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21 Mar 13 - 11 Apr 13
22-day expedition to A...
A unique overland expedition to the “hill tribe land” that borders China, Vietnam and Laos. Despite political disputes and ever-changing borders in this region, a large number of local people have kept their ancient tradition... (+)
From 2000.00$

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Chingeltei Duureg 5th Khoroo, 6th Khoroolol bldg. 17, door 39. Ulaanbaatar 211238 Mongolia.

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The Miao and Yao – from China to Lao

22-day expedition to Asia’s remotest regions

A unique overland expedition to the “hill tribe land” that borders China, Vietnam and Laos. Despite political disputes and ever-changing borders in this region, a large number of local people have kept their ancient traditions, dialects and languages, colorful clothing, and unique ceremonies and practices. Join us on this thrilling expedition to some of Asia’s least traveled regions, and get an up-close encounter with this unique culture.

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Day 1. Arrival at Kunming (L,D)

We meet at Kunming airport, and drive to our hotel to check in and have some refreshment. We then leave for the Western Hills. A stunning combination of flourishing vegetation and ancient temples, and lying beside Dianchi Lake, the hills are a great place to roam and relax away from the bustling city. We visit the various temples, and enjoy the tranquil environment. In the evening, we visit the flower and birds market before proceeding to dinner. Overnight in Kunming.


Day 2. Kunming Q Guiyang/ Huangguoshou waterfall (B,L,D)

In the morning, we fly to Guiyang. On our arrival, we take a short tour around town, walking along the promenade beside the Nanming River and visiting the teahouse at the heart of the Jiaxiu Tower. It was built in 1598 to inspire the locals to take exams with a view to becoming mandarins during the feudal era. We then leave the city to visit the Tunbao people. Generally considered as a minority, the Tunbao are actually Han Chinese who came to this area as soldiers sent to protect the borders of the then emerging Chinese empire. We visit their stone village, and learn about their interesting traditions and history. We continue to the Dragon’s Palace and take a boat ride in an amazing cave, full of dramatically lit stalactites. In the afternoon, we head towards the famous Huangguoshou Waterfall. Overnight near the Huangguoshou Waterfall.


Day 3. Huangguoshou/ Xingyi (B,L,D)

The image of the Huangguoshou Waterfall decorates Chinese restaurants throughout the world. It symbolizes the stamina and strength of the Chinese people through the ages and is a source of great pride to them all. We take the tour around the falls and visit the cave behind them. From there, we continue our trip westwards. We visit villages of the Buyi people and the Miao people, where we meet the locals and learn from them about their traditions, origins, and unique lifestyle. In the afternoon we continue our trip to Xingyi. Overnight in Xingyi.


Day 4. Xingyi (B,L,D)

We enjoy a few hours of active exploration in Maling Gorge, which has been described as the ‘most dramatic gorge in all of Asia’. We begin the day with a two-hour walk through the gorge and enjoy the amazing rock formations along the slopes. We then embark on a challenging rafting trip down the gorge for three very exciting hours, passing through a variety of breathtaking scenery! In the afternoon, we make an unhurried tour of the Ten Thousand Hills Forest. We then take a panoramic ride by ‘battery car’ to enjoy the beautiful villages among the unique rice-field formations known as the ‘drain holes’. Overnight in Xingyi.


Day 5. Xingyi/ Shilin (B,L,D)

Leaving Xingyi, we drive through Guizhou’s back roads and enjoy the beautiful countryside scenery. From time to time we stop for short walks through the Miao villages along the way. A Chinese proverb says that ‘one won’t find in Guizhou three kilometers of straight road, three days without rain, and three coins in one pocket.’ Indeed, Guizhou is one of the poorest provinces in China and infrastructure is still somewhat lacking here. Leaving Guizhou, we enter the province of Yunnan and head directly for the Stone Forest. Many legends tell the story of the creation of this unique geological phenomenon but only seeing it for yourself can reveal the entire majestic landscapes. It is said that ‘visiting Yunnan without seeing the Stone Forest is like not visiting the province at all.’ During our visit to the forest, we meet the people of the Sani, an ethnic group living in the area, who wear colorful embroidered traditional clothing. The Sani are known for their heart-stirring singing and dancing. Overnight in Shilin.


Day 6. Shilin/ Jianshui (B,L,D)

Today we have a long drive to Jianshui. On arrival in the afternoon, we visit the Confucius Temple in the heart of the city. We then continue on a visit to the Chen Family Garden, and in the evening we take a walk along the small town’s pedestrian street to the City Wall, and enjoy a free evening in the lively street. Overnight in Jianshui.


Day 7. Jianshui/ Yuanyang (B,L,D)

Once again, we have a long drive ahead of us. Our first stop is at Tuan Shan, a small village from the feudal era, which has been remarkably preserved. We then continue south and stop to meet the Hui people, a Muslim community that has lived in the south of China since the times of the great trading routes that crossed the Muslim states of central Asia. We visit their mosques and meet key figures in this community to hear how they have preserved their ancient traditions in modern-day China. From there we continue on our way down south, stopping en route at a very interesting cave where the local people practice Buddhism combined with the worship of ancestral spirits—the latter dating from ancient times—before starting to climb the steep slopes towards Yuanyang. Overnight in Yuanyang.


Day 8. Yuanyang (B,L,D)

Yuanyang is a small mountain town and an administrative center for countless hill-tribe villages in the area. We leave the town for a three-hour hike, a welcome change from the long drives of the previous two days. We visit several villages of the Yi and Haani people, and enjoy their colorful traditional clothing. We return for lunch in Yuanyang and then visit Qingkou to see the traditional mushroom-shaped roofs of the Haani people. We continue to Laohuzui to enjoy the beautiful and breathtaking sunset over the rice terraces. In the evening, we drive back to Yuanyang for some free time in the bustling local market. Overnight in Yuanyang.


Day 9. Yuanyang (B,L,D)

Today we drive to the end of Yuanyang prefecture to visit the weekly local market there. In this market, people of the various ethnic groups in the area—among them Dai, Miao, Zhuang, and of course the Yi and Haani—meet once a week to exchange goods, usually handicrafts and agricultural produce. Even dogs are bought and sold here, and not necessarily to become family pets… We then continue to explore the area, visiting villages of the various minorities to see the traditional architecture, and in the evening we drive back to Laohuzui for another chance to photograph the sunset over the rice terraces. Overnight in Yuanyang.


Day 10. Yuanyang/ Sapa (Vietnam) (B,L,D)

After three nights in Yuanyang, we set off for a drive to Vietnam. We will enjoy the marvelous landscapes of southern Yunnan, stopping at villages along the way, and generally driving as fast as we can along the course of the Red River to the small border town of Hekou. After going through the necessary formalities at the Chinese and Vietnamese border posts, we find ourselves in Lao Cai, the provincial capital. We board our Vietnamese coach and drive to Sapa. Prior to 1912, when the French built a sanatorium for sick officers, the area was solely inhabited by hill tribes, mainly the H’mong, the Yao, the Tay, and the Giay. Nestling at the foot of Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak, the Sapa region enjoys a very agreeable climate, unlike the Vietnamese lowlands which are hot and humid. This northern area attracted French people of all walks of life, among them missionaries and biologists. Over time, the growing presence of the French army stabilized the political borders with neighboring China, which made Sapa into a major trading city. We reach Sapa in the late evening and go for a stroll in the lively main street. Overnight in Sapa.


Day 11. Sapa (B,L,D)

In the morning, we take a short trip through the centre of Sapa and visit the local market. We then leave for an easy hiking trip beside rice paddies and wooden bridges through lush green valleys near Sapa. We visit Lao Chai (Black H’mong), Ta Van (Zay), a Giay and Red Dao villages, and enjoy the warm welcome of the locals, from whom we learn about their traditional way of life. In the afternoon we drive back to Sapa and leave for another short hike to the Cat Cat village of the Black H’mong. Overnight in Sapa.


Day 12. Sapa (B,L,D)

After breakfast at the hotel, we drive to one of the villages surrounding Sapa, where a weekly tribal market takes place. The locals, from different ethnic groups, gather to trade mostly agricultural produce but also a variety of handicrafts, and to purchase their own supplies. This is a unique opportunity to see in one place a great variety of ethnic groups, some of whom live up in the mountains where it is nearly impossible to visit them. We walk through the bustling market amid the colorful booths, and see the locals as they sit for a cup of tea and exchange information on who has married whom, whose child has left for the city, and other such important items of news. In the afternoon, we leave the market and return to Sapa. Overnight in Sapa.


Days 13–14. Sapa/ Lai Chau/ Dien Bien Phu (B,L,D)

We leave Sapa and drive to Dien Bien Phu on a gravel road through magnificent mountain passes. En route, we stop at villages of various hill tribes such as the Lu, the Red H’mong, the Green H’mong, and many others. Living away from the fast-developing centers of Vietnam, these minorities have kept their traditional clothing and practices for hundreds of years. Our journey ends at Dien Bien Phu, which has played a significant role in the region’s history, and is remembered as the place where the revolution against the French colonial regime started. We visit the regional museum, which tells the story of Dien Bien Phu’s battle against the French and their allies. From there we continue to Hill A1, which remained one of the most strategic points throughout the period of conflict. First overnight in a local hotel in Lai Chau Province; second overnight in Dien Bien Phu.

Day 15. Dien Bien Phu/ Nong Kiaw (Laos) (B,L,D)

Early in the morning, we drive for an hour from Dien Bien Phu to the Vietnam–Laos border. After completing the formalities on the Vietnamese side, we hike for three kilometers through the dense rainforest to the Lao border post. We then take a two-hour ride down the mountain towards the Ou River. On reaching the small town of Muang Khua, we board a boat and descend the Ou River to Nong Kiaw. The river trip gives us a different perspective on life in Laos, and especially on the life of those communities inhabiting the river banks and living off the river. For them, it is the main source of water for all purposes, a place for the cattle to drink, and, of course, a rich source of all kinds of fish. We will see children washing in the river, fishermen laying their nets, and traders in their small boats paddling from one village to the other, offering their goods for sale to the locals. Overnight in bungalows in Nong Kiaw.

Day 16. Nong Kiaw/ Luang Namtha (B,L,D)

Back on the road, we drive to Luang Namtha. Along the way, we stop from time to time at the small villages on the road, visit the small shrines, and some minority groups such as the Khamu and the Black H’mong. We will learn about how these ancient tribes are blending into Lao society, and how the new roads that are being built have affected their way of life. In the afternoon, we drive to Ban Nam Di. We take a short walk to the small waterfall there and, after a short time to relax by the clear water, we move on to visit the village of the Lanten people, who originated in China (and who still write in Chinese), and are famous for their handmade paper. After a short drive, we reach the provincial capital of Luang Namtha. Overnight in bungalows at Luang Namtha.

Day 17. Luang Namtha/ Muang Sing (B,L,D)

Today we take the newly built road from Luang Namtha to Muang Sing, a small town on the Laos–China border. This town is the administrative center for numerous hill-tribe settlements in the vast plains and hills surrounding Muang Sing. On arrival, we go on a half-day hike beside the Chinese border. We stop at villages of the Yao and the Akha people and enjoy the beautiful scenery. In the afternoon we return to Muang Sing. Overnight in bungalows at Muang Sing.

Day 18. Muang Sing (B,L,D)

Today we enjoy a full-day hike to the remote areas of Muang Sing, where the communities have preserved their traditional way of life for centuries. The majority of the people do not speak Lao, the official language, but only their own dialects. We start the day with a ride in local ‘jumbo’ vehicles, and continue on foot. We stop for a picnic lunch on the banks of a cool stream, and continue on foot to visit some more villages. Today we will meet the Tai Lu, Lu Lu, Yahoo, Khamu and Akha people. In the evening we drive back to Muang Sing. Overnight in bungalows at Muang Sing.

Day 19. Muang Sing/ Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens (China) (B,L,D)

The history of Muang Sing is no less exciting than that of the hill tribes who inhabit the area. Until the 19th century, the town was ruled by the Thai prince of Chiang Khong. It was then conquered by the Nam people and became part of French Indochina until 1954. After the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the region became a no-man’s-land, and the Chinese, Vietnamese, Americans, and of course the Lao fought to gain control over it. We visit the local museum to see exhibitions on the intervention of Air America in the region during the Vietnam War, and on the different ethnic groups inhabiting the surrounding area. Leaving Muang Sing, we drive along the road recently built by the Chinese to allow the transportation of logs from northern Thailand to China on our way to Buten, the border town between Laos and China. After the border-crossing formalities, we drive into the Xishuangbanna region, where one of China’s largest nature reserves is located. We stop at the Skytree Alianya Tropical Rainforest Park for a canopy walk to learn about the work carried out to preserve this beautiful rainforest. We go on to Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens, established in 1959 to carry out research and to preserve the flora of the region. We explore the gardens and learn about the endless variety of plants that flourish throughout the region. Overnight by the botanical gardens.

Day 20. Botanical Gardens/ Xiding/ Jinghong (B,L,D) (only on a Thursday)

After breakfast, we drive to Xiding, where the local market takes place every Thursday, and where we see people from all the hill tribes in the area gathering together. We then continue towards the seemingly endless tea plantations. We visit an Akha village, where we learn about the differences between the Lao and Chinese Akha, and how the Beijing government has influenced the daily life of the locals. We go on to a Dai village to meet this lowland tribe and have a traditional lunch with them. We then visit a local ceramics workshop before proceeding to the hot springs at Ghasa, where we enjoy a relaxing soak. In the late afternoon we drive to Jinghong. Overnight in Jinghong.

Day 21. Jinghong Q Kunming (B,L,D)

In the early morning, we drive to National Square, to watch the locals practicing t’ai chi and doing their morning exercises. We then continue to the airport for our flight to return to Kunming. Overnight in Kunming.

Day 22. Departure from Kunming (B)

After breakfast at the hotel, we transfer to the airport for our international departure flight.

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  • A 2% discount shall apply for any payment done by either wire transfer or cash.
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1. Culture Scapes Co. Ltd. gives notice that some services provided in connection with its itineraries, including transportation, hotel accommodations, restaurants, and other services, are purchased from independent suppliers who are not affiliated with Culture Scapes Co. Ltd. in any way. Although we endeavor to choose the best suppliers available, Culture Scapes Co. Ltd. Does not control their operations and therefore makes all travel arrangements upon the express condition that Mongolian Ways Co., Ltd., and its own agents and employees, shall not be liable for any delay, mishap, inconvenience, expense, irregularity, bodily injury or death to person, or damage to property occasioned through the conduct or default of any company or individual engaged in providing these services. Culture Scapes Co. Ltd. shall not be liable for: (a) expenses such as additional hotel nights and meals not specified in the individual trip itineraries that may be required either en route, prior to, or following a trip, when caused by individual clients' travel arrangements, by airline scheduling or airline schedule changes, canceled flights, missed flight connections, or by other factors not under Culture Scapes Co. Ltd. control; (b) expenses incurred in recovering luggage lost by airlines, belongings left behind on a trip, or in shipping purchases or other goods home from abroad; (c) bodily injury or property damage for any reason, including but not limited to acts of God, weather, quarantines, strikes, civil disturbance, theft, default, detention, annoyance, changes in government regulations, terrorism, war, or failure of conveyance to arrive or depart as scheduled, etc., over which it (Culture Scapes Co. ,Ltd.) has no control.

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