Trip Advisor has been so helpful to me and I am grateful. I consider myself a world traveler and normally do the luxury end at any destination. I hope this lengthy report of my recent Vietnam trip will be helpful. After spending hours planning this trip I was concerned that I my expectations would be let down. They were not. I thought my itinerary worked great.
Dates: April 27th-May 13th, 2009
Flight- LAX-Hanoi (Singapore Airlines SQ12 First Class).
OK, I splurged with my miles (AMEX Membership Rewards) and went First Class on Singapore 747, with a quick stop in Narita and about 7+ hours in Singapore, before going to Hanoi. It was the best flight experience I have ever had. The service was excellent and I felt like I was in a 5 star hotel. Nothing wrong with the flat beds either.
I highly recommend reserving a basic room at the Transit Hotel at the Singapore Airport for the layover. It’s about $45USD for 6 hours and worth every penny.
Hanoi- Sofitel Metrople 2 nights
Taxi After reading the stories of being ripped off by taxis I pre-booked with Noibai Taxi, by emailing them. They respond very quickly. The 45 minute drive with a driver who met me with a sign with name on it was $18 going from the airport and $15 back to the airport. The vehicle was nothing fancy, but air conditioned. www.noibaitaxi.com
The Sofitel Metrople was wonderful. I stayed in the old wing and loved it. This is a classic hotel that has been maintained beautifully. I simply loved it. The breakfast buffet is quite nice and the concierge service great.
The only nice restaurant I went to was Le Verticle. It was quite good. I think I choose the 3 course menu for about $26USD as the couple nest to me told me it actually was about 5-6 courses.
I saved money and used the wonderful Hanoi Kids, which I heard about from here. I had 3 guides on 3 different days. They were lovely girls with decent to good English. This organization provides free tours, yes too good to be true.
I had the hotel book the Water Puppet Theater. It was surprisingly good. Very cheap. Sit up front, first couple rows, if possible.
SAPA- Victoria Train and Hotel- 3 nights Total
Sapa is beautiful and worth it, if you get nice weather.
I took the night train. I understand this is the best one. No matter how you slice it the trains are noisy. Bring earplugs and pills. One night on train, one night in Sapa, and another night on train back to Hanoi.
The Sapa Victoria Resort is a good choice. After coming from the Metrople it was an initial disappointment, but it was fine.
They say Sapa weather has 4 seasons in one day. This can be true. I suggest going at the best time of year, according to travel guides, it still can be very cloudy though.
I highly recommend going to the visitor’s center in the heart of town. They are very helpful and the treks booked here are quick reasonable. They also have free internet use- how nice. I did the Cat Cat walk on my own and one of the many guys with motorcycles took me to a village nearby for a few dollars. It was fun. The next day I took one of the treks that was about 6 hours through small villages. It was great and luckily my hotel had rubber boots as it was very muddy. I was going to do the Bac Hac Marlet , but do the distance opted to not do too much in my brief time in Sapa.
Hanoi- Sofitel Metrople- 1 night
As the train arrives very early in the morning, 5am I paid for an early check in, which was a nice luxury.
I spent the day and night in Hanoi seeing more sights.
Halong Bay- Jasmine- 1 night
Everyone seems to debate which is the best junk in Halong Bay. I do not know as I only went on one, The Jasmine,and thought it was awesome. Service was exceptional- they are so nice! Room and bathroom are very nice, but small. Food was very good. Halong is a must, again with great weather which we had. One night was just fine, but good have done 2 time permitting. Very easy they pick you up at hotel and drop you back. I did not arrange the private transfer as I saved money. I had left luggage at the Sofitel Metrople Hanoi so went back to hotel and had lunch before taxi to airport Vietnam airlines.
Hue- La Residence- 2 nights
I arrived at night. Be careful as they approach you for a taxi and make sure it is one with a meter. I almost went to one without a meter, but another taxi tout told me that the guy who wanted my business did not have a meter.
Hotel was nice enough. First night didn’t do much, but eat.
I was going to save money and not book a guide through the hotels tour company, Extossimo. I heard they are an excellent company, but I was going to be cheap. I meet two ladies who used them and loved their guide so I booked one for the full-day to see the Citadel and tombs. Great choice. I choose to have a guide take me by motorcycle. It was very hot , but loved it. It was about $60USD I think. I hired the same guide to take be by car to Hoi An.
Hoi An- The Nam Hai Resort- 3 nights
My guide from Hue took me with a driver in a really nice vehicle through the pass, Marble Mountains, Danang- Cham Museum to my resort.
The Nam Hai is exceptional. The website doe s not do justice. The Villas are gorgeous. I loved the outdoor shower. Breakfast buffet is wonderful. Their free shuttles to the town are very helpful.
Hoi-An- How lucky was to go on the Full Moon Festival, once a month when all the lights are turned off and candles are floating in the river and it was Buddahs birthday (once a year) so many celebrations. Hoi An is small and great. You do not need a guide. I had 3 days here. I did the Red Bridge Cooking School and really enjoyed it. I am not a cook, but thought it was a great way to spend half a day.
Hanoi- Sofitel Metrople
Flew back to my wonderful Metrople and then one night in Singapore before back to LAX.
I hope this helps someone.