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2 weeks in Vietnam. Is it too much to include 5 cities, or too little? Please critique

  • sunbell79

    Joined Travelfish
    25th January, 2012
    Posts: 6
    Places visited:
    At least 9

    My husband and I will be traveling to Vietnam in a few weeks and have 13 nights to work with. It's our first time to the country and our focus is more on the food, culture, temples, and history than focusing on the American War and it's footprint. We're 30-something year old foodies that want to get a good feeling for the country, just in case this is our only trip to Vietnam. (it's a big world) we also want to make sure we don't come home from the trip exhausted, so a little down time at the beach is a must. We enjoy being active, but trekking in Sapa is more than we're looking for this go around.

    Here's what we have.

    Day 1: arrive late in Saigon
    2 - Saigon
    3 - fly out at midday to Hanoi
    4 - Hanoi
    5 - Hanoi (day trip to Perfume Pagoda?)**
    6 - Hanoi - take the 7pm train to Hué
    7 - Hué
    8 - take the scenic drive to Hoi An *
    9 - fly to Nha Trang
    10 - Nha Trang (day trip to Cham temple? Or islands? Or a different day trip?)**
    11 - Nha Trang
    12 - fly to Saigon midday
    13 - Saigon (or Mekong Delta day trip?)**
    14 - Saigon - fly for home at 23:00h

    We didn't include Halong Bay because it seemed too touristy and we were afraid of feeling like we were being held captive. Should we shorten our stay in Hanoi to include it? In Thailand we took the ferry from Phuket to Ko Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. Would you compare the beauty of Halong to that of the Andaman Sea?

    **Would you recommend any of the day trips? Again, we don't want to feel overly rushed the entire time, but don't want to miss out on a must see/do option.

    *Our time in Hoi An is very limited. Would you suggest taking the quickest drive from Hué rather than the scenic route? Or, should we spend 1 less day in Hanoi to add a second night here?

    Finally, are there any tour guide services that you'd recommend in Hanoi and/or Saigon? I know there are mixed opinions on groups like Hanoi Kids, but the reviews are all solid.

    Thank you in advance for any critique you can offer!

    #1 Posted: 8/3/2012 - 23:36

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  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
    17th June, 2011
    Posts: 684

    Answering your questions in reverse, I would not bother with tour guides in the big cities. Everythign is so accessible independently that it is not necessary or desirable to use a guide. Just a personal opinion.

    One night in Hoi An (if that's what it is?) is very short and not realistic if you want to get clothes tailored. Either way, it's a nice spot to kick back for a few days, some great restaurants (Cafe 43 the pick of the bunch, amazing) so I would seriously consider spending longer there.

    I didn't got to the Perfume Pagoda so can't comment on that but I would say, again, that two days in Hanoi is short. If you are into your food then I suspect you will want longer than this to go around the various streets sampling all the food and beer.

    To be honest, in 13 days, and if your focus is on food and culture, I would limit it to Hanoi, Hoi An, and Saigon, maybe Hue also for a day or two, but that is American War focused and you said you didn't want to see that. So basically cut Nha Trang from your itinerary and I'm not sure one day in the Mekong Delta is really worth the effort and cost.

    4 days Hanoi;
    4 days Hoi An;
    3 days Saigon;
    1 or 2 days in Hue (however, you could easily extend either of the above by one day or so if you don't fancy Hue)

    Regarding HB, most people have it as a must see but if you are not feeling it then don't bother going. It is very nice but is not in your stated interest area of food, culture and temples. And in a 13 day period in a country as large as Vietnam you have to make choices.

    My final advice would be don't overstretch yourself and find yourself wanting another holiday after this. 3 places, 4 max is plenty for 13 days.

    Good luck.

    #2 Posted: 9/3/2012 - 03:12

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
    17th June, 2011
    Posts: 684

    Also, make sure you check out the blogs here on street food eating in Hanoi and Saigon. They are excellent for getting the names of the various local dishes, where to sample each one, price etc etc.

    #3 Posted: 9/3/2012 - 05:07

  • daawgon

    Joined Travelfish
    17th April, 2007
    Posts: 939
    Total reviews: 2

    I like the itinerary that chinarocks is suggesting far more than the original - I too would drop Nha Trang and the Delta. (by the way, you are missing quite a bit by not going to Sapa)

    (next time you come to VN, use an open jaw ticket to save time and $$$)

    #4 Posted: 9/3/2012 - 13:50

  • busylizzy

    Joined Travelfish
    31st December, 2007
    Location New Zealand
    Posts: 2089
    Total reviews: 20
    Places visited:
    At least 107

    I'm just backing up what has already been said really.. .far too short in Hoi An , and would agree with skipping Nha Trang. It's an OK beach but it's just not worth the time there at the expense of other areas. Spend more time in Hoi An, and do a day trip up to Marble Mountain, China Beach, etc - and you there is a nice beach just a few kms from Hoi An that you could get to for a beach fix if you needed it.

    Halong Bay is scenic but yes, it's touristy. If you had more time I would suggest going anyhow, but given your limited time frame, I think you're right to miss it.

    Personally, I regret on missing out on Sapa, and wished I had gone there rather than Nha Trang.

    #5 Posted: 9/3/2012 - 18:58

  • tyler

    Joined Travelfish
    7th December, 2010
    Location Canada
    Posts: 253
    Places visited:
    At least 71

    You could easily spend your 13 days in Hanoi, Sapa and Halong Bay. Halong Bay, IMO, was worth any of the so-called hassles. And Sapa is just beautiful. Consider some of the aforementioned advice and maybe limit yourself to the North. Keep in mind that each travel day will eat up most of it. 13 days and more than 4 of them on the road, so to speak, is a lot.
    Leaving the south gives you a great reason to return.

    #6 Posted: 10/3/2012 - 04:46

  • sunbell79

    Joined Travelfish
    25th January, 2012
    Posts: 6
    Places visited:
    At least 9

    Hi everyone and thanks VERY much for your feedback. We have opted to skip Hué this trip, so that we can spend two nights in Hoi An. I know that this is still too short for the area, but are dates are a bit restricted. (We booked only one pre-paid hotel and that is in Nha Trang.)

    ? Question on hired cars/drivers. Does anyone have a recommendation on a company/person/guide to hire from Hue to HoiAn? We're still going to arrive in Hue early morning and then enjoy the scenic drive, rather than taking the train all the way to Danang. The hotel that we'd booked in Hue had offered us a driver at $65 USD. Of the online options, the prices seem to vary quite a lot. Any guidance on price to expect would be helpful too.


    We'll forego HB and Perfume Pagoda to spend more time in Hanoi. Thanks too for the tips on tour guides and eating. Next time I'll definitely check out the Open Jaw option!


    Given that we're missing out on Sapa and HB, and Hue, I'm guessing we'll need to return to the North.

    Thanks!

    #7 Posted: 13/3/2012 - 20:38

  • annaosully

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd April, 2012
    Posts: 2

    Hi Sunbell,

    Was wondering - if you are back from your trip yet - if you could tell me which places on your trip you enjoyed the most and which you wish you went to/wish you left out? Am planning a trip to SE Asia for January 2013 and I have up to two weeks in Vietnam.

    Also if anybody else can help me out - am wondering if I should skip Nha Trang in order to visit Sapa? I am planning on being in Hanoi for a couple of nights as well as doing an overnight trip in Halong Bay. If I do skip Nha Trang, is it possible to train from Hoi An (where I will be for a couple of nights) to Saigon (am trying to keep the flying down due to budget)..?

    Any advice would be much appreciated!!

    #8 Posted: 22/4/2012 - 01:45

  • daawgon

    Joined Travelfish
    17th April, 2007
    Posts: 939
    Total reviews: 2

    Also if anybody else can help me out - am wondering if I should skip Nha Trang in order to visit Sapa ? I am planning on being in Hanoi for a couple of nights as well as doing an overnight trip in Halong Bay. If I do skip Nha Trang, is it possible to train from Hoi An (where I will be for a couple of nights) to Saigon (am trying to keep the flying down due to budget)..?

    Jan is the coldest month for Sapa - if you don't mind that, yes, I would go. I'm not a fan of Nha Trang - nice beach, but the city is not my cup of tea. With a short trip like yours, you certainly don't want to waste time, and that's exactly what you'd be doing by taking the train all the way from Hoi An/Danang to Saigon - a very very very long trip by train on dirty equipment. I would avoid the last week of Jan - too close to Tet in early Feb (prices go up due to high demand).

    Nha Trang is the party town - if you really like that sort of thing, by all means go there. I far prefer Hoi An and just about any place other than NT. Dalat is quite nice, Hanoi is excellent and Sapa is awesome - my opinion. Saigon - another place I can do without.

    #9 Posted: 22/4/2012 - 23:48

  • Jafty51

    Joined Travelfish
    5th May, 2012
    Posts: 5

    Hi there,

    Sunbell, how did you find your trip, was that itinerary manageable? I was wondering if anyone had any additional wisdom? Like Sunbell, I'm hoping to do Hanoi - Saigon in 13 days (yikes) but I was planning on flying to Hue from Hanoi on day 7 and then going from there to Hoi An, Na Trang and on to Saigon. Is this a reasonable itinerary or am I being too ambitious?

    I'm going to be travelling by myself so don't mind paying extra for flights to avoid lengthy train journeys on my todd! From the forums people are saying VietnamAirlines are around £25-30 but the ones I'm looking at are in the region of £50-60.. Am i looking in the right place?!

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    #10 Posted: 3/6/2012 - 16:19

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  • sunbell79

    Joined Travelfish
    25th January, 2012
    Posts: 6
    Places visited:
    At least 9

    Sorry for my delinquency in responding.

    Vietnam was amazing and while we were only there for two weeks, the intensity of the travel made it feel like a month. We can't wait to return to some places and seek out new cities next time. I definitely feel like the number of cities was manageable for this timeframe, but we flew a lot. If we'd relied entirely on bus, train or driver, it would not have been possible. We spent about $60/person for our flights on Vietnam Air and Jetstar.

    Here's what we did.
    Day 1: arrived at 11pm in Saigon
    2 - Saigon
    3 - fly at midday to Hanoi
    4 - Hanoi
    5 - Hanoi
    6 - Hanoi - take the 7pm train to Hué
    7 - took the scenic drive from Hué to Hoi An *
    8- Hoi An
    9 - fly to Nha Trang
    10 - Nha Trang
    11 - Nha Trang
    12 - fly to Saigon midday
    13 - Saigon
    14 - Saigon - fly for home at 23h

    When we go places, we love to travel the area by foot to really get the lay of the land. We also embraced the time difference, which worked very well for the culture. We were generally in bed by eight and out the door by 6am. I highly recommend visiting at least one park in the early morning hours. Tons of people are out playing badminton and practicing tai chi; it easily could have been six in the evening.

    We included Nha Trang as a relaxation destination, which it suited that purpose perfectly. It was a culturally void experience, but to be fair, we weren't heading out to the temples or visiting the markets either. Three nights was way too many. We didn't have a bad experience, more of a been there, done that, and were anxious to experience Saigon. If you do go, make sure to order a grilled lobster on the beach. The fisherman and his wife walk the beach and will cook whichever langoustine you select right there. That's all I have on NT. If you want to go and spend a few days with tons of Eastern Europeans, Russians and Japanese, this is your place.

    As we'd been advised, our time in Hoi An was too short. VERY true! We arrived around 3pm and left for the DaNang Airport at 9am two days later, giving us only two nights. We loved our cooking class with Van (Bamboo Cooking School)! We loved how clean the market was! We loved biking through the old quarter and around the city! We loved how friendly the people were. This will be the first city we go back too.

    I was nervous about the train going into the trip, but was so glad that we'd chosen that segment. Sure, it took 15 hours to go 400 miles, but it was a great way to see the landscape between Hanoi and Hué. With the sun rising at 5:30, your view from the window in those morning hours was incredibly powerful. We brought some Bahn Mi on board with us, so didn't buy food on the train. (bad move on our part as that was the only food poisoning we experienced of the trip. Not really what you want on a train, but C'Est la vie.) we loved that it was an overnight train too, allowing us to take advantage of time with our limited schedule. I could not imagine taking a much longer trip on the train though. I think DaNang to Saigon would be too far; especially with the heat.

    I'm glad we made the drive from Hué to Hoi An, it was beautiful. We literally got off the train and into a car, so I don't have any feedback on Hué. Our driving experience was a little off with me needing to make frequent stops along the roadside (aforementioned Bahn mi). I was a bit more bothered by the vendors at each stop; we were clearly on "the" route, as opposed to a casual, stop wherever you wanted to meander. I would still recommend it as we got some awesome gifts at Marble Mountain. And, we got to see the area up close and personal. If you're short on time, spend more of it in Hoi An.

    I'm also glad we "eased" into the trip for a day in Saigon before heading to crazy Hanoi. The energy of this city is frenetic with 30 mil. scooters whirling by you and the women with yokes all while you cross a street without a signal. Insane, but incredible all at the same time. They say people are friendlier the further South you go, which is true. (also more "expensive", though everything is relative.) Their indifference to us in the North, was a bit refreshing, looking back.

    In hindsight, the number of days per city that China Rocks suggests would be perfect. For our first trip though, I'm glad we saw what we saw to get a broad snapshot of the N to S coastline.

    Eat the street food! We were almost always disappointed with our restaurant meals knowing the amazing flavors to be had while sitting on a plastic children's chair outside. Make sure you have Xoi Xeo at 7am near a school in Hanoi. Or, Xoi Bap in the market at Hoi An in the early morning. You must have Pho, any Pho, at a tiny table with locals. Many times! Ga was our favorite...

    Drink at a Bia Hoi in Hanoi! As close to 5pm as possible!

    A Vietnamese foot massage often includes a back massage. Worth it!

    Drink as much of the coffee as you can for me! I miss it!

    #11 Posted: 4/6/2012 - 22:13

  • huetouristv-
    ietn

    Joined Travelfish
    5th June, 2012
    Posts: 2

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    I think you should make a tour to Phu Quoc Island when you fly to Sai Gon city , it very well for new experience

    #12 Posted: 5/6/2012 - 02:54

  • ecotravelvn

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd June, 2012
    Location Vietnam
    Posts: 19

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    14 days in Vietnam is to visit some cities. Why don't you book flight to arrive Hanoi and depart HCMC. This you will save a flight to return HCMC
    Intead of you visit Perfume pagoda, you should visit Hoa Lu Van Long - Halong inland. It is worth to visit than Perfume pagoda.
    From Hue to Hoi An it take you 4 hours on car, so it is too short when you don't have much time in Hoi An. So I add you more 1/2 day in Hoi An

    Day 1: arrive late in Saigon
    2 - Saigon - fly to Ha Noi
    3 - Hanoi city
    4 - Hanoi - Ha Long bay
    5 - Ha Long - Ha Noi
    6 - Hanoi - Hoa Lu Van Long - take the 7pm train to Hué
    7 - Hué
    8 - take the scenic drive to Hoi An *
    9 - Hoi An visit - flight to Nha Trang
    10 - Nha Trang (day trip to Cham temple? Or islands? Or a different day trip?)**
    11 - Nha Trang
    12 - fly to Saigon midday & city
    13 - Saigon (or Mekong Delta day trip?)**
    14 - Saigon - Cu Chi tunnel - fly for home at 23:00h
    Any more information, let me know

    #13 Posted: 9/6/2012 - 09:38

  • thietkelogo

    Joined Travelfish
    9th June, 2012
    Posts: 2

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    As i am living in Vietnam and i found that your schedure is quite tight

    #14 Posted: 9/6/2012 - 22:04

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