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8 Days in North Vietnam - Help plan my holiday!

8 Days in North Vietnam - Help plan my holiday!

Old Jan 15th, 2014, 06:11 AM
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8 Days in North Vietnam - Help plan my holiday!

Hello All!

Its time yet again to start holiday planning - the most stressful yet really fun part of a holiday
My boyfriend and I are both early twenties, and love to travel. Unfortunately, stressful jobs result in NOT ENOUGH TIME!
We have been able to squeeze out 5 days (with weekends on both sides), and booked our tickets for Hanoi. We land at Noon on Saturday, 15th Feb, and fly back at Noon on 23rd Feb - giving us almost exactly 8 days and 7 nights.

I want to try to squueze in as much as possible, but still have time to enjoy the holiday and not burst into flames (his demand, not mine, I could keep going till I drop)

The places I really want to visit are Hanoi (2-3 days), Hue (1), Hoi An(1), Halong Bay (2 Day) and try to squeeze in either Sapa/ Ninh Binh. I am not too interested in HCMC, so have dropped anything south of these places.

My questions -
Which one - Sapa or Ninh Binh? Considering it february, would the latter be more pleasant?
Is a day in Hue and Hoi An enough, and if not, what should I drop?
Are there any other places you would recommend instead? I would like a unique well represented view of Vietnam

Our priorities: scenic and architectural beauty, food, and not too many people. We are not too interested in night-life/partying, would rather have early mornings, active days (we are both quite fit), great food. Considering our age and general lifestyle, hectic trips are not a big issue.

Our budget: not too high. We spent about a $1000 on our tickets (return, for two of us), and would not want to spend more than that amount on the rest of the trip.

Fodors has been super helpful in the past, hope it is this time too!!
Cheers
Rushil is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2014, 08:39 AM
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My recommendation would be to drop both Hoi An and Hue, and devote yourselves to the north. There is plenty to do and see. We spent a week just in Hanoi. Once you add in Halong Bay and Sapa, that's a full 8 days.

I'd recommend you spend just one night on a junk in Halong Bay - that will use up two full days. It will be cool - upper 40s, lower 50s in Sapa, but it will be ok weather for hiking.
Kathie is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2014, 07:17 PM
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Thanks a lot Kathie!
I have been hearing the same recommendation from others, and am inclined to now agree. Before I finalise the trip though - what was the main reason for you to suggest dropping the two?
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Old Jan 15th, 2014, 07:58 PM
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I would also suggest skipping Hue & Hoi Ann, both a flight from Hanoi taking at least a half day out of your holiday, another half day to return.

Hanoi has loads of things to do, Sa Pa is a must for at least a night preferably two, then you have two nights on the train there and back. It will be cold in Sa Pa, but the food, scenery and hiking are excellent.

I reckon one night on Halong Bay is plenty, although research the weather then. Your hotel in Hanoi will most likely be able to recommend / help with travel to Sa Pa and Halong Bay. Our hotel receptionist even checked out the likely weather before suggesting the best times for each.

In Hanoi, the Museum of Ethnology is one of my favourites, the old quarter amazing, and there's plenty of cooking schools which are fun for a morning and you get to eat the result.

Sit at a Bia Hoi bar on a tiny little plastic stool in the old quarter (glass of fresh beer 0.50c) and raise a toast to toothless old men, they'll toast you back ! Such is the friendliness of this charming country.

Enjoy!
sartoric is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2014, 10:55 PM
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thanks for the tips! so its decided then Let me know if this sounds do-able, and logictically sound:


15th Noon: Hanoi
16: Early Morning to Ninh Binh, overnight in Ninh Binh
17: Leave for Hanoi Post breakfast, Overnight Train to Sapa
18: Sapa
19: Sapa with Overnight Train to Hanoi
20: Hanoi, leave for Halong in the afternoon
21: Halong Bay, leave for Hanoi in the afternoon
22: Hanoi
23: Hanoi, depart at noon
Rushil is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2014, 02:45 AM
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Hi Rushil,

If you have less then 2 days for each site (Hoian and Hue), you should drop it as it is actually a bit hurry just for 1 day. Hoian and Hue are worth 2 days for each at least.

I would like to recommend you an itinerary based on the above schedule:

15th Noon: Hanoi
16: Hanoi - Drive to Halong Bay after breakfast
17: Halong Bay - Drive directly to Ninh Binh, not via Hanoi
18: Ninh Binh relaxation - Return to Hanoi after lunch - Overnight train to Sapa
19: Sapa
20: Sapa - Return to Hanoi
21: Hanoi City
22: Hanoi City or Vicinity
23: Hanoi, depart at noon

I personally think if you commence your trip to Halong from Hanoi in the afternoon, you will reach Halong at early evening which is not the best time to visit around. Halong is in it best shape and sight before noontime.

Hope this helps!

Thar Aye
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Old Jan 16th, 2014, 05:21 AM
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Even dropping both Hoi An And Hue, your trip is very rushed. And adding in Ninh Binh means you have no time (one day) in Hanoi, and you are spending much of your trip getting from place to place. Many people report not sleeping much on the overnight trains, as the tracks are rather rough. Frankly with a mere 8 days you should choose two places. You can fill your time with Hanoi and Sapa and have a much better trip - one in which you actually experience some of these two places.
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Old Jan 16th, 2014, 06:05 AM
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Hi Kathie, we are both pretty good with sleep issues, so travel isn't a problem. If putting in an effort means getting to see a jaw dropping place, that's fine!

Burmanses - that sounds much more logical, thank you! I will try to figure out logistics in a bit more detail though.

Will a hotel be able to help us with our travel requirements in terms of taxis etc? Or is there good public transport to and from halong?
Rushil is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2014, 06:46 AM
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If you book a night on a junk in Halong Bay, transport to and from Halong Bay will be included.

I'm not especially worried about your sleep - that was just a forewarning - but I am concerned about whether you will finish this trip with any experience of VN.
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Old Jan 16th, 2014, 10:38 AM
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Intend to agree with Kathie that you are trying to cram way too much into the time you have available and are in danger of just ticking off a few location on a well trodden path through an amazing country without seeing very much at all except though a bus or car window.

Having been to all of the places you mention, I really would limit yourself to just a couple of locations namely Hanoi and Sapa and really get to see each of those places. Depending upon the balance of your interests I would spend 4 nights in. Hanoi and 3 in Sapa ( inc one night in one of the villages in the valley if you are up for some trekking and basic accomodation) . But ultimately, only you know what type of travel you enjoy.
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Old Jan 16th, 2014, 12:57 PM
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I would just do Hanoi and Sapa. It will be too cold to enjoy Halong Bay. Hanoi has plenty to do and Sapa requires overnight train travel which will complicate your itinerary.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2014, 02:16 PM
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We were in Halong Bay in Dec. when it was quite cold and still really loved it, but having said that, I would still agree with others that you are just fitting too much in. Don't assume that you will be able to spend the morning in Hanoi and leave for Halong in the afternoon. As someone else mentioned, the transportation from Hanoi is almost always included for your Halong Bay trip. Our van left Hanoi at 8am. We arrived at the dock at Halong Bay about 12:15. This was for the 1night/2day trip. The next day the boat arrived back at the dock about 11:45am. We arrived back in Hanoi about 4pm.

I would agree with other posters to just do Hanoi and Sapa, or Hanoi and Halong Bay- whichever you are most interested in.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2014, 03:32 PM
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My vote is also for Hanoi and sapa. Both are incredible places and you will need time to soak up the atmosphere and see them properly.
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