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

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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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