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Japan vs Vietnam

Brisbane, Australia
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825 posts
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Japan vs Vietnam

This probably sounds like a silly question, but has anyone here been to both these places and if so which did you prefer?

We toured Japan by train for 2 weeks last year and really loved it.

This year I'd like to go back to Japan and see some of the places we missed, and more of some places that we didn't get enough time to see properly last time.

My husband, although he enjoyed Japan, would rather go somewhere different like Vietnam or Cambodia or both.

While I'd be quite interested to see these places, I'm not keen on dirt, beggars, touts, thieves etc, which I've heard can be problems in SE`Asia.

Japan was refreshing in that it was so clean, safe and friendly and yet still had lots of interesting sights.

Seattle, Washington
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1. Re: Japan vs Vietnam

I live in Japan and went to Cambodia and Vietnam for two weeks four years ago. I have been urging people to go ever since.

Cambodia's Angkor Wat was one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. I am so glad I went and would go again if I ever had the time. In my opinion it is worth the trip and outshines any sight in Japan.

In the town of Siem Reap, we stayed in a very upscale hotel and hired a driver and guide - the hotel was not cheap; they know what they have there and charge for it, but the driver & guide were $25 a day each, and well worth it. Not quite the tuk-tuk experience but comfortable and efficient and we were never bothered by any touts or beggars.

Nor were we bothered walking around the town of Siem Reap.

In Vietnam, we spent a few days each in Hanoi, Hoian, and HoChiMinh City, or Saigon, whichever is politically correct these days. Hanoi was chaotic and crazy and faded and really really cool, and I'd recommend an overnight junk tour to HaLong Bay.

Hoian was a lovely small town that once a month turns the electric lights off for an hour or two and has the main street lit by old-fashioned paper lanterns.

Saigon was the city I liked the least though it was the most built-up, organized, and commercialized of the three.

In Vietnam every one of our domestic flights was late. On arrival in Hanoi we took a cab to our hotel, but the drive stopped to pick up another guy who told us our hotel was over-booked and he had a better place for us. Not so much. When I told them to TAKE ME TO MY HOTEL, they did, and it was over. I hear this is quite common.

In Vietnam we booked old-fashioned hotels -dirt cheap - and many things were not quite right - water pressure too low, noisy, this & that. There are more modern and upscale options these days.

We never got sick though we took care to drink bottled water (and plenty of beer).

It was terribly hot and dusty much of the time.

Nope, nowhere near as clean and efficient as Japan, but not nearly as irritating as the touts in China or the beggars in the Phillippines. Quite frankly, I loved it. If I were making a choice between Japan and Vietnam, having been to both, I'd pick Vietnam (with Angkor Wat as a side trip). But keep in mind as well that having lived here in Japan for a while the novelty has worn off.

Oh- a last note - I found that the places we went in Cambodia and Vietnam were very user-friendly to english-speakers, the people were utterly gracious, and there were internet cafes absolutely everywhere.

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2. Re: Japan vs Vietnam

Hello there, I have visited both countries and if I were to revisit just one I would choose Vietnam. There were things about both countries which I loved / found fascinating. In Japan, Himeji Castle, Hiroshima museum and the whole of Kyoto. In Vietnam, Hanoi, Halong Bay, HoiAn, Marble mountain and CuChi tunnels. In Vietnam, we worked our way from top to bottom with one other couple on an organised tour, flying between major cities. We stayed in 3-4 star hotels and never encountered any problems. We didn't take taxis but felt quite safe walking the streets back to our hotels and never got bothered by beggars etc. The food in Vietnam was (in my opinion) much better than Japan. People in restaurants and shops also seemed to speak more English. We did have some difficulty with the language barrier in Japanese restaurants. The variety of crafts etc. which we could buy was better in Vietnam than Japan and although it was a few years ago, I think Vietnam would still be better value. At the end of our tour in Vietnam we stayed for 4 nights in Nha Trang and this was lovely. There wasn't the option to have a beach extension in Japan due to the length of time it took to get to places as we took the train everywhere plus the weather at that time of year. We plan to visit Cambodia on a separate trip. I hope that this helps.

Palo Alto...
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3. Re: Japan vs Vietnam

It really depends on what you want out of your vacation.

First, as my login name suggests, I love dogs and therefore will never suggest anybody to travel in a country where dog eating is a tradition that is still widely practiced. Dog meat is sold in markets just like pork or poultry in Vietnam (don't know much about Cambodia, but guess that the situation is not that different). Besides, at local restaurants, if you order a chicken dish, how do you know that it's really chicken meat and not some "mysterious meat" such as rat meat?

Second, like you, I am not interested in filthy, smelly places that are full of beggars, touts, cons, and women who pester and flirt with any tourist men even in the presence of their wives.

Nashville, TN
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for Himeji, Kobe, Osaka
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4. Re: Japan vs Vietnam

To me the two don't compare at all. One is a first-world nation with all of the headaches and conveniences you'd expect from a modern country. Vietnam and Cambodia are both third-world countries, and the experience of traveling in third-world is very different. That doesn't mean it won't be rewarding and great and an excellent experience; but you really can't compare the two easily.

What about Japan and Korea? Korean Rail offers a pass that goes from Seoul to Tokyo (using the ferry from Pusan to Fukuoka). Or possibly use an all-asia pass to do both (and possibly more)?

John W.

Brisbane, Australia
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5. Re: Japan vs Vietnam

Thankyou all for your replies. You have given me lots to think about.

I'm really torn between Vietnam/Cambodia and another trip to Japan. As we're 50 somethings, if we go to the former we might go on a tour such as Travelindochina. I have heard good things about them, and even though we could do it cheaper on our own, I think I'd feel safer being in an organized group.

We travelled independantly in Japan as it was so easy to do and much, much cheaper than a tour. Maybe we'll go to V/C this year, then back to Japan next year. My husband is very keen to see Angkor Wat, and after reading about the two countries, they do sound very interesting.

Hong Kong, China
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6. Re: Japan vs Vietnam

my 50-something parents did a tour of vietnam last year for the same reasons you mentioned but hated the pace of the tour, and plan to go back independently, but everyone's different, i suppose.

i also live in japan and visited cambodia a few months ago; i went to vietnam on late '07. I liked Vietnam so much and am returning there in a few months. like the other poster who lives in japan, after some time here the novelty has most certainly worn off, but I recommend both places for different reasons.

Especially considering the woeful state of the Aussie dollar, a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia could be done with far less money but your standard of accommodation etc would be much nicer than in Japan. For as little as US$40 you can stay in a clean and safe minihotel in Vietnam, where you have space, English language cable channels, breakfast included, etc. Double the price in Japan and you're in a poky and probably smoky business hotel with none of the aforementioned.

If you do go to Japan, as the other poster mentioned, it's great combined with a trip to Korea: Korean Airlines do great fares ex-Australia and you could organise an extended stopover in Korea before jetting off to Japan. Alternatively, make your way down from Seoul by train to Busan and catch the hydrofoil to Fukuoka-- only three hours and very cheap.

Cambodia was a wonderful place. Begging and poverty is a reality; this is a developing country. Don't engage the touts and beggars and they will leave you alone. I agree with other posters-- Angkor Wat is amazing and well worthy of a trip overseas in itself. Phnom Penh is an interesting place, though I would avoid going to the tourist and tout-infested riverfront area too much.

Another point-- Japan will always be there, so to speak. Vietnam and Cambodia are devloping and changing so fast that I believe they might be rather different places in years to come.

troy mi
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7. Re: Japan vs Vietnam

Since you've been to Japan before, I would strongly urge Vietnam (especially the northern half) and Cambodia. Hanoi is my favorite city in Asia for its charm, parks, sights, architecture, shopping, food and PRICES. From there, trips to Halong Bay and the Perfume Pagoda are unforgettable.

None of the concerns you mention are true there (well a little polite begging, but not for money, but for souvenirs, shoeshines, etc. Only downside are the tons of Aussies there :)

Brisbane, Australia
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825 posts
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8. Re: Japan vs Vietnam

Thanks Bimdonesia and Spence

I know this is the wrong area to ask questions about Vietnam and Cambodia, but seeing as you've both been there, did you go to Sapa? Someone told me to not miss Sapa if we went to Vietnam, but I know it involves overnight train travel and hiking when you get there. My knees aren't too good, so the hiking wouldn't be suitable. Is it worth going to Sapa if you can't hike?

9. Re: Japan vs Vietnam

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