First time visitor to Vietnam: advice

Sep 27th, 2002, 04:13 AM
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First time visitor to Vietnam: advice

Hello everybody,
I am going to Vietnam on november 14 for 16 days starting in Hanoi, then Hue, Hoi An and Saigon.
1)How is the weather at this time of the year particularly in the central area
What clothes should I take
2) Have anyone been to the water puppet show in Hanoi? shall I book tickets in advance (I heard different things)
3) Would you recommend a day tour from Hanoi to Hoa Binh to visit minority villages.
4) Experience of any particularly travel agency
5) Can I do Hue in one day and if so what are the musts to let on day for the DMZ. Is it worthy (DMZ)
6) What about safety aspects in Saigon. Can I walk around with my bag and camera in it??
(...Am I getting paranoi..)

I hope this would be a great experience
Sep 28th, 2002, 02:55 PM
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Jeanine,Jusy got back. Did Ha Noi, Hue, Halong and Saigon. The weather was humid with occasional rain. Rather warm, do not need warm clothes. Water puppets were entertaining. 1 hour @$4 per ticket for the front seats. Did not do the villages,but on the way to Halong saw plenty lovely rural scenes.Stayed at Sofitel Metropole and used their agents.We found one night (2 days) ample to see all the sights in Hue. Dont know about DMZ. We encountered NO safety problems at any time. We did not book water puppets in advance, just got there 10 mins. before. Our favorite city was Ha Noi, very cafe society. Hang Gai in Ha Noi had wonderful bargins on silk shoes, bags, embroidry . The people were very friendly . If you need more info, just e-mail me.Have a great trip.
Sep 29th, 2002, 03:07 PM
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Hi Jeanine,
We just spent two weeks touring the whole country. It was a life changing experience. First of all, be prepared. Vietnam is very different than the US. Some things you might see will seem quite different. I feel as though it is even quite different than China. I would highly recommend the travel agency - Exotissimo. They have an office in the Daewoo Hotel in Hanoi. They sent us up with a reasonably priced, one night boat trip to Halong Bay (not to be missed, by the way). Turns out the boat was first class and the meals we all like 7 courses of fresh seafood. It was awesome. Words cannot describe awaking in Halong Bay at 5 in the morning and walking out on the deck just to take it all in. I have heard Good things about the minority villages, although we did not go to any on a tour. Exotissimo can help you with that as well.
Water puppets are amazing, we even bought two originals to bring home.
I would highly recommend venturing out and stayong at some of the mini hotels in Vietnam. you can stay at all of the five star joints but the experience is not nearly as rewarding, in my opinion. We stayed in 2 star to 5 star so we really saw the variety. I recommend the Phuoc Loi Hotel on Hang Bong Street in Hanoi. $25 a night and it was very nice.
Legend Hotel in Saigon was nice(5 star) but I felt as though I was at a boring Ritz-Carlton rather than a place of distinction. Hue is nice but we only spent about 4 hours there and did not feel as though there was a lot to see. There is a lot of history, though. The drive from Da Nang to Hue makes the trip worthwhile. It is absolutely gorgeous. Don't listen to all these paranoid people about safety in Vietnam. We went everwhere, ate in back alleys, walked through orchards, and never once felt in danger. Pick pockets , sure, NY has them as well. Beggars, sure, in Saigon, many are missing body parts, just expect it. If you want to give them money, go ahead, if you don't, just walk on. They know the routine. Some of the 5 year olds selling postcards are more obnoxious than the beggars, but at least they are selling something for a living.
I was really worried about all the postings about pickpockets and beggars before we went, so when I got there I could not believe what the fuss was all about. The folks that post that stuff must not get out of the county very often. Key West,FL has worse beggars.
Do not miss Can Tho, south of Saigon in the Mekong Delta. Spend a little more and stay at the Victoria hotel in Can Tho and take their tour of the floating market, noodle factories, boat building factories, canals and island orchard tour. It was awesome and the hotel is something else.($80) It is not cheap to get to Can Tho but it is worth it. You have to take a private car and it is 3-4 hours. Sorry to babble on but it was just an unbelieveable trip. There are very few Americans we found which was just fine. Only 6-8% of there tourists are from the US. Mostly French, Japanese, and Australian. Email with any specific questions.
Sep 29th, 2002, 04:51 PM
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We did a quick trip to Saigon a few months ago, and since we only hit Saigon, I'm afraid I can't help with many of your questions.

We went to an expat bar & talked with some expats living there, and each of them had a story about walking or riding on the back of a motorcycle downtown and having their mobile phone or purse snatched out of their hands by a motorcyclist.

We actually did not ASK about pickpocketing - one of the people had just come into the bar & knew the people we were talking to, and said: "Guess what just happened - AGAIN - mobile phone gone!" It apparently happens quite a bit.

So, I agree with the above poster, it's not necessarily different from many other global locations in that regard, but DO take the warnings seriously and as much as possible ensure your belongings aren't snatchable.

All that said, it is a fascinating country with wonderful people - you will have a great time!
Sep 29th, 2002, 08:41 PM
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I can't help much with the weather since I went in July, but from what I understand it should be pretty cool in Hanoi in November; layering is always the best bet, of course.

The water puppet show is interesting and unique; I got my ticket in the morning for the evening's show and got a cassette tape along with it.

I visited some rural villages but couldn't get to the minority villages for lack of time; the countryside is a nice change and the ethnic costumes are lovely, so if you have time, go for it.

I wished that I had more time in Hue; the Citadel/Forbidden City area was fascinating to me, and I would have liked to explore further (historical sites and such) I also went out on a boat in the evening with traditional singers--great stuff, and I was the only American (or European, either) present. I didn't get to the DMZ (again, time constraints) but those that I met who did go seemed to find it fascinating.

I didn't have a problem with safety issues either, but then again, I'm a city dweller and tend to keep my bag slung bandolier style. I also didn't carry around a lot of cash; I used my ATM card in the cities for cash. The biggest scam to be on guard against is the cyclo "tours"; don't get into a cyclo if you're feeling jet lagged and don't go anywhere without agreeing to a FIRM hourly price first. I don't mind paying a decent price for something I want to do, but I do have a bit of a problem with being held "captive", so to speak. Cyclos are a great way to see the city at a slow pace, but the motorbikes are really the way to get around to me!

I second the HaLong Bay recommendation for overnight, as well...really lovely! The floating markets of the Mekong down to CanTho and the CuChi tunnels out of HCMC (Saigon) were also not to be missed.

Have a wonderful trip...
Oh, and get some clothing made! They'll do Western style overnight (especially in Hoi An) and I've been kicking myself that I didn't get more than I did!

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