I'm going to Vietnam for tree weeks in October.
Anyone been there? Suggestions?
I've been there for 3 weeks last September. Started from Hanoi down to Saigon. Have you already a plan what you want to visit and see?
What you should not miss is Ha-Long Bay, pretty touristic but there is no way around, it's almost impossible to get there on your own and get a "decent" boat. There a thousands of booking offices in Hanoi, but be careful, don't let they fool you. Ask in your Hostel someone, almost every tourist was there. We booked the tour with a party boat full of other backpackers, was pretty cool, bargain in the booking office, i paid 45 $ for 3 days with 3 meals per day instead of 120 €
Hoi-An is also nice, it's a touristic stronghold but the beach is awesome! and pretty empty because all of the tourists have their own beach, so on the "public" beach are only a few backpackers. Don't forget to rent a motorbike for a day and drive the street parallel to the beach. That was absolute fantastic. There is almost no traffic in Hoi-An so driving a scooter is no problem. There are also hundreds of tailors in Hoi-An, if you need a new suit, DO IT!!!
Avoid Nha-Trang, in my opinion it's not worth it, unless you want to see everything in cyrillc and see drunken Russians at 8 AM on the beach. Do it if you want to fug russian slags.
Feel free to ask me more, if you are interested i could post a few pictures.
Vietnam is amazing.
>Do it if you want to fug russian slags.
Brb, traveling to 'nam quickly. :3
My route is from Hanoi to Saigon, too.
How did you travel in Vietnam? Bus? Train?
Do you have been in north (sapa)?
My Route was:
Hanoi (2 days stay)
bus to Halong (3 days)
bus to Hanoi (1 day)
flight to Danang (few hours)
bus to Hue (1 day)
bus to Hoi An (3 days)
bus to Nha Trang (2 days)
bus to Da Lat (2 days)
bus to Mui Ne (3 days)
bus to Ho Chi Minh (5 days)
how long i spent on a place could vary, just out of my head. But it comes pretty close.
as you can see i visited only the most touristic parts of Vietnam, but you can have there a good time too. I regret nothing, only the flight from from Hanoi to Danang. I paniced a bit there because i spent 6 Days in Hanoi and Halong. I really wish i had give a shit and visited Sapa, i heard so many good things. I think if you skip Da Lat and/or Nha Trang you have enough time to visit Sapa. In Dalat is nothing to see, except the bus ride to it, the mountains are fuggin amazing, the city don't. Unfortunately there was a huge tempest and and the bus couldn't drive so i had to spent 2 days.
I skipped Mekong Delta as well because i heard from many people that it's not worth the money, the river is so dirty and smelly and ridicolous over touristic expensive. But please decide on your own, i wasn't there, i can just say what i heard. I really really enjoyed the 5 days in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon. I went a bit lazy there and visited the Chu Chi Tunnels, was pretty cool. The other days i visited the city and celebrated western decadence in throwing money literally out of the window. Saigon is the best place for it.
3 weeks 1500 € flight included. Speak about fate, in Hue i met another bavarian from Nürnberg, we traveled together for the rest of my trip, he traveled further to Cambodia after i flew back to Germany. We shared a lot and i think that was the reason why safed so much money.
Tomorrow when i am at home i think i can post a few pictures and a short text to every place i visited, maybe i can give you good view.
what i forgot, look out for Sinh Tourist, they are not the cheapest but it looks like they are the only ones who maintain their busses and pay the bus drivers a good salary, they don't rush and drive like crazy monkeys. The bus ride from Hanoi to Halong was the cheapest but hooooly shit, i had at least 3 near-death-experiences in this 4 hours ride.
The beaches in Hoi An are really nice and if you move a bit away from the main entrance it is also very calm.
The town itself gets quite boring after the first day as it is basically a giant open air souvenir shop (You wanna buy?)
I'm going to Vietnam in August for the second time and already saw most of the main tourist attractions. Any hints for off the beaten path places and/or a nice place on Phu Quoc?
I'm thinking about going to Vietnam in spring too. But I'm a bit unsure since I read so much negative stuff about it on the internet, especially from the backpacker kind of people. Is the amount of unfriendliness and rip-offs really that bad or is it just people who went there with the wrong expectations?
Its not that I cant deal with it, but I dont want to spend my vacation in a constant hassle.
Of course you will pay more than the locals, but that's normal. It is still more inexpensive than Thailand and people are friendly, I was there twice and I always loved it. For example a bus ride is 7.000 VD, or a big peace of chicken with broken rice for 45.000 VD. If you prefer Western food it's a bit more expensive, but still relatively cheap. Of course it would be a good thing to compare the prices and what you get for it, but even my hostels had some good tours or gave me maps and showed me, which things I can see on my own.
I can only speak about the South (mostly 3 weeks Saigon +2 hours surroundings), but I was impressed. What I enjoyed about the people was that they were happy and I got no attempts of scamming me. The students which want to speak a little bit English realy wanted to speak just some sentences and when they ran out of words, they thanked me and went off. (In China this was usually followed by the invitation to a "tea festival" or "one beer", which might be a bit more expensive... )
The backpacker are usually ok. I met some in the hostels I have been and they were the typically person, who wants to experience a country on low budget and see a lot of sights. Nice people and very relaxed. Of course there are the drunken tourist, who like to party and have no manners, but they stick to the bars/clubs. The old men with young weman or hookers exist too, but it is not so bad, as I knew it from other locations.
Think about the visa invitation you need in advance (just a few Euro) and don't forget the immunizations. Especcialy if you go out to the delta, it may be helpful to buy some malaria medicine.
Halong bay is a thing of course. If you have just a short time, It makes sense to see the big cities from North to South and yes, Sapa looks very nice. You could also see one area a bit more and stay longer and take next time another one, but that's a personal decission. Next time I will go for 4 weeks and see Hué, Mui Ne, Hoi An, Phan Rang-Thap Cham and Ninh Thuận for example. A bit less cities, therefore I have more time for them and their surroundings and it's a bit more relaxing. But this time I'm there with my girlfriend, who speaks the language, so it may be a bit more easy to see things outside the normal touristy areas.
Very informative Bernd, thanks. What I meant with the backpacker thing was that some backpackers think the Vietnamese don't like backpackers. Their explanation is this: backpackers tend to be on a tight budget. Vietnamese think every westerner is rich and therefore consider backpackers 'close-fisted' (geizig, is there really no better english word?).
Anyways, I think I'll go to Vietnam and see for myself :3
impressive how many bernds been to Vietnam.
I had no problem. As the Bernd before said, you pay already tourist prices. Normally a beer cost about 20000 - 30000(ca. 80 Cent) Dong for tourists and about 4000 Dong (15 cent) for locals. If you are nice to them and speak a few vietnamese words you might get lucky and they demand the local price.
It depends from where you are, if you are from Europe, they are really nice to you, if you are from US they can be a bit cold. Especially the elder people were really nice in the north to me as i told them i am from germany. Because we had a "common enemy", the americans. Or because a lot of Vietnamese were in the DDR, and got their education from DDR. You will be surprised how many from the elder people can speak a few words germanzur mitte, zur titte, zum Sack, zackzack. du wirst es nicht glauben wie oft ich diesen Spruch gehört habe....
Maybe they don't like you, but they will be nice to you anyway, because they want your money. The young people already know that not all westernes are rich, they understand you. Every young vietnamese i met, was nice and friendly. The elder people not.
Check out the awesome caves, I went to a few and was thoroughly impressed.
I also liked Vung Tau, a beach easily accessible from HCMC. Be warned, it's a bit dirty and there's lots of rubbish on the beach. Mainly domestic tourists. Good part: dirt cheap seafood, select your animal from a tank on the beach. Plate full of mantis shrimp for less than 3 Eur (forgot the VND amount)
You haven't left yet I hope?
If so, I can share some thoughts. I have lived four years in Vietnam.
First of all, Vietnam is actually developing quite fast now. I noticed big differences through only the four years I lived in Hanoi. For example, cars have become much more common. At the beginning, pretty much only embassy staff and other expats had cars, now, at least in Hanoi, cars are becoming much more common. Obviously motorbikes still dominate, but not as much as before, by a long shot.
We once drove from Hanoi to Phu Quoc, an island off the very south tip. I don't know if you're that into beaches and such, but it is an absolute pearl. Easily the best beaches I've ever been to, everything was perfect. There might be considerably more tourists now, though.
Anyhow, more places you must visit:
Ha Long Bay. Absolutely stunning cave system. An absolute must. Also has lots of adorable monkeys.
Hue. If not for the name, because it is a beautiful, historic city.
Hoi An. Relatively close to Hue,
Da Nang. One of Vietnam's biggest cities, and the biggest in central Vietnam. Big, but not too big. Really nice city.
Stay the fuck away from Ho Chi Minh. It is terrible. Overpriced as fuck compared to the rest of the country, way too many tourists, too capitalistic, and everyone is trying to scam you. Has some nice sights but it's not even worth spending the night there.
Alas the names of more cities and sights escapes me, but if you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I'll try to reply as soon as possible.
I really enjoyed Dalat and cycling through the rice paddies in Ninh Binh.
I'd recommend 2days1night for Halong bay. You go out on a boat and sleep on it and get food and cruise around going kayaking and visiting the caves there. Had the best seafood soup of my life on the boat there. But that totally depends who's your host.
Regarding Da Nang. It's ok, not a must see in my opinion. Marble mountains and the Cham culture museum feel quite touristy and not real, what ever that really means in this case.
I don't really know what you like so I just mention and recommend taking a train, especially in the middle of Vietnam are very scenic routes. Biking. Around Dalat or in the north of Hanoi.
More in detail recommendations would be waste of time as long as you don't know where you are going.
Can a Bernd who visited Vietnam recommend a nice island or beach for relaxing and snorkeling, but also some party?
Wrong country for that kind of activity. Try Cambodia or Thailand. Sihanoukville is overrun by young stupid party people, but there are some nice island infront of it. But they change the owner quite fast, so don't know if you can visit the same as some years ago. I've been on Bamboo Island, very nice beach, hardly any people, great food and very quiet.
>Wrong country for that kind of activity.
Why exactly? I already decided on Vietnam.
There is no good location with the mix you want.
The easiest way to travel there like you wish would be buying a book about each of the countries (Lonely Planet with a lot of information or Vis a vie with more pictures…). Then read the main spots in there and broaden it up seeing which of the main attractions you wish to see. Then you stay maybe a week or a little longer in these places, see them and also explore the surrounding sights. You'll get a little feeling for every city or area you’re living and it's more relaxed anyways. Remember you have time.
If you are going to live in backpacker hostels, you can also meet a lot of people in there and if you like each other, you can go sightseeing together. If you don't want to do that, you can still hear the things they liked most and watch them as well. These will be some of the best tips, because they have visited it recently and maybe have seen new/interesting things on the way. Also you can get some information doing that, you might not find in books, like cockfights and so on…
Finding a group can be a nice thing of course, that’s right. But going alone has a lot of freedom on the other hand and so you can be relaxed going there and later on finding some people you like to be together with. Also using travel diaries from other people and photo books can help you finding a nice route. For Vietnam and Laos for example there are nice travel documentations on YouTube. Note the names of the places you liked most watching it and then you’ll explore them by yourself.
Please do not buy the overpriced Lonely Planet in your home country. Fly over there and get cheap copies. And disregard the hostel recommendations. They'll be overrun and overpriced. They give you a good idea about what is there to see and the local dishes including a map of the city center or even the whole village.
It's actually the best plan to not have a plan. If it's money-wise possible for you then don't start in Bangkok. Honestly I'd recommend starting in Hanoi, going south, through Cambodia up to Laos and then back east to Hanoi and fly home.
>"Will there be people that are willing to accept me as a travel companion for a little while on their trails?"
Sure. When I backpacked SEA last year I met plenty of people who were happy to travel with me, or at least hang out in the evenings. I had a few romances too (one of which lasted two weeks, which seems like a long time when you're together 24/7 in a foreign country). It really just depends on how personable you are.
Re. planning, I take your stance too, but it is still advisable to do some research so that you never get too lost or bored. And you might miss out on things if you go in completely blind. To be honest, Lonely Planets are handy to keep around as a back-up in case you enter a new town with absolutely no idea where to go: you just flick to the relevant page and pick out a hostel at random and tell the cabbie to take you there. This method saved my arse a couple of times.
Also it's kind of lame when you meet someone and they know literally nothing about the country/city they are in.
As a rule of thumb: Each hostel listed in the Lonely Planet immediately raises its prices and lowers the quality. Best to avoid them.
I think it's not a bad idea per se, but keep in mind that you'll have to decide on where and when to go, how to get there, book flights etc. For every minute that you don't spend at home making plans you'll be spending 3 when you're there. For example booking flights with your mobile phone is a pain in the ass. I went to Thailand last year without any plans and I spent quite some time sitting around in some restaurant and surfing Wikitravel or booking websites on my mobile. It's not too bad to have a rough plan on what to do when, know the options etc., you can still be spontanious.
>Money won't really be an issue. My budget will be around 30 Dollars a day...
Asia is cheap, but that is actually not a big budget.
My Vietnam flight is booked, I got 19 days. I planned on (and already booked incredibly cheap flights for) spending 4 days in Saigon (don't wanna rush it), then go to Nha Trang (yeah, I've been warned about the russians) for 4 days, then go to Hoi An.
I'll take it 'as it comes' from there and probably end up in Hanoi 2-3 days before I'll have to go back to Saigon.
How about Ha Long bay and the boat cruises, this seems like a couple or family thing to do, I still wanna see it. Is there a way to do Ha Long without feeling awkward for being on your own?
Any recommendations, something 'off the beaten path' perhaps between Hoi An and Hanoi?
Always do the opposite of what lonely planet says. These shithead twentysomething travel guides are to blame for overcrowding of virtually all former SEA refuges. If you follow LP guides it will just leave you to termite nests of other tourists.
Do two days one night on a boat, normally you meet some other backpackers. We were in total six people on the boat and all were backpackers and just one couple. Worked out fine.
And there a millions of spots inbetween such a distance. One noteable are the My Son temples. If you like some culture. Hue is more or less a must have with the citadell and the tombs. Dong Hoi is some remote beach spot with hardly any visitors, but nothing much to see. I'd recommend Ninh Binh and doing some boat tour between the rice paddies or some biking around. A beautiful spot for post cards.
Look up the list of nature reserves. You can stay in a lot and do some guided trekking from beginners up to very advanced. Some nightly foto trips as well etc. The north-west mountainous region around Sapa is great if you like to ride a motorbike or see some ethnic cultural stuff.
In Hanoi I'd recommend the water puppet theater, Hoan Kiem lake, One pillar pagoda with the mausoleum and the Temple of Literature. There are a lot of temples around. Please DON'T do the perfume pagoda. It's a cheap tourist trap. Nice boat ride and temple up top, but you don't see anything on the way up, only trashy market stalls flanking the way all the time. Maybe the Cuc Phuong National Park next to Hanoi?
Thanks for all the information. I think I'll do Ninh Binh, it looks amazing! My trip doesn't really have any 'nature' stuff in it yet so this sounds great, and it's coveniently close to Hanoi :3
Yes, it is, but it's not comfortable close for a day trip, so if you travel up north do an overnight stay there?
Forgot something: If you can try to go by train in roughly the middle of Vietnam. Most scenic part is the ocean cloud pass.
I'll definitely stay for 2-3 days there and cut Hanoi rather short. The train thing sounds great but 19 days is short, with Ninh Binh my time as pretty maxed out.
Can you say something about riding a motorcycle in VN without a driving license? I'm comfortable with the driving itelf to a certain degree, I guess if you get 'caught' you pay some monies and don't get hassled any further?
Actually that's the way to do it. Even if you have a proper license it's not valid over there. Just drive one and pay the fine, no big deal.
I forgot something again: You don't need much time in Hanoi if you don't do any surroundings. One night and two days are enough, I estimate.
And I hope you're interested in food over there.
Food is one of the main reasons I'm going there :3
I'm already reading and watching http://migrationology.com/author/admin/ all the time in preparation.