My girlfriend and I are visiting Vietnam in a couple of months and I am after some help and advice if possible?
We are leaving for Vietnam on Wednesday 23rd October; we arrive in HCMC on Thursday 24th in the evening and plan to get a direct flight straight up to Hanoi. Our flight back is on Sunday 10th November in the evening.
We will be visiting Vietnam for 2 ½ so we only have a short time there. It would be good to hear your views on which part of the country you think is worth visiting etc....We have interests in everything from adventure, culture, history, food, beaches etc.
This is where we have been advised to see.....
The Mekong Delta
I hope to hear from you soon.....
You have 17 days in VN. I agree with what you have planned. 2-3 days in HAN, then up to SaPa. Or not. This is an option that I would decide once in HaNoi. If it is raining, I would consider passing on SaPa. Not much fun trudging around villages in the rain/mud IMO. 2 days on HaLong Bay. Many companies plus your hotel/GH will book your 1-2-3 day tour. Get at least 3 quotes. Plenty of overcharging and scams on HB. I would read some blogs on cruising HB and decide what company to book with.
I would make use of the overnight bus or train down to Hue. Saves 1 night accomm. and you get in early am. The train is safer, more expensive and you need to make a reservation a few days before you want to leave. The open tour bus is cheaper, more convenient, but the roads of VN are not as safe as rail. Your decision. There are at least 4 companies running the open tour. I have had bad experiences with T-M Brothers & Hanh Cafe, never been on Phuong Trang but they get good reviews. Do some research and read what others have to say about that company. I would go with Sinh Cafe. Oldest, largest company in VN.
Your bus will stop at a hotel affiliated with that bus company. You can stay there or walk/ moto to another place. I liked Thai Binh Hotel in a small alley close to Cafe on Thu Wheels. Large room, cheap, quiet. There are several hotels in this alley. Get prices and decide if you don't stay where your bus stops. About $11/night. Get a room as soon as you arrive in Hue and then go sightseeing. There are day tours via motorbike, boat, bus. The Citadel is a 'must see' and you can do that on your own. I went with Cafe on Thu Wheels, twice! I do recommend them for a fun day tooling around Hue. Cheap food & drink as well. Eat before or after your tour for a fun experience. You won't forget Thu either. Plenty of photos in my gallery of Thu and my tour. All of the places you will visit in VN as well. I wrote a review as did many others.
Easy bus ride over to Hoi An. Several buses a day to choose from. Plenty to see/do.
Historic district, My Son ruins, river, beach. Choose the boat return from My Son, more fun. Many of our TP ladies like the clothes shopping in HA. Allow a few days to get your custom clothes if you order. Again, read up on what shop to use. Some are much better than others on quality.
I would make use of the overnight bus/train down to Nha Trang. Stay where your bus stops or head over to where I stayed. My blog talks about NT. I will stay there when I return to NT. Bay tour worth your time/money IMO. Ruins to walk around as well. Overnight bus back to HCM. Or stop in Mui Ne if you saved a few days by not going to SaPa. Many offer delta tours in HCM, shop around. I always get 3 quotes before booking. I would stick with Sinh Cafe, but compare and decide what quote you like.
Hope this helps and good luck with your planning.
[ Edit: Edited on 28-Aug-2013, at 18:53 by vegasmike6 ]
With 5 trips to VN under my belt, I think I know something about this country. Let me say that you really need more like a month for that itinerary - travel moves slowly in this country and the last thing you want to do is rush. Road travel (esp sleeper buses) can be quite dangerous - please use air or train only. You will be forced to use local buses on shorter routes - no problem.
Hanoi - my favorite place/not to be missed
Sapa - another favorite - tiny, beautiful and friendly/very rustic
Halong Bay - beautiful but can be polluted (all cruises start from Hanoi)
Nha Trang - the party city
Hue - the educational and historical center
Hoi An - the touristy seaport - best food in VN
HCMC - the business center
The Mekong Delta - poorest part of VN, canals everywhere
my favorites are Hanoi, Sapa and Hoi An, and my least favorites are HCMC and Nha Trang (not a fan of Hue either)
You need to pare down that itinerary or add time to your trip - good luck
(Fall on the Central Coast is typhoon season - Hue and Hoi An flood easily - just be flexible with your plans)
[ Edit: Edited on 29-Aug-2013, at 10:29 by Daawgon ]
I've just got back from 3 weeks in Vietnam. Good advice from VegasMike and Daawgon, about everything, so not too much to add. Try to cruise Bai Tu Long rather than Ha Long, it's a bit less crowded and polluted than the main bay. Boats set off from the same place. We also went to Tam Coc, which is very nice, but might be a bit much to squeeze that in too. We took the sleeper Hanoi-Hue (soft sleeper, we booked out a compartment for 3 of us). It was pretty comfortable, just as good as sleeper trains in the UK (not sure how much of a recommendation that is!).
The food.... I could write about the food for days.... it's so good. I could post about 50 recommendations. But here's one for Hoi An - Banh Mi Phuong - ask for the Banh Mi with everything, it's the best sandwich in the universe ever. And for beaches, An Bang is a pretty decent day out from Hoi An, nice low-key beach with good food and a few chilled out bars on it.