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Advice On 15 Day Trip To Taiwan, Vietnam & Laos?

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Advice On 15 Day Trip To Taiwan, Vietnam & Laos?

Old Nov 8th, 2017, 04:07 PM
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Advice On 15 Day Trip To Taiwan, Vietnam & Laos?

Hi, further to my previous thread about December weather, we've pretty much decided to make the trip. We're holding USA-Asia-USA award seats, arriving Dec 12 and departing Dec 27. We're trying to see if this itinerary makes sense and to get some help with the details.

***
Day 1 (Dec 12): Arrive in Taipei from USA at 11:00am, relax / see Taipei, O/N Taipei

Day 2 (Dec 13): Taipei Day 1, O/N Taipei

Day 3 (Dec 14): Taipei Day 2, TPE-HAN 7:10PM-9:20PM (VietJet), O/N Hanoi

Day 4 (Dec 15): Hanoi Day 1 (Ha Long Bay day trip?), O/N Hanoi

Day 5 (Dec 16): Hanoi Day 2, HAN-LPQ 6:50PM-7:50PM (Lao Air), O/N LP

Day 6 (Dec 17): LP Day 1, O/N LP

Day 7 (Dec 18): LP Day 2, LPQ-VTE 6:45PM-7:30PM (Lao Air), O/N Vientiane

Day 8 (Dec 19): Vientiane Day 1, O/N Vientiane

Day 9 (Dec 20): VTE-PNH-SGN 11:35AM-3:00PM (Vietnam Air), O/N Saigon

Day 10 (Dec 21): Saigon Day 1, O/N Saigon

Day 11 (Dec 22): Saigon Day 2, O/N Saigon

Day 12 (Dec 23): ???

Day 13 (Dec 24): ???

Day 14 (Dec 25): ???

Day 15 (Dec 26): ???

Day 16: Depart Saigon at 6:00AM

***
Some questions / remarks:

1) About us: We're a young couple. I've seen a bit of SE Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Burma), but wife has never been. We thought focusing on Vietnam and Laos made sense for this trip.

2) We thought flying LAX-HKG-TPE for a stopover in Taipei would be nice since flights from TPE to HAN are cheap. We're not sure if we have too much time in Taipei, or not enough time. It doesn't seem like there's too much to do.

3) AA/Oneworld award space on the return around Xmas time is scarce, so we have no option but to end the trip in SGN. Hence, the double entry into Vietnam and the Hanoi-LP-Vientiane-Saigon routing.

4) We have FOUR extra days to add into this itinerary. We'd appreciate some ideas on how best to use them. Central Vietnam definitely seems out because of the weather. Sapa seems possible but questionable because of the weather. From what I've read, people don't seem to like spending too much time in Hanoi, and think LP is a giant tourist trap, so we're leaning towards not lingering there too much.

5) We're really interested in getting off the beaten path and getting away from the tourist hoards (to the extent that can be done on a 2 week trip) and seeing the "real" SE Asia. Seeing the ethnic tribes in Burma near the Golden Triangle was amazing, authentic and untouristed. Can this type of experience with the people be had in Vietnam and Laos on a short trip like this? We want to avoid the type of things that appear "cultural" but are overrun with tourists and commercialized, pre-fabbed generic group tours, etc.

6) Our primary interests are history, culture, nature/animals/scenery, and food. Not looking to do beaches.

7) We don't like to rush, but we can pack a lot of stuff in a day of sightseeing. Also, we want to avoid temple fatigue and don't need to stick around and see, say, every temple in LP.

***

Thanks so much for your help. We really appreciate it.
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Old Nov 8th, 2017, 11:05 PM
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I fear you are trying to cram in too much into your 15 days.

A few random thoughts..

Hanoi deserves more than 2 days, especially when one of those is allocated to Halong Bay. I confess I am not a fan of Ha Long by a day trip is madness! It is going to take you 4 hours to travel each way which doesn’t leave a lot to actually see the Bay. You could easily spend 2 full days in Hanoi and not run out of things to see.

We spent 4 full days in Taipei and there is a huge amount to see and do. We still ran short of time. I REALLY loved the city and plan to return to finish off what we started and see some more of the country. With 2 days you can pack in a lot. The transport system is excellent but my advice would be to plan out in detail what you want to see well in advance.

On the map Laos does look a good fit with Vietnam but the flights between the two countries are not always the most convenient. If you really want to see a little of Laos, I would stick to LP with maybe a day trip out to the countryside. You can walk around the town see all the temples in one day. It is not a big place. It is maybe ten years since I was last there, but even then it was getting overrun with tourists. It may not satisfy your desire to get off the beaten path. Vientiane, IMHO, is not an exciting city and not worth the diversion.

If you liked the ethnic minority peoples in Burma then the far north of Laos could be for you. It is certainly off the beaten path but does take some getting to. muang sing, phongsali, Luang Namtha are the areas to consider. You could get a guide or tour from LP.

We spent 5 days in Northern Vietnam trekking and driving from Mai Chau to Ninh Binh staying mostly in ethnic minority villages - White Thai, as I recall. Easily arranged in Hanoi. The Ha Giang area is also worth a look. We were supposed to be there a few weeks back but had to change plans, last minute. It does get relatively few visitor.

Th logical place to spend your four extra days would be the Mekong Delta. We spent some time travelling down there and took the route from Saigon to Ben Tre by bus, Ben Tre to Can Tho by boat ( for Cai Rang floating market) and the on to Chau Doc where there is a LOT to see. From there it was a bus back to Saigon. It is pretty easy to arrange independent travel on the ground

Christmas in Saigon was fun so it may be worth re engineering your itinerary to spend Christmas Eve in Saigon.

If you want to include Laos don’t forget that you will need a Visa Approval letter for Vietnam for a Multi entry visa . Easily arranged online through many agencies. Otherwise, a single entry visa is best arranged through the official site - $25

If you were happy to exclude Laos, your Itinerary could look something like this in terms of full days

2 Taipei
2 Hanoi
4Trek in the north
2 HCMC
4 Mekong

Just a thought, but I do feel that getting to and from Lao will take up a disproportionate amount of time.

There is some detail and a lot of photos of our recent travels in these places ( with the exception of Laos where I have yet to transfer the posts from our old blog) on our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com just click on the destination tab for the relevant country.

Hope this helps.

PS my regards to your Mom!
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Old Nov 9th, 2017, 04:55 AM
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Agree 100% with everything crellston said.

Do consider that it takes two nights in a place to get one full day, and that the more time you spend in transit the less time you have to see/experience anything. Also, a two hour flight doesn't just take two hours, you have to pack, check out, get to the airport, wait, fly, get to your hotel, check in, unpack....

The drive to Halong Bay is boring, and I hear that the bay is now overrun with tour boats. If you are going, it needs at least one night.

I loved Luang Prabang in 2002 and 2004, but was disappointed when I went back in 2011 and don't plan to return. Two weeks will give you a reasonable first look at Vietnam.
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Old Nov 9th, 2017, 06:02 PM
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Day 9 - 15 (2 nights in HCMC and the remaining time for Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc island) - At least 3 nights in Phu Quoc.
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Old Nov 14th, 2017, 09:02 AM
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Old Nov 14th, 2017, 09:05 AM
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Hi all. I've been trying to post for days and finally can post on my phone if I turn off WiFi. I've put together a new itinerary:

Day 1 (Dec 12): Arrive in Taipei from USA at 11:45am, relax / see Taipei, O/N Taipei

Day 2 (Dec 13): Taipei Day 1, O/N Taipei

Day 3 (Dec 14): Taipei Day 2, TPE-HAN 7:10PM-9:20PM (VietJet), O/N Hanoi

Day 4 (Dec 15): North Vietnam Trip Day 1 ???

Day 5 (Dec 16): North Vietnam Trip Day 2 ???

Day 6 (Dec 17): North Vietnam Trip Day 3 ???

Day 7 (Dec 18): North Vietnam Trip Day 4 ???

Day 8 (Dec 19): Hanoi Day 1

Day 9 (Dec 20): Hanoi Day 2; HAN-LPQ 6:50PM-7:50PM (Lao Air), O/N LP

Day 10 (Dec 21): Luang Prabang Day 1; O/N LP

Day 11 (Dec 22): Luang Prabang Day 1.5; LPQ-DMK-SGN 3:50PM-9:05PM (Air Asia), O/N Saigon

Day 12 (Dec 23): Mekong Trip Day 1 ???

Day 13 (Dec 24): Mekong Trip Day 2 ???

Day 14 (Dec 25): Mekong Trip Day 3 ???, O/N Saigon

Day 15 (Dec 26): Saigon Day 1, O/N Saigon

Day 16: Depart Saigon at 6:00AM

***

Please let me know your thoughts on this new itinerary.

1) I've currently allocated 4 days for seeing things in North Vietnam. I'm not sure how to best use these 4 days. Maybe Bai Tu Long Bay (as an alternative to Halong Bay), Ninh Binh, and Mai Chau? Maybe Sapa? I'd appreciate the advice.

2) I've currently allocated 3 days for the Mekong Delta. Not sure how to use the 3 days, but seems interesting to see Ben Tre, Can Tho, and Chau Doc.
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Old Nov 14th, 2017, 09:39 AM
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As much as I loved our week in Luang Prabang, I'd suggest you cut it for this trip. You don't have enough time there to get any real sense of the place (one full day is all you have) and you are taking up time and money that could better be spent in VN. I'd add the days you save by cancelling Laos to Hanoi. Hanoi is a fascinating city with lots to see and do and right now you have just one day there. We spent a week there and never ran out of things to do and see, even though we took just one day trip out of Hanoi.
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Old Nov 14th, 2017, 10:16 AM
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Kathie, thanks for the feedback. To be frank, LP is a city where I don't have much of a desire to get a real sense of the place. My main reason for wanting to go there is that I think it'd be neat for us to see all the temples. It seems like we'd be able to get a good sense of the temples in 1 day and change. The flights aren't so expensive -- $100-150 each way, and we'd have to pay to fly from Hanoi to Saigon anyway. But pretty much everything I read about LP makes it sound like an otherwise horrible tourist trap (fake night market, morning alms for the monks is a circus, PRC tour groups, etc.), with not much in the way of experiences with the locals or authentic culture. Did you go a while ago before it became what lots of people call "Lao Disneyland"? We're still undecided on LP, but I thought I'd offer my reasoning for why I'm evening thinking of going.
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Old Nov 14th, 2017, 11:59 AM
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Yes, we were there in 2002. LP was a magical place, quiet and laid back. Visiting the temples wasn't just an architectural tour, we talked with monks at every wat. We loved our time there. All of the wats are working wats, not ruins or merely historical artifacts. This remains true.

Even now, I expect you could go there and get off the tourist track. But it takes time to do so.
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Old Nov 14th, 2017, 01:53 PM
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I was there in 2002, 2004, and early 2011. It was still possible to shake the crowds in 2011, I suspect that doing so now will be really difficult. I have, alas, no plans to return, but if I were going to do so it would be for more than a day.

https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...luang-prabang/
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Old Nov 14th, 2017, 02:32 PM
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Does anyone have any thoughts on this Bai Tu Long Bay trip with Clive's tour company: http://www.ethnictravel.com.vn/2_day...u_Long_Bay.htm

Seems different from other 2D/1N cruises in that you sleep on an island, not on the boat. Doesn't seem like there's so much time on the boat. Curious to get anyone's thoughts.
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Old Nov 14th, 2017, 03:49 PM
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The reviews I've read of sleeping on the island indicated that reviewers found it less interesting than sleeping on the boat. The island is intensely touristed.
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Old Nov 14th, 2017, 05:57 PM
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We're thinking of just doing Ninh Binh as a day trip and skipping Mai Chau which seems touristy and not so scenic in December. We can do a version of this as a private trip:

http://www.ethnictravel.com.vn/1_day...iver_Delta.htm

They say they go to Trang An, Thung Nang and Bich Dong Temple. They say these places aren't touristy. Any thoughts?

Also, for the Mekong, we're thinking of something like doing this as a 3 day trip:

http://www.ethnictravel.com.vn/3_day...kong_Delta.htm

We'd want a private trip so we'd presumably be able to customize it. We want to avoid the tourist traps, etc. What do you make of this as a basic itinerary?
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Old Nov 14th, 2017, 06:07 PM
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Hi I was about to email you then saw that your thread was up and running.

Firstly, Halong Bay /Bai Tulong Bay. Personally, I would drop this completely on the basis that there’s re just better things to do. Some love it, but the cost in terms of time and money just doesn’t stack up for me, I an sure other may disagree.

Luang Prabang I last visited I think in2007 when mass tourism was already taking a hold. Unique,fascinating and quaint, it is all of those things, but it is also now expensive, overcommericalised and very crowded. Especially at that time of year. If I were to return, it would be in the rainy season when this game would be a lot quieter.


Onmitting thise two places would enable you to free up time to visit all the others at a more relaxed pace, whic really is the way to get the most out of SE Asia. It could also concieveably free up time for and additional day in Taipei. Hugely underrated imo.

MEKONG DELTA

My "perfect trip" would be:

Bus to Bentre 2 nights. One day exploring the smaller canal by boat. Visiting the coconut, sugar sweet. Brick kilns and othe small industries in the area by small canoe.

Early morning boat to Can Tho via the Main Mekong An day tributaries, stopping at Vinh Long for lunch, arrive late pm.

Overnight CAN Tho before eating a 5.00 am boat out to Cai Raing Market. Return around 8.3 an get tehnbus for 3 hrs to Chau Doc. PM trip around floating viallges, markets, fish farms and a wander around the Cham villages on the other side 9d the river ( can be d9ne independently or with a guide. Next day full day to Submerged Forest for early morning and then back via Sam Mounatin and it’s temples, Bun Mam production etc.

Probably 4hours by bus to Saigo. Bus station is in D5 Saigon but it pretty straightforward to get the bus or a taxi from central Saigon.

Christmas in Saigon is pretty special. Lots o lights, partying. One yea eWe saw the Saigon Ballet performing Swan Lake on a stage outside of the opera house which was magical. In 2015 it was all carol service from the church. A day or two should be sufficient to see most of the sights.

As alluded to in our email correspondence, museums general close on a Monday and lunchtimes from 11.30 -13.00 sometimes 14.00.some do stay open and doesn’t forget that Ho Chi Minh sometimes goes on his annual refurb to Moscow. But I think this was when we were there last month.

NORTHERN VIETNAM

We love our trek from Mai Chau ( the village itself is VERY touristy) but we didn’t stay there. We collected provisions and headed off by ca mbination lf car and trekking into the Black Rvier Valley Pu Long NP etc. Beautiful countryside, wonderful hiking.Tough at times - our longest day was 40kms , but this can be adjusted to suit. Ninh Binh was beautiful but the boat sellers can ge5 a bit intenseabu5 a good guide will steer you away from this.

If intent on HLB I think it could be possible to incorporate that into the above tour by driving fro NB to HLB and then direct to the airport.


Finally, whilst I appreciate that many want to see as much as the country as possible, many doe return so, if there is any likely hood of this happening. You could consider restricting yourself to the north or south and see those in some depth.
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