First off I would like to say thank you for all the information and opinions I have found on Travelfish; it has helped me greatly.
Regrettably I am at an impasse in terms of planning my upcoming vacation in June and July. What I already have is the following:
Jun 3 – Jun 8, Hong Kong
Jun 8 – Jun 13, Bali
So that is all I have. I am pretty much firm on the duration I plan on having in those two places (but let me know). Now this is where I need help.
From June 13 to July 9, I plan on visiting Laos and Vietnam. (I had originally planned until July 2nd but I am pretty sure I can extend it until the 9th)
The way I have it at present is as follows:
June 13 – June 16: Vientiane (2 full days)
June 16 – June 21: Luang Prabang, Laos (4 full days)
June 21 – June 25: HCMC (3 full days)
June 25 – June 29: Hoi An (3 full days)
June 29 – July 2: Da Nang (2 full days)
July 2 - July 9: Ha Noi (6 full days); trip to Ha Long Bay and maybe Sa Pa
I will be travelling from place to place via domestic flights (VN).
Recently I have gone from 2 suitcases (2 large), to 2 suitcases (1 large and 1 small), to 1 bag (rolling duffle, huge regrettably), but this year I will be getting around with a backpack (probably the Osprey Porter or something to that effect, that will be checked); I look forward to using this method as I have never done this before, and well, no time like the present. Because of this, I will definitely be relying on getting my clothes cleaned. I can and will bring some soap with me, but how hard is it to find a laundry service (given the above durations)?
Finally, I have never gone with a tour company. That is, I have never taken a packaged tour etc. Am I able to do activities (can’t think of an example) by myself? I know that this weird, but, heh ;)
Again thank you all for all your help!
EDIT: BTW I am not adverse to taking the train, and would like to do so from Da Nang to Hue, but after reading that the train schedules are just a suggestion, I am starting to reconsider it. Should I not worry and just do it?
#1 hofo_mofo has been a member since 17/3/2010. Posts: 2
I'm wondering where do you find those flight prices, as all what I found in the internet are from 90$ upwards... Do you get those prices locally (as I see you're writing from Vietnam)? Can you get those prices a week before the flight?
#2 Indoluso has been a member since 22/12/2009. Posts: 133
I wouldn't spend as much time in Hong Kong. After 2/3 days of being in a giant outdoor shopping mall there isn't much else to do - save a day hike around the wooded portions of the place. It's more expensive then the rest of Southeast Asia and is simply a bustling mega city.
You could tag the time you save onto more ' Luang Prabang ' time - Central Northern Laos. At least get away from Vientiane and LP for a night in Nong Kiaow which is not even a full day bus ride from LP (https://www.travelfish.org/location/laos/northern_laos/luang_prabang/nong_kiaow). Luang Prabang is very nice to relax in for a few days and take day trips from, but that would give you a chance to get a little further out.
With the backpack you could do something that would mean no doubling back.
From Vientiane go to Luang Prabang - then from there to Nong Kiaow for a night. Take the very long bus ride (ephmasis on very) through very pretty countryside all the way to Sam Neua - though this site says it is tough going there I'd just waited at the roadside for the bus to come and it was fine. From Sam Neua (so long as you have a prearranged visa) you can enter Vietnam by land . . . . okay, that has nothing to do with flying from place to place but I thought I'd just put it out there.
I'm very glad to hear that you're downsizing your luggage - the pack is the way to go, and lightly! I just bought a 40L North Face travel pack myself. Laundry is a snap as far as Vietnam goes - every hotel can have it done for you in 8-24 hours. Vietnam has excellent guesthouse/small hotel accommodation under $30. Danang and Hoi An can be combined - they're so close, and very little of interest in Danang City except for China Beach. Hoi An is the Bali of Vietnam - it has everything at bargain prices and the best of hotels and restaurants, shopping and history. My favorites are Hanoi, Sapa and Hoi An. No reason why you would need a guided tour for Vietnam - probably the easiest country to travel in next to Thailand, and English is "the language" on the tourist trail. Educate yourself about the scams in the region before your trip. Be sure to book the student guide services - they're free and excellent - at least several weeks B4 the trip (Hanoikids, Saigonhotpot & Danangkids).
Don't overplan the trip - be flexible as things can go sour and you need to be able to have an alternate schedule just in case. Have a ball!
I found the following today concerning airfares on Vietnam and Jetstar:
Vietnam Airlines cuts fares on int’l routes
National carrier Vietnam Airlines announced Thursday that its new promotion campaign for summer 2010 would cut airfares by up to 85 percent on international routes.
Under the campaign, air tickets to other South East Asian countries are set at US$49 while passengers to some European countries will only have to pay $599, the airline said.
Tickets can be booked for ten days starting next Monday for flights from April 1 to June 10.
Deputy General Director Trinh Hong Quan said his company cut airfares on many routes as it wants to encourage more local people to travel and help boost the tourism industry.
Analysts said the promotion is in fact Vietnam Airlines’ response to recent airfare cuts by other carriers, including Jetstar Pacific, VivaMacau and Korean Air.
Jetstar Pacific, for instance, on Wednesday started a program offering cheaper air tickets for both domestic and international flights. Airfares on the Ho Chi Minh- Hanoi now start at VND600,000 ($31).
Source: Thanh Nien, Agencies
Jetstar offers network wide discounts
Jetstar Airways, an Australian low-cost carrier, is having a network wide sale of 15 to 35 percent off for all flights to and from destinations in Asia Pacific region.
In Vietnam, tickets from Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi to Da Nang, or HCMC to Hai Phong or Vinh, will cost VND315,000-VND650,000 or US$16.5-$34.2 for flights in May, September and October.
Passengers who fly from HCMC to Singapore will be charged $29 for a ticket, $69 to Darwin or $149 to Sydney. The passengers have to fly between July and October.
The fares include taxes and surcharges. Passengers will fly with Jetstar Pacific for the routes in Vietnam, Jetstar Asia for those in Singapore and Asian destinations, and Jetstar Australia for the routes in Australia. Tickets are available until March 15.
Source: Thanh Nien
Given you don't have much time, you obviously realise you need to focus on just a few places. It's a bit tricky to advise on where those places should be without knowing what you like / dislike doing. For example, do you want to spend any time on the beach? Do you like visiting temples? Are you into trekking/walking? Do you just want to chill and watch the world go by? Anyway, I'll put my thoughts out there - they're pretty similar to previous comments, but nice to get a second opinion!
Hong Kong - I personally love it and think it's so much more than a giant shopping mall BUT that said, you could see the highlights in just a couple of days if you need to save time.
Unless you're into temples I wouldn't spend much time at all in Vientiene - it's a nice enough city but really not much there (and there are temples galore in LP!)
Luang Prabang is definitely worth a couple of days but you could probably give one of your days over to Nong Khiaw, as previously suggested. It's so beautiful up there - and if you feel like sitting in a small boat for 6 hours or so, seeing stunning scenery and local river life, get the boat up there, stay overnight and then get the bus back the next day (3 hrs - 2 or 3 a day I think).
If you decide just to stay in LP, there are some short boat trips you can do from there - e.g. to the cave - and Kuang Si waterfall is worth a visit.
If you're more into partying than somewhere like Nong Khiaw then stop off at Vang Vieng en route from Vientiene to LP for a day or two!
As previously mentioned, you could go overland from Nong Khiaw to Sapa -if you break the journey up with a couple of stop overs, it could be quite pleasant. But I think you're a bit tight on time for that maybe.
Re Vietnam - what are you thinking of doing in HCMC? You can see the main city sights (museums etc.) in a day, then can do side trips to the Mekong and Cu Chi Tunnels.
I love Hoi An - one of my (and most other people's) favourite places. But 3 days is enough.
Not sure what you want to go to Danang for? Apart from getting the train. There is a beach there I believe, but you could go to the beach in Hoi An too - it's beautiful and should be quite quiet when you're there.
You don't mention spending time in Hue but do say you'd get the train from Danang to Hue. If you like temples, mausoleums and stuff then Hue's your place! You can see the main sights in a 1/2 - 1 day trip by bus, boat or motorbike. It's missable though if you're not bothered about the sights, so you could get a train direct from Danang to Hanoi which would be a good experience - get the soft sleeper air con if you can, it will be somewhere between 500,000 - 600,000VND.
I live in Hanoi so will definitely recommend it! I'd suggest an overnight trip to Halong Bay - a day trip is just too rushed as it takes 3 - 5 hours to travel each way. I've not yet been to Sapa but don't think you can fly there, which means you'd have to get an overnight train both ways. I've heard good things though. But anyway, if you go to Halong for 2 days and Sapa for 2 days (2 nights on a train) that gives you 2 days in Hanoi itself which is OK.
We never had any problems with laundry at any of the places you're planning on going - prices from about $1 - $3 a kilo. But bear in mind if the weather's not good it might take a few days to get back as tumble dryers aren't much in evidence!
And yes, you can organise everything yourself - well, through local travel agents anyway. So no need to organise too much in advance but I appreciate you need to book flights.
Hope this helps - shout if you need any more specific advice.