I've not stayed there. But, I've often stayed in the same street. It really IS a party animals' place. Each night, the lodgers join into a beer drinking group, sometimes putting on silly hats and 'doing' the nightclubs together, etc., etc.
It is not what I'd call a place for those with independant minds.
As for their 'tours', they are merely on selling someone else's product.
As these Travelfish pages attest, go directly to the boat operators for Halong Bay. Most have offices in Hanoi. Type in Halong Bay cruise in the Search Travelfish box up on the top left hand side of the page and read the posts.
For SaPa, it depends on what you want to do. If it's just to go, then any mob will do. If you want to go trekking, then best book with a SaPa tour operator. Type in SaPa trek in the Search Travelfish box and read the posts. Also, if you can leave HaNoi on the Saturday night train, and arrange your affairs, then try and get to the BacHa sunday morning market. You will not be dissapointed!
Hope this helps.
Hmmmmm back to square one again. I have to say I honestly HATE planning my trip to Vietnam... never before has a trip seemed like such a chore! Thailand, Cambodia, Laos .. always a pleasure.. Vietnam just seems one scam after another... I am so over it.. I just want to find a nice cheap guesthouse with some atmosphere ... and tours that are midranged price and GOOD.. seems an impossible task! LOL
We are packing alot into 3 weeks so want it all organised before we go rather than just finding tours once there.. wont have the time!
Day 1,2 Hanoi
Day 3,4 Halong
Day 5, 6, 7 Sapa
Day 8 travel to Hoi An
Day 9, 10, 11 Hoi An
Day 12 Travel to Dalat
Day 13, 14, 15 Dalat easy rider tour to HCM
Day 16, 17, 18, 19 Phu Quoc
Day 20, 21 HCM
Day 22 HOME
Want to pay around $20-30 max per room (for 2)
Tours - Halong $100 for two days roughly, Sapa $150 for 3 days incl train... flexible but that is preferred.
Am I asking too much!!
You don't say when you are going. But, some observations.
I can't see a logical connection between SaPa and Hoi An . There's a night train from SaPa to Hanoi, and a night train )or bus) from HaNoi to Danang (gets in around 2pm), whence one gets a bus to Hoi An.
Interestingly, you are passing through Hue without stopping???
Also, I don't know how you are going to get from Hoi An to Dalat in one day. I'm not aware of a flight from Danang (Hoi An's nearest airport) to Dalat (unless you fly via Saigon).
So, if by bus, then an overnight from Hoi An to Nha Trang , (arrives about 7am) and the day bus to Dalat (departs 8am, arrives about 3pm).
You may be able to save time by rethinking Phu Quoc. On Phu Quoc, go see:
So, you may want to think more deeply about whether to go there. Yes, its an island (with all that has to offer [expensive pricing], Yes, it has beaches [but so does most of the coast of VN].
As you are planning to go to Hoi An, there's a great beach there.
To get to Dalat, you have to go through Nha Trang (and most stay the night), Cam Rhan Bay, etc., and tucked out of the way there are some great beaches in that region. Go see:
As for Halong Bay, you are really not going to experience what the place has to offer. For most operators, you'll be picked up at 9am (roughly) taken to the port at Halong City and get on a boat about lunchtime. The boat will depart across wide open spaces before eventually getting into the karst area. Then it will take you to some travel weary caves. After re-boarding, it'll be about 4pm.
Either you stay on the boat or get carted to Cat Ba (a hotel 'jungle'). If overnight, then likely you'll be in the overnight 'parking' area near the caves. You'll be there with literally dozens of other boats. You'll be listening to music blaring over the water from parties on the other boats, etc., etc.
The next day, you'll be taken to a kayak area, and allowed to kayak for an hour or two. Then, you'll be back on the boat so it can disgorge you at Halong City harbour (and get ready for the next crowd).
A couple of operators go away from the maddening crowd, please look at:
I really like SaPa. But, it's now very touristy. That said, the appeal depends on what YOU want to do.
As said above, if you can leave HaNoi on the Saturday night train, and arrange your affairs, then try and get to the BacHa sunday morning market. You will not be disappointed!
Many do the 'trek' thing in (around) SaPa. But, you can just as easily do it yourselves. I hire a motorbike and just go. There will be ethnic women anywhere you go that will 'engage' with you. That's their business life.
But, if it's the experience of trekking, then I'd suggest you entertain trekking around BacHa - much less 'touristed'.
Personally, I'd not be trying to achieve so much distance in such a short time.
Frankly, I'd suggest getting yourself to around Hoi An ONLY and then flying to HaNoi or Saigon from Danang airport to go home. Leave the centre & south till another time.
There are other places in the north that ARE worth the effort. Mau Chau (s-w of HaNoi), Ninh Binh (s of HaNoi), Hue, and from Hoi An, by hiring a motorbike, to Danang (and the beaches), and My Son 'riuns' (the trip itself is worth it, the museum & ruins are the icing).
Hanoi is around 20-25 for flashpacker. A good double ensuite in SaPa, for example, can be had for 10.
The point? Accommodation pricing is at a premium along the tourist 'trail'. So, if you can get a motorbike in some of the places, you can stay away from the tourist oriented places. E
As I always say, don't try going too far and too fast (as you have now).
Hope this helps
Thanks for all your comment/suggestions.. at this stage I think I am going to try convince the travel partner to change countries.. really I am sick to death of the logistics of trying to arrange a holiday to Vietnam.. I dont have the energy or patience. The scams stink and I am not even there! Way too hard!