My wife and myself are arriving in Ho Chi Min City on the evening of Sat 8th March off a flight from Uk. We will be flying out of HMC in the early hours of 26th March so have approx 2.5 weeks. We are both in early 60s and are not particularly fit but want to have an interesting and varied holiday peppered with periods of relaxation.(We don't do cycling, diving, trekking, kayaking etc). We are happy with mid range accommodation but insist on western style toilets, en suite facilities and would like a swimming pool for longer stays such as Hoi An. We might be prepared to splash out on luxury near the end of our trip. (I'm thinking of Luxury Hotel in Hanoi and Luxury 2 night HaLong Bay Cruise / Trip).
Within our itinerary we are likely to have two internal flights and a sleeper train journey just for experience of Vietnamese travel - ideally in Livitrans high end sleeper.
This is our rough itinerary showing overnights.
Sat 8. Saigon
Sun 9. Saigon
Mon 10. Saigon
Tue 11. MeKong
Wed 12. Hoi An
Thu 13. Hoi An
Fri 14. Hoi An
Sat 15. Hoi an
Sun 16. Hoi An
Mon 17. Hoi An
Tue 18. Hue
Wed 19. Hue
Thu 20. Train
Fri 21. Hanoi
Sat 22. Hanoi
Sun 23. Ha Long Bay
Mon 24. Ha Long Bay
Tue 25. Leave
Ideally we would wish to keep as much flexibility as possible re hotels, schedule etc. but need to know the pros and cons of last minute v advanced booking for the flights from HMC to Danang, Sleeper from Hue to Hanoi and flight from Hanoi to HMC. I also wish to know pros and cons of advance booking versus last minute booking for Mekong Delta trip & Halong Bay cruise
I would value any comments, advice and specific reccommendations re trips hotels etc. I should add that we have enjoyed several independent holidays in Thailand but since this will be our first time in Vietnam all help is appreciated.
Regards, Ian Smith from Glasgow, Scotland
#1 Bigianws has been a member since 28/1/2014. Posts: 6
Hi Ian. Nice itinerary. It shouldn't be a problem booking flight last minute as they are usually available outside of holiday periods, the only downside is you may have to pay a bit more as the cheaper 'saver' and promotional tickets will sell out, but it won't be double the price, just a bit higher. I don't know about trains. Last time I got the train from Hue to Hanoi was 4 years ago and we got tickets on the day, but i'm not sure if we were just lucky. I'm sure others will have experience of this they can share though.
Hotels in Hanoi - It depends what your idea of luxury is. If you give me an idea of budget and any other requirements I could make some recommendations, or check out the reviews and wires on this site. I recently wrote about Hanoi Pearl, which is at the high end, and like Golden Lotus too.
Halong - for luxury check out Bhaya Cruises and Emeralda.
Thanks for the advice Sarah. Does anyone have any recommendations for 2-3 day Mekong Delta Cruises. Another question is what to do with luggage when going on one of these trips (Halong Bay or Mekong Delta) Do we take luggage with us or can it be left at hotel assuming we are not staying at hotel on return.
#3 Bigianws has been a member since 28/1/2014. Posts: 6
Hi Ian. Sorry I can't help with the Mekong part. Hotels should be fine to look after luggage, although you may meet some resistance if you have not booked your Halong / Mekong trip with them. But that's only likely to be an issue in more budget hotels.
An answer from another oldie who's done this trip 5 times in the past 5 years
First of all your fitness - I strongly suggest you start walking (esp stairs) to get you ready for Vietnam - you will have a much better trip this way, believe me! I'm 70 and have the same problem, but I have an exercise bike that I intend to ride in a few minutes, and I will also be doing stair exercise to prep for my March trip #6.
2.5 wks is very little time to see VN, because it's bigger than you think, and transport is slow. It's also not a great beach destination like Thailand, it's just fair in that respect. In regard to your itinerary, my comments are that you need at least 2 days for the Delta, far too much time in Hoi An, and far too little time in the North. You should see Sapa (most beautiful place, even if you don't trek), and Hanoi is far more interesting than Saigon. (3.5 wks would be far better)
Hotels are wonderful, and some of the 3* places really nicer than the fancy 5* places, but you have to pick carefully (see the Tripadvisor listings). The trouble with last minute train/plane reservations is that you might not get your first choice. You want the Livitrans service from Danang/Hue up to Hanoi - regular service is uncomfortable for Westerners.
Be sure to book the free tour services of Saigonhotpot and Hanoikids - excellent in every way - done in exchange for English practice (you just pay taxi and lunch costs)
Fitness is really important - many many stairs and rough pavement in this country
We are two oldies in our sixtys and have never been to Vietnam before as we always go to Thailand every year. This what we are doing this year in March. Fly into Hanoi and stay 4 nights at Hanoi Charming 2 hotel and then go on a 3 day 2 night cruise on Treasure Junk in Halong Bay. Return to Hanoi and one more night at Charming 2 before flying out to Hoi An the next day. Have 8 nights at Vinh Hung Emerald resort at Hoi An. Just want to relax and blob out there but not doubt we will do day tours from there. After this we fly to Ho Chi Minh and stay 3 nights at Beautiful Saigon 3 hotel. After the 3 nights here we then fly back home to New Zealand.
As far as picking the hotels I researched on Trip Advisor and the 3 hotels we picked were all in the top ten but the rates were very reasonably from $45 NZ to $70 NZ a night including breakfast. Having been to Thailand (mainly Koh Samui) every year for the last 8 years and we are looking forward to a change of scenery and hopefully it wont be a too bigger culture shock
#6 Davidnz has been a member since 13/1/2014. Posts: 2
I would have to agree with daawgon. I found Hanoi much more interesting than HCMC... as well as northern Vietnam in general. My suggestion for your itinerary would be to cut down Hoi An to add an extra day to Hanoi and to add in Sapa. Hanoi has various different pagodas to visit, the Ho Chi Minh museum/mausoleum, Hoan Kiem lake with Ngoc Son pagoda in the center, Hanoi Hilton, the water puppet show.. and I preferred the shopping in Hanoi. Also Ha Long is a very enjoyable time and definitely worth taking an excursion. I would consider booking your travel earlier, such as plane and train tickets, but don't have to for accommodation unless you want to. Typically my boyfriend and I like to book our first night somewhere with good reviews and then we spend our next day finding where we actually will stay the rest of the time. That way we aren't locked in if we don't like where we are staying... Hope this helps a little :)
I think you should spend afew days exploring HCMC and surrounding areas. Hoi An is quite small, you onlyneed 3-4 days to relax and explore all the city. I thought Journey right foryou:
8 March : HCMC
9 March: Cu Chi Tunnel
10 March: HCMC
11 & 12 March: MekongDelta. O/n in homestay
13 March: Flight to Da Nang -Drive to Hoi An
14 March: Hoian
15 March: My Son Sanctuary -Tra Que Vegetable Village - Thanh Ha pottery village
16 March: Hoi An (Cua Dai CuLao Cham, ...)
17 March: Hoi An - Hue
18 March: Hue
19 March: Hue - Quang Binh -Phong Nha Cave (Thien Duong Cave)
20 March: Train to Hanoi
21 & 22 March: Hanoi - HaLong. O/N in cruise
23 & 24 March: Hanoi
25 March: Hanoi Departure
Hotels in Hanoi: depends on your budget, you can refer to onagoda.com.
Have a good trip.
#8 thuylinh01 has been a member since 18/3/2014. Posts: 5
I suggest to these two oldies just travel with someone who care to you during the flight because both are not able to move quickly during the visiting of Vietnam..do not climb up the mountain,eat health food and just drink more water because Vietnam is hot country...
#9 Alex222 has been a member since 1/4/2014. Posts: 13
Hope Ian and his wife enjoyed their trip.
We found the replies very interesting as we did the Hanoi to HCMC trip, with a number of stops in between, a few years ago. Just one word of advice about travelling - don't use an overnight bus unless you are short (in stature) as the sleeping pods (it's the only way to describe them!) are designed for Vietnamese people who tend to be shorter with smaller feet than Europeans!. I'm 6' with size 10s but even my wife struggled and she's only 5'6". We used one from Na Trang to HCMC.
And thanks for your advice Alex. We're off next week to Hanoi via Hong Kong, Beijing and Xi-an. Luckily, we have somebody to look after us in our dotage in Hanoi ... our daughter (travellingsarah - see posts above)
#10 emptynestas has been a member since 1/4/2014. Posts: 1