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Need advice on 14 to 21 day trip to Vietnam

Need advice on 14 to 21 day trip to Vietnam

Sep 14th, 2019, 10:36 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 3
Need advice on 14 to 21 day trip to Vietnam

We and another couple (in our 60s and fit) are planning a trip to Vietnam probably in late January. We have Asia experience (Thailand twice, Laos and India), our friends not. We all prefer slower-paced, not-the-usual-stuff travel. I have come up with the following draft plan and would appreciate comments from Fodorites as to destinations, time allotted for each and any particular things to do or not to do. Your comments proved very helpful to us in our prior Asian travels. Nothing here is written in stone. Thanks in advance.

Hanoi – 3-5 days (including usual tourist sites, food tour and/or cooking class, nearby villages)

Ninh Binh – 1-2 days

Phong Nha – 1-2 days (fly there from Hanoi to Dong Hoi)

Hue – 1-2 days

Hoi An – 2-3 days (possibly include day trip to My Son)

Saigon – 2-3 days (including day trip to Cu Chi tunnels)

Mekong Delta – 1-2 overnights (want to follow Crellston’s advice as much as possible about going to Ben Tre and Chau Doc but uncertain of logistics involved)

rlp is offline  
Sep 14th, 2019, 11:22 AM
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 9,078
This doesn't seem like "slower-paced" to me, quite the contrary. If you can't take more time I'd suggest skipping some locations. I haven't been to all you mention so cannot say which, nor do I know which are lower down your list. So do more research, others will comment here and consider slowing down even more. I travel VERY slowly as a rule so that may be why it seems a bit hectic to me, especially Hanoi where I spent weeks, not days, and wasn't bored for a moment.
MmePerdu is online now  
Sep 14th, 2019, 07:39 PM
Join Date: Sep 2017
Posts: 81
In my opinion, a bit rushed in some places you mentioned.
Ben Tre to Can Tho is ok not Chau Doc or stay in Can Tho only.
DinHo is online now  
Sep 15th, 2019, 12:12 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,607
I get confuses when someone speak of DAYS in a place. Two nights equals one full day, three equals two and so on. Moving from one destination to another can often take up half a day, even with the improving infrastructure in Vietnam. for the most part the travel between places is to be tolerated rather than enjoyed. the exception being in the delta where is is very much part of the reason for going.

On one of our trips we did that entire route by train albeit in the opposite direction. it was fun, an experience but not that comfortable, but may be worth including on train journey, especially as there are four of you and you could all share one soft sleeper compartment. depends how close you are to your friends I guess . The train from Hanoi goes via Ninh Binh to Hue via Dong Hoi so that could be an good option and as, it is a night train you could spend just one night in Ninh Binh, see some stuff in the afternoon of your arrival from Hanoi and still have the whole of the following day. I would look into a private driver/tour as that could prove very cost and time effective way to see the area. indeed that could work well in several places you are going.

We had 5 nights in Phong Nha and loved it. Although, due to an injury at the time, didn’t get to cover as many caves as we planned. it really require 2 full days there to see the main caves, do a bike ride, visit the duck farm, pub with cold beer etc.. We stayed at Phong Nha Farmstay who organise many of teh cave tours in the area and are very good. on elf teh best places to stay too. their website has a huge amount of useful info. they picked us up from the train station and I am sure they would do the same from the airport.

Flight are cheap in the region and quicker but do use up waking sightseeing time. one trick I have learned overt the years is to schedule flights early morning so as to max time at the destination. on departure most do not do much anyway except pack.

Hue and Hoi An - I am a great fan of Hue for its history(ancient and modern) the citadel and tombs and of course its amazing food. IME you need one full day for an exploration of the Imperial Citadel, a trip on the river, the pagodas etc. and another to explore the Imperial Tombs (they sound boring but really are something else!). We have happily spent a week or more in Hue several times and loved just hanging our, exploring the markets by bike etc. I would check teh cost of a private driver from Phong Nha to Hue. with 4 of you it could save a lot of time an may provide an opportunity to stop over at somewhere in the DMZ if that interests you. I think the tunnel there are far more authentic and interesting than those in Cu Chi.

Hoi An is very small and very crowded, especially when the tours decent from the mega hotels near Da Nang. By far teh best time to explore is in the early morning before they arrive. in the context off the time you have, 2 days is plenty. My Son is again best seen in the early morning before the crowds and the heat. any hotel will organise a private car and driver for a half day tour. you don’t need a guide and there are a few places to stop along the way some detail are in a post in our blog.

En route from Hue to Hoi An, again it is worth renting a car and driver and making an excursion of it and visit the marble mountains and Hai Van pass along the way. allow 4 hours and $50-60US. if I was going to drop anything to free up a few days for elsewhere, it would be Hoi An - but thats just me

Saigon is our home from home in Vietnam. For our last 4-5 visited we have always stayed at Ms Yangs Homestay in District 3 and usual for a week or two. We have seen all the sites there are to see so we generally just go for the food, the ambience of the city and to see the Yang sisters and as a base from which to head off into the delta. The main sites like Notre Dame, The Reunification Palace, The post office, opera house etc are central and easily seen in a day. the War Remnants Museum is in D3 but still only a 20-30 min stroll. Throw in the Jade emperor Pagoda and a visit to Cholon and you have two full days.

I am happy to share with you the full logistics of getting around the delta as much as I can but din ho is understating when he says it is a “bit rushed”

Whilst it can be done quicker, on our first trip we got the bus to Ben Tre and spent 3 nights there. On one day we shared a small boat with an Australian family to sail around the small rivers taking a look at the various industries like brick making, coconut processing etc.

We then rented a boat with said Aussie family (we are still in contact with them to this day!) and a German couple and saild down the wider Mekong to Can Tho, stopping for lunch in Vinh Long. and arriving in Can Tho eight hours later. A wonderful trip which cost around $10 pp!

In Can Tho there are a number of choices. We made the wrong one and stayed in the city. the better choice (which we did later) is to stay in a homestay out in the countryside. That way you get to experience a taste of rural Vietnam. No luxuries like zircon but they will take you around the delta by bike, and to the main reason for going which is Cai Rang floating Market.

The market is best visited before dawn. leaving at 05.30 we were back in CT by 08.30.

It is a 3 hour bus ride to Chau Doc from Can Tho and six hours back to Saigon ( we carried on by boat to Phnom Penh). Chau Doc is one favourite places in the delta and still doesn’t see that many visitor. Try Su submerged forest is amazing. Sam Mountain is about the only hill in the delta an has an incredible temple atop. cruising on the river among the Cham fish farm and stilt houses in a memorable experience. I would suggest two full days minimum.

We went back with some friends the following year and they were on a restricted timetable so we skipped Ben Tre and headed straight to Can Tho for an overnight and then on to Chau Doc for two nights which may work for you.

MmmePerdu and I are of like minds when it comes to travel i.e. very slowly, but that doesn’t suit everyone. I do think that by dropping a destination, identifying exactly what you want to see and do in each place, and with careful planning around transport, you can fit in much of what you want in the time. Of course, more time would help. I would also consider allowing a day or two for downtime. much as travel is my life these days, I can’t pretend it doesn't get exhausting from time to time.
This is a bit of a brain dump but I hope it helps a little.
crellston is offline  
Sep 15th, 2019, 02:10 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 3
I take all your points, and appreciate the time you took to make them. I was concerned this was too much for the time allotted, particularly in the Mekong Delta. I will work on a new version and will be talking with our friends in the next day or so, and hopefully will come up with a better version 2. Do you have a preference for traveling south-to-north or north-to-south? Thanks so much for your help.
rlp is offline  
Sep 16th, 2019, 03:09 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,607
I don’t think it matters much which way you go. You will have good weather in pretty much the whole country but the north will be much cooler than the south if that is a factor for you.

I would probably just book the most convenient open jaw ticket into and out of SGN/HAN
crellston is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2019, 01:16 AM
Join Date: Jul 2019
Posts: 2
Your itinerary sounds good, However, personally, you should spend more time in the Mekong Delta and homestay at local people instead of a hotel. You can spend 1 day to enjoy floating market and 1 day to explore gardens.
lindahouston is offline  
Sep 29th, 2019, 10:35 PM
Join Date: Jun 2019
Posts: 32
Hanoi – 3-5 days (including usual tourist sites, food tour and/or cooking class, nearby villages)
THREE FULL DAYS are enough

Ninh Binh – 1-2 days
DEFINITELY 2 full days, better 3 (MANY beautiful things to do and see)s. Do Hanoi-Ninh Binh by day train (6, 9, 13:30) + taxi 8 km to TAM COC (NB is a big boring city). You can do Ninh Binh-Dong Hoi by night train, no need to go back to Hanoi for a flight

Phong Nha – 1-2 days (fly there from Hanoi to Dong Hoi)
TWO days

Hue – 1-2 days
TWO full days

Hoi An – 2-3 days (possibly include day trip to My Son)
MY SON takes half-a-day, not a full day

Saigon – 2-3 days (including day trip to Cu Chi tunnels)
TWO days Saigon + 1 FULL day superb Cao Dai Temple of Tay Ninh and Cu Chi Tunnels

Mekong Delta – 1-2 overnights (want to follow Crellston’s advice as much as possible about going to Ben Tre and Chau Doc but uncertain of logistics involved)
CHAU DOC is too far. Do the loop Saigon-CAI BE-ferry to Anh Binh Island (excellent Phuong Nam Homestay in Anh Binh Village)-ferry Anh Binh-Vinh Long + bus VL-Can Tho; next Cai Rang Floating Market + bus direct Can Tho-Saigon
Larsay is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2019, 12:43 AM
Join Date: Oct 2019
Posts: 1
Ben Tre and Chau Doc are good place to go in Mekong delta

Your plan is really good, i just want advice that if you go to Mekong delta i highly recommend visting Can Tho city as well
ledinhlao is offline  

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