Best way to travel in Vietnam & Laos


#1

I went to Thailand and Cambodia as part of a trip years ago, and I’ve like to see Vietnam as part of another trip, this time with my wife.

Anyone have a suggested itinerary for a trip through Vietnam and Laos? I would spend at least two weeks, and probably the majority would be in Vietnam. I don’t even know if it’s better to start in the North or South!


#2

I can’t speak to full itineraries, but I have a few tips, and feel free to ask me specific questions—my friend lived in Vietnam for a year, and we can poll our Vietnamese friends!

That said, I really recommend Sapa. It was my favorite part of the trip, and taking a sleeper bus there from Hanoi went really well. Lots of great hiking, beautiful rice terraces, and a break from the heat!

The other classic destination from Hanoi is Ha Long Bay. If you go, make sure to plan the trip in advance and stay out on the boat! My friend and I just showed up, and we ended up on what my friend called “the sucker boat.” The town is also a bit charmless, so sleeping on a boat as part of a multi-day tour seems superior.

And if I were doing it again, I’d see if I could visit the Hang Son Doong cave … Hang Sơn Đoòng - Wikipedia


#3

Thanks @Alex_Mayyasi! I’m so glad I asked, because I had Ho Chi Minh City and Saigon in mind as the two possible starting points. Hanoi is where I’ll begin my planning/look for flights.


#4

I’m in agreement with Alex! I really loved Hanoi as well, and Halong Bay (although make sure to go for at least 2 nights if you’re heading there, and branch out further to Bai Tu Long Bay if you can, so that you really have some time there vs spending a lot of it just moving it around and loading and unloading the boats (if you go that route). Our 2nd day was so much more magical, where only 4 of us got transferred to a second boat, kayaked for hours with no one else around, and really got to experience the karsts in all their beauty!

I also really enjoyed Nha Trang (further south), Hoi An, in the middle, about 30 mins from Danang, which has an airpot as well, and HCMC was also a fun place to check out for awhile.

I’ve been 3 times and spend a few months there overall, so let me know if any further questions!


#5

On the Laotian side . . . off the beaten path and in addition to places on AO. If you start from Vientiane, I’d recommend renting a motorbike. A 250cc dirt bike (or 2, as you’re a couple) can take you pretty much anywhere in Laos. Off the beaten path, I’d recommend following the Mekong River going West, and then taking one of the many dirt track heading North.
Heading South, you can stick to Road 13 and head East towards the Laos-Vietnam border. The smaller the road, the more interesting it usually gets. Nam Bua was a favourite of ours - about 30 km from Salavan. No major monuments or buildings, but great countryside.
If you want more adventure, there’s Xaysomboun province. It’s a restricted area populated by Hmong and Lao people, with guerrilla fighting and government reprisal flaring up from time to time, but with no tourism whatsoever and gorgeous nature.
Get in touch if you need more specific info or if you have specific interests such as spelunking, kayaking, hiking, etc.


#6

Thanks again for the great recs, Max!