In Hanoi: ODC or Handspan?

Aug 16th, 2004, 08:00 AM
  #1  
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In Hanoi: ODC or Handspan?

First of all I want to say thanks to everyone that has responded to my previous posts. I have gotten some great information from you, and this board is really a wealth of information. I'll be in Hanoi in Oct. and want to do a 2day/1nt trip to Halong bay. Handspan is quoting $120 for the trip (showing a picture of the ship, a modifed 'junk' ship), ODC's price is half this, but no photo of the boat. Has anyone done this trip with either tour co., and can you make a recommendation? I really am looking forward to seeing Halong Bay, and want to make sure I make a good choice. Thanks.
dperry is offline  
Aug 16th, 2004, 08:10 AM
  #2  
 
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all of the boats that i saw on the bay seemed to be similar....we had a large boat all to ourselves with a crew of 3 or 4...delicious lunch....we did not stay overnite but did that at hyphong, which i would reccomend....we stayed at the lovely royal garden resort property there...i found spending most of the day on the bay was enough...

the fee seems reasonable if in fact it also includes your overnite stay...also the trip from hanoi is quite far so it should include that as well...we had a guide and a driver included...i think we paid about $170 and it included some sightseeing, the boats, one nites lodging (we stayed extra on our own) and a full days sightseeing on the way back to hanoi...

i used a customized tour by www.asiantrails.com
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Aug 16th, 2004, 12:56 PM
  #3  
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We used Handspan for trips to Halong Bay and Sapa - they are fabulous. Their tour guides are much better than other companies and the boat (the Dragon's Pearl) was much nicer than we expected (see details at www.tropical-sails.com). The cabins were very comfortable and we were served 5 to 6 course lunches and dinners - all very tasty. Definitely worth it.
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Aug 16th, 2004, 01:26 PM
  #4  
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Forgot to add that it's very peaceful at night and waking up on the bay is lovely.
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Aug 16th, 2004, 03:16 PM
  #5  
Ben
 
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We used HandSpan and were very pleased. We did the 3 day, 2 night trip.
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Aug 16th, 2004, 03:45 PM
  #6  
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thanks very much! Do you remember what you paid for the overnight trip? It seems from the postings that their price is lower 'in person' that on their website, which fits with what i've read about tours in vietnam.
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Aug 16th, 2004, 05:15 PM
  #7  
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I notice on their website (www.handspan.com), there is a first class ($130) and second class option ($70). When I went, there was only one option for $55 - everything was perfectly fine. I would ask about the difference.

The prices on their website are the same as if you go to their office in Hanoi. I emailed them to get more info about a few tours and they were very prompt with their reply. I booked via email - they require a deposit and the cancellation fee was significant from what I remember. However, our schedule was pretty tight, so I thought it was better to book ahead. It shouldn't be a problem booking at thier office unless you need to go on a specific date and won't be in Hanoi very far ahead of time.
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Aug 19th, 2004, 09:46 AM
  #8  
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I emailed handspan about the price difference. Their response was the difference is due to the quality of food served and snacks provided, plus a drink with a meal, and a better room. They say there are 2 levels of rooms, the higher price gets the upper level.
Any thoughts from those of you who have been on this boat?
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Aug 19th, 2004, 02:38 PM
  #9  
SD3
 
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I'm assuming the $55 I paid last March was for 'second class' - the rooms were very nice and the food was terrific - absolutely no complaints. We spent very little time in our cabin (other than to sleep) as there are very comfy lounger-type deck chairs on the top deck, an outdoor area with tables and chairs near the restaurant where we tended to hang out, have a few drinks and socialize, and an indoor restaurant where you can also sit and socialize. I'm pretty sure all the cabins have windows with outside views. I can't remember the exact price but I think beer was $3 or $4 and wine was about $5 or $6, and we had to pay for these on our own. I can't see how first class could possibly be worth the extra $60.
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Aug 19th, 2004, 03:07 PM
  #10  
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Yes, I would agree! They told me in the correspondence the 'meal price' was significantly different between the two levels; for $130 they spent $10 per meal for the $55 they spent $4.
That didn't really make sense to me. Do you know if it's possible to bring a bottle of wine onboard? Thanks, you've been a real help
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Aug 20th, 2004, 08:22 AM
  #11  
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They don't check your bags or anything, so if you packed a bottle of wine and wanted to drink it in your room, I don't think it would be a problem, but I don't think they would let you open it in/around the restaurant/bar area (I'm sure the boat owners count on making extra money from the bar).

We had a few Aussie wine drinkers in our group and they found the wine sold on board (about $18 a bottle?) was actually quite good. Keep in mind, you'll only be on board for one evening.

With regard to food, we had appetizers, soup, a fish dish, a pork dish, a couple of vegetable dishes, rice and fruit (no chicken because of Bird flu). I would guess you get more fresh seafood with the higher priced meal, but the lower priced meal is very tasty.
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Aug 20th, 2004, 10:09 AM
  #12  
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The boat I was on was a notable improvement over the boat friends of mine were on in 2003 (also using Handspan). However, Handspan did mention they were getting another even nicer boat later this year - if it is a different boat than the one I was on, the cabins and food could differ from my experience.
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