QUOTE(tomandcheu @ Jan 13 2011, 07:35 AM)
Hi, I've just been to both and have to say I much preferred Hanoi. HCM is a big modern city with loads of backpacker type nightlife but I really could not find it so interesting and frankly I was bored after the first day as I was hoping for more culture and less of a gap year student feel to the place - I finished uni 25 years ago so am a bit over the Backpacker drinking games.
Hanoi I found incredible - the old quarter is an amazing web of streets packed with vendors and street life full of vietnamese people who are happy for you to squat down on their mat and enjoy a few nibbles or some dirt cheap drinks with them. Of course some areas are full of tourists having a great time but its a little more of a sophisticated crowd in the north than in the south and so whilst you are always with other tourists the feel is different from the south.
I echo the comments of an earlier responder about the mekong delta - I had thought that would be the highlight of my tour but I was disappointed at the commercialism of it. I didnt have time to get off the beaten track down there and so everywhere I went was packed with bus or boats loads of tourists and I never felt like I was experiencing anything like real mekong local life. I eat almost anything and have been travelling Asia for 6 months now on a very tight budget eating mainly street food with only occasional visits to restaurants, but I found the food in the south either pretty revolting or down right dull, and it was the worse foody experience anywhere on my travels.
In Hanoi have a walk around the west lake - its not promoted in many guides but is a really neat place to wander and try some local food and you almost never come across another westerner as you wander around. There are no big sites except the temple at the southern end, but you get a great feel for the living city if you open yourself up to the experience of it all.
We also went on a Halong Bay tour - we met a fantastic group of people which made the trip great fun but again, dont expect to feel in any way local. You will be on one of 60 or more boats trailing through the same route and at times your boat will be in a Q of 20 other boats waiting to dock at a cave. When you get in there, 20 or 30 boat loads of people will already be in there and you will follow them through the caves with hundreds if not thousands of other people at the same time. The scenery is amazing, if only you could see it without the 60+ other boats blocking out the view.
I've been reading your comments about Vietnam and it seems you have very little traveling experience knowledge. You should know that to get the real thing you do have to get off the beaten track, even at home as we all know that the UK is one big tourist trap. But, you really are very ignorant of Vietnam and it's history. I suppose you would have similar comments about Iraq, also.
The Mekong is superb, but you have to go there, unescorted, on the back roads. There's a highway that runs parallel to highway 1 from HCM all the way south, just as there are similar roads in almost any country in the world except in very mountainous areas. People are much the same any where you go and so their infrastructure is very similar. What's really wonderful about SE Asia is you can get a motorbike and wander almost any where you like. You don't need a license either. The more off the major routes the more you will find the paradises you seek, and often quite close to the major routes and destinations. Vietnamese, unlike Cambodians and Thais, travel distances so there are many good roads, well many roads but as it's almost tropical there's a lot of road erosion. Vietnamese are much less money hungry than are the Cambodians or Thais when off the beaten track but still close to the tourist areas, but I found that locals around Sihanoukville, up the track roads very friendly and invited me to sit, eat, drink with them where ever I went on the tracks. Vietnamese live in a paradise compared to the Cambodians and the people seem to do very well despite their history as the environment is a treasure trove continually rewarding them.
How could you, and others, miss the superb Mekong is some thing I just can't understand. It was all right there, all you had to do was get off your butt and go find it, just down one of them small little roads that big buses don't go along, that local buses go along. Get off the big bus, get on a local bus and see where it takes you. Go on an adventure!
I don't know who said it but,"get a life, you need one seems appropriate." How you could miss such wonders, pleasures, bargains, is beyond me. I'm a whitie too. But I have lived in Asia for 8 1/2 years continuously, so that may have some thing to do with it.