We just spent 15 days in the South and Central. Due to the nice experience (because of my time suffing in travelfish), we are going to spend another 11 days in the North. Besides of Hanoi , we would spend most of our time in Sapa and Bac Ha areas, below is my draft of itinerary:
Aug 13, Thur 09.30 arrived Hanoi and transfer to Lao Cai by night train (is it worth to spend $15+ more on a better train? Any place allow us to take a shower before we get onto a train in Hanoi?)
Aug 14, Fri First bus to Bac Ha. (any thing we can do in Bac Ha?)
Aug 15, Sat Bac Ha - Can Cau Market(by group tour)
Aug 16, Sun Bac Ha Market, half day trekking in the afternoon (any suggestion?)
Aug 17, Mon Trekking (any suggestion?) - we have to wait for the trip to Coc Ly on Tue
Aug 18, Tue Bac Ha - Coc Ly Market - Lao Cai (Group Tour) - Bus to Sapa
Aug 19, Wed Trekking in Sapa (Group tour? Any suggestion?)
Aug 20, Thur Sapa central market, church, Cat Cat (is it easy to go by our own?) - Lao Cai - Night Train to Hanoi (any hotel or place can offer a shower before we get onto the train?)
Aug 21 - 24 Hanoi
After 2 weeks research, the above is my dream itineary. However, I need your all help to confirm it works for us (I will go with my daughter at 8). What about the weather? Any comment and suggestion are welcome.
Thanks a lot in advance.
#1 IsaacLam has been a member since 17/7/2009. Posts: 13
Is there any reason why you want to visit so many markets.
While I don't agree with the oft heard phrase seen one, seen 'em all, I do wonder what fuels your apparent fascination with markets.
Unless you really have a fascination for markets, I suggest you can achieve a lot more by limiting your exposure to the markets (as good as each may be) and selecting other enjoyments.
Once I hear from you on this, I'll then 'disect' the other questions.
Good question. My first thought to visit just Bac Ha for this trip. After the web search, there are so many markets there. Hence, I picked three markets for this trip. To be honest, I have no idea how it looks like but just vist Bac Ha market may be too limited.
For me, it seems Sa Pa is good for trekking and Bac Ha (and the towns near by have many markets) for the market. Hence, I would stay these 2 places as a starting point for the day.
I like trekking, meet the local people, market and photography. I have a 8 year ago daughter goes with me and I'm not allowed to have a long trekking. ie. 20km+ per days.
Anything we can do in Sapa and BacHa? Or, you suggest me to go somewhere else.
#3 IsaacLam has been a member since 17/7/2009. Posts: 13
HaNoi has much to offer, both in the city and in the region. Maybe you could begin by going to Ninh Binh and exploring the Tam Coc area (very pretty).
Personally, I would take the night train on a Saturday night to arrive Lao Cai on Sunday am. I would pre-book a bus journey to BacHa to arrive early Sunday am there. I'd also book to take a bus from BacHa to SaPa to leave BacHa about midday.
I suggest this as the BacHa trek options are mostly geared for 2 or so nights. However, if you want to stay in BacHa longer to do a day trek, then sobeit. One of the problems you will have is that the tourist buses to/from BacHa focus on Sunday only. So, to leave BacHa on any other day, you have to take a public bus to Lao Cai. While tourist buses leave Lao Cai rail station at around 12:00, the drivers are ruthless at ripping huge amounts of money from you. So, you may be better to go with a public bus to SaPa.
As far as treks around SaPa or Bacha, there are so many travel agents in both places that can organise. You do NOT need to pre-book. And, it's probably better if you don't pre-book. You can then choose what is best for you from the many many options.
The walk to Cat Cat is easy, no need for a guide. In fact, many of the H1Mong ladies around SaPa will take you there.
In SaPa, many of the H1Mong, Dzao & Giay hilltribe women will take you to their village. Obviously they want you to give them some money for doing this (say US$5-10), but the walk there and back is enjoyable - if you keep talking to them about their life.
You can also rent a motorbike, and there are car drivers that will take you around.
If you like the idea of staying in Sapa &/or going on treks, then about 3 or 4 nights in SaPa would be enough.
Perhaps the Queen Hotel could be good for you. There are many other hotels in this area (which where international tourists enjoy staying).
Hope this helps.
Thanks for you advise, I was thinking to add Ninh Binh into my itinerary. I take your advise, I will add this into my itinerary. It seems that only one day tour available from Nanoi, itn't it?
Besides of Bac Ha , is it worth to visit either Can Cau or Coc Ly market? Which one do you prefer? The day trip to Coc Ly is seems pretty attractive. It is combined bus and boat trip in the same day and drop of in Lao Cai . Any thoughts?
Just want to reconfirm with you. In case I won't travel to/from Bac Ha on Sunday, I better take a public bus. Please confirm. I have checked with the info from Travel Fish. The bus is from 0630 till 1800 at Lao Cai, what about the time in Bac Ha?
Any "must go" place in Sa Pa for both villages and scenic areas?
What about the weather in Sapa and Bac Ha in mid of August? Will it be very similar with Lao Cai? I can find the weather forecast in Lao Cai only.
#5 IsaacLam has been a member since 17/7/2009. Posts: 13
At the end of the day it's your call.
I'm only expressing my view.
Yes, Ninh Binh can be done on a one day tourist trip form HaNoi. If you do this, make sure you take the bicycle option. The bus trip there and back means much time in a seat. So, the bicycle part helps make you exercised, and you ride through some amazing scenery.
If you want to visit more than one market, you choose. My preference is for ONLY ONE.
As far as bus travel to BacHa - if a travel agency can get you there on another day, then do it. For a first timer in the area, I wouldn't recommend you trying the public bus. The local touts are VERY VICIOUS when it comes to ripping you off.
I suggested you just take it as you please at SaPa. You will NOT - repeat NOT - be without lots of choices.
You can walk to CatCat (its only a short distance, and plenty of Gh have maps. You can walk to the 'minorities' villages of Lao Chai, TaVan, etc. easily - go see a map at:
You can hire a motorbike in SaPa if you like to visit more places.
Weather in SaPa is similar though a bit cooler than Lao Cai.
Thanks for your suggestion. I think we will spend 2 days in Honai before we join a 3 days tour for Sapa/Bacha on Sat evening. Then, stay behind 1 day in Sapa. After we back to Hanoi, we will join a Tam Coc tour - the tour will be started at 07.15, very early. 2-3 days trip to Halong Bay and 1-2 days in Honai before we back home.
Any "big" place missing in my 12 days trip to Northern Vietnam?
#7 IsaacLam has been a member since 17/7/2009. Posts: 13
I'm thinking about Sinh Cafe. We will book Sapa and Tam Coc with Sinh Cafe and hope them will give us a better price for all tours. I remember you recommended some others but the price is almost 4X in compare with Sinh Cafe which charge $50 / person for a 3 days trip. I know the other offer a better boat and more luxary. Would you suggest few more choices for us?
I'm still thinking about to allocate more budget for this trip....
#9 IsaacLam has been a member since 17/7/2009. Posts: 13
I often use Sinh Cafe. But, make sure you book through their actual shop, or through their website...
For the halong Bay cruise, go see:
If you like that cruise (it is the best), go and see the office in Hanoi and book there. I think you can get a lower price there.
Thanks for the info. Any chance to negoiate the price in Sinh Cafe? They wrote me that the charge of kid will be same as adult but the train fare and rooms are cheaper?
I'm impressed by the picture of columbus cruise. I will go there for a check. Hope they will offer us a good price. Otherwise, I might cut the Halog trip to 2 days.
#11 IsaacLam has been a member since 17/7/2009. Posts: 13