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Vietnam, Cambodia, LaosTrip Summary

Old Jun 1st, 2008, 01:43 PM
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Vietnam, Cambodia, LaosTrip Summary

I relied on this forum heavily in planning our trip 2/19-3/11. It was a fantastic trip, so thanks to Kathie and all frequent posters--you were very helpful.

We arranged everything, except flights to/from U.S.-Hanoi, through Aurora Travel/VietnamStay. They were responsive, made numerous good suggestions on trip schedule and lodging, and guides and drivers were very good. I would recommend them highly. We paid in cash when we arrived in Hanoi,to avoid the 3% credit card charge tacked on by Aurora, except put 10% on credit card just in case there were charges I wanted to dispute, but no problems. The couple we were traveling with paid with credit card upon arrival and were charged the extra 3%. We were notified of the 3% charge upfront prior to finalizing the trip.

Our schedule and Lodging:
Hanoi 3 nights Hilton Opera
Halong Bay 1 night Halong Dream junk
SaPa 3 nights Victoria Train/Hotel(included overnight train each way)
Hue 3 nights Saigon Morin
Hoi An 2 nights Vinh Hung Resort
Siem Reap 3 nights Le Meridien
Luang Prabang 3 nights 3 Nagas
Hanoi 1 night Hilton Opera

The major tradeoff/choice for our schedule was Luang Prabang or southern Vietnam. We chose LP and enjoyed it very much and believe we made the right choice--for us. We concluded at the end of the trip that our allocation of time was a good one and really feel like we did not spend too much or too little time anyplace.

We enjoyed each stop--each different , all fascinating, and it was interesting that each of us had a slightly different ranking of the highlights. Mine were 1) Hanoi--walking the streets, day and night, 2) Halong Bay--spectacular, 3) the temples in Siem Reap, 4) the food, everywhere, 5) SaPa way of life and terraced fields, 6) Mekong River cruise in LP.

The one place I did not feel was worthwhile, because it took an entire day, was the trip via car to the water canals and caves south of Hanoi.

Two restaurant highlights: Cafe Au Lac in Hanoi, behind the Sofitel Metropole, for Pho, coffee, pastries, cold beer, etc, and 3 Nagas restaurant in LP.

We felt safe everywhere, but glad we had a guide to help us in the Hanoi rail station--very crowded and chaotic.

I would highly recommend our guide in Cambodia, Mr.Sou Kaden, email at [email protected].

What a great trip, our first to Asia, and we are confident we will return to these areas again.
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 01:49 PM
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So glad you enjoyed your trip and thank you for posting. I am planning a VN trip, just sent an email to Vietnamstay a little while ago. I'm trying to decide whether to do Hue/Hoi An or Dalat/Nha Trang. Let's hear a little more about Hue/Hoi An and can you compare it at all to LP (where we stayed 3 yrs ago and really liked altho I didn't like the room we had at 3 Nagas)
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 02:02 PM
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Hue/Hoi An was different from LP. The level of activity/hustle/pace in Hue,Hoi An, although not as high as Hanoi, was much greater than in LP. We found LP to be fairly quiet, slower pace, and people more reserved. Enjoyed Hue more than Hoi An--the Citadel, King's tombs, My Son, walking the streets, and activity on the Perfume River. The Cham museum in Da Nang, on the drive from Hue to Hoi An, was definitely worth a stop.
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 02:18 PM
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What a great trip! I'm so glad you enjoyed it so much. And I'm glad I could be of assistance in planning it.
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 07:21 PM
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Hi Spiny, thanks for the report. We are taking almost the exact same trip, but 3 nights HCMC instead of LP (where I visited -- and loved -- in 2003). We will only have 2 nights in Hue, with 1 to 1.5 days. Can you give me an idea of what you did there? I have done lots of research, so i don't need the basics but wondered if you saw the tombs by boat and moto, or if you have specific recommendations. We will also be at the Saigon MOrin.
Dinner at Y Thao Garden was recommended as a way to have an "imperial" dinner. Did you go there?
And, do you have any recommendation for where to eat when we arrive in Hue LATE in the evening, as we are flying in from Hanoi and won't arrive until about 930 p.m.
any other highlights you want to mention from the Vietnam and SR portion of your trip?
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Old Jun 2nd, 2008, 06:46 AM
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Hi Alison. In addition to the normal sights in Hue itself--the Citadel, Perfume River on Dragon Boat, the Tombs, the market, etc., we took a car to the DMZ, which was very worthwhile and the drive through the countryside was interesting, but you probably won't have time for that. We saw the tombs via car, but we did see people on bicycles, which I think would be a good way to see them. We also walked through the Chinese market, which was interesting.

For late night food, I would suggest eating at the Morin--we ate there one evening and it was good, but more expensive. There were also some restaurants clustered several blocks from the hotel--the hotel staff could direct you to them. I don't think we ate at the restaurant you mentioned. We found that the research we did on places to eat was really not necessary, as food was good everywhere, except for a few places outside cities that obviously catered to tour groups. We also did not want our schedule to be constrained by reservations.

In SR, we did not spend time in Siem Reap itself,as it is a large tourist city. We spent our three days at the temples--my favorite was Banteay Srei, the "pink" temple.

Be sure to allow enough time just walking around, plus some down time to get out of the heat.
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