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Please comment re. itinerary for Indochina

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I just started to plan a trip to Indochina for November-mid December 2015. I would like to spend a total of 30 days to contain the cost of the trip and the cost of travel insurance (jumps up when one travels for more than 30 days); also usually we get tired after 30 days.

The two of us would like to get a “taste” of a few countries as we do not think that we will return. A few notes about our preferences: we are in our upper 60s, not looking for adventure, trakking and do not assume to see “everything” and just run from place to place. We like to walk in cities, see nature (the easy way), see whatever is specific to places we visit, some art, culture, history, local markets, etc. We don’t have the ambition to see ALL temples, ruins and do not like large group tours. Since I suffer when it is hot, I would like to stay in the North and avoid indoor spaces where it is stuffy (vans, trains, etc. without fresh air and A/C). While we are not looking for any luxuries, we do like comfortable, clean, quiet particularly for sleeping, in a safe area.

Here is a first cut of the itinerary, some of it dependent on availability of flights with airlines rated high for safety.

- D1, D2- flight from West Coast to Hong Kong
- D3, D4, D5 - 3 days in Hong Kong
- D6 - flight from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai w. Hong Kong Express Airways Limited (or Dragon Air)
- D7, D8, D9 - Chiang Mai; would love to have a Sunday included for the market and maybe catch a festival that I believe might be in November
- D10 - drive from Chaing Mai to Lao border
- D11, D12 - Luang Say cruise w. sleep over in Pakbeng to Luang Prabang
- D13, D14, D15, D16 - Luang Prabang; festival in Prabang?
- D17 - flight from Luang Prabang to Hanoi w. Vietnam Air
- D18, D19, D20 - Hanoi
- D21, D22 - Halong Bay
- D23, D24, D25 - Sapa w. Livitrans or Fansipan; would like to go to the one of the Saturday or Sunday markets in the neighboring towns
- D26 - Hanoi
- D27 - flight from Hanoi to Hong Kong w. Vietnam Air
- D28, D29 - Hong Kong
- D30 - flight to the US

Depending on the place for departure/arrival for the transpacific flight, we might need an overnight in LA, SF or Vancouver and that could take away another day.

I have some concerns regarding the following, based on preliminary reading:
- some people stated that the Luang Say cruise was boring and that last year in December it was freezing; neither the boat nor the hotels were prepared and people got sick …. Obviously nobody can predict the weather.
- the trains to Sapa have mixed comments (hard to sleep due to noise, short night, additional transfer from train to hotel, etc.). There are no controllable thermostats in the cabins and the windows cannot be open, so I do not know how stuffy and warm it gets…
- are Sapa and Halong Bay enjoyable choices between the end of November and mid-December?

I was considering reversing the order of the stops (Hong Kong- Hanoi-Luang Prabang- Chiang Mai- Hong Kong) to catch less warm weather in Chiang Mai and warmer weather in Sapa and Halong Bay but it seems based on current flight options that this would not be possible. If we could do this, if we really wanted to buy something in Chiang Mai, we could do it without having to carry it all along.

I’d appreciate your comments and suggestions re. itinerary and allocated days/pace, based on our interests, as above. I would like to make sure that this once in a lifetime trip will be a memorable one (with pleasant memories).

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