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Itinerary advice for Vietnam.

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1. Posted by Jiggae (Budding Member, 4 posts) 14 Nov '12 16:55

Jiggae has indicated that this thread is about Vietnam

Hello,I need good itinerary advice,activity ideas and route planning.
I have 3 weeks for Vietnam and Cambodia.I have a round trip ticket for Ho Chi Min city.I need to drop one destination as I will be travelling overland(purely to save money).In Vietnam,I will mainly be in the South.This will be in January 2013. I'm planning on backpacking (not booking anything in advance).Is this advisable?My budget will be 35$-40$ per day. I'm interested in doing anything that involves physical activity(hiking,canoeing,snorkelling etc), so that might be more expensive? I'm also planning on living in the upper budget range and mid range for accommodation,food,activities and so on. Im willing to take public transport if it helps save money and is convenient.

Arrive:
Ho Chi Min-2 Days(Cu Chi tunnel)
Mekong Delta(vietnam)-3 Days
Da Lat-(canoeing,biking,hiking)3 Days
Ho Chi Min(pass through)
Phnom Penn-3 Days
Siem Riep-3 days (Angkor Wat)
Kampot-2 Days
Ho Chi Min-Depart

I'm assuming its going to take ages to travel these 2 countries overland,and it involves going back and forth from place to place on some bad roads. Dalat in particular is out of the way.If someone has a more efficient route please let me know.Also,are the roads very bad to travel on in Cambodia?Some people compare travelling on these roads torture.If so,I will be tortured alot.

I'm thinking of either dropping the few days in Kampot,Ho Chi Min or Phnom Penn to increase time in other areas and justify the long travelling time and distances between each location.If I were to take one internal flight,which one would you advise on?

Sincerely

[ Edit: Edited on 14-Nov-2012, at 16:57 by Jiggae ]

2. Posted by meganjane03 (Budding Member, 48 posts) 14 Nov '12 18:14

from my own personal experience, I spent 3 weeks in both Vietnam and Cambodia in Jan/Feb. We also went by land, mostly by bus (Dalat to Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville to Siem Reap.
We backpacked and only booked hostels online a day before we arrived, just in case. This worked well. Depending on when you visit, Chinese New Year would need to be booked well in advance, for buses too, though they may not even run. Upper budget and mid-range will be easy, we were on a pretty badic low budget and it was good

The Cu Chi Tunnel tour is awesome, if possible I would recommend finding TNK tours and doing it with them ($10). I would also suggest, instead of doing the Mekong as a separate tour, do one that starts in Ho Chi Minh and ends in Phnom Penh. We did this with TNK tours and it was a great tired and a great way to her from Vietnam to Cambodia. We went to Dalat and didn't 2 nights but didn't much like it. We just did a xountryside tour there. We also personally hated Phnom Penh and left after just 1 night, so I would suggest taking a night off there. We loved Siem Reap (spent 9 days there). You definitely need at least 3 days just to do Angkor (3 day pass for $40-60), its a lot of walking, and if it isn't your thing, the temples will get boring quickly.

We took an overnight bus from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap via Phnom Penh and it was indeed torturous. I hated every single minute of it. I've heard the Tonle Sap ferry is a nicer way to get to Siem Reap but I don't know anything about the cost or how long it takes. You are doing a hell of a lot of travelling, so a flight may be worth it. I'd suggest Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh if you skip Kampot, or Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap then Kampot and the Mekong back into Vietnam, or Phnom Penh back to Ho Chi Minh if you've already done the Mekong. However, it will cost a fair amount.

3. Posted by Jiggae (Budding Member, 4 posts) 14 Nov '12 21:19

Thanks for you detailed response.I am going to to try and change my ticket,to arriving in Ho Chi Min and Departing from Siem Riep.The journey by bus during the day,from Siem Riep to Ho Chi Min should take about 12 hours,from what Ive read.

Ive had my doubts about spending more on an open-jaw ticket,but you have confirmed that the journey(Siem Reap-Saigon) probably is just not worth it.
Why did you not like Da lat and Phnom Phen?

Im also considering doing at least 3 days for the temples in Siem Riep,but my friend did one day and felt it was good enough,so Im not too sure now.I will have to know beforehand,because I will leave Siem Reap for last(The Grande' Finale).

Im surprised you liked Siem Reap that much.From what Iv'e heard ,its just a place to go to,to see the temples.I heard the touts thrive there,and that prices of things are more expensive in the area.What did you do in Siem Reap that made you like it so much?

Cheers for the advice,Ill be sure to pass it along to other travelers I meet.

[ Edit: Edited on 14-Nov-2012, at 21:21 by Jiggae ]

4. Posted by meganjane03 (Budding Member, 48 posts) 15 Nov '12 16:48

No worries, I hope my experience help but a lot is also just personal preference!

Phnom penh: when we arrived we were ripped off and lied to by a number of touts after a long journey. We had a not so great room as well. Other than that, we just didn't find the place to be very welcoming and nothing there particularly interested us, though we aren't big fans of many cities in general. Our tuk-tuk driver in Siem Reap also later told us that most Cambodians don't like Phnom Penh and that it can be quite dangerous in some places.
Dalat: we enjoyed the full day countryside tour a lot, but we didn't much like the town centre, but I cannot really pinpoint why. I think we were in an inconvenient area and again had a bad room. I wouldn't say don't go there, it is a lovely place to visit outside of town, but it wasn't our favourite place in Vietnam - but we had 3 weeks to spend and did most of the country.
Siem Reap: we had a lovely tuk-tuk driver who gave us a good deal because we used him everyday and its quite awhile to get to Angkor. You can definitely be satisfied after 1 day there. It also depends how interested you are in old temples. I would highly suggest Angkor Wat of course but it is super busy, Ta prohm, and Angkor Thom as the main ones to see. As for the main town, we found the people to be nice, the traffic not horrendous and the food great. We stayed across from the old market and it was a great location. We always found cheap food and nights out drinking were fun.
So I think it all just comes down to personal experience. I think the best thing you can do is be prepared to extend or cut short your stay in any place depending on whether you like it alot or not at all- this happened for us a lot, that and being forced to stay becsuse you get sick!

I would highly recommend our Siem Reap Hotel if you can find it. I need to check the name of it in my blog but I'll post it later this weekend. The staff are lovely, the rooms are good and cheap and we found the location to be excellent.

If you've got time and are interested, theres a fun water puppet show for kids in Ho Chi Minh which was a bit of fun and good to see. There's a concert hosted for charity in Siem Reap every Thursday night near the hospital. There's free Aspara dancing at two restaurants in Siem Reap too. You can buy guidebooks of Angkor at the temples off touts if you want to learn more, we got one for $6. The killing fields in Phnom Penh were very sad and interesting. All very touristy things to do which aren't for everyone.

I think my favourite thing of all those places was the Mekong tour though

5. Posted by Dodger (Respected Member, 860 posts) 15 Nov '12 17:36

Be aware with internet reviews and such that what one person reports as boring and dull can be another persons best time ever. I always say that travel is not about the places you see, but the people you meet. Some of my best travel times have been from that chance meeting with a local who invited me to dinner, or even meeting up with other travelers and we all had a great time together in the most horrific of locations.

I can't imagine going to Cambodia and not going to Phenom Phen. If you have any interest in understanding today’s Cambodians, then as horribly sad and moving as the Killing Fields and S21 are, they have to be seen.

I also liked Siem Riep, it still has a little of its French history in its buildings and food. Yes the tout's swarm on you like flies, but if you treat them in a friendly manner and take it with a laugh and a joke they get to know you very fast and are very friendly. We had one kid who would give us the book selling shpiel everyday when we came to our favorite street vendor restaurant, So we invited him to eat with us. He did this once and took most of the food to give to his Dad. After that he only came by to say hi and eventually brought his Dad by to thank us for the food.

It sickens me to see how some westerners hate on these “touts” They live in appalling conditions which most of us wouldn’t keep our pets in. Yet backpackers get so worked up about them, hating on them and resenting having to hand out a bit of charity, because after all that could be two extra beers they could drink that night.

Ok moving on to Vietnam. I loved Dalat. It was a welcome reprieve from the heat of the lowlands and it also has some amazing old French villas. I found the palace well worth visiting too, its not palatial in the western sense, but it has a beautiful peaceful feel to it and is very tastefully styled and very much in tact from when the King left. I reached Dalat by bus from Mui Ne. It was an interesting ride, but not too bad. I then took the bus back down to Ho Chi Minh which didn’t seem too bad either. I went to Kampot and it was a sleepy little town with nothing much to do at all, the beach didn’t look very clean either. I’d skip it if there is no other reason to go. If you want a little beach time you could either make your trip from HCM to Dalat via Mui Ne, or go further north to one of the other beach towns like Nha Trang. Alternatively, after Dalat and returning to HCM you can take the bus down through Mekong Delta with maybe a stop over and then a ferry to the island of Phu Quoc. This is a really nice chilled island with some good beaches. From there you can get a ferry back to Ha Tien where you cross the border into Cambodia and then bus on to Phenom Phen.

I think that is a good idea to change your flights and fly into Ho Chi Minh and out of Sien Reap, although be aware you pay an extra $25 departure tax now included in your flight. Tet falls on February 10th in 2013 so chances are you will not be effected by it directly. I always prefer to arrive and find my accommodations, but I will have looked online to check a few places and have them marked on a map. The quality of a place can change very fast and so seeing it first hand I always find best, plus you can usually negotiate a much better price than the online cost which includes booking fees.

6. Posted by meganjane03 (Budding Member, 48 posts) 15 Nov '12 18:10

I definitely agree with this, its very much personal preference and experience that can make or break a destination. Personally I do find other people's accounts to be helpful, but ultimately I will do what I want to do and you should too. In saying that I didn't like a place, by no means would I ever regret going there, esoecially Phnom Penh, a trip to Cambodia without Phnom Penh would not feel complete. My advice is, as said before, be prepared to change your plans. But in future, I will try not to add so much of my own personal thoughts.

7. Posted by lovely girl (First Time Poster, 1 posts) 19 Nov '12 00:27

Hello. I ever travelled Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh city, Da lat, Nha Trang, Hue, Hoi An, Da Nang. I spent 2 weeks there. it was a really great trip. I liked the most was Da Lat and Nha Trang. The atmosphere was fresh and pleasant. It made me relax and felt exciting. Moreover, the people were friendly and open as well. I also backpacked during my travel. Everything was proactive was better, so I was online and found a website on reservation in vietnam. Then, I searched on net and accessed -snip- to see first and made a reference. Therefore, It was easy for me to find the suitable acommodations and booked tickets.

[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]

8. Posted by Jiggae (Budding Member, 4 posts) 19 Nov '12 03:35

Great info all,thanks.I am aware of the different experiences,but appreciate all none the less.
Everyones experiences are different indeed,but where theres smoke, there's usually fire.But my mind is ready to enjoy wherever I go as much as possible.

I wouldn't mind substituting Phu Quoc for Kampot.I might even consider dropping Kampot altogether,depending on how much there is to do in other cities.

The only thing about Phu Quoc is that it seems to me like it might be jam packed during January,which might mean I might have to book well in advance for value for money accommodation.Im trying to get the best bang for my buck as you can tell.

Its going to cost about 60$ to change my ticket from round trip to Open Jawed,thats excluding the 25$ airport tax at Siem Riep.Why do they charge that tax?

If you have any recommendations on an amazing place to stay in any of these locations please send me a personal message.
Thanks.

So I think Ill probably just ride out the buses in Cambodia,even though they are potentially dangerous.

IM going to get E-visa's for both countries.

Ill see how things go.

Ill probably do:
Land in Ho Chi Min-Dalat-Mekong tour to Phnom Penn-Phnom Phenn-Siem Riep-Phu Quoc/Kampot/or skip both in favour of more time in Ho Chi Min/Phnom Penn-Phnom Phenn-Ho Chi Min Depart

One question.It the 3 Day Mekong Delta tour from Vietnam to Phnom Phenn the same as the regular 3 day Mekong Delta tour?

9. Posted by meganjane03 (Budding Member, 48 posts) 19 Nov '12 05:24

We stayed at Avista Lane Lodge in Siem Reap for $16.75 per night for a double room
We booked through Agoda online. This is the only hotel we went to that I would recommend.

The 3 day mekong should be the same but may depend on the xompany. Ours was exactly the same as those returning to HCM except on the final day where we were put on boats to Phnom Penh and the rest got on buses back to HCM. Be warned, you may get dropped off in what seems like the middls of nowhere in Phnom Penh and touts will lie about where you are and charge you extra.

Have you considered going to Sihanoukville instead for some beach time? I also recommend Mui Ne or Nha Trang, though we regret not having time for Phu Quoc.

10. Posted by Dodger (Respected Member, 860 posts) 19 Nov '12 14:02

i shouldn't have mentioned the departure tax, as its probably more confusing then helpful. They use to ask for it in cash which made it seem like you were being ripped off, but now its included in the ticket like a lot of other countries. Either way, if you fly out from any airport you will be paying that $25.

I doubt Phu quoc will be over run in Jan. It pretty much fly's under the radar for most tourists, and for good reason, with so many fantastic beaches in Thailand to choose from. It adds considerably to your time and costs to get there.

My recommendation would be, HCM to Mui Ne or Nha Trang, then on to Dalat, back to HCM and do the tunnels, etc. Delta tour and on to Phnom Penh, then on to Siem Reap and fly out from there.