Hi! How are you?
We are two friends travelling to Vietnam in November - for my 30th birthday. We are just seeking advice from people who have recently been to Vietnam who can recommend certain this to us.
I have been reading this forum quite a bit, and I have to say, I feel like just stalking brucemoon - I really like his posts! Hi brucemoon! LOL They are very informative and really, really, helpful.
We're based in Australia, and I have the Lonely Planet guidebook, albeit it was published in 2007 so a bit old.
We've booked our flights, and our guesthouse in HCMC [Madam Cucs]. We don't have our Hanoi accommodation yet but I think we might just wing it once we get there, or pre-book, once I've made a decision.
We are flying up to Hanoi during our stay, and I would LOVE to do a Halong Bay overnight trip, and also a Sapa homestay, and thanks to Brucemoon and the others who have started threads, I'm feeling a bit more wise although if someone doesn't rip me off blind during this trip I'll probably consider it a success!
I'm looking at Sapa Pathfinder and Sapa Travel for the tours of Sapa, just wondering if anyone has recently been on any Sapa trip [touts bugger off please] that can tell me about their tour? I really would like to actually stay with a villager, but I do understand that they could be tourist-weary [understandably].
Also, anyone recently been on a Halong Bay trip, that can tell me about their tour company, who they booked with, and the cost and what they thought overall?
I know I'm asking quite a lot, but if anyone can recommend a Mekong Delta homestay that would be great too. Madam Cuc's has recommended one to me that sounds good, and is $50USD.
Thank you in advance for your replies.
Hi pobblebonk - welcome to the forum!
I was in Vietnam for a month earlier this year - awesome place. I can't help you with Sapa tours, but in terms of Halong Bay, my recommendation would be with Columbus Cruises. I thought they were great, the food was awesome, and the boat very clean and comfortable. There have been many discussions about them in this forum good and bad) on which I have posted several times. Have a search and you will find the various opinions. Columbus are pricey compared to other options (we paid USD$209pp, incl pickup from Hanoi and food) but I thought they were worth it. From what I have heard, this is one area where you get what you pay for.
'Mekong Delta' is a big area. Which town were you looking at staying in?
Hi Lizzy - thanks for the welcome!
Haven't been over your way yet - but it's on my 'to do' list!
Thanks, we'll have a look at Columbus. Yes, I've been reading reading reading all the opinions on Halong Bay cruises! LOL a lot to look at! *opens new tab in Safari to look at Columbus*
We are happy to pay more for Halong Bay and Sapa and Mekong Delta. We prefer quality, particuarly since this trip is for my 30th.
I'm not really sure yet where in Mekong, just looking at tours at the moment.
Really excited though about Sapa and Halong Bay! Can't wait!
What else did you do while you were there, and what did you think?
I'm not sure whether you'll find a homestay in Sapa with one of the minorities. I must admit that my last visit to Sapa is some time ago but the thing is that most minorities don't actually live in Sapa. They only come to Sapa for the market and sell things to tourists. Any homestay in Sapa will most likely be with ethnic vietnamese and I don't think you're looking for that.
The minority villages around Sapa are very poor and I can somehow not imagine that homestays are organized there. But things may have changed. Just be wary when a homestay in Sapa itself is offered.
Mai Chau (northern Vietnam) is known for it's homestays, in a beautiful valley, with the White Thai.
In Mekong Delta around Can Tho many homestays are offered but quality varies a lot. Best to go with recommendation from others. I'm afraid that the popularity of Madame Cucs has spoiled the homestay she recommends just because of the number of backpackers that pass through her guesthouses. I have no first hand experience though.
Thanks for your reply. No problem, we'll just have to go and see how we go with Madam Cuc's. I guess that happens when you're recommended by Lonely Planet.
Mai Chau , okay thanks for the recommendation, I'll have a look inot Mai Chau homestays as well. I have been reading lots of this forum about Sapa homestays.
Welcome! Firstly, if you get "ripped off blind" in Vietnam it'll probably only happen once or twice as you'll know how to avoid it the next time!
I haven't actually done a homestay around Sapa but I've been up there and looked into it. I know there are homestays included as part of the trekking tours, in the villages around Sapa town, but of course most are very touristy. That's not to say they won't be an enjoyable experience though. You can probably get less touristy by organising a private tour or approaching one of the H'mong women who hang around town and going with them on a trek. There are no real homestays very near Sapa although there are a couple of places on the road to Cat Cat Village which offer 'homestay' accommodation - in other words, sleeping on a mattress in a room in the loft. Gem Valley looked really nice - it's $7 a night.
You should be alright winging it for accommodation in Hanoi in November. Don't do what we did (when we were novice travellers before we learnt the scams!) and book through hostelworld and end up in a complete dump for $22 a night. You can get a palace for that!
We're mainly interested in the trekking part, going walkabout, so we're not too fussed about where we're sleeping and how authentic it is, as long as we get to spend time with the people of the region. I really want to see the landscapes.
Maybe we'll just wing it for Halong and Sapa when we're in Hanoi, and maybe we'll just wing the whole thing and only book our accommodation in HCMC and 'see how we go'. LOL
We haven't booked through Hostelworld. I booked direct with Madam Cuc by emailing. But thanks for the warning! We've had a look at Wotif too, for accommodation.
PS. I emailed Columbus but they haven't returned it yet.
If that's what you're after then a standard group trek will probably be fine. You probably won't have any problem booking Sapa once you're in Hanoi (you won't have a problem with Halong) - but if you're nervous then get it sorted in advance if you can (I'm not sure if people take bookings without payment) so that you can enjoy your trip without worrying.
I didn't comment on Mai Chau - it's a lovely place with beautiful scenery but, in my opinion, not a patch on the scenery around Sapa. The homestays there are tourist orientation - the whole village is full of them - but it's got a nice vibe to it. Worth a trip if no time for Sapa or you don't fancy an overnight train.