2 girls thinking of going to Vietnam for 3 weeks after Christmas - flying into Hanoi, travelling down the coast and departing from Ho Chi Minh - any suggestions on things to see, places to go along the way and overall experience of Vietnam. Also heard some unsettling stories about travellers being ripped off - anyone any experience of this?
Theres lots to do - in Hanoi wander about the city, go for a walk around the lake, see the water puppets, go try your hand at bargaining in the market. Theres trips to Sapa and Halong Bay which can be easily organised from Hanoi - l only went to Halong Bay and did the 3 day/2 night trip which included an overnight on a junk and then a night on Cat Ba island.
There are open tour buses which will you can book at one of the many travel agencies who will take you up and down the country - some of the journeys are over night trips and you can book sleeper buses - word of advise if you do go for a sleeper bus dont think the big "double" bed type bunks are the most comfortable - because the roads are full of pot holes you end up bouncing along and hitting your head off the top of the bus roof!!
I did the journey the opposite way around but visited Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Dalat, Mui Ne and of course Saigon. Dalat didnt impress me that much but it couldve been to do with the cooler climate and the fact that l took some mad allergic reaction to something and my entire face puffed and was swollen!!
Hoi An is lovely l really liked the city - it was flooded when l was there but even so it was a nice place, plus l totally recommend you get clothes made the tailors are fabulous and cost a pitance.
Mui Ne is a great place - really quiet nothing to do but lie on the beach, enjoy the sun and chill out!! You can do trips to the red sand dunes but l was too busy lying in the sun to be bothered!!
I think you will fall in love with Hanoi and Hoi An (I did). I read all those scam posts too, but discovered them to be mostly "overdone". Of course you have to use common sense and go with your gut. It is somewhat true that many many people would like nothing better than to rob you legally, but just look on it all as a sort of advertising - you don't buy everything that's advertised do you? Never accept invitations made on the street.
In Saigon I was approached several times (on the street) by normal looking, friendly people. Many will approach with lines like - "what great shoes, where did you get them?" when you tell them, they say, "gee, my sister/brother/lover is going there next month, can you come over and talk to them, tell them where/what they can do/best way?" If you say yes, they'll take you by cab to an apartment, give you dinner and a few drinks and suggest a game of cards" - you can just imagine the rest - they're after your $$$$$ - they want you to play cards/gamble your $ away, etc. It might not be exactly as I stated it, but variations on this scam abound in SEA. Just use your common sense, and you will find most people to be quite honest and give you much better service than at home. USE YOUR BRAIN IN ASIA!!!!!
One of the hardest things to get used to is the constant approach by hawkers! People approach wanting to polish shoes, sell maps, flags, postcards, take your picture with a conical hat, etc. - they just never stop. It will continue throughout your trip in VN, and you have to develope a thick skin. It bothered me for about 10 days, and it took a while for me to learn how to say no. Never, never be rude or treat anyone like they're a pest - this is far harder than it sounds. Never display your relative wealth (take off all those bracelets,rings, cell phones, expensive shoes, etc.) Carry a very small camera that slips in your pocket, and be very careful of a backpack in Saigon! Cargo pants/shorts work very well.
Have a wonderful trip - the Vietnamese are SUPER people!
[ Edit: Edited on Aug 3, 2008, at 11:10 AM by Daawgon ]
3 weeks is perfect to travel HAN-HCMC. I was in HaNoi over Tet and it was a bit chilly. This can affect your decision on SaPa and HaLong Bay. Neither are much fun in the rain. Check with other travellers while in HAN before you book either trip. My HaLong Bay photos were on a cool, rainy day. One day will probably be enough if the weather does not co-operate. There are at least 4 companies that run the open tour buses between HAN & HCMC. The largest & best known is Sinh Cafe. I have used them and Hanh Cafe. Compare prices once in HAN and then decide. Sinh usually has better buses on most routes, but Hanh is OK as well. One difference you need to know about is the hotels that the companies use in each city. Sinh Cafe stops at more expensive hotels in every city on the open tour. An example: Sinh Cafe uses Trung Cang Hotel in DaLat, about $20 for a single room. Hanh Cafe stops at Pacific Hotel on the same street, $6/nite single. In Nha Trang, Sinh stops at 25 Tran Phu Hotel, $25/nite. Hanh stops at Hanh Cafe Hotel, $8/nite. This happens in each city. My advice is to ride with Sinh Cafe and then walk or take a moto or taxi to a cheaper hotel if $25/nite is too much for your budget.
I have many photos in my gallery of this entire trip. I also talk about Nha Trang, DaLat and HCMC in my blog. Send me a PM if you have any questions on VN.
I was in Cambodia a while back and my roommate went to Vietnam shortly after our trip...we did some research and found this link for Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh very helpful...the site is one of my favorite travel references!
Have an amazing time!
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I can only share about Hanoi.... well.. within the city I loved the Hoan Kiem Lake... I find it the most serene and beautiful spot in the city... try to visit the pagoda within it... near it is the shopping area of Hang Gai where you can buy an array of items through bargaining.. you can use USD in paying.... but of course it's wiser to use Dong in paying.. :D
you can visit the Hanoi Prison, Van Mieu (Temple of Literature), One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh Mauseleum... you can also walk through the French Quarters.. and try to check out the The Press Club for good dining and is a good spot to party.. and it's not that expensive as I remember it in 2003... :D
outside Hanoi, definitely take time to visit Ha Long Bay... there are tour agencies in the Hang Gai district for this... :D I remembered booking with Handspan..
Hey, u guys are gonna love it!! I did HCMC, Dalat, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi and Halong Bay last summer. My favourite place was Dalat, completely different to other areas, rent out an Easyrider and explore the rural countryside...Im getting nostalgic just thinking about it!!