Asia ethnic tour 2021

The Grand Tribal Tour

China, Vietnam & Laos

  • Winter Tours
17 Days
0 Flights
Child friendly

This unique Asia tribal tour highlights the immense ethnic and cultural diversity of the rugged mountainous region of southern China, northern Vietnam, and northern Laos. The journey ventures through rarely visited areas of exceptional natural beauty, including some light hikes through breathtaking trails. Traversing through regions inhabited by colorful minorities, the tour includes visits to historic sites shedding light on how these ethnic groups' heritage intertwines with the national and regional complex history. We invite you to join this unique Asia tribal tour, indulge in the culture and culinary of three very different, yet very similar countries while experiencing the indigenous people's unique heritage and traditions.

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Itinerary

DAY 1, 29 October 2021. FRI ARRIVAL AT GUIYANG

  • Dinner

Arrive in Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou Province in southern China. After the unavoidable immigration formalities, meet the local guide and drive to the hotel to recuperate from the long flight. If time permit (depending on the time of arrival), take an afternoon tour of the city, walking along the promenade beside the Nanming River, and visiting the teahouse at the heart of the Jiaxiu Tower. The tower was built in 1598 to inspire the locals to take exams with a view to becoming mandarins and serve at the Imperial court during China’s feudal era. In the evening revert to the hotel for a first night in China.

DAY 2, 30 October 2021. SAT FROM GUIYANG TO HUANGGUOSHOU WATERFALL

  • Breakfast

Leave the provincial capital and drive to a village inhabited by the Tunbao people. Generally considered as a minority, the Tunbao are descendants of Han Chinese who came to this area as soldiers sent to protect the southern borders of the then-emerging Chinese Empire. Walk amidst the narrow alleys and visit their stone village to learn about their traditions and history. Continue to the Dragon’s Palace and take a boat ride in an amazing cave, full of dramatically lit stalactites. Then pay a visit to a village of the Bouyei people. The Bouyei are considered to be one of the first ethnic groups to inhabit southern China, believed to settle here some 2,000 years. Following massive repressions during the 1797 Nanlong Rebellion, many Boueyi have fled to northern Vietnam where they are known as the Bố Y people. The Bouyei maintain until these very days their distinctive language which is different from common Chinese. In the afternoon head towards the famous Huangguoshou Waterfall, to spend the night in the waterfall’s vicinity.

DAY 3, 31 October 2021. SUN HUANGGUOSHOU – XINGYI

  • Breakfast

The image of Huangguoshou 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 national pride. Take an easy walking tour around the falls and through the natural cave running along the cliff behind the gushing falls. Leave the waterfall for a drive through Guizhou’s backroads visiting minority villages. This part of the province is inhabited by mainly the Miao people. The term Miao people refers to a cluster of ethnic groups somewhat linguistically and culturally related (though sometimes very loosely related), collectively defined as Miao under the Chinese ethnic group classification. Some of the largest ethnic groups now referred to as Miao are Hmong, Hmu, Xong, and A-Hmao. Both Bouyei and Miao are highlanders, inhabiting the high-altitude mountain ranges of southern China, and thus, have developed lifestyle, agriculture, and other means of living appropriate to living in these rugged terrains. In the afternoon take a two-hour walk through Maling Gorge which has been described as the ‘most dramatic gorge in all of Asia’. Arrive late in the evening in Xingyi, and spend here the night.

DAY 4, 1 November 2021. MON XINGYI – SHILIN

  • Breakfast

The day begins with a visit to the Ten Thousand Peak Forest. This scenic spot features beautiful karst peaks scattered through the valley floor. Though these landscapes are often recognized with the area of Guilin, China, this unique and impressive phenomenon is stretched from the Chinese Guangxi province to the north-east part of Vietnam. Continue driving through Guizhou’s backroads and enjoy the beautiful countryside scenery. 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. Leave Guizhou, 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 true sense of such majestic landscapes. During the visit to the “forest”, meet the people of the Sani, famous for their colorful embroidered traditional clothing and their heart-stirring singing and dancing. After touring the Stone Forest take to the local hotel in Shilin.

DAY 5, 2 November 2021. TUE SHILIN – JIANSHUI

  • Breakfast

Leave Shilin for the long drive south to Jianshui. On arrival, visit the Confucius Temple in the heart of the city. The temple served as a school in which young candidates studied for the Imperial exams, the one factor which could have changed the life of a boy born to an impoverished family of peasants, to the lavish life of a court official or army officer. Continue to visit the Zhu Family Garden. The garden and the estate in which it is located were built and owned by a local family of traders. During an uprising at the very beginning of the 20th century, the Zhu family had to flee to Japan. Upon their return after five years in exile, they have built this impressive estate. Today it offers an insight into the life of high society during the Qing Dynasty. In the evening take a walk along the small town’s pedestrian street to the well preserved City Wall before setting in the hotel.

DAY 6, 3 November 2021. WED JIANSHUI – YUANYANG

  • Breakfast

Continue the road trip south, pausing at Tuan Shan. This small village from the feudal era was once ruled by a local warlord. The village has been remarkably well preserved, but the faces of many of the figures decorating the village buildings were ripped off during the Culture Revolution, as they symbolized ethics and perceptions which belonged to the ‘old days’ but were then banned by the socialist revolutionists. Thus, this small village provides an interesting perspective over two very different, yet very significant eras in Chinese history. Back in the car, continue heading south to visit 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. Visit a local mosque, and try to meet key figures in this community, to hear how they have preserved their ancient traditions in modern-day China. From there continue down south, stopping en route at a very interesting cave where the local people practice Buddhism combined with the worship of ancestral spirits, a common religious practice throughout East Asia, often referred to as “the religion with no name”. The last section of today’s drive would be through the winding road climbing the steep mountain to Yuanyang. The mountain is dotted with picturesque minority villages, and along the way, locals can be seen dressed in their traditional colorful clothing which distinguishes between the different ethnic groups inhabiting the mountain. Arrive in Yuanyang late in the evening, and if time permits, take a walk through the town’s lively night street before setting in the hotel.

DAY 7, 4 November 2021. THU YUANYANG

  • Breakfast

Today drive to one of the many villages scattered throughout Yuanyang prefecture to visit the weekly local market. In this market, people of various ethnic groups, among them Dai, Miao, Zhuang, Yi, and Haany people, meet once a week to exchange goods, usually handicrafts and agricultural produce. Then continue to explore the area, visiting villages of various minorities to see the traditional architecture, and in the late afternoon drive to Laohuzui to enjoy the breathtaking sunset over the rice terraces curved along the mountain slopes. In the evening revert to the hotel for a second night in Yuanyang.

DAY 8, 5 November 2021. FRI CROSSING OVER TO VIETNAM

  • Breakfast

After two nights in Yuanyang, set off for a drive to Vietnam. Enjoy the marvelous landscapes of rural southern Yunnan along the course of the Red River, before arriving at the small border town of Hekou. After going through the necessary formalities at the Chinese and Vietnamese border posts, arrive in Lao Cai, the provincial capital on the Vietnamese side. Meet the local Vietnamese guide, and embark on another one hour’s drive to Sapa. Before 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 Tai, 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 from 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. Reach Sapa in the late evening and go for a stroll in the lively main street.

DAY 9, 6 November 2021. LAI CHAU VALLEY

  • Breakfast

Today is the first of three days’ exploration of the valley of Lai Chau. Less known to most visitors to northern Vietnam, the valley is inhabited by people of some twenty different ethnic groups. Before the arrival of French colonialists to the Indochina peninsula, the region was independently controlled by the White Tai people but was later annexed to French-dominated Vietnam, hence became part of Vietnamese territory. Drive out of Sapa, and make a short stop for a hike up the Silver Falls. Then pause by Tram Ton mountain pass for a view over the dramatic valleys of Sapa to the east and Lai Chau to the west. From here glide gently into the deep valleys of Lai Chau, stopping en route at villages of the Lu, Tai, Hmong and other ethnic minorities. After a full day of close encounters with these local communities and their unique and rich cultures, arrive in the small town of Muong Lay just in time to enjoy the evening weekly market where locals enjoy together fresh traditional food and a good drink.

Day 10, 7 November 2021. MINORITY MARKET BY MUONG LAY

  • Breakfast

Begin the day with a visit to the little-known minority market of San Thang. The locals, from different ethnic groups, gather to trade mostly agricultural produce but also a variety of handicrafts and to purchase their 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. 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. Around noon leave the market for an afternoon easy hike past local villages of the H’mong people. Pause by rice paddies, vegetable plots, and water buffalo leisurely rolling in the mud and stop by local homes for a lively conversation and a friendly cup of tea. Late in the evening revert to the hotel in Muong Lay for a second night.

Day 11, 8 November 2021. FROM MUONG LAY TO DIEN BIEN PHU

  • Breakfast

In the morning hours continue driving through the rural area amidst rice terraces, exploring local communities of different ethnic groups. In the afternoon arrive 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. Visit the regional museum, which tells the story of Dien Bien Phu’s battle against the French and their allies. Then proceed to Hill A1, which remained one of the most strategic points throughout the period of conflict. In the evening set in the hotel in Dien Bien Phu for the last night in Vietnam.

DAY 12, 9 November 2021. THROUGH THE JUNGLE AND ON TO LAOS

  • Breakfast

Early in the morning drive for an hour from Dien Bien Phu to the Vietnam–Laos border, amid a dense sub-tropical jungle. Once again go through border formalities before crossing over to the Lao side of the border. Meet the local guide, and embark on a ride through little-known parts of Laos to the small town of Muang Khua. Here board a boat and travel down the Ou River to Nong Kiaw. The river trip provides a unique perspective on life in Laos, and especially on the life of those communities inhabiting the riverbanks and living off the river. For them, the river serves as 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. From the boat see children wash in the river, fishermen laying their nets, and traders in their small boats paddling from one village to the other. Late in the afternoon arrive in Muang Ngoi to spend here the night.

Day 13, 10 November 2021. FROM MUANG NGOI TO NONG KIAW

  • Breakfast

Once the center of a 12th century Tai principality, Muang Ngoi has seen much decline when due to its topographical constraints, it was left behind when the provincial main road has been built. On the other hand, due to these unfortunate circumstances, the tranquil town retains its old charm. After breakfast take a short hike to Tham Kang and Them Pah Kaew caves, both served as shelters for locals during the horrific days of the US-led Secret War. From here continue hiking to villages scattered in the vicinity for the first acquaintance with Lao culture. In the afternoon take a boat ride to Nong Kiaw. En route stop for a two-hours’ hike to Tad Mok Waterfall, passing along rice paddies and following the freshwater stream. Back in the boat, complete the short ride to Nong Kiaw.

DAY 14, 11 November 2021. WED NONG KIAW - MUANG SING

  • Breakfast

Back in the car, drive to Luang Namtha on an amazingly beautiful route of forested hills, orchards, and stilt-house villages of various ethnic groups dotting the hillsides. Stop from time to time for a walk through small villages, chat with the locals, or visit their homes and local schools if possible. In the afternoon arrive at Ban Nam Di. Here take a short walk to the small waterfall and after a short break by the clear water pond, move on to visit a village of the Lanten people, who originated from China (and who still write in Chinese), and are famous for their handmade paper. Another short drive ends at Muang Sing, a small town on the Lao–China border, serving as the administrative center for numerous hill-tribe settlements in the vast plains and hills surrounding it. The history of Muang Sing is no less exciting than that of the hill tribes which inhabit the area. Until the 19th century, the town was ruled by the Tai prince of Chiang Khong. It was then conquered by the Nam people and became part of French Indochina. 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 until it eventually ended as a Lao territory. Upon arrival in Muang Sing settle in the very simple yet cozy bungalows for the night.

DAY 15, 12 November 2021. THU MUANG SING

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Today enjoy a full day’s 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 here do not speak Lao, the official national language, but only their distinct dialects. Start the day with a ride in local ‘jumbo’ vehicle, and continue on foot. Pass through and stop by villages of the Tai Lu, Lu Lu, Yahoo, Khamu and Akha people before reverting to Muang Sing for a second night.

DAY 16, 13 November 2021. FRI MUANG SING - CHIANG RAI (THAILAND)

  • Breakfast

Check-out the hotel, and take to the town’s small morning market which like other markets visited on this trip draws locals from nearby villages of different ethnic groups. Then leave Muang Sing and drive along the road recently built by the Chinese to allow the transportation of logs from northern Thailand to China. Arrive early in the afternoon at Houei Xay, the quiet border town on the Lao-Thai border. After dealing with immigration formalities on both sides, and crossing the mighty Mekong River which marks the border between the two nations, board the vehicle, and drive to the city of Chiang Rai for the last night of the trip.

DAY 17, 14 November 2021. SAT DEPARTURE FROM THAILAND

  • Breakfast

After breakfast transfer to Chiang Rai airport, for the long journey back home.

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Dates & Pricing

Rates for the Grand Tribal Tour are quoted in US Dollars and are valid for two confirmed travelers and above.

Note: Grand Tribal Tour rates are valid all year round, but are not valid for trips that occur (in whole, or in part) during Chinese national holidays:
New Year (1-3 Jan 2021)
Chinese Spring Festival (11-17 Feb 2021)
Qingming Festival (4-6 Apr 2020, 2-4 Apr 2021)
Labor Day Holiday (1-5 May 2020, 28 Apr-2 May 2021)
Dragon Boat Festival (25-27 Jun 2020, 12-14 Jun 2021)
Mid-Autumn Festival (19-21 Sep 2021)
National Day Holiday (1-8 Oct 2020, 1-7 Oct 2021)

[email protected] reserves the right to change Grand tribal prices and programs due to changes in flight schedule, changes in airfares, and other local circumstances.

Prices are based on twin share occupancy.

Discounted rates for groups of 4 travelers and above:
4 travelers- US$3206/ person
6 travelers- US$2815/ person
8 travelers- US$2576/ person

  • Applicable only for travel groups of 4 people or more booking their trip together.

29th October, 2021–14th November, 2021

  • $4,710 Per Person (From 2 people)
  • $620 Single Room Supplement

Additional Information


Inclusions
  • Accommodation at hotels selected including breakfast
  • Transfer by private A/C vehicle
  • Meals as indicated in the program
  • English speaking guide for each area as per program
  • Entry fees for all sightseeing as mentioned on the program

Exclusions
  • International travel to Guiyang (China) and from Chiang Rai (Thailand)
  • Travel insurance
  • Chinese tourist visa
  • Vietnamese tourist visa
  • Lao tourist visa
  • Thai tourist visa
  • Excess luggage
  • Gratuities
  • Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
  • Anything not clearly mentioned in the program

Accomodation
  • Guiyang - Regal Hotel 4-star
  • Huangguoshu – Huangguoshou Guesthouse 5-star
  • Xingyi – Crowne Hotel 4-star
  • Shilin – Yinruilin International 4-star
  • Jianshui – Lin'an Hotel 4-star
  • Yuanyang – Oness Resort 4-star
  • Sapa - BB Sapa 4-star
  • Lai Chau - Muong Thanh 2-stars (best available)
  • Dien Bien Pu - Muong Thanh 3-star (best available)
  • Muang Ngoi - Riverview Bunaglows 3-star (best available)
  • Nong Kiew - Nongkiew Riverside 2-star (best available)
  • Muang Sing - Phou Iu Bungalows 3-star (best available)
  • Chiang Rai - Wieng inn Hotel 4-star

Note: the listed hotels are tentative. Final hotel list shall be confirmed upon placing a booking and paying a deposit.


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