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Best way to not do much in Vietnam?

  • Sightandtas-
    te

    Joined Travelfish
    29th January, 2013
    Posts: 11

    Hi, I want to do a bit of Vietnam from end of March to May. I don't have much of an itinerary at the moment, but I DON'T want to go from place to place and just 'fit everything in'. I just want to relax. And EAT. And I might stay longer.
    The only thing I have set my heart on at this present time is -
    Hoi An - I have been referred to Redbridge Cooking school for a cooking and foodie fix. This may be the only planned and guided tourist activity I do. Organic herb garden, shopping for ingredients at the local markets, sampan ride, and cooking (and devouring!) learnt local dish- Maybe I looked at their website hungry, but the above has pretty much sold me. Unless anyone can suggest otherwise? (I haven't booked yet).
    I am also interested in the monthly lantern festival in Hoi An. Am I right that it is on the 14th?
    Phu Quoc - I've heard this place is nice. How do I get there, and any suggestions on where to stay? (Short term to begin with).
    ... And that's all I got right now!
    So, any suggestions for a relaxed foodie? ** I don't mind a bit of hustle and bustle at some point, and I can handle it (I'm Australian/Malaysian). And I eat anything and everything.
    Also - I will be flying in after a week stay in Singapore, and I was going to fly into HCMC from there and make my way up on the train. I thought I may as well see a bit of HCMC and also try out the trains. Is this worth it, or should I just fly SNG - Hanoi?
    Any advice/ suggestions welcome and appreciated! :)

    #1 Posted: 29/1/2013 - 08:59

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  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location China
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    If you want to visit Phu Quoc but not be traveling too much then I'd recommend flying there from HCMC, its an hour flight and is fairly cheap with Vietnam Airline. A good place to go not only to relax and enjoy the beaches, but also for very good fresh seafood - great squid dishes there. They are also known for having some of the best fish sauce in Vietnam and amazing black pepper so if you're into food it is a worthwhile stop.

    Perhaps fly into the country in Hanoi and out of HCMC. I often like to end with the beaches after a long holiday - so you could start in Hanoi and slowly work your way down to HCMC, to finally fly to Phu Quoc for a relaxing end to the trip.

    #2 Posted: 29/1/2013 - 18:52

  • Sightandtas-
    te

    Joined Travelfish
    29th January, 2013
    Posts: 11

    Thanks for your response :)
    Mmmm, I love seafood. And black pepper. Any stand-out places to go for local specialties?
    I suppose that does make sense re travelling down from Hanoi.
    A quick search on how to get there came up with discoverphuquoc.com which has details on flying there or going by sea, so I'll look into both.

    #3 Posted: 29/1/2013 - 20:22

  • LolaNguyen

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
    28th August, 2012
    Posts: 94

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Firstly check out the weather in Phu Quoc, your planned visit is on the cusp of the wet season so it might pay to fly to HCMC and do that bit first (you can even fly to Phu Quoc from there or take a bus/boat if you have more time, the scenery is beautiful when you get out of the city).
    SNG have just started flights directly in to Da Nang (nr Hoi An ). April/May is great weather wise - Spring/Summer so everything is green, fragrant and the humidity is low (my favourite two months in Hoi An). Red Bridge is brilliant, I too am a massive foodie and have done most of the cooking schools in Hoi An, its one of the most professional run schools and the location is breathtaking - take your swimmers, they have a pool that you are free to relax by for the afternoon and if its a hot day you will be really glad of a dip. If you love food, you'll love Hoi An.
    The Lantern festival is on the 14th day of the lunar calendar - 25th march, 23rd April and the 23rd May 2013. The Hoi An blog has information on cooking schools, the lantern festival and food, so it might be worth having a read.

    #4 Posted: 29/1/2013 - 20:55

  • Sightandtas-
    te

    Joined Travelfish
    29th January, 2013
    Posts: 11

    That's awesome to have confirmation on Red Bridge, and from a like-minded foodie. I'm guessing the teachers at the school will have good local knowledge on the best places to eat around town as well?
    With every morsel of information I get on Hoi An it sounds more and more like my kind of place. Do you mean the Hoi An blog on this site? I must read it. Loving this site by the way.
    It really makes no difference to me where I fly into, so I will definitely take into account the weather as to the direction of my travels. Thanks for the clarification re the lantern festival!

    #5 Posted: 29/1/2013 - 21:32

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location China
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    If you are going there overland I'd at least return by flight. Best option would be to leave HCMC for Can Tho and spend the night there, waking up early to catch the floating market and do a tour of the canals. Then if you aren't in a hurry hang around that night and take off for Rach Gia the next day, if you are, the boat tour will finish around lunch and you can catch a ride to Rach Gia then.

    #6 Posted: 29/1/2013 - 21:36

  • LolaNguyen

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
    28th August, 2012
    Posts: 94

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    I'm sure your teacher at Red Bridge will point you in the right direction for local places to eat. The Central market food hall is great (all the best bits under one roof), for seafood my favourite is Ka's on An Bang beach (left of the bike park) and theres a local place opposite the Sunrise Resort on Cua Dai that is excellent. Da Nang (coastal) is also good for seafood stalls. My most favourite place and chef is Chef Shane at the Life Style Resort on the beach towards Da Nang, he's got a food blog - chef a go go that I'm sure you will love, loads of recipes and local titbits to get you in the mood and give you some pointers.

    #7 Posted: 29/1/2013 - 23:52

  • travellings-
    arah

    TF writer
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    Location Vietnam
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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Although you don't want to sign up to guided tourist activities, as a food-fan I would definitely recommend going on a street food tour in Hanoi . Hidden Hanoi and Eating Vietnam are two operators, although there are others (which you can read about in the comments on the linked blog). If you love food then it's really worth getting the inside track before you venture out on your own and they're small group size / private tours so not your typical guided tourist activity. Street food tours are also available in Saigon.

    #8 Posted: 3/2/2013 - 00:26

  • slightlychi-
    lled

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd February, 2013
    Posts: 8

    On Phu Quoc I can personally recommend 2 places to stay.
    Mango Bay Resort is secluded and out of town. Fabulous place to relax and do little. The resort has a number of different styles of accomodation and huge acreage so it's never overrun with people even if full. I personally liked the traditional Fisherman cottage with fabulous open-air bathroom. Huge buffet style breakfast with fresh bakery and different dishes daily. Restaurant very competitively priced even though relatively secluded. Very nice place for a foodie.
    Cassia Cottage is on the main strip of beach and town is easily walkable. It's a bungalow type resort with swimming pool that you can find in other parts of SEA but are quite rare in Vietnam. The night market is the place to eat with all manner of unbelievably inexpensive and delicious seafood that will truly impress any avid foodie.

    I flew there and back from HCMC with Air Mekong which at the time was far cheaper than Vietnam Airlines.

    #9 Posted: 3/2/2013 - 05:48

  • daawgon

    Joined Travelfish
    17th April, 2007
    Posts: 917
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    I don't think a foodie would enjoy most of the trains in Vietnam, and certainly not the long runs like Saigon-Danang. For street food you can't beat Saigon, for general excellent cuisine it's Hoi An (the little cafes are often better than the "name" venues), and Hanoi has an excellent international food scene (Hanoi is also the most interesting and exotic of the cities).

    Have fun!

    #10 Posted: 3/2/2013 - 13:13

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  • travellings-
    arah

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Vietnam
    Posts: 662
    Total reviews: 11
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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    daawgon - we'll have to agree to disagree on the street food scene in Hanoi vs Saigon ;) and the trains...which I personally still enjoy using. But I agree on the interesting and exotic for sure!

    #11 Posted: 3/2/2013 - 20:46

  • melodykk

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd February, 2013
    Posts: 7

    what about cycling tours? i think it's a nice way to see the country and explore its surroundings

    #12 Posted: 3/2/2013 - 21:51

  • Sightandtas-
    te

    Joined Travelfish
    29th January, 2013
    Posts: 11

    Loving this site, the blogs, and all the suggestions.
    Slightlychilled, I'm liking the sound of Cassia Cottage and the night markets. I never miss an opportunity to walk through markets and do some grazing. Food should be an adventure. Must also look up AirMekong if it still runs.
    On that note, travellingsarah, I am considering the Hidden Hanoi street food tour you suggested. At first I thought I wouldn't need it as I am adventurous and experienced enough to brave the hidden and obscure myself, however, in a different country where it may take me at least a few days to figure out how to order/ etc. a few initial pointers to lead the way would not go amiss.
    daawgon, I'm not sure why one would assume a foodie would not bear the trains? Regarding the little cafe's in Hoi An, what I would love to do is find a favourite cafe and just go there every morning to watch the world, chat to locals, have a local bite, before wandering off at my own pace. I've also been warned, as a coffee addict, that I probably won't find a creamy flat white or cappuccino anywhere. I can handle this, in Sabah it's the same deal. If it's anything like the strong black coffee or the sweet ones with condensed milk at the Sabahan coffee-shops, I'll be happy, as long as there's caffeine in there somewhere.
    melodykk, I like cycling (I actually cycle everywhere here in Australia, I agree it's the best way to know a place), but I rather like the idea of doing it at my own pace. Hopping off here and there for a bite to eat, venturing out of town and taking plenty of photos, stopping whenever I feel like it. I suppose some short guided country rides would be an idea, again to initially get an understanding of the landscape and orientation. I would be interested in small and short tours, with a local guide able to impart local knowledge, if you can suggest any. Also any little bike shops that have old bikes for hire.
    Thank you everyone!

    #13 Posted: 3/2/2013 - 23:30

  • Sightandtas-
    te

    Joined Travelfish
    29th January, 2013
    Posts: 11

    Loving this site, the blogs, and all the suggestions.
    Slightlychilled, I'm liking the sound of Cassia Cottage and the night markets. I never miss an opportunity to walk through markets and do some grazing. Food should be an adventure. Must also look up AirMekong if it still runs.
    On that note, travellingsarah, I am considering the Hidden Hanoi street food tour you suggested. At first I thought I wouldn't need it as I am adventurous and experienced enough to brave the hidden and obscure myself, however, in a different country where it may take me at least a few days to figure out how to order/ etc. a few initial pointers to lead the way would not go amiss.
    daawgon, I'm not sure why one would assume a foodie would not bear the trains? Regarding the little cafe's in Hoi An, what I would love to do is find a favourite cafe and just go there every morning to watch the world, chat to locals, have a local bite, before wandering off at my own pace. I've also been warned, as a coffee addict, that I probably won't find a creamy flat white or cappuccino anywhere. I can handle this, in Sabah it's the same deal. If it's anything like the strong black coffee or the sweet ones with condensed milk at the Sabahan coffee-shops, I'll be happy, as long as there's caffeine in there somewhere.
    melodykk, I like cycling (I actually cycle everywhere here in Australia, I agree it's the best way to know a place), but I rather like the idea of doing it at my own pace. Hopping off here and there for a bite to eat, venturing out of town and taking plenty of photos, stopping whenever I feel like it. I suppose some short guided country rides would be an idea, again to initially get an understanding of the landscape and orientation. I would be interested in small and short tours, with a local guide able to impart local knowledge, if you can suggest any. Also any little bike shops that have old bikes for hire.
    Thank you everyone!

    #14 Posted: 3/2/2013 - 23:30

  • travellings-
    arah

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
    23rd March, 2010
    Location Vietnam
    Posts: 662
    Total reviews: 11
    Places visited:
    At least 87

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi. If you want to rent a bike and explore around Hanoi, THBC is a good place to start for rentals. And you can definitely get all sorts of coffees here, including capuccinos! But the Vietnamese coffee is primarily like the Sabahan coffee you describe.

    #15 Posted: 3/2/2013 - 23:36

  • melodykk

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd February, 2013
    Posts: 7

    ah thanks for the replies guys!great link on the bike shop, thanks! I am not sure if i wanna do a one day bike thingy or go for a few days of just cycling around. The ones i saw are like from saigon to hanoi or other places and can take up to 10days for some!

    #16 Posted: 5/2/2013 - 02:00

  • LolaNguyen

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
    28th August, 2012
    Posts: 94

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    For coffee with views whilst you are in Hoi An you can't beat the riverside places - there are hundreds of them both on Bach Dang St and over on An Hoi, if its a flat white you are after Alfresco on An Hoi is a nice place with views, or upstairs in Cargo overlooking the river. If you ever manage a 6am start do try to head down to An Bang beach for a sunrise coffee, its such a special time with all the locals going about their daily exercises, fishing and playing football, the villagers are wonderful and there is a real community feel, I did it this morning and whilst I was strolling down the beach with my plastic bag of Vietnamese rocket fuel coffee a fisherman called me over to show me a washed up starfish and told me a folk story of how it is the star of Vietnam falling from the sky to bestow luck upon the first person to see it.. you don't get that in town!
    Hoi An is also a great little (flat) place for exploring on a bike, within 4 kms from the old town there are some really rural villages, coconut river palm fringed tracks, pagodas and temples, the surrounding countryside is very diverse and you just can't get lost as most of it is on tiny islets. You really don't need a guide.

    I'm with you on the train thing! For foodies the train is brilliant, the train stations are packed with vendors who come on board or walk up and down by the windows selling their wares at every stop so you can try regional cuisine from places you don't even visit! Its great (during the day) and the restaurant carriage is always worth popping along to for a coffee.

    #17 Posted: 5/2/2013 - 20:48

  • Sightandtas-
    te

    Joined Travelfish
    29th January, 2013
    Posts: 11

    Ah Lola, that sounds amaaaaazing.
    Hey, does Air Mekong still fly?? I'm trying to look at flights on the website and it just comes up with 'sorry, no flights available' on all my dates.
    What are other domestic airlines that fly within Vietnam?
    I'm trying to compare boat v/s flights from SGN to PQC. And also train v/s flights from SGN to Hoi An.

    #18 Posted: 5/2/2013 - 23:07

  • travellings-
    arah

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
    23rd March, 2010
    Location Vietnam
    Posts: 662
    Total reviews: 11
    Places visited:
    At least 87

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hmmm, I've had that problem before. I think it's just due to limited number of flights and also only releasing some flights near the time. Other domestic airlines are Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar and VietJet. I fly Jetstar regularly and, despite common reports, have never had any problems with delays or anything else. I flew VietJet air last week and it was similar standard. However, I would choose Vietnam Airlines in preference to both just on the basis that you don't have to get a bus out to the plane, which is a pet hate of mine. VA flies to Phu Quoc (I'll be there next week hoorah!) and keep an eye on Jetstar specials as I got a flight from Saigon to Danang for 275,000VND in the middle of Tet.

    #19 Posted: 5/2/2013 - 23:12

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