Subject: Hong Kong and Vietnam questions

I'm back from Italy and hope to report on that before too long. This return frees me to think about my first trip to Asia, a trip to Hong Kong and Vietnam (one week in each place) I have planned for November. I've acquired the Lonely Planet guide to HK and the Rough Guide to Vietnam to get me started; I'll say things about my plans now and welcome any comments.

For the stay in HK, I have recommendations to stay at the Salisbury YMCA, very well-located and different from a usual Y. There are limited reports that Priceline Asia might offer 4-star hotels for less than the Y, so I might try that as time approaches. The Y appears to offer a discount for staying a full seven nights; I'd need to consider whether to break it up for an overnight excursion, or perhaps do day trips to Macau and Shenzhen, to get a bit of experience of being in China.

For Vietnam, I was thinking of being based in Ho Chi Minh City. My transpacific flight is on a frequent flyer award, but I need to book the HK-HCM trip. On Travelocity the lowest round-trip fare I see available at any time is around $600 U.S., which seems high for a 2.5-hour flight and the generally low costs in Vietnam. Could I get a lower fare from an Asian source? In particular should I consider booking a package trip? I usually like to go independently, but in a country so new to my experience there would be benefits to having someone take care of arrangements, and it might let me see more of the country. If I were on my own, I think I would spend most of the week in HCM and take an overnight excursion to the Mekong Delta. From the guidebook and Internet booking sites, the hotels in HCM that catch my attention are the Bong Sen and the Que Huong-Liberty 4. I have the visa form for Vietnam; as I understand I would need to send it with my passport to the embassy in Washington when I'm sure of the dates of my stay.

So I'll stop here, and I'll appreciate any help.

Andrew Missouri