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3 weeks in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos - suggestions?

3 weeks in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos - suggestions?

Old Aug 18th, 2003, 02:36 PM
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3 weeks in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos - suggestions?

Greetings experienced travellers!
I'm planning a trip in mid-October and there's so much I want to see, I need to focus and plan something realistic.

How much time would you devote to each country and how would you suggest entree and exit? Anything I must not miss? anything that's overrated?

Thanks in advance for your feedback - I know it's a broad topic!
curlywurly is offline  
Old Aug 18th, 2003, 05:52 PM
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i have only been to angkor wat (siem reap) in cambodia and from what i hear this is the main attraction...people seem to find phenom pen boring and uninteresting....the best way to get there, and the safest, is to fly from bangkok or probably from VN....

allow at least 3 days for your visit...suggest you stay in a western style hotel of which there are many...

make sure you have a guide and a driver, $20/each per day, but worth $1000. each.....

i have only been to north vietnam....we landed in hanoi on a flight from bangkok....air france had a periodic flight which was reasonable and kept you off 3rd world airlines...hanoi is interesting as is the countryside...halong bay is very nice and a must if you are in the north...stay at the royal garden hotel in hyphong and do a full day trip to the bay...we used asiantrails.com to arrange our trip there and it was very inexpensive and they did a splendid job... we always travel independently but are glad we had help with this one...

use bangkok as a staging point...
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Old Aug 20th, 2003, 06:45 AM
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I've spent a considerable amount of time touring the region. Personally, I'd skip Vietnam and go to Burma instead. Much more interesting sites. And way less tourists. I'd spend some time in Yangon, Mandalay, Pagan and perhaps the Inle Lake region. It's now pretty easy to get around Burma by air.
Kenstee is offline  
Old Aug 26th, 2003, 09:36 AM
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With respect to Kenstee's suggestion, please do a little background research before going to Burma. The Burmese government is world-renowned for its oppression of the people of Burma. Many humanitarian and tourist organizations are urging people not to go to Burma as much of the proceeds from tourism (site entrance fees, money paid to government owned hotels, etc) goes to support the government there. It may be a remarkable place, but surely you can find a place to spend your dollars with a worthy regime. If you are interested in Burmese culture, I would suggest the North-western portion of Vietnam which has heavy Burmese influences.
TJ is offline  
Old Aug 26th, 2003, 04:12 PM
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Unless TJ has been to Burma and experienced it he/she shouldn't comment. This is a travel board NOT a political board. TJ is sitting in his nice house, well fed and comfortable. Yet, feels free to pass judgement that affect the lives and well-being of people he knows nothing about. That's some moral compass you've got there.

Putting any money into the hands of cabdrivers, restaurants, guides and others in Burma is not supporting the government. Western contact is exactly what these people need and want not shunning. Punishing these people does no good at all. It achieves nothing.

Incidentially, when were free and democratic elections last held in Vietnam who TJ calls a "worthy regime." I must have missed it. Or China who oppresses Tibet. Are they a "worthy regime?" Don't single out Burma.
Kenstee is offline  
Old Aug 27th, 2003, 12:23 PM
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I spent about 3 weeks in Vietnam and Cambodia during the month of February 2003 and I greatly recommend both countries. While I have never been to Laos, I heard AMAZING things about the country from fellow travelers who typically described it as untouristed, beautiful with very nice people who, due to the lack of tourists, are still a little fascinated by Westerners.

However, due to my lack of direct knowledge of Laos, I will just speak to the other countries.

First of all, I have to disagree with the poster who states that there is nothing to see in Phenom Penh. I thought PP had lots of great things to see including the Killing Fields, the prison where political prisoners were held by the KR which has been turned into a museum, the royal palaces, etc. I also thought that PP gave you a look into what Cambodian life is really like unlike Siem Riep, which is all about tourism. I would spend at least 2 or 3 days in PP. I think Angkor Wat is worth about 4 days. There are tons and tons of temples and each one is unique. I agree with the idea that you either need a guide or a high quality guide book. Actually, a guide book may be better for a couple of reasons...

1. It is written in perfect English; sometimes it is difficult to understand the Cambodian guides.
2. You will not be traveling with a group, which reduces the amount of harassment you experience as you exit your vehicle.

I would also suggest that you could stay really close to the entrance to the temples and use a bike as transportation.

On to Vietnam, I thought that the most worthwhile areas to which I went were Hanoi for the historical and Communist era attractions(2 or 3 days), Halong Bay for natural beauty, Hue for historical attractions (2 full days at least) and Hoi An for shopping and typical Vietnamese architecture (2 full days at least). As an American, I also enjoyed my time at China Beach. A great beach with very little development and only 10 other tourists. I was not overly impressed with Saigon; it was like a smaller Bangkok. Saigon is very Westernized, such a contrast to Hanoi. However, there were some attractions outside Saigon near the Cambodian border such as the Cu Chi tunnels, which were very interesting.

I did not go hiking north of Hanoi among the hill tribes, however, I have heard very good things about these treks.

Overall, I would say one week in Cambodia is great. You will need at least 10 days to do central and northern Vietnam.
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Old Sep 9th, 2003, 09:21 PM
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Thanks everyone! I've taken some time to do research and have come up with the following itinerary. I've also decided to go in December and avoid most of the rainy season.

I need to cut a day out somewhere and I don't know where.

Love to hear your thoughts!

Day 1, 2
fly US - Bangkok - Siem Riep

Day 2 (pm), 3, 4, 5
Angkor Wat

Day 6
fly Siem Riep to Da Nang
taxi (honda om?) to Hoi An

Day 7, 8
Hoi An

Day 9
bus to Hue

Day 10, 11

Day 12
train to Hanoi

Day 13, 14, 15
Hanoi, Halong Bay, Cat Ba Island

Day 16, 17
Sa Pa, Bac Ha (via overnight train from Hanoi)

Day 18
fly Hanoi to Louang Phabang

Day 19, 20
Louang Phabang

Day 21, 22
Vang Viang

Day 22, 23

Day 24-25
fly Vientiane - Bangkok - US
curlywurly is offline  
Old Sep 10th, 2003, 07:46 AM
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Actually, looking this over I think I'm trying to do too much. I'll leave Angkor Wat for another trip and add a day to SaPa, one more day to Laos.

I'm especially interested in seeing the rural communities, but some people say it's like visiting a zoo - the people in their quaint surroundings on display. Can anyone share their own experiences?

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Old Sep 11th, 2003, 05:25 PM
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I like Phnom Penh. I did the tourist thing the first time there - Killing Fields, the museum, the palace, even took a cyclo ride along the river at dusk. On the second trip, we sat in restaurants along the river, checked out some of the craft shops (which have some nice silk items) and just took it all in. Find a good moto driver who will go slowly (look for someone older, not one of the young guys) - it's scary at first, but it's a great way to see the city and truly experience the pace of it. The children on the streets were the only thing I didn't like about it - and, this is a BIG thing - so be prepared.

As for Luang Prabang - LOVED IT. Wonderful silk shopping along the main drag, interesting markets and temples. There's a great antique shop called Pathana Boupha Antique House, 29/4 Van Visoun in a wonderful old house (the shop is upstairs and run by the daughter who grew up in the home). Even if you don't buy anything, she has some great old family photos hanging in her shop. The food is very good and inexpensive with many options. It's worth it to get up at dawn one day to see the monks making their rounds. The temples are just beautiful - much more subdued than the Thai temples. Hope you have a wonderful trip.
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Old Sep 16th, 2003, 06:06 AM
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Havent revisited this thread for a while and was impressed by the ad hominem vehemence of Kenstee's response to my suggestion (I was also impressed by his omniscience in knowing the quality of my house and diet).

I would only repeat that my request was for any person going to Burma to do a little background research so that they could make their own determination. In respect to singling out Burma, I am in very good company with dozens of well respected human rights organizations that similarly single out Burma and people thinking of visiting.

But first and foremost, dont take my opinion or Kenstee's. I only encourage anyone thinking of going to Burma to investigate for themselves and come to their own conclusions. Or, you can get in touch with one of the few organizations that are actually allowed to run humanitarian programs in Burma and conduct a visit through them. If anyone is interested in such contacts, I have some friends running this type of program in Burma and would be happy to pass on the information.
TJ is offline  
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