Vietnam Visit


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fantom

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Dec 27, 2003
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Planning to go to Vietnam this coming Lunar New Year holidays with fotog friend for about 2 weeks. Travelling free and easy. Was recommended to go to Hanoi...then Halong Bay...and lastly Sapa (border btw Vietnam and China)
Any CSer been there, please pass some recommendations and tips.
thanks
 

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Phildate

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#3
Hey Fantom,

I travelled fairly extensively in Vietnam and Laos a few years ago. Here are my travel tips:

Hanoi is fantastic - I recommend a hotel called Hanoi Star Hotel on Hang Bac St. It costs US$10 a night for great air-con room with tv/safe/bathroom. Great staff and it's located right in the busy old district.

SaPa - probably the most enjoyable/photogenic place I have visited in Asia. Climate is cool. Trekking is superb. Stay at the Mountain View Hotel (or is it Guesthouse) for a room with an amazing view for around US$8. Use the guides from the hotel. They are all local tribeswomen who the owner has educated - she runs a small school in the basement for local kids. Amazing woman!! Food is not great but you can survive on the coffee!

A trip to Coc-Li market is worth it (it's on a Tuesday I think) despite the uncomfortable three hour journey. Sort of felt like an intruder though but the people are very friendly if you make an effort to blend in.

Halong Bay....hmmmmmm. Not the highlight of my trip but fascinating for a while. But once you've seen a few limestone outcrops, they all pretty much look the same. Book a 'small tour' or you'll be on a boat with fifty young backpackers who only want to get steaming drunk. We had a boat with just 12 people. Stay on the boat, not on Cat-Ba island (affectionately known as Cat Piss island!).

Wish I could come too! Was just a newbie when I went and would like to put my skills to use now.
 

Gymrat76

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May 10, 2004
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#4
I think you'll enjoy HaLong Bay a lot better if you do what I did last year: forget the big boat with full of tourists crusing the bay, and do a 3 days/2nights kayaking trip instead! There's a tour group that organizes it, Handspan Travel, I think.. they're located in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, and also have an office in SaPa where they can organize homestays and treks etc. They base their operations in Halong Bay on a small island, from there you kayak around the bay (with a guide, and sometimes with a support boat). You see much, much more of the Bay that the usual sit-on-the-big-boat-and-cruise-around-for-a-day trips.

Cheers!
GYR

Edit: Their website is here:
 

kahheng

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Jan 20, 2002
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#6
fantom said:
Planning to go to Vietnam this coming Lunar New Year holidays with fotog friend for about 2 weeks. Travelling free and easy. Was recommended to go to Hanoi...then Halong Bay...and lastly Sapa (border btw Vietnam and China)
Any CSer been there, please pass some recommendations and tips.
thanks
Hanoi is definitely nice. Charming. I've been there twice and like it very much. If you have some hotel booking lobang, try out the Sofitel Metropole. I felt very loved when I stayed there in August this year. Absolutely top class service.

Eating along the roadside is pretty safe in Hanoi. I like having pho ga here and there. The iced concoctions with condensed milk are yummy too!

My favorite experiences - Temple of Literature (if you're there, be sure to see the Museum of Modern Art across the road), walking around Hoan Kiem Lake in the evening, exploring the Old Quarter slowly, eating a bowl of Pho along the street in the Old Qtr, ice cream at Fanny Ice Cream, visiting the countless art galleries and asking stupid questions........... oh yeah, playing chatek with the kids ranks quite high too except for the falling down part. When I ran out of time, I took one of those motorcycle taxis and zipped all over town very quickly. I found the pagodas ****ing boring though. Seen one seen them all. The Water Puppet show was, erm, ok, but everyone seems to think it's a must see.

Halong Bay should be nice and misty at that time of the year. I had a good boat trip there about the same time last year. The limestone outcrops look pretty surreal in the foggy mist in winter. I suggest you spend night at Halong Bay, else the journey to and from Hanoi could be a little bit of a rush.

Jan-Feb is nice and cool.

Never been to Sapa but I'd suggest that, if time permits, go down south ways to Hue and then Hoi An (a little past Danang).

Hue is a much much smaller city than Hanoi and has nice imperial ruins and charming sightseeing things to do - e.g., boat ride down the Perfume River, visiting the Thien Mu pagoda. Having a banana crepe and iced coffee at the "Mandarin Cafe" (around the corner from Hotel Saigon Morin) and chit chatting with the owner, Cu is another good way to while away some time. Cu is a photo enthusiast - you see his works all over his cafe. He shoots with a D100. The Trang Tien bridge a stone's throw away from the cafe is colourfully lit up at night. Hue is supposed to be very very famous for it's imperial cuisine but I didn't have the time to sample much. The large Dong Ba market is nice to visit.

Hoi An is simply charming. A great place to chill out.

I spent five days there just doing nothing! If you can spend a little bit more, I highly recommend the Hoi An Riverside Resort. It's the best boutique hotel I've ever stayed in. Compact with a really serene view overlooking a river and a large padi field. Nice pool to lounge around. The sunset over the padi field from the cocktail bar is some amazing sight. I imagine that it's a good version of Cafe Del Mar in Ibiza! The resort is a little bit away from the main part of town but rent a motorbike and you'll be fine. I rode one for five days (no need for helmet, no need for licence, petrol is insignificantly priced, gets you everywhere quickly)

Food in Hoi An is damn good. Check out the Hoi An branch of the Brothers' Cafe. It's really ****ing out of this world. The setting and decor is miles better than the Hanoi branch (goddamn pricey by Vietnamese standards though so be warned). Otherwise, it's generally safe to eat at any decent looking cafe in Hoi An - some restaurant standouts: Miss Ly Cafeteria 22 (the fried wanton and Cao Lau) , Mermaid Restaurant, and Cafe des Amis (it's alright, the owner quirky - there's no ****ing menu, you eat what he wants to cook that day - but the location is nice).

Think of Hoi An as an ultra happening version of Malacca - small historical trading port town, busy buzzy place. Lotsa heritage to see, and I do mean LOTS! (can get boring after a while though). You might want to tailor a few shirts whilst you're there! ;-) It's a **** but quite the thing to do when you're in Hoi An. The Hoi An Cloth Mkt is worth a visit for this. I also liked walking around the wet market.

Many people take side trips to the nearby Marble Mountains and My Son from Hoi An. I didn't because I already saw how these places looked like on Discovery Channel ;-) These side trips are very cheap. You can book them from cafes and travel agents in town. My Son by bus and back by boat is an apparently a very nice excursion. (What the hell do I know - I was happy enough to just laze by the pool and then go into town to eat when I got hungry.)

I plan to go back to Hoi An next year. It's a nice place to take it easy and do nothing. I gave HCM a skip because I ran out of time.

Oh, it's a misconception that there's no way to get cash out of ATMs in Vietnam (though there are not that many ATMs around in truth). It's not a problem at all in Hanoi and Hue. I didn't have to do that in Hoi An.

Meanwhile I have developed a serious fondness for dragon fruit. :bsmilie:
 

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Phildate

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#7
Never been to Sapa but I'd suggest that, if time permits, go down south ways to Hue and then Hoi An (a little past Danang).
Hate to disagree but thought Hue was 'unspectacular' although Hoi An is a great place to hang out for a while. I would not miss out on SaPa by heading South - from my experience, the people are less friendly the further South you get too. Don't miss SaPa - you won't regret!
 

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Phildate

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#9
What about HCMC? Will be going there this december for 3 weeks.
Three weeks? For business or pleasure?

HCMC is very different to Hanoi. It is commercialised and there is a much greater influence from the West. There is plenty to see for a few days but after that, the traffic and hassling will probably make you want to head somewhere else.

The Cu Chi tunnels are worth a visit, as are the sanddunes of Mui Ne, not far from HCMC.

If I had three weeks and was not constrained to be in HCMC, I would spend a few days there and then head North by train to Hoi An (maybe stopping off in Nha Trang) and then on to Hanoi and SaPa. IHO, the further north you go, the friendlier Vietnam becomes and the better time you will have.
 

kahheng

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Jan 20, 2002
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#11
Phildate said:
Hate to disagree but thought Hue was 'unspectacular' although Hoi An is a great place to hang out for a while. I would not miss out on SaPa by heading South - from my experience, the people are less friendly the further South you get too. Don't miss SaPa - you won't regret!
What's there to agree or disagree about? :nono: Whether you like the place or not depends on what you're after. The north after Hanoi is more hillbilly (aka as "ulu"), whereas there's a lot more history down south from Hanoi onwards. :bsmilie:
 

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Phildate

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#12
What's there to agree or disagree about?
Well, Ronald's original intention was to go to SaPa and I think it would be a bad idea to deviate from that plan by heading south to Hue. That's what I disagree with!
 

kahheng

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#13
Phildate said:
Well, Ronald's original intention was to go to SaPa and I think it would be a bad idea to deviate from that plan by heading south to Hue. That's what I disagree with!
Please lah friend, even if that was you wanted to mean, it sure didn't come out that way :bsmilie:
 

fantom

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#14
Well...it's definitely north this time around :)
South will also be on my agenda though at a later trip ;)
Vietnam seems fascinating for touring and photography.
Have seen mags, TV(discovery channel?) and read about this country.
Well at least now I can be there. :D
Thanks for the info...keep it coming people.
Thanks
Ronald
 

Gymrat76

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#15
Best advice I can give you is to pick up a copy of the Lonely Planet Vietnam Guidebook -everything you wanted to know about a particular place is there. A bit on the expensive side at around $70+ (if I remember correctly), but worth its weight in gold for the information it provides :)
 

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