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Advice on Vietnam in Feb please

(22 Posts)
YoDiggity Sat 16-Nov-13 09:55:09

We are flying to Ho Chi Minh City in early Feb for two weeks. We have decided we will probably concentrate on the south and the centre of the country as the weather will be a bit dodgy in the north and we don't want to bite off more than we can chew - it's such a big place and not easy or painless to get from A to B by the looks of it. If we love it we will plan to go back and do the north another time.

Main questions: We will be there over Tet, the Vietnamese new year and there is a four day long public holiday. I am not sure what will and won't be open as I keep hearing conflicting reports about this. Any experiences?

I have no idea how long we should be planning on spending in HCMC, especially given the Tet issue - should we just stay for a day or two then fly straight out to a beach resort? I must admit I'm not that fussed about the sound of HCMC - I really wanted to do was go to Hanoi and Halong Bay but it hasn't worked that way this time, although I could still fly up and do Hanoi if it's really worthwhile and there is not enough in the south to sustain our interest. I just don't know!!! confused

And which beach resorts are the nicest in the south, or the centre?

We don't want a totally beach based holiday but we do want some laid back down time, and I don't want to run myself ragged zooming all over the place and spending half the time on a plane/train etc. The perfect thing would be laid back, interesting and authentic little towns with lots to do and see, but that benefit from a costal location.

Has anyone done a Mekong Delta boat cruise, either o/night or a day trip?

We will definitely fly up to Da Nang and go to Hoi An and probably Hue, but where else in that centre region is really worth staying? What about Nha Trang? Everywhere seems so spread out, I'm finding it really hard to know where to start!


YoDiggity Sat 16-Nov-13 16:12:19


nola78 Sat 16-Nov-13 19:51:18

Sounds like we are in the same boat - we are looking to go in May next year and all the tour operators just want to make a buck and not really listen to what we want! And there is so much to see and try and choose from. All we do know is we want to see Halong Bay - but have been told its really just a day trip. So confusing!!!

YoDiggity Sun 17-Nov-13 05:25:23

I would definitely love to go to Halong Bay (I think you can stretch it to two or three days on a cruise on one of the converted rice barges, I've read some great reviews but you need to be careful who you book.) and Sapa, to visit the ethnic hill tribes which looks fascinating and beautiful, but in Feb it will be too cold and foggy for those trips to be at all worthwhile. May should be perfect for that.

We've booked our flights now, for better or worse, and I'm hoping I haven't made a huge mistake! Since booking I've read so many posts on the Trip Advisor forum say that Saigon and Hanoi will be like ghost towns during Tet (well it's like Christmas Day for four days so I guess that figures!) and that the coastal resorts in the south where it will be hot enough to just flop on a beach until Tet is over will be overrun by locals escaping Saigon for the long public holidays. We are already struggling to find a hotel anywhere on Phu Quoc Island and we've been warned of Mui Ne as it will be heaving with locals being the nearest beach to Saigon.

We are now looking at Nha Trang towards the centre of the country but most reports say seems to have turned into Benidorm for surly Russians in recent years so I'm finding it hard to get wildly enthusiastic. confused

I am sure it will all be fabulous whatever, but at the moment I'm beginning to wish I'd just gone back to Thailand. grin

YoDiggity Sun 17-Nov-13 05:27:11

I have found some excellent websites for info though, even if you don't book with them they give some great ideas for itineraries and lots of in depth info.


MabelBee Sun 17-Nov-13 05:55:58

I haven't done loads of Vietnam but did nip across the border from Cambodia for a bit of beaching on Phu Quoc island which was gorgeous! You could catch a ferry at the other end of your Mekong exploring, from Rach Gia. I suppose this would be weather dependent as it is tucked under Cambodia, further west than Vietnam. Very idyllic. We did it on a whim so found a beach hut on arrival but found it quite booked up. It was December though.

YoDiggity Sun 17-Nov-13 06:16:42

Funnily enough I have literally just come to the conclusion that I will fly into HCMC and fly straight out again to Siem Reap and see Angkor Wat, as there is no disruption to Cambodia - their new year falls in April this year! And it will save e a ton of money as well, as everything is very expensive in Vietnam over Tet.

I'll fly back in after about 3 or 4 days, maybe do some Meekong Delta once the Tet disruptions subside, spend a day or two in HCMC while it's still quietist but at least open, then fly up to Hoi An or Dalat I think.

Phew! It's coming together!

hellokittymania Sun 17-Nov-13 06:56:16

I have lived in Vietnam for 7 years. It is true regarding Tet. Everything closes, is expensive and booked out. Your idea sounds good, just be sure to get a multiple entry visa for Vietnam. You can either apply online using vietnam visa pro or get it through the embassy.

Central Vietnam can be cold and rainy during winter months, Hue is known for it's rainy weather. It is worth a visit, though. The caves in Quang Binh are lovely, but it depends on the weather. Da Nang has a cable car at Ba Na,

Da Lat is very popular with Vietnamese tourists, but very scenic and if you like coffee, this is the place to go.

hellokittymania Sun 17-Nov-13 07:08:57

Hue Festival 2014

Nola, it's a shame you'll miss this.

If you are in HCM City for Lunar New Year's Eve, there is a huge fireworks display. I like seeing the activity before Tet, the flower streets are beautiful and markets sell special foods for Tet. It gets very crowded though.

hellokittymania Sun 17-Nov-13 07:18:25

Yo, are you ok on small planes? I think HCM-Da Lat is an ATR. You can always take a sleeper bus if not.

hellokittymania Sun 17-Nov-13 12:44:42

be careful btw.

Ask your hotel about prices before you take a cyclo/taxi/motorbike and please take Mai Linh taxis if you can. Agree on the price beforehand if you take a cyclo/motorbike and watch the meters in taxis. People in Vietnam are generally nice, but there are plenty of scams.

Also, if the cyclo driver tells you something is closed/far, etc, ask a local. Many drivers say this even if the restaurant is open and across the street in an alley.

Yo, if you have been to Thailand, you probably know how to bargain. smile Don't be afraid to do so in Vietnam.

YoDiggity Sun 17-Nov-13 13:57:15

That's all very helpful hellokitty thank you so much. I am not that great on tiny planes but I'll just have to grit my teeth and bare it otherwise I'll never see all the interesting small places. Or the Maldives for that matter. grin

I wouldn't be 100% relaxed on a sleeper bus either, so at least the plane will be over quicker!

I know what you mean about taxi drivers telling you places are closed, we had that a lot in Bangkok, from taxis and tuktuks. They just can't be bothered to take you if it's too near or they don't think they'll get a fare back.

I'm thinking I will give Hue a miss as all the reviews say it is full of really pushy touts, so will probably go to Dalat and definitely Hoi An. Just depends on how easy it is to get from place to place.

hellokittymania Sun 17-Nov-13 14:43:16

I am based in Hue so know the place very well. There are good places like the Mandarin Restaurant where you can book tours, eat well and see really nice photography. I am visually impaired and took my friend (who is totally blind) there when she visited. Mr. Cu, the ownetook about 190 photos of us and made CDs for us both (for free). He and the guide tried to find hands-on stuff for us. I forgot what his website is called, but he is definitely not a tout. Hue has a lot of tombs, pagodas, the citadel, a hot spring nearby. It is a city with a lot of history. Both General Giap and Ho Chi Minh went to school in Hue and you have kings like Minh Mang (fathered over 140 children!) who lived here.

Yes, I understand about the buses. Da Lat is only reachable by road or plane. I took a day bus to Da Lat last year and it took 8 hours. I forgot to mention that Da Lat can feel quite chilly. Bring warm clothes! Are you comfortable on motorbikes? Going with an easyrider for the day might be something to think about.

Hoi An is super if you want clothes made. Just make sure to find a decent tailor. Hoi An is very touristy, but I quite like it. You can stay at a nice hotel for a few days near the beach. As mentioned though, the weather can be touch and go. Some years it is sunny and mild, s some years it can get as low as 12 C and rains....

I'm glad you weren't here this week. Awful floods!

hellokittymania Sun 17-Nov-13 14:51:46

I hope you understood that I meant there are no trains going to Da Lat! It's late here. grin

What sort of hotel are you looking for?

hellokittymania Sun 17-Nov-13 15:05:52

If you do visit Hue, pay a visit to the fortune teller

My friend is due to give birth....if it's a boy I will bring the fortune teller 20,000 VND. grin Or brew

charleybarley Sun 17-Nov-13 15:35:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hellokittymania Sun 17-Nov-13 15:46:09

Charley, I love La Residence. The pool is amazing and so is the breakfast buffet. smile

hellokittymania Sun 17-Nov-13 15:50:04

Charley, did you have time for the chocolate buffet at the Metropole? grin

SpencerPercival Sun 17-Nov-13 15:52:09

parents went and it was pretty cold! take a thermal

charleybarley Sun 17-Nov-13 16:01:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hellokittymania Mon 02-Dec-13 13:53:06

Yo。 I just read in the news that Tet is from 28th Jan til 5th Feb. It has been extended to 9 days.

I would book your plane ticket to Da Lat or wherever now. If you wait til you arrive I think things will be booked. Same goes for hotel.

TravelLocal Sat 07-Dec-13 10:07:46

Hi Yodiggity

Early February is mixed in Hanoi, but not necessarily bad - it's a coin toss basically. Tet is a pain if you want to tick off particular sights, but it's also rather interesting culturally and you get a feel for what the Vietnamese do to celebrate (it would be a bit like Vietnamese travellers coming to stay in London for Christmas and New Year - theoretically everything's shut, but they see a side of the UK that's quite "local").

The centre - Hue will be wet, but Hoi An will be in the shoulder season between wet and dry. It will be a bit fresh and breezy, but there you have an amazing little town - Hoi An - about 15 minutes from the beach. Depending on budget take a look at the Victoria, or Fusion Maia. There are a few other options too, but not all on the beach itself. In Hoi An there are lots of options. Nha Trang, sadly, is boring and a bit rough. But the weather should be good then. Really the only options worth looking at for beach stay are An Lam Villas, the 6 Senses if you're on a mega budget, or the Ana Mandara on the mainland. Phu Quoc has some good options, but the flights fill up which is a big issue. Mui Ne/Phan Thiet will be over-run with everyone, locals and tourists, plus I don't think it's as good as further north.

On the Mekong cruising side, take a look at the Bassac Boat -

Nola - Halong Bay as a day trip is an absurd suggestion by the companies you have spoken to, and only makes sense if you're on a tight budget. Overnight is definitely the way to go, because you get sunset/sunrise. It's also a welcome break from Hanoi which, though great, is also big and bustling.

On Sapa - Apil / May are the two best months to go. Don't do anything that means you're just in Sapa town and immediate environs - you need to get out into the countryside proper to really get a feel for it.

My top tip for anyone interested in going in the high season is to think about food - Vietnam, Cambodia etc are massiv foodie destinations now. The best restaurants get booked up, and getting the table at the most interesting places is the highlight of many people's trips.

Hope that helps


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