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  • Richard Peters 172 posts

    @aston100 Whilst I can see the benefit and frequently use points the downside is that any hotel (hilton/ic etc) will be similar the world over. On our pre “the you know what trip” to Vietnam & Cambodia we used independent hotels (via booking.com) which provided great value and sufficient quirkiness to make them fun and no less enjoyable. But it’s clearly your choice.

    BBbetter 812 posts

    @aston100 Whilst I can see the benefit and frequently use points the downside is that any hotel (hilton/ic etc) will be similar the world over. On our pre “the you know what trip” to Vietnam & Cambodia we used independent hotels (via booking.com) which provided great value and sufficient quirkiness to make them fun and no less enjoyable. But it’s clearly your choice.

    Some of the premium hotels are now putting more effort to make it a bit more ‘local’. For example the Andaz in Bali recently reviewed by HfP.
    For me, it’ll come down to whether I am travelling with friends / couple vs family with kids. For the latter, I’d undoubtedly choose the chains where it’s more predictable and you have a few more contact / escalation points if things go wrong or your status can help. To be fair, many independents in SE Asia take good care. With friends or a willing partner, you can choose quirky hotels.

    Aston100 1,495 posts

    @aston100 Whilst I can see the benefit and frequently use points the downside is that any hotel (hilton/ic etc) will be similar the world over. On our pre “the you know what trip” to Vietnam & Cambodia we used independent hotels (via booking.com) which provided great value and sufficient quirkiness to make them fun and no less enjoyable. But it’s clearly your choice.

    You’re probably right.
    However, I don’t like sitting on piles of points.
    Also, if my trip to Borneo this year was anything to go by, paying around 20k to 25k HH or IHG for a basic room and ending up with a suite for a week is quite pleasing.

    Richard Peters 172 posts

    True: you can’t ignore the value of an upgrade

    Chas 138 posts

    We spent just over 2 weeks in Vietnam this summer, travelling north to south: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Da Nang (with a couple of visits to Hoi An), then onto HCMC / Saigon. We took internal flights from Hanoi to Hue (then private road transfer to Da Nang) and from Da Nang to HCMC. There’s already some great advice in the posts above, but some additional observations from our trip:

    We much preferred the hustle and bustle of Hanoi (staying in the Old Quarter) to HCMC which seemed a bit sterile. Although whilst you’re in HCMC do go to the Tunnels and the War Museum (the later is quite harrowing in places).

    Ha Long Bay cruise – do NOT use “Signature Halong Cruise” dot com. We had splashed out on their top-end 2 bedroom suite at the stern, which had a huge terrace for our 1 night tour. We boarded to find that that room type didn’t exist on our boat (the only boat with it on had already sailed), and they accommodated the four of us in one room… We were offered a bottle of wine as compensation, despite our room type costing nearly double what two separate rooms would have cost.

    Hue – we also stayed at the Melia Vinpearl, and it was incredible value for money (even ignoring the discount I got for booking via the app and by using our 20% off vouchers). They don’t really make clear the differentiation between their room types, but after various back and forth e-mails I established that their “with view” rooms are essentially corner rooms. All rooms have floor to ceiling windows, but due to the room shape the corners rooms have about triple the window area of other rooms without “with view” for less than £10pn more. The citadel was really interesting, and we had a private tour guide who was well worth the money – I doubt we would have found it anywhere near as informative if we hadn’t had him telling us all about it.

    Da Nang – this was purely about spending time chilling by the pool / beach. We struggled to find the right place to stay that wasn’t extortionate (amongst others we looked at the IC, but cost was prohibitive and no points availability), but eventually plumped for Vinpearl Resort & Spa where we had a huge 3-bed villa literally right on the beach (saving 20% going via TCB and hotels dot com). Restaurants there were a bit meh and lacking atmosphere, but it seems that most of the guests ordered room service rather than eating in the restaurants.

    We went to Hoi An for two evenings (less than £15 via grab) and loved the atmosphere there. The only reason we didn’t look to stay here was the lack of a beach which was non-negotiable for the rest of the family. Can highly recommend the restaurant “The Sea Shell by Nu Eatery” – it’s a tiny place down an alley, paper table cloths and budget prices, but the food packs a huge flavour punch. We returned there for our second visit too.

    Internal flights – we used Vietnam Airlines rather than any of the LCC operators. I’d read quite a lot of reports of the various LCCs cancelling and changing their flight itineraries, and with our schedule being very finely tuned we didn’t want to risk the impact that could bring. Whilst Vietnam Airlines did retime our flights a couple of times, it was never by more than an hour.

    Aston100 1,495 posts

    Fantastic input there Chas – thanks.

    What did you think of the beaches at Da Nang? As above, I’m considering switching from the Hilton to the HGI or the Voco which are both across the road from beaches.
    Did your Hue > Da Nang transfer stop off at scenic spots along the way, or was it simply A to B?

    Are you able to share the details of your Hue guide please?
    You can post it here as a reply, I don’t think Rob & co mind.
    Thanks again.

    Chas 138 posts

    @Aston100 re Da Nang beaches (at least the part by our hotel) – I’ve rarely seen such huge sandy beaches that were virtually desolate, it was very surprising. People just weren’t using them c500m either side of our hotel. But after that distance south of our hotel it was packed – there seemed to be a public access road directly to the beach, and some lifeguards who were containing people within roped off areas. There wasn’t a hotel at this point (although one under construction – possibly an MO?), so I think that these could have been locals at the weekend.

    There is a second VinPearl hotel closer to Hoi An that we had considered, but my wife dismissed it after reading various reports of dirty beaches in that area. I can’t comment on the beaches at the north end closer to Da Nang where you will be staying as we didn’t visit them, but my recollection from our drive by were that they were quite a bit busier than further south (but not necessarily packed).

    I’ve just had a look at the location of the 3 hotels you’ve mentioned, and my observations are as follows: Hilton – I think it’s located on the river, so I doubt there’s a beach, and you’ve got the furthest trek to the beach of all three. The other two are both situated across a busy main road from the beach, so no direct access. You have to go further south to where the coast road kinks inland slightly (just north of “Furama Resort”) before you get direct access to the beach. That may not be an issue for you, but at your end of town you’re definitely staying in a city with a beach, rather than a beach hotel.

    Our Hue > Da Nang transfer did include various stops. In the end though we asked our driver to miss a few out as the rest of the family were a bit cultured out and just wanted to get the beach relaxation aspect started ASAP! The benefit of a private tour / transfer is that you have that flexibility. We booked that via Viator (via TCB or Q obviously!), and there were loads of operators offering similar services.

    Our Hue guide was booked directly with “Adventure Journey” dot vn. It was a “Hue City Tour 1 Day” trip which included the imperial city, pergola, river cruise, 2 x tombs, conical hat making, English speaking guide ~(and a separate driver which we hadn’t expected), lunch stop and pick up and drop off from our hotel. Our trip cost 39USD pp (for 4 pax) although the cost of lunch and entry tickets were not included. Paid a 20USD (total) deposit via PayPal with the balance meant to be paid in cash on the day, but when I WhatsApp’d them the day before they sent a PayPal link so that I could pay the balance (I was low on cash at that point). Maybe it was our specific guide who was awesome, but I would definitely recommend this outfit not only for the knowledge of teh guide we did have, but for their flexibility; for lunch they took us to a restaurant that we had eaten at the night before, and although it had been great we wanted to try somewhere different. It wasn’t a problem for them, and having popped in to explain to the owner, they quickly suggested somewhere else (which frankly was even better!).

    Hope that helps, but happy to share more details of our trip if you want. We had an awesome Food Tour in Hanoi provided by Lien from “WithLocals” that I would recommend, although a similar one we did in HCMC wasn’t as good (food choices, rather than the tour guide).

    memesweeper 1,311 posts

    The train from Da Nang to Saigon/HCMC is a good option, overnight, for the adventurous. Current timetable here: https://www.seat61.com/Vietnam.htm#train-timetable-southbound

    SBIre 171 posts

    if you do Halong bay choose carefully: we used a small company that left away from the large port (will see if can locate details) great door to door service and good food. The water in the bay is dreadful so don’t swim. .

    I wonder if you have managed to find the name of the company please?

    If you want a recommendation – I was in Vietnam last week and we did a cruise with Dragon Legend (https://www.dragonlegendcruise.com/) on the Dragon Legend 2 boat. It was fantastic. It cruises around Bai Tu Long bay, which is the bay next to Ha Long (and TBH they call it Ha Long on the boat as it is more or less the same). We had heard about trash in the water and over crowding at Ha Long, so we went here instead and really enjoyed it. We booked direct, nice transfers included in a VIP minivan with wifi, great food on board. We did have to sit through a short water puppet show on the way back to Hanoi but it was fine.

    Also, if anyone is going to Sapa – I’d hugely recommend the Hotel de la Coupole in Sapa, it’s an MGallery hotel so part of ALL. We also loved the Reverie in HCMC (it’s a LHW) and the Anantara in Hoi An was really good. The Aira in Hanoi was fine, fantastic location for train street, but I think there are better around.

    TJ 104 posts

    Just completed a 1-cruise in Ha Long Bay using Jadesails. Can definitely recommend as they are one of the only 1-day boats which go to Lan Ha Bay as well. Food was excellent and water/juices were free. VIP transfer really helped with long transfers times. Only 13 people on the boat…tourism really down at the moment although the extent of over tourism is clearly evident with all the plastic floating around the bay.

    BBbetter 812 posts

    Da Nang – this was purely about spending time chilling by the pool / beach. We struggled to find the right place to stay that wasn’t extortionate (amongst others we looked at the IC, but cost was prohibitive and no points availability), but eventually plumped for Vinpearl Resort & Spa where we had a huge 3-bed villa literally right on the beach (saving 20% going via TCB and hotels dot com). Restaurants there were a bit meh and lacking atmosphere, but it seems that most of the guests ordered room service rather than eating in the restaurants.

    Thanks for the detailed report. Is this the resort thats now closed and looks like reopened as Marriott? The Melia beach resort is close to this one – seems like a decent option and can use the 20% off from Gold status.
    Planning a trip for next year and looking at options. We have been to north and south, so just the central part this time.
    Would day trips to Hue and Hoi An be difficult from this location?
    Are the beaches still good if it rains a bit (probably in August)?

    BBbetter 812 posts

    Bumping this thread in case Chas or others have any comments.

    omicron 53 posts

    I stayed at the Hyatt in Da Nang last year and took a walk along the beach to check out the Marriott and Melia while I was there. Both seemed like good options as well – the Marriott maybe a bit more dated than the others. It’s a relatively short drive to Hoi An so you could go there several times if you want, and for Hue it would be just as good as any other options in Da Nang, but obviously a longer drive! Traffic is a bit chaotic, but speeds don’t tend to be too high so it felt safe enough!

    As others have mentioned – beautiful super clean beaches with very few people!

    The real Swiss Tony 724 posts

    Are the beaches still good if it rains a bit (probably in August)?

    That part of Vietnam should have OK weather in August – we were there 11 days in Aug 2019 and only 1 shower of about an hour.

    However I would reiterate what others have said about Danang. We could find no compelling reason to stay there. Appreciate you want to visit both Hue and Hoi An. but it seems like that’s dominating the agenda. Hue would be doable on a day from the coast near Hoi An – it’s only 10k or so south of Danang.

    TJ 104 posts

    Fantastic input there Chas – thanks.

    What did you think of the beaches at Da Nang? As above, I’m considering switching from the Hilton to the HGI or the Voco which are both across the road from beaches.
    Did your Hue > Da Nang transfer stop off at scenic spots along the way, or was it simply A to B?

    Are you able to share the details of your Hue guide please?
    You can post it here as a reply, I don’t think Rob & co mind.
    Thanks again.

    Just spent 3n at the HGI in Da Nang which I can definitely recommend. Really good value at £130 for the stay. It’s fairly new with great rooftop bar and small infinity pool, and great stretch of beach across the road. Food was excellent too. There’s not much around the hotel in terms of restaurants, bars, etc but you can get anywhere for £1-1.50 with Grab.

    BBbetter 812 posts

    Thanks all for the suggestions.

    @The real Swiss Tony, reason we prefer da nang is the beach and bigger hotels / rooms. Hoi An has some nice hotels, but for kids, we just need some more space.

    Aston100 1,495 posts

    Just completed a 1-cruise in Ha Long Bay using Jadesails. Can definitely recommend as they are one of the only 1-day boats which go to Lan Ha Bay as well. Food was excellent and water/juices were free. VIP transfer really helped with long transfers times. Only 13 people on the boat…tourism really down at the moment although the extent of over tourism is clearly evident with all the plastic floating around the bay.

    Was it this one: https://jadesails.com/ $129pp

    I ask because there is also this one which seems to be a re-seller for that one, but charging under $100pp for literally the same boat/trip https://www.jadesailscruise.com/

    By the way, I estimate no more than 7 hours onboard. Was that what you found? depart at 10am; return by 5pm.

    Aston100 1,495 posts

    Fantastic input there Chas – thanks.

    What did you think of the beaches at Da Nang? As above, I’m considering switching from the Hilton to the HGI or the Voco which are both across the road from beaches.
    Did your Hue > Da Nang transfer stop off at scenic spots along the way, or was it simply A to B?

    Are you able to share the details of your Hue guide please?
    You can post it here as a reply, I don’t think Rob & co mind.
    Thanks again.

    Just spent 3n at the HGI in Da Nang which I can definitely recommend. Really good value at £130 for the stay. It’s fairly new with great rooftop bar and small infinity pool, and great stretch of beach across the road. Food was excellent too. There’s not much around the hotel in terms of restaurants, bars, etc but you can get anywhere for £1-1.50 with Grab.

    Thanks for that.
    I’ve switched my booking to the HGI for 5 nights.

    The real Swiss Tony 724 posts

    @The real Swiss Tony, reason we prefer da nang is the beach and bigger hotels / rooms. Hoi An has some nice hotels, but for kids, we just need some more space.

    That makes sense. I was going to highlight the place we went to (kids must have been 9-14) but looking on Google Earth it appears to be undergoing some significant redevelopment.

    TJ 104 posts

    Just completed a 1-cruise in Ha Long Bay using Jadesails. Can definitely recommend as they are one of the only 1-day boats which go to Lan Ha Bay as well. Food was excellent and water/juices were free. VIP transfer really helped with long transfers times. Only 13 people on the boat…tourism really down at the moment although the extent of over tourism is clearly evident with all the plastic floating around the bay.

    Was it this one: https://jadesails.com/ $129pp

    I ask because there is also this one which seems to be a re-seller for that one, but charging under $100pp for literally the same boat/trip https://www.jadesailscruise.com/

    By the way, I estimate no more than 7 hours onboard. Was that what you found? depart at 10am; return by 5pm.

    I think they use several different re-seller channels. I actually booked using Viator – which is probably not the cheapest channel but allows you to cancel within 24hrs – as I had an Amex offer which I stacked with TCB.

    Aston100 1,495 posts

    TJ.
    I had a day cruise lined up for about 60 odd quid pp (no transfers as I don’t need them), but Jade Sails seems so much better.
    Available through Klook for about £80 pp, plus 5% through top cashback.
    https://www.klook.com/en-GB/activity/54945-jade-sails-ha-long-lan-ha-day-cruise-tour

    So thanks for the heads-up.

    By the way, I looked at the price on Viator and it’s £89 pp plus 10% through top cashback. As there is currently no Viator statement credit on any of my cards, and given that I dislike Viator anyway, I’ll go through Klook on this occasion.
    Thanks again.

    EDIT: I see TJ’s post has vanished, so it looks like I’m talking to myself now.

    tygerbright 47 posts

    Thanks for all the tips!

    I’ll look to book with Jadesails for our December trip as we only want to do a day cruise. We are planning to head straight from Ha Long Bay to Ninh Binh after the cruise – is it be easy enough to find a driver at the dock or would you recommend pre-booking with someone?

    Aston100 1,495 posts

    Thanks for all the tips!

    I’ll look to book with Jadesails for our December trip as we only want to do a day cruise. We are planning to head straight from Ha Long Bay to Ninh Binh after the cruise – is it be easy enough to find a driver at the dock or would you recommend pre-booking with someone?

    This is exactly what I’m doing.
    I have a provisional booking with a guy recommended on Tripadvisor:
    https://ninhbinhpuluongtours.wordpress.com/tour-services/

    Tuan Chau to Ninh Binh – $85 – 3.5 hours. Private car.
    We’re also doing some tours around Ninh Binh with him for a couple of days and then getting a private car transfer to Hanoi ($60)

    tygerbright 47 posts

    Excellent! Thanks Aston will check his page out 🙂

    Aston100 1,495 posts

    Just completed a 1-cruise in Ha Long Bay using Jadesails. Can definitely recommend as they are one of the only 1-day boats which go to Lan Ha Bay as well. Food was excellent and water/juices were free. VIP transfer really helped with long transfers times. Only 13 people on the boat…tourism really down at the moment although the extent of over tourism is clearly evident with all the plastic floating around the bay.

    So I did this one day cruise with Jadesails.
    Booked through Klook (far cheaper, plus TCB, plus Klook credit, plus able to pay in GBP with Amex).
    Was excellent quality. Boat looked quite new, everything in good condition.
    Food was good, and they take dietary requirements into consideration.
    It should be noted that the number of activities was limited: we went on a boat to some cave / lagoon thing (the ‘Dark & Light cave’), and then we dropped anchor somewhere to give people free time on kayaks or just to swim.
    And that was it. Rest of the time was on the boat, sailing around Lan Ha Bay. We did have some live music and a jacuzzi though.
    Mrs Aston stepped up and attempted ‘Butter’ by BTS and a couple of other indiscernible K Pop tracks. The largely Vietnamese passengers were impressed; I was not.
    By the way, it was definitely 7 hours onboard as advertised: set off at about 10:10 and arrived back around 17:20.

    Highly recommended.

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