Originally Posted by TonyM
I am headed there in Nov. and would love to paddle. Will be there for about a month. What are some areas I should plan on seeing? Not exactly a kayaking trip, but could def. spend a week paddling.
If you are there in November you will be right at the tail end of typhoon season and right into the beginning of Winter (rainy season), in most parts of the country (everywhere except HCMC and the Delta). It will be surprisingly cold (40's-50's) in the mountains to the north, around the towns of Sa Pa and Lao Cai. There's good boating to be had in that area, lots of gradient, flow, and access. Plenty of good rivers to explore just right off the road from Lao Cai to Sa Pa itself. Like I said, just likely to be cold.
Ha Long Bay is beautiful, but you should get there quick before they shit it up too much. It's getting trashed pretty quickly, and though there are plans to "clean it up" and "restore its beauty", those will take time, so get there soon before it sucks.
Ha Noi is worth a day or two, just because it is the capital and it's 1,200+ years old.
Ninh Binh is beautiful, its the "Ha Long on land", with the karst towers rising over rice paddies and small rivers rather than the ocean. Beware, dog is a a HUGE delicacy in Ninh Binh, you will see it for sale and many restaurants. If a place says "Thit Cho" or "Thit Cay" stay away. Brace yourself for the markets too. Not much good paddling here.
Ho Chi Minh's home is in Nghe An....it's pretty but nothing overwhelmingly so.
Quang Binh has Phong Nha-Khe Bang National Park, which is home to some bitchin' caves. Further west in the protected area is Son Doong Cave, the newly discovered largest cave in the world. One company did a year of tours to prove to the gov't they can do it properly, so while tours are on hold for now to come up with language and paperwork, they will offer them sooner or later. Don't know about November....Not that great of paddling here either.
Quang Tri has lots of war relics and has some ok looking paddling up near the towns of Dak Rong and Khe Sanh, including one terrifying looking gorge with some rather stout looking falls in it. A couple of big water rivers flow with some rapids here.
Hue, Da Nang, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa area the central part, and have lots of big granite mountains. Further west Kontum and Gia Lai both have lots of volcanic basalt underneath them. Da Nang is my home and I have done most of my recon around there. Not many falls around DNG and Hue, mostly rivers with rapids, and plenty of them. Nha Trang is a beautiful beach town with lots of cools things to see and do (including commercial rafting) but it is full of unfriendly Russians and Europeans. Kontum and Gia Lai have lots of falls because of the basalt, but lots of rivers too. Not much tourist infrastructure. Hue, Da Nang/Hoi An (only 30 mins apart so really one) and Nha Trang are tourist hot spots. Hue has the history, Da Nang/Hoi An has the cultural charm and heritage, and Nha Trang has the parties and beach scene. Da Nang's beach is better, but theres more of a beach culture in Nha Trang.
Da Lat and Buon Ma Thuot are also volcanic and have lots of basalt as well. Da Lat has some granite in there too, with lots of deep canyons and some big falls. Some of the falls have been run by the River Roots crew. Da Lat is one of the more beautiful places in VN, pine trees!! and beautful mountains and jungles. Cooler climate. Some canyoning tours here. There is one river (Dong Nai River) that looks like it has some big water rapids on it leading out of the highlands, but south of this there is no boating.
The southern coast has Mui Ne/Phan Thiet (over priced, no soul, waaaaay too many unfriendly russians, but, Sand dunes!!) and Ba Ria-Vung Tau, which is pretty much a shithole. The climate changes once you get to Mui Ne, with winter being a dry season. It wont be face melting hot but it will be warm and muggy.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is pretty amazing and worth spending a couple days in just to wander around and see it.
The Mekong Delta is way cool. Lots of canals everywhere and a whole different world than the water starved west we are used to. Worth visiting for sure. Its usually hot year round here.
There's two islands off Vietnam, Phu Quoc and Con Dao. Phu Quoc sucks butthole and is over priced shit, and Con Dao is a gem that is one of my favorites anywhere.
Hope this helps, any further questions?