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extra day in sapa, hanoi or halong bay?

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extra day in sapa, hanoi or halong bay?

i seem to have an extra day. we will be in saigon for 4 nights, hoian for 2, hue for 1 and hanoi for 3 and sapa train excursion with 2 overnights on the train and 1 night in sapa-----we have 1 extra day---would you suggest using it with an extra night in sapa, hanoi or going to halong bay. we are travelling with 4 adults and 3 kids ages 5, 7 and a toddler--so we have to take a slower pace. also going to cambodia for 4 nights after vietnam. what do you suggest?

thanks, also, whats the latest news on bird flu---any cases where we are going end of march? thanks for any help!

babo

11. Re: extra day in sapa, hanoi or halong bay?

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Chatham...
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12. Re: extra day in sapa, hanoi or halong bay?

Just returned from Hanoi,and went both to Halong Bay and to Ninh Binh/Tam Coc. I would say, consider what you will be doing just before. The trip to Ninh Binh/Tam Coc was one of the highlights of my trip. It is only 2 hours by car. The first takes you on a motor boat, flat, pretty open and slow. You pass the "floating" homes up close and see people going about their daily lives. Very interesting, for the kids, too. The people are very friendly, the children you see are adoreable and very friendly. The second trip is only a short drive away...this, in a rowboat situation. Again, incredibly interesting...passing through the ricefields being worked by the people at the foot of the mountains near these grottos. A very relaxing trip. My only concern is doing any of this with a toddler. The first would be OK, but the other boats are rowed by one or two people and look as much like a canoe as a rowboat. You can't move around or even shift around. Maybe someone can take the toddler for a walk through the shops, while others do this. Halong Bay must be beautiful in good weather, which we didn't have. It is 3 hours from Hanoi. I've heard beautiful scenery, we did see some. We stayed overnight, but would have said, the one day trip would have been enough. The rooms are very tight...no room for luggage at all, the bed fits up against the wall,so I don't know how many people you were thinking of putting in a room. Also, the food was very good, but really for an adult taste...grilled shrimp, squid, boiled crab, rice, asian salad. This is not a floating restaurant exactly. Very clean. But again, I don't know how comfortable I would be with a toddler on board. And there are so many boats, you won't believe it! The couple on board with us said their guidebook claimed the water is so clean you can see to the bottom. Well, forget it. There are boats that come around in the morning to scoop out the garbage in the water. We got there before they did, and believe me, you would have been dreadfully disappointed at what was floating all over. Too bad!

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13. Re: extra day in sapa, hanoi or halong bay?

dear aknannie,

thanks for the information. when you went to halong bay, what boat did you overnight on and does it really seem as though you would have rather just done in in one day or miss it altogether. was there anything else that you really loved and recommend, travel tips, restaurants, etc. did you have any clothes made and where? When you went to Ninh Binth, was it a whole day and what time did you return to Hanoi? we'll try to squeeze it in. It's always a problem---lots to see, never enough time..

thanks,

babo

Chatham...
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14. Re: extra day in sapa, hanoi or halong bay?

We did not go to Sapa, but I am sorry we didn't have time to go. Everyone we met, including the French Canadians on the boat in Halong Bay, said they would have stayed longer in the hill villages. The important thing is the train you take. We met two couples, one in their 60's, the other in their 30's, that said the same thing...one train was comfortable, the other disgusting. The 30-something from Vancouver said she couldn't even sleep in the berth,it was so dirty...linens, etc. I have read this on other reviews, also. My recommendation about having clothes made, is this: if you see something in the window or inside a nice looking shop, have them make it in your size. Very difficult to style something yourself...didn't work for me, although I went to a fantastic operation in Bangkok, with fabric from Jim Thompson's. Just didn't work. Vietnam is much cheaper, and the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi recommends a shop, if you ask them...they also have lovely linens and silk handbags. All the women's shops are together, by the way, as is almost everything in SE Asia. Bird flu update: the newspapers in Hanoi said they hadn't reported a case in 7 days...this was Jan.14-17. But our hotel took no chances. We got a notice on arrival, saying they were serving no eggs or chicken, and baked goods, etc. were being made with powdered eggs. So we avoided everywhere. The trip to Ninh Binh was the whole day. We left about 9:00 and returned at 5:00...I thought it was a great day. You can definitely see Halong Bay without staying overnight. But the trip is 3 hours to and from Hanoi, and not very scenic. If the weather is right, it is a beautiful sight. I hope you have a driver to take you around to and from and in Hanoi...the worse driving I have ever seen, no kidding. The drivers of everything ; cars trucks, bicyles, and mostly motorcyles all drive in mutiples lanes that they make up as they go...incredibly dangerous. Have a great trip. Where else are you going?

Chatham...
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15. Re: extra day in sapa, hanoi or halong bay?

Also, Cambodia is very hot..90's with high humidity. The secret is, go out early as possible in the morning...return at noon. Spend the afternoon at the hotel; lunch,relax at the pool, nap, etc. and then go out again at 3:30 or 4:00. It is a lot of walking and climbing in that heat...you'll need a break during the day, and the kids will, too. You're ambitious!

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16. Re: extra day in sapa, hanoi or halong bay?

aknannie, i think that we have decided to bite the bullet and do halong bay in one day [ from your description and others---i'm not sure if we even should do it at all, but you know how it is---always afraid that we are going to miss something good] we won't have our grandchildren with us at that point anymore-so it will be a long day and we will go back to hanoi. that way, if it rains, etc-it only losses us 1 day of travel instead of 2. we are also going [ with the kids] to saigon, hoian, hue and hanoi. when they leave, we will go to sapa, finish up our touring in hanoi and then on to siem reap. was ninh binh and tam coc much different from halong bay? sounds like we should try to put it in to itinerary. where else did you go, hotels you stayed, any travel hints for us, etc. hope that you had a great time. we are going the end of march and beginning of april. thanks for your help.

Chatham...
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17. Re: extra day in sapa, hanoi or halong bay?

It is hard to make choices, and you can't do everything. Halong Bay and Ninh Binh are totally different. Ninh Binh and the caves ( really grottos) are going in a slow flat-bottomed motor boat in one case, and a row boat for 2-3 passengers in the other...through rice fields where people are working close up, and floating fishing huts and village with people and children living and working. East ride, 2 hrs from Hanoi, 9-5 day. I thought it was very worth while, especially something for the kids. The other is a boat trip in a bay, relatively more open water, in a covered boat with dining room level and sundeck level above. Scenery of the bay with mountainous structures growing out of the sea, passing fishing shacks in the water, and an opportunity to climb a rigorous climb into a cave. You can do Halong Bay in 1 day, we would have because of the weather. We had a driver, and would have been happy to sleep that night in our hotel. Again, please tell me you have a driver and are not driving in Hanoi! We stayed at the Sofitel Metropole...wonderful, especially if it is only the 2 of you. You can get excellent rates from Expedia, etc. You want a classic room (in the old part of the hotel); oozes French Colonial style, over 100 years, all updated. Ask for a quiet room when you check in, so you won't face the busy street. Make sure your rate includes breakfast. And leave time for a leasurely meal before you start a busy day...it is a buffet that is just amazing. You don't need to be stuffed, but you won't need lunch, either! Can't believe I forgot about the Thrang Long Water Puppet Theater. You must go with the kids. Can get tickets ahead,they even have early performances; adults will be facinated,too. Really an art, not classified as "kids" activity. Do go.