As you know I was little apprehensive in entrusting the itinerary to anyone else but I have to say the organisation of it all was fantastic. You, the Travel Counsellors team and the Easia company, in Vietnam were all exceptional.
Day 1 to 3 - Silk Path Hotel - Hanoi
Hanoi is simply one of the world’s best cities. It is so vibrant, busy, interesting and fascinating that it could be a holiday destination all by itself. We had originally not booked a guide to show us around the city but on arrival and being met at the airport the guide was very interesting and whetted our appetite. We therefore booked him for some time the following day and he showed us around the sites and sounds of Hanoi. I would definitely recommend a guide as a must for anyone visiting Vietnam for the first time. The whole concept of food and drink is very “unwestern” and can appear a little daunting. A guide shows you how it all works and gives you the comfort and confidence that the locals will embrace you and welcome you in.
The Silk Path Hotel which we stayed in was in a great location and was a great base. A well-furnished hotel with good food and drink.
Day 3 to 5 Trip to Sapa (north Vietnam)
We were picked up from our hotel in Hanoi early evening and transferred to Hanoi Rail station. We were booked on the Victoria Overnight Train which in reality is a couple of carriages which are attached to a much longer train. The Victoria is the best class of accommodation that you can book for the overnight train. The carriage was well furnished and relatively comfortable. Unfortunately it was also very cold and the noise pretty much makes it impossible to sleep which means you arrive in Sapa more than a little tired. The bathroom facilities are also shared which wasn’t great as the smell was particularly unpleasant. That said it was a memorable journey and looking back at least we can say we did it.
On arrival in Sapa we transferred to the Fantastic Victoria Hotel which was simply the most beautiful hotel in Sapa. From there the guide took us to a couple of local villages and we also asked him to take us to the cable car in the mountains. We had learned that this took you to the highest point in Indo China and whilst the weather was bleak on the day we went it was again an unforgettable experience. The local food and drink in Sapa were a particular highlight with everything being wonderfully tasty and 3 of us eating and drinking for less than £20. Definitely a must visit for any excursion to Vietnam
We opted to change our plans at this point and instead of travelling back on the overnight train we took a Limousine through the Country and stayed an extra night in Hanoi. In hindsight we should have done this from the outset and I would recommend that other visitors try the same. We got to travel 5 hours through the Vietnam Countryside really experiencing and seeing how the people live. A truly amazing experience.
On arrival in Hanoi we stayed at a different hotel in the “French Quarter” called the Conifer Hotel. This was an exceptional hotel and very well located in what is the “Posh” end of Hanoi.
Day 6 Halong Bay
Trip on the boat from Halong Bay with Indochina Sails Company. This was a fantastic boat and by far the best of the “400” or so boats that departed with us. The scenery is spectacular whilst the water is very polluted. Only to be expected I guess when you have that many visitors. The accommodation, the food and the organisation on this boat was again really good. We opted not to do some of the small trips that they had planned simply because of the volume of tourists that were there. None of this was a problem for them and we were made very welcome to change our minds. The second day of the trip was far more exclusive as we ventured further than the day trippers and really found some hidden gems. Again this is a trip that should be taken on a visit to Vietnam but go prepared to be with the masses if you only do one day.
Day 9 Phu Quoc
We stayed at the Mercury resort on Phu Quoc. The hotel was ok and we had a really nice apartment in the grounds. I was expecting a little more from our visit to Phu Quoc but I think as we started to restrict our budget (when booking) a little we perhaps didn’t quite experience the “paradise” that we were expecting. That said it was a great place to chill out and relax after so much travelling. My recommendation to anyone doing this is to go for the best quality hotel you can afford. The local town of Phu Quoc is bordering on the Benidorm of Asia and you really need to make sure your hotel has all you need so you don’t need to go out.
Day 13 Saigon
Can't remember the name of the hotel in Saigon now but it was the best of all of the hotels. Really comfortable and modern and fresh. Fantastic breakfast with everything you could ask for. Saigon is similar to Hanoi in that it is very bustling but certainly not as friendly. We really enjoyed our time here but with hindsight would probably have preferred to have better accommodation in Phu Quoc and left Saigon off the itinerary. That said it was a fascinating city and the War Remnants Museum was very thought provoking.
As with everything in Vietnam the food and drink is ridiculously cheap. I think I have probably spent more on giving tips to people than I have on food and drink the whole of the 2 weeks I was there. Shaun told me he thought Vietnam was the best holiday destination in the world at this point in time. I have to say that I agree with him wholeheartedly. If anyone asks me where they should go I would point them in the direction of Vietnam
Finally we had 3 nights in Hong Kong at the Kowloon Harbour Hotel. This was a great hotel well situated and with a shuttle bus that took you into Kowloon every 20 minutes. From there you can catch a ferry for 25p across to Hong Kong Island. We did a few touristy things whilst there but it never really floated my boat too much and I wouldn’t rush back. I think however that could be because we had such a good time in Vietnam that anywhere else in the world would pale into insignificance really.
Finally thank you to you personally for putting together such an amazing itinerary. We really loved everything about Vietnam and it was all made so easy by you. You are a credit to Travel Counsellors and I hope they realise how lucky they are to have you.