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Ethiopia February 2019
Day 1, Feb.06/Wed/ Addis Ababa, Guzara Hotel.
Welcome to the vibrant capital of "Addis", the third highest capital in the world! You will be picked up from the airport and transferred to the hotel to freshen up. In the afternoon we embark on a city tour, which includes: a visit to the Trinity Cathedral, commemorating the patriots who fought the Italian aggression in the 1930s, and the National Museum, rated one of the best sub-Saharan museums - this gives you a good introduction to Ethiopian history and culture, and is a good starting point for the trip.
There is also a replica of the 3.5 million year old skull of "Lucy", whose discovery made Ethiopia the Cradle of Mankind. Behind Addis are the Entoto hills from where we get a panoramic view of the city...
Meals - D
Day 2, Feb.07, Thr/ Addis Ababa - Dire Dawa flight and drive to Harar, Rawda Guest house.
Today we visit the Fistula Hospital, established in 1974 by the Hamlins, a pair of gynaecologists from New Zealand and Australia. The hospital cares for women with childbirth related injuries - the women are usually destitute, rejected by their husbands, and have often walked for days or weeks to get to the hospital. It is an interesting insight into a side of life not many know about, and will help you understand rural customs and life, and is, of course, a very touching experience. We also bring pre-arranged donations to the hospital.
In the afternoon we take a flight to Dire Dawa - and then transfer to the old walled, medieval Muslim town of Harar, with its 99 mosques. Harar is situated on the east wall of the Great Rift Valley near the Somali border, and is the place where Islamic ideas entered into Africa from the nearby Arabian Peninsula. On the agenda this evening is a visit to "Hyena man" - he feeds wild hyenas every night on the edge of town - you can have a go too. Meals - B,L,D
Day 3, Feb.08, Fr./ Harar
We kick off the day with a tour of this fascinating city, so different to the rest of Ethiopia. Your visit will include the Harari Museum, Rimbaud House and Harar Market. Shop for indigenous handicrafts and jewellery. Harar is East Africa's equivalent to West Africa's Timbuktu - it is a busy trading town, with an old Arab-style town centre called Jugal.
Jugal, has been registered by UNESCO as a world heritage site. We visit the market, traditional Harari houses, and all the sights within the walled city, not forgetting the coffee factory, because Harar is, after all, famous for producing the best coffee in Ethiopia. Meals - B,L,D
Day 4, Feb.09, Sat./ Harar to the Afar Region, Doho lodge
This morning we get an early start for a long but very scenic drive to the Afar region. The drive not only gives you impressions of the Ethiopian landscape, but you will also witness a lot of Ethiopian "life", as people tend their fields, collect wood and take laden donkeys to the market. We spend the night in an eco-lodge. The lodge is located on Elalyetu, a hill overlooking the hot springs of Bilen and the vast sea of reeds which fringes them.
You may see warthogs, greater and lesser Kudu, Gerenuk and Dik Dik, hear hyenas at night and, for any twitchers in the group, you will love the bird life! After arriving we go to visit the local Afar tribe, to see how these nomads live in their wood and thatched huts - witnessing them go about their daily lives, baking bread in earthen ovens, milking their goats, watering their camels etc - learning about their customs is truly a fascinating experience, like why the women smoke themselves.... Meals - B,L,D
Day 5, Feb.10, Sun./ Afar Region to Addis Ababa, Guzara Hotel.
We pay a visit to the local hotsprings where the Afar water their camels and goats - and then we head for Addis. En route we drive through the Awash National Park. The park takes its name from the Awash River; the longest river in Ethiopia. Fun evening dinner in a national restaurant with traditional music and dancing. Meals - B,L,D
Day 6, Feb.11, Mon./ Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar flight, Bete Daniel Hotel.
This morning we fly to Bahir Dar, one of the Ethiopian's most attractive towns, and situated on the shores of the vast Lake Tana. A scenic drive and a short hike takes us to the Blue Nile Falls, at their best after the rainy season. In the afternoon we take a leisurely boat trip across Lake Tana, famous for the 20 monasteries established on its 37 islands. We visit Zeghe peninsula and its two churches of Ura kidane mehirat and Azuwa Mariam which were built in late 13th and 14th century, respectively. Christianity has a long history in Ethiopia, and the whole ancient culture, architecture and art surrounding it is fascinating.
Tonight we join the locals in one of their cultural bars to see some traditional music and dance - you may even get the chance to try out some local dances yourself . . .
Meals - B,L,D.
Day 7, Feb.12. Tues./ Bahir Dar to Gondar, Fasil Lodge.
After breakfast we drive to Gondar, through a patchwork quilt landscape of barley, tef, beans and wheat. In Gondar we visit a local womens' project, set up in 1994 by a British man to help solo mothers who have no skills or means of income. Here we also have the opportunity to give back, or support them by buying some of the pottery, scarves and other handicrafts that they produce to support themselves.
Emperor Fasilidas founded Gondar as his imperial seat in 1636 and the city was both the capital and a great commercial center from the 17th to the mid-19th century. We visit the Royal Enclosure or Fasil Gibbi and also the castles built by the various emperors of Gondar. A 2 km drive from the town center you will bring you to the bath of King Fasilides, where, during Timkat (Ethiopian Epiphany) a nearby river is diverted to fill an area the size of a small swimming pool. Worshippers plunge into the cold water in a re-enactment of the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan.
We finish off the afternoon by visiting the impressive Debre Berhane Selassie church, whose interior is decorated with beautiful old murals. Meals - B,L,D
Day 8, Feb. 13, Wed./ Gondar to Simien Mountains National Park, Semein Park Hotel in Debark.
Today we head for the stunning Simiens Mountains National Park. High up in the Simien Mountains we look down on landscapes similar to those of the Grand Canyon (only greener!) - a high plateau that gives way to deep, sloping valleys. The Park was added to the world heritage site list in 1978 with a total area of 190 km2. 57 tree species and a variety of herbaceous plants, 22 large, 13 small mammals and about 180 bird species have been recorded; from these Walia ibex, Ethiopian wolf, Menelik's bushuck and the Gelada baboon are endemic.
In the afternoon we go on a 2 hour walk where we are likely to see the peaceful, vegetarian Gelada baboons. Tonight is spent in a very special traditional style lodge, with wonderful views at over 3000m. Meals - B,L,D
Day 9, Feb.14, Thr./ Simien Mountains to Gondar, Fasil Lodge.
We do another short walk this morning in another part of the park, then head back to Gondar for the night, where we will go out for more of that great local food and fun traditional music and dance show. Meals - B,L,D
Day 10, Feb. 15, Fr./ Gondar to Lalibela flight, Yimreha Hotel.
Today we fly to the amazing hillside town of Lalibela. Situated at 2,630m, it is as beautiful as the name sounds. Lalibela is known for its 11 rock-hewn churches, which were literally carved out of the ground, and have to be seen to be appreciated. King Lalibela had these churches made at the end of the 12th century so that it would no longer be necessary to take the long pilgrimage to Jerusalem - he called the series of rock churches the New Jerusalem.
The first group of six churches lies in rock cradles, one behind the other: Bet Golgotha, Bet Mikael, Bet Mariam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel and Bet Medhane Alem. Bet Medhane Alem, the largest, is built like a Greek temple. In a corner are three empty graves symbolically dug for biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Bet Giyorgis, possibly the most famous due to its cross-shaped roof, is set apart from the others on a sloping rock terrace. The group of four south of the Jordan River comprise of Bet Emanuel, Bet Mercuiros, Bet Abba Libanos and Bet Gabriel-Rufa'el.
The churches are still all in use today as a place of worship and contain many old treasures: beautiful coloured frescoes, ancient books, and processional crosses. Prepare to be amazed! Meals - B,L,D
Day 11,Feb. 16, Sat./ Lalibela, Yimreha Hotel
Free day! Today you have time to do as you please - stroll around town, catch up on postcards, or possibly visit some locals in their homes (you may get invited home for a "coffee ceremony", where the beans are roasted, pulverized, and the most delicious coffee in the world is made before your eyes!) Saturday is also market day in Lalibela, and it is truly a colourful and interesting market - spend some time here watching the activity. Meals - B
Day 12, Feb. 17, Sun./ Lalibela, Yimreha Hotel
Today we hike or take mules up to another monastery, Asheton Maryam, situated at around 3,600m. The views on the way up are breathtaking, as is the monastery, which has been carved out of a cliff face. After lunch we drive 40kms through beautiful scenery to the monastery of Yemrehanna Kristos built by the king of the same name before the reign of King Lalibela. Set at an altitude of 2,700m and almost hidden high up in a cave, this old church has interesting architectural features. The huge cave houses not only the church, but also the remains of hundreds of pilgrims who came here to die. This evening after dinner we pay a visit to the local Tej House. Tej is a locally brewed mead-like drink made from honey - it's very tasty and drunk out of special tiny bottles. Meals - B,L,D
Day 13, Feb.18, Mon/ Lalibela - Addis Ababa, Guzara Hotel.
We leave Lalibela this morning and enjoy a very scenic flight back to the capital. After arrival we drive to Mercato, the biggest open air market of Africa. Mercato, a bustling, thriving and busy African market, selling all manner of weird and wonderful things - vegetables, coffee, traditional clothes and handmade baskets, recycled metal goods - you name it! Our final trip highlight is a traditional " Woyba Smoking ", a healthy medicinal beauty treatment commonly done by the Eastern Ethiopian Somali, Afar and Harari people. You will love talking about this one when you get home! Final dinner together. Meals - B,L,D
Day 14, Feb. 19, Tues./ Addis Ababa - home
Sadly, it is time to leave this wonderful country, with it's amazing history, wonderful cultures, friendly faces and stunning landscapes. You will no doubt be left with many fantastic impressions. Transfer to the airport for flights home.
Cost of the trip : $3,000/person
Supplement Single is $400/person
- All accommodation based on Double occupancy ( 2 people in a room )
- All meals mentioned on the itinerary
- one soft drink with lunch and dinner
- Packed water any time needed
- All surface transport including transfers to/from the airports
-Four domestic flights
- All entrances fees to all the sites
- Professional guide and Local Guide service
- International flight ticket and airport tax
- Visa fee
- Camera and video fee
- Any alcoholic drinks
- Other personal expenses not mentioned above
Day 14, Feb.19, Tues/ Addis - Arba Minch flight
Visit of the crocodile Ranch of Arba Minch, check in to Tourist Hotel.
Day 15, Feb. 20, Wed./ Arba Minch
( Boat trip on Lake Chamo and Visit Dorze Village), Tourist Hotel.
In the morning we board a boat to make a short excursion on Lake Chamo which is famous for giant crocodiles and hippos. The area of the lake is also very good for aquatic birds and acacia land birds. Back to hotel for lunch and continue to Dorze tribe village, known for the amazing mountain top village of weavers and colorfull market.The Dorze tribe live on the top of mount Goge, which has a view of the two lakes and the town of Arba Minch. The Dorze are known for their Beehive like houses made of bamboo.
Day 16, Feb. 21, Thur./ Arba Minch - Key Afer( Market day ), Jinka, Resort Hotel.
Start to drive to the remote south of Ethiopia and to see different peoples and their culture. Around Kons you will see the people of Derashi, Gidole and Gewada wearing traditional short skirts. Admire their house style and village complex, and farming style. Konso people are known for their intricately terraced hills.
Konso is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Around Woyto river the people of Tsemay and Benna, with their animal skin clothes and bodies decorated with beads, quarry shells and metals and unique hear styles. After short stop at Woyto village continue to Key Afer. On Thursday market day the males of Ari, Benna, and Tsemay people meet to exchange their products.
Continue to Jinka and check in to Resort Hotel.
Day 17, Feb. 22, Fr./ Jinka - Mursi tribe village- Back to Mursi, Jinka, Resort Hotel.
We leave Jinka after breakfast and heading West to Mago park to see the Mursi people. They mostly live in separate villages of small groups. The famous Mursi women sport remarkable lip decorations, flat slabs of dried clay which can be the size of a small plate, inserted into the lower lip. The men are renowned warriors; very slender, they rarely cover up their body which proudly bears the scars of their combats. Drive back to Jinka
Day 18, Feb. 23, Sat./ Jinka - Key Afer - Dimeka( Market Day ) - Turmi, Turmi Lodge.
After breakfast we drive to Turmi, the center of the Hamar people. The Hamar are a fine looking people, both men and women take great pride in their appearance, shaving and coloring their hair, oiling their bodies and decorating themselves with beads and bracelets worn around arms and legs. They are also famous for their annual celebration of initiation of boys to transform to adult hood, a ceremony called Bull-Jumping. Bull-jumping is a precedes marriage. June up to September, which is after harvest time in the area, is a time for bull-jumping. They rarely do the jumping in other months.
En-route to Turmi we stop at Dimeka village for the weekly market of the Hamar and Benna people. This market is very colorful and one the vibrant markets of the area. Here the Hamar and the Benna people meet to exchange their products. The tribal people walk to this market from all over the area to buy and sale.
Continue the drive and reach Turmi, Turmi Lodge.
Day 19, Feb. 24, Sun./ Turmi - Karo Tribe village, back to Turmi, Turmi Lodge.
After breakfast we drive to Karo which is a local village located on the valley of Omo River. The Karo or Kara is a small tribe with an estimated population between around 2,000. They are closely related to the Kwegu tribe. They live along the east banks of the Omo River and practice flood retreat cultivation. The crops that are grown by them are sorghum, maize and beans. Only a few cattle are kept because of the tsetse flies. These flies are large and consume the blood of vertebrate animals. Like many of the tribes in the Omo, they paint their bodies and faces with white chalk to prepare for a ceremony. The chalk is mixed with yellow rock, red iron ore and charcoal to make its color. Face masks are worn at times and they have clay hair buns with feathers in them. Red clay mixed with butter is put into their hair and clothing is made from animal skin. The women scar their chest believing it makes them beautiful. The mens scars represent an enemy or dangerous animal killed. They also wear clay hair buns which symbolise a kill. A man in the tribe can have as many wives as he wants, but must be able to afford them. Most men will only marry
two or three. Today we visit one of their villages and we drive back to Turmi.
Day 20, Feb.25, Mon./ Turmi - Key Afer - Konso village visit, and continue to Arba Minch,
Tourist Hotel. After breakfast drive to Arba Minch via Konso. We stop in Konso to see one of the UNESCO registered villages. After the visit and lunch we continue to Arba Minch for the night.
Day 21, Feb.26, Tues./ Arba Minch
Free morning, lunch, check in to the airport and fly to Addis Ababa, final dinner together
Day 22: Feb 27. Addis Ababa
Fly home from Addis with lots of enviable tales to tell!
Price for South Ethiopia : $2,200/person
Check out this very special cultural trip! You will visit a way of life that is disappearing as the Bedouin traditions succumb to modernisation and technology...but you will be the lucky ones to catch a glimpse of it before it goes forever. I will introduce you to lots of interesting, sweet and hospitable Bedouin people and we will visit them in their homes - we will drink their flavourful herb teas (herbs they pick themselves in the desert) and eat with them. We will take some lovely walks up stunning rocky Wadis to see some of the characters hidden in the hills and to understand their way of life. Then we will head to Petra to see the spectacular rock-hewn tombs, houses etc. And then for those that want to go even deeper into the culture and the landscape, we have a 4-5 day hike with Bedouin guides and camels accompanying us across the desert from the coast to a beautiful oasis (you must have a decent level of fitness for this). This is seriously one special trip!
Remember - you can do the Sinai trip with or without the hike at the end - itinerary and prices are below - if you have any questions, or would like to book, please email!
South Sinai Desert Walk, Bedouin Culture and Petra (Jordan) Dates: 9-26 April 2018
Cost Bedouin trip and Petra only - without final hike: USD2000 - (total of trip days: 12 days) Dates: 9-20 April 2018
Cost with hike: USD2500 (total trip days 19) Dates: 9-26 April 2018
Sinai and Petra
Day 1 Arrive Sharm el Sheikh - taxi transfer to Dahab, one hour's drive through the stunning Sinai desert
Day 2-3 Exploring Dahab, relaxation, shopping, snorkeling. Trip to Blue Hole or Wadi Gnei (depending on wind) for swimming/snorkelling and relaxation, possibly meet some Bedouin ladies for tea, evening stroll along the corniche to visit the colourful shops and dine in a seaside caf??
Day 4 Transfer to St Katherines Village: meet Nadia who has a collective of women who make Bedouin bags and have lunch with her, visit Dr Ahmed, the herbal plant doctor and see his garden and Flintstone-like houses. Dinner around the fire.
Day 5 Easy walk of around 1.5 hours up a wadi to visit old Amriya for lunch. Amriya lives by herself in the mountains, tending her goats. She runs around like a 20 year, is as free as a bird and a true woman of the desert. Dinner and overnight at our accommodation.
Day 6 Easy walk of around 2 hours to Ramadan's garden for lunch, visit his garden, hear him play his simsimiya, see his rock hyrax collection and walk back.
Day 7 Morning visit the famous St Katherines monastery. Transfer to Dahab - meet some more Bedouin ladies for tea, - free afternoon
Day 8 Day trip to the desert to visit Aeyida who is a nomad and lives with her family in tents
Day 9 Transfer to Taba for ferry to Aqaba, Jordan - 2 hour 4x4 Wadi Rum visit - then on to Petra for the overnight.
Day 10 - Visit Petra - we spend 2 days here to do it justice! Petra is big, beautiful and amazing, you need time to savour all the views and explore it.
Day 11 Visit Petra
Day 12 Transfer to Aqaba ferry, cross to Taba, Nuweiba - visit Bedouin ladies in Nuweiba. Those not hiking go on to Dahab for as many days as they wish and then fly home. Those hiking go to Ras Shatain to stay the night and prepare for their hike.
DAY 13 hike
We will begin from the Ras Shetan trailhead, leaving the Gulf of Aqaba behind in the morning and entering the Sinai's spectacular coastal mountains. We will walk through narrow gorges, passing hidden waterpools and oases.
We move deeper into the wilderness, out of the coastal mountains and into the spectacular sandstone deserts of the Sinai.
We will cross an easy camel pass to arrive at Jebel Mileihis. On a clear day the summit gives views to the Hejaz mountains of Arabia, some of which tower over 2000m. The highlands of St Katherine, including Jebel Katherina - which we will climb at the end of the hike - can also be seen. These highlands look close; but they're still over a week's walking from here.
We will traverse Wadi Ghazala to enter the sandstone corridor of Naqb el Hamedat. This is one of the Sinai's most ancient travelling passages; even today, the rocks still bear the graffiti of pilgrims and wayfarers from many centuries ago. It's not far from here to the oasis of Ein Hudera: one of the most beautiful, fabled spots in the Sinai. Several Bedouin families live here today, with whom we will stay. Cold water will be available in a bucket for any hikers who'd like to wash.
Breakfast and return to Dahab
18 Relax in Dahab for your last day
19 Fly home
Vietnam is a wonderful country of friendly people, lush landscapes, fascinating bustling cities, markets full of wonderful treasures, divine food, interesting history and culture and more! Everyday here is a new and different experiences - Vietnam really does tick all the travel boxes! You will love it!
-Sample traditional specialities and mix with the locals in the busy streets of Hanoi
-learn about Vietnam's interesting history, culture and people in the fascinating museums
-a very indulgent and totally unforgettable 3 days balmy cruise in the stunning Halong Bay
-visiting the incredible old and atmospheric town of Hoi An
-get wonderful new clothes made to order in Hoi An
-Cooking lessons aboard a boat in Hoi An
-A lovely hike in the lush highlands of Sapa, visiting the Black Hmong people
-explore the Mekong Delta by sampan (boat)
...and much more!!
Day 1, HANOI
Our Vietnam experience begins in Hanoi's fascinating 'Old Quarter'. On arrival, we check into our hotel and have free time to freshen up and rest, or wander down to Hoan Kiem lake for coffee, patisseries and people watching on the lake front. We enjoy a delicious dinner together at one of Hanoi's restaurants, then wander through the fascinating market stalls and boutiques in the Old Quarter, back to our hotel for a refreshing night's sleep. Meals: D
Day 2, HANOI
Hanoi is a beguiling and vibrant city steeped in history, with a wonderful fusion of French colonial and Vietnamese architecture and cuisine. We take the day to visit the city's key sights such as the National Museum and the tranquil Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first university. We'll have an insightful meal at an NGO restaurant which educates and trains 'street kids', giving them skills to pursue careers in the hospitality and tourism industries. There's also be time to trawl the colorful streets of the Old Quarter, where streets are named for the products they sell and everything imaginable is being bought and sold.
We return to Hanoi for a relaxing free afternoon where you may choose to watch the world go by from a lovely cafe, take a stroll around Hoan Kiem lake, or squeeze in some shopping. Meals: B, L, D
Day 3, Hanoi - Halong bay cruise
Meals: B, L, D | Accommodation: Treasure Junk - 4 star
Depart from Hanoi at 8.00 for a 3.5 hours drive to Halong City through the Red River Delta. Upon arrival, get on board of the Treasure Junk. Start cruising from Hon Gai pier to the boundaries of Halong bay while lunch with fresh seafood is served (vegetarian available). After lunch, relax and enjoy the cruise through breathtaking scenery. We are slowly getting off the classic cruising routes, far from the tourists! Limestone rock formations will parade around us for about 2 hours before our first stop in Cong Do area.
We reach the perfect spot, remote and scenic, where the waters of Halong and Bai Tu Long meet. Let's get closer to the water in a kayak and explore the bay in depth, paddle closer to the rocks and go to one of the many beaches in the Bay.
After one and a half hour kayaking, we get back on board - it is time for a sundowner on the deck! The big red sunset will take your breath away. Enjoy a fun cooking demonstration before dinner. Enjoy a wonderful overnight on board in a cosy air-conditioned cabin with en-suite bathroom facilities.
Day 4, Halong bay Discovery & Kayaking
Meals: B, L, D | Accommodation: Treasure Junk - 4 star
Breakfast will be served from 7.15am. If you like, participate in a Tai Chi session before breakfast on deck. It's a great way to start the day.
Around 8.30am, we board a smaller boat. Today, we'll leave all the crowds behind and cruise deeper into Bai Tu Long Bay where we see more of the beautiful and strange rock formations that are only available in this area. We pass several floating hamlets including Cap La and Cong Dam, and we enter the centre of pristine Bai Tu Long Geology Park. A whole day of fun and relaxation with more kayaking, more swimming, more sandy beaches, more floating houses, more local cuisine, too divine for words! We are back to our support boat for a delicious hot lunch at noontime. After lunch, we spend a little more time for kayaking or relaxing.
The guide will lead you back to the Treasure Junk in the mid-afternoon. Time for more relaxation and a cocktail or 2 on the deck.
Day 5, Halong - Hanoi & nite train to Sapa
Meal: B, L, D| Accommodation: Soft sleeper train
We will be back at the pier about 11am, and driven to Hanoi with an expected arrival time about 4pm. The day will be short so let's wake up early to take the maximum of it.
Coffee, tea and cakes will be served from 6.30am. A 30-minute Tai Chi session will energize your body and soul or just allow yourself some time for a sunbath with a cup of coffee. About 7.45am, we hop on bamboo boats to go visiting a secluded floating village surrounded by the mountains. We make our way between numerous floating houses and small rowing boats that serve as vehicles to itinerant shops, fishing utilities, and sometimes as overnight shelter. Back on treasure before 9am, we start cruising back to the pier. From 9.30am, a brunch will be served. Take a last glance at the rocks, standing still as the eternal guardians of a kingdom.
We return to Hanoi, for a final dinner in this buzzing city. After dinner we continue our journey (in sleeper berths), to Sapa. Overnight on soft sleeper train to Sapa
Day 6, Lao Cai - Sapa - trekking to Ma Tra - Ta Phin
Meals: B, L, D
Arrive in Lao Cai and be transferred by shuttle bus to Sapa. The bus ride uphill to Sapa takes a little over an hour giving you a glimpse of the stunning vistas and impressive rice terraces. On arrival, we meet our local tour guide and if we like we can take a shower in our partner's hotel.You will enjoy a full buffet breakfast at Chau Long hotel. We start trekking from Sapa and walk through the town for about 20 minutes before turning to a dirt road to Ma Tra, a black H'mong village. The trekking route offers a breathtaking view of vegetable gardens and rice terraces with green mountains rising above. There will be time for visiting with local families and learning about their traditional fiber processing. We continue trekking to Ta Phin village of the Red Dzao, in one of the most scenic valleys in Vietnam. Here we'll stop for a simple lunch before exploring the village.
3.00pm: Return to Sapa by private vehicle to check in to your hotel. You're free to explore the town, its market and sloping streets with all the colorful handicrafts.
Day 7, Sapa - trekking to Lao Chai - Ta Van & evening bus to Hanoi
Meal: B, L, Dinner at own expense | Accommodation: Essence Hanoi hotel
We will meet our guide and depart at 8.00. We start the day by going to the market with the guide to buy all the ingredients we need to cook lunch. We start trekking from Sapa town to Golden Stream valley. The trek offers some stunning views of the rice terraces, gardens and Fan Si Pan mountain range. After crossing a suspension bridge, we will hike up to Lao Chai San village. The scenery here is great. We will continue through the Golden Stream Valley, stopping at Lao Chai village for lunch. After lunch, we will explore the villages of Lao Chai (Black H'mong) and Ta Van (Dzay). This trek is relatively easy, though the trail can be quite slippery if it rains, so good footwear is recommended. After visiting a family of the village, we walk to the main road to meet up with our driver and return to Sapa town. Shower is available at our partner's hotel. In the afternoon, you're free to explore the town and it's market. 3.30pm: Meet the guide. A car takes us to the bus station. 4.00pm: Comfortable shuttle bus departs from Sapa to Hanoi. Enjoy beautiful views driving along the Hoang Lien Son mountain range. The bus is equipped with large individual seats, A/C and wifi. 2 stops on the way. One for toilets at about 6.30pm. The other one for dinner at about 8.00pm.
Around 10.00pm: Arrival in Hanoi center (Ly Thai To street).
Day 8, HANOI - night train to Hue
Meals: B, lunch and dinner on your own / Accomm: Soft sleeper train - cozy cabin
Hanoi is bursting with things to see and do! You might like to start your day at around 5.30am at the lake watching the Vietnamese doing Tai Chi or ballroom dancing before they go to work. Go wild in the markets for beautiful silk, jewellery and more, indulge in a massage, or take a cyclo to get some history at the Vietnamese Women's Museum and the Hoa Lo Prison (Hilton Hotel).
In the evening, we are driven to the railway station for our night train to Hue
Day 9, Hue - sightseeing
Meals: B, L, D | Accommodation: Eldora Hue - 4 star
Our train arrives in Hue around 0940 am. Situated on the banks of the Perfume River and celebrated by Vietnamese poets for its romantic air and beauty, Hue was home to the Royal Dynasty until 1945. After checking in to our hotel, we take a fun tour of Hue's countryside, chauffeured on motos by the Lady Riders, visiting emperors' tombs, Buddhist pagodas and historic sites. This evening we enjoy a delicious gourmet buffet and cultural performance at the famed Saigon Morin.
Day 10, Hue - Hoian
Meals: B, D | Accommodation: HOTEL
We travel the scenic coastal road by private bus to our favourite Vietnamese town, Hoi An. On arrival we check into our tranquil hotel and have free time for lunch in the hotel's garden restaurant or a nearby cafe. This afternoon FREE TIME TO stroll along the river front or cycle out to the beach, then return and enjoy dinner together at one of the town's excellent restaurants - a great way to begin sampling the rich history and culture.
Day 11, Hoian
Meal: B, |Accommodation: HOTEL
Hoi An was an important trading port from the 17th-19th centuries. Wandering the streets, you really feel embraced by history. The town now has UN World Heritage status and its profusion of old houses, quiet streets and covered bridge are being preserved and restored. Motor vehicles are not permitted in the inner historic quarter, which makes for a fantastic walking and cycling experience.
Hoi An is also the ultimate place to have affordable clothes made to order. There's a gorgeous beach nearby and people-watching on the riverfront, cool drink in hand, is hard to beat. Shop for a new outfit (or new wardrobe!) and dine at your choice of the town's riverside caf??s.
Day 12, Hoian - Cooking Class course
Meals: B, L
Today we drive to the My Son sanctuary. This was the site for religious ceremonies of kings of the Champa dynasty, and was also a burial place for Champa's royalty and national heroes. The My Son temples are one of the largest Hindu complexes in southeast Asia and are a premier heritage in Vietnam. Though much of the complex has been destroyed over time, we can still see many majestic ruins of temples and learn what archaeologists can tell us about the deep history in this area. Afterwards, we head offshore on a boat for a wonderful cooking class onboard! You will have lots of fun cooking up a storm and finding out the secrets behind all those amazing dishes you have been eating.
Day 13, Hoian - free in the morning - afternoon fly to Ho Chi Minh -
Meal: B, D | Accommodation: Harmony Saigon
We catch the afternoon flight to Ho Chi Minh city. Greeted at Tan Son Nhat airport and driven to your hotel.
Day 14, Ho Chi Minh - Cu Chi tunnels & city tour
Meal: B, L, D | Accommodation: Harmony Saigon
Visit of Cu Chi - a byzantine maze of underground passages, chambers, rooms and booby traps used during the war. You'll be able to get an idea of what it would have been like to live, sleep and eat in the underground passages and bunkers during the fierce battles above and below the surface. Return to the city for lunch at a tasty restaurant in the city centre.
In the afternoon, you'll discover the Reunification Palace - a blend of traditional ritual and modern architecture, served as the presidential palace of South Vietnam until reunification in 1975. Then, you'll also visit the War Remnants Museum - one of the most sobering, yet popular, museums in the city. It highlights the suffering of the Vietnamese people at the hands of the French and American forces up to 1975, and while its perspective is less than perfectly balanced, its exhibits nonetheless are well designed and ably document the folly of war.
Day 15, Ho Chi Minh - Ben Tre - Can Tho
Meal: B, L, D | Accommodation: Hau Giang hotel in Can Tho
We depart from the hotel and arrive in Ben Tre about 10am to board a boat for a nice cruise along the Ham Luong River. We go at an easy pace and enjoy several stops en route to discover some traditions of the region. To end a busy morning and prepare for a slightly late lunch, we hop on bikes and start a leisure ride through forest and orchards. We reach a nice riverside restaurant and taste some typical cuisine of the Mekong delta.
The afternoon is dedicated to waterways exploration. On a sampan along narrow canals first, and then back on the boat to cruise back to the pier. We loop-the-loop in Ben Tre and then get back on the car to drive to Can Tho. Spend the evening at your leisure seeing the town by foot or pedicab, or find a quiet place for a cocktail by the river.
Day 16, Can Tho - Ho Chi Minh
Meals: B, L, D| Accommodation: Harmony Saigon
After an early breakfast, we start a boat cruise to head to the bustling Cai Rang floating market - the largest and most colorful in the Mekong delta. Feel free to take photographs, talk or bargain while our boat glides slowly through the market mayhem. There are fantastic photo opportunities amidst the huge variety of agricultural bounty on sale here. Farming boats big and small trade seasonal fruits and an array of other goods in a chorus of sights and smells that you won't soon forget.
We then take a leisurely stroll through the farms and houses of a nearby village to see fragrant tropical fruit orchards, cross over quiet streams on monkey bridges, and pause for a cup of tea with friendly locals. We spend some time in the surroundings to visit a local fish market, a noodle workshop and an ancient Khmer pagoda. We then make the short drive back to Can Tho for a relaxing lunch, and we then start the drive back to Saigon and return you back to your hotel around 5pm. Final dinner together.
Day 17, Ho Chi Minh
What an incredible, unforgettable journey it has been! Vietnam is a trip that will stick with you for a long time - the lovely people, the breathtaking countryside, the fantastic shopping, the heartbreaking history and the delicious food. I'm sure it will leave you wanting more!
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Got a big birthday coming up that ends with a "0" (40, 50, 60...)? We'll make it fun and memorable for you..!
Why not celebrate your birthday with an exotic holiday? Whether it be sipping gins on the deck of a cruise ship gliding down the Nile in Egypt, or eating birthday cake under an African sky in the Saharan desert in Morocco, we can help you make it memorable! Start saving now, and bring your friends along too - we'll give you a discount for every friend you bring...just get in touch and we can discuss your birthday destination of choice. As you know, our motto is "Life is uncertain - eat cake!", so treat yourself to a fabulous birthday with us!
Bring a group of women on tour!
Get a group of 10 ladies from your club, your work, or just all your friends and you get a great discount for your efforts! "Hen" trips: Maybe you want to getaway with your girlfriends for a few days before you get married....
Custom Women's Trips - you tell us where and for how long
Would you like to go to a Venus destination with a group of female friends/workmates, but the dates or trip length does not suit? Talk to us about a tailor-made Venus Adventure!
Would you like to give a friend a gift voucher to convince her to come on a trip with you? Or maybe you know someone who really wants to travel, but can't seem to take the big step? A gift voucher might be just the ticket to get them going...you just let us know the amount, and we will send it to you!
The following answers sum up why our adventure trips for women are so awesome!
-Usually you can relax more - not intimidated by the way you look or dress and usually have a hell of a lot more fun and laughs
-Safer, more relaxed environment, no competition with the men (or for the men!)
-It is more relaxing to visit/shop/look at something/take ones time/etc and not wonder if ones partner is - or isn't- enjoying himself.
-Mixed trips change the dynamics of the group. Always!
-Women only rules!!!!!
-we talk the same language
-Women travelling together are for the most part easy going, not competitive, more open to trying new things, more comfortable in our own skin, and more willing to let a country and its people under our skin. Also, we can forget about our roles in life (wife, mother etc) and focus all our energy on just being us!
-...men are a pain and whine to get their own way.
...and last but not least, and this answer sums it all up:
-Because men are from Mars and women are from Venus! (simple really...)
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It's usually just before dinner, in a wonderful spot - maybe on a sand dune, or in a locally decorated beautiful room. It's a time when we unwind, relax, have a drink and socialize together, maybe tell a few tales of the days events and get to know each other more. And of course, have a few laughs! Gin is our preferred tipple, but of course, you can drink anything from a juice to a glass of wine, depending on your taste!
Did you know
.... that the recipe for Gordon's Gin is known to only twelve people in the world and has been kept a secret for 250 years?
...that Bombay Sapphires name originates from the gin's popularity in India in of the days of the British Raj and the sapphire in question is the Star of Bombay on display at the Smithsonian Institution.
OK, so have found yourself in a fabulous Arab bazaar in some hot, sandy and exotic country. It is a maze of twisting alleyways crammed with people and intriguing shoplets selling bright and alluring handicrafts: colourfully decorated carpets, lamps, clothes, leather and metalware. Trapped in shopping heaven, you almost pass out with excitement. Sweet, musky incense wafts through the air, and as you saunter along in the heat, handsome swarthy men try to entice you into their shops with cheesey one-liners "Madame, can I ask you something?"
Shopping in an Arab souq is something you have to be in the mood for. Patience and a sense of humour are a necessity or you won't last 5 minutes. And if you don't have your wits about you, you may find yourself limping back to your hotel under the strain of five carpets and no money to finance the rest of your trip and wondering how that all happened when all you wanted to buy was a scarf. You had only asked out of interest how much that lovely rug was...and before you knew it - you had five!
Golden Rule No. 1: don't ask how much something is unless you want to buy it. If you do ask, you are entering into a "negotiation" - commonly known as "haggling". Your lovely salesman will enquire how long you have been in his country to see how green (stupid) you are, suss out how many gold rings you have on, and then name an extortionate price. Your jaw will drop and you will gasp in horror.
Golden Rule No. 2: ask yourself how much you might pay for this item back home, look at the quality, and then remember you are buying it at the source. It has not been imported and you are cutting out several middlemen. Think what you would be prepared to pay, and then name a lower price. Now it is your salesman's turn to gasp in horror and act insulted. Game on!
Haggling is theatrics, and can be a lot of fun if you are patient. Have a mint tea and get comfortable! You will now negotiate with your man, he will try to force your price up with all sorts of sob stories about how business has been bad, how many kids he has to feed etc. You have to invent some of your own sob stories about how little money you have and you saved all your life to get here...remember, keep it fun and encourage humour!
Golden Rule No. 3: Stick to your guns! The Arab salesman always wants to win this game, even if only by a small amount, but if possible, by a huge amount! If the price gets beyond what you are willing to pay - walk away. Better to walk away than to regret it later. If your price was not fair, he will let you go. If your price was reasonable after all, your charming salesman will most likely come after you (he hates to miss a sale), drag you back to the shop, wrap your exotic treasure into a neat package, and relieve you of your cash.
And this brings me to the most important rule, Golden Rule No. 4: both parties should be happy at the end of the transaction - you should be happy with what you paid and the treasure that you bought, and the salesman should be happy with his sale. And thus you will get the lovely scarf you wanted and not five rugs.
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