Photography Trip to Vietnam

Old May 6th, 2013, 06:32 PM
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Photography Trip to Vietnam

I'm planning a trip for my husband and myself (65) to focus on cultural experiences and mostly photography. I'm reading lots of reports and still at a loss as to how best to organize our days and how many days to take. (We are saving $ to take our granddaughter and possibly daughter, etc., on an African safari next year, so want to keep our costs low on this one.) I know for sure we want to visit Hanoi, Sapa and the Bac Ha Market, maybe Mai Chau, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Siem Riep..... Not as sure about Hue and Saigon. I am thinking I could talk my husband into 14 days (we both still work). Does that sound reasonable for time? How to allocate days the best? I will probably work through Tonkin Travel.
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Old May 6th, 2013, 08:06 PM
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No, that sounds like too much. You need at least three days (four nights) for Siem Reap, and I would say at least the same for Hanoi. Sapa takes a minimum of three nights, since you take a night train in each direction, and really four makes more sense. Equally, you need at least one night on the boat on Halong Bay. Either stick to Vietnam, or northern Vietnam (Hanoi plus Sapa and Halong Bay) plus Siem Reap.

I worked with Tonkin Travel for my last visit to Vietnam, since I was booking for Sapa from the road, but aside perhaps for Sapa it is very easy to travel in Vietnam on your own.
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Old May 6th, 2013, 09:16 PM
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Thanks, Thursdaysd! So how much time would you allow for all of that? And did you book your hotels yourself ahead of time?
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Old May 7th, 2013, 10:35 AM
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Maybe I could add a couple of days. I don't have the tickets yet.
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Old May 7th, 2013, 11:16 AM
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I've been to Vietnam three times. The first two times I mostly booked a day or two ahead, or on arrival, the third time Tonkin Travel booked for me, but I only went to Sapa and Hanoi.

My first trip to SEA was three months (http://wilhelmswords.com/asia2002/ ), doesn't sound like you have that kind of time. With only two weeks you're better off sticking to one country (don't forget you'll need to recover from jet lag at the begining).
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Old May 7th, 2013, 08:15 PM
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No, thursdaysd, we don't have that kind of time! I'm working on what would work and my husband did agree that we could take a couple of extra days. We have had great luck (for 25 years) with the anti-jet lag diet, so that helps also. I'll post a better idea in a day or two.
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Old May 8th, 2013, 03:10 AM
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I agree with thursdays, this is way too much to pack in. I would suggest sticking to vietnam, mostly the North which is rich in photographic material both urban and rural. Hanoi, and Sapa are great and worth combining these two into a week. If you are feeling adventurous, then return to Hanoi via the Dien Bien Phu loop and the Mai Chau valley ( a truly magical place for a photographer!)

After that, a round trip to Siem Reap would take at least 4 days to make it worthwhile. I have to say that it was a photographers dream the first time i visited in 2002 the sites were uncrowded and peaceful. Getting to Angkor at dawn was special with only 20 people there. In 2007 there were closer to 500 and photography was very difficult with people just jumping in front of others to get the best shot as dawn broke. That said, we found a great tuk tuk driver who was adept at getting us to temple at the right time.

We stayed at http://www.peaceofangkor.com/ in SR and the owner runs photographic tours. We didn't use him but he seemed knowledgeable and he had some great shots to show us.
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Old May 8th, 2013, 05:42 AM
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Thanks Crellston! You are making me give very serious thought to eliminating Siem Riep. As soon as I get a few hours free, I will try to plan this out a bit better and then post those ideas. I'll check your link, too!
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Old May 8th, 2013, 06:48 AM
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Please do reconsider SR. The first time I went I had three nights - sunset and two full days. It just wasn't enough, and I had to go back for another five nights. There are people who get templed out, but if you have any real interest in the temples, if you pace yourselves, and if you visit some of the less well-known places you shouldn't be among them.

Then (as you'll know if you've read my 2002 screed), there is a lot more to Cambodia than SR, and it's a real shame people just fly in and out and skip the rest of the country. As SR has gotten more and more crowded (so I hear, haven't been back since 2004), all the more reason to go elsewhere as well.
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Old May 8th, 2013, 07:40 AM
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So thursdaysd, I am assuming you would vote to eliminate going to Hoi An and add some days for Cambodia?
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Old May 8th, 2013, 07:55 AM
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While hoi an is picturesque and fun to spend a few days in, if you don't have time to include hue, which is perhaps even more interesting, I would skip it and go directly from Hanoi to siem reap. Besides the temples, be sure to take a boat tour out to tonle sap lake where you will see the Vietnamese boat people living. We spent a 1/2 day wandering around the outskirts of town where we got terrific pictures of the people living along the river. Whatever you do will be wonderful.
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Old May 8th, 2013, 08:36 AM
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I still think you should stick to one country, but if you're going to do SR do try to spend more time in Cambodia. I thought Hoi An was over-hyped and over-touristed (and that was nearly ten years ago). The ruins at My Son are worth seeing if you're in that area, and there are some nice buildings in Hoi An, but unless you really need some new clothes made I would skip it on a short trip.
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Old May 8th, 2013, 08:47 AM
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I agree with thursday on Hoi An. It was our least favorite city of our trip to Southeast Asia.
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Old May 8th, 2013, 08:50 AM
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Wow, okay, that is pretty confirmation. And would save time to focus north and I definitely think we could get to Siem Riep. Maybe we will have to add even more time? I need to lay it out day by day.
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Old May 8th, 2013, 09:37 AM
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I need to lay it out day to day. Exactly. Print off the right month from one of the free online calendars, write in where you plan to sleep each day. Then look into how long it takes to get from A to B and add that.
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Old May 8th, 2013, 07:22 PM
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Sometimes the simplest things help the most. Just got home from work, read this and printed out a calendar that I can make guesses on! Thanks thursday. And thanks Marija, dgunbug, and crellston!!
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Old May 8th, 2013, 07:47 PM
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crellston, So I am looking in my lonely planet and am not quite sure. "If you are feeling adventurous, then return to Hanoi via the Dien Bien Phu loop and the Mai Chau valley ( a truly magical place for a photographer!)" How would we do this? The logistics? So I can figure out the timing etc.
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Old May 9th, 2013, 05:20 AM
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When we went to Mai Chau, it was one of the rare occasions we used a tour operator as we were short on time. We used Topas , a Scandinavian - Vietnamese operation who booked it all for us. We got the night train from Hanoi to Sapa, spent a couple of days trekking there and picked up our driver guide who drove us for the next 5 days around the "Dien Bien Phu Loop" following pretty much this route :
http://www.travelfish.org/trip_plann...-bien-phu-loop

The scenery is spectacular along the way and not many travel this route which is nice. Some nice villages and towns to vist along the way.

Mai Chau we hadn't planned to visit but for some reason we changed our plans and were really glad we did. The valley was so peaceful and staying in a local homestay was great fun ( although sleeping on a mattress on the floor is not everyone's cup of tea! Walking along the valley in the dawn mist through to the next village and beingbinvited in for tea with the family was an experience that still sticks in my mind even now. That was 7 years ago and I think there are probably a few more accomodation options now.

Mai Chau is only a half days drive from Hanoi so it is easy to do a side trip of an overnight or a couple of days if you weren't interested in Sapa. This could easily be sorted out on arrival in one of the agencies in the old quarter. Here is a link to some unedited photos on our blog which may give a flavour of the loop, Sapa and Mai Chau.

http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blo...ai/3/tpod.html

I think we did Sapa, the DBP loop and Mai Chau in about 8 days although you could do it in less. Don't stint on Hanoi though as it is a very photo rich environment. So many places so little time.......
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Old May 9th, 2013, 07:14 PM
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Thank you crellston! I so appreciate your description. This weekend I plan to lay out the trip we have time for. Also very much appreciated your links to your photos. Helps give a good idea of what to expect.
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Old May 12th, 2013, 06:11 PM
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So this weekend I made some changes and got more information. Now my husband says maybe even 18 days is ok! Yay! I'm going to try to redeem miles for tickets tomorrow and whatever is available in Sept.-October will determine a lot. But now I am thinking of something like this:
Hanoi 3 nights
Sapa 4 nights
Hanoi to Ha Long Bay (long day or maybe overnight on a boat)
Hanoi to Siem Riep 3-4 nights?
Siem Riep to Danang for Hoi An 2 nights
Hanoi for the rest of the time.

I will post some hotel ideas I have gleaned from the trip reports here and LP--later on. Plan to work with Tonkin after we have airline tickets.

I'm guessing most of you will say that is too much? But I want to see it all! What do you think? Doesn't have to be in that order. I will just have to work around Sapa for the Sunday market at Bac Ha.
I'm open! Thanks in advance.
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