Sapa dramas, nicely resolved ^^
Looked forever for a Sapa 3 day tour for me and a friend for Oct 2nd-5th, 2009 (coming up), found heaps around the mid US$200s up to $400, all with itineraries that didn't really match ours.
All the tours didn't fit into our tight schedule. With only 5 days in Vietnam, we wanna do a lot ^^
We wanted to arrive in Lao Cai (Where the train to Sapa arrives) on a Sat morning, do a homestay 1 night, with the Bac Ha markets on Sunday, and some additional trekking to villages on the Monday, back on the overnight train to Hanoi on Mon night.
By chance, (and thank goodness i did) I e-mailed a company (Vietnam Tour On Sale - I'll just use 'VTOS') who didn't have any prices on the website. They came back with US$149 (incl all meals - and some of the more expensive tours I looked at didn't even include all meals). A whole US$100 less than the others! A whole lot of money to a person on a budget ^^
Ms Nhung from VTOS got back to me the next day with an individual itinerary to suit the days we wanted to travel. Came with a Lovely price, including tickets for the Livitran train we wanted to travel on.
(Here comes hurdle #2)
After we looked at flgits from HCMC to Hanoi for Friday, we e-mailed VTOS again saying that we wanted be on the Fri night Jetstar flight at 17:10pm. Its a lot cheaper than Vietnam Airways (like about 1/2 the price).
They e-mailed back saying that Jetstar are notioriously late, and suggested an earlier flight to compensate, or to cut the tour down to 2 days, as lots of people have missed the first day of their tour and had to buy additional train tickets because of Jetstar.
She also said we could do the 17:10 flight, hope like hell it departs on time (my words, actually), and then go to the train station and book the train tickets ourselves there if the flight was on time. She said she could arrange airport pick-up and we could pay the driver separatly.
Well... seeing we're flying into Vietnam HCMC on late thu night, we wanted to do a full day in HCMC, then catch a late-ish flight. After much too-ing and fro-ing with my friend, we decided we really couldn't give up 1/2 a day of HCMC for an extra day in Sapa (the next earlier flight meant we'd have to leave HCM a few hours earlier), so we decided to change our Sapa tour to 2 days, and stick with Jetstar, but now taking a late night Fri flight so we can have dinner in HCMC.
(As a side note, I read on one forum that a person had major delays with Jetstar, and there was a First Class lounge at one airport in Vietnam that you can buy your way into (for like $5) - it wasn't at HCMC, tho. Started with a 'D' i think. Does anyone know if there is the same thing at HCM domestic?Would make the wait a little more comfortable ^^)
Anyway, another e-mail back to lovely Ms Nhung (with many 'sorry's) saying we'd like to do the 2 day tour, so she sent us trough ANOTHER itinerary (I felt terrible after she'd gone to the trouble of figuring out the first one). The 2 day tour came back as $99! I saw others online for $189! Crazyness, I thought ^^ And she sent me this lovely bit about the company:
"Honestly, we are promoting Sapa homestay, not only promote homestay tours but also aim at bring the tourist to the ethnic village so they will broaden their mind and must be dynamic then catch up with society development. Please bring some pens, notebook to gift the children in the villages on your trip."
Honestly...I like companies that don't just have money on the brain - like the company who advertised their 3 day tour for $400! Where's the extra money going, huh? Someone's deep pockets! ^^
After a week of me bugging her, asking a million questions, changing our mind every 2 minutes, and 2 individualized itineraries, Ms Nhang was still lovely. And I happen to like lovely people ^^ So, we're going to book through them. Plus, the take paypal. Makes me feel a lot safer knowing that my credit card details aren't floating around out there ^^
I will post again after our tour with the details of how it went, and put pics up (if I can figure out how to do it).
Plus, I'll add our 'How to do Vietnam in 5 days for super cheap' (if it works out). We have a budget of $300 for everything: accom, flight, a bit of shopping, tours to Sapa and Halong bay, and 2 self guided tours in HCMC and Hanoi. Hope like hell it works ^^
Here's the e-mail address for the company. I'd suggest attn: the e-mail to Ms Khang.