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Most interesting place for stop between HCMC & Hanoi ?

Warrnambool...
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Most interesting place for stop between HCMC & Hanoi ?

My friends and I (6 females in our 50's) are spending 12 days in Vietnam next October and plan on taking the train from HCMC to Hanoi. From there we plan to go to Halong Bay and Sapa. I notice that other forums suggest breaking the long train trip. Could anyone recommend and interesting overnight stop along the way. We're more interested in culture... and shopping :)... than in beaches.

Any suggestions for we "young at heart old girls" would be much appreciated.

Ho Chi Minh City...
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1. Re: Most interesting place for stop between HCMC & Hanoi ?

I would recomend to start the train trip from Saigon to Nha Trang to enjoy the beach for 2-3 nights, then Nha Trang-Hue for 2 nights to visit the old citadel of the Nguyen Dynasty. After that you can take the train from Hue to Hanoi where you can spend 2 nights for Halong bay and 2 nights for Sapa plus 2 nights on the train travel from Hanoi to Sapa and back. and the last night for Hanoi.

Cheers

Eindhoven, The...
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2. Re: Most interesting place for stop between HCMC & Hanoi ?

Hoi An and Hue

Llanbrynmair...
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3. Re: Most interesting place for stop between HCMC & Hanoi ?

Based entirely on your interests and bearing in mind that you specify just one stop on the way and for one night only, then Hoi An is probably for you - you will have to get off the train at Danang and take a taxi or whatever to Hoi An, about 40 minutes from Danang station.

The thing is though, you're not going to experience much in just one night in Hoi An, or any other destination along the route for that matter.

Moreover with just 12 days in Vietnam, giving up a couple of days of that time to travelling by train from HCMC to Hanoi at a speed of approximately 50 kms an hour for 1700 or so kms - much of that at night on a train that will shake, creak, rattle and sway so much that sleep will be impossibility without ear plugs and a chemical helper - might not be be the greatest of ideas so you could perhaps reconsider and book a flight between HCMC and Hanoi and do the journey in half a day, flight time and transportation to and from the airports included.

Unless you're into train travel first and foremost of course, in which case ignore the above.

Edited: 09 December 2012, 08:34
Adelaide
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4. Re: Most interesting place for stop between HCMC & Hanoi ?

Definitely consider flying if you only have 12 days. As CB said, the train will eat into your time. Also trains are more of an endurance test in Vietnam. They're not particularly pleasant. Toilets will be unusable after a very short time.

Flights within Vietnam are inexpensive, more comfortable, and get you the long distances in a fraction of the time, leaving you with more time to see the sights.

Warrnambool...
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5. Re: Most interesting place for stop between HCMC & Hanoi ?

Thanks Creaking Bones and other suggestions.

I'm in a bit of a dilemma now...rushed in to get cheap flights (in and out of HCMC)... without doing enough research. Seems 12 days isn't going to be enough time to fit in all we'd like to do, especially if we did the two long (and uncomfortable... hadn't thought about that!) train trips. (Man in seat61 doesn't give you that impression... but then he's all about train travel isn't he)

But, sounds like we should fly one way at least, if not both as we want to spend most of the time in the North.

Can you or anyone suggest an itinerary for us that includes a 2 day 1 night HB cruise and the 2 day, 3 night train package from Hanoi to Sapa.

We really don't want to be rushing around all over the place just to fit everything in either... I'd rather come back and do a second trip.

But I really want to get this one right ... as "appointed trip coordinator"

Big responsibility..... :)

Llanbrynmair...
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6. Re: Most interesting place for stop between HCMC & Hanoi ?

Oh lordy Ros, trip coordinator - such a responsibility and rather you than me!

As you're leaning towards the north for the first of perhaps many trips to Vietnam, you should think in terms of a minimum of 2 days/1 night for Halong Bay, 2 days/1 night in Sapa (plus 2 nights there and back on the train) and 3 days in Hanoi, plus however much time you want to allocate to HCMC of the little that remains of your 10 days.

Insufficient time left for either a south-north or north-south train, but you might count yourself lucky in that regard. I rather enjoy being on trains in Vietnam but 4 hours is my absolute limit unless there is no better alternative, which is the case with the journey from Hanoi to Sapa and back.

Warrnambool...
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7. Re: Most interesting place for stop between HCMC & Hanoi ?

Thanks for that reinforcement about the trains !!

Will definitely be flying both ways now... for comfort as well as time restraints !

Warrnambool...
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8. Re: Most interesting place for stop between HCMC & Hanoi ?

Yeaaaahhh....very scary having that responsibility !! I did it for our last trip to Bali and got it right so they have utmost faith in me now !!

But I think you're right... just to concentrate on HB,Hanoi & Sapa then fill in what's left around HCMC. I have been there before, but only to shop &eat so can't say I've seen the place. We could probably do the half day Cucchi tunnels trip... maybe even Mekong Delta ? Worth going to do you think... or too much of a rush? ... or any other suggestions for HCMC

What do you think about this itinerary -

Day 1 - Arrive HCMC 8.40pm

Day 2 - Relax & "do" HCMC

Day 3 - Cucchi Tunnels trip

Day 4 - Fly to Hanoi in morning

Day 5 - Overnight train to Sapa

Day 6 - Sapa overnight

Day 7 - Sapa , then overnight train back to Hanoi

Day 8 - Arrive Hanoi 6 am

Day 9 - Hanoi to HB for overnight Junk Cruise (White Dolphin ?)

Day 10 - Return to Hanoi 6pm. Spend night in Hanoi

Day 11 - Fly back to HCMC

Day 12 - ?

Seem to have a spare day (whooppee!) as we actually fly out on the 13th day.

Was just planning this as I was typing so we could have another full day in Hanoi perhaps? Think we would need a day of retail therapy... after all that culture :)

All sound do-able ?

... pity about Mekong Delta... next time!

rural West Aussie
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9. Re: Most interesting place for stop between HCMC & Hanoi ?

If you want retail therapy you'd probably be better off looking for it in HCMC IMO but TBH I'd rather spend more time in Ha Noi. I'm not that into shopping :-)

Italy
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10. Re: Most interesting place for stop between HCMC & Hanoi ?

I would add a day to Hanoi as there's a lot to visit there.