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Vietnam

 

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Summary

 

Foreword

As a subscriber of the newsletter of Vente-privée, I found out a 3 weeks tour in Vietnam within my price range.
I submitted the program to friends who went there.
They were favourably disposed towards this trip..
So I passed on the information to a couple met in Costa Rica and willing to go there.
They liked the program, so we took the same tour at the same moment.
We were 9 persons with a guide and a bus driver, leaving France in the middle of January .
A small group was fairly good for the visits. Very easy for the guide to manage.

Tran Duc Nghia

I noticed 3 contributors to this journey : Vente-privée ↠ GeovisionsTranstravel.


Flights

Oddly, we left Roissy with different flights.
A couple, coming from Marseille, another coming from La Baule, got a direct flight Roissy - Ho Chi Minh ville (ex Saigon) by Air France.
The 5 others members (I belonged to) , got a flight Roissy - Guangzhou in China, then Guangzhou - Ho Chi Minh ville by China Southern.
Thus, leaving 1h before, we had to be there 6h later than them. But they got some issue with Air France, the flight was cancelled due to the plane striked by lightning.
They arrived at the end of the day from Singapore and some luggages didn't follow.

Flying to China is very long : 12h, then 3h to Ho Chi Minh ville.

Returning was harder, 6h stop in Guangzhou and departure at 0h45 local time, then a 13h20 flight to Roissy and snow falling down in France.


Hotels

I have been very impressed with 4* hotels quality during this trip.
Except Highlands hotel in Sapa (North Vietnam), where there was no heating in shared parts and bad heating in rooms. I had to to wear many night clothes to go to sleep.

Here is a list with links to websites :


Tour

The tour program was set in 2017, but we got the 2018's instead. It avoids the city of Nha Trang which has gotten a very bad reputation.
More time spent in the central highlands.

Day 1 : Saigon

Further to issue with Air France flight, the arrival of the 2 couples was planned in the evening. So, instead of waiting, we visit Dong Khoi street in colonial quarter, central post-office, Notre-Dame cathedral, Opera, Intercontinental hotel, townhall then back to the hotel.
During evening, we went all together to restaurant Viet village in Saigon.

Day 2 : Saigon - Ben Tre - Can Tho

Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh

Going to Mekong delta. Visit of lac factory Phuong Nam.
Stop in My Tho to visit a Cao Dai temple.
Boarding in Ben Tre to visiting an island.
In Ben Tre island, visit of a small company (sweet), then a barouche drive towards a bee farm.
Lunch at restaurant Diem Phuong.
In the afternoon, boat ride in little canals. Then bus to Can Tho hotel.

Huyen Cai Lay

Day 3 : Can Tho - Saigon

Can Tho Ho Chi Minh

In Can Tho, boarding to visit Cai Rang floating market, then stop to visit small rice companies (Nuoc Mam).
Lunch at restaurant Mekong Rest Stop in Chau Thanh.
Back to Aristo hotel in Saigon.

Day 4 : Saigon - Da Lat

Ho Chi Minh Da Lat

Leaving for Da Lat. Stop in Bao Loc to visit Tam Chau tea coffee center where we attend tea preparation.
Stop in Prenn to visit Bobla falls.
In Da Lat, visit ot the gorgeous botanical garden and the night market.

Day 5 : Da Lat - Buon Ma Thuot

Da Lat Buon Ma Thuot

Riding in Da Lat, visiting the railway station and Lake of Sighs .

Day 6 : Buon Ma Thuot - Pleiku

Buon Ma Thuot Pleiku

On the highlands road, visiting villages with houses on piles. Stop in Buon Don to walk on suspension bridges.
Visit of an elephant hunters cemetery.
Hiking to Dray Sap falls on Serepok river.
Stop in café Kiên Cuong where civet coffee is created.
Setting in Pleiku hotel.

Day 7 : Pleiku - Hoi An

Pleiku Hoi An

Visiting a village of ethnic group Bahnar.
Stop in Kon Tum to visit a wooden cathedral.
Driving on Ho Chi Minh road where we saw hevea plants, stopping to visit a traditional house on piles.
Lunch at restaurant Nhà Hàng on the way (service isn't up to the mark).

Day 8 : Hoi An

Bicycle riding to visit a small silk company Thang Loi. You can get made-to-measure shirts.
Then going to the ecological village (aromatic plants) Tra Que.
Stop to visiting Quan Cong temple (name of an ancient chinese general during Han dynasty).
Lunch at restaurant Minty Garden in Tra Que where we got legs and feet massage and we were teached how to make rice pancakes.
During the afternoon, visit of Song Hoai with japanese bridge.
Many things to see : Fujian sanctuary, Phuc Thanh pagoda, ancient house, ...
During the evening, walking along Hoi An before getting dinner at restaurant.

Day 9 : Hoi An - Hue

Hoi An Hue

Visit My Son sanctuary when raining.
In Danang, visit of a marble statues company : very impressive. We saw stone-cutters working..

Day 10 : Hue

Sampan sailing on Perfume river (sông Huong) to Thien Mu pagoda.
Visit of Tu Hieu pagoda.
Visit of a joss sticks small company.
Lunch at restaurant Tha Nhi.
Visite of imperial tomb Khai Dinh.
During the evening, getting to a Hue Water Puppet Theatre.

Day 11 : Hue - Dong Hoi

Hue Dong Hoi

During the morning, visit of Hue imperial city, then a rickshaw riding to Dong Ba market.
Visit of Vinh Moc tunnels and old N-S border at 17th parallel.

Day 12 : Dong Hoi - Vinh

Dong Hoi Vinh

Sailing to gorgeous Phong Nha caves.
Beautiful ricefiels when getting to Dinh.

Day 13 : Vinh - Ninh Binh

Vinh Ninh Binh

Going to Phat Diem to visit Lady Queen of the Rosary cathedral.
Lunch in the city.
Visiting the jade Bich Dong pagoda, then going to Van Lâm for a small boat riding over Ngo Dong river in Tam Coc also named “land Halong bay”.
3 natural caves : Hang Ca, Hang Hai, Hang Ba.
Women row using their feet.

Day 14 : Ninh Binh - Halong bay

Ninh Binh Halong

Going to Halong Bay pier. Boarding on a traditional junk from Halong Sails.
Eating shellfishes on board.
Visit huge Hang Suot Sôt and Hang Do Gau caves.
Sleeping on board.

Day 15 : Halong bay - Hanoi

Halong Hanoi

Back to the pier.
When going to Hanoi, visiting Stargems (Ky Tam Anh Trading) a pearl factory.
In Hanoi, seeing Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum and the changing of the guard, then visiting Môt Côt pagoda, and Ho Chi Minh's pile house.

Day 16 : Hanoi

Hanoi

In the morning, visiting ethnographic museum and litterature temple.
During the evening, walking close to Hoan Kiem Lake to see Huc bridge red floodlit.

Day 17 : Hanoi - Sapa

Hanoi Sapa

Long bus trip to get to the North in mountains. Visit of Den Mau temple devoted to princess Lieu Hanh in Lao Cai chinese border.
We saw a dance directed by a ceremony master.
Lunch in Lao Cai
Walking across Ma Tra village : very cold weather, rain and mud.
At the restaurant, because of the wery cold weather, we eat with some braziers spread around us.
No heating in the common parts of the hotel and working bad in rooms.

Day 18 : Sapa

Sapa

Walking downstairs, with cold weather, rain and mud, to seeing Cat Cat village, very picturesque and touristy.
After lunch, excursion to silver falls .... closed for safety reasons.
Then walking in Ta Van valley across 2 villages seeing rice terraces cultivation.

Day 19 : Sapa - Bac Ha - Hanoi

Sapa Bac Ha

Going to the weekly Bac Ha market (Sunday) : colorful and many ethnic groups. This is a must-seeing.
Back to hotel in Hanoi.

Day 20 : Back to France

The 5 of us were going to the airport in the morning, flying to China, then to Roissy.
Very hard as I said previously.
The 4 remaining persons visited Hanoi; they flew during evening.


Personal thoughts

During this trip my feelings were mixed.
I was very shocked to seeing garbages everywhere along roadsides, except in big cities because of tourism. I was thinking that it only happened in Africa.

Climat

Saigon and Mekong delta stand below 11th parallel, Sapa close to 22th parallel, so beneath tropic of Cancer (23°27').
At the beginning, heat and sun in Saigon and I was thinking getting ill because of high air conditioning in bus. I found a workaround in 2 days.
Unfortunately, rain was falling ever since I got in Mekong delta and a poor weather (low grey clouds) went with us all along.
And to cap it all, we got freezing and mud in the North. No heating in bus and not to forget Highland hotel in Sapa.
This bad weather spoiled our trip in Halong bay; in sunny days, it 'd be great !

Population

I loved to be in touch with ethnic groups in highlands, in countrysides and mountains.
Getting massages from skilled hands was great.
I was impressed by high number of mopeds in towns. But all sound to run in perfect harmony
Continual smiling and kindness of vietnameses is a must, and very different from the city where I live in France.

Visits

Vietnam offers various places to visit. Of course, we can't see all, but we were giving a good idea of the country during 3 weeks.
I have described just before the places we visited and, of course, some commercial ones : lac company, silk factory, pearls and jewels company, marble factory, but unobtrusively. Nothing to compare with some touring as in Majorque for instance, where we wasted time in pearl factory to the detriment of interesting visits, made very quickly.

Tips

We were surprised that the guide tells us what amount of tip to be given to the bus driver and himself. We got informations about that in the roadbook given for the tour, so we kept them.
His anxiety was probably due to the fact we were only 9 persons.
That occurred to us that we never gave as much tip as during this trip : 150€ total amount one person.
The tourism industry seems to get on a strange way.

Food

Although asian cooking is excellent, this isn't my cup of tea. Eating always the same meals, even though it's quite good, and I got tired of it very quickly. Accustomed to yellow rice (coloured by curcuma) I don't like white rice tightly packed.
I have made laughing my fellow travellers all along the trip about that.
Otherwise, breakfast buffets in hotels were hard for me as an european. But I adapted myself eating eggs and sweet breads and buns ... when I found some.

In other words, even though the weather was gloomy or bad, I have a very good memory of this trip. It was very rewarding to be in touch with asian culture.


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