First, I'll spend about ten days with my friend Michael I. He'll be leaving from Hanoi, in the northern part of Vietnam, & then I'll have about three weeks to make my way down south to Ho Chi Minh City, where I will meet my brother & sister-in-law. Since Vietnam is a long, thin country, it'll be easy to just take the road south, stopping along the way at various interesting cities.
I've considered taking the train all the way. I love the train. There's a certain romantic element to it: you can watch the countryside go by, meet interesting people, listen to the clack-clack of the train's wheels as they go over the tracks. But people tell me that most train stations are outside the cities & towns that they service, so it might be inconvenient.
I've also considered taking an open tour bus. You can buy a ticket from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City for about $60. Then you can get on & off the bus wherever you want, whenever you want.
But I talked with one tour agent who said that the open tour bus might not be the best way to go. You don't have priority over other travelers, so you might not get back on the bus exactly when you want. Plus, you have to choose your destinations & the order in which you will stop at them when you buy the ticket, which doesn't allow for flexibility once you're on the road.
Instead, the tour agent recommended that I buy a ticket for each leg as I'm ready to go to the next place. It'll cost a few extra dollars, but he says it's worth it for the freedom you gain. Since both the train & the bus offer sleepers, I can travel either way, depending on my needs that day.
I think I will take his advice. I'll be posting about how it turns out.