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Anybody taken family to Vietnam?

(30 Posts)
stuffitllama Tue 24-Feb-09 19:45:19

What do you think? Hanoi or Saigon? Any tips or recommendations?

V v grateful -- thanks in advance. Travelling soon with three children, not tinies, but still a bit [erk] -- they will not be happy with non-stop temples!

stuffitllama Tue 24-Feb-09 19:50:48

bump cos I know you are an adventurous lot

stuffitllama Tue 24-Feb-09 20:03:15

final beg then bedtime

maybe when south east asia wakes up... grin

stuffitllama Wed 25-Feb-09 03:34:34

hello south east Asia -- bumping in hope..

hazlinh Wed 25-Feb-09 04:21:14

heh will watch this thread cos i too am planning a trip to hanoi and saigon in 2010 or maybe 2011 with a y.o.(tho saigon's called ho chi minh now). a friend of mine (who is childless) did hanoi, halong bay and sapa.

another friend of ours (also childless) who has also done vietnam says this:
Like Hanoi for the cool weather and shopping, Halong Bay for the relaxing cruise and kayaking. The tour company in Hanoi where we booked our Halong Bay tour has a private island in Halong Bay so we get to stay one night on the boat and one night on the island. Very quiet and peaceful as there is no other inhabitant on the island except the resort with 6 to 8 chalets!
We like Sapa too for the cool weather and beautiful green mountains and terraced rice fields with colorful tribal people although they could be pretty annoying, trying very, very hard to sell you something, even followed us all the way during our 12 km trek to one of the tribe's village !
Hue is also recommended for a look of old imperial palaces and tombs. Hoi An is a charming little river hamlet with nothing much to see but lots of shopping especially for tailored clothes. Countless tailor shops there !
Saigon is hot and noisy. Motorbikes everywhere. Actually Hanoi too but Saigon is worse. We have seen a couple of tourists with exhaust pipe burnt on their calf ! That's the hazard of walking in Vietnam! Always have to watch out for the motorbikes !
Don't fancy Saigon except if you are a Vietnam War history buff.
So all said, we like the northern part of Vietnam more than the southern side. Dec is definitely a good time to go as the weather up north is cool and pleasant for doing walking tour.


stuffitllama Wed 25-Feb-09 04:28:08

that's great haz -- really great. I've been to Hanoi and loved it but it was without children. But I'm still leaning towards the north esp because I think Halong Bay is so tempting.

That is just v v helpful. We are going (hopefully) this year.

hazlinh Wed 25-Feb-09 04:36:25

oh good. have fun and report back on how u did! how old are the dcs btw?

stuffitllama Wed 25-Feb-09 05:05:34

they'll be ten, 12 and 14 so will be very doable

with a 1yo -- you're brave!

hazlinh Wed 25-Feb-09 05:10:11

ah yes those ages sound very doable

oh not 1 y.o!! i'd be mad to even contemplate it!! dd will be 7 in 2011 or maybe i'll wait til she's older haha

hazlinh Wed 25-Feb-09 05:10:59

sorry i'd made a typo in my earlier post, that's why u thot i'd be taking a 1 yo. apols...blush

stuffitllama Wed 25-Feb-09 05:16:56

i did think oooh intrepid

there's a limit to the temples whatever age I think, but sleeping on a junk in Halong bay -- gives me goosepimples just thinking about it

but am also attracted by the tunnels around Ho Chi Minh )thanks for correction) i think the children would LOVE those

ninedragons Wed 25-Feb-09 05:26:14

We went to Vietnam pre-DD.

Hanoi is ravishing; Ho Chi Minh City is a dump. Would recommend Hanoi with children, as it's on a reasonably small scale, the people are very friendly and there are things that would entertain DCs (don't miss the water puppets).

slim22 Wed 25-Feb-09 06:07:41

Ninedragons that's a bit harsh. Saigon is NOT a dump. Yes, It is a nightmare to cross the street but I always think it's a shame to come all the way to Asia and not experience the buzz of ordinary life in a big city.

Of course I understand you would want to skip that part of the trip when you already live in Asia.

yes if you want to see and hear about vietnam's history then head to the museums & Cu Chi Tunnels.But 2 days is more than enough.

I personally felt very nostalgic in Ho Chi Minh because I grew up in an African country formerly french colony and it was freaky since the urban landscape and general feel of being in a third world country was so eerelie familiar, yet the underlying culture so different. So am biased, admittedly.

However, I agree that you'd better head up north if you are short on time.
Halong bay is a 2 hour drive from Hanoi.

Definitely recommend a trip down to Danang - Hue - Hoi An.

Buda Wed 25-Feb-09 06:11:52

Lived in Saigon/HCMC for 6 years pre-DS. In fact was PG with him when we left.

We didn't do much travelling around VN as I refused to travel Vietnam Airlines unless I had to! Also if we had a break I wanted out of the country for some civilisation.

Can't really recommend anything tho as we left 7 years ago. It has all changed hugely I know.

The Cu Chi Tunnels are interesting - it's a day trip from HCMC.

Not much else to do in HCMC for children really though.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 25-Feb-09 07:53:40

Current FCO advice for travellers to Vietnam

Practically everyone travels around by motorbike as prices of cars are prohibitive to the general populace. Also standards of driving on roads is poor.

stuffitllama Wed 25-Feb-09 09:21:55

Thank you all for taking the trouble to give me help and advice. I appreciate it.

Buda I didn't know that about you. How very interesting.

I think it WILL probably be the North -- sorry Slim! and yes we do already live in an Asian city. Hanoi seems to have the "charm" factor and the children will prefer that to big noisy city. Though I am sure Ho Chi is terrific too, I think for a shorter trip we will try to do more "charm and countryside." Ninedragons though I think you are probably harsh grin your use of the word "ravishing" was a bit of a seller.

I'll find this when I go and I will report back grin

ninedragons Wed 25-Feb-09 22:37:39

Yeah, in fairness I probably am.

But Asia is full of so many more enchanting places that HCMC would be very low on my list of holiday spots.

I always recommend Hanoi and Rangoon to anyone wanting to see colonial Asia, though I haven't been to Rangoon since Typhoon Nagis, so for all I know it's been wiped off the map sad

ninedragons Wed 25-Feb-09 22:41:31

Oooh, and if you're looking for an excellent hotel, book the Sofitel Metropole. There are two Sofitels in Hanoi - the Metropole is one of those Asian grandes dames like Raffles or the Peninsula, and the other one is an apparently fairly charmless modern hotel.

Shortly after we stayed there, there were lots of photos in the press of Angelina there to collect her little boy. For ten seconds I thought it would have been cool to have overlapped, but then I came to my senses and realised that the last thing on earth I would be thrilled about would be to be photographed by paparazzi next to Angelina Jolie in a bikini.

stuffitllama Thu 26-Feb-09 14:58:13


Buda Thu 26-Feb-09 17:23:40

I so agree ninedragons - after all you wouldn't want to make Ms Jolie self-concious next to you would you?? grin

ninedragons Fri 27-Feb-09 04:02:17

Yeah, I would have had to reassure her that I'm very happily married and not the husband-stealing type grin

RockinSockBunnies Sat 28-Feb-09 15:43:25

Hi there,

I went backpacking with DD through Vietnam in 2005 when she was four. We spent a month out there and had a brilliant time.

I'd definitely recommend Hanoi above Saigon. The city is more beautiful, there was more to do with DD and I'm somewhat biased against Saigon because I got mugged there angry

We stayed in the Sofitel for the first few nights (not the Metropole but the other one) but after that, we did the usual backpacker kind of thing. Most places we stayed at were a double/twin room (I'm a lone parent so it was just DD and myself) ensuite and with breakfast included, all for around $10 per night (though that's probably gone up a little by now).

The Water Puppet show was brilliant. We had front row seats and DD adored it. Word of warning though, douse yourself in DEET before you go in as there are zillions of mosquitos buzzing round the water and I got bitten alive (though DD has still never had a mosquite bite in her life envy)

We also went and saw Ho Chi Minh's body lying in state in the Mausoleum - there was a special viewing platform for children and it was a really good place to see. DD was fascinated. You'd need to check the opening times though, as it only opens around once a week IIRC and also his body is shipped to Russia or something once a year to be tweaked and adjusted before returning to Vietnam.

The Vietnamese were very friendly and it was easy to find childcare if I wanted an evening out. There were lovely women in hotels I stayed in who would read to DD and get her to bed whilst I went out for a few hours.

Halong Bay was an amazing place. It's about a half-day bus ride from Hanoi. We stayed on a boat overnight and the scenery was astounding. We swam in the sea, toured limestone caves and met other backpackers on the trip.

Hoi An was another really good place to stay. It's a couple of days' travel from Hanoi by train. We took an overnight sleeper from Hanoi to Hue, then a bus down to Hoi An. The beaches were beautiful, the architecture was brilliant and the town is full of tailors who make up clothes for you for a brilliant price (I got lots made for DD and I and shipped them back to the UK).

DD and I also travelled down to Nha Trang and then to Saigon, but the highlight of the trip for us was really Hanoi and Hoi An. Hue was interesting if you're into the Vietnam War (I'm a complete war obsessive and wrote my dissertation on the subject so dragged DD round war sites and into tunnels etc - fascinating stuff!)

Hope you have an amazing time! DD has typically forgotten most of the trip since she was so little when we were out there, so will have to go again!

stuffitllama Sun 01-Mar-09 04:07:50

Rockin socks how kind of you to give me all this detail. Must have taken you ages. Sounds like you had a fantastic time together and it also sounds like you are VERY adventurous!

The idea of inserting a train journey is an interesting one --- I'd wondered whether it was worth doing the north to south on the train and have decided not.

Sorry about your mugging experience - horrid. It doesn't prejudice me against HCMC smile but I think we are veering north for certain sure.

RockinSockBunnies Sun 01-Mar-09 15:13:50

No problem smile. Hope you have a great time.

Sleeper trains, in case you change your mind, were absolutely fine btw. Safe, secure and comfortable!

Also, we flew Vietnam Airlines from Nha Trang down to Saigon (IIRC - was a while ago!) and had no problems with them. Airfare was about the same price as a train fare for the distance covered and easy to book.

A few other pointers too - depending on the weather, if you find yourselves at a loose end on a rainy day, it's great fun to go get a massage/haircut/manicure etc. I took DD for a haircut and it was so cheap and they were so sweet to her.

There are some great cafes near the lake in the centre of Hanoi. Very nice patisserie and baguettes etc.

Also, if you're interested in going to Halong Bay, we booked our tour with the Kangaroo Cafe in Hanoi. The owner, IIRC, is Australian, married to a Vietnamese lady. They're a mine of information, very friendly, can recommend good local hotels and organise tours around the place. They were also most sympathetic when DD vomited all over their cafe on the morning of our tour blush after she had a weird stomach bug! Here's the link to their website - (it is the genuine one, I checked!)

SalLikesCoffee Sun 08-Mar-09 16:26:56

We've been pre-ds and loved both, but if I had to pick one, I'd go for Hanoi. We went kayaking in Halong Bay, and there were a couple of families with similar aged children as yours. We shared a boat (when kayaking) with a family with 2 sons (I would guess around 8 and 10 years old at the time), and I thought it was such a brilliant thing to do as a family.

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