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Suggestions for time for Vietnam itinerary, please

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Sep 3rd, 2014, 02:50 PM
  #1
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Join Date: Mar 2005
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Suggestions for time for Vietnam itinerary, please

Hi SEA experts,

DH and I, newly retired, will be taking a Viking river cruise in Burma, beginning Dec. 17 in BKK.

We've decided to spend some time in north and central VN before the river cruise. (We have been to HCMC.) I know where we want to go, but am at a loss as to what would be a reasonable amount of time to spend in each place. We are not overly constrained with time limitations.

My early thoughts:
--Fly into Hanoi, spend 4 nights there. See museums, Old Quarter, Temple of Literature
--Fly to Hue, 4 nights - citadel, tombs, day trip to DMZ for DH.
--car & driver to Hoi An, 3 nights - old quarter architecture, temples
--car & driver to Danang , 2 nights - Cham ruins.
--fly Danang to Hanoi, Hanoi to BKK.

I know we are skipping some wonderful places (Ha Long Bay, Sapa, etc.), but weather may be an issue in Dec.

What do you think about the time I've allocated? Any other sights not to be missed?

I'm thinking of contacting Tonkin Tours to arrange the transportation. Any experience using them? I have seen them mentioned favorably on this forum.

Can I apply for our visas before I know our exact arrival date in VN?

Any comments or suggestions will be much appreciated.

--Kathy
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Sep 3rd, 2014, 08:39 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2004
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This looks a pretty good plan to me.

But what are the Cham ruins you want to visit around Da Nang? The My Son ruins (not that interesting in my opinion--too much war damage) are an easy day trip from Hoi An. The Cham museum in Da Nang (good) is easily included in your journey between Hue and Hoi An (btw. go over the Hai Van pass, not through the tunnel: if the weather is good there are great views and in any case there are interesting military sights). The better Cham sites, in my opinion are Po Klong Garai near Phan Rang, and Po Ngar in Nha Trang.

If you can save a day or two by abbreviating the Da Nang excursion, I'd strongly recommend an overnight on Ha Long bay (or, better, the more remote place that Indochina Junks go to). It really is good.

I've used Tonkin--to arrange cars, and the Halong Bay excursion--and was very satisfied.
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Sep 3rd, 2014, 08:53 PM
  #3
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Thanks, someotherguy. I erred in listing the Cham ruins as being in Da Nang, I had My Son in mind.

I'll think about Ha Long bay - I've read many reports that say it is a wonderful excursion. DH is not too enthused, though.
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Sep 3rd, 2014, 11:26 PM
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Looks like a reasonable plan.

4 days is a good amount of time for Hanoi so I wouldn't add Halong Bay. If you did want a change of pace and beautiful scenery then a trip to Mai Chau valley would be a great alternative. Closer than Halong, I suppose a day trip is possible but an overnight stay would be better.

4 nights in Hue is a little too long I feel and I would cut out Da Nang completely. You would need to fly into Da Nang for hue/ Hoi An but just get a taxi over the Hai Van pass as suggested by someotherguy or, the train ride is even more spectacular if the timing works for you - http://www.seat61.com/Vietnam.htm#.VAgDVWK9KSM

We are visiting north Vietnam for the whole of December and will be heading up to Sapa and further north for part of that time. It will be cold but should be clear so I would not let the weather put you off visiting Sapa. It has some amazing scenery and ethic minority markets, villages etc. That you won't see elsewhere. If you lose 2/3 days from locations elsewhere, you should be able to include Sapa.

You can apply for your visas at home but that would involve sending off your passports. The more straightforward way is to apply online for a Visa Approval Letter and then pick up your visa at Hanoi airport on arrival. I have just done this and it was a painless process which took just 48 hours. I used http://www.instantvietnamvisa.com but there are lots of agencies offering the service
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Sep 4th, 2014, 07:13 PM
  #5
 
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I agree with crellston - four days is too much for hue. We saw the main sites in 1 1/2 days, although I could have spent additional time seeing more of the imperial tombs. We did not take the trip to the dmz. We found the sites in hue fascinating and the atmosphere in hoi an delightful and picturesque. We chose to skip danang and the museum there.

If weather permits, you should try to add time for sapa. It was one of the highlights of our trip. Alternatively, I like crellston's suggestion to spend time in the Mai chau valley which we regret missing.
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Sep 5th, 2014, 02:42 PM
  #6
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crellston and dgunbug, thanks for your comments. Looks like I need to rethink time in Hue. And I'll look up the Mai chau valley - haven't read anything about it, yet.
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Sep 6th, 2014, 12:39 AM
  #7
 
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PA-Kathy,

I didn't write anything about Mai Chau on our blog but i did post a few photo there
http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blo...ai/3/tpod.html

Mai Chau is a beautiful location, all misty valleys and rice paddies. There is now a lodge there which is quite plush http://www.maichaulodge.com but we stayed in a home stay. Basic but clean. Usually shared bathrooms (but a small price to pay!) the food is home cooked and excellent. Beds ( a mattress on the floor) were quite hard.

The usual activities involve cycling or walking to other villages in the valley. We met some of the most hospitable people in Vietnam here, they were really friendly and when we arrived the local cadre were hosting a group of political science students from Hanoi Uni. The head of the village invited us to the party that night - lots of singing and dancing. all in all a great experience.
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Sep 6th, 2014, 10:31 AM
  #8
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crellston,

Nice photos! Looks like a beautiful area. Thanks for the recommendation.
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Sep 6th, 2014, 01:12 PM
  #9
 
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We got a "loose-leaf" visa for Vietnam that didn't require mailing in passports.

From http://vietnamconsulate-ny.org/news/...-application-0

If you can not send the original passport, a loose-leaf visa can be requested. 01 clear color copy of the passport’s personal detail page is submitted with a seperate passport-sized picture. The loose-leaf visa then needed to be stapled to the passport.
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