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letsgetsilly Aug 15th, 2012 07:46 AM

I've put together a 2 week Itinerary to Vietnam - feedback welcome!
My wife and I are planning to visit Vietnam for 14 days (August 27th - September 9th, 2012 ). I’ve been doing research on how to make the most of our 2 week stay in this forum and I’d love to hear some feedback on the basic itinerary that I’ve come up with.

Here’s the rough city itinerary:
Halong Bay, Cat Ba island
Hoi An
Da Lat (maybe)
Mui Ne (maybe)
Cat Tien National Park

Da Lat and Mui Ne are potentially on the chopping block. I’m not interested in rushing from place to place, and if we plan on visiting all of these cities, we’d roughly get 2 days in each, which is too fast paced for me.

I’m really interested in seeing Saigon, but I haven’t heard a ton of great endorsements for it, so it’s possible that we show up there and just fly out in order to help us spend more time in other areas. If you have any thoughts on this, please share!

We currently aren’t attempting to explore Sapa from Hanoi, although we’ve heard wonderful things. If you think it’s a must-see, please tell us why! Thanks for any feedback!

Specific plans per location


We understand that Hanoi Backpackers is the place to stay while here. “Old Town” apparently has the most interesting night life. I also found a strong recommendation to find the restaurant “Indochine” and try their “banana salad”. From Hanoi we want to take a trip to Ha Long bay.

*Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba*

There’s an adventure company at We were thinking about doing rock climbing adventure (1 day) and the Cat Ba motorcycle adventure (1 day). I’ve heard recommendations to stay one night on a boat here. We don’t have that setup, and I don’t know if that’s what we want to do, but I’m interested in any suggestions, especially on how to find a reliable, safe boat with an entertaining crew.

*Hoi An*

I hear this is just a nice town to explore and have clothes made. I think we’ll probably just wander; no itinerary.

*Da Lat and Mui Ne*

Nothing planned for this places because I’m not sure if they’re worth visiting. Mui Ne is a beach location, and I simply don’t know if it’s worth it to visit the beach during August/September. I understand it will be the rainy season. But, if we do go, I might try the kite boarding lessons offered there.


We don’t have a good idea of what’s available here, but I’m interested in any suggestions!

*Cat Tien National Park*

Go exploring?!

All tips are welcome - travelling, culture, food, suggestions. Thanks in advance!

thursdaysd Aug 15th, 2012 10:21 AM

I would go to Sapa before Hoi An, Mui Ne and/or Dalat (haven't been to Dalat, but have been to the others). The train ride is a bit trying, but the scenery, if the clouds aren't down, is very good, there's hiking, and interesting markets and villages.

If you're going to Halong Bay you should definitely overnight on a boat.

dgunbug Aug 15th, 2012 10:40 AM

I would have agrees that sapa is not to be missed, but just checked weather and it is monsoon season in August, drying up in September. If you want to wing it and do sapa providing the weather is good, you will not regret it. Try being there on a weekend and go to the bac ha market . The hiking and scenery are spectacular.

As for hoi an - we loved it, but be sure to pair it with hue, only a few hours away and very interesting.

Halong bay is beautiful but be sure to go I. An air conditioned junk overnight. It will be very hot.

yestravel Aug 15th, 2012 12:48 PM

If Sapa is too much of a trip then u might think about going to Mai Chau which is a lovely village a few hours from Hanoi. You can do trekking and biking there and if u're interested do a home stay. We were in Sapa this past February and arrived to beautiful sunshine and Sapa is beautiful & quite scenic. But then the fog rolled in and it was damp and cold so not a great place to be visiting. So I would think twice about going there in Monsoon season.

If you go to Halong Bay, definitely do an overnight on a junk, otherwise it is not worth the 3-4 hour drive out there and then back.

Enjoyed Hoi An just as a cute town to kick back in. Agree that you should pair it with Hue. U can take train or drive between the two and again, beautiful scenery. U can also visit Son La from Hoi An.

I really liked Saigon. It came at the end of a nine week trip in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and VN. It is a much more modern cosmopolitan city and I welcomed that. You can do a trip to the Mekong delta which is quite interesting and fun.

NLspirit Aug 15th, 2012 01:27 PM

We really enjoyed Hanoi. It has a wonderful vibe with so many great things to see and do. Loved the craziness of the motorcycle traffic and weaving in and out of traffic on a cyclo with a driver who gave us more than one thrill on our way to find a restaurant in another part of the city.

Halong Bay is spectacular with its pristine beaches and interesting caves. I would agree ... stay overnight on a Chinese junk.

Sapa is a wonderful area of Vietnam, an amazing mix of scenery and culture. We also visited the homes of indigenous peoples .... a fabulous experience. We also remember one particular moment when we went out on our hotel balcony to hear the eerily beautiful strains of flute music echoing through the hills. It was one of those moments in time we'll always remember.

Hoi An and Hue are both very nice. While in Hoi An we went to two different tailors to have clothes made. DH had three gorgeous silk shirts made at one shop and I went to another more well known shop (Yaly) to have a couple of silk dresses made. I had quite an unhappy experience at Yaly and realized later I should have listened to our guide. While we were there we also spent an hour on a boat on the night of the full moon. It's an evening when dozens of boats light up the whole river with lanterns ... quite a magical experience.

We loved Da Lat which is quite unlike any other place in Vietnam. Apparently it's the place Vietnamese honeymooners go and Imcan understand why. The remnants of French culture are still evident there especially the formerly stately homes and gorgeous pine forests just outside the city. Our experience here was unique because we had had the phenomenal experience of staying with our guide and his family for 6 days during Tet. They were so warm and welcoming and we met so many of their famly learning a lot about the wonderfuf Vietnamese culture. He then guided us for another 9 days to other parts of the country which few tourists ever get to visit. It was the trip of a lifetime and we were so fortunate to experience this fabulous country through the eyes of Long and his family.

We haven't visited Saigon so can't really comment. However wherever you go in Vietnam I'm sure you'll love this beautiful country and its friendly, welcoming people.

jgg Aug 15th, 2012 02:34 PM

We did a two week trip to Vietnam at Christmas time that included Saigon/Mekong Delta, Hoi An and Hanoi/Halong Bay. I really wanted to go to Sapa but weather was going to be too cold for that time of year. We loved Saigon! Just thought it was a great city and great way to get acclimated to Vietnam. We absolutely LOVED Hoi An. Had clothes made, but also did a food tour with Taste of Hoi An, bike ride with Heaven and Earth Bicycle Tours and a fabulous cooking class with Van at Green Bamboo. The boat ride on Halong Bay is one of our top two traveling adventures (camel ride and overnight in Sahara desert is #1). Just really felt like we were in another world.

Here is a link to my trip report:

Here is a link to just the Saigon/Mekong Delta part with pictures. Getting the other parts with pictures up later this week.

shelleyk Aug 15th, 2012 03:41 PM

I spent 18 days in Vietnam and liked our time spent in Dalat and Saigon as much as our time spent in any other place we visited in Vietnam. Saigon is a very neat city with interesting history, buildings, temples and museums. It is also close to the Mekong Delta which is worth a day trip. Dalat is a scenic mountain town, unlike any other place we visited in Vietnam. Great French food was a bonus. As far as beaches go, I would not make a trip to Asia to go to the beach.

gpotvin Aug 15th, 2012 05:19 PM


juliasmom Aug 16th, 2012 11:25 AM

I just returned from three weeks in Vietnam. My itinerary was Hanoi, Halong Bay, Cat Ba Island, Ninh Binh, Mai Chau, Sapa. I agree with everyone that Halong and Sapa are not to be missed. It still may be very hot. On Cat Ba, we didn't go to the beach until 3 because of the heat and could not consider hiking.

Judith_Hunter Aug 16th, 2012 11:46 AM

We found getting around took longer than expected so getting to Halong Bay is a half day in transit. Definitely stay on a junk - it was unforgettably beautiful. We stayed on one called Dragon Pearl which was fantastic.
In Hanoi we stayed at the "top" of the old town away from the lake and absolutely loved it. (Hotel was the Luxor which we also loved if you are interested but if you look it up you'll see the location). Loved the Ethnology Museum if that's not already on your list.
Hoi An was a lovely relaxing interlude. We got clothes made at Toto and they have stood the test of time - I wore my suit to a meeting yesterday! We hired bikes and had a great time toodling around.
Depends where you come from but I agree that I would not go to Vietnam to go to the beach, especially if the weather is going to be crap.
We didn't love Saigon compared with Hanoi but we loved visiting the Mekong Delta from there.
Sapa was stunning although we didn't really enjoy the town itself due to the hordes of tourists (like us!) and the accompanying hordes of "sales ladies" selling embroidery. But the train trip there was fun overnight, the Bac Ha market was brilliant and we went out into the hills to stay in a tiny village through a homestayorganised by our guide. That was a great experience.
We were there in January though, so find out more about the weather when you will be there before you decide where to go - the weather is vastly different from one part of the country to another so that might help you narrow down your itinerary.
We had 3 weeks and felt a bit rushed, so I think you need to drop a few things bearing in mind how long it takes to get most places.
Have a fantastic trip!

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