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Advice on first time Vietnam Itinerary

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To all my trusty Fodorites, well you have helped me with my trips through Brittany, Eastern Europe and Japan so now it is time for Vietnam.

My husband and I are intending to go to Vietnam for the first time in May, with probably 14 days, excluding travelling to and from. I know that a bit earlier would be better weather wise but May is the earliest we could go.

We are in our mid-50's, are not interested in lying on the beach all day, love Vietnamese food and do not intend to rush around and see as much as we can in two weeks. We would prefer to go to fewer places and have the time to get to know them. Strolling around the little lanes, alleyways, visiting something cultural, seeing the old areas of the towns, having a coffee and watching the world go by is more our thing. I definitely want to do one, possibly two, cooking classes at some point in the trip.

I am thinking of four nights in Hanoi, a one or two night cruise on Halong Bay, fly to Danang and have four nights at both Hue and Hoi An. From there it would be fly back to Australia.

I love the idea of going to Sapa but feel that is just making things rather rushed if we fit that in as well and as it is starting to move into the wet season, it may not be very pleasant. Also my arthritic knees wouldn't be able to cope with any serious trekking. I can manage going uphill, slowly as I not particularly fit, but coming downhill is a killer on my knees.

I'm leaving Saigon out altogether in the expectation that one day we can fit that in with a trip to Angkor Wat.

Questions include -

1. Is 4 nights in Hanoi too long. It seems to be longer than most people spend there but is that because they want to keep on the move or there isn't enough to see/do there to warrant the 4 nights. In Hanoi I would be looking at booking one of the Hanoi Elegance Group hotels.

2. In terms of the cruise in Halong Bay, logistically would it be better to do it on , say night 3 (and possibly 4 ) and then return to Hanoi for a couple of more nights. I am concerned that going to Halong Bay at the end of the Hanoi section, returning there and then immediately flying down to Danang will prove rather messy.

I would also welcome your thoughts on a one night versus two night cruise. The one night really works out to only be 24 hours. For those who have done it did you wish you had booked a second night or, conversely, those who have done the two nights thought they would have been just as happy with one night? I have read a plethora of reviews on which boat to get but haven't given serious consideration to which boat yet so recommendations won't go amiss either.

3. Should we give Hoi An and Hue equal time. From what I have read, in some respects, it seems that the two towns are rather similar in style and feel so perhaps it should only be 3 mights in each. Am I wrong in thinking this, are they quite different?

For accommodation I am thinking of the Life Heritage Resort for Hoi An and La Residendce in Hue. As mentioned before, we are not interested in a resort which is beach side. We would rather be in town.

Any recommendations for day trips from Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An are welcome but need to map out how much time in each place first.

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