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Vietnam forum

Ha Noi to Ha Long Bay OR Sapa? Advice requested.

Posted by stinkyrose on 26/1/2012 at 06:17

Hi there,

I am travelling to Vietnam with my mother in late Feb. She is 71 years old (but still fairly mobile and active). We have 12 days on the ground in Viet Nam. We arrive into HCMC and plan on making our way north so as to leave Ha Noi in the evening of our 12th day.

We are interested to see historical, cultural and scenic/natural sites but I am also really keen to explore the food and street-life/everyday life in Viet Nam.

So far I have planned to spend:
2 days/2 nights (including the night we arrive late in the evening) in HCMC, fly on 2nd day in evening to Da Nang for transfer to Hoi An .
2 days/3 nights in Hoi An (street food tour/ enjoy town/relax)
Drive over the pass to Hue , spend approx 1.5 days/1 night Hue (citadels/tombs)
Fly or catch overnight train to Hanoi ...

And this is where I come unstuck....

By this stage we have 6 days left and I cannot decide how to divide the time. I am torn between making the effort to go to Sapa on the o/night train for 2 days/1 night stay and spending the rest of our time in Hanoi soaking up the street culture/museum of ethnology/etc OR to spend 2 days/1 night on a Ha Long bay tour and spend rest of time in Hanoi...

I'd love to hear what people think about choosing either Ha Long Bay over Sapa for this trip, or vice versa?

Also...Can anyone tell me of a nice day trip outside of Hanoi that takes in some rural scenery should we decide not to do Sapa this time around?

One more... am I already trying to fit too much into this short trip... if so... any suggestions on what I should drop?

BTW - My mum doesn't mind which option we take (she is an easy travel companion!)

Thanks in advance. I have learnt so much from reading these forums already!


#1 stinkyrose has been a member since 26/1/2012. Posts: 2

Posted by daawgon on 26/1/2012 at 14:59

If your mom is somewhat fit I would recommend Sapa - it's just so beautiful and very unique (quite different from the rest of VN). I also love Hanoi - been there 4 times already and plan on another trip in the fall. Hanoi is a wonderful place because it's compact and fun and easy to explore on foot. Hanoi also has a very varied and wonderful assortment of restaurants. I'm not big on the cruises personally. I'm 68 1/2 myself, and will be 69 for my fifth trip.

A good trip outside of Hanoi would be to Mai Chau - I would suggest an overnight homestay tour. I can give you the contact for my travel agent in Hanoi - a wonderful man who has helped me a great deal over the past 4 years, Mr. Diep Tran of Vietnamtour Travel. He can help you with anything you might need in Hanoi in the way of train tickets, cruise bookings, etc. I like to book my own hotels because I'm very picky about such things, and don't mind detailed research.

Let me know if I can help you with anything else - us retired guys have plenty of spare time!
(I have some good recommendations for both inexpensive (but very nice) hotels and restaurants)

#2 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,151
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Posted by daawgon on 26/1/2012 at 15:17

I must say that is quite a bit for only 12 days on the ground! If you have already booked flights, you're locked into that basic itinerary already. What would I drop? - I would drop Saigon because I find it the least interesting and it's the most difficult place to see without using transport. I must say that Hue does nothing for me (I am not a history buff!). Therefore, if you'd purchased air tickets into Saigon and out of Hanoi already, I would say you would want to drop Hue and add that time to Hanoi. Hoi An has plenty of history too, and you could take a local day trip to see the ruins (forget the name of that). Restaurants in Hoi An are fantastic (I like the small cafes) and you could book the free student tours with Danangkids (see below) - I can get the email/website for you later.

Really the best thing to do is to wait and see how you feel about these places - local tours can be booked on the spot (most hotels also sell tours).

"DANANGKIDS CLUB - FREE VOLUNTEER TOUR GUIDE, a non- profit organization, was started with the goal of helping international visitors experience Vietnamese culture and local customs.

We are Danangkids - a volunteer tour guide club of young, friendly and ambitious students from different universities in Da Nang , who love Da Nang and Hoi An and want to bring local breath to tourists from all over the world. We want to help international tourist to understand the places of interest as well as the culture and food specialties of the Da Nang City as well as Hoi An Old Town.

Have you ever visited Vietnam? How many times have you visited? How much did you learned about our Vietnamese culture and people? Did you meet many difficulties in traveling as well as communicating in spite of having detailed guidebooks? ... Let us help you to discover Vietnamese culture and people as well as get access to a plenty of traditional custom and unique characters of Vietnam that are not mentioned in guidebooks.

“No tips, no charges, only enthusiasm, hospitality, friendliness” is our club motto. Please do not hesitate to contact us at if you need our help."

#3 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,151
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Posted by daawgon on 26/1/2012 at 19:32

You will probably want to also book the free student tours in Hanoi and Saigon too - here are the contact email addresses for: (Hanoi Kids club) (Saigon Hotpot club) (Danang Kids club)

be sure to send them an email ASAP - or at least a month in advance

#4 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,151
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Posted by stinkyrose on 26/1/2012 at 21:03

Thanks so much for your reply and advice. I appreciate all of it. You are right - I am trying to fit a lot into a short time-frame (story of my life!)

I was wondering about Hue - I am not that into history (seeing a few of the museums in HCMC and Hanoi will be enough for me!) but my mum is. I'll have to have a chat with her and see what she is keen for... maybe ditching Hue and flying from Da nang to Hanoi earlier would be the go. That would give us 8 days total in the north which would be a bit more relaxed.

Thanks again!

#5 stinkyrose has been a member since 26/1/2012. Posts: 2

Posted by joeldgriff on 18/7/2012 at 19:18

I recently had a similar choice to make with my limited time in VN and decided on Sapa. Very glad I did! It was this post that pushed me over the line if that helps at all.

#6 joeldgriff has been a member since 18/7/2012. Posts: 1

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