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in Hanoi - any experts for North Vietnam

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Vancouver, Canada
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in Hanoi - any experts for North Vietnam

Hi

This is my official first post on the tripadvisor. And, wow to my dismay the first post I read is "Love letter to Hanoi".

Anyways, I am also in Hanoi, about to finish the business part of my trip and am ready to take advantage of the next two weeks. I have done a lot of walking around in the evenings and talking to a few people.

Thinking about going to the North. Up for anything really. Sapa looks good but was thinking about going to the Bac Ha market and beyond. I have read a little about Ha Giang. Is it doable on a solo mission doing local transport. Or should I go with a company? Suggestions?

Hanoi, Vietnam
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1. Re: in Hanoi - any experts for North Vietnam

It would be a little tough on your own to take the local bus, but the Vietnamese generally look after foreigners. I took the local bus back from Mai Chau, and had a wonderful time with that group of locals - none of us spoke the others' language. How adventurous are you? I doubt that you will hear much English beyond Lao Cai. I haven't personally been beyond Bac Ha.

Pennsylvania, USA
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2. Re: in Hanoi - any experts for North Vietnam

Welcome to TA! Lets hope you have more positive experiences than the poster of the love letter. To counteract that, I have lived and worked in Hanoi for 12 years now and love it!!

If you have got the time I would highly recommend you head to Ha Giang than to Lao Cai/Sapa. Ha Giang has more spectacular scenery, more diversity in ethnic minority groups, and very few tourists-- these combine for a truly amazing travel experience. Don't get me wring, I enjoy the Sapa area (just returned yesterday morning in fact), but it just doesn't compare to the experience of Ha Giang.

The fact that few tourists go to Ha Giang makes it a bit more of a challenge. Tourist facilities are not very developed so accommodations are basic. But I think this adds to the experience rather than detracts from it. As a single traveler, it is possible. My first solo trip to Ha Giang involved taking an overnight sleeper bus to Ha Giang and arranging with the Pan Hou Ecolodge to pick me up at Ha Giang and then take me to the lodge. From there they arranged daily treks for me with a local guide.

However, if you want to travel around a bit with the time you have its going to be easiest with a driver and guide from Hanoi. I would recommend the following route: Hanoi to Ha Giang to Quang Ba to Dong Van to Meo Vac to Ha Giang to Hanoi. While Lao Cai/Sapa has established days for local markets (for example Bac Ha is every sunday) in Ha Giang market days are based on the luna calendar (e.g., on the day of the snake, on the day of the monkey).

Here is a recent article from the New York Times Travel section that provides other advice on organizing your own trip to Ha Giang:

…nytimes.com/2010/…31vietnam-ha-giang.html

And regardless of whether you go to Lao Cai or Ha Giang, be sure to visit the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology while you are in Hanoi to learn much more about ethnic diversity in Vietnam.

Vancouver, Canada
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3. Re: in Hanoi - any experts for North Vietnam

Thanks everyone,

Great post Tecalli. (Going to check out that eco lodge now) I like the idea of touring from place to place. Any suggestions of tour companies here in Hanoi? Local would be best. In my walkings and talkings and searchings on the net I have been attracted to Handspan, Footprint, Actvie Asia, there seem to be alot. The Sinh Cafe does not appeal to me, something a little more repitable.

Pennsylvania, USA
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4. Re: in Hanoi - any experts for North Vietnam

Be very careful in selecting a tour agency for Ha Giang. Since its off the tourist route many agencies have little experience with the area. I sent you a PM with more info.

Forster, Australia
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5. Re: in Hanoi - any experts for North Vietnam

I would not take too much to heart from the poster of the 'love letter', also I am not quite sure what daawgon is referring to in saying that there is not too much English beyond Loi Cai. Around the markets in Bac Ha, on Sundays only as pointed out by Tecalli, Sapa and surrounding districts you will find people who are able to converse well in English. I have not been to Ha Giang so I can't speak for that area. Sapa is a wonderful area and there is plenty of information on TA as to getting there and things to do.

Greg

Vancouver, Canada
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6. Re: in Hanoi - any experts for North Vietnam

Thanks everyone for your posts, they have helped out greatly with my plans: I have decided to just stick in Sapa for 3 or 4 nights (Bac Ha as well), maybe venture into Lai Chau. Ha Giang will be next time!

7. Re: in Hanoi - any experts for North Vietnam

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