Stopping for Now

I’ve been sidetracked by the mad dash of my last two or so weeks of research and abandonded this blog thing. I head home today and will be writing up Hanoi, Halong Bay, Ninh Binh, Sapa, Hue, Danang, Hoi An, Nha Trang and Dalat to expand the online guide to match 99% of most travelers’ itineraries.

Meanwhile, I offer these suggestions:

DON’T BUS TO/FROM DALAT. The road is still windy and narrow — like the ol’ Hwy 1 — and takes up eight hours of a day. ‘Open buses’ use minibuses, which are almost always less comfortable. A flight is $27 and takes 35 minutes. You save a day, and one of the country’s hardest days of busing on your bum. The catch is that Vietnam Airlines often ‘sells out’ the flight way in advance. In actuality they leave four or five seats for ‘VIPs’ — and you can often get one, stand-by style, as I did this morning. Just show up an hour before and see if you get lucky. If not, the buses from Dalat pass the airport and you can catch one to Saigon.

HIRE A PRIVATE CAR BETWEEN HOI AN & HUE. Many take this four-hour trip on a open bus that zooms through the Hai Van Pass, rather than going over the short scenic road, and skipping past the gates of the remarkable Bach Ma National Park. Hiring a private car costs about $70, fits four OK, and you can see the pass, stop at Lang Co beach for lunch, and hike to falls in dramatic Bach Ma. Few visitors do this, and it’s worth the ‘splurge.’

BIKE FROM DALAT TO NHA TRANG. Here’s something interesting. Phat Tire Ventures, in Dalat, offer van/bike trips downhill from Dalat to Nha Trang which take the same amount of time as the car-sicky bus trip. Sure it’s about $65, but the guides and equipment are good, and you access a new road that gets a lot of jungle/mtn/sea views. Don’t go the reverse way — they don’t offer the uphill variant, actually — as it goes way way up.

So long for now.

RR, in Saigon

About Robert Reid

Robert Reid is a travel writer (Lonely Planet, New York Times, ESPN), travel expert (Today Show, CNN's Headline News), travel videographer (76-Second Travel Show) and travel artist (don't ask).
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