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molly2004 Sep 23rd, 2010 08:16 AM

To stopover or not? Where?
We're (DH, me, DS 8, DS8 and MIL) planning a trip to Vietnam next summer. Because we are traveling on Star Alliance FF miles, we want to be sure to book something relatively soon so that we can get the best choice. My DH and I have been debating whether to do a stopover and where.

We have 18-21 days for the whole vacation, inclusive of travel time. Should we squeeze VN into 14 days and have 4 days for a stopover? Or should we skip it all together and spend the full time in VN?

Stopover choices on Star Alliance will likely be Frankfurt, Zurich, BKK, HKG, NRT, SIN. DH doesn't want a huge metropolis. NRT is out b/c it will completely break our budget. Not too sure about the others. A reasonable stopover budget for us would be $300 for two hotel rooms, $100-125/day for food for all five of us. We'd rely heavily on public transportation, except maybe the trip to/from hotel and airpot. We're flexible on attraction fees since we'd rather spend the money to really see a place.

Can you help?

Kathie Sep 23rd, 2010 08:38 AM

Of the places you mention, Bangkok will be the least expensive. (You think Narita would be expensive, think about Zurich!) Four days in Bangkok would be a good introduction. Bangkok has wonderful attractions, good public transport (stay somehwere close to the Skytrain) fabulous food and incredible shopping.

All of the places you list, are, of course, huge cities.

someotherguy Sep 23rd, 2010 09:03 AM

Summer is not the best time to visit Vietnam (or anywhere in SE Asia). It will be distressingly hot and humid.

Personally, I'd spend the whole time in Vietnam. If you look at the Vietnam itineraries people post here, you'll see they almost always come to realize they cannot do all they want in the time available. With 18-21 days you could do it.

A good plan is to fly into Saigon (e.g., via Hong Kong on United) and out of Hanoi (e.g., via Bangkok on Thai) or vice versa (the best direction depends on the time of year as N, S, and central Vietnam are in different climate zones). Internal flights on Vietnam airlines are cheap and convenient.

Craig Sep 23rd, 2010 09:37 AM

I would be fine with spending all of the time in Vietnam. However, Bangkok would be a great stopover. You should also look at flights into Hanoi or Saigon (HCMC) on Asiana via Seoul (not recommending a stopover there). I will be interested to hear if you can actually score ff seats for 5 people.

someotherguy Sep 23rd, 2010 09:47 AM

BTW. I don't know about other FF programs, but when using United miles on Star Alliance, you can do open jaw OR a stopover, but not both.

molly2004 Sep 23rd, 2010 11:07 AM

Thanks for your suggestions. I'm really torn. So if we do a stopover, sounds like BKK is the clear winner, especially since it's the cheapest. I might even be able to score a timeshare trade so I don't have to book hotels. I've sketched out a rough itinerary and seems that we can see what we want to see in VN in 15 days at a reasonably leisurely pace. So a stopover there just might work.

Kathie, I know they're all big cities. Had to explain it to DH that big cities are where the international airports are! Well, he'll just have to bend a little. Or I'll just send him home early. :-)

Someotherguy, luckily, I'll be accessing the FF program via Continental which allows one stopover AND an open jaw. Unluckily, I can only go during the summer. That's the only time we can take three weeks off for travel due to school and work.

Fingers crossed that we can figure this out while I can still book something.

Thanks for your help!

BillT Sep 23rd, 2010 03:21 PM

molly2004 - you say you will be using Continental- but Continental does not fly to BKK or Vietnam so I'm guessing you will be using United or some other Star Alliance member?

Kathie Sep 23rd, 2010 05:55 PM

molly, be cautious about timeshare trades in Bangkok. The people who have posted here about the options in Bangkok have had options I wouldn't recommend anyone take. Hotels in Bangkok are quite moderately priced, especially in the summer. I often tell people they can live in the lap of luxury in Bangkok for the price of a Holiday Inn in the US.

marmot Sep 23rd, 2010 06:33 PM

Bangkok is a good choice in combination with Vietnam, but there's no getting around that it's a "huge metropolis."

I'd also consider Singapore which although also urban is fairly low maintenance -- easy to get around, good cheap food, reasonable accommodations, lots of attractions for kids.

Alternately, if you don't mind some added air time you could fly from Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong to a beach destination, like one of Thailand's beaches or even Bali.

Vietnam is interesting, but it's demanding on the traveler so some chill time might be a good end to your trip.

DonTopaz Sep 23rd, 2010 07:30 PM

I don't know Continental's rule, but many airlines that I do know about (American, Lufthansa, BA, and United if they haven't changed rules) do not allow you to route to Asia via Europe unless you fork over significantly more miles (compared to a trans-Pacific routing).

rhkkmk Sep 23rd, 2010 08:31 PM

i agree about using bkk, but there are nice beach areas in VN where you might like to stay a few days...

a serviced apartment in bkk would be my choice for you: centre point silom would be good because it is right next to the skytrain...

i find taxis are often cheaper than public transport especially when there are 5 of you

Kathie Sep 23rd, 2010 08:40 PM

But you won't find a taxi for 5 - you'll need two of them.

Bisbeee Sep 23rd, 2010 10:50 PM

It's always hot and humid in South Vietnam, regardless of the time of year. Don't let that deter you.

If I was flying all the way to Vietnam and had 4 extra days, I spend them in Siem Reap and visit Angkor Wat.

dgunbug Sep 24th, 2010 05:00 AM

I agree with spending the 4 extra days in Bangkok and the Centerpoint Silom is a perfect place. It is a serviced apartment with a kitchen and washer & dryer. The price is good, the rooms lovely and it is located a block from the sky train and river, making transportation a cinch.

Remember that it will be extremely hot in VN and Bangkok and you will need to rest during the day time to avoid the sun. It's impossible to see everything. Bangkok is a fabulous city with tons to see and do. Siem Reap would be another great spot, but it would likely be more expensive and difficult to get there.

krgystn Sep 24th, 2010 10:47 AM

I vote for HK as a stopover on the way to SGN as it would be a nice contrast with Vietnam, and also it is closer (assuming you are coming from the state) and you may be able to get a non-stop.

As far as relaxing spots, there are plenty of those in VN.

sf7307 Sep 24th, 2010 11:47 AM

We're doing HK on the way back from VN-Siem Reap trip early next year. It's someplace we've never been, and the connections (using miles) were relatively easy (flying out SFO-Seattle-Seoul-Hanoi; Hong Kong-Tokyo-SFO return).

krgystn Sep 24th, 2010 11:52 AM

sf, you will love it!

Kathie Sep 24th, 2010 12:28 PM

Hong Kong is a wonderful city. But the OP would have difficulty finding hotel rooms in their price range (two rooms for US$300).

sf7307 Sep 24th, 2010 01:57 PM

Actually, they could stay at the Salisbury YMCA, which is highly recommended, for about that price.

Kathie Sep 24th, 2010 02:04 PM

That was the one place I thought of, but a friend recently told me of paying over $200 a night there... though now that I think of it, it was likely a harbor view room. Still, Hong Kong is an expensive city.

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