Which trip to take to Southeast Asia?

I'm trying to decide which tour to take. I've seen many posts about pre-tour trips to Ha Long Bay. I've also been told by a friend not to miss it. One of my concerns is that I am a solo traveler and don't know Vietnamese language, so I don't want to get stuck in a situation where no one has my back. Are there English-speaking tour guides? Will the tour pick me up and drop me off at the hotel in Hanoi? Will the hotel in Hanoi (Sofitel Legend Metropole) allow me to check out but store my checked luggage until I return from the cruise?

I know that the Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos trip includes a night on Ha Long Bay, which would alleviate those concerns; however, I think I would prefer visiting Thailand to going to Luang Prabang in Laos. What are the pros and cons of each trip? I would like to visit Hoi An (which is on the "Laos" trip) and Hue (which is on the "Thailand" trip). I also would like to go to China Beach (which is on the "Thailand" trip).

Thanks for your help.

Comments

  • Lots of decisions and tradeoffs. We went thru some of the same and are going on the VC&L trip next January. We'd prefer to go to Ha Long Bay with Tauck and that was the deciding factor. We're heading to Singapore prior to the Tauck tour start in Hanoi, and will have a few extra days in Hanoi to see some things not on the Tauck tour. Regardless of the trip you take, check out the book "Hue 1968" by Mark Boiwden. It's hard to imagine how Hue has recovered from the Vietnam War.
  • edited July 2018
    We did the Thailand trip and were very happy with it, especially Chaing Mai and Bangkok. You do visit Hoi An on this trip. Also, China Beach was a bit disappointing to me. I’m not sure why. We had arranged a 2-night, 3-day trip to Halong Bay through the Ginger Cruise lines ( were on the Jasmine), and if it had gone as planned ( long story, missed plane, change of plans), we would have been picked up by Tauck at the airport, taken to the Metropole for one night, been picked up at the hotel the next morning and driven to Halong Bay and then dropped back at the hotel after the cruise. As it went, we were picked up at the airport ( driver did not speak English...didn’t matter, other than we couldn’t quiz him about anything), and driven to Halong Bay where a tender met us and took us to the junk which was anchored in the Bay waiting for us. I had been communicating with the rep from the cruise line about the change in our itinerary. They could not have been more accommodating. Personnel on the ship spoke English, so that was no problem. On the return a driver was waiting to drop us back at the hotel. This was all arranged through the cruise line. We had planned to take our luggage with us, but I am sure you could email the hotel to arrange to have them hold yours. By the way, we were very pleased with the longer cruise as we got to see spectacular parts of the park.
  • edited July 2018
    We took the Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos tour 6 months ago and loved it. It includes Halong Bay which allowed us to see plenty, a fishing village and a collapsed cave where we entered and saw monkeys right by the water. The bus ride to Halong Bay is 31/2 to 4 hours each way. Our favorite part of the tour was Laos by the way. If you go, don’t miss the opportunity to take scooter rides. We did two, a 4 hour one into the countryside from Hoi An visiting several private homes,one where we made rice cakes, a couple who wove rugs, we had a go, a home where rice wine was made, we drank some, and an organic farm where they provided lunch set up in a sheltered field. The one in Ho Chi Min city at night where we visited a restaurant and several bars, virtually the highlight of our tour.
  • British wrote:
    We took the Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos tour 6 months ago and loved it. It includes Halong Bay which allowed us to see plenty, a fishing village and a collapsed cave where we entered and saw monkeys right by the water. The bus ride to Halong Bay is 31/2 to 4 hours each way. Our favorite part of the tour was Laos by the way. If you go, don’t miss the opportunity to take scooter rides. We did two, a 4 hour one into the countryside from Hoi An visiting several private homes,one where we made rice cakes, a couple who wove rigs, we had a go, a home where rice wine was made, we drank some, and an organic farm where they provided lunch set up in a sheltered field. The one in Ho Chi Min city at night where we visited a restaurant and several bars, virtually the highlight of our tour.

    Did you do the scooter rides on your own or was it organized?
  • i had the same dilemma in trying to decide between Laos/Halong Bay and Thailand...Ultimately I decided on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. My thinking was that I would never go back to visit Laos (such a small country with very few things of interest---I was WRONG!). And I thought that one day, I would travel independently to Thailand--which I just did in May. I added a week in Thailand (Bangkok and Chiang Mai) after my Japan trip (Land of the Rising Sun).(as an aside, do not travel to Thailand in May because it is the 'hotter' season -- our guide told us that Thailand has 3 seasons: hot, hotter and hottest. the real feel temperatures during the day were in excess of 105 degrees and the humidity was off the charts).... Despite the heat and humidity, I thoroughly enjoyed Thailand - such a contrast from Japan! Traveling in Thailand was not difficult and we found fabulous private guides and interesting tours. I was absolutely enthralled with Laos - but it was definitely a place where you needed Tauck to guide you through. Just my 2 cents!! (Also on the V,C and L trip, you stay in Hoi An (rather than China Beach) so that you were able to easily walk into town, enjoy the restaurants and nightlife - as well as the shopping!)
  • AshvEd wrote:
    Did you do the scooter rides on your own or was it organized?
    The rides were on our own but highly recommended by our tour director and most of our group did both
  • Thanks to all of you for your responses. I'm still up in the air. Just when I think I've decided on one trip, I read something that makes me think I should take the other (though I know I'll do Ha Long Bay one way or another). For those of you who have been to Hue, which is on the "Thailand" trip, what did you think of it? Is it a "don't miss" place or just "more of the same?"

    British -- unfortunately, I think my scooter days are behind me.
  • edited July 2018
    MCD wrote:
    Thanks to all of you for your responses. I'm still up in the air. Just when I think I've decided on one trip, I read something that makes me think I should take the other (though I know I'll do Ha Long Bay one way or another). For those of you who have been to Hue, which is on the "Thailand" trip, what did you think of it? Is it a "don't miss" place or just "more of the same?"

    British -- unfortunately, I think my scooter days are behind me.
    No you are not, there were several people on their eighties that took these rides!
  • MCD,
    Yes, you have a tough decision to make. I would love to see Laos, but then I enjoyed our time in Thailand as well. To answer your questions about Hue...while the itinerary has been tweaked a bit (organization-wise) since our trip, the same sites are included. Hue is a World Heritage site, and if you are up on your history, was a very important part of the Tet Offensive during the “American War”as it is known in Vietnam. I loved the cyclo ride through morning traffic to and from The Citadel. Heavenly Lady Pagoda and the ride along the Perfume River was interesting. Another piece of history...also at the pagoda site is the infamous blue Austin seen in the Vietnam War-era photo of the protesting Buddhist monk performing self-immolation at a busy Saigon intersection. For me, having taught about the Vietnam War for many years, many of the Vietnam sites ( especially those Chu Chi Tunnels) such as Hue, were not to be missed. If you just trying to get a feel for the country, Hue might not be a game-changer.
  • Do not cram too many places in Vietnam when you do not have enough time - Less is more. Must see places are Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoian, HCMC and Mekong Delta.
  • Thanks to everyone who offered advice. I ultimately decided to take the trip that includes Laos, rather than Thailand (so future questions -- and there probably will be several -- will be on the "other" forum), primarily because it includes Ha Long Bay. I figured that all of the logistics might be too much to do on my own -- and I wouldn't know anyone on the boat if I did it on my own. Also, as nanos posted, I'm more likely to get to Thailand on my own than to Laos. I am disappointed that I won't be able to see Hue, but life is full of choices.
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