Trip Coach: February 19, 2008 Robert Reid, from (the online free guidebook to Vietnam), answered your questions on Vietnam. Budget Travel Tuesday, Feb 19, 2008, 10:05 AM Budget Travel LLC, 2016


Trip Coach: February 19, 2008

Robert Reid, from (the online free guidebook to Vietnam), answered your questions on Vietnam.

Robert Reid: Hi there. This is Robert Reid talking from chilly Brooklyn, NY—way too far from Vietnam! It looks like there are a lot of questions, and I'll try to answer as many as I can! OK, let's get started!


Lincolnshire, Ill.: What is the best way, in your opinion, to get from Hanoi to HCM City or vice-versa? How much time does that option take and how much does it cost?

Robert Reid: Are you planning on stopping off on places on the way? Such as Nha Trang, Hoi An and Hue? Many people like the "open bus," which is $25 for the full trip between Hanoi and Saigon. It allows free stop-offs, but would take something like 40-45 hours if done straight. I usually do some shorter leg flights, such as Hanoi-Hue ($57 one way) or Hanoi-Danang, near Hoi An ($57 one way), Hanoi-Saigon ($105, or $65 on Pacific Airlines).


Ann Arbor, Mich.: Is Vietnam an appropriate destination for families with young (age 5-6) children? If so, what locations/activities would be of interest?

Robert Reid: I've met a lot of people traveling with kids across Vietnam and having a great time. People love kids there, so they'll get some adoration. There's lots of interesting things to see: Hanoi has a water-puppet show, Saigon has a water park.

The most walking-friendly place is Hoi An, where you'll feel comfortable walking around the center. Otherwise I'd imagine kids will enjoy a cyclo ride (one adult/one kid can fit on one). A ride around Hanoi's "36 Streets" area is fun, and a bit safer than walking (lots of foot/pedal/motorbike traffic). You can see gibbons and monkeys close up at Cuc Phuong National Park (south of Hanoi). Bigger resorts have kid-oriented activities. Nha Trang's Sofitel Vinpearl Resort is a bit cheesy to my tastes, but it's an island resort you can get to on cable cars, there's an amusement park (near hotel), a HUGE kid's pool and a private beach.

Congrats on the win over Ohio State the other day by the way!


San Francisco, Calif.: Do you have any suggestions for books to read about Vietnam that AREN'T about the Vietnam war?

Robert Reid: Many of the Vietnam travel lit guides came out after Vietnam 'opened' in the mid 1990s, a whole flurry of them. I think something fresh and new of traveling thru the booming 'little tiger' south of China's 'big tiger' is waayy overdue.

I probably like Vietnam, Now by David Lamb the most. He reported from VN in the '90s and gives a lot of cultural insight. But Catfish & Mandala by Andrew Pham is popular, written by Vietnamese American going back to former home on bike.

For Vietnamese lit, predictably most that gets translated is war-related, like Bao Ninh's Sorrow of War, which I did enjoy. Others I enjoyed less. But I REALLY LOVE the Vietnamese book from the early 20s called Dumb Luck by Vu Trong Phuong. It's rather slapstick, like a Charlie Chaplin character in the streets of Hanoi.


Eugene, Ore. : We are traveling with a group and will be in Hoian March 10 and would like to take a participation or hands on cooking class. Do you have a recommendation? —Sharon

Robert Reid: Hi, Sharon. Nothing beats Vietnamese food. Red Bridge (or Cau Do) is a great place for cooking classes in Hoi An. They have two sessions a day, leaving from the center by boat to a riverside spot towards the beach. It's about $15 per person and you learn to make several dishes, then try it afterward. You should reserve spots, particularly if with a big group, as soon as you arrive. It often fills. Go by Hai Scout Café (98 Nguyen Thai Hoc St) in the center, or call 0510-933-222.

I was there with my wife last summer, but too lazy to do classes—she went in the morning, and I joined them later on and shared the spoils of their time in the kitchen!


San Francisco, Calif.: Any tips or advice for a single female traveler going to Vietnam?

Robert Reid: In terms of personal safety, Vietnam, like most of Southeast Asia, has about the safest rep for women, solo (or any) travelers. I've not met any women travelers who've had the sort of problems that can happen in places like Indonesia or India. The best advice is keep any flashy necklaces or rings at home, and don't dress up any skimpy clothes. Loose bags sometimes get grabbed from men and women. Some Asian women who travel with white men occasionally get nasty comments (in Vietnamese), usually from cyclo drivers and the like. Otherwise, you'll find it's easy to meet up with fellow travelers to go around with.

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