Given our schedule and limited time, which of the following in northern Vietnam would be a shame to miss:
-Lake Ba be (perhaps a 4-day Northeast loop tour that Handspan has)?
-Tam Coc/Coc Phuang Nat park? (maybe can be done as daytrips from Hanoi)
If you have any preferences, please let me know how many days I should allocate to the place as well.
#1 krestniy has been a member since 26/7/2011. Posts: 11
Did I pick unpopular/uninteresting places?
#2 krestniy has been a member since 26/7/2011. Posts: 11
The problem is that few travelers have been to all of those places. You didn't mention Sapa at all? In my opinion, Sapa is the most interesting and beautiful destination in N. Vietnam. Mai Chau is also quite beautiful, but I still would pick Sapa, and there's really no need for a guided tour to Sapa (book your hotel and train on your own and with the help of a local travel agent, and once you arrive in Sapa you can buy a ticket for a group trek or tour).
I have not been to Ba Be or to Tam Coc- Hoa Lu, but I can tell you that many people complain about the latter destination quite a bit. I would say that if you have only 1 day, you should do Mai Chai, but if you have 3, there's no question but you should try Sapa.
#3 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,112
Agree with daawgon re lack of responses: it's difficult to give an opinion when you haven't been to all the places under comparison. I've been to Mai Chau and Tam Coc so can comment on them.
Tam Coc makes for a nice enough day trip, but it's missable if you're short on time or have been to Perfume Pagoda (similar boat trip experience). If you do an organised trip try to get one that includes a bike ride around the surrounding countryside and to Bich Dong Pagoda as that enhances the experience. It's possible to do it yourself too - get the bus or train to Ninh Binh and travel from there. We stayed overnight in Ninh Binh so hired bikes from there but I'm guessing you'd find somewhere willing to rent you a bike for the day, even if you're not staying.
I wouldn't say Mai Chau was feasible for a day trip as it's a 4 hour journey each way and a main part of the experience is to spend an evening and overnight in the village. It's in a very beautiful area with trekking, biking and kayaking opportunities.
I'd like to go to Ba Be but it's quite a trek from Hanoi (a long day of driving / bus) so I'm holding off until I have a bit of time to make the most of it. I've heard good things though and an organised tour sounds like a worthwhile option in this case. Cuc Phuong NP is another one on my to do list, although friends who have tried to go there have found it hard to do independently and went to Mai Chau instead.
Also agree with daawgon on Sapa - amazing scenery and more interesting activities than you'll find in Mai Chau.