Best Day Trips out of Saigon/Hanoi?

Feb 7th, 2002, 06:55 PM
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Best Day Trips out of Saigon/Hanoi?

My first SE Asia visit is to be to Vietnam, a week in each of Hanoi and HCMC/Saigon. I also will be stopping for three days in central Vietnam (Hue and Hoi An.) I'd like to hear what you think are the "don't miss" trips and sites for this, as well as any general advice for travel in Vietnam.
Thanks in advance for any and all help or memories!
Feb 9th, 2002, 07:27 AM
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Amy, we went last month, our first visit also, and our absolute favorite part of the entire country was SaPa, in the northwest hills. We did a four-day trip there and could have spent more than a week. The surrounding countryside is beautiful _ mist-covered mountains with rice paddies terraced up the side, really lush and green. The markets are great, and we really enjoyed the indigenous people (Hmong, etc.) who were selling beautiful items at the markets and who served as our guides on hikes.

Hue and Hoi An are great too; I could have easily spent three or four days in Hue and we only had one and a half. By contrast, we really didn't like Saigon much _ I'm sure others would disagree, but I would take less time there and tack a few more days onto Hue or Hoi An if possible. There is a lot to see there _ the pagodas, the forbidden city in Hue, just hanging out in Hoi An and relaxing on the beach.
Feb 9th, 2002, 10:13 AM
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I agree with the last poster. Saigon is the largest city and generally doesn't have the charm and interesting sights for the visitor. Cut down on your time there and use it elsewhere. Have a great trip!
Feb 10th, 2002, 07:30 PM
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Hi Amy,

We spent 31/2 weeks touring in VN - between the Mekong Delta in the south and Halong Bay in the north. It was an incredible experience! I would love to return!

Don't miss Halong Bay. We stayed overnight on a small boat (2 families). It was incredible! (If you haven't seen the video "Indochine", I highly recommend it. In it there is some beautiful photography of Halong Bay.)

In Hanoi - I loved the water puppets, the ambience, and the hub of markets.

In Hue - being on the small boat at night, on the Perfume River, being entertained by very talented musicians playing traditional, and very old, VN instruments.

Hoi An is probably more appealing for the western tourist. It is a very charming place - as is Dalat.

General advice - The VN people are wonderful. Few speak English, but obviously want to communicate. Children will often say "Hell-o", and might follow you. Somethimes VN adults communicated with us through smiles and touches.

We were amazed by the wealth of natural resources that VN has. `Loved watching activity in the rice paddies, and scenery and local color through the mountain passes.

Being on the highways is both scary and dangerous! I wish I had taken photos of the incredible variety of things we saw carried on the "hondas" (ie. motor bikes)

The beaches are wonderful, as are the woman selling crabs.

If there is ever a space under your hotel room door, block it with a towel - especially if you are near a kitcken. Rodents are common.

Have fun! I would love to be going again, too!
Feb 12th, 2002, 04:58 PM
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Thanks to everyone for the replies! I'm in a villa in Saigon and Hanoi for a week each, so I'm kind of tied in to that, but perhaps an overnight trip to Sa Pa would work? I definitely want to go to Halong Bay, as well.

I'd love to hear from anyone, as preparation is one of the great parts of any trip.

Er, and about those rodents...any more tips? I've read a bit about rats there (gulp). I'm a big-city girl, but I'm still not comfy with those!
Feb 13th, 2002, 07:46 AM
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SaPa isn't really doable in a day or even two; you have to take an overnight train to get there and back, and you'll want at least one night in a hotel there. Personally, I think it's worth it _ and it's a cheap trip, you can book it at a traveler's cafe in Hanoi for as little as $50-90 per person, which would include the two train rides, two nights in a hotel in SaPa and some guided hikes. That will end up eating up three and a half days, so you may just want to play it by ear and book it when you get there if you think you've spent enough time in Hanoi.
Feb 14th, 2002, 12:28 PM
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ttt for john
Feb 18th, 2002, 12:14 PM
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if you have the funds, leave saigon for a few days and fly to phu quoc, an island in the gulf of thailand. while in hoi an, if you want to see a good national park, check out the newly opened bach ma national park.
Mar 9th, 2002, 07:43 AM
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Hi Amy,
We have just returned from a five week trip to Thailand and Vietnam. We stayed with friends in Hanoi so used that as our base. If you can't fit in the SaPa trip we recommend an overnight trip to Mai Chau - it's a three hour drive from Hanoi and is situated in the mountains, so the scenery is breathtaking. We booked all our tours through a popular Cafe, and the price for the Mai Chau trip was $80 per person - included transportation, four meals in a stilt house with a village family (great food)and a boat trip up a river to visit a more remote village. It would have been even cheaper if more people had been with us, but it was just my husband and I, so we had the guide all to ourselves. We stayed in the Pom Coong village and it is not as touristy as the Lac village.
I thoroughly agree with Noreen - Halong Bay is a must see. We rented a very large "dragon" boat - felt extremely spoiled as there were only five of us on it, and it sleeps 30! We paid $80 per person and it included one night on the boat, plus transportation in a large bus to and from Hanoi, all meals, use of kayaks(that was something we specifically asked for), and of course a guide. Meals were incredible on the boat - seafood and more seafood! Our guide took us through one of the largest caves, and it's a sight you'll never forget.
Another highlight of our time in Vietnam was Hoi An. We fell in love with that town, and we were lucky to be there for the monthly "Full Moon Festival" which occurs on the 14th day of the lunar cycle. From about 5PM on, they don't allow any vehicles or motorbikes in the downtown area, and no electric lights are used- only lanterns. There are many special festivities going on through the town , so you just wander around and take it all it. We especially enjoyed watching the locals play a game similar to Bingo, and it is accompanied by music and singing. That's when we wish we'd had a camcorder!! It will be happening on Mar.27 again, and is definitly worth planning for.
Feel free to e-mail me if you need more info - we're in Southeast Asia withdrawl right now, so would love to talk about it!

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