FAQ Thread for Vietnam
Replies: 149 - Last Post: Dec 15, 2010 8:18 PM Last Post By: Zif
Apr 22, 2009 10:24 PM
The best maps you can buy for Vietnam is a recently published road atlas
Tap Ban Do Gia Thong Duong Bo VIETNAM, Nha Xuat Ban Ban Do
Vietnam Road Atlas, Cartographic Pubilshing House (first edition) (undated, 2008?)
Most maps are 1:500 000, which means 1cm = 5km, with some larger scale 1:160 000 maps around Hanoi and Saigon. Many minor roads are not shown, nor are the newest highways which are being built all the time.
May 8, 2009 4:48 AM
136VEGETARIAN FOOD IN HUE AND HOI AN
Vegetarian food in Hue:
Bo De, 11 Le Loi. A completely vegetarian restaurant providing very good food at unbelievably low prices, though a bit hard to find as it is out of the normal tourist run of restaurants. (Between the two bridges, on the river side).
Vegetarian food in Hoi An:
We couldn't find anywhere that was purely vegetarian, and most restaurants have vegetable dishes. However, Hong Phuc, 86 Bach Dang, had a much better selection than most, the food was delicious, and the portions were very big. The restaurant is right on the river, so, especially from the upstairs balcony, a pleasant place to eat on a hot day.
Jun 2, 2009 2:32 AM
137Saigon as of 14.05.2009.
From Tan Son Nhat Airport (Saigon) one can easily pick up an inter-city local bus for Dong 3,000 (No. 152 - blue color) in front of the entrance to arrival hall that goes into the city and stop at Ben Thanh Station across the famous Ben Thanh market which is about 15 minutes walk passing Park 23-9 to back packer’s haven the Pham Ngu Lao Street.
Local inter-city bas with air-condition in general is affordable at Dong 3,000 per trip anywhere (look out for bus stop sign post at road side) or from bas station at such as Ben Thanh Station at District 1 and Mien Tay Station at Bihn Tan District.
The routes of Bus 152 to Ben Thanh starts at Tan Son Nhat Airport > Trouong Son > Phan Dihn Giot > Doung Nguyen Van Troi > Doung Nam Ky Khoi Nghia > Doung Pasteur > Nguyen Thi Minh Khai > Dai Lo Nguyen Thai Hoc in this sequence.
During the entire journey the bas will passed Houng Van Thu Park and Mien Dong Nam Bo Museum at Phan Dihn Giot street in Tan Bihn District and Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, Southern Women’s Museum, Tan Dinh market and War Evidence Museum at Doung Nam Ky Khoi Nghia of District 3. In District 1, the famous Reunification Palace, Tao Dan Park along Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street, park 23-9 and and Ben Thanh Market along Pham Hong Thai street.
Foreign exchange rate at the airport on arrival is in favor of the merchant – Dong 17,800 to a Dollar. However is advisable to convert a small amount to help you to get to a much favorable location. At Ben Thanh station, walk behind Ben Thanh market and ask a few jewellery shops for good rate at Dong 18,200/dollar.
Good free city map is obtainable from international hotel such as New World Hotel Saigon at Le Lai Street of District 1 across Park 23-9 or Windsor Plaza Hotel at An Duong Vuong Street in District 5 (china town). For larger map a piece can be easily purchased at any tourist office for Dong 8,000 eg. Central Post Office off Dong Khoi Street opposite to Notre Dame Cathedral.
Lonely Planet is sold every where on the street by street peddler at a higher premium then book store.
Park 23-9 is always filled with people. Come in the evening after working hours and you will see family with children, youth and elderly enjoying their shuttlecock game famous pass time sport. Street peddlers are selling it at US$ 1/pc but can be negotiated to 2 pieces.
Speak Vietnamese for “Thank You” is Cam On pronounce as Come Onnnn. Best use all the time when you speak to the Vietnamese. Many young people are learning English and you will not have any problem if you are desperate to speak to some one. Else try the “xe oms” driver (motorbike) who speak “tourist” English. The reply is “Khong Co Chi” meaning "you are welcome". Excuse me is “Xin Loi”. Good morning, good afternoon and good evening are always greeted by "Xin Cao".
Aug 3, 2009 8:30 PM
Aug 3, 2009 10:56 PM
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Oct 8, 2009 1:06 AM
140I quite agree with Hongha, & would like to share information to overland from Laos to Vietnam as follow:
***Donsavanh (or Lao Bao)***
- Connects Sepon (Laos) and Dong Ha (Quang Tri, Vietnam), followed Highway No.9.
- Tourist buses Savannakhet - Hue depart daily at 10pm, serving Dong Ha (US$7 per person, 329km), Hue (US$9 per person, 409km) or Danang (US$11 per person, 508km). Coming in the other direction, buses at Hue depart at 6am or 6pm daily, cost US$15 per person and take 13 hours. Shop around Savannakhet or Hue for good deals.
- Alternatively, take local buses from Savannakhet (US$3 per person, 255km, 5 hours, leave at 7am and noon) or Sawngthaew (pick-up truck - US$3 per person, 210km, 4 hours, leave regularly) to Sepon, spend a night there before the next morning bus to the border. Across the border on foot, then continue 20-minute walking or take xe om (renting motorbike with driver - VND10,000 per person) to Lao Bao Bus station for departing Hue or Danang.
**Nam Phao (or Cau Treo)**
*Near Lak Sao (30km east - Laos), Tha Kaek (200km - Laos) and Ha Tinh (Vietnam), Vinh (96km - Nghe An, Vietnam), followed Kaew Neua Pass (734m) and Highway No.8.
- Daily bus Vientiane - Hanoi takes about 24 hours, and costs US$20-25 per person, depended on your bargain skills and where to buy (backpacker streets in Vientiane or Hanoi).
- Alternatively, take local buses to Lak Sao, and sawngthaew (US$1 per person, 45 minutes, leave regularly) to the border, then looking for transportation to Vinh (US$15-25 per person).
- Near Phonsavan (80km west - Laos) and Vinh (200km northwest), the most remote crossing - an endurance test and a half.
- From Phonsavan, take local buses (20,000k per person, 4 hours, leave severally) or charter a private car (US$30) to Nong Haet. Catch any local transports to the border with about 5,000k per person. On Vietnamese side, grab xe om to Muang Xen (VND50,000 per person) then wait for bus to Vinh (US$2 per person, 7 hours, and leaves when full).
Near Luang Prabang (Laos) and Dien Bien Phu (Dien Bien, Vietnam ), followed Highway No.279. It’s newly opened up for tourists. We will keep updated on its news.
Please be noted that at some remote border crossings, you will find hassles in renting vehicles to get from point to point. Daily buses Vientiane - Hanoi and Savannakhet - Hue seem the only comfortable service for tourists.
Oct 10, 2009 8:15 PM
141I would like to share some information about Vietnam traditional music - "Cheo" with its history as below:
Long before the 10th century when performances are first mentioned in the record, ancient Viet tradition such as sung storytelling, shamanistic propitiation and call-and-response dialogue songs had influenced the development of hat cheo (popular theatre), a distinct theatrical art with clearly defined characterization and plot.
Traditionally performed in the Red River Delta villages during festivals and holidays, Cheo was set to popular northern folk tunes and featured songs and declamation written in popular language, riddled with proverbs and sayings. Cheo includes dancing, singing, music and literature from tales.
Part of the abiding appeal of Cheo was that while it taught traditional values such as filial devotion, good morals, justice, benevolence, courage and courtesy, it was always essentially satirical and anti-establishment in nature.
Cheo may move the spectators to tears or laughter identified as optimistic, smart, intelligent and mischievous with a clear sense of humanity.
This form of art reflects the desire for happiness and a harmonized society where human rights are protected and the good will always wins the evil. Some of the most popular plays through generations are Quan Am Thi Kinh, Luu Binh Duong Le, Chu Mai Than and Kim Nham, etc. These plays are classified as precious treasures of the nation's "popular theatre".
Dec 6, 2009 6:20 PM
Since Hongha hasn't reply you and I have chatted with some tourists coming to Hanoi from Laos, I can give you some tips:
- You have to get Vietnamese visa before crossing any borders (get the tourist visa type C1 - 1month)
- If you are travelling by bus to Vietnam then you can choose to cross the Cau Treo border (near Vinh - middle of Vietnam) or Nam Can border (short way to Hanoi). If you plan to travel from North to South, I would recommend you crossing the Nam Can border.
- You may have to spend 2 - 3 hours at the border for checking in
Dec 11, 2009 9:14 AM
Herewith some updated information, including scams in Hanoi
From Noi Bai airport to the old quarter (centre of Hanoi):
1. Noi Bai taxi costs 250,000vnd (including tolls)
2. Shuttle bus costs ~36,000vnd
3. Public bus No.7 costs 7,000vnd/1 person (from Noi Bai airport to Kim Ma bus station) then change to public bus No.9 costs 5,000vnd/1 person (from Kim Ma bus station to Hoan Kiem Lake)
Scams and advices
1. If you request to go to the hotel/guesthouse that you want or recommended on the LonelyPlanet guide book, the Noi Bai taxi driver or the Shuttle bus driver often take you to another hotel/guesthouse. On the way, those drivers call somebody and ask him/her to stand on the street with the cards of the hotel/guesthouse that you want to go to, he/she pretend to be one of the staff of that guesthouse and apology you that the hotel/guesthouse is full and he/she will recommend you relative's hotel/guesthouse. Those hotels/guesthouses are always unknown or not recommended by the LonelyPlanet guide books and the prices are higher so please be aware of this scam. You may want to book the airport taxi with the hotel/guesthouse that you want to stay with the same price and make sure you arrive at the right place.
2. There are some websites which belong to some unknown travel companies, advertising some hotels/guesthouses recommended by LonelyPlanet. Those websites allow you to book or make reservation for those hotels/guesthouses or some tours online with the condition of prepay fully/ deposite for the booking by transferring the money to their account. Finally, once you arrive at the hotel/guesthouse, the price of the rooms and tours are much cheaper. Some of the websites even make you confused by booking online, you may understand you make the reservation directly with the hotels/guesthouses but in fact you book through someone else so please be careful with those websites as there will be some other surprises when you arrive at the hotel/guesthouse. I suggest you should book directly with the hotels/ guesthouses by call directly to the phone number or email them at their email address base on the guide books, not something you find on www.google.com
That's all for now and I will definately come back with more value information,
Jan 26, 2010 2:18 AM
Research from last week did not show any on arrival Vias facilities for Australians. They did show for Uk USA citizens. Reading the Australian Vietnamese Embassey website does not discuss on arrival Visas. There is only the instruction to complete forms (available off web site) and then post with application fee ($A75.00) and post with photos and Passport to their Embassey in CAnberra. Or apply in person at Sydney.
Cheers - hope this helps peter_qld.
Feb 18, 2010 1:58 AM
145Some experiences from my journey by train from Nanning to Hanoi on Jan 22 2010.
Counter 16 at Nanning trainstation serves international tickets and refunds = you'll share the queu with all those who want their money back. If you are Cambodian or Thai,the guy at the counter may tell you that you need a visa and in order to confirm this he'll show you a paper where it's clearly written that ASEAN-citizens don't need any visa. If you're westerner and have a visa or don't need any he will fix your tixet in about 30 minutes because he will grab all chances to interrupt the job by doing more important things such as changing money with other officials or having a chat.
the train leaves at 18:45 sharp and you maybe find it very cozy in your berth. But at the chinese border you will have to leave the train for one hour for a refreshing waiting room.But then,when reentering your compartment with the chinese exit stamp in your passport,you can relax until you get to the vietnamese border 30 min later. There you have to leave the train again in the middle of the night waiting for your passport . After one hour the borderpolice will return your passport by calling for you ,pronouncing your name in correct vietnamese. But they will show your passport in the counter-window. Then finally you can get a nap until 5 am when the train stops at a station ca 5 Km outside Hanoi. But don't worry, in the dark wait some taxis and they will drive you downtown for only 300% overprice.
May 22, 2010 2:02 AM
146I have just returned from a 10 day trip up to Dong Van/Meo Vac area of Northern Vietnam and thought I would write a quick review. I met a number of people who knew both this area and the region around Sapa and considered this to be significantly superior. This for me was the most spectacular scenery I have seen anywhere in South East Asia(I have spent time in Thailand/Laos/Cambodia and Burma) and still very few tourists. Thanks to Larsay for his advice also on the Thorntree on the 02nd Dec – it was invaluable and hopefully this will add to it. In ten days visiting Ha Giang, Meo Vac, Dong Van, Bao Lac, Cao Bang and Babe Lake we only saw 10 Westerners. The best description I heard was that Sapa is like the Alps and Meo Vac/Dong Van resembles the Italian Dolomites. Roads seem to be having massive investment and were a great deal better than any of the guide books suggested. One of the more interesting things we noticed was that Hanoi/Halong Bay were invariably dank, grey and miserable at this time of year (January) whereas the area close to the Chinese border seemed to have a different microclimate (we had glorious weather the whole time we were up there + we met someone who had been up there for 2 weeks and felt exactly the same)
We initially took a 7 hour bus from Hanoi to Ha Giang. We obtained our permits very easily in Ha Giang (although we had to persuade them that it was quite acceptable to travel around without a guide) and then bussed it north spending the next three nights in Meo Vac. Can’t remember the name of it but there is a really decent hotel(not in the guide book) at the final bus stop. Bear in mind from a public transport point of view Meo Vac is a dead end. There are also buses from Ha Giang to Dong Van but even though they are only 20kms apart there is no transport between the two. It is possible to hire a motorbike and driver if you wanted to but for most freedom get your own scooter and do it yourself.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon in time for the markets the following morning. These always take place on a Sunday so are easy to put into a schedule. It is perfectly possible to visit both Meo Vac and Dong Van markets in the same day and well worth doing as they are both quite different. Arguably Dong Van is the best with the superior location surrounded by spectacular peaks. Each town is about 20kms separated by one of the most spectacular roads anywhere in South East Asia. Loved the way that the market was split into so many different sections – livestock section was superb with pigs arriving tied to the back of motorbikes and the cutest puppies. Market had the most relaxed feel people so happy to have their photos taken and never wanted any money for it.
The following day we hired motorbikes and headed back to Dong Van – short 20 minute climb behind the town is an old fort – very easy paved route to the top. From the top there are the most sensational views down to the town below and right across the surrounding area. We then continued to the border village of Lung Cu about 30km away. Yet more stunning roads, vicious drop-offs and incredible limestone pinnacles. The border village has lovely views across to China and a simply enormous statue and flag. This was some of the best motorbiking I have ever done – constant photo opportunities. It is necessary to drive carefully but is perfectly safe as there is very little traffic on the roads and no real motor bike experience is needed.
A nice day trip through the best scenery in the region would go Meo Vac-Dong Van-Lung Cu and back again. Bear in mind journey times take a lot longer than you think around here – this journey was no more than 150kms but took us all day with sightseeing stops. You could use Meo Vac as a base for a few days and do some magical motorbiking as there are so many exquisite journeys.
We now wanted to cut across to Cao Bang – all guidebooks suggested the roads were awful and it was really tough motorcycling – simply not the case so many of the roads have been massively improved and journey times have been cut dramatically. We didn’t want to bike it – so we hired a car and driver for $40 who took us to Bao Lac. Here there are one or two buses a day coming through from Ha Giang. You may have to change bus or stay the night at Bao Lac but either way there is quite a choice of transport. (We were thinking we would have to hitchhike but really no need). As there is no public transport from Meo Vac and hitchhiking seemed a pretty futile exercise the only option seemed to be head back to Ha Giang and bus it from there or do as we did and get a driver to take us to Bao Lac.
Scenery through across Bao Lac and down to Cao Bang was superb (although nothing we saw quite beat the views around Dong Van). Plenty of accommodation in Bao Lac and again in Cao Bang.
In Cao Bang we hired motorbikes again and headed to the Ban Gioc waterfalls – not sure about permits for this region (we never got them) Its about 100kms to the Falls – wide roads so easy to put your foot down – Lots of “Halong Bay inland” scenery. The Falls were excellent even at this time of year when they are a bit drier. We also visited the nearby Nguom Ngao Cave which was interesting and only 4kms from the Falls. We did a nice circuit from Cao Bang to the Falls via Quang Yen and then back via Tra Linh – this will save you backtracking and the roads are pretty good.
Finally we went onto Babe National Park. We heard rumours that there was a direct bus from Cao Bang but never found it – so caught the bus to Na Phac and then hitchhiked in from there. Below is some info from Larsay on the Thorntree on the 02nd Dec which we followed to the letter. We stayed with Mr and Mrs Duy Tho who are very hospitable – he gave us a map (you really need one to do the trek as mentioned below) Mr Duy Tho took us to the start of the trek in his boat and we arranged for him to meet us a day and a half later. We then took the tougher trek which Larsay mentions which is steep but not too bad. Bear in mind even with a local map there are so many distracting paths so you have to keep asking the locals and even then at times the route is fairly confusing .
Finally we took the 6am bus out which conveniently comes right past Mr Duy Tho’s house.
Hopefully some people will find this useful.
Info from Larsay about Babe:
In Po Lu, numerous guesthouses (Ngha Ngi) reserved to Vietnamese.
In a Thai house in Pac Ngoi. The villagers welcome you in their stilted houses for 50 000- 60 000 dongs (breakfast 20 000 and diner 60 000). I recommend the house of Mr. and Mrs. Duy Tho, (tel. 0328 389 4133), the last in the village before the bridge. Wonderful people with a rare sense of hospitality, real beds, common showers, and, above all, Mrs. Duy Tho is a real Cordon Bleu: sumptuous diners served by their charming daughters. Free bicycles for a ride alongside the river (many small delightful river beaches for a very pleasant swim). Mr Duy Tho has his own boat (450 000 dong) for the next day amazing excursion.
WHAT TO SEE
A magnificent day on a boat starting with the south-north crossing of the whole lake and as short ride up the canyon of the Nang River, to the stupendous Hang Phuong Grotto, in fact a 300m-long by 30m-high tunnel that the river has dug through the lime mountain. The boat then goes down the river to the Dau Dang Waterfalls, a small village where you have a wonderful lunch in the house of Pirate, famous as the best chef in the region (try her smoked sausages, they are out of this world).
FOR THE ADVENTURERS
I thought for a long time that there were spectacular things to see in the mountains north of Dau Dang; I did not make a mistake! Here is the itinerary (minimum 2 days of trekking):
The boat takes you to the grotto and then stops near a small river that you follow up to a bridge; at the small village before the bridge, don’t forget to buy beer, coffee, and sugar for the stay in the local village (nothing there except tea and rice alcohol), unless you like to drink that for breakfast, lunch, and diner. Take the trail that goes up the hill on your left, direction: the Dao village of Cao Truong. The climb is not very steep, and the scenery more and more beautiful. There are many trails, so, do not hesitate to say “Cao Chouong” to the people you meet, they will point the direction). After about 3-4 hours, you arrive in a rather large valley of rice fields; at the end of the valley, the post-card village of Cao Trung. You stay at the house of the Village Chief, Mr Trung (tel.: 028 3122 12422); comfortable beds, cold shower outside (you can ask that they heat water in a basin), Turkish toilets, for 50 000 dong per person. Correct meals (same price) –with rice alcohol, that Mr Trung seems to like very much. Those people are poor, so, anything you can bring –sugar, salt, tea, pens and book-notes for the kids, etc.- is welcome.
2) The next day, continue the trail and stay on your left to climb to H’mong houses, through a sweeping scenery of mountains and deep valleys. The H’mongs have a wonderful sense of hospitality, and will invite you for lunch, though they have just the bare essential; give them 50 000 dong –they will refuse, but please insist. Back to the river the same way (call Mr. Duy Tho 1h before arriving at the river, so that you don’t have to wait for too long before being back in Pac Ngoi). ATTENTION: plan so that you don’t arrive back at the river when it’s dark, because the boats have no lights and won’t go on the lake at night.
3) Fantastic for real trekkers: leave early (7h30) and continue the trail from Mr. Trung’s house. Keep walking west for about 3 hours, until you reach a very large valley. Cross that valley and, on the other side, south to reach the cliffs overlooking the river (you will get lost in a maze of trails, so, just say “Dau Dang” to the locals you meet, and they will point the direction). The trail climbs alongside the cliff and reaches a “pass”; the descent down the river alongside the river side of the cliff is a 1-hour hell RESERVED TO EXPERIENCED, IN-SHAPE TREKKERS. Just follow the trail; don’t try to cut on your right, thinking that you will reach the river earlier; it all ends up with 200-300m of sheer cliff. You arrive 15mn walk before Dau Dang (on your left). Have a beer there, and then negotiate for a boat back to Pac Ngoi (150 000 dong if you are lucky).
Jul 9, 2010 6:48 AM
147For veggies in HCMC, head to Zen in Pham Ngu Lo- fantastic wheat tofu, red rice and that rarest of things, a vegetarian hotpot
Sep 24, 2010 7:59 PM
148update for crossing from Nanning (China) to Hanoi (Vietnam) from september 2010:
from Nanning to Hanoi are there generally two options:
1. direct buses leaving Nanning at 7:30 8:00 8:20 8:40 from Nanning International Tourism Distribution Centre (mentioned in LP) in walking distance from train station (or Lotusland hostel, one of two budget hostels in Nanning), journey takes altogether about 8hrs and you will arrive about 2km south from Hoan Kiem Lake (no problem walk there), price 148RMB (inc. in price of bus ticket are breakfast with cakes, milk, water and fruit), you can buy tickets on Chaoyang Lu close to the train station, look for Longdang bus station ticket office (there is a lot of travel agency, look for Longdang in name)
2. direct overnight train leaving Nanning at evening 18:45, journey should take about 12hrs, price of ticket is 150RMB, it's not very popular, I've met travellers who haven't problems to buy ticket for this sleeper train same day as was departure
there are also direct buses from Nanning to Halong Bay, but dunno price, leaving from same place as buses to Hanoi, you can buy tickets on Chaoyang Lu
ad vietnamese visa in Nanning (China)
prices for vietnamese visa are 380RMB (3days), 480RMB (2days), 580RMB (same day visa), some accommodations (Lotusland hostel, Nanning city hostel, both of them are on Hostelworld) can arrange visa service for you for free, you are really paying only price from vietnamese embassy, you just give them passport, one passport photo and money and that's all, just wait for your visa
Dec 15, 2010 8:18 PM
149As of today, at least, the Vietnamese Consulate in HK doesn't offer regular next-day express service, only 15-minute express service for HK$500 (though you can pick up your passport the next day, if you wish). Regular service -- whatever it costs -- means in on Thursday, ready on Tuesday. No notices posted at the consulate about fees, you have to ask; there is a fee notice on the website, but the amounts are curiously illegible.
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