About the challenge
The Pu Luong – Cuc Phuong limestone landscape is an area of outstanding beauty, cultural interest and high biodiversity. Stretching from Mai Chau in the northwest to Cuc Phuong National Park in the southeast, it is blessed with rich forest, limestone panoramas, magnificent rice terraces and breathtaking scenery.The forests of Pu Luong are an immense wealth to local communities; however, these forests are under threat from illegal hunting, logging and fire. Community-based homestay initiatives provide income for the local communities, leading to improved livelihoods and encouraging support for forest conservation. We enjoy the rare opportunity to stay amongst these villages.This is a challenging trek through a beautiful, little-visited and fascinating region, which allows us to experience first-hand the everyday life and culture of the Thai and Muong people as we stay with the locals in their picturesque villages.
Day 1: Depart London
Day 2: Arrive Hanoi
On arrival at Hanoi airport we are transferred to our hotel for a chance to freshen up before a full trip briefing and a guided walk through the old quarter before dinner.
(Dinner not included)
Day 3: Hanoi – Pu Luong Nature Reserve – Village Valley/ Mountain Trek
Approx 4 - 5 hours trekking. Approx trek 10 - 14km
Depart Hanoi early morning and transfer 4 hours to the start of the trail in Hoa Binh Province at Tan Lac. Trek from beyond Ban Xom Village along a remote valley to Ngo Luong on a beautiful trail crisscrossed by local footpaths. We then trek steeply uphill to Muoi village, perched high in the limestone hillside, affording fantastic views down into the nature reserve. Warm clothing may be needed here as the evenings are cool in the forest. Some of the journey will be done by jeep / truck. Overnight in Ecotourism Homestay, Ban Muoi Village.
Day 4: Ban Muoi – Ban Hin Village
Approx 6 - 8 hours trekking. Approx trek 22km
The first few hours are spent hiking in beautiful undisturbed forest before plunging very steeply downhill into the heart of the reserve, a wide lush valley cultivated by minority Thai peoples. The steep downhill may be challenging if it has rained recently. Along the valley bottom rice fields and vegetable farms are punctuated by idyllic-looking villages. Reaching level ground, hike along a jeep trail and on village paths to Hin or Nua village where we will stay for the night. For those wishing to hike further continue uphill into the limestone hills to Ban Cao Hoong. The evening is a presentation of traditional music from the local villagers. Overnight in Ecotourism Homestay, Ban Hin Village.
Day 5: Ban Hin – Ban Kho Muong
Approx 8 - 9 hours trekking. Approx trek 26 km
If you are lucky enough to be here on a Thursday you will be treated to the delights of the Pho Doan market. We set off early, along with many of the villagers en-route to the market. We have the opportunity to explore the market and soak up the atmosphere before continuing for 3 hours uphill along a footpath to the hidden village of Kho Muong. This is perhaps the most remote of the village homestays. Trek to a recently discovered and now protected cave, home to rare bats. It’s a fantastic tour around the cavernous hollow interior, untouched as yet by fairy lights and concrete trails. Overnight in ecotourism homestay Kho Muong.
Day 6: Kho Muong – Ban Hang village
Approx 7 - 8 hours trekking. Approx trek 15km
Today’s hike is 50% on village paths and 50% on an old disused unpaved French road – the original Ho Chi Minh Trail. There are some good descents and several more stream crossings. The trekking is remote yet one is never far from a villager tending fields. Relax from the heat of the day in a local home while lunch is cooked before continuing to a village nestled between steep karst mountains. It is recommended to stroll round the village and join in as villagers go about their daily lives, or relax in one of the three eco homestays. Overnight homestay in the tradional stilthouses of Ban Hang Village. Some tough sections through forest on small paths.
Day 7: Pu Luong Nature Reserve – Ma River – Hanoi
Approx 4 – 5 hours trekking. Approx trek 12 km
After a leisurely breakfast, hike through the narrow valley to the junction where we hike to the fantastic Ma river. Take a boat upstream a short way (approx 20 minutes) past a string of minority villages. After lunch we transfer 5 hours back to Hanoi. We arrive in time for a big night of celebration to mark the end of a great trip. Night in Hotel.
Day 8: Free day in Hanoi
Today is a free day and an opportunity for some last minute shopping or an opportunity to visit the sights of Hanoi. In the evening we can organise a visit to the famous water puppet theatre for our last night in this fantastic country. (Lunch and dinner not included)
Day 9: Depart Hanoi
Transfer to the airport for international return flight to London.
Day 10: Arrive London
Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate.
The cost includes flights, all accommodation, transport and food other than three meals as detailed in the itinerary. There is full support with local guides and cooks as well as Discover Adventure leaders.
It does not include personal travel insurance, airline fuel supplement if charged by the airline, three meals as specified. tips for local crew, Vietnamese entry visa or international airport tax. It also does not include any entrance fees to any optional sites you may wish to visit on your free day. Remember to allow extra for drinks, souvenirs and other personal expenses. Please note that costs may fluctuate and we have no control over any changes. We strongly recommend you carry a credit card in case of personal emergency.
Group flights leave from London Heathrow or Gatwick, (we regret that we are unable to book connecting flights), and are booked through Discover Adventure Ltd under ATOL licence 5636. By travelling with Discover Adventure you are protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are most likely to fly with Singapore Airlines, however, we don't always fly with the same airline so this is a guideline only. You will usually receive confirmed flight details several months before departure. Our itineraries are always based on current flight schedules and are therefore subject to change by the airline.
Our itineraries are always based on current flight schedules and are therefore subject to change by the airline. If you prefer to book your own flights please ask us for a land-only cost.
When trekking we stay in homestays, which are basic but very friendly and provide us with a wonderful opportunity to stay in areas far from the beaten track and provide some income into these poor communities. Some are more basic than others! In cities our hotels are generally Western-style and of a 2-3* standard.
All food is included other than 3 meals as detailed in the itinerary. The food is good and there is plenty of it; most meals are local-style not Western. Lunches are mainly cooked, though occasionally we have packed lunches.
Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. Please do not expect as much variety as you would have access to at home – we will be in rural areas and among people of a different culture who may not understand your requirements, however willing they are to help. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat you may wish to bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally when we are in towns or cities and you are free to explore and try other culinary experiences! There is always something to suit every budget.
Discover Adventure Crew
Your trip will be led by experienced Discover Adventure leaders. Our leaders are selected for their experience in harsh wilderness environments, knowledge of travel in remote areas, friendliness and approachability, sense of humour and ability to safely and effectively deal with any situation that arises. You are in very safe hands with a Discover Adventure leader.
All our leaders are from the UK or other English-speaking countries. Most work for us on an ad-hoc basis and have ‘real’ jobs in-between trips! We never send our leaders to the same destination for months on end – we want them to be as enthusiastic about your trip as you are. Although our leaders are trained in expedition first-aid, they are accompanied by an expedition doctor or medic (dependent on group size), who is there to look after the well-being of the whole group and deal with any incidents. They help the leaders to ensure the trip runs smoothly and encourage you when things get tough. The number of crew looking after you will depend on the final size of your group, but an average-sized group in Vietnam would be led by two leaders and a doctor. At Discover Adventure we pride ourselves on our high leader: trekker ratio and believe it leads to greater trip enjoyment as well as excellent trip safety.
Local Support Crew
Our local support crew is made up of local guides, drivers and cooks. Your local guide knows the local area well, and is a great source of knowledge about local customs and lifestyles. Drivers and cooks do not always speak English but are very friendly and approachable. The Discover Adventure crew work closely with the local crew to ensure your trip runs smoothly and safely. Your leader will arrange a collection of tips for the local support crew at the end of your trek. Tipping is not obligatory, but once you see how hard they work on your behalf you will be happy to donate something! All our local crew are paid wages, but bear in mind that the average wage in this country is far below what you would spend on a normal night out.
Vehicles take the group to the start of the trek and meet us at the end. All luggage, food, water and equipment is transported daily to each homestay. Vehicles also meet us for transfers as in the itinerary. Space is limited and hard-sided luggage is not suitable, so it is essential that your kit is packed in a soft sailing bag, rucksack or expedition kitbag. Ask us about our specially-designed low-cost kitbags if you don’t have one already. You should also bring a small daypack to carry for items needed during the day as you will not have access to your main luggage until the evening.
Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with radios and emergency satellite phones, extensive medical kit and other safety apparatus where necessary. They always have access to our 24-hour emergency back-up in the UK. Our leaders are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary should local conditions dictate.
Preparing for the challenge
We trek through varied terrain, ranging from narrow dirt paths to wide jeep tracks and disused roads. We trek through forests, valleys and farmland, and have several streams to cross. There are many steep sections up- and down-hill, and it may be muddy and slippery. At other times it is rough with rocks or tree-roots underfoot.
The area through which we are trekking is very remote and the local people are unused to tourists and trekkers. This is a privilege for us and an amazing cultural experience, which adds to a unique and challenging trek. Our behaviour will impact on the future of trekking and eco-tourism in this region, so it is important that we behave with respect and sensitivity. We will be briefed about the local cultures at the start of our trek. We are travelling through remote mountains where we could be exposed to bad weather at any time; we reserve the right to alter the itinerary should local conditions dictate.
Clothing & Equipment
We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer. We are always available if you need advice.
It can be very hot and humid which will add to the challenge of the event!
Our challenges attract people of all levels of experience and fitness, all ages and backgrounds. We expect all participants to train hard in advance to achieve this challenge, but we respect everyone’s limits. We design our challenges so that everyone can go at their own pace: this is not a race. For logistical and safety reasons we sometimes need to re-group, so the front-runners will find themselves waiting for the slower ones. Please relax, and remember that this is a team effort that enables people to achieve their personal goals and earn sponsorship.
Passport & Visa
A valid ten-year passport is required and must be valid for at least 6 months after arrival into Vietnam. Visas are required for British passport-holders (and most other nationalities) We will send you more information about visas nearer to departure.
We insist that you have had a Tetanus injection in the past ten years, and highly recommend protection against Polio, Hepatitis A and Typhoid. A Yellow Fever certificate is required only if coming from an infected area. We also recommend malaria prophylactics. You should always check with your GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.
For most people, the main attraction of travelling to a different country is to see new sights and enjoy new experiences. Sometimes those new experiences can make life harder or more inconvenient than you may like, such as toilet hygiene or different food, or simply a different attitude to solving problems. This is all part of the challenge you are signing up for! We are very privileged to live in a country with a high standard of living, and travelling exposes us to different challenges – all of which help broaden our horizons. We can guarantee that coming face-to-face with experiences outside your normal ‘comfort zone’ will help you bond with your fellow trekkers and provide you with plenty of things to laugh about! A sense of humour and sense of adventure are two of the most important things to bring with you!
Worldwide Sustainable Tourism
Long before ‘Responsible Tourism’ became a recognised phrase, we designed and ran our trips to ensure they made minimum impact on the environment and a positive impact on the local communities we pass through. AITO, our Trade Association, has recognised the work we do in this area and has awarded us 5 stars as a Responsible Tour Operator.
Discover Adventure Projects
We are supporting a tree-planting project in Peru and a children’s home in Tanzania on a long-term basis. If you would like to ‘give something back’ please consider donating £5 to our projects when you sign up.
We encourage all our customers to offset emissions connected with their trip. You can offset at any time in the lead-up to departure by visiting Climate Care via our website and making a donation to a worthwhile project supported by them. Alternatively, if you wish to take more practical action in the UK you can volunteer for a day with The Conservation Volunteers and work on an environmental project local to you. Work may include construction footpaths, dry stone walling, creating wildlife habitats or planting trees in your community. Volunteer today at www.tcv.org.uk or call 01302 388883.