My husband and I are planning a trip to Vietnam for Chinese New Year and I am wondering if anybody has any advice about places to see, places to avoid, must do, etc.
i went there with my Taiwanese gf in 2000. It is a beautiful country, food is fabulous, very very cheap, lots to see and do…my favourite site was an abandoned Khmer culture temple complex near Hoi An I believe…needed to drive a motorbike for an hour or so to get there…absoulutely amazing place…that’s the good side for me…
the bad side was it is the Tet there, so the place was minging with a million people everywhere trying to get nowhere at once, just like Taiwan…all domestic air tickets and train tickets were fully booked, so we got on backpacker minibus tours, which were fun, but 10~20 hour journeys on potholed roads and frequent traffic jams were the norm. Plus people took exception to my Taiwanese girlfriend going out with me, (I am caucasian, they thought she was Vietnamese…)…They wouldn’t say anything to me but just stare and say stuff in Vietnamese to her, which after a while became a tiresome charade…Give me Taiwan any day compared to that kind of hostility. Also there was a constant barrage of people looking for money off you, beggars, cyclo drivers, I couldn’t blame them, but you need to have a relaxed personality with that…maybe it’s changed since then…but i recommend to see if you can to plan and book ahead now on transportation…accomodation was ok to find…
I would think twice about going for CNY. It’s Tet there, so a lot of places are closed. Still might be worht it as the atmosphere was pretty good when I was (stranded) in Hanoi for Tet.
If you’ve got a long time get one of the backpackers buses. They stop off at Saigon, Dalat, Nga Trang, Hoi An, Hue and Hanoi. You can get off for as long as you like. I recommend Dalat and Hoi An. Also out fo the two big cities I liekd Hanoi more, but this time of the year Saigon will be hot and Hanoi cold, so depends what weather you like.
If you’ve got a shorter period of time and don’t feel like too much travel during Tet, I’d go to Hanoi. It’s got a lovely atmosphere and there’s a lot of things to do int he area like going to Halong bay with it’s 5000 or wahtever little islands. Also the atmosphere was great at Tet and there was a really great fireworks display.
Never been in Vietnam for Tet, but I did travel to Hanoi and Saigon last year. I would reccommend going to both of these places. Each is unique. You should also check out Dalat and Halong Bay. Enjoy the food!
By the way, I believe they sell the latest Lonely Planet Vietnam in Eslite.
Vietnam is fantastic, with so much diversity, outstanding scenery, beautiful women, friendly people and delicious food. The country is so long from top to bottom, though, that unless you’ve got a month you should head to either the north or south, but not both. Hanoi is definitely nicer than Saigon, with its lakes surrounded by trees, French colonial buildings, numerous excellent art galleries, water puppet show, etc. Saigon is more of a big ugly city.
From Hanoi you can/must take a bus to Halong Bay, with its thousands of surreal limestone stacks rising from the water, and a boat over to Cat Ba Island. There you can hike in jungle, maybe see a monkey, visit nice beaches weather permitting, or just eat, drink and walk along the waterfront as the locals do.
Also from Hanoi, I recommend a train north to Sapa and the surrounding villages populated with numerous diverse hilltribes, friendly folks in colorful outfits who live without electric, telephone, motorbikes, etc, and come into town to trade their goods and sell trinkets to tourists. Bring warm clothes though as it gets cold there.
Around Hanoi (and elsewhere) one can enjoy the beautiful stereotypical images of Vietnam – lush green rice fields, with people bent over in conical hats, buffalos, girls with beautiful long hair riding bicycles wearing flowing ao dais, sun hats and elbow-length gloves, while men sit on stoops smoking tobacco from bamboo pipes.
Saigon is less charming. Its key benefit, IMHO, is its proximity to the Delta. The Mekong Delta is beautiful, with so many tributaries flowing everywhere, lined by narrow dirt paths and mango, pineapple, longan, coconut and assorted other fruit trees. One can take small boats up the tributaries, get off and walk the paths to small villages where friendly people will greet you warmly.
North from Saigon there are nice beaches in Nha Trang and Mama Han (?)'s boat trip is kindof fun, and if you’ve got the time the beautiful old port city of Hoi An is well worth a visit, with its old Japanese (and Dutch?) buildings, it’s terrific beaches, and what many feel is the best food in Vietnam (which is saying a lot).
Yes, there are irritations in Vietnam: greedy, corrupt policemen (One begged for my camera but didn’t get it; another took my book); beggars and scamsters (One slyly stopped my motorbike from working then offered to fix it; another stole the watch from my wrist). So be wary. But the benefits far outweigh the hazards as I feel Vietnam is the most beautiful country in SE Asia.
I lived in Vietnam for a year and have been there a total of three times (top to bottom). Unless you are planning to stay only in Nhatrang, you are making a HUGE mistake. Vietnam has little to offer compared to other Asian destinations such as the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. Crowded, loud, dirty (as in human waste), petty theft, … you get the picture.
Unless you are married to a Vietnamese, I cannot think of why you would want to go there on Tet. Go see the place by all means; it is pretty interesting, but on Tet? No way.
[quote=“wolf_reinhold”]I lived in Vietnam for a year and have been there a total of three times (top to bottom). Unless you are planning to stay only in Nhatrang, you are making a HUGE mistake. Vietnam has little to offer compared to other Asian destinations such as the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. Crowded, loud, dirty (as in human waste), petty theft, … you get the picture.
Unless you are married to a Vietnamese, I cannot think of why you would want to go there on Tet. Go see the place by all means; it is pretty interesting, but on Tet? No way.[/quote]
I agree with Wolf. If you haven’t already been to a lot of other Asian countries visit Vietnam later. If it is Tet, just wait. It is interesting place to see if you have never been, but nothing so special that you would want go back many times. For example, Cambodia is also like this, but it has Angkor Wat. Hey Wolf have you ever been to Dalat or Halong Bay? Do those places make Vietnam worthy of a visit? What is Nhatrang like? Better beaches than other places in Asia? Lonely Planet says it is not built up and the water is clear and lots of beach services like message and cold beer. Doesn’t sound so bad…
I have been to Nhatrang about four times. It is fairly nice. Low-key and most of the beach activities you are used to. You can rent a deck lounge on the beach for a US dollar for all day (including umbrella). Only eat the seafood from the beach vendor ladies in the morning or before noon. Some of that stuff gets ripe by afternoon (although it tastes good, it revisits you sometimes…).
Dalat has a golf course if you like that sort of thing. There is not much to do…the market is unremarkable I thought.
Halong Bay was very primative when I was there in 1993. I am assured that it is more developed now. It is pretty with all those little peaks coming out of the water. But that is pretty much all there is to do there. Oh, and have a nice meal of dog or cat. That was pretty nice too.
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I like Vietnam. Wolf prefers Thailand. Whatever. While Thailand’s beautiful, it’s got too many damn westerners. Yes Vietnam has poverty and the attendant problems with sewage and thievery. But the scenery more than makes up for it. Halong Bay is not “pretty”; it’s one great natural wonders of the world. The mountains, rice fields and beaches are equally stunning – as are the women. And the food is delicious. It’s no wonder the French were reluctant to give up Indochina.
But one of the things that most amazed me about Vietnam was the attitude of the people. The Vietnamese do not hold a grudge against Americans for bombing their country and poisoning their rice fields. For them, that was in the distant past, and they think only of the future. Few westerners have such a positive perspective. While that may sound trivial, it was one of the things I enjoyed about the country in my three trips from top to bottom.
Some are indeed very pretty. Similar to the scenery in Halong Bay…
go there with an Asian girlfriend next time. You’ll see how the Vietnamese love Westerners. They love the dollar is a more accurate description. I think you’are a little blinded by the undeveloped beauty of the place and the whole American Vietnam war movie poor peasant martyr image.
If the Vietnamese can’t take it that their womenfolk are going out with westerners, I think that might be telling you something…I’ve been to a lot of countries in Asia with my Taiwanese girlfriend, and that was the only place we found trouble…
[quote=“roq”]go there with an Asian girlfriend next time. You’ll see how the Vietnamese love Westerners. They love the dollar is a more accurate description. I think you’are a little blinded by the undeveloped beauty of the place and the whole American Vietnam war movie poor peasant martyr image.
If the Vietnamese can’t take it that their womenfolk are going out with westerners, I think that might be telling you something…I’ve been to a lot of countries in Asia with my Taiwanese girlfriend, and that was the only place we found trouble…[/quote]
I went there with my Taiwanese wife after reading about this in the Lonely Planet, and I experienced no troubles. We get more looks in Hong Kong and Taipei than we did in Vietnam.
But I did feel some hatred towards Americans. I met a veteran of the American war and he wasn’t overly friendly to me. But then again, no one likes Americans anymore.
Ridiculous. As an American, I was warmly welcomed to join people for tea, food, boat and motorbike rides, invited in to houses and English classes, given gifts, and propositioned in virtually every country I visited in Asia. If one has problems getting along with the locals it is most likely through ones own fault.
Did you meet any American war veterans or people who lost family members to American bombs?
Some people just have a chip on their shoulder, I guess I met the wrong person. Otherwise most were very nice.
I’m sure I met many in Vietnam who lost family members in the war – it’s inevitable. Admittedly one person did not greet me warmly there. I was wandering aimlessly, exploring, when I strayed into a slum and rather than turn back kept heading forward hoping an exit would veer off, but instead the road (and I) headed only one direction, deeper into the slum, past naked children, poverty and squalor, and an old geezer who sat on a porch in his wheelchair muttered unpleasantries and angrily shooed me out of there. I bowed my head and quickly found an exit. But surely he was justified in his attitude based on his experiences. Same for those who beg or try to steal. While it’s not fun dealing with them, we foreigners are blessed with mountains of riches and if I’d grown up in a Vietnamese slum I might be a beggar or thief myself. So, I don’t get angry at them, as many tourists do, but instead watch my possessions closely and thank my stars that I’ve got all my limbs, an education, a passport and the money to travel. I get tired of privileged foreigners griping about what the less privileged will do to survive. What makes them so certain they wouldn’t do the same if placed in those circumstances? As I said before, however, I was overwhelmed with the warmth of the people I’ve met all over SE Asia, including Vietnam (though I traveled alone and that makes one more approachable).
When I was in Vietnam, I was with a Korean-born Danish woman for a few days. I’d read about all the trouble you get if you’re a western man with an Asian woman in Vietnam. Didn’t experience any of it.
I still think if you’re goingto Vietnam for Tet, travelling around will be difficult, but if you’re in one area it will be nice. I was in Hanoi for 2 weeks Tet (I was on my way to China, but couldn’t get a visa because of Tet- I was dead broke, so I decided to come to Taiwan and make some money instead - I never mnade it to China)and it was great.