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Solo Lady in Vietnam for 9 days - Much help needed.

Solo Lady in Vietnam for 9 days - Much help needed.

Old Nov 25th, 2011, 03:42 AM
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Solo Lady in Vietnam for 9 days - Much help needed.

I have literally spent the past three days mostly Reading LowCountryIslander’s wonderfully detailed trip reports and woul like to start by expressing a great thanks for all the time and effort spent on these detailed accounts. However, those who have been interacting either through comments, questions or affirmations have also made my reading most enjoyable and informative. Thank you, catladyva, Roonn, aprillilacs, wky123, danbran-sketch artist, , Kathie, rhkkmk, and quite a few of you I know I missed due to being enthralled by the reading.
I am a woman nearing my 50s traveling alone to Vietnam from December 20th to December 30th . This is my first trip alone but I am both excited and nervous about it so to make sure I don’t chicken out, I went ahead and booked my RT flight arriving in HCMC and departing from Hanoi.
Now I need your expert help filling in the gaps to make the best of the 9 days I have on the ground.
I have narrowed down my stops and based on what appeals to me from what I’ve been reading I have a basic itinerary drafted.
1. Ho Chi Minh City (Don’t want to spend much time but I arrive at 5 PM so I figure 2 nights and 2 days will do).
As I start making my way north. Nha Tragn in December? I would love to enjoy its beauty but not in cold weather so I am thinking of skipping it. Is that a huge mistake?
2. Hoi An I look forward to the serenity and charm I’ve been reading about so I would like to spend good two to three days.
3. Halong Bay – I really want to do the overnight on one of the Junks but same as with Nha Trang..Will it be too cold to enjoy? (I guess you can gather by now that I’m a pretty cold natured person.) If bitter, damp cold is what I can expect at this time, I would rather split the two days and spend more time in Hoi An and Hanoi.
4. Hanoi I want to spend as much time as I can here without sacrificing significant stops along the way.
This post represents what I’m looking for in my hotels. “In HCMC we stayed at Bich Duyen Hotel District 1 approx. $15 to $23 per night depending on size of room and if it had a window, we emailed Chang 8 weeks before we went and paid when we got there. There were lots of little hotels down the lane way so you could probably just turn up and stay at any of these.” This type accommodation would suit me just fine. Sounds basic but clean, safe and quiet enough to get a good night’s sleep. (I won’t be spending much time in my hotel rooms. A clean bed, toilet and decent shower will do).
Day 1 HCMC
Evening: Arrive at HCMC, get picked up at the airport and transported by a hotel in a great location. (Recommendation needed) in the center of town so I can walk a do some exploring and have dinner in a local restaurant nearby.
Day 2: HCMC
Morning: Main post office, Notre Dame Cathedral, Cholon district, Chinatown,
Afternoon: War Remnants Museum, local market.
Evening: Dine (Recommendation needed).
Day 3: HCMC
Morning & Afternoon: Visit Cu Chi tunnels and Cao Dai Temple.
Evening: Move on to next destination perhaps in an overnight train to Hoi An. (Recommendation needed).
Day 4: Hoi An
Morning: Cyclo tour of the city, visit a spa, lunch at Goda restaurant, or other (Recommendation needed)
Afternoon: Some independent exploring. (Recommendation needed).
Evening: Dinner at the Morning Glory Restaurant. Is there a night market in Hoi An?
Night: Stay at- “Thanh Binh Hotel 2. For $25 a night it was beautiful.” Or (Recommendation needed).
Day 5: Hoi An.
Morning: I would like to attend a cooking class that takes you through the market shopping for the ingredients before the cooking lesson. (Recommendation needed)
Afternoon: Go on the cruise of the Thun Bo River and visit the local village to see wood carvers, and some other local artisans.
Evening: Fly to Halong Bay? Is this possible in the evening or is it strictly a morning departure requiring that I fly to Hanoi and make the Halong Bay trip in the morning?
Days 6 & 7: Halong Bay (Recommendation needed).
In Hanoi I want to stay at the Old Quarter Old Eat at: Bun Cha Dac Kim, Bun Bo Nam Bo, Green Tangerine restaurant, and any other places you can recommend. (I’m afraid I will spend most of my time eating
Morning and afternoon: Contact Hidden Hanoi for cooking classes, I also read that they have a variety of tours: market tours. The Street Food walking tour sounds interesting as well. Can any of you share information about experiences with them?
Evening: walk through the Hang Be Night Market.
Day 9: Hanoi,
Morning: Contact Hanoi Kids to see; Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh Museum, Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh Stilt House, One Pillar Pagoda.
Afternoon: Lunch at Quan An Ngon. Hanoi - Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton. Ethnology museum which has a free water puppet show.
Evening: Stay at hotel near the airport. (Recommendation needed)
Day 10: Depart for Tokyo
I really look forward to your opinions and guidance.
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Old Nov 25th, 2011, 05:26 AM
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Unless you're really into beaches there's no reson to go to Nha Trang. Even back in 2002 it was pretty touristy.

Not sure what gave you the idea that Hoi An is serene. It's a touristy shopping op, although the buildings are nice. If you are there you shouldn't miss My Son. I also really like the Cham Museum in Danang, which is the town the trains stop in. If you want serene you should consider Hue.

It's very possible it will be cold and wet in Hanoi. It's also possible the weather will be fine. You could wait until you get there and decide about Halong Bay then, although this trip is short enough you really need the time for Hanoi.

For hotels I suggest you take a look at Lonely Planet. I am a solo woman traveler and Vietnam is very easy and safe. For my 2002 TR see http://wilhelmswords.com/asia2002/index.html
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Old Nov 25th, 2011, 01:29 PM
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Just a couple notes:
Day 2 HCMC: To avoid excess travel, you could rearrange the day. Main post office, Notre Dame Cathedral, and War Remnants Museum are fairly close together. Ben Thanh Market is also near. Cholon/Chinatown is quite a ways away(to the southwest), but also has a large market.

Your last day you mention staying at a hotel near the airport in Hanoi. Why uproot yourself to an unfamiliar location for the last evening? Just let your hotel staff know what time your flight departs, they should make sure you get there.

In our 3 weeks in Vietnam we found all of the hotels were very helpful about getting us to the trains/airports on time. Maybe it is because we were staying in small hotels (more personalized service). In Hanoi we expressed some nervousness about getting to the train on time; so the hotel sent the desk clerk and bellman with us. She even got on the train and took us to the correct cabin.

Have a great trip!
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Old Nov 25th, 2011, 09:29 PM
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I missed that part - there didn't seem to be any decent hotels near Hanoi Airport - stay put and just get up a little earlier.
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Old Nov 26th, 2011, 07:56 PM
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thursdaysd,
I am no extremely focused on beaches, so I will just skip Nha Trang because my time is limited and I’m not looking for a touristy beach either.
Thanks for the clarification on Hoi An not being serene. I read a report which said both Hoi An and Hue were serene. I will look into My Son and the Cham Museum. I hope the weather holds up for me in Hanoi. I’m trying to escape the extreme cold that will set into Japan where I currently live. Initially I had my heart set on Thailand but the flooding diverted my plans and Vietnam was on my list so I’m going there first and maybe Thailand next time I have a school break. Probably summer. Taking Nha Trang completely out of my itinerary and knowing that Hoi An is not what I was expecting will open up time for Halong Bay if the weather is nice. Thanks for the suggestions and the link to your trip report. I am finding it very useful as I continue to fine tune my itinerary planning. Now I am thinking that I may want to go from HCMC straight to Hoi An but Vietnam Air only shows flights to Hue which would mean I’d have to backtrack to Hoi An before continuing north but since flying will save lots of time I may consider doing just that.
Thank you so much!
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Old Nov 26th, 2011, 08:06 PM
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Danmango
Your suggestion on rearranging Day 2 In HCMC is exactly what I was hoping for! Thank you for letting me know the proximity of the sites and how best to group them. I also appreciate and will certainly follow your advice on staying put on my last evening. My flight is not until 11:30 so I do have plenty of time but felt nervous about not being close enough, traffic, etc. But I will seek the hotel staff help. Do you have any hotel suggestions for my different stops? HCMC, Hoi An, Possibly Hue, Hanoi and any Junk recommendation in case I get to go to Halong Bay?
Thank you for your very helpful feedback!
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Old Nov 26th, 2011, 08:15 PM
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sf7307,
I’m not surprised you missed it. My post was long very long because I had so many questions but you and Danmango have convinced me that it’s not necessary to make that last minute move. Do you have any hotels between budget and mid-range you would recommend? I am mostly looking for places with nice common areas where I can meet other travelers and learn travel tips and information.
Thank you for taking the time to read my request for help.
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Old Nov 26th, 2011, 11:44 PM
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We have stayed at the Bich Duyen and it is fine. It is down a narrow lane that cars can not go down and it is a little offputting a first but we found it perfectly safe. We had the manager Chanh arrange for us to be picked up at the airport and driven there which saved any hassels. The included breakfast is simple but nice.

Nha Trang can be passed by if you have limited time. Hoi An is nice and does have nice buildings but there is a lot of clothing shops inside the old buildings. Worth a stop for a short time. As said above Hue does have some nic palaces to explore.
Halong Bay is not to be missed but I am not sure of the weather at that time of year. You need to book early to get on a good boat even though there are at least a zillion boats. We had trouble getting on one but Mrs Ha at Vietland Travel got us on an excellent one at a price better than we could buy on the net. She also got us a couple of other good deals
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Old Nov 27th, 2011, 04:34 AM
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Chapincita -- Hoi An is a busy commercial town (lots of clothing stores) that's full of tourists during the day. However, we did experience serene moments there: walking among the carless streets at night, with the lights shining from across the river and people enjoying open-air restaurants; visiting the vegetable farm on the outskirts of town, learning the local techniques for growing beautiful crops; taking a boat down the river, watching men and women netting fish; visiting My Son, about an hour's drive out of town, and seeing the Cham ruins in the light rain. Our hotel, the Hoian Hotel, was a very nice, historic hotel on the edge of the old town--highly recommended, though it may be above your preferred price range.

Combining a visit to Hue and Hoi An makes sense--3 nights in the area would be good. In Hue we stayed at the Romance Hotel. Very nice.

We loved Halong Bay and would have happily done a 2-night trip on the water (we only did an overnight). I can recommend the Dragon Pearl boats--lovely trip, great service, and a wonderful opportunity to meet people from around the world. We were on Dragon Pearl 1. We had beautiful sunny weather and a full moon, ideal conditions. The traffic on the trip from Hanoi to Halong (3 hours each way) is harrowing, but the time on the bay is definitely worth it.

Hotel recs for HCMC and Hanoi: we enjoyed the Sanouva in HCMC (excellent location, walking distance to most of the sights you want to visit as well as several good restaurants), and the Imperial Hotel in Hanoi (Old District, a couple of blocks from the lake, modern, friendly).

If you can afford it, I recommend flying from HCMC to Hue, and from Hue to Hanoi. That will allow you to maximize your time in the locations you want to see. Have fun!
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Old Nov 27th, 2011, 04:56 AM
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I, on the other hand, would recommend taking the train for at least one leg, both for the experience, for the possibility of meeting locals not involved in the tourist industry, and for the scenery. (And for the smaller carbon footprint, of course.) The best scenery is probably in the south, although it's a longer ride. See seat61.com for details.
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Old Nov 28th, 2011, 03:58 AM
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Thank you so much gmoz, the Bich Duyen is in HCMC. Right? Nha Trang is out for me this time but keeping my fingers crossed for Halong Bay. I have made a note of Vietland Travel and will be seeking Mrs. Ha when I arrive to Hanoi. Thanks for the lead.
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Old Nov 28th, 2011, 04:10 AM
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aprillilacs, Thank you for the hotel leads and the suggestion to fly to maximize my time. I will give it some more consideration. I wanted to do that initially but thought that having to backtrack for Hoi An would defeat the purpose so I thought the overnight soft bert train to Danang and then get a taxi to Hoi An. I am really hoping to have good weather and be able to visit Halong Bay.
Thank you so much!
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Old Nov 28th, 2011, 04:23 AM
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thursdaysd. Your suggestion is right along the lines of what I was thinking. I thought of taking the overnight train from HCMC to Danang and then a taxi to Hoi An to prevent back tracking from Hue. Still not sure of what's the best thing to do. If I had more time there would be no question in my mind about taking the train. I really want to see the scenery. Thanks for responding.
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Old Nov 28th, 2011, 09:30 AM
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We thought hoi an was magical. You can easily see it in one day, although we wandered around for three days. It was a toss up deciding whether we likes hue or hoi an better. In hue, spend several hours at the forbidden city and then hire a taxi to take you to see the pagoda and several of the royal tombs. You can fly from hue to Hanoi.

We spent two nights on Halong bay, but don't think we would have missed out had we only spent one night there. The drive back and forth is quite boring. With the limited time you have, I would probably skip Halong as you will waste 1/2 day traveling in each direction. Hanoi is a fabulous city to wander around and you can easily spend three or more days there.

If you would like to click on my name, you will find a detailed trip report fromy 3 1/2 week trip.
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Old Nov 28th, 2011, 09:01 PM
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If you want to fly to Hoi An, you'll fly to Da Nang, not Hue. 45 minute flight, then a 45 minute car ride. Be prepared for wet weather as December is one of the wetter months in Hoi An.

So many good places to eat in Saigon. Check out www.wordhcmc.com for a lot of good information on Saigon.
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 12:17 AM
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dgunbug, I clicked on your name and found so much that I got a Little distracted. .
My destination for the trip was initially Thailand and I changed it because of the flooding, so when I saw information about it I took a little detour from Vietnam. I found your suggestion for Tour with Tong and I followed into their web page. Do you know of any similar operation in Vietnam? Their stated philosophy struck a chord with me and I will definitely use them when I do get to Thailand.
Now for your suggestions for Vietnam, I may be making a big mistake because it sounds like a must do, but from the descriptions I’ve been reading, I think I will pass on Hué. The main reason being time, but in addition to that, I currently live in Japan (1 year), I spent last the Thanksgiving break last year in Beijing, part of the summer touring Japan and the other time doing the Golden Triangle in India. Right now temples, tombs and Forbidden Cities don’t have a great appeal because I have seen so many in the past year alone. I know the temples are very different, but I have not even scratched the surface here in Japan where there seems to be one in the least expected little alleys.
People, culture, history and street food are what I’m thirsty for on this trip. The idea of spending the day walking about, people-watching and tasting the local flavors is quite appealing at the moment. I’m not a huge shopper, but love to wander through markets and quaint little shops, so Saigon, Hoi An and Hanoi seem to be calling my name. I’ll have to play wait and see with Halong Bay which I would love to experience if the weather is good.
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 12:33 AM
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Bisbeee, Flying to Hoi An is under consideration but I would much rather take the overnight train. Thanks for the www.wordhcmc.com link! I have bookmarked the site and will use it to stay informed.
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 11:54 AM
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Chapincita if you are palnning to wait and see about Halong Bay make sure yu have a plan B. The best tours and the most cost effective tours tend to book out weeks ahead.
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Old Dec 1st, 2011, 12:51 AM
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gmoz, I'm sure you are right. I will work on solidifying a plan "B" of things to do in Hanoi. Thank you for mentioning it and sparing me the disapointment of not being able to find a tour at the last minute. I'll still try but won't count on it.
On a differnt note. Do I need a current adaper for my electronics? Japan uses pretty much the same as US except for the polarized larger opening, fewer three prong outlets and the voltage is lower but works fine.
Thanks!
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Old Dec 1st, 2011, 01:37 AM
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The voltage in Vietnam is 220v which is not the same as USA. So check if the electronics can adapt to the different voltage.
As for the plugs I carry one of those cheap power boards that give you 4 of your own plug outlets. Then you only need one plug adaptor for the wall and you have 4 of your own plug sized outlets. **Remember the power board does not change the voltage so check the electonics can adapt to the voltage**
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