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Trip Report vietnam and laos in brief

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Just returned from a wonderful 2 week holiday in vietnam and laos with my family of four (2 university aged kids). It was the perfect Xmas destination for us: active, exotic, delicious, beautiful, adventurous....

we used Tonkin travel (thanks fodorites for the recommendation) to book our hotels, drivers, guides and internal flights. They really came through for us in terms of price (we did shop around), and everything went off beautifully. We did a lot of the leg work ahead of time re planning of the itinerary and hotel choices, but Tonkin executed everything very well, and the suggestions they made were all good ones.

we started in Hoi An (stayed at the Ananatara) and really enjoyed a side trip to My Son, and a cooking class at Morning Glory. The market in Hoi An is fantastic, the streets are wonderful to wander around, and there is lots to see and do.
Next was a brief trip to Hue. We are not temple people, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. If we were going to omit a destination and add a day elsewhere I think it would have been Hue, but we were pleased that we did go all in all.
(stayed at le residence Hue)

We then flew for a 2 night stay to Lao Spirit resort, 1/2 hour outside of Luang Prabang. It was a beautiful Lodge, a 10 minute walk from the elephant camp, and a great base for hiking and exploring the waterfalls, hill tribes and mountains of the area. they offered us fantastic guides for the trekking, and we thought this part of the trip was even more beautiful than the trekking we did from chiang mai to chiang rai a few years ago in thailand. We also did some lovely kayaking in the area as well. a nice massage on our balcony back at the hotel in the afternoon was $15 for 90 minutes, and a gorgeous way to relax at the end of the day. Highly recommended place to stay, and it saves time from commuting back and forth vs staying in Luang Prabang itself..

we did spend 2 night in LP at Villa Maly. it was a lovely spot near the main road, quiet, charming hotel, run by a french family. i would recommend it as well.

From Laos we flew back to Hanoi and stayed at Silk Path hotel. It too was a good choice, well located just outside the old city, yet quiet and comfortable. Our highlight here was taking a street food tour (hanoistreet food) that was fantastic. a bit pricey for vietnam ($75 pp) but run by a couple of food bloggers that were well reviewed in the new york times. they only do small (2-6 pple) tours. we were introduced to the most unusual, interesting and delicious foods in really cool locations that we could never have found on our own. absolutely well worth it- please do this if you can!

Finally we went up to Halong Bay and stayed on Treasure Junk. I can only speak for this boat, but it was a great experience. We were told that this boat goes to an area that no other boats go to and it was true- there were no other boats there at all, which made the kayaking even more lovely. we also had a chance to be rowed around the halong bay fishing village (the fishermen and their families live on their boats full time, and congregate their boats in to a small village) again, we were the only ones there, and we were happy not to be with the hoardes of tourists that stay on halong bay!

so, this is but a brief note highlighting our trip. thanks to all of you who helped. I think these 2 countries are "must see" places in southeast asia!

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