Vietnam trip in June-help please!

Dec 26th, 2008, 08:47 AM
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Vietnam trip in June-help please!

We are a group of 10 experienced travelers (2 families with 6 kids ages 8-17)planning a trip to Vietnam/Cambodia from June 22nd-July 6th. I have been corresponding with Exotissimo but frankly have not been totally happy with the responsiveness. I know there are many out there who have taken this trip - should I try another travel provider and if so who might be good? Or stick with Exotissimo? Or should I go it alone? Our draft itinerary is New York to Hanoi via Tokyo, Hanoi for a day, Hoa Lu day trip (is this worthwhile?), overnight train to Lao Cai,Sapa market and walk and boat in Trung Do (anyone done this?), back to Hanoi, fly to Nha Trang for a few days of diving (is this doable in late June?) then to Ho Chi Minh briefly and to Cambodia to Siem Reap for 3 days seeing the Angkor Wat and then back to New York from Ho Chi Minh.

Any and all suggestions and help is greatly appreciated!
Carolyn1961 is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 11:33 AM
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You certainly can do this on your own. What did you want Exotissimo to do for you?

One suggestion - you are moving around a lot. It takes time to get from place to place, and you need to factor in time for delays and the sped at which things move in these countries (slow, other than the motorbikes!)

Your dates are for 14 days, but you likely lose two days travel time. So as I count it, you plan to visit Hanoi with a day trip outside of Hanoi, Sapa, Nha Trang, HCMC and Siem Reap in 12 days including travel time. It often takes a day to get from one place to another. You have to cut back on the number of stops. Also, cut the day trip out of Hanoi - basically, you have no time in Hanoi. So go back and count how much time you have in each place, excluding travel time (so if you are spending two nights somewhere, basically, you have one day). For instance, if you want three days at Angkor (and I do recommend that much time), that's 4 nights. If you want to dive for a couple of days at Nha Trang, that's three nights. That's 7 of your 12 nights. At most, you could do two more stops.
Kathie is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 11:37 AM
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I think you can arrange this on your own, or perhaps with just an agent doing your flights.

Have you been to Asia before though? I have been to Vietnam in June for both of the last two years, and I cannot imagine covering so much ground in the summer weather, especially with 10 people! With your 13 or 14 days, I would visit Hanoi+ the day trips+ Cambodia, or a few days in Hanoi + diving = Cambodia.

The heat will be brutal, someone will always be ill, and herding that many bodies on all those domestic flights on top of the international journey would be more work than fun, IMHO.

Of course a guided tour would eliminate a lot of the "herding", so maybe that would make it easier. Otherwise, I think you could plan this trip with just an agent to book the group's airlines. You can get lots of info on hotels, guides, and drivers here.
lcuy is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 11:40 AM
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Hi Kathie...We think alike!
lcuy is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 05:02 PM
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Let me add some balance.

Two families? Six kids? 10 people? I'd be using a travel agent for this one every inch of the way. I'd use an agent, a guide, a nanny and a psychiatrist. At least that gives you all someone else to blame when things go pear-shaped.

I'd be doing it on a rigid schedule with few opportunities to choose 'what will we do today' Getting ten people to agree on anything is near-impossible. On the road, in the heat, with that intense itinerary AND kids, there'll be a multiple melt-down before breakfast.

Guess who'll get the blame? The poor fool who organised the whole thing. Yup, you could do it on your own.

Are you prepared to spend your holidays with a wad of tickets, doing group check-ins, fronting up to reception, fighting room battles, enthusiastic rickshaw drivers, waiters, finding doctors for dehydrated children, organising meals, transfers and barf bags for the multitude?

'Cos SOMEONE has to be the boss on the road. Pay a guide to do it all. Pay too much. Who cares? It's an art, moving people around. Get an artist.

If you were a couple, I'd go with the general consensus: do it yourself. In your situation I'd strongly advise the exact opposite.

Remember, the simplest logistical problem can become a nightmare when its multiplied by TEN. Ten people getting on a plane. Ten people getting off a plane. Ten people collecting ten pieces of luggage and finding three taxis to take them to an unknown destination.... I could go on. And on. And on.

It's all about the numbers and the group dynamics on the road. Cut to the chase - or else...

And cut that itinerary back. It's all just a bit silly. Listen to Kathie and all the other people who'll tell you [more gently than me] that it's too rushed. How did you end up with that itinerary anyway? Is it a fixed Exotissimo one?

dogster is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 05:09 PM
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Everything else seems covered so I will just comment on the diving in Nha Trang. The diving is good and I would recommend Rainbow Divers most diving is done in the mornings as the wind gets up in the afternoons. Don't forget that if you are flying that you need to leave 24 hours from your first/last dive to avoid decompression problems, which could mean that for 2 days diving you would probably need 4 nights in Nha Trang unless you go by train to HCM which would be an experience in itself
crellston is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 06:22 PM
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Thanks all and this is super helpful - I thought it did sound like too much (and yes have traveled a lot in Asia and lived in Hong Kong for 5 years so get the heat issue)and now need some help to pick the best itinerary.

So if we want to definetly see Hanoi, Siem Reap and dive in Nha Trang (maybe just 2 dives given the 24 hour restriction), what other maybe one day trip would you suggest guys? Seems Lao Cai and Sapa market just take too long - How bout Hoi An? Or a day in HCMC (we were planning on just transiting...). Does anyone have a 12 day in-country itinerary that they have done recently and can recommend??

Carolyn1961 is offline  
Dec 26th, 2008, 06:40 PM
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Hanoi, Siem Reap and Nha Trang are plenty for the time you have. There is lots to do and see in Hanoi, don't short change it.
Kathie is offline  
Dec 27th, 2008, 05:51 PM
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Thanks to all and a couple specific questions. Dogster, any specific suggestions on which agent to inflict ourselves on?? Have you used Exotissimo in Vietnam or Cambodia or another you can recommend?
And Kathie, Icuy and crellston, any hotel recommendations , especially in Nha Trang? We were thinking the Metropole in Hanoi and Victoria Angkor in Siem Reap but would love to hear other opinions on those as well.
Thanks all!

Carolyn1961 is offline  
Dec 27th, 2008, 06:05 PM
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Hi Carolyn, can't help you on a specific agent. I never use them. Remember, it doesn't have to be just one agent. You could get one for Vietnam and one for Cambodia. Same same.

As for hotels: do a search in the little box up above for recent posts on Siem Reap accom. Remember, there are ten of you and kids, so I guess, groovy little guest houses ain't the go. Try and break down what your needs are for us, that helps. Because you are an unusual travelling group. Swimming pools? Easy Western food? blah blah. Are the kids good on the road? Or do they want T.V. and internet?

Lol. I just noticed your use of 'inflict'. Appropriate, I'd imagine. The Terrible Touring Ten would strike fear into any travel agent.

If you get your itinerary into a sensible [lol] state I reckon we'll be able to find some good short cuts. We need to see it in clean bite-size chunks - then do a time and motion study on the travel. I'm acutely aware that every move from A-B will be an organizational feat.
I'm assuming you've travelled with this same group before?

dogster is offline  
Dec 27th, 2008, 06:19 PM
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And, when you go out touring - do you like to stay as one big group? Or naturally break down into family compnents? Do the older kids like to have some space on their own? Or are you one big happy UNIT?

Siem Reap is an easy chunk.
Air tickets IN
Airport pick-up [mini-bus]
Drop at hotel
Guides and Angkor transport on site
Airport drop [mini-van]
Tickets OUT.

You can easily book any hotel on line. Simple. Done in one move.
Get a local guide. Use Ponheary if you want. There are a thousand of them.

The local guide handles transfers and touring. Depending on your answers to the first paragraph, we'll advise you how to go.

You could, very easily, book your tickets from Hanoi to S.R. yourself too. The fewer big moves you have, the more you can reclaim control.

Really, it's all about the dynamics in your group.
dogster is offline  
Dec 28th, 2008, 03:33 PM
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Have you thought of using an agent based in Asia? We are using Tonkin Travel in Vietnam. It is so much less expensive than Exotissimo {Asian based}. or any travel agency in the US. We compared many. Although we have not taken our trip yet, I have been very impressed with Tonkin Travel. It seems like a good idea to use an agent when the logistics are complicated with ten people.
zinfanatic is offline  
Dec 29th, 2008, 09:41 AM
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OK here is a shot at a revised itinerary:

Arrive Hanoi Wed June 24 about 10PM (via Tokyo)
June 25-June 27 - Hanoi(3 nights)
June 27-28 - Hoi An (?)or Hue?(2 nights)
June 29-July 2 - Nha Trang (3 nights)
July 2 - AM flight to HCMC and then to Siem Reap
July 2-5 - Siem Reap and Angkor (3 nights)
July 5- after lunch departure to HCMC and evening flight to US
July 6 PM - arrival back in NY

I know some will say this is still too much but after two international trips with this same crowd (Costa Rica and Kenya/Zanzibar)I know they like things pretty packed. Do people have thoughts on Hoi An or Hue?

We will probably seperate in Hanoi for a day as our family has already been there and seen the sights and we will be visiting the orphanage where our daughter lived and the hospital where she was born and left. Other family (or those who want to) will hit the sights in Hanoi for a full day and then figure a day to do some shopping in the Old Quarter. The rest of the time we'll likely all be together (yes, we are like a herd...)
In terms of what this group wants/needs, all are good travelers -BA lost all 11 of our bags on the Kenya leg of our last trip and for 5 days we all wore the 10 outfits we had among us....we had some good pics !!-though hoping we might have better luggage luck this time.

Hotels with pools are probably a good idea. I'll check the hotel list Dogster - thanks! If there are some more adventurous things for the older kids that people have ideas on?(I am sure the two 17 year old boys will want more adventure than they need...will have to fight to keep them away from the bars and other temptations I imagine....).

And zinfantic thanks for the note on Tonkin - I'll get in touch with them and see what they say but might give this a try on my own....

Thanks all for other thoughts!
Carolyn1961 is offline  
Dec 29th, 2008, 12:15 PM
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Hoi An might be a good place for you to stop. There is a wonderful hotel with a swimming pool within walking distance to the town. It is the Life Heritage Resort.
There are cooking schools that you might be interested in. If not, there are lots of shops and interesting sights to see. I stayed there for 2 nights in between Hanoi and Saigon.
Lolo12 is offline  
Dec 30th, 2008, 01:51 AM
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OK here is a shot at a revised itinerary from me

Arrive Hanoi Wed June 24 about 10PM (via Tokyo)
June 25-June 26 - Hanoi(2 nights).O/N Metropole Sofitel
June 26-27 - Halong Bay ( 1 night on board) Bhaya or Ginger Junk. Back Hanoi at 2pm on 27th, still have time for shopping around or walk to the Old Quarter
June 28-29 Flight Danang in the morning--> transfer to Hoi An. O/N at Life Resort or River side resort
June 30-July 2. Flight Nhatrang - Nha Trang ( 2 nights. O/N at Sunrise resort
July 2 - AM flight to HCMC and then to Siem Reap
July 2-5 - Siem Reap and Angkor (3 nights)
July 5- after lunch departure to HCMC and evening flight to US
July 6 PM - arrival back in NY.
You may see that I don't suggest Hue since it's too hot and rush to count Hue in to the itinerary.
IndochinaVoyages is offline  
Dec 30th, 2008, 03:08 AM
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My suggestions for Siem Reap; stick both lads in a tuk-tuk and send 'em off to the temples for a day. Let them bomb around on their own. They'll be safe. Tell them to go see the Land-mine museum.

Get a fish pedicure in the market [I'm tremendously jealous I haven't done this] This is where little kind pinanhas nibble your cuticles. True.

If your nerves fail you, get a manicure and pedicure sitting on a bucket in the market. Fun for all.

Eat at Samot. If you dare. [see my magnificent Dogster: Live from Siem Reap report] On second thoughts, maybe not.

When the lads are acting cocky take them to have their ears cleaned [also see report]. That'll shut them up.

Try to avoid ladies who say 'you go with me...?' They don't want to take you on a tour.
dogster is offline  
Dec 30th, 2008, 03:38 AM
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Carolyn: Not much I can add, but I just read this thread and just want to say that I did book with Exotissimo last winter and would give them high marks. I did not do as much price checking as I might have,so cannot speak to where they place in price comparisons, but I got excellent service from them; they were always easy to contact in case of any small problems and were able to switch a non-satisfactory Saigon hotel for me at the last minute, even though I had pre-paid.

So if you do decide to use them, have no fear!
ekscrunchy is offline  
Dec 30th, 2008, 04:25 PM
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Thanks Lola on Hoi An - have read from other posts about Life Resort and seems popular. SO sounds like you would recommend Hoi An over Hue?

Anyone stayed in Evanson Hideaway in Nha Trang?

Also thanks for Halong Bay suggestion - was afraid it would be too rainy though to do a junk trip in late June? And started to get back to too many stops I fear.

And Dogster, a tuk-tuk and ladies is EXACTLY what the 17 year olds have in mind! The fish pedicure sounds like a must-do!

Thanks all and back with more questions I'm sure...
Carolyn1961 is offline  
Dec 30th, 2008, 06:44 PM
Join Date: Oct 2008
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Hoian is a must and if you miss it, remarkable experience of Vietnam would be lost.
Halong Bay is good to try too and no rain threatening you then as stormy season for the North is always at late Aug and early Sep.
Check this link for some of Halong Bay info
Evason Hideway is 28 miles far from the downtown and way too expensive, approx $720/nite for Beach Pool villa and thinking of your (8-17 years old) auxiliary, I suggest the VinePearl resort as they have an amusement park included in their resort. Price is much better, apprxo $180/room nite.
Hope this hepls!
IndochinaVoyages is offline  
Dec 31st, 2008, 10:26 AM
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I haven't been to Hue but I would strongly recommend Hoi An.
You have plenty of time before your trip - why not get in touch with Viet Nam tourism and tell them the towns you are interested in. They will send you all sorts of useful information.
Lolo12 is offline  
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