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Uodated and Hopefully Final itinerary- Would love Feedback!!

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Uodated and Hopefully Final itinerary- Would love Feedback!!

Old Aug 30th, 2016, 07:40 AM
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Uodated and Hopefully Final itinerary- Would love Feedback!!

Thanks to all of you on Fodor's, I think I have fine tuned the itinerary and would love all of your feedback and comments. I ended up booking with Susan at Custom Vietnam Travel at the recommendation of several of you. Here is the itinerary:

Arrive in Hanoi- Stay at Sofitel Legend Metropole Taking Bunker Tour that night at the hotel. 2 nights
Hanoi City Tour Dinner at Cau Go
Depart by Sea Plane to Halong Bay and board Dragon Legend Cruise for1 night
Drive back to Hanoi and stay at Sofitel Legend Metropole 2 Nights. Water puppet Show
Excursion to Ninh Binh
Fly to Saigon Stay at Park Hyatt for 3 nights Evening Jeep Street Tour
Cu Chi Tunnels Diner at Noir
Mekong Delta
Fly to Siem Reap -Stay at Phum Baitaing Resort stay 3 nights Dinner at Viroths Restaurant
Explore Angkor area- See Circus Phare
SR Sightseeing- Dinner at Cuisine Wat Damnak
Fly to Bangkok- Stay at St. Regis 3 Nights
Letigredepapier Cooking Class
Bangkok Floating Market- Damnoen Saduak Dinner at Nang Gin Kui
Drive to Ayutthaya Dinner at Above 11
Depart to Home
Any feedback on the itinerary, hotels, restaurants, etc. would be greatly appreciated.
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Old Aug 30th, 2016, 07:46 AM
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Forgot to ask if seeing the temples at sunrise is recommended or not??
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Old Aug 30th, 2016, 07:59 AM
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You have done a lot of research!

A few comments:

You only have two full days in Hanoi, one before your Halong Bay trip, one after, and the one after it appears will be a full day trip to Ninh Binh. Hanoi is a fascinating city. Unfortunately, you will miss almost all of it.

In Saigon, be aware that the so-called CuChi tunnels are a complete tourist trap. They are not the tunnels used during the war, but someone's idea of the tunnels.

You have just two full days in Siem Reap. This may be enough for you if you aren't vey interested in the temples.

In Bangkok: I like Ayutthaya, but the ruins are not nearly as interesting as the Angkor ruins. If you are people who love Buddhist ruins, by all means, go. But if you aren't very interested in Buddhist ruins skip it, as you will have had the chance to see "the best" in Siem Reap.

People either love the floating market near Bangkok or consider it a total tourist trap.

I googled Letigredepapier and the only entry I could find was in Siem Reap, but you have it listed under Bangkok... is there now one in Bangkok?

Bangkok has many fabulous places to eat. The place that I would consider "The best" is Gaggan which was voted the best restaurant in Asia. It is molecular cuisine and a unique dining experience. If you are interested, have the concierge make a reservation for you a month or two in advance. It is hard to get a table.

Above 11 and other rooftop restaurants and bars tend to have mediocre food. I'd suggest going there for drinks but eating elsewhere.

Have a wonderful trip!
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Old Aug 30th, 2016, 08:01 AM
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Do get out as early as possible in the morning to view the temples at Angkor. It is very hot in Siem Reap, even at this "cooler" time of the year. You will want to be out viewing the temples from about sunrise until noon, return to your hotel for a swim and a light lunch, then go back out about 3 pm and stay out until sunset.
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Old Aug 30th, 2016, 08:56 AM
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Kathie- Thanks so much for your comments. We actually have 2 full days before the trip to Halong Bay since we arrive in Hanoi at 11:35 AM. So we could actually do some touring the day of arrival. I hope that gives us enough time to explore Hanoi?
You are correct the cooking school is in SR and we leave for Bangkok that evening. Is that cooking school one we should go with?
I did look into Gaggan but both my husband and I do not like Indian food!!
I also thought about the Rooftop restaurant not having great food. I might cancel that one especially since I planned it for our last night.
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Old Aug 30th, 2016, 09:39 AM
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If it were me, with your limited time in siem reap, I would skip the cooking class and see more temples and take a 1/2 day tour of tonle sap, the lake where you will get to see the Vietnamese people who left VN and who are living on the lake. This was different than Halong bay. We also enjoyed driving through the little villages on the way out there.
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Old Aug 30th, 2016, 10:19 AM
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If you arrive at the Hanoi airport at 11:35 am, it will be probably 2:30 or or so (at best) before you get checked into your hotel in Hanoi. So you have, at most, a day plus a some hours of another day before going to Halong Bay. Will you have arrived in Hanoi on an overseas flight or will you already be somewhere in Asia? If you are arriving on an overseas flight, you'll likely be too jet-lagged to do much on your arrival day. If you are arriving from somewhere else in Asia, you will have part of the afternoon to see some things. Do some research ahead of time on what you most want to see in Hanoi. That much time will allow you to see a little bit, but by no means will you have the time to explore Hanoi.

Like dgunbug, I wouldn't spend time in Siem Reap doing a cooking class. You have only two full days there as it is. Unlike dgunbug, I wouldn't add in Tonele Sap. I would spend all of the time you can visiting some of the wonderful temples. Do use Dawn Rooney's book to help you decide which temples you especially want to see. You will only see a few - We stayed in Siem Reap for a week, and I think we only saw 27 or 28 temples in that time.

Gaggan, while ethnically Indian, does not serve Indian food in his restaurant. If you are interested, take a look at the episode of Chef's Table with Gaggan (Season 2, episode 6) which will give you a better idea of what he does. He trained at El Bulli, in Spain. If Gaggan does not appeal, tell us what kind of food you are looking for and we can be more helpful.
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Old Aug 30th, 2016, 10:44 AM
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Kathie- We have the day of arrival and the full next day in Hanoi and the following day we go to Halong Bay. We are arriving from the US but did book Business Class tickets so we could have the flat beds to sleep on during the flight. I actually went with EVA over Southern China airlines, which were quite a bit more money, but I was told from other Fodorites to go with EVA.

dgunbug and Kathie- We actually are scheduled one afternoon to go to Tonie Sap.

I will get Dawn Rooneys book, but aren't the temples pretty similar so that one does not need to see all the temples?

As for restaurants , we like everything but Indian food. I will check out the episode of Chef's Table and will try to book Gaggan.
I thought the cooking class would be something different to do and it gets great reviews on Trip advisor?
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Old Aug 30th, 2016, 10:49 AM
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Please let us know about the visa situation for Vietnam, whether you have to pay $135 for the stamping fee or the old rate of $25.
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Old Aug 30th, 2016, 11:08 AM
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susiesan- I do not know what you are asking about?
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Old Aug 30th, 2016, 11:32 AM
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The St.Regis, in Bangkok, is a really good location. Plus, you can access the sky train station directly from the passage way inside of the hotel. I've stayed there and I also rent an apartment in a building almost next door. So, that's one of my regular neighborhoods.

If you don't want to go far, for dinner on arrival day, the Siam Anantara (formerly Four Seasons) is almost next to the St. Regis and has good food as there are several nice restaurants there. Also, the Hansar Hotel, right around the corner, has a really good restaurant inside along with a good cafe. I eat regularly in the cafe, but have also eaten in the restaurant.

As for my favorite more recent upscale restaurant in Bangkok, it's been Nahm in the Metropolitan Hotel. Reservation necessary. From the St. Regis, it only cost around 67 baht as I walked over to the Siam Anantara, from the apartment building, and they got a friend and me a taxi to Nahm. I usually get taxis from the Siam Anantara as they know me well. I eat, at least one meal there, almost daily over a 3-week period and also stayed in that hotel structure for years when it was both the Four Seasons and before that The Regent, a Four Seasons hotel.

The Biscotti, Italian restaurant is quite good inside of the Siam Anantara and my favorite buffet breakfast is in their Madison Restaurant in the beautiful outdoor courtyard area. Madison is also a regular restaurant, and there's a Thai restaurant there and also a Japanese restaurant in the same hotel. The Sunday brunch at Madison is quite famous although I haven't had it yet. Biscotti also has a really nice, daily lunch buffet.

Have fun on your trip. I can't wait to get back to Bangkok in the winter.

Happy Travels!
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Old Aug 30th, 2016, 11:33 AM
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Yes, please do report back to us on the VN visa situation. They are in the process of changing the VN visa costs and much is still unclear. In the past, one could get a single entry visa from the embassy or consulate in one's own country for something like $70. Or, one could get a pre-approval letter for a fee, maybe $25 plus a stamping fee of $25. Now, there is new info about a 1 year multi-entry visa that has an upfront cost for a letter plus a $135 stamping fee. There is a thread here on the front page started by susiean about the new fees. Please let us know about your experience. Do ask your VN agency what they know about the new visa fees.
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Old Aug 30th, 2016, 08:16 PM
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Phum Baitang looks amazing!!! How have I missed this in my own Siem Reap research?? I look forward to your impressions/opinions after your November trip, on SR, Bangkok, and Saigon. I am learning so much from others' feedback here!

From actual experience, I can give feedback only on the first part of your trip.

I flew EVA in Economy--they were great even in coach. Their business class has not only lie-flat seats, but also, on most planes, privacy walls around them. Stopped in Taipei 's Int'l Airport for the onward flight to Hanoi -assume you will too, and can rest/sleep/shower, time allowing, in their business class lounge? So as you say, jet lag will hopefully not be a big problem as you can sleep on the way.

You will love Susan in person. She tries to meet all her clients within the first day or two of their arrival. As you've no doubt already found, she is extremely responsive and patient with enquiries...and remains so once you're there, if needed. She will give you a mobile phone to use in VN .

The Metropole's bunker tour is a perfect and moving activity for your first evening. That, plus strolling 'round inside and outside of the hotel, relaxing by the pool, walking a couple blocks to the lake or taking a tuk tuk from the hotel, will be an easy, do-able intro to the "feel" of Hanoi. The hotel has several restaurants in it, with varied cuisines, or Susan can recommend local places within a few blocks.

CVT will have a tour guide and driver for your full day tour, when you'll see the highlights like the Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh's house, Ethnography Museum, a walk in the Old Quarter. At Ethnography Museum, I shopped at Craftlink, based on Kathie's recommendation. It is right in front of the museum entrance, and you can pick up some great stuff. A lot of the museum exhibits are outside, in back. Seeing these Hanoi highlights, I didnt feel rushed. That's an advantage of having a car/driver waiting at each place--a great time saver when you have only a few days. (All of us can do with more time in our lives, including travels to wherever, but we don't all have the luxury of time that allows days and days in one place.)

Dragon Legend--it goes to Bai Tu Long Bay. You'll probably see no other boats once you're in that area (it's a sort of extension of HaLong Bay). Beautiful scenery, great service, fun decor, delicious plentiful food! (Skip the massage, though.)

Re: water puppet show. On the way back from HaLong Bay Pier to Hanoi, the Indochina Junk(who operate the Dragon Legend) van stops at a village where they put on a water puppet show.( I suspect it is an excuse to get you to spend more money, although it dos break up the four hour journey.) I missed it, as I went direct from HaLong Bay to Ninh Binh. So ask Susan if she would recommend you seeing both that, and the one in Hanoi. Maybe just one would suffice??

Ask Susan about the option to cancel the Ninh Binh excursion that day, even if the evening before, if you're just not up to it. While ninh Binh is interesting with its caves and rowboats, It would leave you one more full day in Hanoi to do as you wished--including sleep late! Even with the ability to sleep on the plane, those time zone changes have a way of playing catch-up.

Finally, for your two Hanoi nights (after Dragon Legend) I'd consider staying IN the Old Quarter, instead of returning to the Metropole. The Old Quarter is close, but quite different from the French Quarter where the Metropole is located. You can wander about the crowded streets and alleys, and get an egg coffee!! Susan booked me (for different segments of the trip) into Essence Hanoi and Essence d'Orient, adjacent to each other. Bothwere excellent, in a lively, fun corner of The Old Quarter.
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Old Sep 4th, 2016, 10:28 AM
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rjbriskin: if you were expecting to pay $25 for a VOA it will now cost you $135. Since you were going to be in Vietnam for only 3 days you may want to think about if it is worth so much money for a short visit. If you were going to get the Vietnam visa from at the embassy it was $80 and is now $220.

See this article:
http://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/vie...t-3462537.html
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