Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Asia
Reload this Page >

Looking for help to plan trip to Vietnam

Looking for help to plan trip to Vietnam

Old Dec 14th, 2013, 02:26 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 736
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Looking for help to plan trip to Vietnam

I started planning our two weeks trip to Vietnam in March 2013 (a little late start). We will be traveling to Vietnam on March, 20 (3 adults), flying into Hanoi and leaving from HCMC. We will have 15 full days, and would like to travel from north to south. Normally, we prefer independent travel, but for Vietnam we would like someone to help us out with logistics, transfers, etc... We would like to have a private guide/driver wherever possible. On the other hand, we would like some flexibility to tailor standard itineraries to our specific needs.

Please let me know if you have any recommendations on agencies in Vietnam that can help us out.

My friends traveled with Indochina, and I am hearing some recommendations for Tonkin, but not too many reviews.

I would appreciate your input.
helen63 is offline  
Old Dec 14th, 2013, 02:57 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 26,480
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
I used Tonkin for Sapa and it worked fine. However, I find Vietnam extremely easy to travel independently, any special reason you want support?
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Dec 14th, 2013, 03:47 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,474
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We used Tonkin last year and were pleased. For more info

http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...heast-asia.cfm
Marija is offline  
Old Dec 14th, 2013, 08:01 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 11,000
Likes: 0
Received 7 Likes on 1 Post
We used Tonkin and were very pleased. They were responsive and professional. You can click on my name and find my trip report on SEAsia. Scroll down to the portion on VN to read more specifics.
yestravel is offline  
Old Dec 15th, 2013, 06:21 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 305
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We have always done our own thing in Vietnam. People are very helpful. Handspan in the old town is good in Hanoi for trips out of the city if you want something organised, but really, in all the years since the 1990s we have just dealt with locals for anything, cash in hand, it's all been good.
mareeS55 is offline  
Old Dec 15th, 2013, 06:35 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 305
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I just recalled a good trip we did years ago to the Perfume Pagoda during a significant Buddhist pilgrimage. Miles down a river, miles up a mountain, miles down into the pagoda deep in the mountain, miles back down the mountain, miles back down the river, miles back to Hanoi. Hours and hours and hours.

One of the best things we've ever done in Asia, and one thing Lonely Planet said not to do, because it's so arduous.

The Perfume Pagoda pilgrimage happens in rare years, like the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, which we have also done from France to Spain and arrived on Palm Sunday for the procession to the cathedral.
mareeS55 is offline  
Old Dec 15th, 2013, 07:59 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,276
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We went to the Perfume Pagoda. It isn't nearly as far or as arduous as Maree makes it sound. We had a driver who took us to the river (about a 2 hour drive from Hanoi), then we hired two women in a boat to take us to the base of the mountain. We spent several hours walking to reach the shrine "inside the mountain" (in a huge cave). There are smaller shrines all along the path. We walked probably two hours up before reaching the Perfume Pagoda.

The lonely planet guide we had said to beware it can be a circus, but there were not many people when we went. The guide said nothing about it being too arduous. But we were there a little more than a decade ago, and perhaps the paths had been improved from when Maree went.
Kathie is offline  
Old Dec 15th, 2013, 08:27 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 305
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Kathie, you probably weren't there during the sacred time that several hundred thousand pilgrims were making the trek for a particular holy day, living on the mountain. We were there by accident, but it was a time for religious people of whichever persuasion. As was the river festival. So we stayed around. Did you go down into the underground pagoda on the holy day? Can I tell you it was as special as Mass at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain on Palm Sunday.

And can I tell you that my husband has retrieved important parts of his life from the times we have spent in Vietnam and wider parts of Asia since he served there with the army in 1966-67, and the years of business we have done there. You're not the only person to have spent time in Asia.
mareeS55 is offline  
Old Dec 15th, 2013, 01:03 PM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 736
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you, everyone, so much for your responses and suggestions!

I will read your trip reports, do a little bit of home work, email to Tonkin, and I am sure I will come back with many other questions.

Yes, there are some specific reasons why I would like some organized help this time. We normally DYI everywhere, but feel like we need some help this time. My husband is not that healthy at the moment (actually we both went thru major health issues recentlY0, so I thought I put him at ease if he knows we have a driver, can get some help with luggage and other stuff. I thought it would be easier if transfer logistics are handled. In addition, my son is interested in local gastronomy, street food, etc, so I thought we can get some insider tips from local guides.
helen63 is offline  
Old Dec 15th, 2013, 01:04 PM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 736
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
DIY, not DYI
helen63 is offline  
Old Dec 15th, 2013, 01:24 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,276
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Maree, I am well aware that you have spent more time than I have in SE Asia, and that you have been traveling there longer than I have. I wanted to give our experience from more recent times than yours, as I felt your account was unduly discouraging. No we were not there during a time of pilgrimage. I'm sure it was an amazing experience.

Helen, I hope you have a wonderful trip!
Kathie is offline  
Old Dec 16th, 2013, 03:54 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 305
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Somewhere different for people to think about at present is Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo.

Via Kuala Lumpur, the main town Kuching is the City of Cats, named so for an obvious reason (cats).

Apart from orang-utans, the other best reason to visit is the food, including a type of laksa you can't get anywhere else in SEA, and an edible fern that resembles miniature asparagus but tastes nothing like it.

Hard to describe Sarawak, it's lovely, predominately Chinese in ethnicity on the coast and in the towns, but up-rivers are the long-house tribes. Very different from the Malay peninsula.
mareeS55 is offline  
Old Dec 16th, 2013, 08:37 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 736
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thursdaysd, Marija, Yestravel,

How did you work with Tonkin in terms of pricing their services? Did they price entire trip or they can prices some pieces separately( Hotels, flights, specific tours)?

Yestravel, I started reading your trip report, and seems like they priced separately (you could compare your hotel quote against theirs).

My preferences if they price separate things separately, but not sure if this is possible.
helen63 is offline  
Old Dec 16th, 2013, 09:10 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 6
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
If you would love a local to help you. I recommend that you can book a private local tour guide on Viator who can help you design your itinerary and have real travel experience. You may also get a better price from them. If you want to organise your trip via a tour company, let them know your prefered travel styles and destination. They will get back to you with itinerary. There's a number of tour companies in Vietnam. The big one may not be the best.

Hope you could have a good holiday in Vietnam
hanoiecotour is offline  
Old Dec 16th, 2013, 02:22 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 11,000
Likes: 0
Received 7 Likes on 1 Post
@helen - you are correct. Tonkin priced each piece separately. We were constantly adding and changing as we put the trip together. They might suggest a "canned tour" and we would modify as we wanted. Tonkn would give us the price as we went along. I think you can pick up local guides for less than we paid via Tonkin, but it was much easier to just let them do the 3 weeks in VN for us. I found them very easy to work with.
yestravel is offline  
Old Dec 17th, 2013, 08:43 AM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 736
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you, Yestravel! I am working with them now.
helen63 is offline  
Old Dec 17th, 2013, 02:28 PM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 736
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I am reading everyone's trip reports, and I realize how little time we have.
I really need your help to prioritize things we can/cannot fit (Maybe I should open a different thread?).
So some of my questions:
1. Sapa is must see for me. I originally planned on two days (overnight train, Bac Ha market, some walking, night in Sapa, and then overnight train back). Would you suggest another day around Sapa (this way we can see Coc Ly market on Tuesday as well).
Do you have prespective on both markets?
2. Halong Bay is another must see. And question here - 2 or 3 days? A lot of people suggest 3 days, but we have no time, and not into kayaking
2. I originally had Ninh Binh on my list. Would it be terrible to skip it? We can only do it as a day trip, and seems like a lot of driving for several hours of sightseeing.
3. What do you think about Phong Nha grottoes? Is this something must see?

Thank you so much!
helen63 is offline  
Old Dec 17th, 2013, 02:56 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 11,000
Likes: 0
Received 7 Likes on 1 Post
Two days on Halong Bay will be fine.
yestravel is offline  
Old Dec 17th, 2013, 03:09 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 26,480
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
One overnight on Halong Bay is plenty.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Dec 17th, 2013, 08:24 PM
  #20  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 736
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you, Yestravel and Thursdaysd! I am good with Halong Bay for 2 days.
Any other comments? About Sapa?
helen63 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

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


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:45 AM.