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60ish women going to Hanoi & Hoi An - ?s re hotels, Ha Long Bay, transport

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Dec 9th, 2011, 09:49 PM
  #1
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60ish women going to Hanoi & Hoi An - ?s re hotels, Ha Long Bay, transport

I am going to Vietnam in early January with a friend - we are 60 and love to see things but not necessarily in to lots of physical adventures - some knee problems and neither of us into squeezing into cramped van/bus spaces for long periods at a time. I was in Vietnam in 2002 and realize it has probably changed a lot since then - my son has lived there several times. We will be visiting him in Saigon but will be on our own in Hanoi and Hoi An
As of right now we have flights to Hanoi and then to Hoi An and then down to Saigon.

Questions -
1) Would like some recommendations for tour to HaLong Bay - when I was there in 2002 we had a lovely 1 day tour from Hanoi - left early and got back late - I found that to be OK - we are not into swimming or kayaking but I would like my friend to see the area. Would like to make sure the transport there is not a crowded min van - and that the boat is relatively easy to board. Any recommendations

2) I would like for her to see the main highlights of Hanoi - are there any sightseeing tours of the city that anyone can recomment Also anyone gone to water puppet shows?

3) Would appreciate hotel recommendations - hopefully less than $100/night within walking distance of old town and other tourist attractions.

4) we both enjoy handicrafts and would like to know where to best find them in Hanoi and also in Hoi An

5) would appreciate hotel recommendations in Hoi An - we stayed a couple blocks from the market area before. also any specific recommendations for shops, galleries etc there. I remember purchasing some very nice art in Hoi An but it has been so long not sure where we were

My son and his wife will be our tour guides in Saigon so not too concerned about that.

Thanks so much
Pam
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Dec 9th, 2011, 11:44 PM
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Hi -- sounds like a nice trip. Here are some answers to your questions based on places my husband and I enjoyed on our recent trip:

1) Loved our one-night Ha Long Bay cruise on Dragon Pearl 1. Nice accommodations, though there are some steps to various areas on the boat--will that be a problem for you? If so, ask for a room on the main deck. There are a couple of transfers to smaller boats to see a floating village and to visit a sandy beach on one of the islands, but you could just stay onboard if you didn't want to negotiate the on-and-off to the smaller boats. Not sure what the weather will be like in the area in January--hope for a couple of sunny days.

2) We enjoyed the water puppet show across from the lake near the Old District--live musical accompaniment, and a funny little puppet show like we've never seen before. We did a one-hour cyclo tour of some Old District streets -- easy to flag down a cyclo if that appeals to you (we only did it because it was part of the personal tour arranged by Tonkin Travel--we much preferred walking the streets). A day tour of Hanoi will bring you to the tourist highlights (Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum and various homes and the Temple of Literature among them)--you can probably easily arrange something like that at one of the many tour agencies in Hanoi.

3) The Hanoi Imperial Hotel was good and might meet your needs (on the edge of the Old District, a block from the lake, nice people, very accommodating, modern, well-priced.

4) No specific handicrafts recommendations that I can recall.

5) In Hoi An we stayed at the Hoi An Hotel, which bills itself as the "historic hotel" right near the old district. On the larger side--less intimate than some of the smaller places we stayed, but nice rooms, big pool, excellent breakfast, and easy access to shops and restaurants. Would stay there again.
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Dec 10th, 2011, 04:43 AM
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suggest you buy a general guidebook on VN--like a fodors or frommers or lonely planet to get started
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Dec 10th, 2011, 12:44 PM
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I can highly recommend the Hanoi Elegance hotel chain in Hanoi - we stayed at the "Diamond" right in old town - the room rates range from about $75-$110 a night, including breakfast, depending on room size. Great location and fabulous staff.
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Dec 10th, 2011, 06:51 PM
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We were in and out of the Hanoi Imperial Hotel several times on a trip to Vietnam last winter. very nice rooms and super comfortable beds (get a corner room if you can) Nice desk staff, and we loved the location in the old city - it's in the elbow of a bendy narrow street - full of local color - and we walked EVERYWHERE. Breakfast included - but minimal and kind of blah. . . .

The Elegance chain hotels looked nice from outside and are obviously very popular as others have said.

Another vote for Dragon Pearl - though we might have been on Dragon Pearl II. I sent a sketchy itinerary to Tonkin Travel and they filled in details for us. They were great!
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Dec 10th, 2011, 08:24 PM
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I also recommend the hotel elegance chain - great staff, great locations and great breakfast. The service is 5 star quality.
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Dec 13th, 2011, 10:16 AM
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We just got back from Vietnam. DH is 64 with bad knees so can relate to your concerns. Couple of suggestions:

1) Diamond Elegance in Hanoi cannot be beat IMO. They give excellent service and the rooms are very comfortable. Great breakfast and it is right in the heart of Old Quarter. Easy to walk to the lake and see the area.

2) For our day visiting the sites of Hanoi we used Hanoi Kids. Got the suggestion from folks here and it was a great experience. We had two guides - both with good English skills and very knowledgeable. They do not take any money, but we did bring them some t-shirts from US and New Zealand and they were thrilled with them.

3) We LOVED Halong Bay, although it was difficult for DH to get on and off the boat. He chose to stay on the boat for some of the activities and enjoyed himself immensely. We did a 2 night cruise in Bai Tu Long (a more remote part of the bay) with Indochina Junk. They were fabulous to work with and the more relaxed and quiet pace was just what we wanted. We were on the Prince III. There were definitely stairs, but it was manageable.

4) The water puppet show was fun and has an interesting history to it. I recommend going. The one problem we had was getting tickets. I think the various tour companies buy up large blocks ahead of time so we were not able to get same day tickets. So plan ahead if you want to see the show. It is an easy walk from the Diamond Elegance.

5) The Hoi An Hotel is definitely a good choice, although we chose to stay at their sister property, the Hoi An Beach Resort. It is out of town by about 5-10 minutes, but they run a free shuttle that drops off at the Hoi An Hotel. We stayed in a Riverview Villa for about $110 per night and it was magical. Could relax on the patio and watch the fishermen go up and down the river. It was nice for the hubbies to be able to relax while my friend and I went into town to have fittings with the various tailors we visited. Didn't check out the scene, but I did see many different galleries. Great pastries at Tam Tam (right near the river in the ancient part of the city).

Enjoy your time in Vietnam. I had wanted to go for years and although I am still a bit disoriented after being away for almost a month (3 weeks in Vietnam and 5 days in Hong Kong on the way back), it was an amazing experience.
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Dec 13th, 2011, 11:41 AM
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In case you needed one more vote to close the deal... I agree 100% with all that's been said about the Elegance chain. We stayed at the Ruby, and I can say in all truthfulness that I've only experienced a higher level of service at one other hotel, ever. And that was at the 5-star Peninsula in Bangkok.

I also agree with jcasale's recommendation of the Hanoi Kids program.

As for the water puppets... I'll just quote from our trip report:

"Any destination guide on Hanoi that you read will make mention of the famous Thang Long water-puppet show near Hoan Kiem Lake. It’s a long-standing tradition, and everyone does it… no matter how kitschy it may sound at first blush. Well it’s even cheesier than it sounds, but I still recommend doing it anyway. It doesn’t take very long (less than an hour), it doesn’t cost much, and the live traditional music isn’t bad. Just remember to book the show reservation in advance, because it’s pretty popular. Imagine that."

Click on my name if you'd like to see the rest of our report.
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Dec 13th, 2011, 12:08 PM
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I highly recommend that you stay overnight on a junk on Halong Bay rather than doing a very long day trip.
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