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Vietnam: Hoi An or Ho Chi Minh City

We are going to Vietnam and Cambodia for two weeks. Most of the itinerary is set in stone, but we have three days to use that we can't decide on. We would either go to Ho Chi Minh for that time which would include a day trip to see a floating market in the delta OR we would spend the time seeing the UNESCO sites in Hoi An, Hue, etc and maybe stay in China Beach somewhere for some time with the sand. Pros? Cons? Anything helps!

To get a sense for what we are already planning, we are going to Hanoi, Halong Bay, Phu Quoc, and of course, Siem Reap for the Angkor complex.

Posted by
1290 posts

If you have 3 full days, I would lean towards Hanoi if you can swing an overnight on a boat to Halong Bay. I wouldn't go to Hanoi if you couldn't include Halong bay - if this is the case, I would choose Hoi An. When we were there about 5-6 years ago, internal flights on Vietnam Air and Pacific Airlines were very cheap.

Posted by
9110 posts

Your logistics are off. Hoi An is a good three hours from Hue. China Beach is about mid-way between the two. You can't see all three in three days. You can barely see Hue in two days. Your only hope to pull it off would be to fly in and out of Danang, stay out at My Khe, then go north one day and south the other. It'd be miserable enough with a car, intolerable if you had to go in and out of Danang each excursion to get the public transportation. The only redeeming feature of either trip would be the day you crossed the Hai Van.

Ranking your prospectives, Saigon is at the top, close to Hanoi. Hue is up there. China Beach and Hoi An are stopping places if you're passing by.

There isn't much special about a floating market except for the one in Bangkok, so don't hang your hat on that - - in you pick Ho Chi Minh City, don't take excursions out into the delta or you'll cut yourself short.

Posted by
2873 posts

My vote is for Hoi An. We flew to Da Nang from Hanoi on Vietnam Airlines and our hotel arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport. It worked out great! We spent 4 nights in Hoi Ann and loved it. We stayed at the Hoi An Hotel. I'd recommend staying in the city rather than the beach (unless you're really a beach person.)

Hoi An is a relaxed city with good restaurants, a fun market, and lots of character. We planned to take a day trip to Hue but we were so happy in Hoi An that we spent the entire time there. We did take the free shuttle from the hotel to the beach for one day (just minutes away.)

While there were some interesting things to see in Ho Chi Minh City, for us, it was just another big city. If you had time to do both I'd say go but since your time is limited, I'd suggest Hoi An.

Posted by
16 posts

All good advice. Thanks everyone!

At this point, we have adjusted our plans to skip Phu Quoc in order to spend more time around Hoi An and Hue and have a bit more time in our departure city. We are now spending two to three days in each of the following places in order:

Hanoi + Halong Bay
Hoi An
Lang Co (beach time!) + Hue
Siem Reap
Phnom Penh

We would love to do Ho Chi Minh city but it is just missing the cut with our personal interests the way they are.

We're feeling pretty close to settling on this, though I'm happy to hear any other advice... especially for someone who has done plenty of European travel but has never been to Asia.

Posted by
13967 posts

Now that you've made your decision, I'll chime in. I took a day tour from Hue/Danang to Hoi An. The town was okay, the ruins were similar to Angkor Wat but not nearly as impressive.

On the other hand, I loved my short time in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), including a day tour up the Mekong Delta.