Help me plan one week in Vietnam!

Old Jan 27th, 2011, 03:57 AM
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Help me plan one week in Vietnam!

Hi folks,

I will be going to Vietnam from March 20 to the 28th. Initially I had planned to do the following:

Hanoi
Halong Bay one night cruise
Hue

But the only flight I could get is routing me through Saigon and chopping a day off my trip. So now I have just over 7 days to cover all of the above, plus Saigon. I think I need to chop one of the four off the list. Could you help me with these questions?

-How long is needed in Hanoi? I like to feel settled in a city I visit, with time to see the major sights but also enjoy morning strolls, people watch, and not feel rushed. Is three full days, plus time for transit, enough?

-If you had to choose between Hue and Saigon, which would you choose? I like beautiful architecture, art, nature, but am also very interested in Vietnam War history. I am not not nightlife, as a solo female traveler, but I am young so I don't want to be bored!

-Given my time limit, is an overnight on Halong Bay worth it? I would have to give up HCMC or Hue to do it. I love natural beauty, and sailing, but hate over-organized tours.

Thank you in advance for your advice and help!!!
imelda72 is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2011, 04:53 AM
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Personally I would not bother with Halong Bay, pretty tough it undoubtedly is, IMO it is too overtly touristy and we found the tout count v. high.

I would spend the majority of time in Hanoi where there is more than enough to hold your interest for say 4 days and maybe add in an overnight in the Mai Chau valley as a change of pace and for its beautiful scenery. Hanoi is a great place for just wandering around and people watching (particularly early mornings around Hoam Kiem lake for the Tai Chi. Stay in or near the old quarter if possible.

For history of the Vietnam/American war Saigon takes a lot of beating - most of the centrally located war realted sights such as teh War Remnants museum , presedential palace etc. can be visited in one day but I love the city and would spend at least a couple of days there and maybe incorporate a day trip to teh mekong delta. I also like Hue (the citadel and tombs are worth a visit) and have visited several times but with just seven days I would give it a miss- when you add in teh additional travel time it just takes too big a chunk out of your vacation time.
crellston is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2011, 01:39 PM
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Hi Imelda

If you are going to be in Hanoi, Halong Bay is a MUST.

perhaps you can have
2 days HCM city
1 day trip to the Mekong Delta
2 days in Hanoi
2 days for overnight cruise in Halong Bay.
HappyMom32 is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2011, 03:09 PM
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I just spent some time talking with one of my students about ehr experiences in Vietnam (since we are planning a trip) and she said that Halong Bay was an absolute MUST. Not that I was thinking of skipping it. She was actually not that keen on Hanoi - said it was basically a "dirty New York." But I think the area around the lake seems like a really cool place to spend some time.
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Old Jan 27th, 2011, 03:46 PM
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drop halong for sure and cut any time in saigon to zero.... or one day
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Old Jan 27th, 2011, 03:55 PM
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Hanoi "a dirty New York"? That strikes me as a very strange comment.

We all see places with our own eyes. Hanoi still has some of the traditional VN architecture and you can still see the hand of the French in the broad, tree-lines streets in some areas. We found Hanoi fascinating. If you are interested in the history of the American War (as it is called in VN), there is a Museum of the History of the Revolution in Hanoi. You'll also see many other things related to the war. Even the Museum of FIne Arts had paintings related to the war.

The most important thing will be to choose a limited number of stops. Every new stop adds travel time. What may be a must-see for someone else, may be something you can save for your next trip.

We opted not to go to Halong Bay during our trip to Hanoi. We were dissuaded by the long drive times and the reports of many on how crowded and over-touristed it was. Others feel it is a must-see. Only you can decide what is right for you.

Happy mom's itinerary above, does not take into consideration travel times. You would be moving all of the time, never time to settle and get the feel of a place. We spent a week in Hanoi, with a day trip to the Perfume Pagoda. It was great to have so much time in that fascinating city!
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Old Jan 27th, 2011, 05:58 PM
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While some like Saigon, I agree with Bob - given your limited time, I'd drop or limit Saigon to no more than 1 day. I understand that your plane is routed through Saigon. I would either take a plane out that same day or first thing in the morning if you cannot connect easily upon arrival. We spent 5 days in Hanoi and loved ever moment of it. It is nothing like NY. While we loved Halong Bay, I also would forgo it as it is too many hours in the car for such a short period of time. Instead, I would consider taking the overnight train to Sapa. Spend three days there. You don't loose any travel time as you travel to and from Sapa by train in the evening. I recommend reserving a sleeping compartment as soon as possible to insure you get a good night sleep on the train. Sapa was easily one of the highlights of our trip to Vietnam along with Hanoi and March is supposed to be one of the best months to go there.

As an alternative, if you don't want to go to Sapa, then consider flying directly from Saigon to Hue, spending two full days there and then fly to Hanoi. Seeing the Emperor's Tombs were one of the highlights of our trip.
dgunbug is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2011, 11:27 PM
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Hi, you can take this for your reference:
02 day in HCMC (then fly to Hue )
02 day in Hue (then fly to HN)
02 days in HN (You can ask me anything if i can help since i'm living in Hanoi.)then take a cap or take passenger car to Halong. there is no flight to Halong
02 days in Halong bay (i hope at the time you are there it will be warmer. Currently, it's extremely cold weather)
The transit time is no problem, it takes just from 01-02 hours flying from place to place. From HN to Halong, it will be longer, about 03-04 hours.
Have fun!
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Old Jan 28th, 2011, 04:47 AM
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Your interests sound quite like mine, and I'd have to say it's hard to choose. If you spend time in HCMC for the War sites, a half-day trip to Cu Chi tunnels is something I'd highly recommend; I know, again, not everyone feels that way, but I found it to be very, very interesting. I loved HaLong Bay, too, but then, it has been a while and perhaps the touts are worse now. On the other hand, it is unique. My experiences in Hue were a bit colored by a "wildlife encounter" (see trip report below) but I think I'd maybe focus on HCMC (since you're flying into in anyway) and Hanoi with HaLong Bay with just a week's time.

Here's my (old) trip report with links to pictures: http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...d-far-away.cfm
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Old Jan 29th, 2011, 05:22 PM
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If you want to visit Mekong delta then drop me a message, I can help you planning your trip because I live in Mekong delta. Check it out to see more information and mekong delta's pictures
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nhanfoto/
Lane_n is offline  
Old Jan 29th, 2011, 09:40 PM
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Thank you all for your advice. Amy, I read your great trip report-- thanks for the link. Dgunbug, I love your suggestions.

I would like to spend the longest chunk of time in Hanoi, and also do something that involves natural beauty -- Halong Bay, Mekong Delta, or Sapa all sound great. Which would you guys choose?

Here are 2 possible itineraries; please tell me what you think:

Itinerary I

Sunday, March 20th: flight to Ho Chi Minh City, arrive 4:25pm, escort to hotel, dinner and show or something
March 21st: sightseeing in Ho Chi Minh City
March 22nd: sightseeing in HCMC, evening flight to Hanoi
March 23rd: sightseeing in Hanoi
March 24th: sightseeing in Hanoi
March 25th: Halong Bay cruise
March 26th: Halong Bay cruise
March 27th: sightseeing in Hanoi
March 28th: 11:35 am flight back home


Itinerary II

March 20th: arrive HCMC 4:35, dinner and show
March 21st: sightsee in Saigon; evening flight to Hanoi
March 22nd: sightseeing Hanoi
March 23rd: sightseeing Hanoi
March 24th: sightseeing Hanoi
March 25th: Halong Bay or Sapa
March 26th: Halong Bay or Sapa
March 27th: sightseeing in Hanoi
March 28th: 11:35am flight home

(note: I live in Japan so jet lag isn't an issue)
imelda72 is offline  
Old Jan 29th, 2011, 09:41 PM
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PS; if I stay in Saigon I definitely want to see the Cu Chi tunnels and the War Remnants museum; that's my main reason for sightseeing there. Does itinerary 2 allow enough time for that (basically 3/4 of a day)?
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Old Jan 30th, 2011, 06:27 AM
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I like Itinerary II, but you will need to hire a driver in Saigon to insure you get to your sites and back to the airport in time. If you want to go to Sapa, on March 24th you will need to take the train around 8 or 9 pm to Sapa. I think the train gets in around 4:30 AM, giving you plenty of time to get to Sapa where you can wander around the town and take a hike into the village of Cat Cat. On the 26th you can hire a guide through the local information center to take you to neighboring villages. On your final day which is a Sunday, take the tour to Bac Ha, one of the most incredible markets we visited. From there, the tour bus goes right by the train station and will drop you off there in time for your night train. You will arrive back to Hanoi around 5:00 AM on the 28th and can take a taxi directly to the airport.
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Old Jan 30th, 2011, 04:54 PM
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Itinerary I is more balanced imo.

Halong Bay is magical, don't miss it.
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Old Aug 18th, 2011, 04:54 PM
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Hey all, I know it's a little late but thought you might appreciate a follow-up (I always do!).

I ended up going with Itinerary 1, and was very glad I did. I surprised myself by liking HCMC much more than Hanoi - the people were so much friendlier and warmer, and the culture of everyone eating and talking out on the warm streets, just living a slow-paced life even in the midst of a crazy big city, was really nice. Plus the war memorial stuff was amazing. Hanoi was much less pretty than I expected (though it had some incredible sights).

Also, thank you to those who encouraged the Halong Bay tour - I did one night there, and it was the highlight of my trip! For anyone considering it, it's really not to be missed - even though the bay was crowded with ships, the scenery was still stunning, being out on a boat for a day and a half was refreshing and fun, and visiting some of the (crowded) caves was really entertaining.

I'll add one more thing - I live in Japan, and I took this tirp not long after the earthquake in Tohoku. It was difficult for me to leave the country during such a painful (but united) time, and this did color my trip. I spent a lot of time sitting in my hotel room, zoned out in front of the TV. I only mention this to explain why I maybe enjoyed HCMC better - I really needed the kindness of strangers during that time, and the southerners were incredibly welcoming and friendly. I really appreciated it.
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Old Aug 18th, 2011, 04:56 PM
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Thanks for coming back and telling us a bit about your trip. I do appreciate it when people report back.
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Old Aug 19th, 2011, 04:44 AM
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Glad you enjoyed your trip! Next time try Sapa, Hue and Hoi An.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2011, 12:34 PM
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Hi, can you remember which Halong Bay tour you did? I'm looking to do a one night tour as well, however there are so many companies out there, and quite a few comments on here that it's a bit overwhelming! It sounds like you enjoyed your trip.
Thanks!
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Old Aug 23rd, 2011, 08:50 AM
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Here's an earlier thread on Halong Bay.

http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...halong-bay.cfm

I'd suggest Indochina Junk (I went on their Red Dragon) as they avoid the crowds.
someotherguy is offline  
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