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Rethinking Bucket List Trip to Vietnam

Having come up with the decision to find a our to Vietnam we were very excited! We found a tour that offered everything that we wanted to do with the travel philosophy that we agree with. But as we delved into our decision we had to take a strong look at concerns that arise when considering the humid climate, adjusting to the time difference, and the lengthy flight. We are thinking that it might be a better idea to consider another destination. Any suggestions for a location that might afford a culture other than European, variety of modes of transportation, as well as activities?

Posted by
17 posts

Might help if we knew more about your interests and what drew you to Vietnam to begin with.

Posted by
279 posts

The draw to Vietnam for us is experiencing a culture very different from what we had in the past. The tour we were looking at would take us to beautiful scenery, varying activities, and a chance to interact with another culture, experience a great mix of modes of transportation, and maybe one of the biggest draws is the history of US/Vietnam relations. We understand that by choosing a different destination, it may meet other aspects of what we are looking for, but he history obviously will be different.

Posted by
279 posts

We actually were looking at Peru as an option as possibility.

Posted by
17 posts

Well Peru would seem to tick most of those boxes....

beautiful scenery, varying activities, and a chance to interact with
another culture, experience a great mix of modes of transportation

Obviously a very different trip from Vietnam. But is it “bucket list” for you like Vietnam would be?

One thing about flying so long to get to Vietnam...once you get there you are also within easy striking distance to Cambodia, Thailand, etc. which also offer a lot. Then again, same could be said about countries neighboring Peru.

Posted by
41 posts

Have you considered Africa? We travelled to Tanzania, including Zanzibar, this past February and it was spectacular! The most exciting trip of our lives. It offered cultural diversity with tribal and village visits, amazing scenery, and animals galore. Although it is a long flight it can easily be broken up with a layover in Amsterdam.

Posted by
1732 posts

Hi Pat,

We were in Cambodia and Vietnam this past April. It was indeed hot and humid so I would recommend going there earlier in the year - perhaps January. It was also a very long flight for us from the west coast. But I found that I was able to sleep on the flights over and was not jet lagged on arrival. I had a more difficult time coming home, however. We traveled with Scenic USA on a Mekong River cruise. The ship and hotels were gorgeous, air conditioned and had swimming pools. We also had (free) laundry facilities on the ship. This was an all inclusive cruise/tour. We were not nickel and dimed. Once we were on the tour we didn’t have to open your wallet again. We had excursions in the morning and afternoon and downtime to relax in the late afternoon and evening. And we had entertainment in the evenings. It was all well paced so you weren’t exhausted. We were able to interact with the locals as much as any tour allows. Take a look at the Scenic USA website to see if that is a tour you might be interested in. We had a great time and would not hesitate to go again. We recently booked their Egypt and Jordan cruise/tour for next March. PM me if you have any questions.

Posted by
1656 posts

I just got back from Ecuador/Peru and have also been to Vietnam/Cambodia/Thailand. I used tours on both trips. I would not consider one area a substitute for another - they are very different experiences. Though I loved both, I'll make the argument for going to Vietnam. First (and I say this with all due respect), you're not getting any younger. For the reasons you mentioned, it is a more difficult excursion. But if this is bucket list trip, make it happen before you can't handle the difficulties. I have never, ever regretted a bucket list trip. BTW, Angkor Wat was the bucket list item I ticked off on my SE Asia adventure...Vietnam was a major bonus and turned out to be the bucket list item I didn't know should have been on my list.

As for logistics...plan reasonable flights - consider a layover stop on the West Coast USA or in Seoul or Hong Kong to address the time change (by the way, I only had jet lag coming home, not going). Yes it is humid, but there are times you can visit that are not as unbearable, and Northern Vietnam is actually cold in some parts of the year. Just pace yourself and plan for the heat (take a hat, appropriate wicking clothing, use cool neck wraps) and take advantage of your air conditioned hotel. Tour companies are accustomed to the heat sensitive.

Good luck with whatever you choose!

Posted by
13530 posts

location that might afford a culture other than European, variety of modes of
transportation, as well as activities?

Of course, Europe is not a culture. It is a collection of cultures. Sure globalism has begun to blur the lines, but there are still unique places with very distinct cultural differences. If Vietnam was on your list then you are adventurous and there are great ideas all over the world. But just to argue with the premise that Europe is Europe; I have some European suggestions:

Most obvious non-conforming European Culture: Istanbul
Least often thought of European Country: Azerbaijan (don’t argue it, they hosted the European Games)
Ukraine; my current favorite place.

The outdoors:
The Extreme:
And some more (actually a good website, explore it):

Posted by
3789 posts

Pat, as mentioned, many countries south of the equator will give you a different experience, however, I am going to see whether I can give further food for thought about 2 of the 3 concerns....jetlag and flight time....but it depends on time and budget. Essentially, if you can drag out your flight by a stopover in Hawaii for a day or two, you can get a physical break from a long flight, and start working on time acclimation. Doing similar on the way home also helps with recovery at trip's end. Also, arrive in Vietnam 2 days early even if you take a Hawaii break. I appreciate it adds 4 or 5 days to your travel time, and the budget to go with it, but that investment means you will start the tour better prepared physically than if you flew direct and just on time.
Many tour companies can accommodate flights arriving early, and asking for the tour hotel can save some dollars. Just ensure it isn't on the outskirts with no services nearby. I look for a hotel with in-house restaurant, or one next door, and an area for sitting and relaxing. A pool is an extra bonus. This means I don't have to think too hard with a jetlagged brain about necessities, and I have nice surroundings for RRR (rest, relax, recovery).
As to humidity, there may be a time period when ot is less than other months. Hidration, a fan and breathable clothing help. I also ensure I have rehydration tabs I can add to water. They are amazing for resetting your equilibrium.
Long distance travel even when in a similar time zone (Peru) can be fatiguing and benefit from earlier arrival, and Peru will have altitude to contend with, so rather than give up on a dream trip, look at what would make it possible, as current offered options will also be taxing.

Posted by
6868 posts

Jet lag and time differences are inevitable but they can be managed. Humidity may be a bit more difficult, but it depends on the person. I wouldn't let that stop you from embarking on a "bucket list" trip. There are countless other locations that could be suggested (I would consider a South American country like Argentina, for example, or a non-cruise-ship location in Mexico. I've been to both and loved it) but I think "bucket list" trips are very personal in nature for a reason. My advice is not to give up on this trip.

Posted by
335 posts

Don’t give up on Vietnam - I went some years ago and enjoyed the whole experience. Not a bucket list journey but am very glad I did it. We spend a few days in Saigon, and then embarked on a Pandow cruise up the Mekong to Seam Reap. We then spent 5 days there visiting temples before flying home.

We went in January and I flew from Vancouver on Korean Air, changing planes in Seoul. Arrived in Saigon at about midnight and met up with friends arriving from New York about an hour later. We were in our hotel beds by 2 am and up around 8 - tired but not jet-lagged. In January weather was pleasant, warm, not too hot and certainly not overly humid. The one change we would’ve made after talking to fellow travelers would be to have gone to northern Vietnam as well.

Posted by
13530 posts

I have an employee that has been all over Asia, and Vietnam is his favorite.

Posted by
11286 posts

I've never been to Vietnam, Peru, Africa, Bulgaria, Ukraine, or many of the other places mentioned on this thread. But I do know something that may help you.

My sister went to Prague twice, and loved it each time. She then went to several places called "the next Prague" such as Krakow and Budapest. Each time, she was very disappointed, because they were quite different from Prague, and she spent the trip resenting this instead of enjoying the places on their own terms. She now is fond of saying, "only Prague is Prague."

So, if you go somewhere else besides Vietnam, will you be able to accept it on its own terms, or will you be regretting that you didn't go to Vietnam? Only you can answer that question. But do try to figure it out now, to avoid disappointment - particularly since you used the phrase "bucket list," which implies that Vietnam is more than just another destination for you.

Posted by
7686 posts

If you are not sure of you should travel to Vietnam because of the length of the flights then you, using that reason, you are cutting out a lot of the world as travel possibilities. I find some of the long haul floghts easier than the shorter ones to Europe from the east coast.
We combined a trip to China’s Silk Road with a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam. Both were incredible experiences and we had a week in Hanoi on our own between tours. Vietnam is a beautiful country with a lot of variety. Flying Business Class with flat bed seats is a huge help. Save up your miles!

Posted by
85 posts

How about Elmhurst/Jackson Heights in Queens, NY? You'll get about 10 different cultures in 3 or 4 square miles, and can go back to Manhattan at the end of the day. Bourdain did a show on it a while back.

Posted by
1 posts

My husband and I went to Vietnam and Cambodia and we loved it. We stayed in Ha Noi and took day trips from there. Then we flew to Saigon and took a bus to Cambodia. We made all of our own plans and just joined group tours for the day of needed. We hired a driver in Cambodia to take us through Angor Wat. We met lots of local people, more so in Vietnam because we didn't have a guide. We were there in early February.It was a bit cool in Ha Noi, but warm in Cambodia. If it is a bucket list trip, you should go!

Posted by
5567 posts

Suki is right:

If you are not sure of you should travel to Vietnam because of the length of the flights then you, using that reason, you are cutting out a lot of the world as travel possibilities.

Indeed. I'm guessing you've not yet traveled anywhere further away than Europe. We love Europe (just got back 4 days ago) but there's a lot more to the world. You will need to get over the "long long flight" and heat/humidity issues. Once you do that, the short hop to Europe becomes something you barely notice (once you've done 16 hour flights with additional hops after arriving on the other side of the planet). So much to see and experience, don't let the time on the plane or the weather stop you.

Posted by
101 posts

I wouldn’t let weather or a long flight stop me either. You could always fly to Europe, spend a day or two and then fly on to break up the flight and ease into the time change.

Posted by
996 posts

You could always fly to Europe, spend a day or two and then fly on to break up the flight and ease into the time change.

We had an awkwardly long time between one flight's arrival and the next one's departure, so we did just that in London earlier this year. We spent three days there, and the flight home was definitely shorter for us. Perhaps you could find a target city that affords the same possibilities between your current home airport and your dream of visiting Vietnam? That way you'd still go, but you wouldn't have that long haul flight plus possible plane changes compressed together.

As far as the humidity - well, we just returned from Ecuador, and the Amazon rain forest is very humid as well. Unless there are underlying health issues, drinking tons of water and taking it easy can help you acclimate to the different climate.

Posted by
546 posts

I think you are over reacting to the heat/humidity and jet lag thing. I have made many more than 20 transpacific flights to SE Asia in my life and the change is manageable. Don’t give up on Vietnam so easily and for such reasons.

I have been from one end of Vietnam to the other over several years and multiple trips as well as almost every other SE Asian country and I lived there for 7 years so I have some experience in this.

Here are some tips to make it easier for you.

Go Two Days earlier than the start of your tour. This gives you time to acclimatize and get over the jet lag. It will also put you one up on most of the tour group in those areas.

Jet Lag: You will want to crash about 3 in the afternoon of your first day...DO NOT give in to this. If you do you will sleep until 3AM and be wide awake, hungry and ready to go...nowhere. Stay up until a reasonable bed time, Say 8 or 9 pm...stay busy. Then you will get a good nights sleep and this will do more to reset you clock than anything else you can do.

Get as much sleep on the flight as you’s a long one. This will help the transition when you get there.

Heat and Humidity: ON your first day find a store any store carrying drugstore kinds of products. Get a can of Snake Brand Powder or Protex Ice powder. These are hands down the best heat powders in the world bar none. Apply liberally to all the usual areas. You will be surprised how cooling this will be.

Take multiple showers a day. This is what the SE Asians do. (Then apply more Protex Ice)

Ramp up activity until you are accustomed to the heat. Learn to love to sweat and stay out of Aircon as much as out FANS. The transition from AirCon to outside can be jarring and make it seem hotter than it is.

These are simple things and don’t let people with little experience or arm chair travelers put you off going. Vietnam has one of Asia’s best cuisines, great wine and baguettes, Wonderful seafood and so much to see and do. Ha Noi is one of my all time favorite Asian cities. (And I have been to most of them)

So Please put these concerns aside they can be handled easily and do go and have fun and a trip you will always remember.

Posted by
2 posts

Don't be too worry about the weather in Vietnam. In fact, Hanoi now is quite humid and rainy but it will not last long. You can consider other famous destinations such as Ninh Binh, Halong Bay , Sapa ,Da Nang, Hue, Hoi An and Nha Trang. The weather is different amongst destinations depending on specific seasons. And I am sure that you will not regret when coming to Vietnam

Posted by
279 posts

OK, after much thoughtful consideration, we returned to our original choice of Vietnam as our destination for 2019! We appreciate all the input that we received and found it very encouraging. So, we have signed up for our tour and although we still have some concerns, we are very excited and are going full steam ahead! Thanks to all!!

Posted by
335 posts

Don’t give up on Vietnam! Some years ago I did a cruise from Saigon up the Mekong tp visit the temples in Angkor Wat. Totally fascinating trip whicj left me with a lot to think about. We spent 4 days in Saigon and walked the city. Evenin January it was humid so made good use of the hotel pool! Wish we had done a bit more research and gone to the north, saw some photos a fellow traveller had taken and it was stunning. I enjoyed the cruise on a small river boat and we stopped at some interesting small towns along the river. Angkor Wat is one of the great sights in the world. My favourite temple was Bayon, beautiful carvings. So much to see and enjoy there. Unfortunately there now seems some political unrest there now. The cruise was run by Pandow
Lines. Loved their old style river boats. The fare was inclusive of all meals, lots of choice, and also non-premium and soft drinks. Cambodian beer is good for helping cope with the heat.