From Hanoi - Laos or more Vietnam?

Old Mar 15th, 2011, 05:43 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 279
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
From Hanoi - Laos or more Vietnam?

More advice needed from the Asia experts on this forum. I posted a week or two ago about trips from hanoi for 2-3 days. Now our plans have changed, and due to all the holidays in HK, we've decided to spend a Saturday - following Sunday or Monday in and out of Hanoi.
Sat - Tuesday we need to be in Hanoi (meeting family members). The debate is where to go from Hanoi. We will probably book flights to and from HAN due to direct connections back to Hong Kong.

Our options: 1)Sapa and a day trip to Ha Long Bay. Leave Hanoi Tuesday night, maybe 2 nights in Sapa, train back to Hanoi, Saturday in Ha Long Bay, back to Hanoi for a night

2) Fly to Luang Prabang and spend 3-4 days. I'm tempted to do this since otherwise Laos is a pain to get to from HK (we're americans living in Hong Kong) and it's easy from Hanoi

3) Fly to Vietiene (same as above - not sure which city is preferable)

4) Fly to Hue - 3 days

The flight to Hue is pricey but once we arrive to Hue, it's relatively inexpensive. Laos is oddly pricey compared to Vietnam. We are not interested in Ho Chi Minh City, and like beautiful landscapes, some hiking, great scenery. Local culture is not as much of a draw for us so we are not interested in staying with a local family (one of the draws of sapa)

This trip will be the last week of April. Thanks in advance!!
tansmets is offline  
Old Mar 15th, 2011, 07:25 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,898
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
Forget the day trip to Halong Bay. It's not worth the long drive there and back unless you spend at least one night.

Luang Prabang over Vientiane, although if you're looking for hiking you'll need to get out of town. Maybe just more time in the Sapa area if you want to hike and like mountain scenery.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 12:58 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,938
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I would agree with thursdaysd re forgetting about Halong Bay and her preference for Luang Prabang over Vientiene. Vientienne is ok as a stop off for a day or two as part of as longer trip but not as a destiantion in itself.

If hiking and scenerry are your main interests then I would be inclined to stay in Vietnam and spend more time in Sapa. Other places to consider are:

Mai Chau valley, a few hours from hanoi. The scenery is differrent from Sapa but just as impressive with some great hiking, If you dont like the tyhought of a local homestay then there is now a luxury lodge in the area.

Ba Be lakes - a really beautiful lake area in teh far north west about 7 hours from Hanoi. Again great hiking but the only accomodation is in village homestays. we loved it but not to everyone's taste.

Links to some of our photos:

http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog...ai/3/tpod.html

http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog...ai/1/tpod.html
entries 13-16 cover Vietnam

Not sure how long you are intending spending in Ha Noi but for me it is preferable to Hue, where 3 days seems alot in the context of your overall time in VN.
crellston is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 02:11 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 3
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Halong Bay is really an unique place, but a day trip is not the best way to see things there.

About Laos, I personally prefer Vientiane. It's the "capital" and there you may find more interesting things to do.
guguga is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 09:02 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 41
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Halong Bay is magical and if you can spend 2 nights on a boat it is a unique experience. We loved Hoi An if you have good weather the beaches are great.

Truth is all options will not disappoint, have a great time.
spitz is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 10:22 AM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 279
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for all the advice. I credit this forum with convincing me to go to Southern Africa for my honeymoon instead of SE Asia - a very wise decision on many fronts - as I would unexpectedly wind up moving to Asia and South Africa/Namibia were really wonderful. Anyway,

We could easily spend the night in Halong Bay. I'm not thrilled at the idea of sleeping on a boat, but a hotel there for a night would fit into our itinerary. It looks like if we left Hanoi on Tuesday night for Sapa, we could spend Wed night there and Thurs and take the Thursday train back to Hanoi and then go to Halong Bay and spend Friday and even Saturday night there before returning to Hanoi on Sunday and flying to HK on Monday. Would you spend the extra night in Sapa or Halong Bay?

I think we will go that route or to Luang Prabang (forgetting about Hue). How many days/nights are optimal in LP?

Crellston - thanks for the photos! They are great!
tansmets is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 11:18 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,894
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I wouldn't spend more than one night on Halong Bay and I'm not sure I'd want to go at all if I didn't sleep on a boat. We found the experience to be quite comfortable (we were on a pretty upscale junk though). I do understand that not all travelers are "boat people".

Also, I would not do just one night in Sapa (with 2 nights on the train) - I think you need the extra night if you want to enjoy it.

I like the idea of visiting LP - we had 3 nights there but could easily have stayed for 4.
Craig is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 12:19 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,898
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
If you're going to bother with Halong Bay you should really spend a night (just one) on a boat. When I did it in 2004 (Drgaon Pearl booked through Handspan) the food was very good and the bedroom had an en-suite bathroom (small, but there). The boats have gotten bigger and better since then. And don't economize too much on the boat for safety reasons.

Definitely two nights in Sapa - the train ride was one of the worst I've done, and I've done a lot. Also, you may want to reverse the sequence if you want to attend the more famous markets.

I quite like Vientiane myself, but it's no Luang Prabang.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 02:57 PM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 279
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for the advice. As you can imagine, after the horrible recent tragedy, I am hesitant to spend the night on a boat, but I will look into it.

thursdaysd - what train to Sapa did you take? I was planning on the train that was one level below the Victoria in a 2 berth (private car). What was so bad about it? Bumpy? Loud? My husband has a weak stomach, so maybe the train is not for him then. If so, we will go to LP. It looks like LP vs Sapa at this point. I think Halong bay looks beautiful, but we recently went to Krabi and visited similar looking islands....granted not as pretty as Halong bay, but seemingly similiar. Maybe LP is more "unique".
tansmets is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 03:06 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,898
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
I went with Livitrans. Going up was very bumpy and very noisy, coming back was very bumpy but much quieter. All the trains have lousy schedules. By bumpy I mean that I was being thrown in the air when seated, and jerked from side to side. Going up there was a great deal of clashing and clanking, made worse because I was in the last compartment in the carriage and the door between carriages didn't close automatically and people tended to leave it open.

I suspect the noise was specific to the carriage I was in - maybe it wasn't connected properly. The jerky ride however, may be universal.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 11:14 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,938
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We travelled on the Victoria train and our exerience was the same as Thursdays - very bumpy and very noisy. The noise was made worse by the fact thatour cabin was next to the bar car and a group were in there drinking and making a lot of noise until very late. Very little sleep on the journey plus an early arrival meant that we felt we were suffering from jet lag! Try and get a cabin in the middle of the compartment if poss as, in my experience, the ride seems alittle smoother there. www.seat61.com may have some tips
crellston is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 11:47 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 443
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Those who know would certainly suggest that you spend some time in Vientiane. The food is far better than in Luang Prabang, if you are interested in that sort of thing. There is a lot to do and there are many things to see - museums, colonial architecture, wats etc etc. You might want to consider taking a mini bus from Vientiane to Luang Prabang as the scenery is really quite stunning.
Vientianeboy is offline  
Old Mar 17th, 2011, 12:23 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,898
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
"You might want to consider taking a mini bus from Vientiane to Luang Prabang" - well the scenery is certainly worth seeing, but you'd better consider a stop in Vang Vieng (otherwise best avoided) if you do that. A woman I met on the train from BKK last month did it - 10 hours and she was very glad to fly back.

There is not THAT much to see in vientiane - good for a couple of days, but if the OP is only making one stop in Laos, better LP. Although I was horrified last month at how much it had changed, probably different reaction for first-timers.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Mar 17th, 2011, 04:35 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,894
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Victoria, Livitrans, Fanxipan etc. are separate cars on the same train. They are all noisy - the Victoria car is a bit more luxuriously appointed but it's still a train. That means you hear the sounds of metal wheels against metal tracks accompanied by constant rocking back and forth. While I slept on both the outbound and inbound trips, it was not fitful sleep. We were in a middle of the carriage but I don't know that that helped much. This would not be a fun trip for someone who is susceptible to motion sickness.
Craig is offline  
Old Mar 17th, 2011, 09:43 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,898
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
"but it's still a train" - yes, but there are trains and trains, and this is a bad one! While I wasn't sleeping on it I tried counting the number of night trains I've taken over the last 10 years, and I gave up at 40. Aside from this my worst experience was an unplanned 3rd class on a Thai train (sitting up on a hard wooden seat). Comparing sleepers to sleepers, this was easily the worst.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Mar 17th, 2011, 03:46 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 443
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Disagree about Vang Vieng as well. The gap year trash can be avoided by staying in a nice place along the Nam Song. The karst scenery in Vang Vieng is stunning; my family and I go there about once a year to relax and look at the caves.
Having lived in Lao for many years, actually I would say there is more to see in Vientiane than Luang Prabang.
Vientianeboy is offline  
Old Mar 17th, 2011, 07:35 PM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 279
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for all the advice. I'll look more into Vientiane and Luang Prabang. It would be one or the other unfortunately given that we are obligated to be in Hanoi Sat - Tuesday night. That still leaves us 5 more full days actually. As the Sapa train sounds highly unpleasant, I'll look more into the main sights in LP and Vietiane. We prefer outdoor activities to museums. I enjoy temples and architecture as well. Also, this would be around April 28th - the weather looks ok - thoughts?
tansmets is offline  
Old Mar 17th, 2011, 10:31 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 443
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
If it HAS to be a choice between the two, I would probably go for LP if I were a first time tourist. Actually there IS more to do in Vientiane, but with LP, at least you can say you have been there. There are a few trips you can do from both places to get out into the country. I must admit though that if you do like the countryside, Vang Vieng would also have something to offer you.
Vientianeboy is offline  
Old Mar 18th, 2011, 01:50 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,938
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Tansmets- If you are now set on Laos and prefer out door activities then I would suggest Luang Prabang for a couple of days. It is not the sleepy, quaint place it once was but is still owrth a couple of days just walking around and exploring the temples, getting up a dawn for the alms giving. It did use to have great food, but this has now been dumbed down for western tastes and with one or two exceptions it is now not so easy to find great Lao food.

LP is a good place to start an exploration of the far north which has some great scenery and wonderfully friendly people and is a great place for hiking. Visting the, minority peoples villages. Muang Sing, Phongsali, Luang Namtha, Muang Kua & Ban Bountai are all beautiful places (OK Luang Namtha not so much anymore but it is a transport hub for the region). It would probably take a week to see all these places but you could pick just a few. It is possible to do this independently via pulic transport etc. but as you have time constraints probably best to engage a tour operator who will arrange travel by car and boat ( the boat travel up the river was through real "Heart of Darkness" country, pristine rainforest few people a part from the villages along the way. I do so hope it hasn't changed too much.

There are one or two decent places to stay in the far north but it has to be said that most of the accommodation is basic. It is several years since i was there so this may have changed somewhat. Alternatively there are one or two travel agents along teh main street in LP that will arrange trips out into the countryside surrounding LP staying overnight in quite nice lodges.

An alternative to the above would be to head south. The Bolavens Plateau, Si Phan Do (4000 islands) Wat Phu are all places worth a visit. This would hoever mean leaving out LP in favour of Vientienne or Pakse (a bit of a dump IMHO)
crellston is offline  
Old Mar 18th, 2011, 10:19 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,898
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
"Actually there IS more to do in Vientiane" - VB, perhaps you'd like to tell us what there is to do in Vientiane?

For temples, there are more (many more) and better in LP (and I was sorry to see that Wat Si Saket is being renovated, which will probably kill a lot of its charm for me). I don't shop, but there seemed to be plenty of shopping ops in LP. Riverside? The riverside in V. is a mess right now, and anyway LP's is lovely. The "vertical runway" and the golden stupa (don't have the guidebook with me to check the name) take a max of 30 minutes each.
thursdaysd is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information