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Itinerary




Introduction and overview

The expedition starts in Hanoi where we will have an opportunity to explore the city with its amazing atmosphere, markets and pagodas. The following night we will then board the night train for the 10 hour journey to Lao Cai which is on the Vietnam-China border.

After breakfast in Sa Pa we drive through the pass of Tram Tom to start the ascent of Mount Fan Si Pan which is the highest mountain in Indo China at 3143m.  Although the peak is accesible all year round to those in good shape and properly equipped, it is nonetheless a challenging summit.  We will initially trek through forest with to start with then see striking moutain vistas and some of the local wildlife such as monkeys (there are 20 species living in the wild such as gibbon and langur which is a long tailed tree dwelling monkey), mountain goats and birds.

The expedition will spend 3 nights camping on the moutain before arriving back in Sa Pa for a welcome celebratory dinner and a good nights sleep.  We then make our way back to Hanoi and catch a flight to Siep Reap in Cambodia. 
With the physically challenging part of the Noble Quest complete, the expediton will focus on the exploration of the temples of Angkor, capital of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer empire and a city described as ‘the perfect fusion of creative ambition and spirtual devotion’.  The temples are the heart and soul of the Kingdom of Cambodia and a source of inspiration and national pride.  The Cambodian god-kings of old each strove to better their ancestors in size, scale and symetry, culminating in the world’s largest religious building – Angkor Wat.

It is hoped that the extravagent beauty and awe inspiring sights of the expedition will help the group as they master Primodial Sound Meditation sessions throughout the trip.  Culiminating in the award of a diploma by Scott Millway in Siep Reap as a fitting end to this physical and spiritual quest.

Day 1 (Mon, 18th Oct 2010): Arrival at Hanoi (Dinner (D))

Arriving at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, we will be met and driven to the hotel. There will be time to relax after the journey before a ‘Welcome’ dinner at a family restaurant situated in a small alley in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.  The owner is a talented cook and will be preparing our food.  In the evening, the group will have tickets for a performance of traditional Water Puppetry; an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and a good, light-hearted introduction to its rural culture.  Night in Hanoi. 

Day 2 (Tue, 19th Oct 2010): Hanoi city/Mindfulness in Van Tri Pagoda/Lao Cai (Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), D)

The group will have the whole day to explore Vietnam’s capital city.  We will visit the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam dating back to the 11th century, and a popular attraction, as is Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum

Temple of Literature

Temple of Literature

We will also get a chance to visit the excellent Ethnology Museum http://www.vme.org.vn/aboutus_history.asp for an overview of Vietnamís 54 distinct ethnic groups in anticipation of our trip to Sa Pa, followed by a visit to the serene Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in Hanoi, on the banks of Hanoiís Ho Tay (West) Lake.

Tran Quoc Pagoda

Tran Quoc Pagoda

The centre of Hanoi, including Hoan Kiem Lake, the Ngoc Son temple and the bustling Old Quarter, is a magnet for visitors – it’s noisy and hectic, but definitely a ‘must-see’ attraction. The Old Quarter is a maze of shopping streets and restaurants with a hotchpotch of architecture - traditional tube houses, religious buildings, artisans’ workshops and cottages, colonial houses and modern concrete edifices. You’ll have dinner and spend the night in Hanoi.
In the afternoon, you’ll join the ‘Mindfulness’ class’ in an old pagoda located some 13km from Hanoi. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware – aware of your mind, your heart, your body, and the world around you. According to the devotees of mindfulness, by bringing awareness to these centres you are able to function more clearly and effectively. Your mind becomes less cluttered, your heart becomes free, your body receives proper attention, and the world can be faced openly. Sister Thich Hanh Chau will introduce each of the activities.
The day will feature basic instructions for beginners, different kinds of meditation practice (such as sitting and walking meditation, eating meditation), and a talk with opportunities for questions and answers.
The Pagoda is built on the site of one of Hanoi's most ancient Buddhist temples, and is shadowed by green foliage amidst a peaceful community. In short, it is an excellent opportunity to be introduced to, or practice, another method of Oriental meditation.
You’ll have free time and dinner before we arrive at Hanoi railway station in time to board the 10 pm overnight sleeper to Lao Cai.

Day 3 (Wed, 20th Oct 2010): Lao Cai/Sa Pa (B, L, D)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sa_Pa
The train arrives in the early morning, and the expedition will be met and taken up into the mountains by 4X4 to Sa Pa,

Sa Pa

View on the mountains from downtown Sa pa

After breakfast, we drive through the Tram Ton pass and begin the ascent of Mount Fan Si Pan, with spectacular vistas of mountains opening up as the tree cover thins.  Lunch will be served at 2,200m. A canvas camp will be erected by the porters, although assistance would be welcome, and local good food will be cooked on the mountain.  There is an opportunity to explore the surrounding area, meditate and prepare for overnight camp.  Dinner and spend the night on the mountain. 

Day 4 (Thurs, 21st Oct 2010): Fan Si Pan (B, L, D)

If all goes well, the Noble Quest expedition will reach the summit of Mt. Fan Si Pan during the day and be able to stand on the roof of Vietnam at 3,143m.  In the afternoon we will start the descent and spend the night on the other side of the mountain (down the Cat Cat trail back).
Please note that the climb up Fan Si Pan is long and strenuous and a preparatory programme should be followed before the trip to ensure the experience is enjoyable and rewarding.  If there is any doubt about the physical stamina required then a doctor should be consulted.  No specialist skills or technical equipment are needed – just plenty of stamina, a good head for heights and well worn walking boots. All camping and cooking equipment is provided.  Porters are available to carry equipment and a full kit list is available.

Day 5 (Fri, 22nd Oct 2010): Fan Si Pan/Ban Ho Village (B, L, D)

We plan to make an early start at 08.00 am, and should arrive in Cat Cat about 13.30 pm before returning back to Ban Ho Village by 4x4 http://english.vietnamnet.vn/travel/2007/07/720233/ .  Here we will enjoy the leisure with ethnic group and a celebratory dinner and spend the night in homestay in Ban Ho village.

Day 6 (23rd Oct 2010): Sa Pa (B, L, G)

After breakfast, we will visit Can Cau market frequented by ethnic minority peoples.  The first part of the journey will be through Lao Cai, which is a border crossing point, and alongside the river marking the boundary with China. Although it’s quite a long drive, the landscape is interesting and the ethnic markets are a fascinating experience.  Unlike those in the traditionally tourist areas, the markets we visit are not just for buying and selling but also meeting places for the local people to exchange news. There will be plenty of colour and authentic costumes but very little to buy as souvenirs unless we want to barter for a water buffalo or a sack of fertiliser! After a picnic lunch, we return to Lao Cai for a shower, freshen-up and dinner before boarding the sleeper train to Hanoi.

Please kindly note that the trips to ethnic minority markets must be on Tuesday (Coc Ly Market), Thursday (Lung Khau Nhin), Saturday (Can Cau) or Sunday (Bac Ha, Muong Hum or Muong Khuong markets).

Day 7 (Sun, 24th Oct 2010): Hanoi/Siem Reap (B, D)

On arrival early in the morning, we check into our hotel for a quick refresh.  There will also be free time for shopping in the bustling Old Quarter of Hanoi, before our afternoon flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia.  On arrival at our hotel in Siem Reap we can settle in for the rest of the day and evening.

Day 8 (Mon, 25th Oct 2010): Siem Riep (B, L, D)

In the morning, we will be taken to visit Angkor Thom. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor_Thom
Angkor Thom was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by King Jayavarman VII. It covers an area of 9 km², within which are located several monuments from earlier eras as well as those established by Jayavarman and his successors.  At the centre of the city is Jayavarman's state temple, the Bayon, with the other major sites clustered around the Victory Square immediately to the north.

Bayon temple, Angkor Thom

Bayon temple, Angkor Thom

The next visit will be to the Elephant and Leper King Terraces followed by the Baphoun Temple, which is now nearing the end of an eight-year multi-million dollar restoration programme. In the afternoon, we will visit Athvea and learn about Buddhism.  This will be presented by a monk and will include meditation.  Night in Siem Reap.

Day 9 (Tue, 26th Oct 2010): Siem Riep (B, L, D)

We start the morning early by witnessing the sunrise at the top of the hill by  Vat Phnom Krom where we will have the pleasure of taking meditation. The rest of our day will be taken up with visits to some of the outer sites including Preah Khan, a huge and interesting monastic complex, Neak Pean, a Himalayan-style lake and sanctuary, and East Mebon, a temple-mountain. After lunch, we will also see Ta Prohm, strangled by massive tree roots and typical of the condition of the whole complex when it was discovered in 1860 by French naturalist Henri Mouhot.
We will also see the Prasat Kravan (also known as the Cardomom Sanctuary), Srah Srang lake and landing terrace.

Day 10 (Wed, 27th Oct 2010): Siem Reap/Beng Mealea/Siem Reap (B, L, D)

After breakfast, we will drive to visit the Beng Mealea Temple complex. Beng Mealea is almost the size of Angkor Wat and is one of the largest ensembles built during Khmer reign and is seldom visited.  The lack of tourists and unique setting make it a fascinating trip and the drive gives us a chance to see the surrounding countryside. 

Its galleries, pools, libraries and sanctuaries lie under fig-tree roots and creepers and are waiting to be discovered.  The decoration of Beng Mealea is simple but there are bas-reliefs showing scenes from the Khmer Mythology. We will have a picnic lunch (box Lunch from hotel). We will have a picnic lunch and then drive back to Siem Reap in the afternoon. Enjoy foot massage free for 1hour in the city (outside of hotel)

Day 11 (Thurs, 29th Oct 09): Siem Reap/Beng Mealea/Siem Reap (B, L, D)

After breakfast, boat departs from Siem Reap port at 07:00 to Phnom Penh, take times around 5hours for cruising. So you have no time to visit Roluos Groups. The expedition will visit the Roluos Group; a collection of Hindu monuments representing the remains of the first major capital of the Angkorian era.  We start from the Bakong temple, sitting in the centre of the first Khmer capital; the temple displays a very early use of stone. Preah Ko (Sacred Bull) derives its name from the statues of the bulls at the front of the central towers and Lolei temple consists of four brick towers on a double laterite platform.

In the afternoon we travel by river on a speedboat to Phnom Penh.  This is an exciting and very local form of transport (more fun than flying!)  After checking into a hotel any free time in the Capital can be spent exploring independently or with the expedition leader.  You’ll visit the National Museum and the Silver Pagoda if the time is available. You’ll have dinner and spend the night in Phnom Penh.

Day 12 (Fri, 29th Oct 2010):  Phnom Penh for Hanoi (B)

After breakfast we fly back to Vietnam for an onward UK flight.

The price is per person for in GB£:

£1829

Subject to a minimum of 15 people attending

Supplement for single occupancy: GB£75.00

These prices are valid until until the trip runs in October 2010 provided the £does not fall more than 10% from a level of £=$1.65.
Our prices include:
Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
Pick-ups and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicle as specified in the itinerary above (Please note: pick-ups will be by a guide and driver or, where a guide is not necessary, a driver only. All unaccompanied drivers will be briefed in advance, and will carry a mobile phone to ensure smooth transfer arrangements)

International flight tickets: Hanoi - Siem Reap, including airport taxes.
International flight tickets: Phnom Penh - Hanoi, excludes US$25/person airport taxes.

Collective Boat ticket from Siem Reap – Phnom Penh
Travel in an appropriate private air-conditioned vehicle with an experienced safe driver.
The services of experienced English-speaking guides as indicated in the itinerary (please note: guides will be on hand from pick-up until guests’ return to their hotel or reaching their destination). Free days or part days will not include the services of a guide unless requested and included in the final itinerary.
Where necessary, entry fees for all visits as mentioned in the programme.
Lunches and dinners (as specified in the itinerary) in the best local restaurants, or picnics where no suitable restaurant is available.
Tent for camping and porters
1 hour massage
Mineral water on vehicle or during visit in Cambodia and in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Boiled water during Fan Si Pan trek
VAT and other taxes
Our prices do not include:
Other international flight tickets and airport tax.
NO VISIT Kulen Mountain
Visas
Dinners, except as specified above.
Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses.
Insurance.

Hotel list for Mid-range standard:

Hanoi: Hanoi Capital Hotel (*** interesting hotel in the heart of Hanoi’s ‘Old Quarter’ about a ten-minute walk from Hoan Kiem Lake – Deluxe room)
Sapa: Bamboo Hotel (***local standard hotel standing on the side of the mountain – good views – Superior room)
Siem Reap: Sonia Moria Hotel (*** boutique hotel in Siem Reap, from the airport, combine traditional Khmer and modern style – Superior room)
Phnom Penh: www.almondhotel.com.kh (*** In the city centre, constructed in a contemporary Khmer style – Superior room)