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Doug E. Fresh

Vietnam/Cambodia/Bali

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Thanks for all the recs.  The itinerary is starting to come together, but really need to get focused on it.  The current plan is to start in Hanoi and work our way down the coast to HCM before flying to Bali.  

Day 1 - leave IAH for Hanoi

Day 3 - 7 Hanoi, private boat for 2 days at Halong Bay (staying at Hanoi Sofitel)

Day 8 -13 Hoi An/Hue/Danang

Day 14 - 16 TBD; probably something like Nha Trang, or maybe a beach town with less tourists near it

Day 17 - 19 .Ho Chi Minh City

Day 20 - 23 . Ubud (staying at Ritz Carlton Mandapa)

Day 24- 27 TBD; looking at Jimbaran bay and also considering the eastern part of Bali

Day 28 - Fly home....

 

Let me know if anyone sees any big holes in this itinerary. 

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You might want 3 days / 2 nights in halong.  People arrive and depart from Hanoi central, and that's like a 3-4 hrs drive or so.  First day and last day is essentially spent in a car, so it's a night of a slog if you only sleep 1 night on the boat.

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37 minutes ago, 52-80 said:

You might want 3 days / 2 nights in halong.  People arrive and depart from Hanoi central, and that's like a 3-4 hrs drive or so.  First day and last day is essentially spent in a car, so it's a night of a slog if you only sleep 1 night on the boat.

I'll agree to disagree.   I thought one night was plenty but Ha Noi was my favorite city so I was happy to go back.  I will agree it's a bumpy ass 3-4 hours on a less than luxurious ass bus.  Glad I wasn't hungover on the way back.  But since you have so many days on your trip another night wouldn't be the worst use of time.  Esp if you like sitting on a boat and looking at one of the most majestic places in the world    Otherwise I don't see any holes in your iten except the idea of even trying to find a beach when you are about to go to Bali.  The people I met said they were lucky to find a place in Nha Tran that wasn't completely full of Russians.  It's like going for Bbq in SA two days before you visit Austin. 

Edited by midtown

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Stayed in a river villa at Mandapa recently. It was remarkable. If it’s not the best resort in the world it’s up there.

We really enjoyed Ubud. Sanur is worth a look if you’re after a quiet, laid back beach town. Only spent a short time there but it was nice.

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Good advice, guys.  Finalized most of the hotels with the following itinerary. Decided to shorten Vietnam by a few days(skipping the beach part)  and do a bit more in Bali.  Also doing 2 nights on a private boat in Halong Bay

Day 1 - leave IAH for Hanoi

Day 3 - 9 Hanoi, private boat for 3 days/2 nights at Halong Bay (staying at Hanoi Sofitel)

Day 10 -14 Hoi An/Hue/Danang

Day 15 - 16 .Ho Chi Minh City

Day 17 - Fly to Bali;  no direct flights so it takes most of the day to get there.  Will crash at the airport Novotel to save some cash

Day 18 - 21 Ubud (staying at Ritz Carlton Mandapa)

Day 22 - 23 Canggu (staying at Hotel Tugu)

Day 24- 27 Jimbaran (staying at Kayamunis)

Day 28 - Fly home....

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Looks good

Going to be a full two days in saigon...will be able to see the highlights and it is walkable so i would say no cabs to maximize your experience in those two days

I guess you could take a cab to and from the china town area (cholon) since it is a bit farther but the heart of saigon isnt really spread out imo...walked everywhere

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I'm planning for a trip to Thailand and Vietnam in December and early January...probably 3 weeks. Have a flight into Phuket, where the wife and I would stay for ~5 days and then fly to Vietnam. Our return flight is out of Hanoi. 

I thought I'd just fly to Hanoi from Phuket and then use Hanoi as the base to travel by air to Hulong Bay and the Hue-Da Nang areas. I looked at the train but it's a long ride and gets very mixed reviews; I could deal but the wife, not so much.

I'd appreciate some thoughts if you've been there...how did you get around the country? (Motorcycle is not in the cards.)

 

On 5/1/2018 at 9:28 AM, TornACL said:

If anybody needs a rec for a driver through the Hai Van Pass I have a guy. It turned out to be a 4 hour trip or so going from Hue to Da Nang/Hoi An. Makes a number of stops along the way for photos, etc. I talked him into skipping the tourist trap lunch place and told him I would buy his lunch if he picked a place he would want to eat. We ended up in a bad ass place in Da Nang for fish cake noodle soup. Lunch was ~$1 each.

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Ha Noi is a fun city in itself.  You arent flying to Ha Long Bay.   A bus down to Hue or Da Nang and Hoi An would be  bitch.  Vietnam Airlines is your friend.  flights are cheap and easy and you most likely will get to be out on a tarmac and use the stairs which I find so cool.  Airports are efficient and small   I had a driver and tour guide from Hue to Ha Noi.  It was a cool drive through the mountains but not spectacular if you've spend anytime in the Rockies or Smokey mountains.  

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There are different train lines with different levels of service.  The sleeper berth is clean and comfortable.  Not as posh and clean as the best european trains but not the worst.  My wife was perfectly fine with them and she is picky for sure.  Theyre not economical relative to time.  Usually, flights are better.  

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13 hours ago, Chopper said:

I'm planning for a trip to Thailand and Vietnam in December and early January...probably 3 weeks. Have a flight into Phuket, where the wife and I would stay for ~5 days and then fly to Vietnam. Our return flight is out of Hanoi. 

I thought I'd just fly to Hanoi from Phuket and then use Hanoi as the base to travel by air to Hulong Bay and the Hue-Da Nang areas. I looked at the train but it's a long ride and gets very mixed reviews; I could deal but the wife, not so much.

I'd appreciate some thoughts if you've been there...how did you get around the country? (Motorcycle is not in the cards.)

 

I didn't do the north but I wouldn't advise the train. It's slow as fuck and from what I read, if you're used to the European standard of train travel this is NOT that. 

I flew from SGN to Hue, driver from Hue to Da Nang/Hoi An and flight from Da Nang home through Hong Kong. Vietnam Airlines was cheap and I bought a first class ticket for the SGN-Hue flight because fuck it. 

I might suggest staying up north and finding things closer to Ha Noi. My driver said the next time I come to Vietnam I should spend the whole time in the north as another experience. I kind of like that idea, focusing on one region. Unless you have 1+ month to do everything. 

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Make sure you get lots of Vietnamese coffee.  Some of the best coffee in the world and unlike Colombia where they don't have a coffee culture despite their prominence, the Vietnamese coffee shops are fantastic.  There are tour booking companies all over Ha Noi but I'd suggest using Tonkin Tours.   They set me up with a great tour and its fucking cheap.

Edited by midtown

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Just got back from the Vietnam/Bali trip last week and it was phenomenal.  As many had mentioned before, I found Vietnam to be amazing and Bali to be OK but wouldn't go out of my way to do it.  Just too overrun with tourists.  Did get to experience the earthquakes as we were having dinner in Ubud the evening the second quake with a  6.9 magnitude hit on Lombok.  Pretty harmless for us but obviously has caused a lot of devastation on the northern part of that island.

For Hanoi to Halong Bay, just hire a driver from your hotel.  It's relatively inexpensive and is easier than doing the bus.  Like others have said, fly Vietnam Airlines from Hanoi to Hue.  It's relatively cheap, and I think we did business class for about $100 more.  That helps with check in and the security lines.  Get a driver from Hue to Danang.  I think ours was about $30.  You can then fly back out of Danang to get to Hanoi.

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pretty much all halong bay operators will have transport from hanoi.  the cheaper ones pack you in a minivan/minibus.  the nicer ones will have luxury vans with reclining seats, wifi, water, strong AC, etc

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Glad to hear you enjiyed it doug....post some pics

And as others have said dont bother with train...vietnam airlines for the win...i had roundtrip from saigon to hanoi when i went for like 100$

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What does the VISA look like for Vietnam now?  Mine was a full page sticker.  By far the best VISA I have in my passport.

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5 hours ago, midtown said:

What does the VISA look like for Vietnam now?  Mine was a full page sticker.  By far the best VISA I have in my passport.

That’s what I got back in January when I was there.

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What does the VISA look like for Vietnam now?  Mine was a full page sticker.  By far the best VISA I have in my passport.
Like this 5a79ea0fe22a880f7acff3c399261ff3.jpg

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A couple of friends recommended skipping Phuket and focusing mostly on Vietnam, so that's what we're going to go. The wife was willing to ditch the "amazing spa" in Phuket she had designs on at first. Going to dip into Laos for a day or two, to Luang Prabang. Also flying into and out of Saigon/HCM now as I found a good rate. Anyone have anything good or bad to say about Ho Chi Minh City? 

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Glad to hear you enjiyed it doug....post some pics



Here you go from Vietnam. My wife has most of the pictures, including the street food, but this is what’s on my phone.

Will try to do Bali later.



1105814a0781c7b210e95ec15d60bcbe.jpg704b8caf506949a7e61f435bcb44cfd7.jpge4d8d0e4027358f6e7801f60cc371435.jpg13c15bada861b2bcbbc76b147355e507.jpge2d9429e33f8d23a8d2ce42b31973abe.jpg24bd72e70c413e10f9417b66ad60fbcb.jpg7a1897399dc34117d57b6f72c5c5f55f.jpg3dd634d7e129df5a5736801d44e1897c.jpeg09bcaf05f1a2713af0fee229ed922488.jpg6325a5b315debf227e54d3e378b30ae0.jpg25c7ece3e21f7ec49fb1325ad24ec835.jpg1b1f02f516ba394def821506c27aad49.jpg8822a5e5b449752c55dccb999a51e445.jpge80687304259ec4bb3854a6a8d4da9fb.jpgad2f34feaa16f441b088588463f74751.jpg1408786092d41a4b5f07ac252456ea11.jpg


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A few more...

The last one is from a bar in Saigon called Hien and Bob’s. We had read that the lady (Hien) that runs it was over the top and rude to customers, so we had to check it out. Turns out she’s quite the opposite. Had a great hour to two knocking back drinks and having some great laughs with her. Cool dive type place to check out.

473d71cdec9b94f7cc1a0f38a99eee50.jpg82375dd5d88927bb9ff368a6a5693437.jpg27d2105682ab88ea18229444f9eaaea5.jpg6cfdcab7fc72ff75996ef744377c7d79.jpg8163e0985642ff5e413d13eabac3fd26.jpg796c2bf364de27991b08daea781a4bf2.jpg9eb99804c29d530a623fd4ca863cbb9c.jpg41b4ae74299f09408679c09928cf1cf3.jpg




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Nice pics.... How did you like crossing the street 

First day was a little awarkard but by day 3 i was just walking wherever i pleased and letting motorbikes zoom around me

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1 minute ago, Bone3421 said:

Nice pics.... How did you like crossing the street 

First day was a little awarkard but by day 3 i was just walking wherever i pleased and letting motorbikes zoom around me

The first day, after about 25+ hours of travel, was a bit hectic.  After day 2 or 3, it became second nature.  By the time I got back to Houston a month later, it felt odd to see people obeying traffic laws and staying in their lanes.

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Awesome pictures, they have me jacked for my trip. Where is that huge swimming pool?

The wife got a travel agent involved and her draft itinerary is 50 to 100 % higher than I initially wanted to spend, so I'm hoping to figure out something easy to cut back.  Anything in Vietnam you thought was overrated or not all that enjoyable? I was thinking we might not really enjoy the trek to Halong Bay and a 1 night cruise, but your pictures have me thinking that would be a poor decision. My intinerary now has us going to HCM-Can Tho-Siem Reap-Luang Prabang-Hanoi-Halong Bay-Danang /Hoi An and back to HCM for departure.

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The pool is at the Reverie in Saigon. It’s a cool hotel in a great location, although a bit overdone. One comparison I heard was Liberace meets Versace (look at some hotel pics).

Not really anything I would give a miss. The hardest part for us going into the trip was figuring out how many days (1 or 2) to spend in each of Hue, Danang and Hoi An so we left that part pretty flexible so we could move around when ready. I would caution a bit against using a travel agent that locks you in to a very strict itinerary unless that’s your thing.

I think you should do Halong Bay, but be careful which tour provider you book. It does get very busy and keep
In mind the water is pretty dirty with trash from lower end tour operators and Chinese tourists.


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2 hours ago, RiceOwl said:

I thought the Mekong Delta was underwhelming. I’d cut that.

This looks like good advice. The hotel the travel agent picked in Can Tho https://www.azerai.com/can-tho looks amazing so a little difficult to give up but I think maybe more time in Danang or HCMC unmolested from guides or tours or events would be good. The agent has us going to a couple lunches or dinners at some private houses, including one with a Vietnam-American war vet but that wasn't my generation, so I think that's another thing I think I'll cut. 

 

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Don't let that fucking travel agent book you up with too many dinners. They're going to get paid to send you to "nice" places with salt and pepper shakers on the table which are complete and utter bullshit. 

There's a reason why travel agents are largely obsolete. I get if you want them to help with the transit between cities, I guess, but you can find everything you could ever want to know online yourself and save the kickbacks. 

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Don't let that fucking travel agent book you up with too many dinners. They're going to get paid to send you to "nice" places with salt and pepper shakers on the table which are complete and utter bullshit. 
There's a reason why travel agents are largely obsolete. I get if you want them to help with the transit between cities, I guess, but you can find everything you could ever want to know online yourself and save the kickbacks. 


ACL is spot on. Not sure how adventurous you guys are but don’t let it intimidate you. Very easy and cheap to get around, either by plane or by car


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100% agree. Travel agent provided a good itinerary and some really excellent hotel suggestions...plus glad to have the help from airports and for a little help navigating the various cities. I'm not interested in dining in the homes of strangers. It looked fun when Bourdain did it but that's tv and would seem awkward to me. I've been calling these planned events "stranger danger" as the wife and I go over the proposed itinerary...gonna cut all those. 

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Some things are a PITA to do, especially for a gwailo, such as purchasing local train ticket.  

For things such as these, use local travel agents.  Wayyy more convenient and their commission cut is worth like maximum 2 of your US dollars so its worth it for the convenience.

 

Instead of locking yourself to one agent for 1 itinerary, you can visit local agent once you settle in a city

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Just a bump....just got done drunkingly telling other drunk bar friends how awesome it is....time to possibly go again

Been thinking of a india to vietnam trip last few months...next year (if i go) of course

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9 hours ago, Bone3421 said:

Been thinking of a india to vietnam trip last few months...next year (if i go) of course

I'm working on a VIetnam/Cambodia/Laos trip...maybe we can have a surly happy hour there..  I'll bring $5 and buy the first 10 rounds

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9 hours ago, Bone3421 said:

After re-reading while reliving the fun wondering where the updates are@Chopper

Haha good point, I'll try to post some pictures later. I never did get back to writing about the trip.

I booked all of my own airfare and instead of using the US travel agent discussed earlier, I went with the recommendation of a friend who had used a Vietnam-based agent who booked drivers, guides, airport pick-ups and suggested itineraries for us in each location. I booked my own flights and hotels but i didn't have time to research each location and come up with my own itinerary, so we did it this way. We didn't have a guide every day but for most of the 23 days we traveled we had drivers and guides for a total cost of about $2100 for 2 persons.  That included a "VIP" pick up for our first entry into Vietnam, which was about $40 well spent...it gave us expedited service through immigration, and help with the bags and transport.

Outbound trip was American Airlines to Tokyo Haneda and then JAL from Haneda to Saigon. I thought the JAL flight was long and uncomfortable even though we were in business class. I wouldn't recommend it. The return flight was Cathay through HKG and was much better. Once in Asia, we flew a loop from Saigon: SGN--Siem Reap/Angkor Wat--Luang Prabang--Hanoi--Hoi An--and back to Saigon for departure. All the inter-Asia flights were nonstop on Vietnam Airlines and were short and perfect.

I feel like I've gone on too long already but here's the highlights. As a reminder I was traveling with the wife and so the trip was about both fun and luxury - it was a great success.

Saigon - stayed at Hotel des Arts. Very comfortable hotel, got a great nights sleep and breakfast was incredible. The location however was not particularly tourist friendly - more of a business district though not far from the presidential palace. Later in the trip we stayed at the Reverie and it was incredible, wish we had stayed there both visits.

Angkor Wat - Siem Reap is a messy city and for me had little charm. Raffles Hotel though was amazing, historic, and truly a great refuge. We tried not to overdo it with too much temple sight-seeing but it's hard to avoid. A short hike at Kulen Mountain wasn't worth the drive but the surrounding countryside was beautiful.

Luang Prabang - What a place. I loved the cool mountain air and the whole vibe of this small city. Stayed at Hotel Avani Plus, which was fantastic. Highlights here included a day of trekking, feeding and bathing elephants at the Manda Lao Sanctuary, and a private boat trip on the Mekong River. Just beautiful.

Hanoi - we stayed here a couple nights then went to Halong Bay for one night, then back to Hanoi for a couple more nights. Halong was stunning. We were on a relatively small boat (Orchid Cruises) and it was very nice though the food was mediocre. Was glad we only stayed one night on the boat, though -- many of the people on the same boat were staying 2 nights. We were glad to leave. The Metropole Hotel was pretty expensive as we were there over xmas, but I was glad we stayed there. One day we took a car out to Hoa Lu, which is an ancient capital a couple hours outside of Hanoi. We found it well worth the time. We had a fantastic guide here who took us on a great food tour of the various restaurants for locals. He had definite opinions on the best places.

Spoiler

 

nộm bò khô( papaya salad with dry beef) at 23 hoàn kiếm street
bún thang (mixed noodle) at 48 cầu gỗ street, 
banh mi at 98 hàng bạc street,
rice paper rolls ( bánh cuốn) on bảo khánh street,
bún chả (bbq pork served with rice tube noodle and fish sauce) at Bun Cha Dak Kim, 01 hàng mành street
egg coffee at 11 hàng gai street
 
Definitely recommend skipping the place Bourdain took President Obama to... was walking around one day and saw the crowd, didn't realize it was 'that place' until after I sat down and saw the photos on the wall. The bun cha was uninspiring. In comparison the place listed above was fantastic.

 

 

Da Nang/Hoi An - it rained almost the whole time so we didn't do as much sight seeing here. Da Nang was a lot more beautiful than I expected, and Hoi An was beautiful and fun even in the rain. We checked out of our first hotel because it was too noisy and ended up staying at Fusion Suites. It was good, not great, but much better than Brilliant Hotel, which had far too much street noise. We booked late so the nicest resorts were unavailable as it was between xmas and new year.

Back to Saigon - really enjoyed the Reverie. Over-the-top luxury in a great location for walking around the city. One of the best things we did from here was a tour of Chinatown and a couple of different food/farmers markets.

 

 

Edited by Chopper

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1 hour ago, Chopper said:

I thought the JAL flight was long and uncomfortable even though we were in business class. I wouldn't recommend it.

After 15-18 hours of travel that last 6 down to SGN is going to be a bitch no matter what.

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7 minutes ago, midtown said:

After 15-18 hours of travel that last 6 down to SGN is going to be a bitch no matter what.

Yes but their biz class seats are thin on padding for my skinny ass, and don't have great seat depth either. Also I thought the food was not so good, and the One World lounge at Haneda was disappointing. First world problems all the way.

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I flew the route on a Japan Air aka ANA Budget in coach.  767 with a 2 hour maintenance delay which was announced AFTER we boarded.   I was seated next to the galley so my only solace was the 20 yr old hot ass Japanese flight attendants consistently bending over in front of me.

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30 minutes ago, midtown said:

I flew the route on a Japan Air aka ANA Budget in coach.  767 with a 2 hour maintenance delay which was announced AFTER we boarded.   I was seated next to the galley so my only solace was the 20 yr old hot ass Japanese flight attendants consistently bending over in front of me.

I think we have rules here.

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