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One month working remotely from Vietnam, itinerary critiques?

Posted by saryant on 28/7/2014 at 23:43

So, my company allows me to work remotely one month a year from anywhere in the world and I'm thinking about spending it in Vietnam next year. Probably Jan/Feb 2015 (though before Tet). I'd still be working during part of the day. Given that, my plan is to stick to just a few places over the month.

FWIW, this will be my first trip to Vietnam but not the region, I spent two months backpacking around Thailand and Malaysia two years ago. I've also spent time in India so I understand what travel in the developing world is like.

Interests: Not looking for any huge party scenes. My ideal day will some sightseeing in the morning, working in the afternoon from a restaurant or cafe while I watch the world go by, a street food dinner with a few beers and then another hour or two of work before I fall asleep. If I'm on a beach (preferably a quiet one), perfectly happy to just spend the day at a beachfront bar with Wifi sipping cool drinks and snacking while I work. I'll be traveling alone and am in my mid 20s.

Weekends will be focused on personal travel and I'll probably take a mini-vacation for something like Ha Long Bay. The trip is bracketed by non-work days in Beijing, Hong Kong and Macau.

Budget: Midrange. I'll probably be splurging on private rooms since I'll be traveling with a laptop. ~$50/day.

I want to spend at least one week on a beach.

For reference, I spent a week on Thong Nai Pan Yai beach on Koh Phangan in Thailand doing almost nothing and I was 100% happy. Beautiful beach, great food, not very crowded. I don't mind a little legwork to get to the final destination. OTOH, I absolutely hated Chaweng on Ko Samui.

My current plan is as follows:

* Hanoi - 7 nights
* Hoi An or Hue - 7 nights
* Saigon - 7 nights
* Phu Quoc - 7 nights

Very simple. I can fudge a few days either way on the exact length of stays and total trip time.

My questions so far:

1) I feel pretty confident about spending 7 nights in Hanoi and HCMC but I'm less sure on Hoi An or Hue. Can't decide if I should try to split my time or just pick one and see the other on a future trip. Given that I'll be working, the safe option would be to just pick one, but which? Another option would be to take my trip even slower and cut out both, splitting my time between Hanoi, HCMC and a beach.

2) Phu Quoc — opinions on this island may be more divided than any other in the region. Some say it's trash, some say it's wonderful. Worth it or should I head to Thailand? Seeing some good fares and convenient schedules on AirAsia from SGN to Phuket (which actually works well since it's easier to get from Phuket to Hong Kong than from Phu Quoc—my return flight is out of HKG and I'll be on separate tickets either way). If I chose to head to Thailand, I'd likely pick another island near Phuket as my ultimate destination.

Negative opinions on PQ seem to fall into two camps: those who got bored and those who can't stand the refuse (or the Russians). How is it for my goals though, any experiences? A few relatively calm places to work with a cool drink while looking out over the beach (or local street life) are all I'm after.

Another (simpler) option would be Nha Trang or Mui Ne but opinions seem equally divided there. I think I can rule out Nha Trang as it seems to be more of a party destination, especially with the Pattaya comparison in the Travelfish guide. Mui Ne's beach itself seems to get bad reviews as a lounging beach so neither destination is terribly appealing.

Thanks for any thoughts!

#1 saryant has been a member since 26/7/2014. Posts: 7
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Posted by travellingsarah on 29/7/2014 at 19:44 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

I haven't been to Hue for about 5 years, so I can't really comment on what it would be like to spend a week there versus Hoi An , where I have been more recently. But how about flying or training from Hanoi to Hue, seeing the sights over a couple of days then taking the train or bus to Hoi An to work/chill for the rest of your week? It won't necessarily be beach weather in Jan/Feb but it's still a great spot to find a nice cafe or bar to spend the days.

#2 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 682
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Posted by saryant on 29/7/2014 at 20:03

travellingsarah: That's been my thought since my post. I'm thinking about taking the train from Hanoi to Hue , spending a few days and then continuing on to Hoi An for the bulk of the week, probably timing Hue to be on a weekend back here so I can devote all that time to sightseeing.

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Posted by antoniamitchell on 30/7/2014 at 01:22

Saryant - your plan re: Hue and Hoi An sounds pretty good to me. Hue is really interesting and Hoi An is beautiful so it would be a shame to miss them.

One thing (which you're probably already well aware of) - wifi in a lot of hotels/guesthouses/cafes is reeeaaaalllllly slow (or at least it was 3 years ago when I was there - might have improved since then). So you will probably need to do some research to find places that have fast internet, so you can work properly.

Have a lovely time (I'm rather envious of your job's policy!)

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Posted by saryant on 30/7/2014 at 08:41

antoniamitchell: I'm a little worried about Wifi but various digital nomad-type blogs say things have improved in Vietnam over the last few years, at least in the big cities. Plus, I'll probably buy a 3G dongle or mifi device as backup.

I thought about Sapa but that's too much to do on this trip. Next time.


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Posted by larsay on 2/8/2014 at 02:49

Posted from within Vietnam.

I am surprised that nobody tells you that January and February are the worst 2 months to visit the North. Cold (12-15° humid in Hanoi and I have known 5° during the day in the mountains (Sapa) + frequent thick fog. You better bring heavy winter clothes ! On another side, the weather is perfect in the South, so it is full season and many hotels are full, especially in places like Phu Quoc.

Hoi An is a darling. I love Hue also, but it is mainly a historic city, so if you are not interested by historic monuments, better not go.Thailand has NOTHING to do with Vietnam ; highly developed country versus authenticity guaranteed.My position is there are beaches everywhere but one Vietnam only, so I would forget a beach and visit that marvelous country. I loved Dalat in February, warm enough to ride a motorbike around for several days (or you go Nha Trang 2 days and then Dalat). You can go in the Mekong delta for a few days (Saigon-Cai Be/An Binh Island)-Vinh Long-Sadec-Long Xuyen/Tiger Island-Chau Doc-Can Tho-Saigon

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Posted by saryant on 2/8/2014 at 12:58

Heavy winter clothes? All the stats I've seen say that Hanoi is in the upper 60s most of the day that time of year. I live in Colorado so even down to 50, I won't be too bothered. As for humidity, I lived in Houston for seven years. No big deal.

Given my constraints I don't want to move around too much. I'd rather spend a long time in a few places than flit from city to city so Sapa, Dalat, etc will be saved for a future trip.

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Posted by comtam3000 on 2/8/2014 at 20:34

I'm 23 and just spent a month in Vietnam. Sounds like we might have similar interests. I spent about 5-6 days in Hanoi and I loved it. If I were working anywhere in Vietnam I'd probably choose Hanoi. It's got an wonderful street food scene, and there are great cafes everywhere with delicious cheap coffee and free, reliable wifi. It's really an awesome city. I was actually a bit disappointed with Saigon, I think because I was sort of comparing it to Hanoi. I was there 2 months ago in June, and it was reaaaally steamy and humid. Almost unbearable when I first was acclimating to it. I found myself daydreaming of being there in January.

In regards to Hoi An vs Hue....for me this is a no-brainer. Hoi An is sublime. Totally chilled out town with a pretty beach (no Phu Quoc though) to hang at. Seems to me Hoi An would be better suited for what you're after.

If I were in this position, I'd probably do 2 weeks in Hanoi (really soak it up, ya know?), 1 week in Hoi An, and 1 week Phu Quoc.

Happy working travels :)

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Posted by saryant on 2/8/2014 at 20:39

comtam3000: Did you spend any time in Phu Quoc? At this point I'm heavily leaning towards Ko Lanta as I'm seeing some great deals there on AirAsia and then back to Hong Kong on Thai. A lot of the more recent reports for Phu Quoc are very negative.

For me, I think a week in both HCMC and Hanoi will give me a chance to really get into both cities. I suspect I'll prefer Hanoi though.


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Posted by comtam3000 on 2/8/2014 at 20:48

I didn't spend any time in Phu Quoc. All the travelers I spoke to in Vietnam about it though had fallen in love with it -- I hadn't heard anything negative (except a few "too many Russians" complaints). Ko Lanta is real nice, head down south for some breathtaking beaches.

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Posted by TerroirTravel on 3/8/2014 at 15:23

Hi- First, I totally agree with what comtam said about hoi an, I loved it there. I know it's cliche, but get some clothes made there, I'm glad I did, and only wish I had done more.

I was also PQ for 2 weeks in January. It can be pretty chill- yes, there are Russians, but I didn't find that to be problematic at all. What did make me sad was that in general, I found the food to be the worst that I found in Vietnam. We stayed along the beach south of duong dong. To find better food, we walked across the bridge on the NW side of town, past the chicken sellers, and found great pho bo away from the tourist spots.

Two weeks was too much, but I think a week would be nice. Take a day to do a snorkel trip (John's did a great job), rent a bike and wander around. Just don't expect the food to be like, say, Hanoi, where the street food is terrific.

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Posted by larsay on 4/8/2014 at 00:30

Posted from within Vietnam.

I live in Hanoi since 2008, so I can reconfirm that it is cold in January-February in the North and winter clothes are necessary !

#12 larsay has been a member since 20/7/2014. Posts: 45

Posted by LolaNguyen on 4/8/2014 at 02:17 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

Jan and Feb are pretty foul in Hoi An too.. Having said that I just returned from a working trip to Hue (a city I love), working remotely from there was an absolute nightmare. Most cafes have WiFi (it's a bit shaky) and the better hotels (generally the $30 plus a night ones) for the most part come equiped with a desktop, but it can be a bit soul destroying shut in your room and as hard as I tried, finding a cafe that ticked the box for reliable WiFi that was quiet enough to work from was something that eluded me completely (all day happy hours, Easy Riders, cyclos, xe oms, staff practicing English..).
Hue is great for exploring, but unless you are far more focused than I, not an easy place to work from.
Hoi An on the other hand is perfect - free mega WiFi that covers the whole area and dozens of places that are a pleasure to work quietly from - Soul Kitchen at the beach is a nice spot even in the winter months (Jan/Feb), above the book shop in Cafe 166 on Tran Phu St, from the balcony overlooking the river at U Cafe (Phan Boi Chau). The general attraction (other than the obvious) of Hoi An is it's a very easy place to be. The downside is that we occassionally have day long power outages in the rainy months, so a dongal is a handy accessory - they cost about 500,000vnd ($25) and then 100,000vnd to charge them up for a month.
As for Phu Quoc. The trash is at it's worst after a big storm - it's the same here in Hoi An. All those Russians (if they are a problem for you) don't travel far from the airport or main strip - it's a big island with some very beautiful beaches, jungle, scenery and seafood - you have to work a wee bit harder to find those places, but it's always worth it. Especially if you are looking for a bit of sun at that time of year in Vietnam.

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