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24 Days - Malaysia, Northern Vietnam, and Burma

24 Days - Malaysia, Northern Vietnam, and Burma

Old Nov 7th, 2012, 08:35 AM
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24 Days - Malaysia, Northern Vietnam, and Burma

Hello fellow travelers,

Discounting the two days of international travel time required to get to Asia from California, I will have 24 days to spread between the three aforementioned countries. I was thinking of starting in Northern Vietnam and doing Halong Bay, Hue, and Hanoi (8 days altogether). Am I missing anything?? My friend and I have heard incredible things about Sapa and the trekking, so we definitely want to do some of that.

From N. Vietnam, I think the next most logical country to visit is Burma. I know very little about it (good job tyrannical regime!) but think that 8 days should be enough (count 17 days used for intra-country travel at this point). Hiking/homestays are on our agenda.

After Burma and the trekking in N. Vietnam, we thought a week on the beaches of Malaysia would be a nice way to end the trip. We think Malaysia over Southern Thailand because although I like to party, my travel partner does not, and we figure Malaysia doesn't have the reputation that Thailand does for this sort of extracurricular activity. That said, we DEFINITELY want to be able to meet other travelers, go dancing, drinking, and eating well. Should we stick with Malaysia or nix it and do Thailand? In the end we'll have between 7-8 days to spend lying on beaches and doing some leisurely exploring.

So please, if you have some insights into any of the following, I would love to hear from you:

1. Itinerary (reasonable and realistic) for N. Vietnam for two young women who love hiking and exploring new cultures; love nature, unique experiences
2. (Ditto to above for Burma)
3. Malaysia or Thailand for 7-8 days of beach/beauty/culture/fun/drinking/dancing/exploring/travelers

Overall feedback would be much appreciated as well.

Thanks!!!
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 10:15 AM
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I'm guessing this is oyur first trip to Asia. You will want to get a good guidebook for each of the countries you are considering.

Eight days in VN is not enough to do Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa and Hue. Eight days might be enough for Hanoi, Halong Bay and Sapa. Train travel alone to/from Sapa will take up two full days.

For Burma, you need a minimum of 10 days in the country for an introduction. If you want to do some trekking, such as the trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, you need to add a couple of days. For a first trip, you would want to visit Bagan, Lake Inle and just a couple of days in Yangon. Read some of the many trip reports here on Burma. I have one from 2009 that covers Inle, Bagan and Yangon. In general, homestays are not an option in Burma. Except for organized treks, you must stay in a hotel or guesthouse licensed by the government to accept foreigners. There are all kinds of things you need to know before going to Burma (no credit cards accepted, must carry pristine US cash, etc), so if you are serious about it, go buy the Lonely Planet, knowing that even though it was just published in December, prices are way out of date and the issues about money have changed.

Cambodia, which is a fascinating country might be a better option for you than Burma - easier to organize and cheaper, and a more logical next country from VN than Burma is.

I think, given what you are looking for Thailand may be a better match for you than Malaysia. What time of year are you traveling? This will determine the best beaches for you.
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 11:40 AM
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Kathie,

Thank you so much for your response. Per your suggestion to nix Burma and go to Cambodia, my travel partner has already been so that's off the table. We are going from Dec 28 - Jan 23, so it's right around the corner.

I don't know if we will be up for serious trekking in Burma (where we have to carry our packs) - is there moderate exploring one can do? We figure this is the time to go to that country. Staying in guesthouses/hotels is fine for us - we just want an authentic experience.

If you don't mind, would you elaborate on why you think Thailand might be a better choice than Malaysia? And re: Northern Vietnam, is Hue a must-see? We are thinking that 8 days per country is about right for us, but if you think we should cut/lengthen anywhere, I'm open to hearing your thoughts!
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 11:44 AM
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Also yes, this is my first trip to Asia. What guide books would you recommend?
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 11:51 AM
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Train travel to Sapa from Hanoi is overnight both ways, so you don't really loose two days. That said, I think 8 days for VN would be terribly rushed.
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 12:26 PM
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I would recommend the Lonely Planet Guides for the kind of trip you are planning.

Yes is correct that the train to Sapa is overnight both ways. I know someone who took the train overnight, spent the day in Sapa and went back to Hanoi. She felt like that was a bad decision, as she didn't really have time to explore Sapa. The people who have liked Sapa the most have stayed outside of town and have done some hiking there. So a minimum amount of time there would be two full days and two overnight trains. Hue is not in northern VN, but in central VN. So if you only want to spend 8 days in VN, cut Hue and spend the whole 8 days in Sapa, Hanoi, Halong. You will want an overnight on a junk in Halong Bay, so 8 days will be an ok amount of time for those destinations.

I say Thailand rather than Malaysia because the beach resorts there have more of a party vibe than Malaysian resorts. You will meet more travelers in Thailand as well. You can stay at a quieter beach or a more lively beach, but even the quiet beach will have bars and restaurants not too far away.

I'm not sure if Burma is for you or not. If you really want to go to Burma, you need to conatct an agent today and start booking your accommodations. There has been an enormous surge of tourism to Burma this year. The number of travelers is still tiny in comparison to other SE Asian countries, but Burma's infrastructure is very limited, and they do not have enough hotel/guesthouse rooms for all the travelers arriving. If you are really only going to spend 8 days there, I'd recommend limiting your time in Yangon to one day/night and spend the rest of the time at Inle and Bagan. Do some reseaerch on Burma to help you decide if that is where you want to go - read some trip reports, and you are welcome to look at our photos at www.marlandc.com There are two years of Burma photos, 2009 and 2011.

You might also consider Laos as a destination.
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 09:16 PM
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I agree that eight days limits you a lot for VN, but don't necessarily agree with the time allotment Kathie has mapped out. It's always so personal; we were there eight years ago for about 15 days, loved Sapa and its environs, took the overnight train there and back, but spent only three days there--all trekking and were very satisfied with that. If memory serves me right there is some wonderful trekking in the countryside between Hanoi and Sapa--and north of Sapa, closer to the area where HoChiMinh stayed. If you're mainly interested in trekking, staying in that general area could be very special.

We had zero desire to spend a night overnight on a junk in Halong Bay, and kind of enjoyed taking one for the afternoon, but could easily have left it out. There were places we wish we had had more time for and others we wish we hadn't spent as much in--but that's so often the case with trips of a limited time.

If you limit yourself to a few days in Hanoi, a nifty city, and then five or so days in the Sapa area, that could be a good intro to VN.
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Old Nov 8th, 2012, 07:53 AM
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Check out weather sites to see that northern Vietnam can be chilly and damp at the end of the year. Judging from other reports, you could go to Halong or Sapa and see nothing but mist.
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Old Nov 26th, 2012, 03:27 PM
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Proposed Itinerary for N. Vietnam, Burma, and Thailand - Feedback appreciated!


December
27 Fly from LAX to Taipei
28
29 Arrive in Taipei
30 Taipei to Hanoi - half day in Hanoi
31 Hanoi (NYE)

January
1 Day in Hanoi, Overnight train to Sapa
2 Sapa Day Hike
3 Sapa Day Hike
4 Sapa Day Hike; Overnight Train to Hanoi
5 Hanoi to Halong Bay
6 Halong Bay; back to Hanoi; night in Hanoi
7 Hanoi to Yangon (Burma)
8 Yangon to Ranong
9 Ranong
10 Ranong to Yangon (overnight in Yangon)
11 Yangon to BKK
12 BKK
13 BKK to Island 1
14 Island 1
15 Island 1
16 Island 1
17 Island 1
18 Island 2
19 Island 2
20 Island 2
21 Island 2
22 Island 2
23 Island 2 to BKK
24 BKK to LAX (7am)
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Old Nov 26th, 2012, 03:48 PM
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You are going to Burma to visit Rayong? Rayong is in Thailand. There is a border crossing there with Burma, but if you try to enter there, you must stay within 5 km of the border station. With the itinerary you have outlined, I'd cut Burma, you aren't giving yourselves a chance to see/experience any of Burma, and it will be an expensive little side trip for you.

You would be better off adding that time to VN.

Most of your time is at the beach. If that is what you want, fine, but recognize you won't get much flavor for the culture at international beach resorts.
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Old Nov 26th, 2012, 04:50 PM
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Are you aware that you need a visa in advance for VN or a pre-arranged visa. Without the visa in your passport or the email confirming your pre-arranged visa, you will not be allowed on the plane. Likewise, if you opt to go to Burma, you must get a visa in advance.
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Old Nov 26th, 2012, 05:01 PM
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Kathie I think the OP want to go to "Ranong" which is a border town down in the South of Thailand.

RPCV - You cannot fly from Yangon to Ranong as Ranong has no international airport and there are no airline that fly that route. If you are planning to visit by car then it will take you forever and I don't know if the Burmese govt will let you go off like that as well.
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Old Nov 26th, 2012, 07:35 PM
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Maybe you are right, Hanuman. But Ranong is also in Thailand and is just a border town. One doesn't go to Burma in order to go to Ranong.
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Old Nov 26th, 2012, 07:49 PM
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I agree Kathie and I think the OP is either confused or has misspelled the name of the town that he/she intend to visit in Myanmar.
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Old Nov 27th, 2012, 07:58 AM
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My apologies - where you see "Ranong," please replace with "Bagan" - that was an oversight on my part. The updated itinerary is below:

December
27 Fly from LAX to Taipei
28
29 Arrive in Taipei
30 Taipei to Hanoi - half day in Hanoi
31 Hanoi (NYE)

January
1 Day in Hanoi, Overnight train to Sapa
2 Sapa Day Hike
3 Sapa Day Hike
4 Sapa Day Hike; Overnight Train to Hanoi
5 Hanoi to Halong Bay
6 Halong Bay; back to Hanoi; night in Hanoi
7 Hanoi to Yangon at 7 am
8 Yangon to Bagan
9 Bagan
10 Bagan
11 Bagan to Yangon (overnight in Yangon)
12 Yangon to BKK
13 BKK
14 BKK to Island 1 - Ko Tao - Dive
15 Island 1 - Ko Tao - Dive
16 Island 1 to Island 2 - Ko Phangnan
17 Island 2 - Ko Phangnan
18 Island 2 - Ko Phangnan
19 Island 2 to Island 3 - Ko Phangnan to Ko Samui
20 Island 3 - Ko Samui
21 Island 3 - Ko Samui
22 Island 3 - Ko Samui
23 Island 3 - Ko Samui to BKK
24 BKK to LAX (7am)
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Old Nov 27th, 2012, 12:38 PM
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Bagan makes a lot more sense.
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Old Nov 28th, 2012, 03:04 AM
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Just a suggestion for the Vietnam segment of your trip. As your interest seems to be in trekking and getting off the beaten path, have you considered the "dien Bien Phu loop" . We did this a few years ago starting off in Hanoi, overnight train to Sapa a few days there trekking and then back to Hanoi via Lai Chau, DBP and finally, the beautiful Mai Chau valley. The scenery is truly spectacular and it is rare to see other tourists. Some great side trips along the way to the villages. More detail on http://www.travelfish.org/feature/196 and some of our photos at http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blo...ai/3/tpod.html

IMHO, Halong Bay really is not worth the time for the limited time you have in Vietnam.

Incidentally, I have dived Koh Tao a couple of times and nice though it was, I am not sure that Dec/jan is the best time weather wise. Khao Lak or somewhere on the Andaman Coast may be better..
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Old Nov 28th, 2012, 01:22 PM
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Kathie, thanks for your response!

Crellston, thanks for your awesome suggestion. I don't know that we'll have enough time for all that trekking in N. Vietnam... I agree re: Halong Bay, but I also read a bunch of blogs that intimated a day is enough. We'll be doing a lot of travel/transferring, but I think it's worth it to "see" as much as possible.
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Old Nov 29th, 2012, 08:20 AM
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Hi folks,

I've been talking with a helpful woman at the Hostel in Hanoi where my friend and I are planning to stay. Because we have a tight schedule (and it's hard for us to plan since we've never been to the country), we have engaged this woman in helping to plan our itinerary. Before we book, I wanted to get your opinions as to the cost (does it seem high/normal?). Your feedback is very valuable, thanks in advance!

Plan:
30/12: Hanoi
31/12: Hanoi
1/12: Hanoi - Sapa
Night train to Sapa
2/12: Sapa
3/12: Sapa
4/12: Sapa - Hanoi
Night train back to Hanoi
5/12: Hanoi - Halong Bay 2 days 1 night
Overnight in Halong or on Cruise
6/12: Halong - Hanoi
overnight in Hanoi
7/12: Hanoi departure

Package includes 3 full days in Sapa.
With this package, we set the rates as below:

Economy: 175USD/pax
Superior: 192USD/pax

Include: Package Sapa 3 days 4 nights ( Round trip sleeping train , cabin 6/4 , 1 night Hotel, 1 night homestay, 2 Brreakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners, 3 night accommodation in Hanoi hostel)

Package Halong Bay 2 days 1 night ( Overnight on Boat or in Cat Ba island Economy /Superior, 1 Breakfast, 2 Lunches, 1 Dinner)
Exlcude: Airport pick up or Drop off, Drinks, personal expense, Single Supplement

I have aslo Deluxe Package, however as you travel in tight budget I just send here 2 category Economy and Superior, We recommend Superior package
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