Vietnam, too much to see...

Old Jan 23rd, 2016, 06:33 PM
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You are right...I think I need to read more about Hanoi. No, I haven't been
It's just the pictures that I've seen...or maybe I did not know where to look?
Parfume Pagoda looks great...shows you how much I still need to read about. And you are right, as the area around the city is so beautiful, the day trips might be the answer.
Thanks, good things to ponder about.
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Old Feb 25th, 2016, 12:20 PM
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As mentioned by Crellsoton as alternative ...I loved Bai Tu Long Bay--the overnight trip on one of the Indochina Junk boats was one of the highlight of my two week (just the north) trip. Beautiful surroundings, lovely boat, didn't see any other boats once out there, delicious food, great fellow travelers, staff that are totally in the"we want you to have a great time" mode.

I spent five days on the Ha Giang route and if re-doing, would skip it and instead have gone to SaPa, and/or Hue and Hoi An with that time. Of course, everyone is different... but once outside of Ha Giang town, heading to the Dng Van Karst "Geopark" it was too remote for me, took wayyyyy too much driving, and a big chunk of time. Sure , spectacular scenery is a draw, but it takes more than that for me to love a place, when i unfortunately don't have the gift of weeks and weeks of vacation time.
Sometimes, lack of tourist service/infrastructure is NOT a good thing.
Ethnic markets can be found all over the north--in fact, my favorite out of all of them (I was lucky to see the oddly-timed big markets in Sa Phin and Meo Vac, in the far north) was a small Sunday market in the hills above Mai Chau town.
If you want what in India is called "soft trekking" i'd follow Crellston's advice to do some walks in Ninh Binh and/or Mai Chau. In Mai Chau I stayed at Mai Chau Ecolodge (note: not Mai Chau Lodge) which was lovely, and set in the midst of an area out of town, from where it is easy to walk to local villages on through the fields. The scenery around Mai Chau is very beautiful, in a different way, and the people much friendlier. That's an area I'd return to. Ninh Bin is beautiful too--but if you go, do not stay IN the city itself --there are other more attractive p laces in more countryside areas outside the city of Ninh Binh.

re : rice terraces,I was in northern VN in late September and the hillside, then mountainside, rice terraces started soon after departing Hanoi and heading out on the highway.They were indeed lush and beautiful. The scenery around Ninh Binh and Mai Chau is different (and different from each other) but equally interesting and beautiful.

I enjoyed Hanoi, and would return if lucky enough to have the opportunity. Was there a total of 6 nights, at different points of the trip. However, i would have been fine cutting that back to 3 nights, given my two week time limit. I stayed four of those nights in the Old Quarter, and later in the trip at the Sofitel legend Metropole. Old Quarter is fun, busy, packed narrow streets, but if f returning, I'd save up the $$$ and stay again at the latter, or at least, in that area(there are less expensive places in the French Quarter). It is an easy walk around the lake, or quick cycle ride, to get to the Old Quarter from there, but you are in a beautiful area, very French-colonial influenced.
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Old Mar 1st, 2016, 01:38 PM
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CaliNurse: could you share your exact itinerary with me? What you did sounds like the trip I want to take for my second visit to Vietnam which will be Feb. 2017. First visit in 2004 we did not go north of Hanoi other than to Halong Bay. This time I will stay to the north and central and also want to go to Phong Na for the caves.

You can send me an email direct susiesan8 at

Thanks. Susie
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 06:23 PM
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Thank you so much...this really helps. I read more, and I think (I think!) that we will go in March-April, and the itinerary will be something like this: Siem Reap - Hoi An - Hue - Ninh Binh - Mau Chau - Hanoi, with overnight boat to Bai Tu Long Bay. If all goes well and we find business award flights for our days, we'll fly into SR and out of Hanoi. Otherwise, we might need to change dates, and the full 21 days might turn into 19 or 18

Did you feel that a 3d/2n boat trip would've been better? How did you book, directly via their web site, or did you have a TA helping?

Glad to hear you liked Mai Chau Ecolodge, that's the place I was looking at myself. We prefer country side, so we will not stay in Ninh Binh city. I realize the city comes with more options in terms of restaurants, places to stay, etc. but we are willing to compromise for scenery and quiet.

Re: Hanoi and where to stay, thanks ...I was wondering about the 2 Quarters and their differences.

I think this will be a great trip! Thanks again.
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