Ask the Editors: How Best to See the Norwegian Fjords?

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Every month our intrepid editors travel the world in search of the very best travel experiences. Collectively, they have stayed in over 7,000 luxury hotels, so there really is no better resource to answer all of your travel-related questions.

Q.
I recently read the Hideaway Report that covered Norway. It's a dream of mine to see the fjords. How long do I need, and what is the best way to get around?
The Silver Whisper, in the fjords of Norway
The Silver Whisper, in the fjords of Norway - Silversea Cruises

The classic way to see the fjords is aboard a cruise ship. Voyages generally last between seven and 14 days, during the months of June, July and August. Most of the major companies, including perennial Harper favorites Silversea and Seabourn, offer Norwegian cruises. If you are prepared to accept a lesser degree of luxury and are in search of an authentic travel experience, then you may wish to travel aboard one of the Hurtigruten passenger and freight vessels that ply the Norwegian coastline. (The classic round-trip 12-day voyage goes from Bergen to Kirkenes on the Russian border.) On my recent two-week Norwegian journey, I decided to employ a variety of transport — car, train and ferry — and the experience is definitely one that I recommend. Some of the hotels in the fjord regions are exceptional and the food is frequently delicious. It’s very easy to travel by yourself, as the Norwegians are friendly and hospitable to Americans and nearly all of them speak fluent English.

Q.
I have never been on safari, but I would love to go on one next year. How far in advance do I really need to start planning?
Resting cheetah at Singita Sasakwa
Resting cheetah at Singita Sasakwa - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Well, it never hurts to plan well in advance. If you want to stay in the most glamorous (and expensive) lodges — Singita Sasakwa, Londolozi, Singita Ebony, Mombo — during the high season, then you should book at least nine months ahead of time, as they tend to fill up very quickly. However, the high season is specific to a particular place. For example, the best month at Singita Sasakwa in Tanzania is June, when the wildebeest migration passes through; the most desirable time at Londolozi in northeastern South Africa is August-September, when it is dry and cool. In East Africa, the times to be avoided are April-May and November (the Long and Short Rains), while in South Africa the principal safari area of Kruger/Sabi Sand sees heavy rain from December to March. So, first pick the region for your safari, as this will determine the time at which your travel. I recommend dozens of safari lodges and camps, so if you have to book at the last minute, somewhere will probably be available, just not the crème de la crème. Download my complete Luxury Safari Guide for more information.

Q.
What are the main differences between travel in North and South Vietnam?
Reception and lobby area of the Sofitel Metropole Hanoi
Reception and lobby area of the Sofitel Metropole Hanoi - Sofitel Metropole Hanoi

None really. The north and south of this 1,100-mile-long country are now essentially the same, although the climate is subtropical (as opposed to tropical) in the north, with some cool weather in winter. The Vietnamese are one people, and the former division of Vietnam was political rather than cultural or linguistic. The big difference is between Ho Chi Minh City — which virtually everyone still calls Saigon — and Hanoi. Saigon was exposed to American influence and subsequently it became the country’s business capital. As a result, it has concrete office towers and feels a little like a miniature version of Bangkok. True, there are still busts of French philosophers outside the Central Post Office, but the Rue Catinat, once the swanky shopping street in the days of French Indochine, is a shadow of its former self. Hanoi, however, is the political capital and much less has changed. Most of the buildings in the old city are still low-rise, though skyscrapers have recently mushroomed on its outskirts; the district around the scenic Hoan Kiem Lake remains surprisingly serene; you still see cyclists with baguettes sticking out of their shopping bags; and the Metropole Hotel (now a Sofitel) remains one of the great colonial hotels of Asia. The ghosts still linger: Somerset Maugham wrote his vivid travel book The Gentleman in the Parlour while staying there; Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard spent their honeymoon at the Metropole in 1936 after getting married in Shanghai; and Graham Greene stayed at the hotel in 1951 for an extended period while writing The Quiet American.

This Q&A series features queries from our readers with responses from our traveling editors. Do you have a question of your own? Email submissions to [email protected] with “Ask the Editor” in the subject line.
By Hideaway Report Editor Hideaway Report editors travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who the editors are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.
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