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Arrive at Noi Bai International Airport and be transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is free to explore the city on your own.
The capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is an amalgamation of the traditional and modern. Feel the pulse of the Old Quarter bursting with activity, soak in the vibrant atmosphere in the local markets, watch residents practice Tai Chi at parks, dine at world-class restaurants, and shop at designer boutiques!
After breakfast, go on a three-hour drive from Hanoi to Cuc Phuong National Park. The first national park to be established in Vietnam, Cuc Phuong is an area of limestone hills covered in primary rainforest. The best birding is in the centre of the Park where there are several excellent trails including the Loop Trail and the Valley Trail. The main road through the park can also be very rewarding especially for over-wintering thrushes early in the evening.
Spend the day birding at Cuc Phuong while spotting silver pheasants, pied falconets, bar-bellied, blue-rumped and eared pittas, silver-breasted broadbills, white-winged magpies, white-tailed flycatchers, Fujian niltavas and limestone wren-babblers.
After breakfast, transfer back to Hanoi with a stop at Van Long Nature Reserve en route. Take a sampan ride through flooded rice fields leading to dramatic limestone cliffs that are home to the largest population of one of Vietnam’s critically endangered primates, Delacour’s langur. During the winter months, large numbers of waterfowl can be seen here as well as a raptor or two.
Continue on to Tam Dao, a hill resort 60kms away from Hanoi. Tam Dao hosts several bird species that are more usually associated with China and cannot be seen elsewhere in South-East Asia such as the attractive chestnut bulbul and grey laughing thrush.
After breakfast, take full day to explore the mountainous evergreen, bamboo and pine forests around Tam Dao town. Resident species to look out for here include the red-billed blue magpie, grey treepie, coral-billed and streak-breasted scimitar-babblers, Rufous-headed and short-tailed parrotbills and collared babbler. Winter visitors that may turn up between November and March include White’s, grey-backed, Japanese, eyebrowed and black-breasted thrushes, as well as Fujian niltavas.
There is time for some early morning birding at Tam Dao before transferring back to Hanoi. The rest of the day is at leisure.
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Hue early in the morning. Upon arrival, be transferred to your hotel.
In the afternoon, visit the Imperial Citadel where Kings of Vietnam’s last feudal dynasty ruled from 1802 to 1945. See the Flag Tower, Nine Holy Cannons, Ngo Mon Gate, Thai Hoa Palace, Nine Dynastic Urns, Forbidden Purple City, etc. Then visit the Tomb of King Tu Duc - the ‘poet Emperor’, set in an elegant garden with a magnificent lake and pavilion complex.
After breakfast, visit Thien Mu Pagoda on the bank of scenic Perfume River. The name of the pagoda comes from a legend that says: Once upon a time, an old woman appeared on the hill where the pagoda stands today and told the local people that a Lord would come and build a Buddhist pagoda for prosperity of the country. On hearing this, Lord Nguyen Hoang, ordered the construction of the pagoda of the "Heavenly Lady".
Then transfer by road to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.
After breakfast, spend the day exploring the limestone forest of Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park. Try spotting the Indochinese endemic sooty babbler, which lives on the limestone outcrops, and the recently-split limestone leaf-warbler. The red-collared woodpecker and Northern brown hornbill can also be seen here along with endangered primates such as the globally vulnerable pig-tailed macaque, Assamese macaque, stump-tailed macaque and white-cheeked crested gibbon. Also look out for Francois’ langur, black langur and Hatinh langur.
After breakfast, transfer to Dong Hoi Airport, in Quang Binh Province, for your flight to Saigon.
Upon arrival, be transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is free to explore the city on your own or relax. The fast-paced city of Saigon has many sights to keep you entertained. Consider visiting the Reunification Palace, the historic monument that marked the end of the Vietnam War. The War Museum comprising a series of eight themed rooms in several buildings showcasing war equipment is also worth a visit. See helicopters, fighter jets, tanks, etc. Also, learn about various tactics used during the war.
Depart early in the morning for Cat Tien National Park, about 150kms northwest of Saigon, one of the largest areas of lowland tropical rainforests left in Vietnam.
Upon arrival, check in at the National Park’s Guesthouse and relax. After lunch, take a walk to explore the fauna and flora, visit a 400-year-old conifer and a Bang Lang tree that is almost 300 years old. Spot the red junglefowl, green peafowl, Siamese firebacks, red-vented barbet, grey-faced tit babbler, and many species of herons, egrets, hornbills, woodpeckers, and eagles.
Have dinner at a local restaurant, and then head back to the National Park to see nocturnal animals such as porcupines, squirrels, etc.
After breakfast, take a boat trip on Dong Nai River to visit T'Chai Village of Chau Ma and X’Tieng ethnic people. Meet and talk with local residents to learn more about their daily lives. Have lunch at a local restaurant and then drive back to Saigon.
After breakfast, be transferred to the airport for your flight home.
Requires a spirit of adventure and some degree of fitness, as the trip might consist of many activities or long journeys. These adventures involve walking, trekking, hiking, cycling, rafting, sea kayaking, or driving for long hours, at times for up to six to eight hours a day at a steady pace. The maximum altitude is 3000m, so it requires you to be reasonably physically fit because you may be travelling in extreme weather conditions. The trips are usually 6 to 12 days in duration.
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