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Trip Report An Awesome Sampling of northern part of Vietnam, plus

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After a lot of research, here's what we did. Hanoi for two nights, at the Metropole--a great, historic, atmospheric hotel. An overnight on Halong Bay with Indochina Junk. (see reviews on TripAdvisor for details). A driver supplied by Indochina Junk to Ninh Binh where we stayed at Tam Coc Garden Resort for two nights to ride bikes around the inland karasts, etc. Then a driver to Mai Chau where we stayed at Mai Chau Ecolodge in the midst of rice fields and small villages. Driver back to Hanoi for a flight to Hue, with a night there at the Sofitel to visit the Citadel, and a driver down to Danang/Hoi An where we stayed at the Nam Ha, now Four Seasons, which was awesome. Hoi An itself was a circus, completely taken over by crazy tourists. Flight from Danang to Hanoi to Luang Prabang, for four nights at the Belmond (although the Sofitel would have been a good choice too) and local transport up to Nong Khiaw for two nights. Happy to provide details on request. Overall impressions: the north of vietnam suffers from extreme air pollution--the kind you feel in your chest. Laos rocks. Luang Prabang is worth the trip by itself. Sort of a cross between Mexico and Carmel, California. Hard to describe but captivating with something to offer almost anyone--good food, good hotels, good outdoor activities, and proximity to more rural, less touristy places. If you like rustic, head north.

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