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First time to Vietnam. Itinerary help please


Dec 17th, 2017, 04:37 PM
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First time to Vietnam. Itinerary help please

We need some help on our itinerary. We are a couple in our 50s traveling to Vietnam for the first time. We like history, arts, food, nature etc. Here is what we have so far:

We arrive in Ho Chi Min city on October 28th in the morning.
9/28 Tour through HCMC
9/29 HCMC in the am. Take evening flight to Hanoi
9/30 Hanoi
9/31 Hanoi

10/1 – 10/4 – Possibly get a guide and go to Mai Chau, Pu Luong and Ninh Binh –
We could use help on this part!

10/5 Head to Ha Long Bay and take 2 night cruise – thinking of taking the Dragon Legend – feedback please.

10/7 fly from Hai Phong to Da Nang, then to Hoi An
10/8 Hoi An
10/9 Hoi An
10/10 Hoi An

10/11 Drive to Hue with guide and stops along the way
10/12 Hue
10/13 early flight to HCMC for flight home.

We are uncertain about the Mai Chau/Pu Luong/Ninh Binh part of the trip. We know it will be beautiful but, is that too much time for that area?

Should we use those days to see the Mekong Delta instead? Any other suggestions that we should see instead?
hazelnut is offline  
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Dec 17th, 2017, 05:00 PM
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You only have two days in Hanoi, which, IMO, is not enough for this fascinating city. Most people who do the two night Halong Bay cruise report it was "not worth it." Most of the two night crushes are simply back-toback one night cruises. Check this out before you took.

Note that Oct-Nov-Dec are very rainy in central VN. There is usually flooding, often with loss of life. I wouldn't' go there at that time of year. So you can use those days for more time in Hanoi and/or Mekong Delta.
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Dec 17th, 2017, 09:56 PM
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Allow plenty of time between Saigon Airport and your hotel, particularly important when returning to the airport for your flight to Hanoi The traffic is mad, and sometimes gridlock.

You are taking a risk with your final internal flight from Hue to Saigon. Delays often occur, so you could have sweaty palms if you don't allow plenty of time between that flight and your flight home.
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Dec 17th, 2017, 11:16 PM
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I love Hue but it really is the wrong time of year for central Vietnam. We were in Hanoi and Saigon in Sept and October this year and Hue and Hoi An were literally knee deep in water for much of that time. I would avoid that region.

The we did a hiking trip area between Mai Chau and Ninh Binh via Pu Long and the Black River Valley a couple of years ago there are a couple of posts on our blog with details and photos @ https://accidentalnomads.com/category/vietnam/ we used Ethnic Travel and were very pleased. We did a lot of hiking but you can easily choose to do less. Staying in homestays was quite basic but a wonderful experience. You really need 4/5 days for that trip.

Also some stuff on the other places you are considering.

I confess I am not a fan of Halong Bay. It is scenic, but can get very crowded with boats and people. It is also a long boring drive of 4 hours plus there and back. Do check out you operator very carefully, we were promised a day in Bai Tu Long bay which just didn’t happen. It might be possible to use

The Mekong Delta would be excellent at that time of year. Lots of diffe4nt places to choose from, my favourite is probably the area around Chau Doc, loads to see. Cai Rang floating market near Cantho is worth a day as are the smaller canals around Ben Tre - a very different Vietnam from the north. Again there are several entries on our blog re our time there.

Hanoi really needs three full days to take in the main sights. The main sights of Saigon can be seen in one very long day but two would be much better and as one of your interests is food, this is where you will find the best food in the country.
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Dec 18th, 2017, 05:31 AM
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Thank you all! We are re-grouping.
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Dec 18th, 2017, 01:59 PM
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I agree with much of what was posted above. However we did 1 night at Halong Bay and really enjoyed it. I agree that the 4 hour drive is no fun and not scenic, but the time on the bay was very nice. We were on the Dragon Pearl junk which goes to a bay that is not crowded at all. There was maybe 1 or 2 other junks parked overnight where we were. I would definitely read more about it and decide if its something you would enjoy.

We did a road trip leaving Hanoi and staying overnight in mai Chau, Son La, Dien Bien Phu, Lai Chau and ended in Sapa. We enjoyed it and found it most interesting.

Our least favorite part of VN was the Mekong Delta. We spent a couple days out there and 1 would have been fine. We have a long TR that will describe our time in VN.
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Dec 19th, 2017, 12:08 AM
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Agree with the post above that it is not a good time for Central VN and Northern VN as well (Tropical storm and depression).
DinHo is offline  
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Dec 21st, 2017, 02:05 AM
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1 night in Halong bay was enough for me .
Went by bus and barge to Mai Chau - 2 nights there - loved it - home stay.
2 nights in Mekong Delta - home stay - a fruit farm - love going to markets, watching the children go to school walngvalongbthe banks, sitting in the plastic chairs drinking coffee on the river bank, floating market .
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Jan 9th, 2018, 02:03 PM
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I did the two night Bai TU Long Bay with IndoChina Junk in May. I loved it. I would not have wanted to do the one night. We kayaked a few times and we hardly saw any other boats in that area, quite different from Halong Bay I am told.

We were picked up at the dock by Ethnic tours and taken to Ninh Binh and Mai Chau which we also really enjoyed.

I agree with YesTravel that our least favourite as well was the Mekong. We left early and flew to Hoi An as we didn't enjoy it at all, but loved HoiAn. It may not be the right time of year for it however. We were originally going to go in October but changed to April/May because we wanted to see HoiAn and there is a high chance of flooding in the Fall

We also did not enjoy Sapa. Too much construction and other than one of the two day hikes which we enjoyed, we could have done without it all together
I know you didn't mention it but also said you were re grouping so thought I would throw that in there.

I did enjoy Hanoi far more than I thought I would. I usually don't like big cities, but Hanoi has a lot to offer and great restaurants .
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Jan 11th, 2018, 07:30 AM
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I did Ha Long Bay with Bhaya Cruise, you may take a look:
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Jan 12th, 2018, 01:04 AM
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I think one night in Halong is enough. There are not too many things in Halong for you to do in two nights.
In October, the rainy season in Danang and Hoi An start. Even many people have to take a boat for moving in the streets.
Mekong Delta is great destination to visit. You can see orchards with many types of fresh fruits and buy them with not expensive price. In the morning, you go to the floating market.
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Jan 14th, 2018, 05:04 AM
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I just did one night cruise to Halong/ Lan Ha Bay which was not busy at all and very beautiful. I don’t think a second night is worth it all all.
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Jan 14th, 2018, 05:58 PM
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Great photos! You had a beautiful sunny day! Also good to learn of another cruise compamny that provided a great trip.LOL the "surprise" cave!
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Jan 15th, 2018, 12:45 AM
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If the bus trip is putting you off Halong Bay it might be worth considering a seaplane transfer to take some of the pain out of it. We are doing that trip in June and have booked a seaplane transfer one way, and the bus back.
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Jan 22nd, 2018, 11:21 PM
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Your time in Mai Chau, Ninh Binh Pu Luong are good. You will get alot of trekking in Pu Luong Natural reserve but in return, the landscape is worth for every efforts you spend. Mai Chau and Ninh Binh required less trekking, for specific, you will travel in Ninh Binh long journey on boats, when you have the chance to reach the peak remember to enjoy the moments as long as it lasts. Mai Chau is with rice terrace and you will enjoy some activities like riding buffaloes. Have fun with your trip
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Jan 23rd, 2018, 11:48 PM
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Mekong Delta sounds good. However, if you want to spend time to enjoy all wonderful things in there, you should overnight at local people and join floating market in the early morning
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Jan 24th, 2018, 12:17 AM
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Great collection of photos you have.
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Jan 25th, 2018, 07:48 PM
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Mai Chau - Pu Luong - Ninh Binh is a great trip. But if you worry about the time and don't like to come to touristy area, you may miss Mai Chau. Trekking in Pu Luong is awesome. It's quite interesting to take a cruise in Halong bay. Dragon legend cruise is one of the luxury cruises. Its price is higher than other normal ones but the quality is quite ok. Besides, there are many other cruises offered by halong-bay-tours such as Victory Star cruise, Paradise luxury cruise, etc. You can choose the 2 days/1 night or 3 days/2 nights cruise.
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Jan 29th, 2018, 12:19 AM
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If you want to spend time in Mekong Delta, you should spend at least 2 days 1 night because the main travel feature in Mekong Delta is floating market which you just enjoy at 6AM-8AM only
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Jan 30th, 2018, 12:01 AM
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FYI, I just spent 3 days/ 2 nights on Geko Eyes in the Mekong Delta. I really enjoyed the floating market at Cai Rang. From my understanding the others are almost defunct now. We went as suggested by the company at 530 a.m. but it was too early at this time of year as the sun had not risen and pictures were not great. We returned an hour later and it was very busy and lots of great pictures. If possible try to go on a small, private sampan as they looked better than the larger one they took us on( we were alone but in a long Sampan and it does not stop for you to get up and buy a pineapple and see how they cut it which is neat and you see them cut that way all over Vietnam. I really enjoyed the drive through the Dekta to Can Tho where we boarded our boat. We asked the driver to stop to show us the rice paddies, Chile farms, amd lotus ponds which were lovely. On the cruise we went through small canals where we saw village life up close and also to the site of camp of the Vietnam Cong. The Mekong itself is very industrial but once you get into the tributaries you see the floating fish farms, lots of house boats, etc. I met others who did a one night tour on the Mekong Eyes which is a bigger boat with about 20 people I think and they enjoyed what they saw.
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