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My Vietnam Trip Report- One of my favorite Vacations

Los Angeles
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My Vietnam Trip Report- One of my favorite Vacations

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

Hotel:

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.

Restaurants:

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.

Tours

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.

Tour

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.

Everyone I met travelling loved Laos so I am planning on going in Sept and also to Cambodia . Any suggestions would be appreciated it. I am in the middle of planning this trip now.

Perth
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1. Re: My Vietnam Trip Report- One of my favorite Vacations

Hi,

Thanks for your report.

Would love to know more about your 3 days in Hoi An.

Where did you book your Red Bridge Cooking School?

Cheers,

Stewie.

Hoi An, Vietnam
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2. Re: My Vietnam Trip Report- One of my favorite Vacations

To RManning

It is good to hear you have enjoyed your Vietnam Trip, and you were able to see the FULL MOON FESTIVAL in Hoian.

To StewiePerth

Red Bridge Cooking Class can be booked at their sister restaurant Hai Scouts Cafe at 98 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hoian City.

You can do the booking once you are in hoian - just 01 day in advance.

I would recommend you to take 1/2 day itinerary which includes a market tour with the Chef to purchase some of the ingredients to be used in the cooking lesson.

birmingham
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3. Re: My Vietnam Trip Report- One of my favorite Vacations

Fantastic write up, thanks RManning. We are off in 10d or so, so it was especially useful to us.

I have been to Laos, about 5 years ago. It was unspoiled and difficult to spend that much money. We survived on $10USD a day, for three of us. Obviously prices have increased since then and i hear that they have latched onto the tourist trade more now.

The biggest difference between Vietnam and Laos is that Vietnam has 86 million inhabitants and Laos around 7 million. It is thus a big country which is very sparsly inhabited. It is possible to do long journeys between vientiane, Luang prabang etc and not see too many other people onthe way. A different experience, but a fascinating one.

Los Angeles
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4. Re: My Vietnam Trip Report- One of my favorite Vacations

Hi Stewie,

Although you can book the Red Bridge Cooking School once you are in Hoi An I booked ahead of time online to ensure availability on the day I wanted to go. Go to: www.visithoian.com and go to the Red Bridge Cooking School section. You may have to click a few times and hit "more" to navigate to the payment section. You will pay by paypal (I think $24 USD) and will receive a confirmation.

I only had 3 days in Hoi An and mostly walked around, shopped and ate.

Los Angeles
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5. Re: My Vietnam Trip Report- One of my favorite Vacations

Thank you theobooker for your kind words. You will love Vietnam. For Laos I was thinking of going to Luang Prabang for 4 nights and Vientiane for 2 nights, also going to Siem Reap this trip and Bangkok. I am doing the high-end hotels in both countries and find them to be more expensive than the high-end hotels in Vietnam. I was surpirsed. Although, I am sure if I change the hotels I can do it much cheaper.

New Bern, North...
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6. Re: My Vietnam Trip Report- One of my favorite Vacations

Hello all,

I am starting to think about a trip to VN in Dec during winter break. I teach at a college and am stuck with the school year cycle.

This was a very useful report and like many others it seems that you have managed well with creating trips without organized tours. When you speak of using a guide, did you work through a single source or link up with reputable tour agents in each city?

thanks. BTW, I'm en route to Machu Picchu and a month in Peru if anyone is interested in that research

Colorado
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7. Re: My Vietnam Trip Report- One of my favorite Vacations

Rmanning:

Thanks so much for your report. We leave for Vietnam on September 30 so I am very interested in all the trip reports that other TA members are so kind to post.

We were in Laos and Cambodia in October 2007. I loved both countries.

When we were planning our trip, several people told me my plan for two nights in Vientiane was too long, as the city could easily be seen in one night and 1-2 days. I was sure they were wrong and planned two nights anyway. I think we could have stayed for only one and spent more time in either Siem Reap or Luang Prabang.

However, one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in was our hotel in Vientiane. It was the Settha Palace. We had also found the prices of hotels in Laos to be much more expensive then Thailand or other Asian countries, which seemed unusual for a small undeveloped country. The Settha Palace was $148, inclusive of breakfast and all government taxes and it exceeded all of our expectations.

I am pretty particular when it comes to hotels. On that trip we stayed in the Raffles in Phnom Penh, Shinta Mani (sister hotel to de la Paix) in Siem Reap and Villa Santi Resort and then Villa Santi Hotel in Luang Prabang. The Settha Palace won hands down. Here is an excerpt from my travel diary "We arrive at the Settha Palace and it is a beautiful and stunning hotel. It is a 26 room hotel with very wide hallways, wide beautiful wooden stairways. A truly botique hotel. It is immaculately clean, even the ceilings and corners in the floor. The room is large with a loveseat, desk and amoir. The king bed is comfortable, the bathroom has a separate tub and shower with a waterfall shower head and even exceeds my high standards for a clean bathroom. Very high quality. Lobby is stunning. The only negative is the house wine is not good. The pool and couryard are an oasis within a noisy city."

I would also recommend the Shinta Mani, unless you are looking for only 5 star, in which case hotel de la Paix is a better option. Shinta Mani (in Siem Reap) is a non profit training hotel. You can read more about it on their website. About 18 rooms. We paid about $80 per night and it included breakfast. We may go back for a night or two during our upcoming Vietnam trip.

We had a wonderful guide in Luang Prabang that took us into some very rural and remote hilltribes, about an hour outside of town. A fantastic experience.

Avoid the Villa Santi Resort in Siem Reap. We booked a 4 night stay ($243 per night for a suite, so we had high standards for the hotel). We checked out before our first night was over.

If I can answer any other questions for you feel free to PM me.

Thanks for sharing your information on Vietnam.

Broder

Los Angeles
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8. Re: My Vietnam Trip Report- One of my favorite Vacations

Thanks Broder for your helpful information!

I do have some questions about my itnerary and places to stay. First, here is what I was thinking of itinerary:

Itinerary:

1. Bangkok- 3 nights - have been before years ago

2. Luang Prabang- 4 nights

3. Vientianne- 2 nights - or skip it entirely?

3. Siem Reap- 3-4 nights.

4. Phonm Penh- Is it worth going to? Was planning on skipping it

5. Last Two- nights- At the end of my trip it would be great to stay at an awesome hotel or resort. I fly through Singapore and spent one night only on my last night in Vietnam, not sure if Singapore hold my interest enough . Would love to go to The Nam Hai Resort again in Hoi An, but no direct flights to Danang airport, closest one, from Siem Reap so I would have to go to HCM or Hanoi and may be too many days.

Hotels:

1.Bangkok- Peninsula- think there are some good rates for a true 5 Star property

2. Luang Prabang- La Residence looks great. If I really splurge a new Aman resort is opening up .

3. Vientianne- Think I would take your suggestion of Settha Place. . Mixed reviews on TA. Also, hear about the Green Park Boutique

4. Siem Reap- A friend stayed at Aman resort (very expensive). Raffles Grand is rated as high. in Conde Naste Magazine, but have hear mixed about the rooms. I would like a great hotel. Hotel de Le Paix seems real nice too.

Any thoughts?

birmingham
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9. Re: My Vietnam Trip Report- One of my favorite Vacations

Very interesting thread this, I am going to cambodia in a few weeks. I was banking on spending a few days in Phnom Pen and then going onto to Siem Reap, missing out Sihanoukville. Do people think that I should spend less time in PP and go to Sihanouville instead?

Australia
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10. Re: My Vietnam Trip Report- One of my favorite Vacations

Hi

Be aware that the "www.visithoian" website in RMannings post halfway down, has a trojan virus on it which my AV just advised me about.

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