I guess everyone that visits Hanoi goes to see the “world famous” water puppet show. It is full of tradition and surely a bit of a laugh for tourists too. Local kids seem to love it though I guess at the prices they charge, not every kid gets to go. The puppets are operated by people that stand behind a curtain and in knee deep water! The music is interesting at first but gets tiresome after an hour.
Unique Suggestions: One thing they do is try and sell you tickets close to the stage (or water!) and from what we saw, those people seemed to get wet and worse yet, they were close to the fireworks that went off too. It was a poorly ventilated room and the smoke bothered me a bit in the middle of the hall. The seats from the middle to the front were 48,000 dong ($3) and included a cassette of the music from the show. If I was to do it again, I opt for he half price seats as they seemed just as good and I’ve only listed to the tape once since returning. It’s pretty awful.
I caught a local bus to Hai Phong.
On arriving at the Bus station, I was taken to the Bus and put straight on it.
I asked the price of the ticket, they would not tell me. When we had gone a long way, they came and asked for 100,000dong, I thought this was a big amount, but paid, as I didn't know what else I could do.
When I arrived there, I went for a short walk then decided to catch a bus back.
I went to the window and bought a ticket, and got on the Bus, a different company to the one I arrived on.
This company seemed to be more professional, as they had their price written on their window, 40000dong for the same trip. The Driver was dressed in nice Uniform, altogether, more professional and honest.
Unique Suggestions: Make sure that you know the price before you get on the bus.
Do not let them pressure you to get on the bus with out knowing the price.
The bus company that ripped me off was JAC. Do not use this company, there are others to choose from, that are cheaper and better.
I couldn't get a group tour to Cuc Phuong National park, so had to go privately at a cost of $60.
This I didn't mind, but, the driver guide, couldn't speak hardly any English.
It was a very long day, and I didn't know anything about what I saw!
You would think the tour company would have sent somebody who could speak English.
Will not be doing this again, and if you do, MAKE SURE THE DRIVER CAN SPEAK REASONABLE ENGLISH before you book the tour and pay!
This is mainly street sellers that do this the most.
You buy something from them, and they charge in US $'s...................
You hand over US $'s....................
AND........They give you change in DONG.
This is quite alright if you are given the correct change, but many times, if you know your "dong" you will find that they have short changed you by quite a bit!
If you don't know how much your change should be in Dong, well, you have probably over paid.
Caught once, but not again, as when I was short changed, I told them so, and asked for the correct amount, which they handed over!
Its a good idea to memorise something basic so that you can quickly work out in your head, approx how much your change should be in Dong.
We happened to be at the Mausoleum during the changing of the guard. It’s nothing special. The new guards show up, and the old guards leave. That’s it!
Unique Suggestions: If you’re already in the area, see it. Otherwise, it’s not worth the $1 moto-taxi ride.
Fun Alternatives: Visit the One Pilar Pagoda, and stroll around the nearby park. Hop on a moto-taxi and go for a ride.
After paying an entrance fee to Hanoi First University, check your change to make sure they gave you back the right amount. Also bring an extra $500dong if you want to use the restroom, there is a lady sitting there to collect your money, even though they have a donation box there.
This trap is one of those that is so hard to get out of. Works like this : When you hire your sampan the rowers work in pairs and both get on board at the embarcation. No problem says you!! Half way round the scam starts : Buy a table cloth please lady ? Buy a t-shirt please mister ? And there you are, stuck half way up a river, no way of getting off, so what do you do ? The litany then carries on, that is if you have decided, at that point not to buy anything all the way back to the dock. And that means listening to 3/4 of an hour of pleading. I must admit I cracked....So, if you do get on a sampan in Tam Coc, be warned.
This offering always comes with a 10 dollar tip.
10 x 10 dollars = 100 dollars.
Motorbike ride around Hanoi city is always VND10,000 to VND15,000 not more.
Make sure which Pho=Street you wanted to go.
Hanoi Bus is around VND3,000
Further trip to outer of Hanoi city, with mini bus may go up to VND40,000
Unique Suggestions: Just say, I'll give you 2 dollar? or find yourself a local friend especially restaurant or pub owners or a person who have been there, they'll more then happy to help you for free.
Kim's Cafe is a tour agency, also listed in Lonely Planet guide book.
They sell tickets a little cheaper than some other agencies, but don't let them fool you. OK You get cheap tickets, but it's no quality tour at all. I booked a Halong 2-day tour with'em for 20 bucks each person. The boat was a real JUNK sh*t (the worst one we've ever seen), no fresh water and electricity at night and 3 meals on board they're all the same!! Us 5 girls, another French couple and a Dutch guy (whom the agency forgot to pick him up at his hotel a day before), we're all so pissed....
As soon as we got back to Hanoi, we were heading down to Kim Cafe. The lady just ignore our comments, no apologies, nothing. She just kicked us out and said "IF YOU ARE SMARTER, If you're not pleased with the boat you should ask the crew to sail back" Yeah sure, nobody on that fukkin'junk can understand English!!
Unique Suggestions: JUST DON'T GO TO THIS PLACE, they're goin' down!!!
Fun Alternatives: Tamarind Cafe
Sinh Cafe, but watch out they're Sinh all over the place...only one is REAL
Explorer Tours is a travel agency that is located in Hanoi, 85 Hang Bo Street. The company has a professional looking homepage, www.halongbay-vietnam.com, that offers daytrips from Hanoi and cruises in Halong Bay. We booked a 3day/ 2 nights cruise on the Dragon's Pearl 2 with them through the internet and paid the fare upfront. We reconfirmed our cruise the night before, however, the bus that collected us from the hotel took us to a completely different boat. We were able to check out the boat online before embarking and found out that the fare was $70 less per person than we had paid. Although Explorer tours admitted to their "mistake" and offered to reimburse the difference, the only gave us a partial refund after our third trip to their office. We later found out at our hotel that we were not the first to be scammed by this company, the same sceme apparently also works for hotels.
Unique Suggestions: If you have already booked a trip with this company and paid by credit card, ask your credit card company to stop the payment and cancel the trip.
Fun Alternatives: I have travelled in South and Central Vietnam before coming to Hanoi and had no problems with scams, Hanoi seems to be different, though. I would advise to book Hanoi trips through a travel agency in your home country, even if that should be a little dearer. Otherwise, do better research on Tripadvisor about Hanoi travel agencies and book trough them.
I’ve read about this restaurant in many books before I came to Vietnam. So we went there one evening. Okay, the food is good, it’s funny that only one dish is on the card and the atmosphere is quite nice. Great that one family offers that dish (fish) for five generations. I know that sounds hard but beside the food on the boat trip in Saigon this was the worst food we got in Vietnam. That doesn’t mean that it’s bad but I’ve never eaten that fat in Vietnam. Afterwards we all felt completely full and a bit sick – and we didn’t eat much. Reminded me to the feeling I sometimes have when I go to the Greek in Germany. And the price for the dish is a little about the average, probably because this restaurant is kind of famous in other countries.
Fun Alternatives: There are soo many possiblities you have, especially in bigger cities like Hanoi. Just try another restaurant.
Every tour guide of Hanoi mentions the Museum of Ethnology among the top things to do, but unless you have a real interest in Vietnamese hill tribes or ethnic groups, it isn't worth the time. True, the entrance fee is low (about $US2), but it's just not terribly exciting. Go if you've seen all the other sites, but don't make a special trip and don't feel like you've missed out if you leave Hanoi without seeing it.
Why is it touted so highly? Maybe because compared to all of Hanoi's other Museums it has more description in English or French, and they actually hand out guides (not very releveant) in those languages (though they were out of English the day I went). There are rooms devoted to each of 54 ethnic groups (some with as few as 4000 people), with a few artifacts devoted to each. By far the most interesting theme was the variation in funeral rites. One group swears that death is just a continuation of life with no separation. Another group considers it a great rupture and spends sevcen days sitting in a newly constructed building morning their loss before throwing an exit celebration.
Unique Suggestions: The outdoor portion of the museum is by far the more interesting, as they have examples of the housing architecture for many ethnic groups. There is a typical Viet house, a long house from the Ede people and, most intriguing, a tomb from the Jorai people (see, I told you death is best here!). It is a low slung building surrounded by wood carvings of people accompanying the dead person to the great beyond. unexpectedly, most of the woman are pregnant and most of the guys are excited about ejaculation -- either in a couple with a woman or alone. It seems like the Jorai have quite a good time in their heaven! It sure beats the prayers, clouds and angels I was brought up with!
Fun Alternatives: The Ho Chi Minh Museum or the Museum of the Revolution are more interesting choices in the museum world.
We booked through this company for one day City tour just to avoid all the hassles of doing it by ourselves and paid $20 for it (with lunch, transport, entrance fee) and tour should last from 8AM - 5PM. What we got instead was a guide going to our hotel with no transportation and telling us that we need to take taxi around city for the tour (eventhough the agency said day before they have van for tour). So we took taxi to the 2nd hotel to pick up another customer then went to another hotel via another taxi to pick up two more guests. At that point there were already 6 of us total and guide wanted to conserve taxi fare by always waiting for taxi van to arrive at our area. It was pointless to join tour if you will just take taxi around as can do that ourselves! What's more, the guide speaks very little English so really hard to understand him and gave very little information about the sites we visited. Funny thing was that it started raining and he had us put the guest comment sheets in my girlfriend's bag as it will just get wet! He even borrowed cellphone of one of the guys who joined tour just to try and call taxi company! What a waste of time! Ended at 1Pm and didn't even follow the itenery anymore so missed a couple of places therein because at that point I would assume guide doesn't want to spend anymore for taxi fares!
Fun Alternatives: get different travel agency or just go by yourselves via taxi.
This may not apply if you're using only USD and/or VND, but when I visited Hanoi, I came from Thailand and have been living there for awhile (making and spending Thai Baht) and so I needed to have a general idea of how much things cost in baht as opposed to dollars ...
The Vietnamese will pound away at their calculators with a dramatic performance of formulas and quote you a price in a different currency (whether it be baht, francs, or whathaveyou) but it's almost always no where near the actual exchange rate! I doubt it's out of malice, but regardless of their motivation ... it's not recommended to take their word for it. I was quoted 80B for a hotel room when the actual price was 460B!
Becareful ... bring your own calculator/currency converter!
Unique Suggestions: Bring your own calculator/currency converter!
If you book a tour to Halong Bay you will find endless travel agencies offering you tours for one or two days. The price range for a normal one day tour will be from $ 17 to 25 and more. They will tell you different stories about the food quality, the amount of people to expect, the bus, the ship...
Normally the only difference is the price. You will end up often on the same tour. On our $ 17 trip were people paying $ 60 (but for two days) and others paying extra for a special tour with special food and a small amount of people. We all had the same food, boat and bus. We were only 11 people on our tour.
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