we are flying into Hanoi on Dec 14th, leaving from Danang on 5th Jan, and need some advice about what we should aim to do in terms of seeing something of Hanoi area [and Hue?], but spending most time in Laos. Relevant details about us: middle-aged couple [flashpacker +], are keenest on countryside, trekking and would like some opportunities to lounge around on or in water. We're happy to save time by flying but definitely don't want to just jet around the tourist highlights, no matter how lovely, and would probably prefer to be based somewhere for a few days at a time.
From trawling round the site [which is really fantastic] it looks increasingly as if it would be impractical to aim to see both LP and the islands in the south, for example...
Many thanks for any help
#1 gillj has been a member since 18/6/2008. Posts: 3
I am certainly no expert on Hanoi, but it certainly was an interesting city. Just wanted to advise you to contact Hanoikids (free guides) as they will give you the best tours/tips/hidden gems that most tourists never see. I'll be back myself in Feb or March. N. Vietnam can get fairly cold in winter!
#2 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,111
Hi gillj, glad you like the site!
So you've got around three weeks by the sounds of it. I'd make the following suggestions:
Use Hanoi as a base to visit Ha Long Bay and Sapa. That takes care of a week.
With the remaining two weeks, you could fly Hanoi to Luang Prabang, then overland to Vientiane (via Vang Vieng ) then fly or bus it to Pakse (jumping off point for the 4,000 Islands. There goes the second week.
Then you've got say three days in the islands, then overland to Attapeu for the overland crossing back into Vietnam via the Bo Y crossing (see the Visa and border crossing FAQ for details). That will leave you in Qui Nhon from where you can strike north to Hoi An and Da Nang .
That last bit is a bit of a push in the time you have, but with a bit of fine tuning on the first two weeks you should be able to pull it off.
If you want to slow down, then save 4,000 islands for another trip, spend more time in Luang Prabang, perhaps with trips north to Muang Ngoi and Nong Kiaow then use one of the more northern border crossings back into Vn.
Note, you will need a either a new or multiple entry Vietnam visa for when you re-enter.
Hi daawgon and somtam,
thank you for your replies. Hanoi kids sound great for city guides! Re the itinerary suggestions - if it's cold in Hanoi, I imagine it will be cold also in Luang Prabang and points north; if we want to warm up, slow down and not have such a tight schedule at the end, would it make sense to just have a couple of days in LP, skip Vang Vien completely and just transit through Vientiane, so we spend more time in the Pakse and islands area? There seems to be plenty to see both north and south; really I suppose what I'd like to know is whether LP is a real must-see, regardless of weather.
Ethnic Travel has been recommended for trips around Hanoi - any other views on them?
Thank you for the visa pointers as well
#4 gillj has been a member since 18/6/2008. Posts: 3
I'd say Luang Prabang is a must see -- especially if you've not been to Laos before -- but a couple of days is sertainly better than nothing. As you say lots to see both north and south.