Just doing my research into my first trip to Vietnam, then onto Cambodia... And wanted to thank everyone here for what seems to be a great community of people honestly helping each other! I guess I have bad experiences from certain other forums when organising my several Thailand trips that a place like this seems impossible. I haven't read any negative posts in 2 weeks of lurking! I've already got a healp of great ideas and and when I learn a bit more about SE Asia I'll join you in helping others :)
For the record I'm planning a 2 week trip around Vietnam (probably from north to south) with a week over in Combodia in December. The only question I do have is what part of the country is especially nice by rail? I want to rail a portion of the trip and I hear parts of the countryside are fantastic, others quite dull and the slow nature of rail means I dont want to rail the whole journey! Basically that will help dictate where the potential spare week is spent... I.e 3-4 days in HCMC and 3-4 days in Hanoi leaving 6-7 days wandering about.
Then maybe along the Mekong to Phnom Phen, havent decided how much effort I want to put into that journey yet :)
Cheers J Hogg
#1 johnhogg has been a member since 1/6/2012. Posts: 3
I assume that as you onward to Cambodia you're starting in Hanoi . The best option to save money is to do an overnight train from Hanoi to Hue and then do the Hue to Da Nang portion in the morning so that you can watch the scenery go by. As you plan for 6-7 days of wandering I'd recommend just one night in Hue to check out the city and then a couple of nights stationed in Da Nang or Hoi'an, rent a motorbike and explore the area. To save time, fly from Da Nang to HCMC. I'm not sure if you've included the time to wander up the Mekong from HCMC to Cambodia in your 6-7 and so that's why I short change Hue . . . but if you've got spillover time for that, then add an extra night to Hue as there is a lot to explore around there.
The only rail travel that I recommend in VN are the areas served by private carriage service - otherwise it can be very uncomfortable. I don't think any area is particularly scenic except for the pass between Hue and Danang. For me, the most beautiful part of VN is the NW Highlands, and the ultra tropical areas along the coast. I would only use train travel for shorter trips ( Hanoi -Sapa or Hanoi-Hue) - I usually use the Livitrans private sleeper carriage (closest thing to first class).
You really need more than 2 weeks to "see Vietnam" - consider passing on Cambodia this trip because Vietnam is a rather large area, and moving from place to place is extremely time consuming. I will be in Hanoi myself in December (5th trip) - this is the beginning of high season. VN at Christmas is a very festive place considering it's still a Communist nation!
Thanks for the ideas... I guess when I say "see Vietnam" I'm more than happy being in an area and experiencing just being there. I'm not one to go on a heap of tours and touristy stuff. I'm more likely to hire a bike at the last minute and just ride around for the day and let the road take me whereever it does! I'm hoping to see (experience) as many different towns/cities as I can squeeze in. Just enough to get a feel for the place so in future I can devote a little more time to the place I liked the most.
Based on the above I might do;
Hanoi 4 days, fly to Hue 2 days, train to Danang 3 days, fly to HCMC 4 days... travel to Cambodia 2-3 days, rest of holiday in Cambodia.
I did something similar throughout Phuket on my 5th trip (I know its much smaller!) and by the end of it I had a really got feeling of vast differences in Thai culture.
#5 johnhogg has been a member since 1/6/2012. Posts: 3
That overall plan sounds good, though I'd personally shift a day or so from HCMC to Danang/Hoi An. I've actually never taken the train from Hue to Danang, but the scenery from the bus is fantastic so I'm guessing it's even better from the train, from what I've heard.
We travelled independently by land / boat from HCMC to Phnom Penh over about 5 days I think. Apart from getting from My Tho to Can Tho, which took a bit of organising, it was straightforward enough. But you'd need to move quicker than we did, given your schedule. It's possible to arrange an organised trip from HCMC to PP anyway, if you want to go through the Mekong but don't want any hassles.
I agree with Sarah, take a day off HCMC and add it to Da Nang/Hoi'an. Around there you've got beaches and one or two good afternoon bike trips to either Monkey or Marble Mountain - and a much more relaxed city feel that is easy to get a handle on and feel out - while HCMC is a bit sprawling and busy and you may find yourself tucked into one corner of it rather than really exploring the place like you could with Da Nang.
Good point Sarah and Casey, looking back on my notes for each city I had a big star next to Danang for the proximity to the beach and river. Might even add two days haha :)
To be honest re the Mekong trip, being that its in the second half of trip and me knowing me, I'm not gonna be bothered doing it and will probably fly so can leave HCMC at 4 days.
Coming together nicely thanks forum buddies!
#8 johnhogg has been a member since 1/6/2012. Posts: 3