A Vietnam Itinerary (Or Three)

September 15th 2012

Hi Taryn,

How are you?  Hope all is well and you are still enjoying your travels!

Had a question for you – do you have any Vietnam recommendations from your trip to S. East Asia?  My husband and I are supposed to go to Morocco in two weeks for our fifth anniversary and are thinking of canceling with all of the protests going on in the Middle East and N. Africa.  We are thinking of going to Vietnam instead and trying to plan a trip quickly.  We would have 9 days there.

If you have anything you can send would so appreciate it!

xo,

TL

My thoughts, advice and itinerary(ies) after the jump~

Hey lady!! Just left Vietnam and could not have loved it more—totally recommend.

I spent most of my time up north, and found it to be very different from the south. If you’re fast paced, you could fly into Hanoi and out of Ho Chi Minh City at the expense of some of the longer excursions and flights within the country, which aren’t cheap.  But unless you’re incredibly ambitious, 9 days isn’t enough time to span the length of the country. I would suggest picking between north and south and then choosing your flight/airport/itinerary accordingly.

The north (airport: Hanoi) is a gateway for both a trek through tribal villages in Sapa and a boat cruise along Halong Bay, an amazing world heritage site. In general the people are slightly less friendly than in the south, but it’s a little more cultural.

The south (airport: Ho Chi Minh City) has friendlier people, on the whole, fishing village excursions and tons of beaches nearby. I didn’t go to any, but heard varying recounts of the main ones being crowded and polluted, so you’d want to make sure to find something a little off the beaten path. It’s also rainy season now (September), so planning a vacation around beaches may be disappointing.

Either place you decide to start, I would recommend making your way to the middle of the country and seeing Hoi An—it’s by far the loveliest place in Vietnam. Tons of well-preserved historic buildings, incredible food and a picture perfect landscape.

If it were me and I had only 9 days in Vietnam…

I would fly into Hanoi and spend a day there exploring (Hoa Lo prison, the Old Quarter and more), before sailing off on a two day/one night cruise through Halong Bay.

I would then head down to Hoi An (via flight into Danang, the closest airport) where I’d spend 3 full days cruising the countryside via Easy Rider motorbike tour, sightseeing the “old town”, learning to cook local delicacies at Morning Glory, spending a day at one of the nearby beaches in Danang and shopping (this is the place to tailor-make suits/dresses/etc.).

I would be a history nerd, and take a day trip to Hue to explore the pagodas and impressive citadels before continuing down south for a Mekong fishing village tour and, ultimately, a meal and flight out of Ho Chi Minh City.

But that’s just me. And only nine days.

Some other options include:

Skipping Hue and the Mekong fishing village and heading south instead for the beach paradises of Nah Trang and Mui Ne, a trip into the hills of Da Lat or just extended time in beautiful Ho Chi Minh City.

Or save the south for another trip entirely and head back up north to Hanoi for a trek in Sapa before flying home. It’s an adventurous undertaking but you’ll get lush green hillside views and a chance to check out and interact with local tribal villages.

A few other tips:

Make sure you start looking into getting a visa as soon as possible. It’s an annoying process for Vietnam and you’ll pay less if you do it ahead of time. Also, I always like to have a Lonely Planet for wherever I’m headed…I don’t always follow their suggestions but it’s a nice way to familiarize yourself with the layout, history and options.

Also also, just throwing it out there that Laos is SO close and an awesome country (elephant rides, charming french colonial villages, etc); You could always lump northern Laos and north Vietnam together ;)

OK, hope this helps!!

xo,

T.

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