Lonely Planet Vietnam 9
First published 31st July, 2007
For the first-time visitor to Vietnam, Lonely Planet's Vietnam 9 overall is a fine production -- and is easily Lonely Planet's best swing at Vietnam -- even if the style police are trying to ruin the show.
Vietnam 9 covers all the big-ticket destinations comprehensively, with detailed sleeping, eating, drinking and sights information. There's a detailed orientation section, loads of maps, crystal clear photos and lots of general information. Good coverage on most of the border crossings is included and the transportation information is pretty easy to digest -- if a little confusing at times. A series of suggested itineraries, while not overly imaginative, remain useful for first time travellers.
Authors Nick Ray, Peter Dragicevich and Regis St Louis have done the hard yards and crammed much of what Vietnam has to offer into Lonely Planet's famously tight word-limits. They've done a great job putting together what is a probably the most comprehensive text available and something much improved on Vietnam 8.
Guesthouse and hotel listings are concise and all budgets are well covered. There were some omissions which struck me as odd -- Mai House on Phu Quoc, Tay Ho Hotel in Can Tho, Jungle Beach north of Nha Trang, Hoa Hong in Da Nang and the Tung Trang in Hanoi -- all outstanding places, yet none made the cut. That said, there are stacks of excellent places they do mention -- more than enough for most readers. For the rest you'll just need to read Travelfish.
Sights-wise, the information is excellent. Lots of historical background and interesting snippets are woven into the text, acting as leads for the reader to learn more. For example Ong Pagoda in Tra Vinh includes a reference to the Chinese classic The Romance of the Three Kingdoms for more information on the pagoda's god Quan Cong.
Transportation comes in two parts -- a summary and the destination specific sections throughout.
The summary section is good though a little unbalanced. There are almost three pages about getting a flight to Vietnam (surely something fairly simple), yet almost no information about the niche topic of buying a motorbike -- certainly an area where advice and suggestions would be useful. The train section has the briefest of fare charts, but thankfully steers people to the Man in Seat Sixty-One website which is a far better resource.
The destination specific sections vary. In particular better information regarding frequency of bus services would have been good. There are also some discrepancies -- the Qui Nhon to Pakse bus service is listed as taking 12 hours and costing 250,000 VND, yet in Pleiku it reads "There is also an international service linking Pleiku and Attapeu (US$10, 12 hours)". This error (Qui Nhon to Pakse is at least twice the distance of Pleiku to Attapeu) is repeated in the transport introduction. Perhaps if one of the writers had actually done the trip they'd know that Attapeu to Kon Tum takes about five hours and another two hours to Pleiku, while the Qui Nhon to Pakse trip can take up to 20 hours. Of course these errors can happen to anyone -- I'm sure there are some in Travelfish -- but hey, LP has a bigger editing team than us.
Text and design
Talking about editing, the text is dense and the writing dry, verging on encyclopaedic. I've met a number of the LP writers over the years and without fail they've been a much more interesting, amusing and verbose lot than this text would have you believe. Perhaps the editors could spin the dial back a little on their "textual-de-emotionaliser device" to let the occasional witty or cheeky line slip through.
And while I'm on the topic of the back-end -- there's a new layout, and this one isn't great. A step forward is the removal of "Author's choice" aka the Lonely Planet Touch of Death -- replaced by a small "our pick" icon. A step backwards is the ordering of accommodation by price rather than quality. In this nod to the serial penny-pinchers, the rest of us are left scratching our head thinking "So which one do they recommend?".
Fact boxes though are the real blight. Vietnam 9 saw its length increased from 524 to 540 pages, yet rather than bulking out destinations, there are now more than 100 shaded fact boxes. Of course, some are useful; "Tracking the American War", tying together various sections covering war interests, is great. But half a page dedicated to Regis St Louis's motorbike breaking down is excessive -- especially when there's but a lone paragraph dedicated to trekking out of Kon Tum. Minor point perhaps, but the designers should have their cookie-jar benefits suspended for the incorrectly typeset, mistakenly padded fact box on page 163 -- sloppy.
Call me old school, but a move back to the basics -- accurate and easy to use information -- would be welcome. As an example, if you're looking for a list of internet resources for Vietnam, you'll be needing to refer to pages 21, 42, 58, 63, 69, 74, 79, 84, 89-90, 171, 465, 476, 494 and 495-6 -- whose bright idea was that?!
Now I'm getting petty and trivial -- lets move on.
The 105 maps cover all the major destinations and look terrific, but in anything short of ideal conditions, are difficult to read. Vietnam 8's maps, while uglier, were far easier to use. The new maps replace clunky shades and chunky outlines with gentle hues and delicate lines. This may look great in Lonely Planet's mapping HQ, but when you're crammed in a minibus trying to decipher the Hanoi map by torch, you'll be thinking different.
The photos are terrific. From the wraparound train cover-photo to the bored tourists gawking at the carpet in Reunification Palace, they do a great job of catching -- and explaining -- Vietnam. In another layout change, the photos are clustered in the first few pages, closely followed by a food overview and then eight more pages of colour in the centre.
It's worth noting that some of my criticisms are general and not specific to Vietnam 9 -- overall it's an excellent guide and I've rated the book at 8.5 stars (out of 10). If you're going to Vietnam and planning on hitting all the key destinations -- you'll be set with this title -- no questions asked.
Buy Lonely Planet's Vietnam 9 at Amazon.
Certainly the most recently released* Vietnam title Lonely Planet's Vietnam 9 is just about the pick of the pack, but there's a bunch of other options to choose from. Rough Guides Vietnam 5 (Sept. 2006) is a good second choice, while the Footprints Vietnam (August 2004) is getting well out of date.
*A pet peeve -- I purchased Vietnam 9 at a bookstore in Jakarta on July 20, and had seen it at the airport weeks earlier. Yet on the half-cover it reads "9th edition published August 2007". Unless Lonely Planet have a special in-house definition for the work "published" this is misleading to potential buyers who are looking for what they consider to be the most "up-to-date" text available -- it should read July 2007.
Simone McNamara from Lonely Planet got back to me about my "pet peeve" -- here's what she had to say: "The pub date is the 'on-shelf' date for our guidebooks in the vast majority of the world. Some Asian markets are lucky to have 'hot off the press' books as all our printing is done in Asia and there is minimal shipping time. Typically, Asian markets are able to get the books several weeks prior to the official pub date, which is why you were able to pick up a copy of Vietnam in late July, whereas in Australia the title has only just gone on shelves this week (same goes for US / UK etc). Its a small thing, but I thought I should clarify as there is certainly no attempt to be dishonest with our publishing schedules."
Have you used the latest edition of Lonely Planet's Vietnam guidebook? If so, please add your feedback on the Travelfish forum here. Thanks!
Read 1 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (12)
- All stories
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma (8)
- Cambodia (22)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- A honeymoon in Cambodia
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking in Virachey National Park
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Which Cambodian island is right for you?
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Indonesia (13)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (16)
- All stories
- A breeze through Luang Prabang
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- Temples in Luang Prabang
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- Malaysia (7)
- Singapore (9)
- Thailand (73)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend in Phra Phradaeng
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- An extra day in Krabi
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Charoen Krung Road
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Eating on the edge
- Elephant's World Kanchanaburi
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Five days in Khao Lak, Thailand
- Floating markets around Bangkok
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
- Learning Muay Thai in Bangkok
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for Kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The best places to stay on Ko Kut, Thailand
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- The road to Sangkhlaburi
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- Two days in Kamphaeng Phet
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay at Railay Bay, Thailand
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Where to stay on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (31)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Ha Long Bay conclusions
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- How to pick a good Ha Long Bay cruise
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Sapa or Bac Ha?
- Saving Vietnam's bears
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (21)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Hanoi
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
- 2006 Top guesthouses on Ko Phi Phi
- 2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- 2011 Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The best hostels in Bangkok 2014
- The best places to stay on Ko Chang, Thailand
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (15)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (16)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.