Ten days in Northern Vietnam

Nov 2nd, 2017, 02:48 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,175
Ten days in Northern Vietnam

We (traveling with my sister, both 60+ and currently from NC where we are use to heat and humidity) are midway through our trip to SE Asia. Wanted to post on the Vietnam portion mostly to thank the Crellstons for serving as our Fodor’s “friends”, guides and consultants.

Vietnam was a last minute replacement for Myanmar after we decided to cancel that leg of the trip. By that time, trip planning fatigue set in so I came to Fodor’s for advice. Crellston and others chimed in and suggested Vietnam. It was an excellent suggestion. We decided on Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Tam Coc and Mai Chau. It just so happened that the Crellstons were in Hanoi the same time as us and we planned a Fodor’s GTG. Very appreciative of that as Hanoi was chaotic and insane drivers caused much angst. Carolyn and Clive got us on the right track. We ended up meeting twice for Pho at two of their favorite places, drinks afterwards and walks around the lake. We even managed to find an excellent local IPA that has yet to be matched. They suggested an electric cart around old town for day 1 and a private driver for day 2 to see the local sites. Again excellent suggestions since we were afraid to cross Hanoi streets. ��The 2 stand out places for me were the women’s museum for all the textiles and ethnic clothing and the Hanoi Hilton/Hanoi jail which was quite sobering. We stayed at the Hotel Marvellous which truly lives up to their name.

From Hanoi, we did the one night cruise in Ha long Bay with Indochine Junk. They provided a luxury van with WiFi for the 3 hour drive. The scenery in the bay was stunning. The food was very good. The rooms were okay. Something seemed off, I think it may have been that others kept to themselves and were not very friendly. Since I enjoy meeting people from all over while traveling, this was a disappointment. I wondered ahead of time if we should do 1 or 2 nights. One night was sufficient. Tours from the boat included kayaking, going to a cave, an ancient fishing village and a pearl farm. The times for these were set and not flexible. The tours required boat to boat transfers which were awkward and made me feel my age, but people were there to help.

From there we had a private driver take us to Tam Coc garden in Minh Binh. That was a perfect stay. Only wish we had more than 1 night. Everything about it was excellent-the service, the room, the scenery, the food, the wine. It’s been my favorite stay so far.

From there, the same driver took us to Mai Chau. A 3-hour drive turned into 6-hours after we met with several road blocks. Our driver didn’t speak English, so all we knew was that the “road was broken”. We traveled on one lane, bumpy, dirt roads only to have to turn around and find another option. Driver would stop and ask for help and I would see people pointing in opposite directions. He could see our anxiety and several times called main office and handed us the phone. I was told the driver would find us a way out; I was hoping he would take us back to Tam Coc. Eventually got on the paved road. Very mountainous and scenery was amazing. Roads were curvy with lots of cars passing in impassable lanes. Portion of road looked like it had been washed out. We eventually made it to the Mai Chau Eco Lodge for 3 nights. Compared to other places we stayed during this trip, the hotel, food and service were okay. Hotel sits in a valley surrounded by rice fields and mountains. Setting is beautiful. We got to see rice being harvested. After harvesting, they burn the stalks which caused the valley to be very hazy. Hotel offers trekking and biking. We walked around to the 3 local villages while shopping in all of them.

The lodge arranged for a shuttle back to Hanoi for a night before returning to Thailand. Signing off now from Chiang Mai to get to my 2 hour message and attend the lantern festival.
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