A friend and i are heading all over SE asia for just short of three months, starting December. Our trip begins in Saigon, and our itinerary, specifically for vietnam, is as follows:
Saigon: 3 nights
Overnight train to Da Nang
Hoi An : 4 nights
Overnight train to Hanoi
Hanoi and Surrounds: 9 nights.
We are both young lads, and we've travelled thailand before. We love food, taking advantage of destinations' specialties (i.e. Hoi An and its tailors) and ofcourse a bit of nightlife, but not forgetting authentic cultural experiences that get you out of the "tourist scene". Dislike places such as Phuket. Our overall trip will take us on and off the beaten track. A few questions: we've started booking inexpensive, recommended hostel accommodation, would prior booking be recommended at this time of the year (december)? that question pretty much goes for our whole trip (vietnam - laos - thailand - malaysia - singapore) over dec - feb. I realise it restricts your movements a bit, but is there a lot of availability at this time of the year? same goes for train tickets... better to have them booked prior? any recommendations for Hanoi, other than Ha Long and Sapa?
#1 RookieEra has been a member since 28/4/2010. Posts: 3
That sounds like a good and sensible itinerary.
As for the bookings: It wouldn't hurt you to do that. In the budget backpackers range there is plenty of room though to wing it but it's also understandable to book ahead since it will save you hunting around (and dealing with touts) in busy december. Just beware about prices though. Many guesthouses quote higher prices over internet but you can bargain although for december that might be tougher.
Booking train tickets in advance is very useful. There are several threads about that.
I quite liked the homestays in Mai Chau. Very peaceful and tranquil. Different experience from Sapa but I don't know if it might interest two lads but if you enjoy scenery and tranquility it's definitely recommended. But you may not have that much time if you do Sapa, Halong and Hanoi in 9 days.
As far as price is concerned we've found some good deals online, and through hostelworld, a few extra bucks is not so dearly missed in exchange for a few hours hunting for a bed. We have been recommended Bac Ha over Sapa, thoughts? and has Ha Long just become completely touristified? i like the idea of spending a night out on a boat, but not amongst another 100, surrounded by fat, compact-camera sporting "Club Med all-inclusive" travellers...
#3 RookieEra has been a member since 28/4/2010. Posts: 3
Bac Ha has few food options, except for the very busy night before the even busier market. The reasonable hotels seem to be booked out by the tour groups (the one I managed to get was pretty dire). The scenery is beautiful but all the markets I saw were so full of tourists with big cameras and the made for tourist stuff that goes with it.
Sapa is still better set up for tourists, though there seems to be lots of building going on.
#4 violets has been a member since 6/7/2009. Posts: 151
Agree with violets.
Another option would be Ha Giang but that is on the complete opposite of the spectrum. It's northern Vietnam and one of the poorest areas in Vietnam. Ba Giang the provincial capital has an interesting market that attracts the same hilltribes in the weekends. You can be assured to be the only foreigner there (or of a handful) but it's tough going without anything or anybody catering to tourists. Even authorities might not like you to go there because of the poverty. But some truly breathtaking scenery (north east of Ba Giang) there as well and very cold in december.
If you fancy a rewarding but challenging trip I can recommend it but it's not for everyone. With a guide it would be more enjoyable for you
Ha long is touristic but justifiably so and there's not much you can do about it. The mid range boats are not overcrowded and the area is huge. Once you're on the water the other tourists will disappear and only converge at the caves and other hotspots. Read some topics (and the site) here well about selecting a boat.
I was a bit dissapointed by Bac Ha - I'd also heard that it was more 'authentic' than Sapa and therefore the place to stay, but on market day it's full of tourist tour groups and the rest of the time I guess it's dead. And as Violets says, there's a dire lack of restaurants, although I did find a couple of decent hotels there.
Sapa is very touristy but I love it there and there's plenty of choice for eating, drinking and sleeping. Also, if you want to trek, it's cheaper and easier to do so out of Sapa - it is possible from Bac Ha but I was quoted higher prices as the tours will be private, not group.
I would recommend a visit to Bac Ha if you're there for a Sunday but I think you'd have a better time in Sapa.
Halong is also touristy but unmissable.
after searched on google and yahoo i found this tour http://travel.yahoo.com/trip-journal-2382413-13_days_local_experience_of_vietnam i think you can take a look to get some tips for you.
with Itinerary in Brief:
Day 1: Arrival Ho Chi Minh City - Afternoon City Tour
Day 2: Optional Trips: Morning Saigon City Tour / Afternoon Option Cu Chi Tunnels
Day 3: Optional Trips: Day Trip to Mekong Delta / Can Gio Mangrove Forest / “Helping Hands” Tour - Overnight Bus To Nha Trang
Day 4: Arrival Nha Trang - Optional Trips: Boat Trip / Guided Biking Trip / Hot Spring Mud Bath
Day 5: Free Day In Nha Trang - Overnight Train To Da Nang
Day 6: Arrival Danang. Bus To Hoi An Via Marble Mountain
Day 7: Free Discovery In Hoi An Ancient Town - Optional Cooking Class
Day 8: Public Bus to Hue - Hue Homestay
Day 9: In Hue - Optional Trips: Thien Mu Pagoda & Old Citadel / Kayaking On Perfume River. Overnight Train To Hanoi
Day 10: Arrive Hanoi - Drive To Halong Bay
Day 11: Return to Hanoi - Free Time Or Orientation Walk In Old Quarter
Day 12: In Hanoi - Free And Easy
Day 13: Tour Ends Hanoi
hope it helpful
#7 janice107 has been a member since 10/8/2011. Posts: 9