Vietnam trip - advice needed

I am planning to go to Vietnam in October for about 3 weeks. I have the time off work and I am definitely going somewhere, but it may not be there if enough people tell me that its too close to summer and I’ll fry. So I need advice about the seasons there and whether its just too late in the year to sensibly go to VN.

I would also greatly appreciate advice regarding accommodation (cheap-ish end of the scale but nothing too shabby), places to go/not go (I am planning Hanoi and HCM - not sure about anywhere else), etc.

Thankyou, Dopers.

One of the dopers actually lives in Vietnam , I believe , but what you could probably try is websites that cater to vietnam veterans that want to revisit the place.

While this may not be your reason , I would imagine that a number of your questions will probably be ansewered regarding accomodations , weather and the like.

Declan

I have lived in Vietnam before I came to the States for college, so I think I am qualified to answer all kind of questions you would have.

About the weather, during October, Hanoi and HCM are fine, you don’t have to worry very much about it.

How much money you’d like to spend on accomodation. Do you like a nice hotel or smt ?

Besides Hanoi, and HCM, you might want to go to Hue and Hoi An. Hue was the old capital before 1945, there is still the king palace there. Hoi An is a traditonal perserved town, most of the streets and houses are from 18 19th century, so they are nice.

Everything in Vietnam, especially DVD, CD and softwares are very cheap. Usually it is $1 for a DVD, so…

Feel free to ask me any thing.

“Don’t…mention…the war.”

“I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.”

Thanks, Aquafina, I might come back to you with something specific as the plans start to get more concrete. I need to do some more homework first.

be careful about bird flu!

A coworker, who is a Vietnam vet, went back to Vietnam a few years ago. He really enjoyed the trip, and it was a very healing experience for him. The one thing I particularly remember him talking about was touring the Vietcong tunnels; it sounded fascinating. Some links:
Viet Cong tunnel system
Chu-Chi tunnels

I’m just back(2 weeks ago) from a three week holiday in Vietnam.

The weather was very good. Very hot and humid but not a lot of rain.

I did Hanoi => Saigon(HCMC).

I stayed in places that were around $15-$20. For this you get a TV with CNN, HBO etc good air con and a hot shower. All hotels had safes in room or safety deposit boxes.

In Hanoi we stayed in the Lucky Hotel which is a nice and central place. They messed up our booking when we went for a night to Halong Bay(amazing place but it’s a bit of a cattle market as there are a million and one boat trips). They also tried to add on extra to the minibar bill but we only talking a few dollars as cans of tiger in the minibar cost $1

The water puppets are very good in Hanoi.

We then flew down to Hue(it cost about $40). We stayed in the Binh Minh hotel. Which was very nice indeed. There’s also a very good Indian restaurant right next door to it.

In Hue we went on a day trip to the DMZ. You can go on a couch for something like $20 but this is a 12 hour tour. We decided since there was six of us to just hire a mini bus for the day ($50 between us). This meant we just told the driver were we wanted to go. Highly recommended the Vinh Moc tunnels.

Then came the highlight of the trip. Hoi An. We stayed in the Vinh Hung 1 a gorgeous little hotel in the old city. Try and stay here if you can. No cars are allowed in this part of the town. You are only a minute walk from a nice bar called Treats across the road and around the block from 2 very good restaurants.

Try to give yourself a few days in Hoi An. They make brilliant clothes there. I got a suit 2 shirts and toe for $50 dollars. A good tailor is the one to the right of Treats. All the girls I was with went to this one and they were very happy with the stuff they got.

We then went to Nah Thrang. I can’t remember the hotel we stayed at there but I will give you one warning. If you are coming in by train BE SURE TO BOOK YOUR ROOM WITH A CREDIT CARD. We didn’t and when we arrived at 10:30 pm we were told the rooms were gone and we had to drive around in a cab looking for a place to stay. grrrrr.

The Sailing club which is on the sea front do great food and drink here.

We then flew to Saigon and stayed in another hotel I can’t remember but there are many so you shouldn’t have a problem here.

Things to look out for.

Try some Bia Hoi. It’s a fresh beer(oldest it will be is 3 days old) at any of the Bia Hoi corners all over the country. It’s the cheapest beer in the world at abuot 3 cent and it’s actually quite nice.

You are going to have a LOT of people try to sell you shit, women, drugs, cigs, books etc. if you want things bargain otherwise just say no. After about 2 weeks you’ll want to scream at them but try and stay calm.

Bars mostly close early at around 11:30 - 12:00. Plan for this. In Saigon you will find places that stay open much later.

Enjoy yourself it’s a great country. I budgeted for $100 a day including accommodation and travel and came home with money.

Exchange rate is about 15000 dong to the dollar. Everyone takes dong so don’t bother bring tonnes of dollars with you(I was advised to do this and just had to go to the bank to change them). There were ATM’s all over. We use Cirrus over here in Europe and nobody had a problem. Don’t know what you use in the states.

The Lonely Planet for Vietnam was very good and very accurate IMO.

Mail me if you want any more details.

yoji101@yahoo.co.uk

I really should have proof read that but I hope you get the idea of what I meant :slight_smile:

Oh and the Vietnam War is called the American War over there.

The locals don’t talk politics much.

More advise. Try to organise a Airport/train station pick up with whatever hotel you’re staying with. This saves the hassle of getting taxies and dodging touts etc.

Watch the taxi drivers in Saigon BTW. We had a bit of trouble with them. At night the meters move very very fast. One feckers tried to charge us 175,000 dong for a 5 min trip. We just laughed at him and gave him 20,000. He argued but we just waved him away and went to the pub. Try and set a price before you set off.

Hotel reservations- try and have reservations, but keep in mind that it is common for them to not hold the reservation for you, always have a second or third hotel in mind as a back-up. Hotel prices are very negotiable, $20 will get you a nice room, and it is very common for them to try and cheat you on check out.

Taxis- these guys will probably be the ones that can annoy you the most. It is very common for them to try to rip you off. Before you go anywhere, try and ask others about how much you should pay. Other travellers will probably know about how much you should pay.

Shopping- they will make it a sport to try and rip you off as much as possible. You will be quoted anywhere from two to ten times as much as you should pay.
Almost every purchase is negotiable in Vietnam, and you ARE expected to negotiate.
If you really have no idea as to how much to pay, start by offering them less than half of what they quote you, and then try to pay half the quoted price.
Also, just try walking away, and you will se that prices will drop very quickly.

Only drink bottled water, your hotel will probably include some bottles of water with the room.

Beggars- sad to say, but most of the beggars that you might see probably work for someone else. There will be one “boss” maybe the parents or older siblings, that sends children out to beg, and then he collects all the money from them. If you want to help, give away your left over food. Any money you give away to children will probably go to someone else for him to buy drugs or alcohol.
Also, many of the beggars are also pickpockets, they will surround you to try and distract you and one of them will lift your wallet.

I found this in a Bangkok paper, but the same situation is found in Vietnam also.
"Child beggars exploited, beaten and making a small fortune - for others
By Connie Levett Herald Correspondent In Bangkok
August 13, 2005
It’s a business … a beggar woman and child on a walkway above
Sukhumvit Road, central Bangkok.
A new snapshot of the begging trade in Bangkok shows a business built
on children trafficked from Cambodia and Burma who never profit
personally from their lucrative daily takings and are sometimes beaten
to make them objects of greater pity.

No one can say how many children are begging in the Thai capital but
the three-month survey of the trade earlier this year shows children
aged from three months to 10 years are working long hours in tourist
destinations and busy business precincts. A handler sits close by in a
small business, perhaps selling flowers, and regularly collecting the
cash.

“It is like they are enslaved children. To be forced to work is one of
the worst forms of humiliation,” said Ealkak Loomchomkhae, a legal
officer with the Mirror Foundation, the Thai non-government
organisation that ran the study. The findings are set out in a report
released with the International Labour Organisation last week, Child
Beggar Business - Investigating Children in the Beggar Business.

The survey, during which researchers observed the beggars at four
central Bangkok locations for three months, proved “this was not
normal begging, it was a business”, Mr Ealkak said via a translator.
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It is a lucrative trade, with children making between 500 baht
($15.80) and 3000 baht a day for their brokers. They receive only
basic food and accommodation. A shop assistant earns 6000 baht a month.

The survey showed old women carrying very young children or babies,
one old woman with a different child each day or the same children
with a different mother. Rarely did the children speak Thai: most of
them came from Cambodia or Burma. The brokers got the children from
poor families in the border regions by buying, renting or kidnapping
them, Mr Ealkak said.

“They talk to the parents, offer them 3000 to 7000 baht-a-month rent
for a child. They want children from three months to 10 years old
because that is the age that appeals to passers-by,” he said.

Urban myths abound in Bangkok of beggar children whose hands have been
cut off to make them more lucrative. “I’ve heard about cutting off the
hands but I’ve never seen it,” Mr Ealkak said. “I did see pinching,
hitting with wood, punching. It can be interpreted as a way to control
the children; but also, when people see scars and bruises, it melts
the hearts and it’s evident these children make more money.”

While the number of beggar children working in Bangkok is hard to
quantify, Mr Ealkak said hundreds have been rescued and rehabilitated.
Before a child is sent home, NGOs and the ministry evaluate the
family. “If they believe they will sell the children again, they will
not send them back.”

He said the situation for beggar children had improved in that it was
now seen as a problem. “When I started working with beggars [three
years ago], nobody worked on it. Now there are more organisations
paying attention.” In July, the Royal Thai Police set up a division
focused protecting children and women. Lieutenant-General Kumronwit
Thoopkrajong, the division’s commander, said through a translator that
the beggar children would be treated as “victims, not as criminals”.

What yojimbo said are quite true

About nightlight, if you are really a bar person and taking estasy is not a big deal, there are places in HN and HCM that open over night. But I guess you probably don’t want to.

Never pay the taxi driver more than 100.000Vnd (about $7) to go from one place to another place in Hanoi.

Yes, if you walk around Sword Lake (Ho Guom) or West Lake (Ho Tay), there will be children and teenage trying to sell you stuffs. I wouldn’t recommend to buy from them, you can get nice things somewhere else such as Hang Ngang St, Hang Dao St (near Sword Lake ( Ho Guom )).

There are four major districts in Hanoi. Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Dong Da, Ba Dinh. Recently, there are a few more, I coudn’t recall. Most of places you might interest are in Hoan Kiem and Ba Dinh.

If you decide to give money to beggars, the common quantity is about 500 Vnd, no more. You shoud expect to be surrounded by more kids once you gave money to one.

Thanks so much everyone (especially yojimbo)! Thats all gold, particularly hotel recommendations.

Thanks so much everyone (especially yojimbo)! Thats all gold, particularly hotel recommendations.