetables. Drive back to the old town, visiting the Temple of Literature and enjoy a traditional cyclo ride through Hanoi’s Old Quarter. There is an amazing array of flowers ready for sale. A lot of delicious confections are on display along the street. Don’t forget to savor Banh Cuon, the Vietnamese rolled flour cakes served with Cha Que (sausage with cinnamon), for dipping in fish sauce. Our Hanoi street food tour is not complete without Nem and Bun Cha, the best choice for lunch. Nem is the special seafood spring rolls voted by CNN and Bun Cha is grilled pork served with rice noodles and vegetables. Of course, we cannot miss Che, a popular dessert soup with many varieties of beans. We end the tour at a local coffee shop to enjoy sips of Vietnamese coffee dripping from the filter. Return to the hotel for free time, at your leisure.

Day 10/ Apr 10 Hanoi – Halong Bay – Lan Ha Bay (B, L, D)
In the morning, you will take a scenic drive to Halong and transfer by tender to the deluxe junk at Dinh Vu (Hai Phong). Discover treasures such as fascinating caves, pristine beaches, picturesque floating villages and dramatic rock formations rising out of emerald water as we sail across the Bay of the Descending Dragon.
After safety instruction briefing, start cruising exploring Halong Bay. This area is untouched, as not many cruise ships use the route via the Cat Ba Island – Thoi Quyt – Coc Ngoi islet – through Gia Luan where it belongs to Cat Ba National Park. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon on board. Dinner is onboard.
Day 11/ Apr 11 Lan Ha Bay – Hanoi – Flight to Dong Hoi (B)
There is a Tai Chi demonstration on the sundeck for early risers. Enjoy the buffet breakfast while sailing across thousands of islets. Cruise ends at Dinh Vu (Hai Phong)/TuanChau in late morning. Drive back to Hanoi airport for flight to Dong Hoi. Pick up in Dong Hoi for transfer to hotel check-in.

 

Tour 2

TOUR 2 – Option 1

Day 12/ Apr 12 Dong Hoi – Joining Son Doong Tour (B, D)
Morning is free time. Approximately 2:00pm, transfer to Oxalis Headquarters, where you will meet your cave expert and guide team for your safety briefing and equipment check. The briefing is mandatory. Enjoy dinner at Oxalis Headquarters before transfer back to your accommodation.

 

Day 13/ Apr 13 Phong Nha – Ban Doong Village – Hang En Cave (B, L, D)
After breakfast, you will set off for adventure from Oxalis headquarters. We will drive along Road 20 of the Ho Chi Minh Highway where you’ll reach the trailhead and start trekking for approximately 1 hour downhill through the forest to the minority village of Ban Doong. After this point, you will be in the sun all afternoon with about 2 hours along a river, with very little shade. You will cross the river so please expect to have wet feet for the whole day. You will reach the entrance to Hang En Cave, home to thousands of swifts. Here you will trek/boulder approximately 20-30 minutes to your campsite inside the cave. The group should arrive at camp between 3:00 and 4:00 pm where you can enjoy swimming and washing within the underground river. Dinner will be served at the spectacular campsite with numerous photographic opportunities.
Please note that anyone who is unable to complete any stage of this first day comfortably will be turned around to Phong Nha and will not be permitted to continue the expedition. This will be the decision of the safety team on your tour.
Should you be turned around; all tour costs will be forfeited.

 

Day 14/ Apr 14 Hang En Cave -­‑ Son Doong Entrance – Hand of Dog – SD Camp 1 – Fossil Passage (B, L, D)
Start trekking at 9:00 am through Hang En Cave for about 30 minutes to reach the magnificent exit.  This location has attracted many photographers over the past few years. You will scramble down to the river valley and walk an hour through the river, then climb uphill for about 45 minutes. You will stop for lunch and have a safety briefing to prepare for your big journey underground. After lunch, a steep descent, with a couple of short rope climbs, brings you at last to Son Doong entrance. With your safety harnesses, you will start the 80 m descent into the cave by making several short climbs, using ropes and safety lines with your guides’ assistance. There is no rappelling or abseiling at any point during the expedition. You will reach the first and second river crossings inside the cave, which are knee to thigh deep depending on the water levels. You should have a wash here, as it will be the last washing place for the day.
On your way to the first campsite in the first large passage of the cave, you’ll have to be extra careful as there are a number of big drops and scrambling over boulders along a rocky path before reaching one of the most spectacular views: Hand of Dog and daylight streaming through the cave, thanks to the first doline! You will
then scramble down to the first campsite of Son Doong around 3 – 4 pm. After a tea and coffee break we will head down to view the ancient fossils. Here there is a chance for a short and cool swim, but no washing. You have a big meal with your team before turning in for the night. Please note that there are no washing facilities at camp on this day.

 

Day 15/ Apr 15 SD Camp 1 – Watch Out for Dinosaurs – Garden of Edam – SD Camp 2 (B, L, D)
Your day begins with a hearty breakfast with your team before a 9:00 am departure towards your second campsite in Son Doong Cave. Start with some rocky climbs, which are quite steep in some places, as you reach the first jungle within the cave at Watch Out for Dinosaurs. It will take about 1.5 hours to travel within the cave from Camp 1 to Watch Out for Dinosaurs. After a short break going down the rocky path to reach the enormous Green Gourds, one of the most magnificent and famous photography spots on the tour!

A light lunch is provided with an incredible backdrop of the first doline. If you are lucky you may even catch some sunbeams, which make for truly spectacular photos.  After lunch, walk through the cave past gigantic formations and plenty of cave pearls towards the light of the second doline and main jungle within the cave. Follow the path past the beautiful foliage reaching towards the light, to reach the underground jungle, unlike anything you could experience on the planet! Cross the jungle for around 45 minutes to reach the steep and sometimes slippery path down to your second campsite within Son Doong Cave. You will reach camp around 2 – 3 pm. After a short rest at your campsite, you are back on your feet and heading deeper within the cave. You’ll pass through a very large dry passage with huge stalagmites and great views back to the second doline. Many new creepy crawlies have been discovered within this passage including white spiders, fish, woodlouse and shrimp species, so be sure to keep your eyes open. You will have many of great opportunities for photography here. You’ll be back at camp again around 5 pm to enjoy a sensational dinner with your team and delight yourself with an evening of games and entertainment, or simply relax and soak up the views at what is quite possibly the very best campsite in the world.
Please note that you may use a pair of dry boots on this day, as aside from the mud, there are no water crossings!  Also, there are no washing facilities at camp on this day.

 

 

Day 16/Apr 16 SD Camp 2 ­ Wall of Vietnam Son Doong Exit ­ Chay Lap Farmstay (B, L, D)
After refueling with another hot breakfast you will pack up camp and start heading towards the Wall of Vietnam. Scaling this wall will use a combination of ladders and ropes, but you will always have a safety line and people to look after you. After this strenuous ascent, you will see the light from the exit. Pass more flowstones and cave pearls and see the calcite animal skeleton. Enjoy a picnic lunch before emerging into the jungle again. A short but rocky path will lead you down to the bottom of the hill, and a short hike to the road. Cold drinks await you at the top of the hill before a 45-minute drive back to Chay Lap Farmstay, where cool towels and a refreshing swimming pool are waiting for you. You will have time to relax after your long trek before enjoying a group farewell dinner with your fellow expedition team members.

 

Day 17/ Apr 17 Phong Nha – Hue – Hoi An (B, L)
Drive from Phong Nha to Hue (approx. 220 kms – 5-hour drive). Lunch at a local restaurant in Hue. Then continue driving to Hoi An (approx. 120km – 3-hour drive). Arrive in Hoi An late evening, check-in at hotel and free time at leisure.

 

 

Tour 2 – Option 2

Day 12/ Apr 12 Dong Hoi – Chay Lap Farmstay (B)
Morning is free time. Approximately 2:00pm, transfer to Chay Lap Farmstay, Phong Nha and free time at leisure.  You can relax or enjoy other complimentary activities, such as biking, swimming or kayaking.

 

Day 13/ Apr 13 Phong Nha – 1‑Day Cave Discovery (B) joining tour
Option 1: Nuoc Nut 1-Day Discovery (Lunch)
The tour bus will pick you up at hotel at around 8:00AM to 8:30 AM and transfer you to Oxalis Adventure headquarters, located right next to Son River. You will collect your equipment. After a safety briefing, drive to the National Park to the drop-off point.
From the trailhead, start trekking through the jungle. You will spend about an hour trekking through Lang Va valley and learn about the biodiversity of flora and fauna in Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park before stopping by the Nuoc Nut Cave entrance to have a short break and picnic lunch. A mouth­‐watering jungle‐styled lunch has been prepared for everyone by porter team.
Continue the journey at around 12:30PM to travel deeper into the cave, you will meet a small entrance opening to a much larger cave inside. Everyone will be asked to put on your Petzl helmets and Hope Technology 1500 lumen head lamps before proceeding into the cave. Once inside the low opening, the cave enlarges dramatically and there will be many excellent photographic opportunities. This is a wonderful chance for you to witness the marvelous formations and the enormous passage with an underground river. A natural sunbeam will be seen around this area. After spending about 3 hours exploring Nuoc Nut Cave you will trek back to the pick-up point, get on the bus, head back to Oxalis Headquarters around 4:30PM and return to Chay Lap Farmstay.

 

Option 2: Tu Lan 1-­Day Experience (Lunch)
The tour bus will pick you up at hotel in Phong Nha at around 7:00AM to 7:30AM. Drive 70 km over the Da Deo Mountain Pass to reach the ethnic minority village of Tan Hoa and the Oxalis Headquarters. You can leave all your luggage at our office in the storage room. After a safety briefing, start your adventure with a 2 km walk across peanut and buffalo fields to reach the Rao Nan River. Crossing the river, you reach the impressive Hang Chuot (Rat Cave) to explore its massive formations for up to 280m. Continue trekking through Hung Ton Valley to reach Hung Ton Cave. Explore this wild cave by descending a 15 m ladder with a safety rope before swimming 50m through the cave and following an underground river to reach To Mo Valley, where a delicious BBQ lunch will be awaiting you. After swimming at the waterfall, trek over Hung Ton Mountain (1 km), across Hung Ton Valley (500 m), and another small hill down to Rao Nan River (500 m). You will return to the Oxalis Headquarters (2.5 km) and return to Chay Lap Farmstay.

Notes: we will join option 1 or 2 depending on tour availability calendar.

 

Day 14/ Apr 14 Thien Duong (Paradise) Cave – Chay Lap Farmstay (B, L)
Today, we visit Thien Duong Cave, the largest and most beautiful cave among the many that were discovered in 2005. With primitive natural features the cave looks like an incredible landscape painting.
Lunch will be served at a local restaurant. Return to your Chay Lap Farmstay in the afternoon. The rest of the day at leisure or enjoy other complimentary activities, such as biking, swimming or kayaking.

 

Day 15/ Apr 15 Phong Nha – Hue (B, L)
Today we drive from Phong Nha to Hue (220 kms). On the way, stop to visit Quang Tri Citadel and La Vang Church. Lunch at local restaurant. Arrive in Hue and check in to hotel. The remainder of day is at leisure.

 

Day 16/Apr 16 Full Day City Tour in Hue (B, L, D)
In the morning, we drive to the surrounding countryside passing peaceful streams and verdant rice paddies until you arrive at the small village of Thanh Toan – home to a legendary market. Learn more about the role of agriculture and spend time exploring the small town. Stop by the beautiful Thanh Toan covered bridge with a rare squared timber arch speckled with ancient ceramics or simply soak up the atmosphere while sipping Vietnamese coffee at the village café. Leaving the village, we head to visit the iconic seven story Thien Mu pagoda, a symbol of Hue. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch, visit the former Imperial Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In the evening, we visit the Tuyet Nguyen family, and enjoy an authentic Vietnamese dinner while learning more about the culture and traditional customs.

 

Day 17/ Apr 17 Hue – Hoi An (B)
The morning is free at leisure until check-out by noon time. Meet the Group from Son Doong Cave and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch head to Hoi An (approximately 120km). Arrive in Hoi An in the evening, check in to hotel.

 

Rejoin Groups
Day 18/ Apr 18 – Cam Thanh Village – Hoi An Ancient Town (B, L)
In the morning we take a biking tour to Cam Thanh village, passing the rice paddy field and have the chance to learn the method of rice production. We will be amazed how nice the coconut characteristic house is, with its water coconut and bamboo handicraft furniture. As well, you will experience the friendliness of the local people greeting you along the way. Later you will meet and engage with local fishermen and enjoy a hands-on experience of traditional net fishing. You will also experience paddling the unique Vietnamese bamboo basket boat.  It will be an unforgettable experience. Back to town for lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, take a walking tour along Hoi An’s waterfront, from the Japanese Covered Bridge to the main market, stopping at the ancient house Tan Ky, the ornate Fu Kien Chinese temple and then down to Hoi An, local market. Return to hotel and free time at leisure.

 

Day 19/ Apr 19 – Hoi An – Danang

 

Transfer to the airport for flight to Saigon or Depart Vietnam for flight home.

 

 

 

TOUR 3 – SAIGON

 

Day 19/ Apr 19 – Hoi An – Danang – Saigon Street Food (B, D)

 

Saigon – Meet your guide, transfer to hotel and check in. Late afternoon, the guide will pick you up from your hotel and drive through the busy lit boulevard to Chinatown, where you will get an exciting view of daily activities at rush hour. Continue the drive along “Tau Hu canal” a man-made canal, which was an important waterway link between Saigon and the Mekong Delta, over 200 years old. Nowadays, with the development of roads, goods and produce are mostly shipped by truck. However, we can still see boats from the Mekong Delta arriving loaded with agricultural products and returning with consumer goods. The contrast of past and present creates an unforgettable image. A night tour of Saigon is not complete without a visit to the Street Food Market, with great choices of yummy Southern Vietnamese food such as “BanhXeo” a crispy pancake, spring rolls, shrimp paste with sugar cane, pork barbecue, and other delicious delicacies. The tour ends at a hidden coffee shop where you will enjoy sips of Vietnamese coffee dripping from the filter and live Vietnamese music. This tour was designed for the traveler who wants to experience the sights and sounds of Saigon at night through the many diverse city districts.

 

Day 20/ Apr 20 Saigon – Optional tour (B)
You have free time on your own or take optional tour available as below.
Option 1: Mekong Delta (Lunch included) $85.00pp (group size 4-­6 people)
Today, we drive to the rural town of Cai Be. Upon arrival, take a small boat and visit small villages, stop at local workshops where you see how to pop rice and rice paper and coconut candy are made. Then the boat takes us deeper into the countryside on smaller canals to Tan Phong Island, to visit workshops where people make country cottage roofs from coconut palm leaves and export products, such as baskets, bags, hats, and wallets made from water-hyacinth. We have the option to take a walk or bike on the island. We have lunch at a local house and enjoy Southern Vietnamese folk music. After lunch, have a short rest before driving back to Saigon late afternoon. Evening is free for your own activities.
Option 2: Cu Chi Tunnels (Lunch included) $65.00pp (group size 4-­6 people)
Morning, transfer to Cu Chi. It used to be a bitter battleground for many years during the Vietnam War. We visit “underground village”, an intricate network of over 200km-­long tunnels at Ben Duoc. We experience it by
trying a very short segment of this labyrinth of interlaced tunnels. Then continue the visit to Ben Duoc War Memorial. Lunch and return to hotel.
Option 3: Grain Cooking Class (Lunch included) $60.00pp (group size 4-­6 people)
Morning, we will join “Grain by Luke Nguyen cooking class”. Grain studio has its own fresh market on site. You will cook a 4-­course meal and demystify Vietnamese cuisine so you will gain a new-­found
confidence that will inspire you to cook more at home. Lunch will be your own food prepared and served at the cooking class. It will be a great Vietnamese cultural and culinary experience.
Day 21/ Apr 21 Saigon – Departure (B)
Morning is at leisure until transfer to Tan Son Nhat airport for departure. Have a safe trip!

Meals included:

B: Breakfast L: Lunch D: Dinner