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Best of Vietnam?? What's a must see/do list?

Best of Vietnam?? What's a must see/do list?

Old Jun 15th, 2004, 06:22 PM
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Best of Vietnam?? What's a must see/do list?

I'm planning a trip to Vietnam in Mid August with a possible side trip to Angkor wat...but time frame is tight with only about 7 days total to spend.
Looking for pristine beaches, looking for culture, trying to stay away from beaten commercial areas.
Considering the time of year (monsoon season, etc..) what would be a good lineup of things (cities) to see and not miss in Vietnam?
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Old Jun 15th, 2004, 07:33 PM
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You have 7 days. If you spend three at Angkor (generally considreed the minimum to see the major temples) you'll have 4 days in VN. With that you can visit one place. Take your choice, a city (Hanoi would be my recommendation) or a beach. There really isn't time for more. Travel is slow in SE Asia.
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Old Jun 15th, 2004, 08:07 PM
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I'd make it Hanoi. The city itself is certainly worth a few days, but you could perhaps manage a quick trip to the hill-tribes region around Sapa (I didn't, so other posters may be able to help me out on that one) and Ha Long Bay. Alternatively the central coast city of Hoi An is a very attractive destination, but maybe not for 4 days. Ho Chi Minh City is also an option if that's more convenient - I wouldn't spend 4 days there, but side trips to the Mekong and Cu Chi Tunnels are well worth doing, inexpensive and easy to arrange.
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Old Jun 15th, 2004, 08:11 PM
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Sorry, chunker, just read your comment about "beaten commercial areas". Problem is, they're generally well-beaten for reasons like cultural attractions.... If you want to get off the beaten track it might be worthwhile to invest in a suitable guide book (Lonely Planet is pretty good, other posters may have other suggestions). If you only have 4 days you'll need to research well in order to make the most of your time.
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Old Jun 15th, 2004, 09:43 PM
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I know u mentioned Vietnam but u could also consider Luang Prabang in laos. Well connected, not really a beaten comm area. No pristine beaches tho. IMO if u want to stay with Vn Hanoi. given travel times and flt connections think u may be best off staying in Hanoi itself for the 3-4 days.
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Old Jun 16th, 2004, 03:12 PM
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Yet another vote for Hanoi. Although I don't know the country well enough to be able to identify places that are "off the beaten tourist path", I am sure that from Hanoi you could easily find such an area, and, anyway, as a city it is much less "touristed-out" than HCMC. Try and stay in the "old" quarter -- if you don't mind roughing it, there are a couple of cheap hotels around the Dong Xuan markets which have the added attraction of allowing you to wake up with the sounds and smell of the markets floating in through your bedroom window. We sat on the balcony of our room and watched the stallholders setting up their exotic fruits and vegetables for about two hours, and it was one of the most mesmerising mornings that we spent in this wonderful country.
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Old Jun 16th, 2004, 03:13 PM
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P.S. Hey, Neil_oz! Nice to see you on another forum!
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Old Jun 16th, 2004, 03:42 PM
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Alan - didn't we meet here a while ago? Something to do with a lady who was outraged that Vietnamese staff in cheap hotels had the hide to speak only Vietnamese?
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Old Jun 16th, 2004, 08:59 PM
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Hi Neil- "outraged" No...disappointed- yep! It was me! Not "cheap" hotels-Hoi An Riverside at USD65 is not all that cheap by Vn standards. When things go wrong in your hotel room you really need someone to understand you-suggest you might be better than me with the hand signals! Have Fun-you and Alan seem to know a lot about everything!
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Old Jun 16th, 2004, 11:32 PM
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Lyndie - this could not surely have been the new Hoi An Riverside Life Resort - only been open a couple of months? This was the best hotel by far that I stayed in in Vietnam (just a couple of months ago)- the management are South African and all the staff were super-friendly, polite, and spoke relatively good English. Have never been made to feel so welcome in any hotel in the world. They even offered me free massages, manicures, pedicures and facials to give the staff practice! As I'd injured my ankle a few days before,it had swollen up like a balloon and was becoming hideously painful to walk on, was I happy about those foot massages - just had to supply my own Tiger Balm. The hotel is on the river bank, quiet and peaceful, with it's own boat to run you down to Cua Dai beach. Not exactly pristine, but much better than others I saw. http://www.life-resorts.com

Chunker - I didn't get to go to Sapa and Ha Long bay either as weather wasn't good for Ha Long and by the time we were going to Sapa, my husband came down with violent food poisoning in Hanoi. Not, may I add, from Vietnamese food - it was a western buffet in a hotel and was the only western meal (apart from a few breakfasts) we'd eaten in 3 weeks.

I know everyone says the opposite, but I prefer Saigon to Hanoi - maybe the weather was better at the time, the people just seemed more upbeat and friendlier and the cyclo drivers and hawkers weren't as persistent (in Hanoi we actually had to hide in Lenin Park to avoid particularly annoying cyclo driver who was becoming quite aggressive). There were a lot more tourists in Hanoi than Saigon - not only the more obvious Westerners but bus after busloads of Chinese mainlanders coming to pay homage to Uncle Ho's mausoleum.

My favourite places were Hue and Hoi An (less motorbikes and their never-ending tooting than in the bigger cities) - you can fly from Hanoi to Hue (traffic is generally shocking and road travel is slow and rather dangerous). Hotel Morin near Perfume River in Hue is a lovely old French colonial building with quiet internal courtyard for meals and you can walk from there to the Royal Tombs. Next day hire a driver to take you to Hoi An via many other important tombs just out of Hue - our's spoke excellent English, was more knowledgable than most tour guides and was a safe driver. Mountain/coastline scenery becomes quite spectacular as you get towards Da Nang and there's some lovely beaches, however with the amount of new tourist development happening on that stretch don't think they'll remain lovely for long. If you have time, get your driver to take you to the Marble Mountain - about 20kms north of Hoi An. Da Nang is not far from Hoi An and you can fly from there to either Saigon or Hanoi.

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Old Jun 17th, 2004, 03:19 PM
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Hi, Lyndie. Sorry, I had the impression that it was budget accommodation - you're absolutely right, US$65 is a lot of money in Vietnam. As the only people who could afford such a rate would be foreign tourists and a few wealthy locals, not having bilingual staff does seem a little remiss.

$65 must be several weeks' pay for the average staff member. Any way you look at it, that must be a DAMN good profit margin.

Pat, a friend who lived and worked in Vietnam for 3 years got sick only once - from eating a pizza. He learned his lesson and ate "local" after that.
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Old Jun 17th, 2004, 03:33 PM
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Good God -- Neil and Pat on the Asian forum, too? There's just no escape, is there? Until this week, I hadn't been on this forum for yonks, but, as you know, some of these new Aussie airfares are hard to resist; those India Qantas fares are the cheapest I have seen to that part of the world since someone had a $799 special about eight years ago. Now, if only we could get another great fare to Vietnam AFTER the rain had stopped!

Chunker, sorry to have hijacked your thread, especially since I don't have much to offer re your "off the beaten track" request... most of what we did in Vietnam was very much the standard tourist fare, such as Ha Long Bay and the Cuu Chi tunnels. However, let me just tell you about one of the best things we did while we were over there. We had heard of an Irish woman named Mama Tina who had left her world and worldly goods behind and opened an orphanage in HCMC, relying solely on donations from westerners. On an impulse, we walked out to it from our hotel (the fifty-minute walk was worth it in its own right) and just knocked on the door and asked to look around. As luck would have it, the woman in charge -- also named Tina (or, at least, Christine) was an Aussie and, even though we must have been a huge disruption to their day, spent about two hours with us and gave us the "grand tour". I'll tell you -- I left there with an overwhelming desire to throw in my lot with these people and do some good with my life. Seven years later, I still haven't got Vietnam, or the orphanage, out of my system, and every now and then I get that urge to ring them up and say "Can you use a volunteer"? This may not be your "bag", of course, but I can honestly say that in all my experiences of being a tourist, only this orphanage, and my day visiting Auschwitz, could be really called "life-changing experiences". Maybe a worthwhile addition to your seven-day schedule? (However, don't do it our way -- get your hotel to at least ring them first!)
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Old Jun 17th, 2004, 04:32 PM
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Hi pat

No, not the resort you mentioned. We've stayed twice now at Hoi An Riverside Resort on the river about 3 kms from Hoi An. It is owned by a Vn local fashion guru who has several silk shops in Vn. His name is Khai. We were there in Dec 2003 and it is quite run-down-they've had floods thru the property and seems there may have major damage to their septic sewerage system-URK!!About one in 3 staff speak basic english and we just got a bit frustrated when our dunny starting stinking up the room-no-one could understand the problem-they didn't seem to worry about the smell!!! Glad you had a nice time in Hoi An.
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Old Jun 18th, 2004, 12:10 PM
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I have been to both Sapa and Halong Bay and neither would be my first choice on a first trip to Vietnam. Sapa is amazing, but a long way, and not easy to get to. I agree with Hanoi as a first choice. it is easy to spend 4 days there. Hue is also wonderful, as is Hoi An. I also agree that 3 days are needed if you got to Siem Reap. The area is far bigger than most of us imagine before traveling there. It would be a shame to go to Siem reap for a shorter time.
If you want beautiful beaches, Vietnam has them, but you will have to make choices between fascinating cities and beaches. It is not easy to get places quickly and in either 4 or 7 days, I don't believe you can do it all.
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Old Jun 18th, 2004, 05:38 PM
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Four days in Vietnam--I agree that Hanoi would be a great place to spend the time. If you had just a little more time and wanted to get off the beaten track I would recommend chartering a fishing boat [they were surprisingly reasonable a couple of years ago]and traveling the 5-6 hours to Cat Ba Island. It's not fancy--but great beaches, great hiking and trails, and one of the best home cooked Vietnamese meals of steamed whole fish I have ever had(better than the Slanted Door in SF).
SAPA is too far--10 or so hours by car over roads that you don't want to be on after dark--or the overnight train that takes you to Lai Chau and then you would need to arrange transport up the winding mountain road to Sapa. Very different and interesting--but a 2-3 day investment of time.
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