Hi guys. As part of a larger 2 month Southeast Asia tour in September/August, a friend and I will be spending time in Northern Vietnam, Laos, and possibly Cambodia. The general preference in terms of travel style is: keep the overly touristed places to a minimum, without missing out on must-sees (eg Halong), generally trying to get a feel for the place/locals/way of life (eg just sitting around in cafes and walking around, instead of rushing from museum to mausoleum), without being drowned in package tourists and locals trying to sell us trinkets the entire time, and being flexible enough to change plans to some degree when we feel like it. Especially keen on pristine natural landscapes.
Our plan for Northen Vietnam (possibly dipping down into Central) is generally: about 5 days hanging out in Hanoi (pho!), 3 day Halong Bay tour (with Handspan), and depending on how long we stay, visiting places like Mai Chau, Ninh Binh & surrounds, possibly Northern mountains, and basically anywhere where we can get a good feel for the landscape and the people (am considering Hoi An/Hue as well, but the overly touristed nature of the place is making me hesitant).
Here is my quandary: We have the option of either staying in Northern Vietnam for 3 weeks, or staying only 2 weeks and spending the 3rd week in Cambodia (where we have distant family friends). A week in Cambodia sounds great (about 3 days for Angkor and another 3 doing daytrips from PP I think - not sure at this point), but I am wondering if reducing Northern Vietnam to 2 weeks will make us feel rushed, miss out on some stuff we should've checked out, and generally change the easy-going nature we'd prefer. Or is 2 weeks plenty for the region? Because we'll be visiting Laos as well, particularly the North, I'm guessing that it might not be a massive loss to miss out on the Northern moutainous areas of Vietnam (either Sapa or the Northeastern mountains) as we should be able to get plenty of jungly mountain trekking and hill-tribes in Laos - is this a reasonable assumption? Also, there is a decent chance that we'll be able to visit Cambodia another time (say for a more relaxed 2 weeks) if we miss it this time.
So, that 3rd week in Vietnam, or 1 week in Cambodai?
Ps. Any suggestions for interesting places not mentioned to check in Northern Vietnam would be appreciated! Any other feedback on the places mentioned would be great as well.
#1 karuthless has been a member since 23/3/2011. Posts: 10
I agree with Rasheed. Especially if it's likely that you'll visit Cambodia in the future.
Besides, the mountains in northern Vietnam are much different from the areas in Laos. Because of higher altitude there is less jungle and the weather can be really cold. Makes for a different experience altogether.
"The general preference in terms of travel style is: .... generally trying to get a feel for the place/locals/way of life (eg just sitting around in cafes and walking around, instead of rushing from museum to mausoleum), without being drowned in package tourists and locals trying to sell us trinkets the entire time.."
I think the only places that I managed to achieve that was in Dalat(Central Highlands) and the Mekong Delta area! (To a lesser extent, I would say Hue as well).
I agree with the others - stick to Vietnam.
On our own 4 month trip in the region, my wife & I spent 2 weeks in Northern Vietnam and a week in Cambodia. We had a loose plan on where to go & for how long before travelling - that's how it panned out for us. With hindsight I would change some things on our trip, shorten time in some places, maybe skip some places altogether. But that's with hindsight. However, I do know that if I was putting that same trip together again I would spend longer in both Northern Vietnam & Cambodia. No doubt - they were both highlights for us & too short really. Having said that, they gave us a reasonable feel for each place & didn't feel too whistlestop - but longer would have been better.
By the way, we also did the Handspan 3 day trip to Halong which was very good. Agree with your time in Hanoi - we had 3 nights which wasn't enough. I understand your thoughts on Hoi An, but we loved it there also. I guess its a bit like visiting a chocolate box Cotswolds village in England - not really fully representative of the rest of the country, but very enjoyable nevertheless. I didn't really find Hue touristy at all - more a workaday Vietnamese town. Sapa was beautifully sited, enjoyable, but very touristy - you may need to get further into the mountains to find what you are looking for. Personally, I preferred Northern Laos for this kind of thing, but perhaps we weren't in the NE for long enough. Hope that helps.
Thanks for the responses guys (particularly for the detailed reply Nokka!). Am leaning towards the 3rd week in Vietnam so far... more responses welcome!
#6 karuthless has been a member since 23/3/2011. Posts: 10