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Vietnam forum

Thoughts on my Vietnam itinerary

Posted by Rohan on 16/6/2009 at 10:38

I will be traveling to Vietnam with a side trip to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat in late December/January. This will be my first trip to South East Asia. I am interested in the cultural and historical side of the countries rather than lounging around on beaches and partying. I also have a strong interest in trying the regional cuisine, and am looking at getting some clothes tailored in Hoi An.

I am thinking of the following itinerary:

27/12 - Arrive Saigon
28/12 - Saigon, O/N train to Hoi An
29/12 - afternoon arrival in Hoi An. Full moon festival.
30/12 - Hoi An
31/12 - Hoi An
1/1 - Travel to Hue
2/1 - Hue
3/1 - Hue. O/N train to Hanoi
4/1 - Hanoi
5/1 - Halong Bay
6/1 - Halong Bay
7/1 - Halong Bay
8/1 - Hanoi
9/1 - Sapa
10/1 - Sapa and Bac Ha market
11/1 - Hanoi, evening flight to Saigon
12/1 - Saigon, with a day trip to see the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Cao Dai temple
13/1 - Saigon
14/1 - Meekong Delta
15/1 - Meekong Delta
16/1 - Meekong Delta
17/1 - Boat to Phnom Penh
18/1 - Phnom Penh
19/1 - Phnom Penh
20/1 - Travel to Angkor Wat
21/1 - Angkor Wat
22/1 - Angkor Wat
23/1 - Angkor Wat
24/1 - Flight home

What do people think about this itinerary? Does anyone have any suggestions about things I am devoting too much or too little time to, or perhaps am missing entirely?

#1 Rohan has been a member since 16/6/2009. Posts: 63

Posted by Manticore on 16/6/2009 at 17:27

Posted from within Vietnam.

In my opinion, it seems you are spending a lot of time transiting between places and not enough time in places to really enjoy them. If you want culture and history, you need time to explore and absorb.

I don't understand why you are backtracking to Saigon either. I'd start in Hanoi instead.

#2 Manticore has been a member since 9/11/2006. Posts: 67
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Posted by PrincessSimon on 16/6/2009 at 17:44

I just got back from Cambodia. At Angkor Wat you can either buy a 1-day, 3-day or 1-week visiting pass. I bought the 3-day pass, but only took out 2 days to explore. There is a "Small Circuit" and a "Grand Circuit", which both cover different temples. The first day I visited the temples on the Grand Circuit, by bycicle, which is strongly recommendable! The second day we got a guide and tuk tuk driver to explore the Small Circuit. In my opinion this should do, and you should be able to see most of the temples in the main Angkor complex. If you would decide to take out 3 days, it's probably worth travelling the few extra miles to go to Banteay. Hope this helps.

Regarding Vietnam, I don't really understand why, on arrival in Saigon, you want to go North straight away, to then come all the way back South. Wouldn't it be better to either fly to Hanoi, visit the North, and then slowly come down; or start in cambodia, and then travel slowly to Hanoi?

I'm looking to visit Vietnam in October, and I'll probably fly to Hanoi, explore the North, then take the train to Saigon, and explore the South. I'm looking to fly back home (London) from Saigon.

#3 PrincessSimon has been a member since 16/6/2009. Posts: 2

Posted by Rohan on 16/6/2009 at 18:09

Manticore and PrincessSimon

Thanks for your help.

While it would make more sense to start in Hanoi and go down, I am flying to Vietnam direct from Sydney, and my flight lands in HCMC. There are no cheap flights from Australia direct to Hanoi, so that's just not an option.

I would also like to see the full moon festival in Hoi An, and the only time it is on while I am in Vietnam is 29 December. The only way to see it is with a bit of backtracking.

#4 Rohan has been a member since 16/6/2009. Posts: 63

Posted by BruceMoon on 16/6/2009 at 19:39


A couple of points.

I'd fly to Danang (either from Hanoi or Saigon) and take a bus to Hoi An . The cost will be about the same, and the o/n train isn't that great as a scenery vehicle.

To SaPa...

8/1 - Hanoi
9/1 - Sapa
10/1 - Sapa and Bac Ha market

The BacHa market is on Sunday, so take the Saturday night train (arrives Lao Cai), go to BacHa, then backtrack via BacHa to SaPa. I suggest you need 2 nights in SaPa to 'taste' the ethnic 'flavour' there.

You are spending heaps of time in the Mekong Delta, what do you want to see/do?

Also the bus/boat from Saigon to PP is 1 night 2 full days.

I also suggest you need 4 whole days in Angkor - 3 for temples, and 1 for Tonle Sap (not only for Tonle Sap, but also to break the temple journey [otherwise you get 'templed out']).

- - - -


As for Hoi An, the clothes styles are Mmmm!! and the fabric styles so so dated. The clothing quality and price of chinese made garments in Kmart is better/cheaper!

Near Hoi An are the My Son ruins. The museum there has a display of Champa, Khmer, Muslim timelines, occupancy, etc., and is perhaps the best in Asia.

If you can, get a motorcycle (100cc semi auto or auto) to do your travelling in Hoi An, Hue, & Sapa. You'll enjoy. Get an international driving licence from RAC/Q/V/SA/NRMA...


#5 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by Rohan on 17/6/2009 at 08:25

Thanks Bruce.

I plan to go through the delta to Chau Doc and take the boat to Phnom Penh from there. That is part of the reason I have 3 days in the Meekong Delta region. Other than that, I thought it looked like an interesting area. If anyone has been there, I would be interested to know what you thought.

At the moment, I leave for Sapa on the Saturday to see the Bac Ha markets on the Sunday, with the Monday in Hanoi before flying to Saigon. If I arrive in Sapa on the Sunday instead, I could go straight from the station to fly to Saigon on the Tuesday morning, given that the train gets in something like 4:30 am.

How long would I need to leave between the train's arrival and any flight I book? Does the Sapa train have a reputation for running late?

#6 Rohan has been a member since 16/6/2009. Posts: 63

Posted by BruceMoon on 17/6/2009 at 09:33


The reason I suggested BacHa > SaPa > HaNoi is that the best part of the market happens before the tourists flock in from SaPa (about 10am). So, those that want to see the best 'action' either stay the night at BacHa, or go from the Lao Cai rail station.

My experience of train timetables is scant. But, I wouldn't count on it being on time. I don't know who you are flying with, but Jetstar show a flight about every 90 minutes throughout the day.

The first minibus from HaNoi to the airport is at about 6am, and it takes about 3/4 hour. So, if you'd booked an 9am flight you'd be sweet.

I did the Saigon - PP boat run with Sinh Cafe. It was too much time doing 'tourist' things (tho some were good), and hanging around for lunch (which I don't have) so that the bus was pushing it for too long. If you are independant, 3 days would be OK.


#7 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by smartlyndy on 19/6/2009 at 14:15


I would certainly spend more time in Sapa (although it will be very cold at that time of year) and cut down on time in the delta. We did the boat trip from PP to Chau Doc and really enjoyed it. A cushion is invaluable! It was a long journey - I cant remember how many hours exactly but it only took one day.
If you're into culture and history, Hue, Hoi An and Angkor should be highlights. I would try to get out to Beng Melea and Banteay Srei if time permits.

#8 smartlyndy has been a member since 7/5/2009. Posts: 33

Posted by ngg18 on 22/6/2009 at 14:33

Posted from within Vietnam.

Regarding the Mekong delta, I think 3 days is a good time. You can travel from Saigon to Can Tho by bus which takes only 4 hours or so and costs about 100000vnd. Can Tho is a nice place and there are a few worthwhile things to do. Its a great place just to relax. You can go to the floating markets one day and enjoy an evening river cruise (and eat dinner on the boat). You can go to Foosa which is a park, where they have some animals and it is nice and quiet there. You can also get a good view of the bridge they are building.
You can then travel from Can Tho to Chau Doc (only takes 3 hours) and enjoy an afternoon there, perhaps visiting Sam mountain from where you can see many rice paddies and you can see into Cambodia. From Chau Doc you can take the boat to PP, taking about 6 hours.

Also, i agree with an earlier post that plying to Danang and taking the bus to Hoi An is a better option. It will save you a lot of time. Hoi An is a very nice place. Rent yourself a bicycle for around a dollar a day and go for a ride to the beach or something. Jetstar has cheap flights from Saigon to Danang. Check the Vietnamese page on the Jetstar website on Friday afternoons for specials! Last Friday they had tickets for 150000vnd SGN-DAN!

Oh, and if you wanted to save a little more time, you could fly direct from Hanoi to Can Tho in the mekong delta. This would save you having to backtrack via Saigon.

Hope this helps. I'm sure you will enjoy your trip! Vietnam is a wonderful country.

#9 ngg18 has been a member since 4/6/2008. Posts: 21

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