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Trip Review

Sydney
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103 posts
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Trip Review

Hi

I thought I would follow in Batts footsteps (type) and share my first time experience of Vietnam.

I travelled with 2 teenage girls and my 72 y.o. dad. We flew with Jetstar out of Sydney to HCMC. Our first night was at the Indochine. For the price it was fine. The staff were less than enthusiatic about us being there and there was no window in one of the rooms but it was o.k. I was surprised that the language barrier was so significant that I had difficulty ordering coffee with breakfast!!!

It was our intention to fly straight to Hanoi the next day which we did (late afternoon) after our share of lost property dramas (3 cameras in 2 days yey!) We flew Pacific airlines on a cheap flight and it was fine although departure delayed for whatever reason.

Our booked accommodation in Hanoi was not available on arrival. Same issue as faced batt - sick guest who couldn't leave? I had booked a single and a triple room. They originally suggested that one of us stay at another hotel (part of their chain...). This didn't suit us at all so we then all moved by foot to their other hotel to find that they didn't have a triple except for a god awful room with dirt on the walls workmans stuff around the room and mold on the walls and floors. Back to first hotel....all though the old quarter streets dragging our bags not fun. We eventually found alternative accommodation (the name and address escape me and I can't find the card however it was a family room for a reasonable price, clean and the staff were great (will do a review later). After the hassle of the arrival we all all glad to be there. To our delight the next morning we awoke to a power outage (the whole street) and the hotel was without power until 5.00pm that day *&^#$%^. Apparently the government does this all the time to conserve energy....... Great when you are on the 8th floor.

Anyway we did the water puppets, replaced a camera, did a bit of sightseeing before going to Halong Bay. If you stop for a rest break try not to go to the public toilets. Make sure you carry wetones and tissues at all times.

I would recommend that people book this trip on arrival if you have a day or two lead time. It is HEAPS cheaper and included kayaking, transfers etc. We spent a little bit extra for a deluxe boat which was o.k but I was exhausted and happy to sit relax and read a book. The guide was great (from Columbus).

We returned to Hanoi to get the overnight train to Danang. My advice to those wanting to do it.....DON'T. We did the standard four soft berth sleeper and were prepared with food drink cards etc. The cabin was disgusting, we were next to the only toilet on our carriage, which was more disgusting and the next morning pure evil, and joy, joy my 15 year old thought she found a pen inside the pillow slip - ignoring my pleas not to she got it out to find that it was a used syringe. Thankfully it had a cap.

Hoian - we stayed at Thien Thanh close to the action but far enough away to be quiet. It was a great room I shared with my girls, very clean and nice atmosphere. The hotel itself was small with a pool and the staff were g reat. we weren't in it much but when we were it felt very welcoming. I'd recommend this hotel to anyone. (No lifts)

Our return to HCMC was with VN airlines business class - absolute bliss after our previous transport issues. We booked on arrival in Hoian (4 days prior) and did have limited options with flights.

Stayed at the Anan hotel in HCMC and again would recommend it highly. Very centrally located - clean and has everything you need no breakfast though but no problems at all.

Overall it was an interesting trip. I've been to a number of other countries in SE Asia and I'm not sure that this would rank over any of the others. I found it particularly tough travelling and I was exhausted by the harrassment for money and always feeling that I was being ripped off. I know we have more money etc and I will always pay a fair price but having 4 or 5 year olds trying to sell me cigarettes in the middle of HCMC at night is just not so easy to reconcile. Again I'm not making judgements rather an observation.

The shopping in Hoian is fantastic and also HCMC was great. I would certainly consider going back to these places but without children or parent. The best food I had was a Kebap (spelling?) stand on the street in Hanoi - bbq pork on bread with salad etc. Fantastic. There were certainly many happy moments and it will be remembered for the experience it was. The nicest person we met was a Vietnamese artist who accompanied us on the Halong bay trip.

If I think of anything that could be useful to others going for the first time I will post it. PS if you go to the beach in Hoian be prepared to hassled big time.

One last bit - My girls and I were planning to visit the orphanage in Hoian. The girls made of point of bringing this off the wishlist to donate and particularly wanted to spend time with the kids helping or whatever. We arrived and there was one english speaking guy there that literally refused to deal with us, instead palming us onto someone who he suggested would show us around. They took the bag and then showed us to the gate......my point being if you wanted to contribute something or time etc don't be disappointed if it doesn't happen.

Have fun

Jules

nunya
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6,873 posts
24 reviews
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1. Re: Trip Review

hi jules

wow ,what a head spinning trip !

i had seen pics of the train on the net ,so thought against this option , might be ok for people who are used to roughing it , but for those of us who arnt , i dont think its an option. as for the syrynge ....i would have died if that happened to my kid ! specially in a pillow!

thank god i didnt have the same drama as you with my hotel , luckily they had another spare room .

i found wetones were given to me every time i went into a restaurant ...thought that was a great idea after you been touching all sorts of things all day !

you know i only got the hard sell in BT markets and ninh binh ...i didnt get it anywhere else ...isnt that weird.

although english is widely spoken , i found it was very broken english , it was at most times very hard to get most people to understand what we were saying ...even in 1 of the hotels!

the best english i herd was from the saigon hotel -can tho , he spoke excellent english ...the shop keepers were the hardest .

it doesnt all , always go smooth , but you had a really rough trot .

can i ask ......did you DIY or pre book ?

all in all , im glad you enjoyed your trip , no matter how frustrating or exhausting it was .

i think we learn to accept the good with the bad !

did you have a favourite spot ? did your girls and dad like it ?

cheers

batt

sydney
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134 posts
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2. Re: Trip Review

Jules,

Thank u for taking time to give an overall review of your journey, it was well written and presented, goodonya.

With regards to the hiccup on the accommodation in Hanoi, it does seem worthwhile, to have one hotel booking confirmed, plus a couple names of others in the event the first does not materialise to one's expectation.

It was rather unfortunate for your gals not to have the experience first hand at the orphanage, having gone thus far. By chance did u write to them before hand to make the arrangements or took pot luck whilst there.

Cheers,

jessie

Melbourne, Australia
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3. Re: Trip Review

Hi Jules,

Thanks for the report. I was going to go armed with toilet paper and wipes.

A bit disappointing anout the Hoi An orphanage. We will give it a miss then.

I am a bit nervous about the train now as we have booked the train from Hanoi to Hue.

How did you book your accommodation? We are having trouble getting accommodation confirmed and finding a lot fully booked in August already. I am hoping we have no trouble.

Thanks for the post.....

nunya
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6,873 posts
24 reviews
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4. Re: Trip Review

holidaytime40

if you are booking through an agent , they are only alloted a certain amount of rooms each , i sometimes found it hard to get a room myself , in a couple of the hotels i wanted , so i just booked them direct via email from the website of the hotel.

hope this helps.

cheers

batt

Coolum Beach...
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3,297 posts
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5. Re: Trip Review

Hi Jules,

Great post!---concise and to the point!---a few ups and downs but the first trip is always like this ( as the 10th trip can also be)---You did however make a great run of it with 4 of you ---and an elderley lady!

I think flying really is the answer for larger hops ---more comfortable and easier than trains if there are a number of you!---Bit easier by yourself!

You have raised a good point ---that first hotel has to be " hammered to death" with communications---to the extent of phoning/ skyping them---from there on straight forward!

Orphanages! ----there are hundreds of organizations in VN doing superb work!----99% of them are Bona Fide----I have always been a little wary around Hoi An ---the resort mecca of VN ---a few stories around ---enough said ---but disappointing for your group who had every good intention!

If one has the time and inclination, the provinces are the places to go where you will hit an NGO doing good work ---you will see your gifts put to good use and a very high level of appreciation and gratitude shown!

I enjoyed your post!---I guess you sit quietly now and consolidate your thoughts.

Thanks for your post!

plover

Coolum Beach...
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6. Re: Trip Review

Hi Jules,

" Elderley Dad"--not elderley lady!---apologies!

plover

Sydney
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103 posts
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7. Re: Trip Review

Thanks for the feedback.

Some answers - I did the trip DIY. I feel fairly comfortable with this option with only the Hanoi hotel not coming through for us. When I was looking for alternatives I had a host of names and details (I did some fairly extensive research beforehand) however the first few were booked out or could only give us one room. I love my dad but when you travel like this space is essential......

Everything else though was relatively straight forward. I thought the savings that we made were significant and I'm happy to do a bit of running around.

The hotel we did get rooms at was just down the road from the New Day restaurant (still having a mental block as to the name) I'll get it eventually.

J

Sydney
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8. Re: Trip Review

PSS about the orphanage.

I looked into visiting on the UK website that seems to provide major sponsoring and also our hotel had a flyer suggesting that visitors were welcome.

I'd like to clarify that in any of my travels I don't expect people to bend over backwards for me or necessarily speak my language etc but I was a bit disappointed that we were dismissed so readily by someone who was not vietnamese who could have easily communicated with us.

I would try again and as Plover mentions there are plenty around besides this one if people are interested.

J

Sydney
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9. Re: Trip Review

Sorry battling I didn't answer.

My girls liked it very much and Dad has mixed feelings. I'm fortunate that my kids are very open minded and love getting amongst it in other countries/cultures etc. I have a 13 y.o. fashionista that was in her element in Hoian and the eldest was very happy to get to ride on the back of a motorbike.

I think for Dad's vintage (and maybe my own) he should consider going up a few stars for comfort and convenience. However we did check out the Caravelle which looked fantastic but for my money I'd like to stay somewhere that reflects where we are. You could have been anywhere staying there.

J

florida & QC
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757 posts
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10. Re: Trip Review

Julestraveller,

Great report. You did well - DIY, extensive research beforehand. I can see that you are an experienced traveller.

<<...Everything else though was relatively straight forward. I thought the savings that we made were significant and I'm happy to do a bit of running around...>>

Could not agree with you more. I could have saved a bundle if I did not book through a travel agent. Besides cost savings, the most important thing is flexibility. Some places I wanted to stay longer and some I wanted to leave asap - got stuck with prepaid accomodation at expensive 5*. In hindsight, a bit running around is not bad at all.