/ Vietnam or Japan

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Vikki Haydock - on 08 Nov 2012
Hi All

Last year, my boyfriend and I spent 3 weeks seeing (some of) the sights in China. We had an amazing time and want to get back over to that side of the world next year.

However - we're struggling to decide on Vietnam or Japan?

Anybody have any experience of either?

We covered 4 destinations in China (Shanghai, Luoyang, Xian, Beijing) so thinking of doing the same kind of thing wherever we end up next year

Thanks muchly
lost1977 - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:

if i had a healthy budget i would do Japan, if things were a little tighter then Vietnam
ti_pin_man - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to lost1977: Cambodia !
Vikki Haydock - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to lost1977:

Yeah we've noticed that things, especially trains, are soooo much more expensive in Japan!
RockSteady on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:

I spent 3 weeks on holiday travelling round Japan. I really liked it.

Things to note - it is expensive - about as expensive as the comparable things in London. This makes it way more expensive than South East Asia.

It has much of the set up as a Western country, except unless you read kanji you can't work out what's going on. That's part of the fun though. Seemed to have extremely low crime - could walk around anywhere and everyone was very polite and friendly.

There are loads of amazing sights to see re: historical Japan, especially in Kyoto and Nara.

I don't think it has the same vibe at all that people describe to me about Vietnam / other places in South East Asia.
Indy - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:

I guess you know about the JR Pass? Have to admit the exchange rate has dived since we went but the one thing I took from Japan apart from being a wonderful, fantastic place was that if your careful and plan it needn't be the money pit that most people suggest it is.
Vikki Haydock - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to Indy:

Yeah I've seen the JR pass. I agree about the planning, I suppose things are as expensive/cheap as you make them.....
Vikki Haydock - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to RockSteady:
I know they're both completely different, think that's why it's such a hard decision to make....

Think it may come down to cost in the end, dont wanna go all that way and have to miss out on things cos we cant afford.

Even if we book cheap hostels and transport I think it's going to cost a lot more then Vietnam would
Vikki Haydock - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to ti_pin_man:
Maybe next time ;)
Indy - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to RockSteady:
> (In reply to Vikki Haydock)
>
> I don't think it has the same vibe at all that people describe to me about Vietnam / other places in >South East Asia.
Like just about every student I spent time in South East Asia.... as it was my first trip as an adult I did have a great time (Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia)
Have to say that despite being a REALLY hard-up student I found being constantly seen as a 'rich westerner' tedious as it led to constant rip-offs and touts. The Vibe I could have well lived without.

Indy - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:
> (In reply to RockSteady)

> Even if we book cheap hostels and transport I think it's going to cost a lot more then Vietnam would

Obviously that goes without saying but its important to compare like with like. You aren't going to come back in the evening to a hostel/cheap hotel room with stained sheets, fungus on the walls and general dirtiness in Japan but in south east asia its pretty much the norm/all part of the fun unless you pay western prices.

Would definitely look at costing an actual itinerary for both destinations before making a final decision.

Anyway both Japan and Vietnam are way better than any holiday we're looking to have for the next couple of years so whatever you decide have fun!!
ti_pin_man - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock: add it to the must see list, beautiful country, some stunning history and importantly humble beautiful people, go before it becomes thailand mk2. Not long back from 3 weeks there. Didnt want to leave.
TheDrunkenBakers - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to RockSteady:
> (In reply to Vikki Haydock)
>
> I spent 3 weeks on holiday travelling round Japan. I really liked it.
>
That's part of the fun though. Seemed to have extremely low crime - could walk around anywhere and everyone was very polite and friendly.
>

The comparison to London ended there, then?
alanlgm - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:

you will feel like a walking wallett in vietnam. have you thought about indonesia.

my fave country i have ever been to and i have been to alot

everything from great scuab diving to volcanoes/ mountains to climb mad cities party town in bali and you could even see a dragon on komodo.

Vikki Haydock - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to alanlgm:

Yep we've already done Bali. We wondered if Bali and Vietnam would have a simular kind of feel to them actually?
zootloop - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:

Vietnam was nothing like Bali to me. I spent 3 months there (was only supposed to be 1 but I loved it so much). It's cheap - culturally rich and relatively safe.

The people are incredibly friendly too as became apparent when my friend crashed his scooter into a truck. Within minutes about 5 vietnam Hoi-An locals had fixed his scooter up and sent us on our way before the cops arrived.

If you go I recommend climbing mount Sapa in the north, Halong Bay and a place called Jungle Beach (near Nha-Trang if memory serves).

Simon
The Grist - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:

I lived in Korea for 2 years in 2000 so am a little biased here. I did travel in both Japan and Vietnam. I visited most of the region.

If money is a concern go for Vietnam. But don't expect a cultural experience that you may find in China (or even Japan). My experience is that the backpackers were very much hoarded onto their own buses and discouraged to use public transport. Travel in Vietnam was laid out for the traveller and made easy but it was almost too easy. In many ways I felt detached from Vietnam and the people of Vietname. I prefered it in places like China and Laos.

I would also urge you to consider South Korea. I think it is a great place to visit. Very mountainous. Similar terrain to Scotland. Cheaper than Japan and very friendly. Brilliant food as well. If given a choice between visiting Japan or S Korea I would go for S Korea any day.

I would also go to for Laos or Cambodia over Vietnam.

Enjoy......... wherever you book.
jonnie3430 - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:
> (In reply to alanlgm)
>
> Yep we've already done Bali.

have you thought of another part of Indonesia? It depends on what you want from the holiday, but I can recommend the Banda Islands as an amazing place to go where there are very few tourists. There are hundreds of other islands around there with different characters that'd be great for exploring too.
Vikki Haydock - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:

Oh no - this is getting harder!

Now I'm adding a load of other places onto a list that only had 2 on it yesterday!

:)
Vikki Haydock - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to The Grist:

Never even thought about Korea...... I am now!!
jonnie3430 - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:
> (In reply to Vikki Haydock)
>
> Oh no - this is getting harder!

Only if you had to pick one for ever! You have the rest of your life to visit the rest. You'll have an amazing time anywhere, so do what you feel is right now and catch the rest later...
ml706 - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to The Grist:

Interesting what you say about public transport, never really thought about that before but you're right. I'm not sure if the long distances between the 'hotspots' and the greater use of sleeper buses contributes to this. I did enjoy talking to the local people in Laos on some of the bus journeys, sometimes quite amusing acting out all the words.

I loved Vietnam, although we had really bad weather in the North, the cities, particularly Ho Chi Minh and Saigon were awesome. Just an incredible, bustling atmosphere. I liked just wondering around and seeing where I ended up, the architecture and vibe just felt really different to the rest of SE Asia. Lots of history as well, a lot to do with the Vietnam war obviously and some good museums/exhibitions. There is an obvious backpacker route, and a lot of tourist agencies to facilitate this, but I'm sure you can go more off the beaten track if you want to.

Very cheap there, only a few dollars for hostel beds if you want to really keep a strict budget, and you can easily get the fresh beer for as little as 10p a glass, and there's loads of roadside noodle soup places which cost next to nothing, even including the 'tourist tax'.
Vikki Haydock - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to jonnie3430: You have the rest of your life to visit the rest. You'll have an amazing time anywhere, so do what you feel is right now and catch the rest later...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
But i want to go EVERYWHERE - NOW!!!!! :D

I get too excited.......
Cheese Monkey - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock: I didnt like Vietnam as a budget traveller. The people were friendly but distant, the English speaking people wanted your money. Laos was incredible, we spent a month there then went back for another 2 weeks. Had some brilliant parties with the locals and some awesome adventures off the beaten path. Lovely people. Indonesia was great, I wish we had more time to explore. Dont bother with Bali, it is interesting but the rest of Indo has alot more to offer. I want to go back to Sumatra and up to Aceh on my next visit, and maybe explore Sumbawa by motorbike.
David Martin - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to The Grist:

Yep, I second that (on SEA at least). A serious "cultural" experience is a little hard to get in Vietnam and you'll be quickly herded on to the tourist trail. In fact you have to work harder at staying off the tourist trail - transport, accom, food, its all aimed at a certain clientele, as it is in much of the region.

I wouldn't be too concerned about not having "done" Vietnam while it is still "authentic" either. Vietnam is hugely different now to what it was 10 years ago, and is no doubt different to what it was 20-30 years ago. All these countries are changing so you are just seeing something different at different times. The modernisation isn't all bad either.

My money is always on Japan.

Yes its expensive (or not cheap). But it is a fantastic country, awesome people and a hell of an experience. I've only traveled there with my Japanese (then) girlfriend so never really met other travelers and not had to contend with some of the usual language difficulties. But there is a stark difference between the tourists you see and the tourist experience you have there and in Southeast Asia.

SEA is like going to Magaluf/Benidorm/Aya Napa. It's cheap and attracts a slightly cheap crowd - loads of kids, the Gary Glitters of the world, and generally a lot of unsvoury sorts who revel in the fact they can either misbehave and bribe their way out of trouble or live like a king and have the locals as their underlings. A tourist in Japan, on the other hand, has to (within reason) fit in to the culture, observe local custom as much as possible and generally be much better behaved. It might sound like a small thing but it actually makes a huge difference to the experience, and in terms of culture, perhaps surprisingly, it is therefore much easier to actually get closer to the "real" Japan than it is to Vietnam.

Just my opinions...
The Grist - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to ml706: Whilst I enjoyed Vietnam it did seem a real let down compared to what I had built it up to potentially be in my own mind. I think I had spent too long watching the Vietnam war movies. The weird thing about Vietnam was that in 2000 you could travel with the locals on public transport if you choose but you paid a 'tourist rate' which was 4 times what the locals paid. It made more sense financially and practically to go on a backpacker bus. This was actually fun and you met likeminded people but looking back I could have been anywhere in the world. I am unsure if thes has changed.

I have fonder memories of travelling in Laos and China with the locals and seeing their real problems and holding their animals that they were transporting to the markets on the same bus. Felt slightly more adventurous. But it was slower and it did make me stink!
The Grist - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:

Korea has all the benefits of Japan but at a margin of the price. I lived in Busan which is the second biggest City and it was a wonderful experience.

The National parks like Soraksan are pretty special. There are many islands worth visiting. If you like hiking there are loads of trails. The temples are interesting and worth visiting and staying in.

Plus since holding the world cup in 2002 it is alot better geared up to non Korean readers. The buses have destinations in English. It is also a smaller and more compact country than Japan.

Another thing to bear in mind is the price of accomodation. Japan is cheapish as a single traveller staying in bathhouses or 'coffin'. You basically can get a cheap single bed if you just want to sleep. But this is hardly a fun couple holiday. Korea offers loads of rooms with a double mat on the floor which will cost 15 - 20 a night or so.
russtyg - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:

I somehow managed to meet every angry person in Vietnam when travelling there last year. Just unlucky I think.

Never been to Japan, but from the above reason, I would plump Japan.

Enjoy! I'm sure you will have an amazing time either way!!
Vikki Haydock - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:

thanks so much everyone this is all the kind of info we wanted.

leaning towards Japan but have been looking at Korea too....

Decision time soon :-)
David Martin - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:

Vietnam was my original reason for heading off, ostensibly for 6 months, to SEA back in 1999. Ended up spending spending several months in Laos, before heading to Cambodia, Vietnam and working in Thailand. Like others here, Laos was my favourite, although Isaan Thailand was up there too.

Vietnam just never gelled with me. At least elsewhere you might feel like you are paying tourist price, and that is fine. In Vietnam it felt like many of the locals go great satisfaction from gouging the round-eye. There is something kitsch about the place too, all a little more intense than its neighbours. Went back for fieldwork a few years back and it unfortunately felt no different the second time. Shame, as I really wanted to like the place, but with a few notable exceptions it just didn't grab me.

That said, your money will go further in SEA than it will in Japan. Depending on your budget you may forego attractions in Japan that you would otherwise be able to afford in SEA. Roykan tend to charge per person in Japan too so no cheaper when you travel as a couple.
TonyG - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to The Grist:
> (In reply to Vikki Haydock)
>
> Korea has all the benefits of Japan but at a margin of the price.

Interesting statement, that makes me wonder what you think to be the benefits of Japan... Clearly the benefits of Japan for you have little to do with Japanese culture, the specific geography of Japan, or anything else that is uniquely Japanese... because, strangely enough, none of that can be found in Korea, or vice versa...
gribble - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:

I went to Vietnam two years ago and thought I would really like it, based on many previous trips to different countries in SEA. However, i struggled to gel with the place. I'm glad I've been, but it wouldn't make my top 5 list for a revisit.

Sorry to add another option - have you considered Sri Lanka? Lovely people, good transport, great place with variety, good food and no war any more. And it's cheap! It's definitely on my list for another revisit.
The Grist - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to TonyG: like I have previously Said i used to live in Korea so am biased. I am probably trying to sell the virtues of the place as i feel an affinity toward it.
i did spend a couple of weeks in Japan and enjoyed it a lot. The biggest negative to me was the price. The two countries are very different. It is like comparing Germany to England.
Avinash1 - on 15 Nov 2012
In reply to Vikki Haydock:

If you are going to Vietnam, I have 28 000 Vietnamese dong that I found at the bottom of my bag. You can have that.

Will buy you two beers and it is only changed in Vietnam
Cheese Monkey - on 15 Nov 2012
In reply to aujayeb: It will buy you alot more than 2 beers! Probably get 6 out of that if you like home brewed stuff haha

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