I am currently planning a short journey into Vietnam during my SE Asia trip. My current itinerary is as follows:
11/27: Fly into Saigon at 11:50
11/29: Fly to Hue (7:00-8:20), spend night in Hue.
11/30-12/1 - Take bus to Hoi An . Spend 2 nights in Hoi An.
12/2-12/5 - Flight from Da Nang to Ha Noi (6:05 - 7:15). 4 nights in Hanoi. Planning to spend two of these seeing Ha Long Bay and the last day to do some motorcycles tours in the Ha Noi area.
I have an extra day to dedicate to one of these locations. My dillemma - which one?
I am leaning towards 3 nights in Hoi An since I have read how charming it is, plus I could maybe do a visit to the My Son ruins.
But I have only 1.5 days in HCMC, so wondering whether I should extend that.
Also, I've been hearing a lot about Nha Trang , and am wondering whether it's worth substituting Nha Trang for Hue/Hoi An.
Or heck, maybe I should spend my extra day in Ko Phi Phi extending my 3 day stay in south Thailand.
Thanks and I look forward to any feedback/opinions/suggestions.
P.S. Please spare me the condemnation of rushing too fast through places, I would love to take a month to travel through the country and I'm all too well aware I'm rushing but I want to squeeze the most of my short U.S. vacation and see a lot of places before coming back on another trip to do more "in-depth" travel.
#1 scythemk has been a member since 3/9/2010. Posts: 23
This does look like a fast trip, and I doubt your plea at the bottom will stop people from insisting that you are trying to do too much in too little time, but I've been in situations like yours before and I don't regret seeing more places quickly, especially since it's unlikely that I'll ever be back to the ones I would have missed.
While Hoi An was definitely my favorite stop in Vietnam earlier this year, I think you should add that extra day to HCMC. It's a huge and interesting city, and I think the only good reason to rush through it in just over a day is if you really dislike huge cities. Also, you obviously have to consider jet lag and all of that if that's your first stop in that time zone.
Hoi An is small and very charming and mostly peaceful, plus there's a nice beach nearby that is easy to reach. If HCMC doesn't sound great then add another day in Hoi An. Personally, I found the My Son ruins a bit disappointing, and barely worth the half-day tour. I'd recommend the early-morning tour, which gets there at sunrise with almost no crowds. The midday tours (the one I did) all get there at the same time so the place is just crawling with other tourists, making appreciating any of it really difficult.
Skip Nha Trang on a trip like this. It's a pleasant place, and quite a nice beach, but it's really nothing more than a cheap beach resort town that just happens to be in Vietnam. The crowd is mostly Australian backpackers, and there's very little culture to appreciate.
Completely agree with rawjer on all points.
The main sights of Hoi An (walk around town) can easily be done in a day and if you don't have clothes to be made there you'll be fine.
I personally think HCMC is the essence of Vietnam. Bustling, energetic with some cultural gems to be found in small corners and most people only see the backpacker area and district 1 while there is much more to this city than just that.
Many thanks to you both. HCMC it is. I will be coming to HCMC after visiting Cambodia and Thailand, so jet lag shouldn't be a problem. Will 2 days/2 nights in Hoi An be enough for me to get some tailor-made clothes (touristy, I know, but seems like it'd be cool to try)?
Now I'm debating whether 1.5 days in BKK is too little as well...
#4 scythemk has been a member since 3/9/2010. Posts: 23
For HCMC I'd recommend doing 1 day a normal sightseeing tour (either organize yourself or small group tour). Most of them visit Reuninification palace, war remnants museum and the other usual stuff. Good way to see all the higlights in a day and get your bearings.
Second day I would just wonder around depending on your interests. The chinese area has some excellent beautiful and peaceful pagodas. Visit some parks (around dusk they are full with young lovers on their motorbikes) and in the evenings you could eat cheaply around Ben Thanh market or drink at some fancy places in street behind Sun-tower or Dong Khoi. Other bar recommended is bar 26 on the 26th floor of Sheraton. Has a great view over the city. For lower budget you'll find plenty of Bia-hoi places. Just stay away from the ones in Pham Ngu Lao. If you go local you should go really local and you'll find plenty of friendly vietnamese willing to converse with you.
Clothes in Hoi An. I know it's a popular thing but I honestly don't think the quality is that good. Especially if you only have 2 days. BKK (thailand) is far better to have clothes made. For simple items (t-shirts etc.) you should be fine though. Suits and dresses require several fittings and a rush job would probably not give the best results.
What works best is if you give your favorit shirt or pants and tell them to make an exact copy while you just choose the fabric. That will go quickly and well.
BKK would work better for you since you could do fitting before you go to islands and then final fitting when you return.
Saigon also has a nice little Salsa scene, or so I've heard. So that's a draw for sure.
#6 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Try staying away from district 1, for accomodation I mean (I stayed in district 3), as that's really not HCMC! We stayed in a back alley hotel, in the middle of vietnamese people, not a single tourist, you pay the prices locals pay for food and you get to see how they live!
#7 Indoluso has been a member since 22/12/2009. Posts: 133
"We stayed in a back alley hotel, in the middle of vietnamese people, not a single tourist, you pay the prices locals pay for food and you get to see how they live!"
The problem for me would be that I would also have to eat Vietnamese food - which I hate. The big plus of being in Hanoi or Saigon is I could get non-Vietnamese food to eat. My maid (I hate the sound of that, and she is also a friend) is always inviting me to come visit her village in Dong Hoi. It's even more of a hole than my wife's village: She showed me video of it. Still, I am tempted to go, because her father fought with the Viet Minh a LONG time ago, and I would love to hear his take on tactics, logistics and weapons of the period from someone with first hand experience. So I might go at some point. I dread the bus ride (can't take the chopper). But I can always take my own food...
#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
eastwest, thanks a lot for the suggestions of things to do/places to stay in HCMC. Much appreciated.
I guess I'll have to look into tailor shops in BKK. And I would love to find some hole in the wall bia-hoi place with friendly locals.
Indoluso, thanks for the tip, does District 3 have good transportation options and is it close to the main sights? Staying in a more Vietnamese district sounds wonderful, and I love the food, so I don't think I'll have MADMAC's problem.
MADMAC, that sounds like a very fascinating trip, I would take her up on her offer.
#9 scythemk has been a member since 3/9/2010. Posts: 23
District 3 is a fine district to stay in and wander around.
A few remarks
- Sometimes budget places outside of tourist areas tend to double as "love" hotels. Don't be put off by this, they're not brothels. You'll just see young vietnamese couples (they all live with their family so they need to go somewhere) and will never bother you. Places are perfectly fine though. If it looks dodgy don't stay there anyway.
- transport is mainly moto-drivers or (meter)taxi and you'll have no trouble finding either
- language in these areas is more of a barrier but if you're comfortable with that you'll have a great time. It adds a lot to the atmosphere and you'll find that vietnamese people outside tourist areas are incredibly friendly and very helpful. If you have an english speaking person at hotel ask them to write the destination for you on a paper (and the address of hotel for way back) in vietnamese.
- eating and bia hoi. What I normally do around lunch time (12 am) is wander around and watch some hole in the wall restaurants and see if they fill up with local (office) workers. These places offer great food for dirt cheap prices and the popularity ensures that everything is freshly made in the morning. Just point to the dishes you like. Don't go too late or you may find that food is finished.
- In the evenings I tend to go to more fancy places to try some special dishes (I love vietnamese food) in more upmarket restaurants but that's not a backpacker thing.
"And I would love to find some hole in the wall bia-hoi place with friendly locals."
This will be easy. Small hole in the wall places with friendly locals are everywhere in Thailand. Got to give it to the Thai's when it comes to friendly.
#11 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Your question isn't really easy to answer. I can't tell you exactly in which part of district 3 we were staying so don't really know how far from district 1 (where major sights are located) we were. In terms of taxi price I can't remember but when you are 3 taxi is cheaper than motorbike (we were 3 people). I guess it was about a 10 to 15min ride (40/50,000 dong??) which in HCMC's traffic doesn't mean a big distance and if you like walking you could perhaps do it on foot. We only went once to the city center, otherwise just getting ourselves lost in the city walking around. Our hotel was a bit pricey, actually for the value of the room we got it was too expensive but we booked it through the internet as we were ariving late in the evening from Europe and didn't want to spend time looking for a place to stay and didn't bargain the price. It's called 4 roses hotel, very clean, didn't include breakfast, but we learnt in the rest of the trip that for that price you should get something fancier (28 dollars a night for 3 people). Anyway we don't regret at all as for breakfast we paid 15,000 dong for Pho, which is nothing, and the location was perfect for what we were looking for. It was one of the places in the whole trip where people didn't talk to you (or try to as nobody speaks english!) to try to sell you something, got invited by locals to have some beers and try some food, it was a really good experience! Concerning the young couples' things mentioned above it didn't happen in our hotel, guess it was too pricey for that. But deffinatly go for this district!
#12 Indoluso has been a member since 22/12/2009. Posts: 133
"Ward 3, Binh Thanh District, Saigon"
This is where I would stay. Is this the same as District 3?
#13 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I've stayed in the 4 Roses hotel too and loved the area. It's not far from Chinatown. You should be able to get a room for $19 for a single if you stay on the top floor. It is more expensive than the backpacker area but so are other areas away from there. I don't like the Pham Ngu Lao area, finding it noisy and rather sleazy and more like Khao San rd in Bangkok. There are buses into the centre (get a bus map from the Ben Thanh bus depot) but they stop about 6pm. I have walked from the centre to 4 roses but you wouldn't want to do that too often.
Another good place to stay would be the Evergreen hotel in Hai Ba Trung street, but further north of the main centre.It's about $25 a room though. Whatever you do get a good map so that you can work out where you are. Saigon can also feel a bit overwhelming because the traffic is terrible, with bikes often driving the wrong way or driving on the footpath.
My favourite place is Hue, but I think 1 night is probably worse than none. You will get no time to see anything much and probably won't want to go back. Even catching a plane can take the better part of a day. Look carefully at how long you need to travel and that might influence where you go.
#14 violets has been a member since 6/7/2009. Posts: 151