North Vietnam

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leela
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North Vietnam

Post by leela » Fri Oct 26, 2018 10:34 pm

Recommendations?

Instead of 3-4 weeks in Vietnam, sticking to the north and adding in Laos makes some sense, what with it being typhoon season in the middle of the country.
Any suggestions for somewhere to chill out for a few days in that part of Vietnam would be welcome. It's a great area for trekking and general activity, but where would you just hang out and relax for a while?
And yep, your favourite bits in general.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by leela » Sat Oct 27, 2018 10:24 pm

Oh come on. Call yourself travellers?! Some of you must have been, surely? Don't let me down.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by DCComic » Sat Oct 27, 2018 10:33 pm

Loved Hanoi and chartered an entire junk for a weekend on Halong bay for a few quid. Not much help. Oh.liked the water puppet show so much we recommended it to someone who hated it.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by Andrea1 » Sat Oct 27, 2018 10:37 pm

When are you going?

I'm planning on being there for 15 days in December, mainly from Hoi An up. Have been once before but not to the North, hence focussing on there. I'm expecting it to be cool/cold, though, so will probably just have a quick look around, then head down to Hoi An and relax.

I'll post back here after I've been.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by harry_flashman » Sun Oct 28, 2018 1:12 am

I have been to Halong bay and Sapa on organised Vietnamese bus trips back in 2001. When I had my bike I went up to and also along the Chinese border. I love halong bag. Sapa was hill tribe country. Lots of cheeky sharp little girls trying to peddle trinkets to tourists but obviously under great pressure from their parents to make a sale. There is some great scenery up north but the best scenery in Vietnam was along the border with Laos. Only really accessible with a bike EMGs knowledge about biking is no doubt more upto date than mine.
Last edited by harry_flashman on Sun Oct 28, 2018 1:16 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by harry_flashman » Sun Oct 28, 2018 1:14 am

Also bear in mind that north Vietnam is outside tgr tropical zone so the weather can be pretty dank at this time of year.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by leela » Sun Oct 28, 2018 7:02 am

Andrea1 wrote:
Sat Oct 27, 2018 10:37 pm
When are you going?
In two weeks
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by EMG » Sun Oct 28, 2018 8:59 am

My only knowledge of the North is things I've asked friends when I was thinking of a birthday trip there next year. If you need to know which border with Laos you're allowed to take a motorbike from Vietnam across, I'm your guy. Otherwise, nothing here.

If you decide to go South though, let me know!

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by Andrea1 » Sun Oct 28, 2018 10:45 am

Oh, so you're going there before me, Leela, just. I'm aiming to be there over Christmas.

I hope you'll post about your trip here, please, highlights in the North, places to relax, eat, drink, people watch - I'm going to be doing that a lot, especially if the weather isn't great.

Sorry I'm not much help, but have a great trip.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by BeatRaven » Sun Oct 28, 2018 12:16 pm

The hilltribey area is better than doing it in Laos and now a bus only takes 5 hours instead the train which takes 8. Found Hanoi to be fight-with-cabbie central with them either taking me to the wrong place or changing the fare about every other ride. Over all, a less joyous place than Thailand and Laos, but properly atmospheric.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by Cyllarus » Sun Oct 28, 2018 3:01 pm

Sapa for hiking is quite nice. Can spend few days hiking between villages with local guide.
We were there in late March so may be chilly when you go. Overnight train from Hanoi was very convenient and comfortable.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by harry_flashman » Sun Oct 28, 2018 3:39 pm

Hanoi is dreadful these days. fuck capitalism
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by leela » Sun Oct 28, 2018 6:59 pm

BeatRaven wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 12:16 pm
The hilltribey area is better than doing it in Laos and now a bus only takes 5 hours instead the train which takes 8.
Which area would five hours on the bus take you to, beat?
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by leela » Sun Oct 28, 2018 7:01 pm

Cyllarus wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 3:01 pm
Sapa for hiking is quite nice. Can spend few days hiking between villages with local guide.
We were there in late March so may be chilly when you go. Overnight train from Hanoi was very convenient and comfortable.
How strenuous is the hiking there? I know that there's some reasonably serious trekking from Sapa, but I'm pretty unfit at the moment.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by leela » Sun Oct 28, 2018 7:03 pm

harry_flashman wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 1:14 am
Also bear in mind that north Vietnam is outside tgr tropical zone so the weather can be pretty dank at this time of year.
I had a look at the temperatures and it seems to be in the low 20s in November. Is there something I'm missing? Grey clouds, wind. other stuff that makes 22C not as okay as I assumed? I knew not to expect properly warm weather.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by Citizen Baba » Sun Oct 28, 2018 7:41 pm

The Sapa region was by far my favorite part of Vietnam. I was pretty winded by the hiking, much more than the 18-year-old Hmong lass that was my guide. But it was hot. Would be a lot easier in cooler weather.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by harry_flashman » Sun Oct 28, 2018 8:01 pm

leela wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 7:03 pm
harry_flashman wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 1:14 am
Also bear in mind that north Vietnam is outside tgr tropical zone so the weather can be pretty dank at this time of year.
I had a look at the temperatures and it seems to be in the low 20s in November. Is there something I'm missing? Grey clouds, wind. other stuff that makes 22C not as okay as I assumed? I knew not to expect properly warm weather.
grey skies, rain and generally drearyness if memory serves however not as cold as North Europe. It only really cleared up when I hit Nha trang if memory serves. This was December. Horrible traffic too if memory serves.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by BeatRaven » Sun Oct 28, 2018 9:25 pm

You could just go to Sapa (that 5 hour bus ride) and see plenty of hill tribe people. No need for a trek. There's also an even more hilltribey town 2 hours away. You can stay over in both. If you've been to Pai, it's the same massage/banana pancake/crafty shop vibe, just a fair bit less friendly.

If you do a tribal thing in Laos, Muang Xing is better than Phongsali. Def. google Muang Long, since the treks mostly start from there. The trek will be real-er, but much, much poorer. There's also a tree house lodge where they have a lot of long stories as to why you didn't see an orangutang.

Phongsali, tho, gives access to the trippy abandoned Casino town of Boten. You can also take a nice couple of days down the Ou River. A dam now prevents drifting all the way down to Luang Prubang. 3 towns along the way have guest houses with western comforts. At Nong Khiaw, you could get an always full bus to Sam Neua, where the old commie cave headquarters are.

Call it 2 long bus days to get to Phongsali or Muang XIng from Hanoi. 3 if you get stuck in Oudamoxi, the big transfer point. An ok, not great place to get stuck.

Hanoi - Luang Prubang is $120 by AIrAsia. Just do it.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by leela » Sun Oct 28, 2018 11:02 pm

Thanks Beatraven. Plenty to consider there.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by polardude1 » Mon Oct 29, 2018 11:42 am

I was in Vietnam in 2005, so my information is dated. I like Hanoi more than Ho Chi MInh city. But before going north, I did travel in the Mekong Delta over night . I traveled north partially by train and by flying, stopping in Hoi An and Hue. Hue was well worth it. I did not make it to Sapa but I did go kayaking in Ha Long Bay
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by Cyllarus » Mon Oct 29, 2018 2:26 pm

Citizen Baba said:
The Sapa region was by far my favorite part of Vietnam. I was pretty winded by the hiking, much more than the 18-year-old Hmong lass that was my guide. But it was hot. Would be a lot easier in cooler weather.
^ this. Discuss proposed hikes with your guide. good guide will assess your hiking ability in first hour and can adjust accordingly.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by Rich_D » Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:49 pm

I have been to Hanoi about 10 times but not for a few years now - I think not since 2013 or 2014. It is one of my favourite cities. If you want to splurge, the Sofitel is great. Food is fantastic, a few great outside food courts. I spent Christmas there a few years ago, the weather was pleasant - 20C or so. I have been to Sapa but I find the whole hill tribe/tourist thing depressing. Halong bay is great for a couple of nights. I like the Vietnamese, my favourite South East Asians to work with, a mix of SEA and China which appeals to me, less laid back.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by leela » Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:31 pm

That's good to hear, Rich. Someone today was telling me how she found Hanoi too frantic for comfort, but she's not that experienced a traveller and was on one of those tours where you don't really step away from the group at any point. So I chose not to be concerned.

The Sofitel will be a splurge too far I'm afraid, but I've been looking at accommodation in our price range, and it seems pretty characterful and nice. Lots of great reviews saying how incredibly helpful and friendly the staff are in lots of these places. I'm looking forward to it.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by BeatRaven » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:01 pm

Twice, those Stalin-worshiping cabbies at the airport took me to a hotel that was not my hotel. Check the sign over the door. The old quarter is worth a few visits.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by harry_flashman » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:18 pm

Someone today was telling me how she found Hanoi too frantic for comfort
If you can deal with a non stop cacophony of car horns they you will be ok. I hated it so much the last time i was there I stopped going out. Hanoi has much more character than Saigon but for me the time to visit was in 2001. I love all soviet era stuff anti Western propaganda but unfortunately the Vietnamese seem to have sold out. Culturally the country has definitely regressed in my opinion.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by leela » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:19 pm

I'm looking at accommodation in the old quarter. Maybe I'll go tourist and arrange with the guesthouse for a pickup from the airport.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by BeatRaven » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:22 pm

Like Laos, they decided that those old commie folk art murals were bad for business, or worse, that abstract concept called development. But these places feel much more generic without that overlay.

It's like going to the Vatican and finding no Jesus stuff.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by fishface » Tue Oct 30, 2018 6:10 am

I loved Hanoi. My lovely flaky friend was freaked out that I took to jay walking as easily as I did. I told her that's pretty much how I crossed the road anyway.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by Citizen Baba » Tue Oct 30, 2018 4:37 pm

I went for similar hikes in Burma, Thailand, and Laos. Sapa and environs was much prettier.

Hanoi was fine. A little homogonous, and I wasn't feeling the food like other people. SItting on the street drinking cheap, shit draft beer was fuun though. Halong Bay just seemed like a tourist racket that wasn't worth it.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by BeatRaven » Tue Oct 30, 2018 5:02 pm

If I'm listing in order for hill tribe treks, Mae Hong Song, Muang Sing, Sapa, Pakse, Phongsali. Then I had little look arounds in Chiang Rai and Nan that were day things that were OK.

Halong Bay was an overbooked, crass downer.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by EMG » Tue Oct 30, 2018 5:06 pm

So how come when I was planning my southern vietnam trip did EVERYONE tell me that I was missing out not going to the north instead?

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by BeatRaven » Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:17 pm

Because the north has more frenchy shuttered buildings and the allure of communism on hand to laugh at.

I liked the Mekong drift all the way down and up to Angkor Wat, but that's all pretty commercial by now. The mountain resort of Dalat was great and I'll bet it still is.

For me, it was a one and done, mostly down to the people. The food was blah, I never want to eat a spring roll again. At the 5 star end, it was a bargain, but not as much as Laos nor as inventive as Thailand.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by Citizen Baba » Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:30 pm

Pho is a once-a-month food, not an everyday one. A pho place opened a half block away from six months ago. I've been twice.

Dalat was nice. A little bit of cool air was special after conntinuous swamp ass in the rest of the South.

I went on a multi-day hike near Chiang Mai. It was seeing a lot of trees, riding elephants, visiting a hill tribe family that's been hosting visitor probably since the 50s, and a guide who played Hotel California note for note.

Sapa was way better.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by BeatRaven » Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:59 pm

In Nan, they take you to an ornamental opium poppy garden. If you get a bunch of poppy seeds from a live plant, you can def. make opium tea.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by EMG » Tue Oct 30, 2018 9:49 pm

Da Lat was decent. I stopped through for a night on my trip.

I thought the food was great. I didn't eat a single spring roll. I enjoyed the eating there more than in Thailand.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by harry_flashman » Tue Oct 30, 2018 11:37 pm

EMG wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 5:06 pm
So how come when I was planning my southern vietnam trip did EVERYONE tell me that I was missing out not going to the north instead?
because you indicated that you were short on time as i recall?
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by EMG » Wed Oct 31, 2018 3:12 am

I meant: people specifically said things like “oh... south Vietnam? I much prefer the north”

But in this thread I’m not seeing many people rave about the north.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by Wilster » Wed Oct 31, 2018 4:55 am

I was there in '91 and '95...I'm sure any of my info would be/is dated.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by Citizen Baba » Wed Oct 31, 2018 1:46 pm

EMG wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 9:49 pm
Da Lat was decent. I stopped through for a night on my trip.

I thought the food was great. I didn't eat a single spring roll. I enjoyed the eating there more than in Thailand.
I'd be curious what you ate. I spent five weeks in the country and when people rave about the food, I wonder what exactly I was missing.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by pezworld » Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:01 pm

Citizen Baba wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 1:46 pm
EMG wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 9:49 pm
Da Lat was decent. I stopped through for a night on my trip.

I thought the food was great. I didn't eat a single spring roll. I enjoyed the eating there more than in Thailand.
I'd be curious what you ate. I spent five weeks in the country and when people rave about the food, I wonder what exactly I was missing.
Pretty much everything at The Mermaid in Hoi An (in 2004) - we wanted to eat there breakfast, lunch and dinner, and almost did:
https://tastevietnam.asia/mermaid-restaurant-hoi-an

(Though Hoi An was just a bit touristy... 200 tailors in a town the size of a postage stamp.)

On our Mekong Delta tour, we had "fish in clay pot" in Can Tho for about $2. Others in our group may have had snake.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by EMG » Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:04 pm

I like pho and found it varied from place to place. I had it probably 3-5 times in my week there. I could eat it frequently. I also like bahn mi, and same deal, there were a whole bunch of different kinds of bahn mi, so I never had the same one twice. And often they were less than $1.

One of my favorite meals was (in english) "dry noodles". Which I believe is Bún thịt nướng in Vietnamese.

I especially liked the breakfasts, which were usually eggs with some kind meat, the great Vietnamese coffee, and a baguette. Bánh Xèo is also very good. The crepe thing.

Once I got along the coast I had more seafood. In one place it was shrimp, calamari, and vegetables over noodles. Can't recall the name. Then at a seafood market just a grilled fish with 100 small side dishes of various peppers and vegetables which reminded me a bit of Korean food.

In Saigon I had some pretty inventive dishes. Betel beef. Fried tofu. Great oysters with local herbs and hot sauce.

Even simple stir fry dishes like stir fried chicken over rice noodles, with that fish sauce for dipping full of chiles I liked.

I found it one of the more exciting SEAsian cuisines I've tried.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by harry_flashman » Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:06 pm

Yup Vietnamese food is some of the worst in the region. It’s way behind Thailand.
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Re: North Vietnam

Post by EMG » Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:15 pm

I had a far more positive food experience in Vietnam than I did in Thailand, but I'm willing to believe it was just a me thing.

I stopped at 100 road-side eateries in Thailand and it seemed to be 100 of the exact same noodle dish being offered. Then some occasional BBQ, which was good. Then lots of bugs and frogs and shit that I wasn't interested in.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by Citizen Baba » Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:32 pm

Thanks for the detailed responses. I was pretty much on a low budget when I was there, and would likely have a better food experience now.

Btw, there's a pretty rocking Vietnamese chicken with five spice recipe in Salt, Acid, Heat, Whatever.

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Re: North Vietnam

Post by EMG » Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:40 pm

MMB recommended Anan Saigon to me, which was the highlight of my food experience in Vietnam. It was all 'local' but fancied up a bit, but not in a silly way, it all looked and tasted great, and the bartenders were mixing up some good cocktails. I think I had like 5 a la carte dishes and 3 cocktails for $40ish.

Also - it may have been a high/low expectation thing. No one really raves about Vietnamese food, so I didn't know what to expect other than pho really. And was impressed.

Everyone raves about Thai food being amazing, so I was pretty underwhelmed with (what I thought of as) a bunch of noodles and fish sauce.

I need to get around to watching Salt, Acid, Fat (or whatever). I know the one you're talking about.

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