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Vietnam Tours
Old 05-16-2016, 02:40 PM   #1
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Vietnam Tours

Can anybody suggest a good tour organization for a trip to Vietnam. I often travel on my own or in a tour group, whatever makes the most sense to me at the time. I would think that with the language barrier a tour group might be better if it is a good tour.

What is a good tour for me"

  • Size of 10-24 people maximum.
  • Free time to explore on my own after some type of introduction to a place.
  • At least a few things that are off the beaten tourist path, but I realize than many of the places I will want to see are on the tourist path.
  • Price includes some meals with the group, but not necessarily all. I want to try some foods for myself.
  • No high-cost extras that take up tour time and are primarily there to fatten the guide's wallet.
  • No pressure to tip this guy and show our appreciation to the other guy by spending a lot at 'special' stops.
  • Descent hotels but they don't have to be 5-star world class places. A good bed, hot and cold running water for most of the day, and hopefully a private bath.
  • History, geography, of the country are emphasized, not great shopping deals.

I want to be shown around the country, not herded around, if you can see what I mean. If you have taken a Rick Steves tour, that is generally the type of tour I would like to find for Vietnam.
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Old 05-16-2016, 02:53 PM   #2
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I spent about a year in Viet Nam back in 1970. Didn't have much free time to explore on my own but was with a group of about 30 others, all dressed in green and the place was beautiful with the exception of being shot at. The locals I became friends with were great and humble people. I'd go back in a heart beat with the right tour group.
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Old 05-16-2016, 04:01 PM   #3
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Did a couple of "tours" in RVN in the late sixties courtesy of the USA. I never plan on a future tour.
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Old 05-16-2016, 04:15 PM   #4
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Another one here. I would definitely be interested. I was there for the last year of Cam Ranh Bay AB (mid-1971 to mid-1972) and one of the last round-eyes out of there.

Cam Ranh was a unique base. The others we simply transferred to the VNAF as operational bases, but we actually closed CRB and shipped almost everything out. It was an exceptionally beautiful place, and the people were wonderful.

I have often thought about going back, but just haven't roused myself to do the necessary research about tours.
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Old 05-16-2016, 07:07 PM   #5
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Alas, I am to old for one of the 'free' tours offered by Uncle Sam to various countries of the world. So, I will need to shell out some of my own $$'s and find my own tour group.
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Old 05-16-2016, 07:39 PM   #6
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I was actually looking at this on Groupon just now. I don't know anything about it, but awesome deal (50 percent off) on Groupon, so worth a look!

http://www.halongtoursbooking.com/




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Old 05-16-2016, 08:03 PM   #7
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If you can't find answers here I highly recommend the Forums at FlyerTalk.com. There's an Asia sub-forum under Destinations and right on the first page there was a discussion on food tours in Ho Chi Minh City.
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Old 05-16-2016, 08:10 PM   #8
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In 2014 DW and I spent 10 days in Vietnam, mostly in the north but the last few days in Ho Chi Minh City. We had individual tour guides the entire time, and found it quite reasonably priced and flexible (CustomVietnamTravel.com). They will design a tour for you, or work around your itinerary. Their English was good, and the vehicles were clean, safe, and cool. We did take a 2-night Halong Bay cruise with Indochina-junk.com that was fantastic. This outfit cruises on the less-traveled side of the bay, and we only saw a few other boats in the 3 days we were aboard. The candlelight dinner deep inside a cave, literally in the heart of an island, was unforgettable. The hotel we stayed in in Hanoi had the best service I've ever received anywhere in the world. It is a small boutique hotel near the French Quarter...walking distance from the lake, night market, opera house, and many, many restaurants (Essence Hanoi Hotel).

No I am not associated with any of these establishments. We just had such a fantastic time there that I thought I'd pass on the references.
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Old 05-16-2016, 08:29 PM   #9
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I turn to Tripadvisor for such travel questions. It is such a helpful site.
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Old 05-16-2016, 09:23 PM   #10
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My wife and I, with our college-age daughter, went on a week-long tour of Vietnam about 7 years ago. We were both in the military then and were stationed in South Korea...we went with Apple Tours which is associated with the USO. I recall our interaction with Apple Tours was quite pleasant. They handled the task of obtaining visas for our travel, lodging arrangements (even the overnight stay on a luxurious junk boat on Halong Bay), English-speaking private tour guides with air conditioned vehicles (a must if you visit during the hot, steamy, humid summer months) and the flight arrangements (again from Korea) into, out of and within Vietnam.

We flew into Ho Chi Minh City, aka Saigon, and spent a couple of days there, touring local sites as well as a visit to Cu Chi tunnels used extensively by the Viet Cong. We stayed in the Caravelle Hotel (highly recommended) during our stay in Saigon. We then flew from Saigon to Hanoi via Vietnam Airlines (I don't recall anything negative from that experience) and stayed at the Sheraton (although in retrospect, the Sofitel was in a much better location). We also took a side trip to Halong Bay (a MUST) and stayed on a luxurious junk boat (Bhaya Cruise) overnight...the tour company took us there and back.

While in Hanoi, you have to of course visit Hanoi Hilton, and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (what's with all the commies preserving their leaders' bodies?), Hanoi Old Quarter, Temple of Literature, and Imperial Citadel.

To this day, we still think that was one of the better vacations we've taken as a family...quite memorable...although we didn't care much for the skewed narrative we witnessed while touring the infamous Hanoi Hilton.
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Old 05-16-2016, 09:26 PM   #11
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Old 05-16-2016, 09:28 PM   #12
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Vietnam Tours

Thank you, all of you Vietnam vets. Thank you for your service and my freedom and WELCOME HOME!


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Old 05-16-2016, 09:56 PM   #13
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... we didn't care much for the skewed narrative we witnessed while touring the infamous Hanoi Hilton.
This is the kind of things that I suspect. A while back, I read that they tore down Hanoi Hilton to build something else. I am surprised that they still keep something. They probably show how captured GIs were well fed, allowed to relax in a lounge playing chess, reading Time and Newsweek, watching TV in cold AC, etc...

I have also read that they have a War Crime Museum somewhere. Perhaps they spare American visitors of that, but show that to other visitors. These tours may be quasi-privately run, and all sanctioned by the government propaganda office.

Regarding the preservation of corpses of political leaders for display, many Communist countries learned that from the Soviets' treatment of Lenin and Stalin, and China's Mao Zedong. They elevated these thugs to sainthood, and used them to indoctrinate their citizens starting from childhood. It kind of works. When you are repeatedly told a story since you were 2, what else will you believe?
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Old 05-16-2016, 10:12 PM   #14
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I spent 3 weeks in Hanoi in 2007. The longest 3 weeks of my life and I was overjoyed when I was able to leave. There is not enough money in the world to get me to go back. Armpit of the earth. Never sweat so much in my life.
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Old 05-16-2016, 10:19 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NW-Bound
This is the kind of things that I suspect. A while back, I read that they tore down Hanoi Hilton to build something else. I am surprised that they still keep something. They probably show how captured GIs were well fed, allowed to relax in a lounge playing chess, reading Time and Newsweek, watching TV in cold AC,...
Yes! We saw nothing but pictures of POWs playing volleyball, laughing, playing cards, enjoying a sumptuous Thanksgiving Meal...nothing of the torture and the subhuman living conditions the POWs had to endure during captivity. Interestingly enough, there is a display of John McCain's parachute and flight suit fished out of Trúc Bạch Lake (there's a monument there memorializing this) when his plane got shot down.

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I have also read that they have a War Crime Museum somewhere. Perhaps they spare American visitors of that, but show that to other visitors. These tours may be quasi-privately run, and all sanctioned by the government propaganda office.
There is a War Remnants Museum in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)...which apparently was renamed in 1990 to Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression (was called Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes when it opened in 1975)...and then renamed to its current name after diplomatic relations with the US was normalized in 1995. We went into the museum and I didn't see anything too objectionable like we saw at Hanoi Hilton.

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Regarding the preservation of corpses of political leaders for display, many Communist countries learned that from the Soviets' treatment of Lenin and Stalin, and China's Mao Zedong. They elevated these thugs to sainthood, and used them to indoctrinate their citizens starting from childhood. It kind of works.
I understand where the Vietnamese got it from...just don't understand why and why it seems to work for their purposes
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Old 05-16-2016, 10:28 PM   #16
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See, I do not have to be there to know what is portrayed.

People in the free Western world do not know how these totalitarian regimes maintain a tight grip on their populace. Read accounts written by dissidents such as Solzhenitsyn or Pasternak, and you can imagine how these Communist countries are run. From the Soviets, the Chinese, to the smaller former Soviet blocks, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba, it's all the same thing.

Actually, there are other totalitarian countries that are just as bad, even if they are not Communist.

So, how do you know if a country is free? Just pick up the local papers. If you can see articles badmouthing the current leaders, parodying them, even calling them names, now that's a free country that I like to visit. I do not care if the articles are correct or not. When there's Freedom of Speech, you have everything else. It's that simple.

PS. Wonder where ls99 is. He can tell you some similar personal stories from a former Eastern block country, Hungary I believe.

PPS. Recently, right after Obama visited Cuba, a group of women gathered in Havana to peacefully protest something. Plain-clothed and uniformed policemen immediately beat them up and threw them on a bus to take them somewhere. Very little on the news about that. Americans are too busy booking tours to Cuba, and they just don't care.
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Old 05-16-2016, 11:00 PM   #17
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I have also read that they have a War Crime Museum somewhere. Perhaps they spare American visitors of that, but show that to other visitors. These tours may be quasi-privately run, and all sanctioned by the government propaganda office.
The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City was the only thing in Vietnam that I would recommend NOT visiting. It was full of photos of burning civilians and evidence of the horrors that the US side of the war caused. The photos and other artifacts of the war there are real, and I found them very disturbing.

The Hanoi Hilton was a prison that the French used for a century against Vietnamese political dissidents, and by the Vietnamese for a decade to house US POW's. The Vietnamese focus primarily on the colonial use of the prison in their museum there, with only a minor display or two showing US POW's. The POW displays focus on volleyball, Christmas gifts, and card games. The colonial displays focus on torture chambers, dank cells, and tiny cages made of barbed wire.
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Old 05-16-2016, 11:22 PM   #18
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What they show may be some truth, but absolutely not the whole truth. Any war will cause much misery, and all sides will have civilian casualties. But when you are shown the suffering from only one side, you do not get the full story. They will not show the atrocity committed by their side (does anyone expect them to?).

If I were to visit such a country, I would avoid all such museums and displays. I would just enjoy the country as it is now. Why subject myself to one-sided propaganda? Will I then try to see the view from the opposite side? Most likely not!

If I want to understand history, there are many written books on the subject that may be better unbiased. But basically there are many countries I would not visit. I always avoid countries ruled by totalitarian regimes, or those that do not allow freedom of speech and of religion. People may not understand that not all countries are like the US, Canada, or Western Europe. It's just me, but that's my principle.
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Old 05-17-2016, 04:33 AM   #19
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We spent a month touring around Vietnam independently and had no problems whatsoever with language barriers, etc. So I can't offer tour recommendations because we don't generally use them. But it's not a difficult place to travel on your own if you're so inclined.

Our time in Vietnam was definitely the highlight of our 4.5 month tour of South East Asia two winters ago. We enjoyed it more even than Thailand.

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Old 05-17-2016, 04:47 AM   #20
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What they show may be some truth, but absolutely not the whole truth. Any war will cause much misery, and all sides will have civilian casualties. But when you are shown the suffering from only one side, you do not get the full story. They will not show the atrocity committed by their side (does anyone expect them to?).

If I were to visit such a country, I would avoid all such museums and displays. I would just enjoy the country as it is now. Why subject myself to one-sided propaganda? Will I then try to see the view from the opposite side? Most likely not!

If I want to understand history, there are many written books on the subject that may be better unbiased. But basically there are many countries I would not visit. I always avoid countries ruled by totalitarian regimes, or those that do not allow freedom of speech and of religion. People may not understand that not all countries are like the US, Canada, or Western Europe. It's just me, but that's my principle.
I think what you discover when visiting places like Northern Vietnam is how much is left out of our own history and museums. History is written by the victor and we do our own share of airbrushing and selective remembering. If you want the whole story, you have to make an effort to see both sides and be willing to confront uncomfortable truths.

I found my time in North Vietnam eye opening and humbling. I think I'm a better American for the experience.
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