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Third trip to Asia, first with boyfriend instead of daughter; Vietnam

Third trip to Asia, first with boyfriend instead of daughter; Vietnam

Old Jan 12th, 2014, 05:43 PM
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Third trip to Asia, first with boyfriend instead of daughter; Vietnam

After scrapping the idea of a trip to Argentina because I'm not physically up to the hiking I wanted to do (back/hip problems), I've now got my heart set on Vietnam. This will be my third time to Asia - some of you may remember my trip with daughter Julie back in 2006 to Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia - but the first Asian trip with my boyfriend of 2 years, Tom.

Here's the rough itinerary we're considering:

Hanoi - 3 nights
Mai Chau - 2 days, 1 night
Back to Hanoi for 1 night
Leave for Halong Bay, overnight
Back to Hanoi and overnight
Fly to Hue - 3 nights
Hoi An - 3 nights
Ho Chi Minh City - 2 nights

We're debating whether to take a group tour (G Adventures) that does this exact itinerary, just slightly more rushed, or doing it independently - with help from an agency like Tonkin.

I originally wanted to go to Sapa, but I'm not up for much hiking, and the night trains aren't appealing because of my back; after much research, Mai Chau seems to fit the bill for us.

Would very much welcome any thoughts on the itinerary, which i know is very standard, or suggestions to help with the planning. The trip reports I've read here have been very helpful.

Ho Chi Minh City doesn't appeal to me much, and I'm not interested in the tunnels or Mekong Delta. Did floating markets in Thailand and a river trip in Luang Prabang. Am I short-changin the area?

Thanks,
Karen
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Old Jan 12th, 2014, 06:05 PM
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Hi Karen, I think your itinerary is reasonable. But no reason to go to places that don't interest you. So no reason to go to HCMC if you don't want to.

Your time in Hanoi is pretty broken up. Is there a way to consolidate that time?

You know me, I'd always recommend an independent trip over a group tour, but do what YOU want.

BTW, I'm in the process of planning a November trip to Machu Picchu and have been thinking of you.
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Old Jan 12th, 2014, 06:36 PM
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I finally made it to Vietnam after a number of trips to Asia and I also decided to not go to HCMC. I wanted to concentrate on Hanoi and was very glad I did. I, too, suggest you try to spend more time there.

I think 2 nights each in Hue and Hoi An would be enough and would give you 2 more nights you could be in Hanoi. I was sorely disappointed in the experience that's offered in Halong Bay, even on the better boat I chose. Unless you cannot imagine abandoning it you could also add that night to Hanoi. Also, if you have back difficulties the bus trip to Halong Bay & back to Hanoi is a killer.
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Old Jan 12th, 2014, 08:13 PM
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I didn't think I would like Saigon and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Saigon was the last stop on our 9 week trip and it seemed so different at that point. I think it seemed more cosmopolitan and I enjoyed that. Didn't love the Mekong Delta and certainly skip them esp since you saw the floating markets in thailand.

Because of my concern about the bus trip to HB, I went with a driver, so you may want to consider that if you are concerned about the bus trip.

Mai Chau is lovely and a nice choice. Maybe you could spend three nights in Hanoi and then the one night in HB. Come back for one night to Hanoi and then go to Mai Chau. Instead of spending another night in Hanoi, perhaps you could fly directly to Hoi An or Hue. Or you could do the same thing reversing the order and going directly from HB to the airport and fly onward. You could add the extra night upfront to Hanoi.

I answered your question about the tour on my TR.
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Old Jan 12th, 2014, 09:14 PM
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I would cut back on Hoi An, but not necessarily Hue, and add the time to Hanoi. I certainly prefer Hanoi to Saigon, but I don't think you should skip it altogether.

Vietnam is a very easy country for travel, I don't see any need for a tour.

(Kathie - just Peru? I'm thinking of heading that way this year, but more than one country.)
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Old Jan 12th, 2014, 11:32 PM
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I think you have a pretty good itinerary.

Hanoi is a fascinating city. We have spent a fair amount of time there and never seem to run out of things to see or do. The food scene there is amazing, particularly the street food.

Mai Chau is on on e my favourite places in Vietnam and easily accessed fro Hanoi . Some photos from our time there http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blo...8042/tpod.html as you have back problems, I would go for the hotel rather than a homestay as the "beds" are just mattresses on the floor and not the most comfortable (although staying with a family was a wonderful experience)

Personally I did not find HB to be worth the effort, although it is a UNESCo WHS. Maybe it's just me!

Hue and Hoi an are close together so it makes sense to see the both of them. However, I much preferred Hue as I found. Hoi. An, quaint and picturesque though it undoubtedly is, had way too many tourists for me. One day would be enough unless you want some beach time.

People seem to love or hate Saigon. I love it and find it to be one of the most vibrant cities in Asia with a fascinating, if tragic history. Two full days would be good to see the main sights in district one and Cholon.
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Old Jan 13th, 2014, 06:47 AM
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"Personally I did not find HB to be worth the effort, although it is a UNESCo WHS. Maybe it's just me! "

No, not just you, crellston. Ever since I saw 'Indochine' I'd been longing to see the place. But with so many boats jockeying for space among the rocks there's nothing left of the solitude that must have been an aspect of what made it a beautiful experience. Very sad. That, and the very long and tortuous bus rides to and from.

There must be a way, given time and will, to go to the areas away from the crowds, stay overnight on land before and afterward and hire a boat to go where the mob is not. I'm sure that would be much better, but likely more expensive, too.
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Old Jan 13th, 2014, 07:15 AM
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Hi Karen,

I think it is better to replace Mai Chau with Sapa as Sapa is better than Mai Chau, both on the traditional values and the spectacular landscapes it has to offer.

Base on your rough schedule, I would recommend an itinerary as below:

Hanoi - 3 nights
Sapa - 3 days, 2 night
Back to Hanoi then drive to Halong Bay
Halong Bay 3 days, 2 nights
Back to Hanoi and then Fly to Hue - 2 nights
Hoi An - 3 nights
Ho Chi Minh City - 2 nights

Hope this helps !

Thar Aye
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Old Jan 13th, 2014, 07:18 AM
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we have liked VN on our 2 trips.. hanoi is a fab town/city.. stay in a 3* in the old city.. we did like HCMC for maybe for 2 days on the ground..

i did not find halong really held any interest for me..

do it all on your own and have ---- agency in hanoi help you... i will look up the agency name.

bob
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Old Jan 13th, 2014, 07:31 AM
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It is Tonkin travel
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Old Jan 13th, 2014, 07:39 AM
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Sounds like a reasonable itinerary to me, except that I agree that you should try consolidating the time in Hanoi and you should try going directly to the airport from halong bay. The drive to and from halong bay seemed endless to us, but the pictures we got are wonderful and it would probably be a shame to miss the experience. Be sure to book a boat that has air conditioning in the restaurant and interior areas. It was very hot when we were there. Saigon was not my favorite city although, again, two days there is reasonable. As you will have seen floating villages in Halong bay and have seen floating markets previously, I don't think you will be short changing yourself by missing the delta. The tunnels are much the way you might imagine them, so I don't see that as a must see, especially if you don't plan to crawl through them. The cai dai temples were very interesting and something you might consider going to see. There is no reason to go on a tour. Vietnam is easy to do on your own and Tonkin can help if you want assistance. We loved the food in Vietnam and wandering around. So glad to hear you are still with tom and that you will get to share this experience with him. If you want, I believe I still have my notes from Vietnam and I would be happy to share them with you if you send me an email. Check out my profile.
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Old Jan 13th, 2014, 10:16 AM
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When we went to HB, there were maybe 2 other boats in the area. I think you should pick a boat that doesn't go on the main route.
Sapa & Mai Chau are quite different, but equally nice. Mai Chau is much easier to get to.
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Old Jan 13th, 2014, 03:19 PM
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Wow, as usual, some great ideas here!

Crellston - yes, i had read of your experiences in Mai Chau and that was a major factor in selecting it. Although I recognized Sapa may have more spectacular scenery, I don't think my back will tolerate the two overnight train rides, to say nothing of the trekking that I'd long to do but wouldn't be able to.

Tom really wants to see Halong Bay - he loves the outdoors/nature/scenery - so I don't want to cut it. I do like the idea of trying to go directly to the airport on the way back, which would mean we could add a night to Hanoi earlier so it wouldn't be so broken up.

I could also cut a night from Hoi An, but even though it's touristy it really appeals to me. I'm a sucker for "cute" - which I think it is. And yes, that's probably where we'd insert a beach day, another activity high on Tom's list.

Kathie - i don't remember if you saw my Peru trip report, but here it is. We loved Peru!

http://www.fodors.com/community/sout...es-in-peru.cfm

dgunbug - will send you an email off-line about your trip. Yes, I'm still with Tom (we're not yet engaged/married, but it's permanent). We're so happy!

Suggestions for a good boat for HB?

And thanks, everyone. Will keep you posted!

Karen
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Old Jan 13th, 2014, 03:58 PM
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We were on one of the Indochina Junks - Dragon Pearl which had about 20 people on it. Lots of fun. The Indochina Junks also have some boats that have less people on them.

I liked Hue, be sure to check out Hue Riders for sightseeing. But I also think HoiAn is a great place to kick back and just wander about. Also great food in HoiAn. The drive between the two towns was quite nice.

If you are concerned about your back, you are wise to skip the overnight train to and from Sapa.
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Old Jan 13th, 2014, 04:25 PM
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Hi Karen, I did read your report after you went to Peru and re-read it all yesterday as I am planning my trip. Great report!
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Old Jan 13th, 2014, 04:47 PM
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YT - we're definitely planning on a day with Hue Riders - i checked out their website after reading your report. Tom loved that idea.

Kathie - glad my Peru report helped.
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Old Jan 13th, 2014, 06:45 PM
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Hi Karen,

Wish you an interesting trip to Vietnam.

Cheers!

Thar Aye
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Old Jan 13th, 2014, 06:47 PM
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I would recommend Calypso Junk which from Oriental Cruise. The junk cost the normal price but offers the quality equivalent to the 4 star standard.

Hope this helps!

Thar Aye
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