1st time Vietnam, advice please!

Old Jan 10th, 2007, 02:30 AM
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1st time Vietnam, advice please!

Hello, I am considering going to Vietnam on holiday in March. We would like to spend 1 week in a city - Ho chi min or Hanoi, and i week in a gorgeous place for some relaxation. Any suggestions?
Claire2004 is offline  
Old Jan 10th, 2007, 07:39 AM
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Hi Claire, I have only been to Hanoi and Sapa but many others have fully explored the area.

Sapa is beautiful but a bit touristy. If I were to explore northern Vietnam again I would find a place more off the beaten track.

Hanoi was nice for a few days but I don't think I would spend a week there. You could take an overnight trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay, though.

I see that you haven't posted on here too often. I topped a thread about getting better answers to your questions.

It helps if we know more about you and your interests.

eurotraveller is offline  
Old Jan 10th, 2007, 09:25 AM
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I loved Hanoi and did spend a week there. I took one out of town day trip to the Perfume Pagoda. You could combine Hanoi wiith an overnight trip to Halong Bay if that interests you.

I really believe that SE Asia lends itself best to slow travel, so I would encourage you to follow your plan of choosing one city.
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Old Jan 10th, 2007, 03:10 PM
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"I really believe that SE Asia lends itself best to slow travel, so I would encourage you to follow your plan of choosing one city."

I spent 4 days in Hanoi, 3 days/2 nights on a deluxe cruise in Halong Bay and then took off down the coast. It was a good plan but the Halong Bay Trip could have been 1 night instead. There isn't a whole lot to do in Hanoi(WaterPuppets, Temple of Literature, Art Museum, "Hanoi Hilton", at least one sunrise on Hoan Kiem Lake,Ho Chi Minh's Tomb and Headquarters...) (buy prescription glasses if you need them) but it is a great city and I found myself wishing I had another night. I recommend booking a deluxe overnight on a Junk from a good Hotel, it's a great experience, good food and cheaper if you book it in Hanoi as opposed to booking before you go.
Best Place to relax on a beach for a week in Vietnam? Hoi An or Nha Trang. Hoi An was more pleasant for walking around town, shopping and eating out - there was no bad or even so-so food in Hoi An - but the beach at Nha Trang was great too. OK, I'll vote for Hoi An.
Both Hanoi and Hoi An had the best shopping and restaurants in my 5 weeks in SE Asia.
Saigon was too much work in my oh so humble opinion and much more western than the rest of Vietnam.
Don't exhaust yourself by trying to go to too many places! Stick to the plan if possible.
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Old Jan 10th, 2007, 03:39 PM
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I found Hanoi much nicer than Ho Chi Minh City, and far less touristy. It has the added bonus of giving you time to do an overnight trip on Halong Bay. I plan on returning to Vietnam, but I would only transit or spend one night in HCMC.
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Old Jan 10th, 2007, 05:37 PM
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I found lots and lots to do in Hanoi, and I didn't do the obligatory viewing of "Uncle Ho" or the Hanoi Hilton...

Also, there is lots of excellent food in Hanoi. And there is a fair trade crafts close to the Temple of Literature (CraftLink) that has wonderful things.
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Old Jan 10th, 2007, 05:57 PM
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I agree with some of the others that I would be less inclined to spend a whole week in Hanoi. It depends on what you're into of course, big cities don't really do it for me. If you do go to the North you should definitely visit Halong Bay and possibly Sapa. I probably enjoyed my time in Ninh Binh more than anything in Vietnam. It's a rural centre south of Hanoi with some world class attractions nearby, (The Ancient Citadel of Hoa Lu, Limestoine caves at Tam Coc, Floating village at Kenh Ga, the cathedral at Phat Diem and Cuc Phuiong National Park) It's a bit less hectic that some of the more heavily touristed places and you can hire a motorcycle or bicycle to get to the scenic spots.

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Old Jan 10th, 2007, 06:27 PM
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Yes, spending one week in the city may be too much. You need three days only to explore Hanoi. Then you should go somewhere around Hanoi. March in the North is spring. And this year it's post-new year. At this time, there are many festivals like Huong pagoda festival, Hung pagoda festival...(outside Hanoi). If you want a week just to relax, going to the beach may be an ideal idea (but the weather is just warm). One week resting and exploring Hue or Hoi An ancient cities are great too. They are fresh, traditional and quiet. Let's choose yourself!

Wish you a nice trip!
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Old Jan 11th, 2007, 10:20 AM
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I agree- one week in either Hanoi or HCMC is too much. My advice-

Hanoi- 2-3 days
Ha Long Bay- 1 day
Hue- 2-3 days
Hoi An- 1 day
Nha Trang- 2-3 days
HCMC- 2-3 days

I'm not sure about the math, but if you want R & R, Nha Trang is a great place to unwind. I think you can actually spend less time in HCMC, as IMO, it's a bit much.
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Old Jan 14th, 2007, 12:44 PM
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I would definately advise seeing Halong Bay while in Hanoi, an extraordinary place and splurge for the Emeraude Cruise. The long drive there from Hanoi is bleak and tedious but it is extraordinary to wake up amongst the thousands of rock formations in the sunrise. For Hanoi hotel/Halong Bay/and domestic flights we used a great guy named Pham Tuye from Vietnam Stay/Aurora Travel. Contact info: [email protected]. Mobil: 091 330 5579. www.vietnamstay.com. Hanoi is amazing, but 3-4 days might do it. Enjoy!

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Old Jan 30th, 2007, 12:04 AM
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We have not been to Hanoi, but am already planning for next January.
I have taken note of the emeraude cruise.
Can you tell me more about it?
Also we spent a full week in Saigon, and loved every minute of it.
It took us a day to learn to navigate the traffic, but even in the midst of the chaos, men in green uniforms help us cross the street.
Our highlight was the Mekong Delta.
I highly recommend this trip.
We did it privately, and didn't stop at any of the tourist places.
Stopped at little villages, and even a small Island.
We are going back to the Mekong next year for two or three days.
If you don't like an urban environment you won't like Saigon, but we liked the buzz, and do try to stay at a hotel with a pool.
Vietnam is hot!
We stayed at the Hyatt, and loved it, but there are also smaller less expensive hotels with pools.
The food is terrific, and we ate our way through the city.
Wherever you go, I am sure you will enjoy Vietnam.
This was our first visit to Vietnam, and even though we have just returned, we are already planning next year.
erly is offline  
Old Jan 30th, 2007, 02:24 AM
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Erly, How many days was your Mekong trip and who did you use to arrange it? Any more details you can share? Thanks.
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Old Jan 30th, 2007, 11:35 PM
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I just took the Emeraude cruise last week and recommend it highly.

Essentially: we were picked up from our Hanoi hotel at 8am for the drive to Ha Long.

You then get on a mini shuttle boat which takes you out to the main Emeraude boat, where you're immediately handed a cocktail (good!) while you check out your cabin and wait for all the passengers to arrive.

Lunch - DELICIOUS buffet - starts almost immediately while the boat travels through the bay and stops at Surprise Cave, for the 45 minute walk up the hill and through the cave.

You then get back on the boat and could kayak, swim, or nap on the deck, like I did.

At 6pm, there was a mini cooking class, and then dinner, another big buffet. Then bed! Thin walls in the cabins - here's hoping YOUR neighbour's not a chronic snorer!

Next morning there's tai chi on deck, followed by breakfast and then the return to the pier for departure back to Hanoi.

You could also book massages, facials, manicures etc in your cabin for extra cost.

In sum, it was expensive yes compared to the other Ha Long junks but I think worth it. Note though that my trip was in winter; the schedule might be different in warmer weather.

You can see a few photos of the standard cabin, the dining room and views from the boat and Surprise Cave in my trip photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dapperlittlesquirrel/
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Old Jan 31st, 2007, 12:56 AM
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You can start either from Hanoi then go southwards or from Hochiminh City and go northwards.

We base in Hanoi so can be a pro. in the north. You can consider these things in Hanoi:

You need 1st day to see Hanoi & its vicinities (incl. traditional villages),then a overnight trip to Halong Bay on some junk.

Back to Hanoi and stay for another day or get an overnight train to Sapa (in Lao Cai province) for at least 3 nights - 2 days trip.

So, it takes you almost 6 days for Hanoi. You now can go southbound. A gorgeous place can be considered is Mui Ne beach (in Phan Thiet). You can go to the ancient imperial capital of Hue first, then go to Mui Ne.

Good luck,

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Old Feb 1st, 2007, 02:32 PM
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We went for only one long day.
We were told that you require two days.
There was human avian flu in the area, and malaria....so we decided on the one day.
It was an unforgettable experience.
We hired a guide and driver with an air conditioned Mercedes van and a private boat.
Our guide provided cold drinks and beer.
We were not interested in any tourist sites, and there are many.
We started at the floating market, and just kept going.
We stopped at small villages, and even a little Island.
The residents seemed surprised to see us, because these were not the usual tourist stops.
We were welcomed so warmly, and even offered tea.
We did stop once at a touristy restaurant, because we wanted a sanitized lunch.
The people are really wonderful, and you can learn so much.
We spoke to many villagers with the aid of our guide.
All of this, including lunch cost us $115.
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Old Feb 1st, 2007, 03:46 PM
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ok...We're in the minority...but we liked HCMC (otherwise known as Saigon)...and we didn't take any day trips out....much as we wanted to do the Cao Dai..(I know it's misspelled) temple...a combination of every religion and folk-lore known to man beckoned us, but we didn't go. We just hi to HCMC)
We liked HCMC because it is what it is...not fancy...but with a history worth our time.
We absolutely loved the Sheraton. The staff couldn't be nicer. It was our second trip to Vietnam...and after visiting Hoi An and Hanoi, we were sure we would be disappointed. Not so. We should post our photos (just run out of time) But the school kids in HCMC are really wonderful.
jodo is offline  
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