Viet Nam Vacation with Kids?October 2002
We were supposed to go to Bali and Lombok this winter, and I'm afraid those plans are off. We feel badly about contributing to economic problems for Bali but don't want to risk it with our kids. We are now thinking of Viet Nam, and I'd love to hear from anyone who's been there recently, especially with kids.
The whole reason we're going to SE Asia is to meet up with my brother and his family, who live in Sumatra. Given the current world conditions, we've had to rule out vacationing together in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Southern Thailand. My brother's family really wants/needs a beach vacation, and one that is not too expensive, so I thought of Viet Nam.
I've been looking at the guidebooks, and the coastal areas around Hoi An, Nha Trang, and Phan Thiet look very promising, although at least for the first two, the winter surf may be too high for swimming. If it were up to me, we'd be focusing on cultural areas such as Hoi An, Hue, Da Nang, etc., but at least for the week we're with my brother's family it needs to be low stress, and kid friendly. After they leave I hope we can fly to Cambodia to Angor Wat.
Can we go to Viet Nam with kids (ages 7 and 9 - good travelers although they've never been to Asia),and have an enjoyable, safe time, and even, dare we hope, not get sick? Natasha
I LOVED Vietnam!!! I just vacationed there a year ago and highly recommend it. It is very easy to travel, the people are extremely friendly, it is safe (or at least I felt safe) and food/drink is not a problem. By the way, I went the backpacker route and had no problems. I loved Nha Trang -- its really the only white sand beach in mid/south Vietnam. Lots of Vietnamese families vacation there, as well as international tourists. There are some islands/beaches in North Vietnam about 2-3 hours out of Hanoi, but we didn't venture that far out. Hue is an amazing, quaint (cobblestone) city/village with the most incredible shopping! A must if you're going to visit - you;ll be happily amazed at what you find.
I did not go with kids, but would in a minute. It is very easy to travel, transportation is easy, prices are cheap, it is comfortable and fun! I've been all over South East Asia and besides Malaysia (ok, and Singapore & Hong Kong), this is the only other destination I've found that is super easy for non- hard core travelers that want something exotic. Have a blast!! Julie
I traveled to Vietnam three years ago. No kids in tow. I liked Hoi An for it's cultural significance. Nha Trang was a bit too touristy for me. Didn't get to Phan Thiet. I think kids could have a good time and would probably love being taken around in pedi-cabs - a main mode of transport. Hue' was my favorite place. While at Hue;, I got a bike from the hotel and rode out into the country side by myself. It would be fun with kids I think. Lots of folks ride up along side of you and chat - practicing their English. Keep in mind that the ''vendors'' on the beaches are VERY aggressive (as well as in the major cities). Try to balance your need for peace with their need for cash. It was hard not to get annoyed. I think there were some roped off areas that you could pay a small sum to get into and the vendors weren't allowed in. I was there for three weeks and didn't get sick. Side note that the pickpockets in Saigon are incredibly aggressive. Be very careful. Just don't carry anything of value in your backpack or pockets. jane
Whew! What a time to travel in Asia! I have travelled to Vietnam solo and leading a group of adults. I have travelled with my 4 month old in Thailand and Pakistan so perhaps I can combine some tips from the two. 1) take your kids out to some area vietnam restaurants and let them get some favorite dishes under their belts. I like Da Nang on San Pablo at Solano. Take some peanut butter and crackers for back up. American cereal is available there but very expensive ($6 for a box of corn flakes in 1994). 2)Take some lightweight, portable toys/books. I don't like gameboys but for that age group, probably would be the ticket, especially on that long flight. 3)Nhatrang does have some nice beach. Vung Tao is too touristy (Vietnamese tourists). You could charter a boat inexpensively to take you out near Cat Ba Island in Ha Long Bay. Very beautiful area and some nice little beaches with no surf and caves. There are also some companies doing some sea kayaking around there. Last time I was on Cat Ba, there was only one guest house near the harbor and a guest house in the national park in the center of the island, but you had to buy your own food in the market and take it there. Then someone there would cook it for you. I haven't been to Hoi An but hear it is very quaint. Don't know if there is much beach to speak of. In my opinion, Siem Reap is still a pretty dangerous area. I went there with adults. Don't think I would chance it with kids. Trip wires, unexploded ordnance. klevenson
I missed the original post, but wanted to add my support for a Vietnam holiday with kids. It is easy and safe and clean, particularly if you are thinking of beaches in the middle of the country. Winter surf isn't a problem, though murky water makes scuba diving lousy if that matters, and the weather from Nha Trang down will be good, and I would risk Danang without much worry about rain. How stress free a holiday with kids is, depends on your kids and your budget. If you're looking for a week in a fancy hotel, with five star accomodations, multiple pools, clean white beaches and supplies of pina coladas and boogie boards, then the Furama resort in Danang or the Ana Mandara in Nha Trang are your best bets. Both are located in/near cities and so getting out is easy and you don't have to spend your holiday wondering where Vietnam is... but at the same time your kids can spend a morning by the beach without any stress while you read a book free from people trying to sell you things. Both hotels run about $100 to $150 per room for non- Vietnamese.
There are now similar hotels, a bit less expensive (~$70/room) in Mui Ne, just outside of Phan Thiet; a bit north of Vung Tao (2 hours outside of Saigon); and about two miles outside of Hoi An. The downside would be that they are in smaller towns, with less to do (Hoi An is the favorite place for many visitors to Vietnam, largely I think because you can walk everywhere easily, but I find it a bit disneyland-ish and wouldn't rush back - it is a 1-hour bus ride from Danang)
Four miles south of Nha Trang is the Bao Dai villa complex, which has a semi-private beach and four or five romantic and decaying colonial villas on a pennisula. No pool, and you need a taxi to town. Lots of smaller hotels in Nha Trang, Danang, Phan Thiet, etc that would be near the beaches and less expensive, but you would have a slightly more gritty experience going out and dealing with real life every day on the beaches and restaurants.
I am all in favor of staying in a normal hotel and eating in normal restaurants. If your kids are good at adapting, then they may not need a retreat to luxury and you can certainly have a more satisfying time staying in places that feel like Vietnam. But, if you are concerned about your kids adapting, you might try three or four nights in a fancy place and then move if your budget can do it.
Be forwarrned that jetlag is no fun this way, and you should imagine what you'll do for fun from one to eight am the first few days. In saigon the NewWorld hotel has a small garden and swimming pool that are nice and cool around 2am when you are waking up and the rest of the world isn't yet. There are deep discounts with travel agents at times which can make it quite affordable.
EVA air has the best connections to Saigon from SFO, and for an extra $100 you can (and should) upgrade to Evergreen Class, which is 2/3s of the way to business class. On a 22 hour journey it makes a huge differences. Of course there are the usual amenities like private tvs and many movies to choose from.
Beware of the Tet (Chinese New Year) holiday when going to Vietnam, as the flights will be booked long in advance around this time.
Good luck, Dominic