What to do in Vietnam and Hong Kong
October 30, 2006 7:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm getting married in February, and the honey moon is planned for Hong Kong and Vietnam (Ho Chi Min). Does anyone have any recommendations on things not to miss in either place? Or ideas of extra special things to do?
posted by Jonnykid to Travel & Transportation around Vietnam (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In Vietnam, do your best to spend as much time outside of the city as possible. It's not an unpleasant place, but not really that remarkable in my opinion. The surrounding areas (actually, pretty much the rest of the country) are endlessly fascinating, fun, and accessible. You almost can't go wrong. If you have time for a side trip, fly up to either Hue or Hoi An, both have been among the all time highlights of my travel experience.

In HK, if it's a nice, clear day: check out the Big Buddha on Lantau island. February is a good time to go, the crouds won't be so bad. The peak is cool, though if it's not a clear day (and it hardly ever is anymore) the view can be kind of depressing. You could take a ferry to Macau for a day and night. Macau is charming and has more of the old Hong Kong feeling left over, as well as some cool colonial architecture downtown.

If it were my honeymoon, I'd splurge and stay at the Mandarin Oriental, supposedly one of the world's best hotels. The lobby is amazingly oppulent, and the service unfailingly superb. It's suprisingly affordable for one of the world's premier hotels.

Congratulations, have fun!
posted by bluejayk at 8:13 AM on October 30, 2006

Ride the escalators in the mid-levels in Hong Kong and go hang-out in Lan Kwai Fong for an evening......
posted by jasondigitized at 8:16 AM on October 30, 2006

Chiming in to echo what bluejayk said about getting out of Ho Chi Minh. We spent two and a half weeks in Vietnam this summer, and HCMC was okay, but not our favorite. Hanoi has a lot more charm, Ha Long Bay is stunning and has to be seen to be believed, Hue and Hoi An were both very worthwhile.

Both Hong Kong and Vietnnam have lots of cheap tailoring available, so think about having some bespoke clothes whipped up for you at a fraction of what it would cost at home.
posted by ambrosia at 8:33 AM on October 30, 2006

For what its worth, I visited Hong Kong for the first time last year and asked for recommendations from the HK locals at flickr. Here's the thread in which I also summarize what I managed to see.
posted by vacapinta at 8:44 AM on October 30, 2006

Seconding bluejayk and ambrosia re: Viet Nam. If you do end up visiting Hue, Hoi An or Ha Noi (+Ha Long Bay), all super-recommended, don't take chances with trains or buses--definitely fly (not that you wouldn't anyway, given the distances).

Around HCMC, well, if the beach scene interests you there's Mui Ne, a popular destination for ex-pats. It's anywhere from 3 to 5 hours away iirc, depending on the minivan situation (and where it stops for passenger swaps or whatever it is that takes them 1-2 hours to do). Check with the myriad agencies on Pham Ngu Lao.

If you're looking for classy dining, there are many options. I think Mandarin is at the top of the list, but Hoi An (the restaurant, not the town) is also seriously impressive. Temple Club (Bar?) is yet another super classy joint for coffee/drinks. For Western food, there's Camargue, not far from the (in)famous Apocalypse Now club.

You've probably already booked accommodation, but Caravelle Hotel is without doubt the snazziest (with matching rates, though still much cheaper than their European/North American counterparts). Even if you're not staying there, you can pay $20 to use their facilities for a day, an option well worth considering (rooftop pool, bar, lounge, etc.)

There's plenty more I could tell you. Email if you have more specific questions.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 9:19 AM on October 30, 2006

In addition to bluejayk's HK suggestions, I'd add taking the Star Ferry over to Kowloon and then wandering around the night market in Mongkok.
posted by minimal at 9:48 AM on October 30, 2006

Whilst in HCMC, you may as well check out Cho Ben Thanh (stay away from the "wet" end of it unless you have tough stomachs) and see if you can get somewhere in the Delta -- tooling around the innumerable side-streams can be a lot of fun (IMHO). The Cao Dai temple complex in Tay Ninh was a somewhat interesting day trip (this may be due to it being my first exposure to Caodaism; Tay Ninh itself was largely unremarkable).

The old Iron Triangle region was a little alarming (in a "scars of war" sense). The hills around Da Lat were pleasant; this is probably because they were the first time I'd been cool in weeks, but I mention it anyway.

Hanoi, particularly the old city, is really interesting. If you fly up there, you must check out Ha Long Bay as everyone has been saying above. Romantic as all get-out. I stayed on Cat Ba, and had a marvelous time -- the bia hoi there ("fresh beer") seemed significantly better than the stuff in Hanoi itself, and my friend had some monster huge tiger prawns the likes of which I'd never seen before or since.
posted by aramaic at 12:16 PM on October 30, 2006

As everyone else has said, Ho Chi Minh City itself isn't much fun.

There's great shopping in Cho Ben Thanh, yes -- Vietnam has great coffee, in case you didn't know. If you like coffee, get yourself a couple of kilos. Always haggle by the way. And I could get just about any mainstream movie on DVD there for 50c, and they were real DVDs too, not VCDs or camcorder-in-cinema bootlegs.

The Cu Chi tunnels are interesting, if you want to think about the war during your honeymoon, as is the war museum. I can't remember it's official name but it's something like "The Museum Of The War Of Hateful Capitalist American Aggression Against The Peace-Loving People Of Vietnam".

But if you just want to relax and enjoy yourself, get out of the city as soon as possible and go to one of the many seaside places on the Delta. If you've got more time, go North to Da Lat which is utterly different to the Delta area, it's got mountains and lakes and is an in-Vietnam tourist destination, so you get to indulge in meta-tourism.

I personally enjoyed Suoi Tien, a few miles out of the city -- three words: Buddhist Theme Park. Don't miss the "torments of hell" dioramas. It's hokey but if you're into that kind of thing you'll get a kick out of it.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:44 PM on October 30, 2006

Funny-- I just last month returned from my honeymoon to Vietnam! I echo all of the above-- of all the places we visited (approx. 10 different towns/cities along the eastern coast), Ho Chi Minh city was the least charming & most "westernized." It's still interesting, as is anyplace in Vietnam, but you'll probably want to do some day trips, or longer side trips. Hanoi was by far our favorite place, I would have been content never leaving. Hue was our next favorite city. And definitely visit Ha Long Bay-- it's stunningly beautiful, as suggested above. One of the nice things about Vietnam on a honeymoon is that it's much more affordable to splurge there and stay in a 5 star hotel, get amazing massages, and eat freshly caught seafood, if you feel like an indulgent honeymoon. If you're into beaches, there are also plenty of those, though we spent most of our time in the cities.

There's also a place (town) that Vietnamese honeymooning couples traditionally go to, which I can't think of the name of right now but you could probably find online fairly easily, that is supposed to be stunning, and that I thought it would be fun to visit, though we never did.

At any rate, you'll have a fantastic time-- we're already scheming for a way to get back...and whenever we told anyone we were on our honeymoon, we got extra special treatment. Everyone seemed really excited and flattered that we had chosen to spend the occassion in Vietnam, which made the place even more special.

Oh yeah, a super romantic place was the "Whale Island" resort, near Nha Trang. Nha Trang itself is essentially a touristy resort town, but this place was more off the beaten path. It was basically a private island. Here's the website: http://www.iledelabaleine.com/pictures.shtml
posted by Harvey Birdman at 7:20 PM on October 30, 2006

I have been living here in HCMC for a bit and unless it is all booked I would stay clear of HCMC and fly HK-Hanoi. Have a couple of days there and then head to the sea or to the hills. The best places to stay that you haven't heard of are the Victoria Hotels. If the wallet doesnt stretch that far then go green and have a low impact time. My top pick would be Mango Bay.
posted by priorpark17 at 8:39 PM on October 30, 2006

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