Guide and porters
- The English-speaking/French-Speaking Vietnamese local guide will accompany you from the start of the trip in Hanoi, until the end of your travel.
- The local guide is our liaison officer, who will help our main tour guide not only on the trekking trails, but also to interact with local ethnic minorities and to prepare the ingredients for meals.
- The porter will carry your bags by motorbike from a given destination to another. The porter will also go to the local market to buy foods that you will eat every day. The porter will have already prepared the house before your arrival (cleaning and installation of a small foam-made mattress and of a mosquito net).
There are three daily meals every hiking day: for lunch, it will either be a picnic or a hot meal, while for dinner, it will be a hot meal cooked by our local team. All the food will be prepared by our guide and the porters. Meals are adapted to the taste of travelers and thus slightly differ from the meals of your hosts.
- Breakfast includes: jam, bread, butter, milk, coffee
- Lunch on the go includes: rice/noodles, hard boiled eggs, beef/pork, vegetables, fruits
- Dinner: normally, you will eat with your hosts. The food is bought then cooked and served by our guide/porters.
Lunches are often simple in order for the local guide to not carry too much weight during the day.
Drinks: during road drives, we will provide you with bottled mineral water.
During your trek, you will spend nights with locals: you will be living under the same conditions as your hosts. Indeed, this itinerary is made for people who put the stress on discovering authentic off-the-beaten-tracks regions and for whom comfort is not a main focus. Often, overnights at homestays refers to stays in a traditional house – usually a stilt house – of a local family. On the first floor, there is a large common room where you will have dinners before sleeping on mattresses. On the ground floor, domestic animals (chickens, pigs, dogs …) live and circulate freely. Do not forget to bring earplugs to protect yourself from possible noise.
Bathroom and toilets are rudimentary and usually located outside the house. Generally, only cold water is available (in order to get hot water, it must be heated on fire). Showering “Asia-style” (with a large water basin and a small bucket to pour water on you) is possible.
Luggage and Luggage transportation
It is advised to split the amount of belongings between a small backpack that you will wear during hikes, and a second travel luggage where you will keep most of your things – most preferably with suspenders – in order to be easier to carry for porters.
While hiking, each participant will walk with a light backpack containing only stuff needed for the day (protective clothing, water, sunscreen, jacket, aid kit…). Every night, you will take back your travel luggage that you entrusted to the porters or left inside the vehicle during the day. During the trek, it is of paramount importance to limit the weight of your bag to 6kg, as you can leave your other belongings in the travel luggage and take it back at the end of the hike.
Depending on weather conditions, luggage is transported during the day by motorbike or by porters.
For clothing, put the stress on multi-layers: ventilation, isolation, protection. Those layers each have complementary roles. In order to “travel light”, you can plan to do some laundries.
For a travel between April and October: bring light clothes (t-shirts, short-sleeved and long-sleeved shirts, pants for hiking, a short or a pant with a zip, a cap or a hat, socks, underwear, something to protect yourself from the rain such as a poncho, a raincoat or an umbrella, etc.).
For a travel between November and March: bring warm clothes (a polar sweatshirt, sweaters, scarves).
The items listed above are just given as indication. It is strongly advised to prepare your bags while thinking of limiting your belongings in terms of quantity and volume, while also making sure to bring what is necessary in case of rain and to take sport clothing.
For shoes, there are several options.
- Trekking shoes: the brand is not important, the key is to feel perfectly comfortable inside your shoes. Choose waterproof shoes, not heavy, not rigid, while still putting the emphasis on resistance. They should have good heel support and adherent insoles. If you are used to walking, low-cut trekking shoes should be enough.
- Low-cut shoes for outdoor: comfortable and perfect to use during easy hikes, air flights, visits and evenings.
- Sandals, Crocs, flip flops or light shoes.
Other items to bring:
- A small toiletry bag
- A light towel
- Sunscreen + lip balm
- High-quality sunglasses
- Hand sanitizer
- Mosquito repellent (also protects from other kinds of insects) – there could be a risk of dengue, so bringing a repellent is necessary
- A big plastic bag that you will put inside your luggage to protect your belongings
- A small pouch worn around the neck or belt and containing your passport, money, credit card, documents, insurance contract
- A color photocopy of your passport should facilitate administrative procedures in case of loss or theft (do not keep the photocopy together with the passport!). You can also keep a copy of your passport in your mailbox.
- A sleeping bag sheet is necessary.
- A Thermarest self-inflating mattress (length 120 cm, weight 400 gr) is not required, but can be useful. It brings a real plus in terms of comfort, especially if you have a sensitive back.
- A small pillowcase if needed
Discovery of the daily life of the inhabitants and meeting with local people
Several ethnic groups reside in the northern mountainous regions of Vietnam. During your treks, you will go to meet local people and learn more about their lifestyle. It will also be possible for you to meet different ethnic minorities while visiting weekly markets.
You will hike along the trails that locals take every day. You will go through bamboo forests, rice terraces, ethnic villages, and a water stream. You might have to also cross a suspension bridge.
You must stay alert and be careful during the rainy season (from May to October): indeed, there is a risk of landslides.
Rules of Conduct
- Chopsticks are used during meals (always new set of chopsticks). If eating with chopsticks is difficult for you, don’t worry: you will easily find forks or spoons.
- Women should not wear provocative attire, men should not walk around shirtless, do not take pictures of someone who doesn’t want to… Show patience and keep smiling.
- If you travel with your partner, be discreet in demonstrating your affection: do not kiss or hold hands in public. In the presence of a third person, a couple should not show any sign of mutual affection. When a man greets a woman, handshake should be proscribed: simply greet her by saying “Hello”.
- Rice wine: for the people who hosts you during the trekking, it is inconceivable not to offer you to drink, and it’s always rice wine (more or less good….). Refusing to drink without upsetting your host is not always easy!! Thus, for those who don’t drink, make an effort: either take only a sip or just tend the cup to your host (with your two hands) with a big smile, and your host should be happy.
- Accept that dishes are served when ready, in no particular order, and not according to a western standards of serving
- Gifts: do not distribute candies, pens or other kind of gifts, particularly to kids, because this behavior can encourage them to begging, dropping out of the school or simply abandoning their regular occupation. If you wish to make a donation, it is better to do so through a local organization (association, school, clinic…). You can ask your guide about it; he will inform you about the best way to donate.
- Do not give away medicine or prescription drugs: they are not necessarily suitable and locals can have difficulties in respecting the correct dosage.
- Prior to taking a picture, make sure that the local people agree: taking pictures of villagers should be based on mutual agreement. However, at markets, you can take pictures without any problem.