Any suggestions would be much appreciated!
Before we (3 women in early 20s) start our backpacking trip we'll be volunteering for 4 weeks in a village north of Hanoi . We're hoping to explore Hanoi itself in the afternoons (take a cookery class, do yoga by the lake, visit Uncle Ho etc). We will also have 3 free weekends and hope to:
* Visit Halong Bay, sleep on a junk
* Do a homestay near Sapa OR Mai Chau
* Stay in a Buddhist monastery 'in the mountains near Hanoi' - more information on this would be great, it was a word-of-mouth suggestion!
After our volunteering stint we have 4 weeks to travel and have not yet booked a return flight to Europe which hopefully gives us some flexibility when planning our travel route.
I know 'slow travel' is recommended but we will be a long way from home so would like to see as much as is realistically possible.
* Hue + DMZ zone
* Hoi An
* Saigon, Cu Chi tunnels
* Luang Prabang
* Tubing at Muang Ngoi Neua
* Angkor Wat
* Phnom Penh / Killing Fields
In Thailand (optional):
* Is Bangkok worth a few days if we've already experienced the hectic pace of HCMC?
Beach (we would like to end the trip with 6 days beach time - white sand, crystal clear sea and sun in September):
* Ko Phi Phi looks absolutely incredible but the unsettled weather in September perhaps? What about Ko Tao, Phuket?
* Phu Quoc (An hour of rain a day is fine if sunny otherwise.)
* Nha Trang/ Mui Ne
The hardest bit is trying to figure out the length of journeys, the best route and modes of transport - we're willing to travel by train, bus or boat and can stretch to a couple of cheapish regional flights.
Proposed route (feel free to completely scrap it, I'm guessing that it might be unwise to re-enter Vietnam twice!):
Hanoi > Luang Prabang > Muang Ngoi Neua > another Laos stop further south > Hue > Hoi An > Angkor Wat > another Cambodia stop > Phnom Penh > Saigon > Phu Quoc OR Ko Phi Phi
#1 anna101 has been a member since 18/6/2010. Posts: 1
Just a quickie on your route....
You're right, entering Vietnam twice is not ideal as (1) you'd have to get a more expensive multiple entry visa - though it might not be too pricey if you're getting it from home / visa on arrival, and (2) more importantly, crossing from Vietnam into Laos really isn't easy! Well, it's easy, just time consuming and uncomfortable. So you'd be looking at 24 hours or so (see other posts) from Hanoi to LP then from say Pakse to Hue it's about 16 hours on a minibus.
I'd perhaps suggest something like this (overland unless otherwise mentioned):
Hanoi - Hue (BTW, I'm not a fan of the DMZ tour) - Hoi An - Saigon (fly from Danang to Saigon) - Phnom Penh - Siem Reap / Angkor - Luang Prabang (will take a long time overland so look at flights, not sure what's available) - Muang Ngoi.
Then if you're going to a beach in Thailand - I'm not an expert but think maybe the Gulf Coast is better at that time of year - you could go overland from LP, but it will take a couple of days via Bangkok, or fly.
The Vietnamese beaches (Nha Trang / Mui Ne) are OK but not really the idyll you describe - I've not been to Phu Quoc so can't comment. But I should think it will be easier to get to the Thai beaches anyway from Laos.
It is a lot of travelling in 4 weeks but is feasible.
By the way - when are you coming? I've just been to Mai Chau and as lovely as it is it's really really hot at the moment! Will remain so until August at least, so Sapa will probably be a better bet if you're here in the summer as it will be cooler.