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Vanyh
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Travelling to North Vietnam: Any good tip?

Post by Vanyh » Sat, 09 Jul 2005 4:32 pm

We plan a trip of 5-6 days to North Vietnam in the beginning of August. If you have been there, can you advise on 'must-see' places, where to stay in Hanoi, what to visit around? We definitely want to see the Halong Bay, is it better to reserve the trip from a singapore agency or from there?

Thanks! :D

maven
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Post by maven » Sat, 09 Jul 2005 9:57 pm

Hi there, I'm going to Hanoi in less than two weeks. Friends tell me that the old quarters are very pretty. There're lots of museums, temples and monuments to visit. It's also worth checking out Hoan Kiem Lake. Shopping there is good and cheap. Artisans still flourish in Vietnam and you can get nicely embroidered shoes and bags, decorative items for the home, paintings etc for a reasonable price.

I found a single room in the Old Quarters for USD$5 per night. This includes airport pickup as well. You may want to check out www.hostels.com for good deals.

Halong Bay was highly recommended to me because it's a World Heritage Site. But you can finish it in one day. Friends also recommended going up to Sapa to see the hill tribes.

More information can be found here:
http://thegreatoutdoors.com.au/display. ... ia&ID=4001

That's all I know for now. Will share more when I get back!
Last edited by maven on Sun, 10 Jul 2005 10:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

maven
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Post by maven » Sat, 09 Jul 2005 10:00 pm

Oh yes, I also heard it's better to book a tour in Vietnam. Do remember to shop around for good deals!

A friend recommended a good seafood restuarant in the Old Quaters. He's known to be a foodie so it should be good.

San Ho
58 Pho Ly Thuong Kiet
Hoan Kiem District

Vanyh
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Thanks

Post by Vanyh » Sun, 10 Jul 2005 2:42 am

Great, thank you for the info. Yes please tell me about your trip when you go back, how long will you be there? I heard about Sapa as well, it takes one night in a train.
By the way, which vaccinations do you have to do to get to North Vietnam, and have you got your visa yet?

maven
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Post by maven » Sun, 10 Jul 2005 10:19 am

I will be there for 4D5N. Tour operators organise one day trips to Sapa but it will more relaxing to do it over two.The night train leaves Hanoi at 10pm and arrives at the Lao Cai station at 6-7am. Then you will have to take a mini bus down to Sapa. Going back takes another 10 hours. If you stay one more day there, you get to spend more time at the ethnic villages and sleep over in one of the traditional stilt houses.

One of my friends said that one day at Halong Bay is enough, even though packages of several days are available. The scenery is stunning but there is little to do but enjoy the view from your cruise and kayak into the caves. Please book your transfers in Hanoi as boat owners in Halong Bay are notorious for ripping off unsuspecting tourists.

I don't think I will have time to do both Halong Bay and Sapa. I will probably just do the latter as I'm more keen on seeing the ethnic minorities and trekking through the mountain ranges.

Other popular excursions out of Hanoi include days trip to the Perfume Pagoda and traditional craft villages (silk, ceramics, lacquerware etc).

You may want to consider purchasing a guidebook to get a better idea what to do in Northern Vietnam. I'm currently reading the Insight Pocket Guide to Hanoi & Northern Vietnam. They teamed up with Discovery Channel for the production of this guide. It's $21 at Kinokuniya at Ngee Ann City and it comes with lots of pictures, recommendations of restaurants, shops, galleries etc, and a pull-out map. Please also check online for reasonable prices to pay for shopping, tours etc before you go. Things are much cheaper there and you don't want to get ripped off. A bowl of noodles at a street stall costs less than SGD$1, a restuarant meal for under USD$10 and a silk embroidered bag, SGD$4 for instance. I'm told that a 2D1N trip to Halong Bay, inclusive of accomodations on the boat/Chinese Junk and food, costed an acquaintance only USD$30.

I'm Singaporean, so I don't need a visa. Foreign entry is much easier nowadays. You can check with the Vietnamese embassy to find out if you need to apply for one:

10 Leedon Road
64625938

About vaccinations, my guide book says the most important ones are for Hepatitis A and typhoid fever. Thankfully I have the former already, so it's one down one more to go!
Last edited by maven on Sun, 10 Jul 2005 9:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by maven » Sun, 10 Jul 2005 6:29 pm

Hi there, while doing some research for my trip, I came across a one to two-day group tour packages to Halong Bay from USD$16-29. Real value for money! Other tours are available too. Check out:

http://www.tosercohanoi.com/tour-program.asp

The Kangaroo Cafe, which runs tours as well, is also highly recommended by various travellers. You can take a look at them at:

http://www.kangaroocafe.com/

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Post by dumbledore » Sun, 10 Jul 2005 9:33 pm

do remember to bargain when shopping, even southern ppl come to the north will be chopped by those sellers.

do research carefully before buying anything, should stick to local guide

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Post by maven » Mon, 11 Jul 2005 10:16 am

Hi Dumblemore,

I love bargaining... do you know how much is the usual cost of the most common souvenirs? Items such as silk items, lacquerware, ceramics, paintings etc. I'm intending to buy some for family and friends and I want to know what kind of price I should be paying. Thanks in advance!

P
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Visas etc for Vietnam

Post by P » Tue, 12 Jul 2005 12:28 pm

Hi,

I wish to travel to Vietman as well. I got a bit confused
information about visa prices. From the embassy they said
S$130, but on the web page the cheapest solution is S$70
http://www.applyentryvisas.com.sg/

So what to believe?

I understood that the weather in the middle part of Vietnam
should be good at the moment / start of August? As I wish to
relax, how about the beaches?

-P

mlam
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Re: Visas etc for Vietnam

Post by mlam » Tue, 12 Jul 2005 2:08 pm

P wrote:Hi,

I wish to travel to Vietman as well. I got a bit confused
information about visa prices. From the embassy they said
S$130, but on the web page the cheapest solution is S$70
http://www.applyentryvisas.com.sg/

So what to believe?

I understood that the weather in the middle part of Vietnam
should be good at the moment / start of August? As I wish to
relax, how about the beaches?

-P
I am not very sure about the price, maybe you can check out with travel agency to see if they offer any good deal.

For the beach, I think central Vietnam has one of the nicest beach. Try Nha Trang or Da Nang beach. Very nice there, the sand is white not like in Singapore.

dumbledore
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Post by dumbledore » Tue, 12 Jul 2005 6:18 pm

hi

for bargaining, silk items ideally are around 30 - 100k VND, depends on where and what you buy. Bargain to 50k VND is ok, although you may lost some money :p, but if they know you're foreigner, they won't lower the price any more.

Hi P, for the visa, the embassy ppl sometimes try to "chop" you, just tell them that you see the normal price is 70sgd, actually i heard that for students it's cheaper. Where're you from btw? Singaporeans, Malaysians, Indonesians don't need visa.

Yes, Da Nang and Nha Trang beach is awesome. But if you don't want to travel too far and can afford, you may consider taking a flight to Phu Quoc island.

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happy_taraz
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Re: Travelling to North Vietnam: Any good tip?

Post by happy_taraz » Wed, 13 Jul 2005 12:17 am

Vanyh wrote:We plan a trip of 5-6 days to North Vietnam in the beginning of August. If you have been there, can you advise on 'must-see' places, where to stay in Hanoi, what to visit around? We definitely want to see the Halong Bay, is it better to reserve the trip from a singapore agency or from there?

Thanks! :D
In Hanoi, go to Handspan for tours to Halong Bay & Sapa. They are the best!

www.handspan.com

They may cost a little more but they are worth it! If u have more time, go for their SAPA trekking tour and homestay with the tribes.

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Post by Carpe Diem » Wed, 13 Jul 2005 12:39 am

Just a quick note to tell you that you can already save quite a lot by paying the right price for taxi from airport to Hanoi, you should not pay more than 10 USD!
La vie est trop courte, profitons de chaque instant

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Re: Travelling to North Vietnam: Any good tip?

Post by happy_taraz » Wed, 13 Jul 2005 11:58 am

Vanyh wrote:We plan a trip of 5-6 days to North Vietnam in the beginning of August. If you have been there, can you advise on 'must-see' places, where to stay in Hanoi, what to visit around? We definitely want to see the Halong Bay, is it better to reserve the trip from a singapore agency or from there?

Thanks! :D
I think it is cheaper to organise yr trip yrself. For hotels in Hanoi if u r not fussy but want cheap & clean rooms with breakfast included try

http://www.camellia-hotels.com/frame.htm

The camellia hotel chain is not bad for just USD 11 per nite. I have stayed there before.

maven
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Post by maven » Wed, 27 Jul 2005 11:23 am

Hello everyone,

I just got back from Hanoi. Wanted to do a day trip to Sapa but the trains were fully booked as it was the national Vietnamese holidays. I went on a cruise to Halong Bay instead.

Thought I’ll share what I enjoyed the most:

1) Sightseeing
I loved the Old Quarters. They have 36 streets. Each street sold a single item, ranging from lanterns to toys to coffins. I also highly recommend the Museum of Ethnology. Other the exhibits in the museum, they have little Stilt and Long houses for you to check out. These come complete with heated stoves, farm tools and little gardens at the back. Pagodas abound in Hanoi but if you only have time to visit one, make it the Tran Quoc Pagoda. It’s located around the West Lake area but worth the trip up. Other highlights include Lake Hoan Kiem and the Temple of Literature. I missed the Water Puppets Show but was told by people coming out that it was pretty good. Didn’t bother with the Ho Chi Minh Museum and Mausoleum though they were heavily marketed to the tourists.

If you are going to Halong Bay, a one-day trip is good enough. It gets boring if you stretch it out over two or more days. Tours are cheaper when you book at Hanoi and it’s worth shopping around. I didn’t bargain but was a little surprised that some Caucasian tourists on the same day-trip paid a few dollars more than I did.

2) Transportation
Taxi transfer from the airport is set at a standard rate of US$10. But one taxi driver was willing to take me for as little as US$7. In the end, I took one of the mini-buses to the city, which only cost me US$2.

The standard way of getting around Hanoi is on a motorbike taxi. Remember to set the rate before you get up and to bargain. I paid on average US$1-2 for getting around Hanoi, and US$3 to the West Lake area. Some motorbike taxi drivers will shortchange you so do remember to count your bills. The cyclos are more expensive are meant for a slower, more leisurely ride around the city. I paid around US$3 per hour.

3) Food
You can get a bowl of noodles at a streetside stall for around $1 and beer is less than US$1 on average. Eating at restaurants is also not expensive and a main course, drink and dessert can come up to less than S$10. The French fare is good and worth trying.

4) Money
Both US$ and VND (Vietnam Dong) are accepted. It’s cheaper to pay via VND most of the time. But don’t change too much into VND as you will have to convert them back again when you leave. The best rates are found in the banks. The rate is about US$1 for 15,800 VND. Remember to keep your receipts when you change money. You will need them again when you convert VND back to US$.

5) Accommodations
Hotels are plentiful around the Old Quarters. I stayed at Times Hotel at Ca Guo Street and paid US$12 per night for a room that was air conditioned, carpeted and decorated with a little painting. It came with a TV, mini-bar, attached bathroom and a bath-tub. I know I sound silly talking about such standard features but I still can’t believe I got such a nice room for such a low price :) One thing to look out for though if you’re staying in a smaller hotel- they don’t have lifts and it costs more to stay at a lower level.

6) Shopping
I wasn’t intending to shop but things were so cheap that I bought so many things! Silk is cheap over there. I got myself a nicely embroidered silk bag for US$4. Similar ones are sold at Holland Village for S$49.90. They also have fabulous silk scarves. I got a reversible one embroidered on both sides for US$7. And of course the dresses, the beautiful silk dresses. Hang Gai Street is THE place to go.

Most of all, Hanoi is good for shopping for paintings. Mediocre ones can be as cheap as US$2. But there are also very good ones for a song. I bought several mid sized ones for US$30. But I bargained hard for them. I managed to reduce one from US$50 to US$30 but had to forgo the frame to get that price. Remember to be nice, charming and patient when you bargain. Personally I slash prices by half to a third for paintings in the beginning and only give in to a certain price only after the shopkeeper refuses to budge on it for at least 5-10mins.

I have uploaded my photos online by the way. They are not for public viewing but I’ll be happy to share them with you if drop me a PM.

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