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Vietnam travel advice?

edited November 2008 in - Vietnam
I am planning to visit Vietnam next year. After asking some local travel agencies, I was offered two options below:

Option1: 12 days in the mountain
This tour offers 02 days in Ha Long bay, 8 days in the mountain to Ba Be, Ha Giang, Bac Ha, Cao Son, Sapa, Yen Bai then 02 days in Hanoi.
The tour features some relaxing days in Hanoi and Halong bay with most of the time trekking in the mountain.
I am wondering about the road condition, Pan hou resort and Cao Son Ecolodge services.
The operator said this trip is very colorful as I can visit many interesting tribes and enjoy their real life.
Option2: northwest trails 10 days
The trip will tour Mai Chau, Son La, Dien Bien Phu and Sapa for 8 days, 02 days in Hanoi with much exciting activities such as climbing mountain and trekking.
I just want to know about the facilities of Muong Thanh and Lan Anh hotel as they said they are 2-3 star hotels.
Please advise me which option is better and some descriptions of the hotels.

Thanks so much


  • edited 1:49PM
    Hello, i have made the journey to Mai Chau, Son La, Dien Bien Phu and Sapa by motorcycle and can comment on those. I however haven't stayed in the mentioned hotels but i do know that the Vietnamese method of self rating their hotels means you can usually knock off about a star and a half. The trip to the north west was pure heaven. For the most part road conditions were accessible by jeep and moderately difficult by motorcycle but they really depend on the latest weather so try going during the dry season. Each city is about a hard days drive from the last with great wilderness and villages in the midst. Have any questions about the above let me know.
  • edited 1:49PM
    Hi Alex
    May I know how long does it takes for you to travel by motorbike form one place to another as you mentioned.
    If I am at Sapa, would I need to take a day to venture into another nearby location?
    At Hanoi, how long and what transport can I take to go to Ninh BInh or Cao Bang or Perfume pagoda?
    Appreciate your advice. You can email me too
    [email protected]
  • To travel in the far northwest on motorcycle (don't try on a motorbike which won't be able to handle the roads) it takes about a day's ride to reach each new town large enough for small hotel. There are many small villages and sites of interest inbetween but they aren't large enough to stay in. If you take the train straight to Sapa there are great sites around the town that will take all day to see but won't require a day's travel. From Hanoi the trip to Ninh Binh is only about three hours by bus and worth every minute. The actual town of Ninh Binh is an ugly highway stop but the great cliffs beside it are more impressive than those of Halong Bay. There are two river systems to see the cliffs in Ninh Binh, they are both great but the northern one is much better. To get to Cao Bang takes about 4 or 5 hours only by bus. Perfume Pagoda is about 70 km from Hanoi. Travel agencies in Hanoi will offer trips to all three of these, while you may want to make your bus ticket reservations there i would not take them up on package tours. Have fun.
  • edited 1:49PM
    from those with experience of touring by motorcycle, would it be too ambition to travel without a guide and making our own arrangement to hire a motorcycle. Additionally is accomodation on the northwest trail easy to come by without reservation. Any advice greatly appreciated. thanks..

  • edited 1:49PM
    No, if you have experience you will not need a guide, just a map and some adventure. Depending on season the trail can get tough though so be cautious. The places on the way arent the kind of places that take reservations until you get up near sapa. Its not all street touring, a lot is on dirt and mud track so it may be different from what you are used to.
  • edited June 2010
    Boat tours are no longer available since the river is very polluted due to frequent commercial activities, even though the authorities are working to clean it up. However, Vietsmile travel still provides evening cruises every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, which cost US$20, last one hour and finish at Binh Quoi Tourist Village for dinner with a show.
  • edited 1:49PM
    hi what will it cost to hire a 250 honda ,wheres the best place to start/finish
    how much to stay in the hotels,we are looking at going in nov this year and have looked at tour companys but im sure we can do this ourselves we plan on doing the northern routes ,all help would be appreciated are there plenty of gas stops etc cheers ox
  • edited June 2010
    Hi, I have been travelling for a while in Asia and I wouldn't recommend motorcycle, you might get stuck in the middle of no where (happened to me and my boyfriend). But the package to Mai Chau, Son La, Dien Bien Phu and Sapa is worth it! and I believe the price is not too expensive (I did that 6 months ago.)

    I hope you'll enjoy your trip and let me know if you need more advice,

    Angela Luis
  • edited 1:49PM
    The 1st option sounds great! For hotels in Hanoi, Hanoi View hotel is my recommendation, it’s new 3 stars hotel. They took only 30usd per night , got breakfast, and private internet in room. I was satisfied.
  • edited 1:49PM

    I'll like to enquire more about HCMC as i'm currently attached to a company there and i definitely wish to make full use of my trip here, so could anyone tell me more about the places of attractions in HCMC where i'll be able to tour within a day?

  • Hi angela
    You can join Cu Chi Tunnels 1/2 Day (to discover tunnels under the land), Cu Chi and Cao Dai Temple 1 Day, you also join HCM City - Vung Tau 1 Day (include before and behind beach, Jesus Statue, Big Pagoda...)
  • edited June 2010
    thanks for sharing the information!

    vietnam is indeed a beautiful place with its watery plains and mountain scenery to magical deserted beaches, noodle carts, and nouvelle cuisine ... the best part about Vietnam for history buffs like me is its war history and sucking back bia hoi street-side in Hanoi!

  • edited 1:49PM
    We didn't take the soft sleeper from Hue to Hanoi, but comments we heard were universally positive. The trip is comfortable and costs about 55 $ (don't book through your hotel, they sometimes ask steep commissions). Important note however: only book the fast express train! Someone else we met booked the slow sleeper from Hue to Hanoi (15 hours for 30 $), and they had an awful night in a dirty compartment).

    Also the night trip from Nha Trang to Danang is an excellent alternative to the horrible bus ride. From Danang railway station, it's a 1 hour trip to Hoi An by taxi.

    We took the hard sleeper from Hanoi to Lao Cai (no soft sleepers available), and this was reasonable. We were with 6 in our compartment and slept reasonably well. Some points to remember however:
    - Go for the lower berths: they are cooler then the top berths, and the luggage can be stored underneath the bed, so stealing is impossible.
    - The train from Lao Cai to Hanoi arrives in Hanoi before 5 am, which is unreasonably early.
    - Some travelcaf
  • edited 1:49PM
    Thanks for great advice about travel of Vietnam. Vietnam is indeed a beautiful place with its watery plains and mountain scenery to magical deserted beaches.
  • edited 1:49PM
    Ho Chi Minh City is a fascinating city where modern development meets the age-old culture of the Vietnamese people. From here you can explore the narrow exotic waterways of the shimmering Mekong Delta. Floating down the river on a traditional wooden boat, watching the local villagers row their boat with their feet is simply unforgettable. You could also crawl through the eerie Cu Chi tunnels, as well as visit the War Reminants Museum and Reunification palace.

    All the best,

  • edited 1:49PM
    Ho Chi Minh is the business city in Vietnam. It is even noisier and more chaotic than Hanoi. The town has a nice center. I would recommend a stay of three to five days to visit the city.
    I give you some sites that you can visit such as :
    1. Reunification Palace: Built on the site of Norodom Palace, which was the home of the French Governor General.
    The South Vietnam President lived here during the Vietnam war. It was here through the gates that a North Vietnamese tank drove through the gates to mark the fall of Saigon on April 30th 1975.
    2. Ben Thanh Market: Ben Thanh market is located in district 1; just a walking distance from the Pham Ngu Lao Road. You can easily see it with the belfry and the clock on its entrance. Lots of things that you can buy in Ben Thanh Market like coffee as in all kinds of coffee- grounds, beans, powder, etc.! Lots of bags, shirts, souvenir items- shirts, keychains, frames, caps etc.. I also like the big fruits being sold here.
    3. War Remnants Museum: The War Remnants museum is dedicated to the Vietnam War. It gives the full history of the war over three Floors.
    4. Notre Dame Cathedral: The Cathedral known as Nha Tho Duc Ba. Built in the late 19th Century from local stone then covered with red ceramic tiles shipped from France it is the largest Church built in the French empire.
    5. City Hall: Part two of my City Hall Tips with more pictures The Saigon City Hall is one of the famous Landmarks of Ho CHi Minh City and is now renamed the People's Comitte Building.

    From HCMC, you can do an excursion to the Mekong Delta. And if you still have some days left, take a plane and go to Phu Quoc.

    I had a wonderful trip in Vietnam last month. I made a tour from North to South. Thanks to the travel agency Checkin Vietnam, I found the hotels with very raisonable prices, good services and also interesting tours. If you are interested in it, you can visit their website "".

    Best regards,
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