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30-day trip to South Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Taiwan in November

30-day trip to South Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Taiwan in November

Old May 23rd, 2024, 10:07 AM
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30-day trip to South Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Taiwan in November

I am planning a 30-day trip (November 1-30) to South Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Taiwan. At this stage I am just figuring out where to go, how many days to spend in each place, and how to get there.

Outline:
  1. Flight from USA to Seoul, South Korea (direct)
  2. 7 nights in Seoul, South Korea
  3. Flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia (1 layover in Hanoi)
  4. 6 nights in Siem Reap
  5. Flight to Hanoi, Vietnam (direct)
  6. 4 nights in Hanoi, Vietnam
  7. 2 nights on Halong Bay cruise
  8. Flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (direct)
  9. 5 nights in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  10. Flight to Kaohsiung, Taiwan (direct)
  11. 4 nights in Kaohsiung
  12. High speed rail to Taipei + flight back to USA (direct)
My considerations while putting this together:
  • Seoul gets colder as November progresses so Seoul is the first stop.
  • Taiwan is the best layover point from SEA back to the USA for our home airport, so it is perfect as the last stop.
  • We want to minimize the flights (and layovers) and long bus transfers to maximize our time spent at the destinations. The current average of one flight every 5 days is near our max, and the only long transfer (>3 hours) is Hanoi to Halong Bay.
  • Things we look for in travel: food, culture, history, museums, bustling cities, beautiful views. Things we don't care for: beaches, resorts, adventure activities (ziplining, snorkeling, etc.).
  • In Asia, we've already been to Tokyo, Hong Kong / Macau, Bangkok / Phuket, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Taipei. I mostly did not consider them since we wanted to get to a few new countries. The one exception is we loved Taiwan so much we want to go back and explore a different area, hence Kaohsiung. Plus we would layover in Taipei anyway on the way back to the USA, so it fits.
  • I also considered Bali, Indonesia (in place of Cambodia) but ruled it out because: 1) it is too far out of the way 2) it has less of a history and culture focus to occupy our time 3) the traffic situation sounds like a nightmare plus how spread out the island is.
Looking for feedback on:
  1. Is 7 days in Siem Reap too much? I also considered allotting some time in Phnom Penh to see the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum as I hear those are more meaningful than the equivalents in Siem Reap, but the prospect of a long bus transfer plus less favorable flights from Phnom Penh onwards was detracting.
  2. I'm not sold on Cambodia. Is there any other place that fits geographically and interest-wise?
  3. Am I spending too long or too short in any these places?
  4. Any gotchas on weather in November for these places? Vietnam might be iffy with rain season in the South but the general consensus seems to be it shouldn't be too impactful given the rain usually doesn't last for long.
Thanks!
SereneMellow is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2024, 10:28 PM
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Originally Posted by SereneMellow
ILooking for feedback on:
  1. Is 7 days in Siem Reap too much? I also considered allotting some time in Phnom Penh to see the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum as I hear those are more meaningful than the equivalents in Siem Reap, but the prospect of a long bus transfer plus less favorable flights from Phnom Penh onwards was detracting.!
IMO, how much time to devote to Siem Reap depends on your interest in Khmer ruins. Seven days would give you time to see some of the magnificent outlying temples, such as Koh Ker and Preah Vihear. I'm certainly glad I saw them! But would you really have seven days there? Six nights normally yields five days, once you consider the time for transportation. IMO, 3 days (four nights) is a bare minimum for Siem Reap -- time for the key close-in temples and for the city. More time there is, IMO, well worth considering.

I'm also glad I spent a few days in Phnom Penh. Note that you don't need to take a bus -- you can arrange a private transfer. (If you're interested in that, send me a PM and I'll send you information about how to contact the driver with whom I worked and who I thought excellent.) If you opt for a private transfer, you can break the trip between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh with a stop at another Khmer site, perhaps Sambor Prei Kuk. IMO, three nights (2 full days) would let you see the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum (one day) and the Royal Palace, National Museum, and perhaps a few other sites on another day. A third day would give you time for a fuller array of that city's sights.

The only other place you're contemplating that I've already visited is Seoul. Seven nights -- which I count as 6 days, including the time you'll be recovering from jet lag -- makes sense to me, but again it depends on your interests. If you want, you can read my trip report from a month in South Korea -- just click on my screen name and scroll down to find it. The sections on Seoul are near the beginning and end of that report.

Hope this helps!
kja is offline  
Old May 24th, 2024, 06:35 PM
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Split your 6 nights between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
You can consider doing Ninh Binh once in Hanoi.
Spend a few days in Mekong Delta from Saigon.
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Old May 25th, 2024, 10:24 PM
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To answer your specific questions:
  1. 7 days in Siem Reap would be too much unless you are ultra interested in antiquities. Three days would be enough for most people to cover the key temple sites and maybe throw in a trip to Tonle Sap or some of the outlying temples. Phnom Penh is one of my favourite SE Asian capitals if interested in modern history Tuol Sleng and Choueng Ek can easily be visited by renting a tuk tuk for the day. You could also fit in a few other locations like the Central and Russian Markets, royal palace and silver pagoda etc. two days would be better.
  2. There are of course lots of other destinations which could replace Cambodia or, probably better still , you could extend your time in the other countries and travel at a more relaxed pace. However , it would be a mistake to underestimate the attraction of Cambodia . It is not just PP and SR, other destinations such as Kampot, Kep,Battambang warrant consideration.
  3. People have different travel styles so it is difficult to say whether you are spending to long or too little in anyone place. The only meaningful way to gauge this is to work out what it is you want to do and see in each place and plan how much time you need. That said, given the amount of time you have, I think you have it about right. I usually factor in half to one day lost to travel every time you change location.
  4. Far from being "iffy" November is pretty much an ideal time for Vietnam. The south and north will see moderate temperatures and blue skies and should still be green from the rains.
Other thoughts:
  • Forget about Bali.Not because of the traffic , which is no worse than any other place in Asia but it is a long way and it is not the best weather. It has history and culture in abundance so not sure where you got that idea. The beach scene perhaps? You may want to consider Laos as an alternative. Adjacent to Vietnam and Cambodia so good for overland travel but otherwise not well served by air.
  • My wife and I have spent weeks at a time in Saigon but, in the context of your trip , 5 nights is overkill. One thought would be to get a boat from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc, spend a couple nights there and then travel through the Mekong delta via Can Tho/ Ben Tre to Saigon. A very special part of SE Asia.
  • There is much more to northern Vietnam than Halong and Hanoi, though 4 nights is the bare minimum for Hanoi. The mountain areas of the north are amazing and I confess that Halong would not be high on my wish list
Here is a link to our blog of our travels with lots of photos and details of some of our travels in these places https://accidentalnomads.com . Just click on the Asia tab and then it specific country.

FWIW, overall I think you have a decent itinerary sketched out.Those are some of my favourite countries in Asia . Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo may also be worth considering , especially if you have any interest in food and wildlife.
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