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julies Dec 27th, 2006 09:48 AM

Should I add in Hoi An or more days in Hanoi??
I am having some last minute indecisiveness about our proposed itinerary for early January and may throw out some of what we've planned (3 days in the northern mountains) and go for a partially different trip. If I make these changes, I will now have 3 extra days to play around with. I'd love to just wing it and not make the plans until we are actually in Vietnam, but I just don't know if that is realistic considering how tightly we are scheduled already, factored in with the fact that we need to arrange internal plane trips.

Bottom line: we'll be leaving from HCMC after our time in the south and heading to Hanoi. Currently we either have 1 or 2 days in Hanoi depending on how we work things out. (We'll also have 5 or 6 days doing all of the things outside of Hanoi that seem to be highlights and also some more off-the-beaten-path things.)

I am considering adding Hoi An because everyone seems to like it as far as I can tell. But, we are not shoppers, we don't want to go to the beach, and we don't like totally touristy places, which I have the feeling this might be. Plus, there is the added factor of extra transportation time.

On the other hand, I could just add in those extra days to Hanoi. But, we have never been anywhere in Asia and don't really know how well we'll like a big bustling city. In our extensive European travels we've discovered that we tend to like smaller towns and cities. But, we did spend 11 days last winter in an apartment in Paris and didn't run out of things to do. However, this was our 2nd trip to Paris so we knew what we were getting into. With Hanoi we don't have a clue.

What are your thoughts if you've got a second? We are more than willing to get off the usual tourist route if it proves interesting. We like to just walk around and soak up ambience, enjoy more what would be considered highbrow culture, visit truly interesting museums, do outdoor activities such as biking, hiking and boating, visit authentic markets, try local cuisine etc. We're not looking for nightlife, shopping, just sitting around and relaxing, going to the beach just to sit in the sun, tourist traps etc.


Kathie Dec 27th, 2006 10:27 AM

If it were me (and it's not), I'd spend the time in Hanoi. Hanoi is a charming city with lots to do. It's very easy to get off the tourist track even within Hanoi. You've crammed a lot into your itinerary, and having a longer time in Hanoi would be a nice change from moving around so much. Hanoi has a much more human scale than most large Asian cities.

Also, given your interests, it sounds like Hanoi may match them better than Hoi An.

Mitch04 Dec 27th, 2006 11:14 AM

IMO, both Hoi An and Hanoi are far better than HCMC. Hoi An is gorgeous, and even if you are not a shopper, you will love the architecture in the World Heritage listed old town section. If you like photography, it is an absolute delight - a sort of paradise for getting shots of old doors, windows, shutters etc. I have some shots here:
As against that, Hanoi is far more charming than HCMC. If I returned to Vietnam, I'd probably only transit through HCMC, or spend a single night there.

thursdaysd Dec 27th, 2006 11:36 AM

Another vote for Hanoi. Sorry, but I find Hoi An way too touristy, and likely crowded, to be charming. If you're not a shopper the only good reason to go is to visit the ruins at My Son, and if you do that you really need to visit the Cham Museum ( in Danang as well.

If you're only planning one or two days in Hanoi, I'd definitely add some time there. It doesn't feel like a big city to me. Of course, I stay in budget accommodation in the Old Quarter, which may give me a different perspective.

julies Dec 27th, 2006 12:21 PM

Mitch--We've only got 1 day in HCMC because from my research, I too felt that this would be more than sufficient and because we felt we needed a day in Vietnam to at least start recovering from our long flight. We're spending the rest of our time in the south on a bicycling trip in the Mekong Delta near Cambodia. I do love photography though, and I'm hoping to get my chance to do a lot of it in this area.

I think you are all convincing me that it may be more time in Hanoi. By the way, we aren't 4* and 5* people either. We'll be staying in more moderately priced lodging on the edge of the Old Quarter.

Thanks so much to all of you! I can't wait to go, and I'm really having a difficult time focusing on work when I'd much rather be trip planning!

Mitch04 Dec 28th, 2006 08:55 PM

I'm not 4 or 5 star either *lol*. The most I paid for accommodation in Vietnam and Cambodia was $38US a night :-).

I went as a solo geriatric back packer after my wife had opted for 3 weeks in NYC, Las Vegas and LA instead!!!

In Hanoi I stayed at the WIN, which (apart from a very hard bed) was great at $35 a night. Well located and helpful staff. A 90 second walk to the lake. The breakfast was dreadful, and while it was included, I chose to eat breakfast elsewhere becauwe it only cost about $2-$3 anyway. Downside to the WIN? You need a room on the first or second floor, preferably with a balcony, as there is no elevator.

thursdaysd Dec 29th, 2006 07:14 AM

mitch - looks like the Win has put its prices up. I'm also a (somewhat) geriatric solo backpacker, and I stayed there in 2001 - and climbed all the stairs to the top floor! In 2004 it was fully booked, and I stayed at the Classic Street, which was more comfortable. Although I missed the balcony view from the Win, I found the Old Quarter much noisier in 2004, with lots more motorbikes.

Mitch04 Dec 29th, 2006 03:32 PM

thursdaysd: I arived at the WIN at about 10 pm from Siem Reap, and had to climb almost 80 steps to my room. As I fell onto the bed, I grabbed the phone, rang reception and hissed: "I'm 60. If you want me to die of a heart attack, you'll keep me on this floor. If not, you'll move me to the first floor!"

There was stunned silence from reception, before a voice said: "We will move you to the first floor, but it will cost $35 instead of $30."

I moved (only 22 stairs as opposed to almost 80).

But I imagine the room I went to first is always kept vacant and used on senile old bastards like me so they can move us to a lower floor for an additional $5!

Kathie Dec 29th, 2006 07:57 PM

Mitch - love your story - LOL

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