I am trying to plan a trip to Vietnam in late August for 5 days. My original plan is to fly into Ho Chi Min and travel up the coast to Hanoi by train. I wanted to stop off overnight at a couple of places as well, I was thinking Danang, Nha Trang, Ha Long Bay for example. Do you think I can do this in the time period allocated? and what would you guys recommend I do?
With only 5 day to work with, I would use the overnight buses. First day seeing what you can in HCMC. Perhaps a city tour. You will need to do this on your own. The organized tours leave at 8-9am. I doubt you will be in HCM that early. Hire a taxi or pedicab and see: War Crimes Museum, Reunification Palace, Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral. Book your overnight bus to Nha Trang as soon as you get to De Tham St. I would use Sinh Cafe, better buses, better drivers. You get into NT early am. Book a Bay Tour with Sinh when you get in. Leave your bag with the travel shop. Book your overnight bus to Hoi An when you get in. This gives you the entire day in NT to get in some beach time and snorkelling. Dinner, overnight bus to Hoi An. Tour My Son, historic section of Hoi An. Dinner, overnight bus back to NT. Sightseeing, overnight bus back to HCMC. You never need a hotel! That is one option.
What I would do for 5 days: spend 2 days in HCM, city & delta tour, overnight bus to NT. 2 days 1 night in NT, overnight bus back to HCM. I will let others chime in on how they would spend 5 days in VN. Good luck with your adventure.
[ Edit: Edited on 07-Jul-2010, at 23:20 by vegasmike6 ]
You could do Saigon, Nha Trang and Hoi An in 5 days but it will be a bit pushed. Leave out Danang. It is close to Hoi An and there is not much there except big hotels going up. That is where the airport is for Hoi An. You can travel by rail or bus up to Hoi An but you should fly out of Danang. There won't be time to travel back down to Saigon by land.
Another option if you only have 5 days is to go out to the Mekong Delta. That was a highlight to my holiday. There is also a beach area out there if you are looking for a beach. The Mekong Delta has a real genuine feel. It is lost in it's own world. I would suggest to book a 3-4 day tour when you get to Saigon. You can travel to Nha Trang and Hoi An on your own but a tour is best for mekong Delta. If you do book a tour don't worry about who to book with. All the tour companies are connected to one giant crazy tourist network. It is pretty surreal.
You definately cannot fit in Halong Bay. You can see Saigon in a day but you need at least two-three to see Hanoi. You can take one day trips from Hanoi to Halong Bay but you only see the edge of Halong Bay. If you go there you should book a 1-2 night trip. One night on the junk is awesome. The junks all anchor in a bay in the middle of karsts. The second night is on Cat Ba Island.
Firstly I would like to say thanks to vegasmike and vickim for your feedback, it has made my decision easier. I have changed my initial plan to just focus on things around Saigon. I like the idea of the Mekong Delta and NhaTrang, does anyone have any recommendations on where to go in the Delta or further ideas on things to see and do around the Saigon area?
You have to realize that travel moves sometimes at a snail's pace in VN - do you want to spend all 5 days on a overcrowded bus that doesn't even have a john? I say 2 stops max for that short stay - why only 5 days, VN is quite a big country? My choice would be Hanoi (most interesting city and walkable) and Hoi An (resort atmosphere with great shopping, beach, restaurants/hotels and culture too). With 5 days, don't waste it on ground transportation - domestic air travel is a bargain in VN.
5 weeks is much more reasonable!
Once in HCM, I would stay on or close to De Tham St. My blog covers my arrival at Tan Son Nhat, transport to De Tham and finding a hotel. After you have a room, get yourself over to Sinh Cafe travel office. See what is available on delta tours. I think a city tour is worth your time, Cu Chi Tunnels as well. All travel shops will have plenty of tour options. Then use the overnight bus to Nha Trang for your beach time.
Good luck with your planning.
[ Edit: Edited on 09-Jul-2010, at 17:53 by vegasmike6 ]