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What do I need to do NOW for July trip to Vietnam?


Jan 21st, 2009, 08:18 AM
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What do I need to do NOW for July trip to Vietnam?

I'm the type of person who likes to get a lot done in advance of a trip, yet for some reason I find myself hesitating to book anything yet for our July trip to Vietnam.

So far, all I have are the plane tickets, and a day booked with Tong when we have a couple of days in Bangkok at the end of the trip.

So, is there anything I really need to do now?

How far in advance should I/can I get my Vietnam visa? How long does that process take?

What about hotels? Should I be booking them now, or wait?
I also want to book a couple of Starwood hotels using cash+points. Should I do that asap?

I don't know why, but I seem to be having a tough time committing to an itinerary on this one. I'm not apathetic about the trip, I'm just having a hard time deciding exactly where to go and for how many days in each place. Which of course, makes it tough to book hotels.
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Jan 21st, 2009, 08:52 AM
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Kristina, we are going to Vietnam in April so I'll be interested in the responses to your post.

We started the process of organizing our tour (hotel reservations mostly) last August.

There was a recent poster that did visas by mail and received them within one week. I plan to do this in March. We will also be meeting with our travel doctor in March.

How much time do you have to tour Vietnam? What do you like to do when traveling (photography, hiking, museums, restaurants?) These things and the weather which varies depending on where you are, will determine your itinerary.

I would book the Starwood properties now but as far as I can tell, the only ones are Sheratons in HCMC and Hanoi. You may want to consider location before going this route. I don't know about HCMC but the Sheraton Hanoi is not particularly well-situated for walking around the Old Quarter.
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Jan 21st, 2009, 09:33 AM
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Hi Craig-
Yes, I remember reading about your plans and look forward to hearing about your trip.
Which hotel have you booked for Hanoi?

We have 12 days on the ground in Vietnam.
Right now I'm thinking Hanoi-Hue/Hoi An-HCMC. I think we are going to avoid the area North of Hanoi because of weather (rain).

As for the Starwood properties, I'm considering the Sheraton in HCMC and the Sheraton Grande in BKK.

As for immunizations, I think I'm good, but my husband will probably need one for Thyphoid.
We had the Hep A vaccine back in 1998 and I've yet to find a definitive answer on how long it is good for. Some say 10 years, some say longer.

Interests are food, photography and culture (museums, temples, sights, etc).
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Jan 21st, 2009, 09:57 AM
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Kristina, I think you can wait a while for most arrangements. If you have an idea of your dates, I'd book the Starwood properties, as you won't have to make a deposit or pay a penalty for changing the dates.

I do think you will need to decide on hotels and book them in the next couple of months. I don't see a reason to book tours, etc in VN (unless you want one of the high-end Halong Bay boats). Most thiongs you can arrange at the time once you are in VN.

VN visa - mine took a week. So get it started not more than 2 months in advance.

Hep A (if you had both shots) is now considered to be effective for at least 20 years, and the immunity may be lifelong.
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Jan 21st, 2009, 10:02 AM
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Kristina, we are staying at the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi. We booked it through Tonkin Travel at a much better rate than anywhere else. I think you already know about the Hanoi Elegance hotels which are also well situated - the newest, #4 is the top hotel in Hanoi on tripadvisor.

July is one of the rainiest months in both northern and southern Vietnam - I can understand not wanting to do Sapa. Central Vietnam will probably be the driest but it will be HOT everywhere.

I was looking at your excellent website, www.wired2theworld.com - saw the photo of Tong with her Pasadena GTG bag - lol.

As you probably know, Sheraton Grande Suk is in a great location with a direct link to the skytrain.

Check out the Hanoi section on www.savourasia.com for some useful info on restaurants and cooking schools.
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Jan 21st, 2009, 10:38 AM
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Whether you need to book your hotels ahead of time depends on the kind of hotels. I traveled in Vietnam with only one advance reservation, for my first stop. (And moved elsewhere after the first night!) But I stayed in places that, while having AC and en-suite bathrooms, cost less than $25 a night.
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Jan 21st, 2009, 12:03 PM
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Ok, so it sounds like I can wait until May to deal with the Visas.

I will also look into booking the SPG properties soon. Is it possible to book anything other than the standard rooms with the cash+points option? Nothing else seems available on their website for that option.

Craig, I recently found the savourasia.com website and it is fantastic! In fact, I almost came on here to mention it because I'd never seen it before. Are you planning on doing any cooking classes?
I love that photo of Tong with the bag, especially since I was at that GTG.

I've been considering one of the "Elegance" hotels in Hanoi. I don't think I want to spend the $$ for the Metropole, though I would indeed love to stay there. How much better than the Hotel's own website was Tonkin's rate?
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Jan 21st, 2009, 12:34 PM
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Kristina, you've probably seen me recommend the DeSyloia in Hanoi. We really liked it. It's a small boutique property away from the old town area, but still walking distance to the lake and to a number of museums.
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Jan 21st, 2009, 02:18 PM
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Kristina, I am going to try to squeeze in a cooking class - not sure where yet - will depend on the timing.

The Sofitel Metropole rates on the website have come down significantly since I made my reservations to the point where I have contacted Tonkin to renegotiate them. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. There are obviously disadvantages to reserving too early, especially since this is a significant part of the cost.

I was also at the LA GTG - too bad our paths did not cross (and if they did, I apologize for not remembering you).
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Jan 21st, 2009, 05:19 PM
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That's ok Craig, I don't remember everyone I met at the GTG either, LOL.

Do let me know if you decide to take one of the cooking classes. I'm on the fence about this after swearing off them. I've had a couple disappointing/boring experiences with cooking classes abroad.
I do like that savourasia site though, looks like they are really into food and the info is very broad, well beyond the usual tourist places.
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Jan 22nd, 2009, 11:35 AM
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I went to HCMC twice in 2007.

The MISS LOI ROOMING HOUSE in District 1 was very clean, offered a croissant and fruit breakfast with a good strong French tasting coffee, and at the time was priced at $12 single. With the changes in currency, they should be charging $15 now.

Miss Loi is a very sophisticated lady in her 40s. There are some expat longterm tenants, and that says a lot right there.

Phone +84 8 8379589
Address: 178/20 Co Giang St, District 1
The address indicates that it is down a walkable alley, about 75 steps. You would be dropped at the entrance. Other rooming houses are beside it and across from it. This is common there.

The e-mail address that I have is [email protected] . But I have always phoned. Speak slowly...English is spoken by some who work there.

Taxis are easy and foolproof, mainly because the company that runs the airport also runs the taxis. You find the taxi booth in the airport and tell them where you want to go. They will give you a price in USD which you pay them. They give you a voucher which you give to the taxi dispatcher who then gives it to a driver. The 20-minute ride cost $6.

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Jan 22nd, 2009, 11:36 AM
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You do not need any shots before going to Vietnam.
A visa for US citizens can be obtained in about a week.
We stayed at the Metropole on teh Club Floor and it was a great savings as they have food presentations all day and evening including ordering a full breakfast from the menu there.
Also, Saigon Tourist did our sightseeing with driver and the best tour guide named Toan. He is fluent in 5 languaages including English and can talk about anything from politics to agriculture. You really need a guide in Hanoi.
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Jan 22nd, 2009, 12:21 PM
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Ok, I've taken the first step. I have a (tentative, not yet confirmed) reservation for a Junior Suite at the Hotel Hanoi Elegance 4 for our first 4 nights.
It looks quite nice and is a good mid-range option. Wish I could have opted for the Metropole, but the lowest price rooms (Opera wing, NO breakfast, pre-paid) are $165++. The room at HE4 is $95, inlcudes breakfast and free wifi.
I've also asked for a car to pick us up. It's $18 and yes, I know is more than a taxi, but will be nice to have someone there waiting for us when we arrive late at night.
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Jan 22nd, 2009, 01:16 PM
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Good call on the pick up in Hanoi. Drivers from the airport there are somewhat notorious for fare shenanigans.

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Jan 22nd, 2009, 02:02 PM
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No injections are, so we read necessary: however, we would suggest you check if you are covered by a tetanus injection. It is so easy to get a snag to skin boarding boats etc., and no matter where you are travelling - this can happen. Wise to be covered.
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Jan 27th, 2009, 12:46 PM
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Suggest not waiting too long to book your rooms if using points in case they fill up, only certain # of rooms available for points, similiar to booking flights with miles. We booked our hotels in Hanoi, Saigon, and Siem Reap in December for an April vacation and we had no trouble with availability using Starwood points.
Yes, it is possible to book rooms other than standard rooms with Starwood Points but we went with the standard rooms. If you see only std rooms showing up, that may be all that is available.
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Jan 27th, 2009, 08:23 PM
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Just booked a Deluxe room at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit in BKK for 3 nights, for cash+points.

Booking a "Grande Deluxe" room (with the same ammenities as a Towers room at the ROS) for cash+points was not an option, at least not over the phone and not online either.
I asked how much a GD room was at the 50% off rack rate and it was $195 a night with the discount! Too much for me! That means the "rack rate" is $395 a night.
On the SPG website a GD room was $259++ a night, best avail. rate.

So, our "Deluxe" room will be $60+tax+4000 points a night.
At least it's booked and then if I find a better option, I can cancel and get my points back.
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Jan 28th, 2009, 07:52 AM
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The rack rate for the Grand Deluxe is ridiculous. You got a good deal on your cash + points for the Grand room.

Kristina, I'm looking froward to your report on this trip. HCMC is on our radar, and Eks' report (especially of the food) sounds great.
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Jan 28th, 2009, 08:13 AM
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Yeah, I think it's a good rate for what is just a standard room with none of the towers type amenities.

Now I just have to figure out if there is some place near by with free wifi. I've read (Filmwill?) that the hotel's internet access rates are sky-high. Speaking of which, doesn't filmwill owe us a trip report?? Or did I miss that somehow?

Yes, I'm starting to get really excited about this trip and of course, will report back when I get home.

Now I need to find a HCMC hotel. I could do the Sheraton Saigon with points+cash, but I'm not sure it's as good a value as it is in BKK.
I'm wondering if there are some boutique type places in HCMC like the Elegance Hotels in Hanoi in the same cost range ($60-$100)?
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Jan 28th, 2009, 06:27 PM
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Hi Kristina,

you might want to check this website; its full with Vietnam information for inspiration.

they can help you with the itinerary. I think you'll love it.
Cheers Tam
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