Photo: Canals of Ca Mau, Mekong Delta.

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Vietnam - a 60 day itinerary - comments

Posted by kandpfishos on 9/6/2011 at 20:06


We will bein SE Asia later this year, and into Vietnam in 2012. We would appreciate your comments and fine-tuning of our itinerary for the Vietnam component of the trip.

We are two mid/late-60’s Australian blokes, accustomed to independent travel and each other (we have lived and travelled together for over 35 years – so we know each others foibles and habits too well!) We will be entering into VN at Ha Noi on February 20 2012. We leave Australia in September 2011 and by our VN time we will have been paying homage to the MekongRiver (with diversions), for over 5 months - Yunnan (30 days),Laos (60 days), Cambodia (30 days), Thailand (50 days). We travel “locally” but supplement this with a few flights if needed, and will upgrade to the equivalent of 3-star accommodation every few weeks as a reward for good behaviour. We do not usually need touristy-support or same-to-same comfort and get through with humour, laughter,patience, a smattering of local conversational language, and respect for local people.

We try to travel slowly – which is, let us tell you, easier after retirement. We have tried to allow one down day for rest (no activity at all) in each week, and one day in each week for travel blockages and delays. We cannot imagine going any faster for this part of our trip but happy to go slower.

We genuinely appreciate advice from those who have walked before us. We are fit and mobile and happy to walk,trek and use local transport of all types (except speedboats, and as driver of motorbikes/moto), but we are happy, and travel insured, as pillion/passenger onbike).

Itinerary Vietnam

Hanoi – arrive 20 February 2012 – 10 days

* SaPa – 3 to 4 days - by day train (Is this perverse of us? Will we stay overnight in Lao Cai? Or go on to Sapa by time we arrive?)

* Ha Giang – 3 to 4 days (depending on the advice we get from you as to how to best organize the next leg from here to Cao Bang)– by local bus from Sapa.

* Cao Bang – 8 to 9 days – depending on your advice as to how to travel via Dong Van, Bac Me and on to Cao Bang.

Is local bus possible in the 8 days (that is, between Yen Minh, Dong Van (possible diversion to Lung Phin markets if the time is correct), Meo Vac, Bac Me, BaoLim, Bao Lac, Cao Bang)? Should we consider the trip, or parts of it, as pillion riders? Is this safe? Possible? 4WD, or car, is also possible we suppose, although we have never had to do this anywhere before.

Appreciate your advice and already aware of the permit situation as of 2011.

BaBe National Park – 4 days – by bus to Cho Ra,local transport to the NP. Allow 1 day for transport into park from Cao Bang.

* Langson – 3 days – by bus (? I there a bus connection from Cho Ra, or do we have to return to Cao Bang?).

* Cai Rong and Don Van Island – 3 days – by bus from Langson (Is this direct to Cai Rong or to Halong Bay City?).

Quan Long Island – 5 days – local ferry

*Hai Phong – 4 or 5 days – We read that there is a ferry/hydrofoil service from Quan Long to Hai Phong. Is this via Halong Bay City, or direct?

HCMC – 6 days – We will fly this leg. Is there a flight from Hai Phong or do we return to Hanoi (sorry, just being lazy on this question!! We can check that for ourselves).

Mekong Delta Region – 6 to 7 days – finishing back on the Mekong.

Originally,we had planned to include time on Cat Ba Island, Ninh Binh and surrounds and also do the leg from Sapa to Dien Bien Phu and Sonla with a Hanoi return– but it all looked too rushed and full and desperate really. Hopefully, the choices we have made are good alternates to this. But we are sure you will letus know lol

In summary,we are asking for comments that fine-tune the entire itinerary, and asking questions within each entry above marked with an asterix *


Keith andPaul

#1 kandpfishos has been a member since 10/1/2011. Posts: 18
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Posted by travellingsarah on 10/6/2011 at 08:52 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

Wow! What an amazing trip. I can't help on all of it but regarding your first few questions:

Sapa - the trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai are overnight so you can get straight on a transfer minibus up to Sapa when you arrive.

Ha Giang - I'm not completely familiar with the bus options up there but it's a long way from Ha Giang to Sapa (about 200km from what I can make out) so I'd suggest breaking up this journey. You could easily get from Sapa to Bac Ha in a day and spend a day or so there - market day in Bac Ha (Sunday) is worth a look and there are other places worth visiting around the area. Then from there you can get to Ha Giang via a combination of local buses - sorry, I can't give precise information here.

8 days looks to be feasible for the next leg, given the distances travelled. I'd give it a go on pillion if you're feeling brave - the roads up there are windy and high but as long as this doesn't bother you it'd be more impressive than sitting in a crowded bus (where seeing the scenery can be tricky).

Have fun!

#2 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 684
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Posted by kandpfishos on 15/6/2011 at 05:24

Thanks so much for your advice - we have stored it away in our planning notes.

#3 kandpfishos has been a member since 10/1/2011. Posts: 18
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Posted by gatvietnam on 15/6/2011 at 18:38

Posted from within Vietnam.

* Ha Giang – 3 to 4 days (depending on the advice we get from you as to how to best organize the next leg from here to Cao Bang)– by local bus from Sapa.

* Cao Bang – 8 to 9 days – depending on your advice as to how to travel via Dong Van, Bac Me and on to Cao Bang.
Instead of visit these destinations for so long, why don't you visit Hue, Hoian, Danang, Phu Quoc, Muine, Ho Chi Minh for 2 days city tour, Cu Chi, Nha Trang, Ninh Thuan, Quy Nhon

#4 gatvietnam has been a member since 9/5/2011. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 34
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Posted by violets on 16/6/2011 at 19:44

If you go to bus stations you can get info about what local buses are available. A couple of times people in the shops at the bus depot called someone so a bus called in to pick me up. It's a good idea to know the fares, roughly, as the conductors will frequently ask for way above the normal price. I usually good-naturedly offered a bit more than the right price and remained firm and never had a real problem. They work very hard and were frequently really helpful to me.

I understand there is a bus from Lao Cai to Ha Giang. I got one from Hanoi (go to the bus depot early, but there seem to be quite a few options.) to Tuyen Quang, a town I really liked, stayed the night and then got a bus the next day to Ha Giang (that's one place someone called the bus for me because it normally goes straight up the highway bypassing TQ). I heard there was a bus from Meo Vac through to Cao Bang (with a break somewhere on that route) though I got one via Thai Nguyen, where there's a pretty good ethnographic museum, stayed the night and caught a bus to Co Rang (pronounced something like Cha Zang) and then a bike down to Ba Be national park. The food options there were so bad (they don't really seem to cater for single tourists) and the manager of the national park so unhelpful, that I moved on the next day to Cao Bang. I had to change buses somewhere along the way but was told where to go and everyone was really helpful. I loved Cao Bang, despite the blackouts and few food options, and want to go back another day. I went back to Hanoi via Langson but found it a fairly uninteresting option and didn't stay long.

I'd be inclined to fit Hue into your itinerary, you don't have to stay in the tourist enclave. It's a beautiful place and long walks in every direction are really interesting and varied. The countryside around is beautiful and shows a completetly different life. There's a bus (just near the market, every hour I think) to the village an hour away where Ho Chi Minh lived as a child.

I agree that slow, local transport and off the tourist trail is the best way to go (for us oldies anyway) but I'd remain flexible.

You might also enjoy the central highlands, Kon Tum, Pleiku and Buon Ma Tuot, easy to travel through on local buses.

You could go down to Vinh from Haiphong to catch a plane to HCMC or back to Hanoi. Have a look at the Vietnam airlines website for what flights are available.

I think a day of doing nothing every week is a great idea and can give you some unexpected experiences.

Have a great trip.

#5 violets has been a member since 6/7/2009. Posts: 153

Posted by kandpfishos on 6/7/2011 at 08:00

Thank you Violets

We have been away thus explaining our lateness in getting back to you. We have stored your suggestions away and appreciate the response.

Travel well, stay well

K and P

#6 kandpfishos has been a member since 10/1/2011. Posts: 18
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Posted by pledlek on 7/7/2011 at 17:02

take the easy riders trip to the ho chi minh trail. we had 3 days- 2 nights from hoi ann to the trail ending in hue. that was the best part of our vietnam trip. 400 usd for two persons. cheers. pledlek

#7 pledlek has been a member since 26/5/2011. Posts: 1
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