Me & my girlfriend will go to Vietnam this Sept.
We've got around 20 days and start our trip in Hanoi.
We prefer to travel on our own, public transport, etc, we prefer not to use travel agencies unless is 100% mandatory.
We would like to go to the NorthEast (Nam Dich, Ha Giang, Quang Ba, Dong Van, Meo Vac, Cao Bang, Ba Be, Lang Son & back to Hanoi).
First question is how can we get to these places on our own (public transport if there is any possibility).
We've never driven a moto except for the automatic small scooters, so we think it's not a good idea starting to learn in Vietnam roads, but of course we will rent one moto for one day in different places.
Also we want to go to Ha Long Bay (Cat Ba) and Nimh Binh, but the most difficult part for us to find information is the NorthEast.
We do not know if we will also go to Sapa, but we prefer less crowded places (i Know outside Sapa is probably not so crowded when trekking, but it's our way).
What can you say??
Has anyone gone to these places in the northeast and how did you get there??
If no other option than through an agency, any recommendation??
Thanks in advance
You will be able to travel between most of those places by public bus. You just need to find the bus stations in the various towns/cities. Public transport may involve changing in strange places though. Accommodation should be able to help you. They may also put on more tourist-type transport for you - not so much a tour as a tourist bus. Or you could do shorter organised tours to the places that are harder to get to.
Have you checked out the Lonely Planet guidebook?
To get to Cat Ba/Halong Bay on your own, you go to Luong Yen bus station in Hanoi and get a public bus (usually Hoang Long bus company). You can get the bus to Haiphong (2 hours) and then get a hydrofoil to Cat Ba or you can get the bus all the way (at one point you get on a ferry, but the ticket is all inclusive (takes about 3 1/2 hours). From there you can book trips around the bay - either day trips or ones where you sleep on the boat. There are plenty of companies on Cat Ba. You can hire a motorbike on Cat Ba (the roads are really quiet) and explore the island and the national park. From Cat Ba you can book a bus to Ninh Binh, or get the public bus from Haiphong.
One of the things I've found about trying to travel by public transport in Vietnam is that the times of buses are quite difficult to find without going to the bus stations. However, it is possible. You definitely don't need to book an organised tour for the whole thing. I'd wait until you get the Hanoi and find out how much you can do alone with help from accommodation staff and then do the remainder by different organised tours.
Hope this helps
Hi Kris & Kate, first of all thanks a lot for your answer. I have the lonelyplanet guide and through the net i've found out there's a bus from Hanoi to Ha Giang, but no info about going from there to Dong Van or Meo Vac except by renting a motorbike, but sure we'll ask our hostel staff in Hanoi while we are there.
We are only worried because i've read NorthEast is not well-communicated by public bus and when we organize our trip we don't want yo waste too much time finding out how to get to our next stop, it seems we loose time doing this, though i know it is also part of the adventure, trip.
If you want, you can recommend me places to visit which do not appear in the LP guide, that'll be great.
Cat Ba i read from the guide how to get there and would like to book a tour there sleeping in a beach in a tent or sth like that which i've also read in someone elses blog.
Thanks for your help, any recommendation, advice will be very welcome!!
I would like to give you some advice. Travelling around Northwest, there are 2 type of transportation : motorbike and car. But you need a local guide travelling with you because the path in Dong Van, Meo Vac is quite difficult to go by yourseft. For the motorbike, it should me Simson or something like that. For Halong bay, you should book a overnight cruise. It's the best choice to explore Halong Bay. For Ninh Binh, there's an open bus every 6.pm. If you don't want to go to Sapa, Mai Chau will be the best. But you should book a homestay in Ban Lac 2 over the bridge. It's very quite place.
If you need any further information, please feel free to ask me at <snip>.
Have a nice day!
[Edited: 2012 Aug 03 05:11 - Rat on the Road:23681 - Please contact the poster via the personal messaging system. Thanks]