We found Hanoi to be a wonderful city. I would definitely spend more time there than in HCMC/Saigon, if you can. Hanoi has more charm and is more enjoyable to get around. The Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi is very nice in an update colonial style.
Can't comment on Hoian/Danang as we did not get there.
ps as your plans progress, I can offer some restaurant recommendations for Hanoi
Thanks cruisinred! Sorry, I don't get to these destination threads as often as I should since I never know when there's been a new post.
Just because I know this is so riveting , here is my new projected itinerary. We added a couple days to the trip in order to get over to Angkor. Also decided to just do 3 nights at Evason Hideaway, it sounds fabulous but we tend to get bored so far removed from the cities so I think that will be plenty. If anyone has any itinerary comments, hotel comments or suggestions, or yes especially restaurant recommendations I'd love to hear them!
Day 1: Fly into HCMC, stay at Sheraton
Day 2-4 At Siem Riep, Angkor Cambodia - trying to decide between Raffles Grand Hotel and Hotel de la Paix, both sound excellent
Day 5: Back to HCMC
Day 6-9 3 Night Bike tour of Mekong Delta, then back last night to HCMC
Day 10-11 Two Nights in Hanoi, Sofitel Metropole Hotel
Day 12: Overnight to Halong Bay, junk tour (has anyone done this? Which boat do you recommend?)
Day 13: Back to Hanoi, Sofitel Metropole Hotel
Day 14-16 3 Nights at Evason Hideaway, Nha Trang (thinking that the beach villas are the best for us)
Day 17 fly to HCMC, full day there
Day 18 Fly home
thanks for reading! Nothing's been booked yet so if you have any suggestions, please let me know....
I'm so jealous about your itinerary. It looks great!
For Siem Reap/Angkor Way, I can highly recommend the Hotel de la Paix! The hotel is quite new and is amazingly designed and decorated in a hip modern style. The service is very good and the pool and spa very refreshing after a morning of traipsing around the temples. One of the very nice things about the hotel is their community/charitable programs. The hotel trains street children to work in the hospitality industry, to give them a career. The kids start at another hotel and work their way up to the Hotel de la Paix.
If you would like to arrange a guide in advance for the temples, I can recommend a wonderful woman named Ponheary (I can give you her contact info). The best part of our time with her was a visit to a local school where we made a donation for about 25 children to have uniforms and supplies for the year. We met the kids and teachers and hung out for a while. My husband said this experience was one of the highlights of the trip for him (and I agree!). Not to sound preachy, but I'm glad we were able to give something back while visiting a poor country like Cambodia.
The Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi is lovely. The Spicegarden restaurant in the hotel is very good. You can pick up a cyclo driver right at the hotel and ride around town in a relaxed way. We really enjoyed this, as well as shopping in the old town area.
Please let me know if I can help with any questions.
Thanks again, this is excellent information and you are getting me very excited for the trip. Hotel de la Paix sounds fabulous. Yes, I'd love to get the contact information for the tour guide you speak of. How exactly did you make a donation to the school? Did you know about it in advance? It sounds like an amazing experience, and an excellent way to give a little something back. It is always difficult in these extremely impoverished countries to deal with the fact that we stay in nice hotels and have air-conditioned cars when so many people are literally starving. I'm still not exactly sure how best to deal with it (I struggled with this a lot in India, where the hotels are immensely posh but the people outside of the gates may have nothing). But mingling with local kids and doing a little something to help out sounds like a great way to start.
Thanks, I'm going to start booking all of the accomodations and everything soon and I'll be in touch hopefully this summer to maybe get some restaurant reservations!
I came across a mention of this in the Cambodia message boards over at TripAdvisor. If this is the same Ponheary you mentioned, she sounds like a wonderful woman and tour guide. I'd love to have her contact information...
I'm new to posting my comments here. My husband and I have been to Vietnam twice and will be heading back in November. November 2005 we stayed at the Ana Mandara in Nha Trang for 7 nights - it was as beautiful as we could have hoped for; spa services, food, our gorgeous ocean view bungalow - we were not disappointed by anyone or anything during our entire LL package week. We flew from Saigon to Nha Trang on Vietnam Airlines - everything on time, no problems. A local guide in Nha Trang (our German friends had used his services during our 1999 visit and highly recommended him) and a driver took us into the Central Highlands for 3 nights (total cost of tour guide and driver was $150) We were able to visit small ethnic villages where we were welcomed because our guide is a photographer and whenhe comes through he always has pictures for thelocal folks that he had taken on the previous visit. Our visit in 2005 included our participation in the delivery of some of the 280 wheelchairs that we donated to Vietnam through the Wheelchair Foundation. The NGO that handled the distribution ceremonies and home deliveries and made the arrangements for our participation, SAPP-HCMC (Sponsoring Assn. for Poor Patients), did an amazing job. We gained so much confidence in the good works of SAPP that we have since arranged for annual scholarships for 100 children through the foundation Educate the Children and they are administered by SAPP. Through Room to Read we have donated the funds to build two preschools which should be well under way or completed by time of our visit. If we had not travelled to the small ethnic villages, we would not have realized the desparate needs of the children. Our November visit will includean LL package at the Furama in DaNang. We're looking forward to seeing the nearby Marble Mountain again and the town of HoiAn, which we visited in 1999. We'll go visit the HoiAn tailorwhocustom made gorgeous silk shirts for my husband, $8.00 each. Prices have probably increased alot since 1999, but I'm confident HoiAn is still the place the have silk clothes made.I highly recommend visiting Hue and going on a Perfume River boat tour to the tombs of the emperors. We found we liked thefood and people more in South Vietnam than in the North, but we thoroughly enjoyed Halong Bay and Honoi. The Central Highlands and the Dalat areaare breathtakingly beautiful.
Welcome to the community! Your trip sounds wonderful, you really got to know members of the community and were able to give back. How did you become involved in the foundations you mention? Was the wheelchair donation pre-arranged before you traveled out to Vietnam?
Our schedule is tight and packed with places we want to go, but I'd love to take some time to give back in some way. Maybe through the Ponheary Ly Foundation when we are in Cambodia. IThere is such a juxtaposition in some of these impoverished countries - India, China, Peru - between the fancy hotels where the tourists stay and the real-life living conditions of the locals. It's really hard mentally to come to terms with it and I'm not sure of the best way to deal with it - I mean, these hotels and resorts and sights are fabulous! but you walk out the door and see so many who could use your help.
Yes,that is the organization I mentioned. The foundation and website were actually put together by a woman visitor from Texas after she spent time in Cambodia. It is a great way to donate because 100% of any money goes directly to the kids. Ponheary arranges everything herself, even measuring the kids for uniforms. She is also a wonderful tour guide. As fascinating as the ruins of Angkor Wat were, we found her stories of surviving the khmer rouge even more riveting. A fascinating, wonderful women....I'm sure you'll enjoy spending time with her.
If you visit Room to Read's website you can see if any of the dates they offer to visit their schools/libraries will coincide with your visit. We were very inspired by John Wood, founder of Room to Read, when we met him at a fundraiser in Chicago.
Wheelchair Foundation also has an excellent website. We started out with $75.00 donations for a single wheelchair, but then decided to donate an entire container of 280. Wheelchair Foundation handled everything as far as getting the wheelchairs to Vietnam and then SAPP-HCMC handled the distribution. We made all our travel arrangements and then let Wheelchair Foundtion and SAPP know. SAPP arranged to pick us up at our Saigon hotel and took us on a truly memorable day in the Mekong Delta area,including a distribution ceremony where about 30 people received their wheelchairs, several home deliveries, a wonderful lunch with SAPP and the local communist party officials (very nice people, no talk of politics) and a boat tour to an interesting island. In Nha Trang the same was arranged, with a local TV crew following us to video the home deliveries and the distribution ceremony. One of the home deliveries was to a 10 year old boy who lived in a rooftop shack with his sister and mother. That little boy and his sisterare two of the 100 scholarship recipients that we are helping to fund through Educate the Children.
Educate the Children is a foundation that a friend of ours, Prem Advani, created to help educate children around the world. They also have a website.
We are now very commited to incorporating our luxury travel with helping to change the lives of those who are much less fortunate. Through the above organizations we have really been able to make a difference in the lives of many people in Vietnam and we have the added benefit of getting to see how our efforts are improving those lives. Through these same organizations we hope to do the same in Cambodia, which we will also visit in November.