OT: Travel to Vietnam

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listmaker
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OT: Travel to Vietnam

Post by listmaker » 19 October 07 4:21 pm

Anyone been to Vietnam? My younger son is going there with friends for his 21st early next year and I'm after some real-life hints/tips/advice. This will be his first overseas trip; it will be interesting to see how this meat-loving kid who covers his food in tomato sauce goes in another culture. :shock:

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Post by tronador » 19 October 07 9:06 pm

Yes I've been, i spent a month traveling independently in Jan 2002.
Started in Cambodia, then spent 3 weeks in Vietnam.
What sort of things would you like to know?
I flew to Hanoi and started there. Used trains or buses to get from place to place. There is a really great backpacker network set up and the hotels are really cheap and super clean. Tourism was still in it's early stages then but the Vietnamese people were very helpful and always friendly.
The food is fantastic. Tomato sauce? Yuk! You won't find that on any table over there.
if this is his fist OS trip and he needs a bit more back up, has he considered doing a trip with Intrepid or something like that. Still lots of freedom but all the accomodation and transport has been organised for you and you travel with a group.
PM me if you have specific questions.

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listmaker
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Post by listmaker » 19 October 07 10:03 pm

I reckon he's in for a shock regarding food! He's got very fixed ideas about many things, food included.

At this point one of the boys (there are 5 going) has booked their flights only. They know someone who is teaching English there at the moment, and I think they're looking to her for guidance.

I'm wondering if I should buy a Lonely Planet guide, then sit down with them and work out a rough itinerary so they can book accommodation. It would be better if they went there with an organization, I agree - they think it's going to be like when they went to Byron Bay last year.

Thanks - I have got a couple of questions I'd like to pm you.

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Post by pirate 63 » 19 October 07 11:21 pm

aaaargh!,ye' pirates ar' sailin' there next month for a two week cycling tour,from hanio to ho chi min,more than happy to let you know how we got on!

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Post by Papa Bear_Left » 20 October 07 1:35 am

At the very least, head off to a Vietnamese restaurant a couple of times; if he discovers that he really, really hates lemongrass, then he might waste the experience of the trip by eating nothing but McDonalds!

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Post by RapidSupreme » 20 October 07 2:46 am

I spent 3 weeks there last year. As it was my first time O/S and I was by myself so I did an Intrepid tour - couldn't recommend them more highly, cheaper than any other tour company and we had the best local guide you could hope for.
The transport network is pretty good if he travels independently, you can buy a hop on/hop off bus tickets that'll take you from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh or vice versa.
It's pretty well set up for tourists now, even the most basic street cafe will have a menu in English and some of the translations are the funniest thing I've ever read. Make sure he tries some of the local food, especially in Hoi An. It's not that 'out there' and he'll be thankful in the long run.
Send me a PM if you have any other questions

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listmaker
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Post by listmaker » 20 October 07 2:16 pm

Hope you have a great trip, pirate 63, and yes I'd love to hear about it.

Thanks, Papa Bear_Left, that's a great suggestion.

Rapid Supreme, that's the kind of thing I want to know - transport, whether he should at least attempt to learn a little Vietnamese, what sort of food to expect, any special clothing needs, and what sort of minor problems an inexperienced traveller is likely to run into.

He did the passport application yesterday, so that's a good start.

Thanks guys!

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Post by The Spindoctors » 20 October 07 3:36 pm

I spent two weeks there in Sep 2003.

First thing - one of the friendliest and interesting countries I visited.

I'm guessing from what you've said about your son he will be going for fun more than culture.

My suggestions therefore are:
* Drop into the Kangaroo Cafe in Hanoi http://www.kangaroocafe.com/ There are Australians who will help you get the best from your time there. They can help you plan day or o/night trips, including a sleepover in Halong Bay (recommended).

* Take the train down part of Vietnam. I did Hanoi to Hue. A lot of fun, clean, cheap and convenient.

* There is more of party atmosphere in Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh (south). Good to finish up in this region.

* He will probably enjoy a day trip to Cu Chi Tunnels. You crawl through the tunnels used in the war and can fire off a machine gun for $1 a bullet. Make sure it's set to manual not auto, or you'll fork out a king's ransom when you're done.

The language is difficult and being tonal, you can easily make mistakes. E.g. 'ma' can be prnounced six different ways with six different meaning - goat, ghost, mother... Having said that, it's good to learn things like Hello, Thank you, Yes and No.

Overall, he should relax and have a great time.

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listmaker
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Post by listmaker » 20 October 07 11:48 pm

He's definitely looking for fun, Spindoc Bob! I'm hoping that his more studious friend is the one driving the itinerary so that they do see something of the culture of the country.

Thanks for the tips!

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Post by Team Wibble » 21 October 07 6:20 pm

We spent three weeks there late last year.
First up, I'm surprised at the comments about the food. I found Vietnamese food to be about the least "out there" asian food I've ever tried, but then again, I was eating my dad's home cooked kangaroo and black bean stir fries from a young age so it all depends on your perspective.
He'll cope okay as a meat lover though I think. Even better if he likes seafood too. And spring rolls are plentiful for the unadventurous, and will set you back about 50c for a meal's worth.

Although Vietnam is much newer to the tourism game they seem to be very well set up for it, and we found it so much easier than other south east asian countries for getting around, organising tours, etc. The people are very friendly and helpful and don't pester you to buy stuff nearly as much as other nearby countries.

If this is his first trip overseas, the traffic may freak him out a bit. Crossing the road is an experience and it takes awhile to trust that you just have to walk slowly and steadily out into it and the traffic will go around you. Train travel is preferable where ever possible, otherwise keep your eyes shut when in a bus. The reunification express down the coast is clean and efficient, and we did a lot of our travel via that. Their domestic airline is quite good too.

Itinery wise, my advice would be to buy a lonely planet and head over there. Most things can be decided on the go, accommodation is cheap and plentiful and tours are cheaper if booked over there.

Oh, and don't tell him about the fruit wine in the Mekong Delta, and that they sell it to you in recycled 1 litre water bottles for about $1, and that it tastes mostly like ethanol because that's basically what it is :shock:

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listmaker
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Post by listmaker » 22 October 07 2:27 pm

Ethanol, huh? :lol:

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Post by pirate 63 » 30 December 07 9:23 am

aaaargh!,ye' pirates 'ave just come back and loved it,cant wait to go back again.
we were a bit nervous about the food at first so stuck with what we knew when we were in hanoi but when we started going south we stayed in a couple of towns they did'nt even know what american dollars were!,so really we had no choice but to jump straight in and go for what was on the menu and boy what a feast we had and delicious as well and so cheap we were living like kings! the trick is to pick a place that the locals use and is busy so you know the food is going to be fresh,they make the best baguettes we have ever tasted! we even got to like the treacle like coffee so much so that we even brought some back! we only drank bottled water and vietnam is the only country i have ever visited that i did'nt get the runs! i think its only in the north they have dog resturants and they advertise it on a big sign outside so work out what dog is in vietnamese early! Thit Cho! i think by memory?
getting around is so cheap we did every form of transport apart from elephant! we threw are pushys on planes,trains, buses,used boats,taxi,cyclo's we even hired moterbikes for $4 a day!
the people are so happy and friendly,the language barrier was no problem we soon picked up a few key words and had so many laughts interacting with the locals. we noticed that there was huge number of youngsters from all around the globe backpacking and having fun.
i think there is more of a party atomsphere at nha trang for youngsters but dont miss out on the rest of vietnam you wont be sorry.
if you hav any specific questions i try to help you out

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Post by Doobie doo3 » 30 December 07 8:01 pm

i Have been there many times but when i was a bout five or younger (so not to many years ago as i am 12 now). A good tip is to NEVER have ice in your drink. The lonely planet guides are brilliant, definitely worth considering.

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Richary
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Post by Richary » 30 December 07 8:30 pm

I haven't been to Vietnam but did visit Cambodia in 1992 - things were very interesting at that point. 6 weeks for work, with the UN troops.

The one thing I have found about travelling, is check the guidebooks. Lonely Planet apart from being Australlian is brilliant, however the "Rough Guide" ones from Canada are also very worthwhile, and on my last round the world trip 10 years ago - if only geocaching had been invented then - I found had better information on travel between places. Things such as train stations, durations and so on.

The Lonely Planet website is a great resource as well with "forums" like the Thorn Tree where people can ask questions and get answers from other travellers.

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Post by winterdragon » 31 December 07 1:57 am

I'm in Vietnam right now - Hanoi for the last week, and heading to Ho Chi Minh City tomorrow. My brother & sister-in-law have been living here in Hanoi for about 5 years now, so we're spoilt by having local experts when we visit.<br><br>On previous visits I've been to Hanoi, Sapa, Ha Long Bay, Hue, and Hoi An, and can recommend all of them. Sapa was a train trip away from Hanoi (overnight train), but a different place to visit as it's mainly inhabited by minority hill tribes like the H'mong. This is real rice-paddies-in-terraces-on-the-hillsides territory, good for trekking, cycling, etc. Accommodation ranges from backpacker guest houses up to the old French Victoria Hotel Resort (very nice). Ha Long Bay is good for a cruise, very scenic and always featured on the travel shows. Maybe not so exciting for a 21 year old [:)].<br><br>I agree with the wibbles on food, there's plenty of it around, and it ranges from very cheap street food (for the really adventurous) to quite reasonably priced western restaurants/cafes. Don't drink the tap water, but bottled water is cheap (though the beer is sometimes even cheaper). You're probably safe with ice in the better establishments, but avoiding it in your drinks altogether is safest (though at the moment I think some new bugs to fight the ones currently upsetting my tummy may be an option).<br><br>Vietnam is pretty safe for the traveller, and shopping is an experience - in the main tourist areas you'll be fighting off the touts who are continually offering to sell you a range of goods and services. Another tip is to buy a local sim card for your mobile phone - calls and sms are incredibly cheap. I've just bought a prepaid card for about $5 which looks like it has about 20 minutes of peak time talking value. There's plenty of ATMs around Hanoi now, but you can carry some US paper money as well as a backup - a lot of places still accept $US.<br><br>I'd recommend the Lonely Planet books as well (I haven't needed to use the Vietnam one, but the Laos one was excellent!)
<br><br>Anyhow, I'll add my name to the pile of contacts if you have any questions.

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