Photo: Canals of Ca Mau, Mekong Delta.

Vietnam forum

Most rewarding places in Vietnam?

Posted by marianaamc on 6/6/2014 at 05:46

Hi everyone.
I only have 15 full days flying in HCMC and out of Hanoi.
What are your opinions on how to make my time more rewarding in Vietnam?
I wanted some feedback about the mekong delta and about mai chau. Still worth it? I read mixed reviews about those places.

#1 marianaamc has been a member since 30/10/2013. Posts: 62

Posted by caseyprich on 6/6/2014 at 10:30

Fifteen days I'd probably have stuck with either JUST the north or the south, so you'll need to make a choice probably between delta or a Mai Chau/Sapa style adventure in the north. Also, from your post it isn't clear what you are looking for on your trip.


One possible itinerary:
HCMC (2-3 nights)
Can Tho [Delta] (2 nights)
Can Tho to HCMC & flight (or one more night in HCMC) (1-2 nights)
Hanoi (2-3 nights)
Ha Long Bay (2-3 nights)
Sapa (3-4 nights)
Hanoi (1 night)

Another suggestion:
HCMC (3 nights)
Fly to Da Nang - Hoi'an (3 nights)
Ground to Hue (2-3 nights)
Overnight train to Hanoi (1 night) [could skip Hue and just fly from Da Nang to Hanoi]
Hanoi (2-3 days)
Ha Long Bay (2-3 days)

There are a couple hundred options on how you could combine these itineraries. However, I'm highlighting some of the main spots from south to north: Can Tho, HCMC, Hoi'an, Da Nang, Hue, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Sapa. With only 15 days you are probably best off dropping the central area of Hoi'an-Da Nang-Hue, though I like that area a lot.

#2 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281
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Posted by daawgon on 6/6/2014 at 11:14

The most rewarding destinations for me would be:

Hanoi for the wonderful diversity of the Old Quarter and the friendliness of the Hanoians
Sapa for the beauty of the hills and terraces and the wonderful attitude of the hill tribes
Hoi An for the small village feel, the lantern-lit evenings and the best food in Vietnam
Quy Nhon for friendliness, great seafood and low prices
Dalat for many wonderful experiences and great food

I was a little disappointed in the Delta, but the floating markets were very interesting
Mai Chai was beautiful and very friendly, but after 1 day, I was bored

#3 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,112

Posted by marianaamc on 6/6/2014 at 17:00

I wasn't thinking about spending time in HCMC but I was considering a side trip to see the floating markets. Overnight enough?
Might skip Quy Nhon because I'm not looking for beach time but thank you for the tip.
I was considering Hoi an and Hue, 2 days each maybe.

One place I want to spend a full day is Ninh Binh and I probably will skip halong bay for this.
Three days in Ninh Binh and Mai chau enough?
something like: night train from hue to ninh binh arrive 8h05. Full day in Ninh Binh (Hang mua Trang an biking etc). Next day go to tam coc very early to skip the crowds and catch a bus to mai chau, overnight there and next day spend the day biking there and catch a late bus to Hanoi .

I probably want to spend the rest of my time in Hanoi and Sapa. Is this ok?
fly to hcmc 12 Aug...
13 Aug delta mekong
14 Aug delta mekong (nigh train)
15 Aug hoi na
16 Aug hoi na
17 Aug hue
18 Aug hue (night train)
19 Aug Ninh Binh
20 Aug Ninh Binh
21 Aug mai chau
22 Aug Hanoi
23 Aug Hanoi (nigh train)
24 Aug sapa
25 Aug sapa
26 Aug sapa (night train)
27 Aug Hanoi
28 Aug flight day

#4 marianaamc has been a member since 30/10/2013. Posts: 62

Posted by caseyprich on 6/6/2014 at 19:17

Just to comment on the below, there is very little time to really absorb any of these spots. For example, you land in HCMC, the next day you head to Can Tho (about 5 hrs) and spend the evening there. Then you wake up super early to see the floating market in the morning and then get on a bus to go to HCMC and catch a night train (or flight I'd probably recommend) to Da Nang. That is really hectic and wouldn't be a problem as just part of a trip, but this seems to be the pace you've set for the entire time. I'd recommend you cut out one of these three spots from the start.



fly to hcmc 12 Aug...
13 Aug delta mekong
14 Aug delta mekong (nigh train)
15 Aug hoi na
16 Aug hoi na
17 Aug hue
18 Aug hue (night train)

#5 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281
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Posted by Geer1 on 6/6/2014 at 22:19

The best sight in Vietnam is Paradise Cave imo.

Ho Chi Minh has a few good museums and the cu chi tunnels were interesting.

Dalat scenery was interesting in that it was different from anything else I saw in SEA.

Nha Trang diving was fun.

Hue citadel and tombs were interesting.

Halong bay/Cat Ba Island were neat but somewhat disappointing with all the pollution.

#6 Geer1 has been a member since 14/9/2012. Posts: 540
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Posted by travellingsarah on 6/6/2014 at 23:06 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

Yeah, once you factor travel into your itinerary you are only going to have a day or so in each place (except Sapa and Hanoi) - that is a bit hectic.

Mai Chau is gorgeous - I was there recently updating the TF listing - but I suggest cutting it from your schedule and going straight from Ninh Binh to Hanoi. I love the scenery around Ninh Binh (2 day suggested itinerary coming soon!) and there's plenty to do and see in the area. Mai Chau doesn't offer anything more than that and you're adding a lot of travel time.
But that is only 1 day saved and I would also cut out one other place if you can bear to. The places you have scheduled are all very different so it's hard to suggest which to cut. At the very least consider flying to danang rather than getting the train. I like train travel but always arrive tired, and with the little time you have you don't want to waste any.

#7 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 681
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Posted by marianaamc on 8/6/2014 at 07:37

Damn I'm so bad at cutting things.

Paradise cave, I don't think I want to go there. I know I would love it but I've been to a cave here in Portugal that it's kinda cool (mira de aire caves - google it). I do know Paradise cave has 31km vs the 11km of mira de aire cave but I saw something similar that, while if I had never gone to one would think it's amazing, I've been to these two three times and it's not that memorable to me.

Anyway as I'm already so confused on what to cut I shall not add another to the list!
It's hard since every single one of those places looks hard for me to cut. I have to reaserch a bit more to do this decision.

Excited about the ninh binh itinerary! I have a list of things I wanted to see there but wasn't sure if I could do them all.
Daawgon said after one day in Mai chau he got bored. Do you think I should cut it because one day it's not enough there or just because it's not as good as the other destinations?
From what I got from a bit of reaserch just now, there's one bus from Ninh Binh to Mai Chau at 5am and the journey takes 3.5h. So I would probably do 2d/2n Ninh Binh 1d/1n in Mai chau and catch a bus back to Hanoi next day. I was thinking that even though I would just have one day there it would be a relaxing one, just walk a bit in rice fields and villages.

About train travel, I'm usually a good sleeper, I'm one of those persons that always falls asleep on buses/trains/cars even when the distances are short. And I much prefer spending my time in a train that at the airport... Just worried that the conditions might not be good enough to leave me comfortable and that it will reflect on my sleep.

#8 marianaamc has been a member since 30/10/2013. Posts: 62

Posted by caseyprich on 8/6/2014 at 08:22

I took the sleeper from Hanoi to Hue and it was fine. Originally I booked the regular sleeper, but got upgraded to the Livitrain(?) sleeper car. No trouble sleeping there.

As for what to cut, real problem is that you fly into HCMC, or I'd just say cut out the delta. However, it makes it odd to fly into the south and then not really spend any time there. For the section I suggested a cut to you could do some quick pros & cons:

Delta, Pro - floating market, experience some of the south: Con - bit of back tracking, hectic schedule to see market
Hoi'an, Pro - historical city, close beach, shops: Con - I think it is a bit overrun with tourists
Hue, Pro - very historical area, old town is interesting: Con - often a bit wet, mostly best just for history buffs

#9 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281
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Posted by travellingsarah on 8/6/2014 at 21:19 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

Re Mai Chau , I just don't think it adds anything other than what you'll already be getting from Ninh Binh and Sapa . The scenery is similar to Ninh Binh and the villages in Mai Chau are just tourist shopping centres selling the same stuff you'll find elsewhere, whereas in Sapa the villages are villages. I'm not anti Mai Chau at all - it's beautiful - but given the time you have I think it's wasted travel time. From Ninh Binh to Hanoi direct is just 2hours, but if you go via Mai Chau you're adding a couple of hours to get to Mai Chau then have a 4 hour journey from Mai Chau to Hanoi.

#10 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 681
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Posted by travellingsarah on 8/6/2014 at 23:55 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

Nathuy - what makes you suggest that itinerary? It ignores her desire to go to Hue and Ninh Binh and nowhere did she say she wanted to go to Halong or Danang.

#11 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 681
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Posted by nathuy on 8/6/2014 at 23:55

Posted from within Vietnam.

I think it is not the best choice but it is good for you.



HCMC - Cu Chi (Day 1)
HCMC - My Tho - Can Tho (Day 2 & 3)
Can Tho - HCMC - Da Nang by flight (Day 4 5)
Da Nang (Day 6 7)
Da Nang - Hoi An (Day 7)
Hoi An - Ha Noi (Day 9 10)
Ha Noi (Day 11)
Ha Noi - Ha Long (Day 11 12)
Ha Long Sa Pa (Day 12 14)
Ha Noi (Day 15)

#12 nathuy has been a member since 24/1/2014. Posts: 28

Posted by Phuongvntm on 9/6/2014 at 03:19

As your requirement, I think you should follow what you like and intend to do. And my recommendation is because you are so curious about Mai Chau , you should spend 2 days, instead of one, to explore it. I believe you would love it. Let's try services of Mai Chau Ecolodge if you have a comfortable budget, I think it's good. About being hectic in your provisional itinerary, I think it's not problem.

#13 Phuongvntm has been a member since 8/6/2014. Posts: 1

Posted by marianaamc on 9/6/2014 at 07:35

Well, bad news. I actually fly to HCMC 13 Aug, not 12 so that's a day less than I though....
I'm starting to think I need to skip both mekong delta and mai chau and fly to danang 14 Aug at 5am. I saw the night train option but it takes all my morning next day and it's more expensive than the flight. I hear the best part is between danang and hue so I will take the train that journey and the night train between hue and ninh binh.

13 Aug arrive hcmc
14 Aug hoi an
15 Aug hoi an
16 Aug hoi an
17 Aug hue
18 Aug hue (night train)
19 Aug Ninh Binh
20 Aug Ninh Binh
21 Aug ?
22 Aug Hanoi
23 Aug Hanoi
24 Aug sapa
25 Aug sapa
26 Aug sapa
27 Aug Hanoi
28 Aug flight day


I have a day that I'm not sure where should I put it.... Ninh Binh Hanoi or Sapa. Or any one day side trips worth it from the places I will be? Thank you all for your help.

#14 marianaamc has been a member since 30/10/2013. Posts: 62

Posted by caseyprich on 9/6/2014 at 15:30

If it were me - I'd actually add that one day to HCMC, since you are flying into there anyway, might as well get a little experience of the city.

#15 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281
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Posted by travellingsarah on 9/6/2014 at 22:22 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

I agree - check out HCMC. Otherwise it's looking much more manageable!

#16 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 681
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Posted by marianaamc on 4/7/2014 at 10:25

Travellingsarah, do you have any prevision for the feature with the two day suggested itinerary for ninh binh?

#17 marianaamc has been a member since 30/10/2013. Posts: 62


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