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Am I crazy? Can I plan a trip in two weeks (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam)?

Am I crazy? Can I plan a trip in two weeks (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam)?

Jan 9th, 2009, 07:23 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 84
Am I crazy? Can I plan a trip in two weeks (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam)?

We booked our air flights and then two family emergencies zapped us. They have taken all of my attention and brought me to my knees. I am at a real disadvantage because I am trying to book a trip in a very short time. We leave January 21 for Bangkok. My husband and I (50's) will be traveling with our adult sons.
Current itinreary:
Bangkok 3 days
Chiang Rai or Chain Mai 3 days
Seim Reap 3 days
Vietnam (north or south?) 3 days

I have read the boards but must ask: Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. My friend was telling me how peaceful and lovely Chiang Mai was (in 2000). But now my impression is - those days are gone. I thought exploring a more laid back area would be a nice change from the crowds in Bangkok (and Siem Reap after Chiang whichever). We are looking for a wonderful elephant experience and a countryside area we can explore. I checked staying at the Anantara (4 people $1200 per day - no can do). Please advise. If you suggest Chiang Rai, should we stay at Le Meridian and go to an elephant camp for a day?
Next problem. I emailed lovely Tong, explaining I understand she is probably booked, but can she recommend another guide. It has been 4 days and no response. I assume everyone she knows is booked. Any suggestions for a guide for Bangkok? Where is the best place to try to find one? I know I will have further questions as I get into planning Cambodia and Vietnam (north or south?). How will I ever get this done? Thanks for any help.

soleil is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 07:58 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 443
Yes, you can do this!!! We've been to Thailand twice and booked as we went. We are also a 50-ish couple. We went with names of several hotels in each city and booked online as we went (booked only first and last nights b4 the trip) -- that way we could have options on how long to stay in each place. All over Thailand are local tour companies for all types of excursions; all price ranges -- but mostly inexpensive (arranging thru the hotel will be more expensive - but more convenient); with 4, you could most likely have private tours. Taxis are cheap and are willing to take you on tours.
We've been to both CM and CR. Both have advantages. We LOVED CM; more to see/do, but it is busier than CR. From both (but closer to CR) is the Golden Triangle area; a must. And there are many, many elephant conservation parks. Also a visit to the hilltribes are a must.
Remember that you'll mostly likely return to BKK for flights to Siem Riep and/or VN; just take that into your time restraints.
Why not just Thailand for the whole trip? Each time, we spent over 2 weeks just in Thailand and felt that we could return and spend more time. With that said, Siem Reap and VN are wonderful destinations as well! Please let me know if you have more questons. Happy Travels.
kywood1955 is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 08:03 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 4,121
You won't find this too tough if you don't panic. If, like the rest of us, you DO - lol - then I dunno. We'll hold your hand.

Think of it as chunks.
Get a limo transfer from the BKK airport. Safe and secure. No stress.

You need a hotel in BKK. Easy. Once you decide you can book that direct thru the hotel website [or thru booking website]

You don't NEED a guide in BKK. Those adult sons will CERTAINLY not need a guide in BKK.
So, if you can't get whoever everybody will suggest as a guide, don't panic. You can wing it, easily.

to book flights within Thailand: easy. Go direct to the preferred airline website. Click. Click. Easy.

Hotel in Chiang Mai/Rai [if you must] easy again. Go direct to hotel website. Book on the net.

You'll have to go back thru BKK to go to Siem Reap. Easy once again on airline website.

Siem Reap. Just choose your preferred, website, click: Done.

Best fly Siem Reap to Hanoi. Not sure who does this, I think Vietnam Air go direct.

Stay Hanoi three days. you really don't have time to do anything else.

So, if you think of it systematically, really it's only 4 hotels booked direct, four flights booked thru website - then grab a guide for Siem Reap if you want one. Again, you can make this up as you go on the spot in Siem Reap. It's totally easy.

Others will guide you on fine tuning hotels, guides. Line 'em all up, and with credit card in hand, book 'em all on the net. You could have this solved in an hour once you've made your mind up.

dogster is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 08:05 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,288
Is your return flight out of BKK or Vietnam? If it's out of BKK I would highly recommend forgetting Vietnam for this trip - three days is not nearly enough time for more than a quick look at Saigon or Hanoi, and you'd be better off adding that time to Siem Reap and/or Thailand.

Chang Mai certainly didn't strike me as peaceful on my last visit (2002), but I can't help with Chiang Rai.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 08:06 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 676
I can attest that Tong is very busy and sometimes doesn't respond immediately.

I'd email her again with a little "urgent" in the title.
She may not be able to be your guide but I know she has other "Tong" trained guides that have come very highly recommended on this board.

I hear the name "Ratt" come up quite a bit from one of the posters on this board too.

I can't help you with the rest of your questions but I'm sure others will chime in with excellent advise.

jaspertl is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 08:08 AM
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jaspertl is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 08:14 AM
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I would also forgo Vietnam this trip. Add a day onto each location. As I'm sure others will tell you here, even though the flights themselves are relatively short, the travel process from place to place can easily take half a day.

One less location means less planning for you too. Of course, if you have to fly home from Vietnam, then this changes things. If so, then I would do BKK-SR-Hanoi and not do Northern Thailand.

Try emailing Tong again if you really want a guide in BKK. She's very busy and sometimes emails get lost in the shuffle.

For a guide in SR, contact Ponheary Ly, [email protected].
Do a search for her here, she comes very highly recommended.
You can read about her on my website as well, www.wired2theworld.com and see my last trip to Bangkok and Cambodia there to get some ideas (we spent a day with Tong too).

As for hotels, Dogster is right, book it all online. There is a good deal right now going on for the Banyon Tree in BKK, look at the current thread on the board here about that.
Kristina is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 08:15 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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You can easily get this trip booked yourself. This afternoon if you'd like.

Chaing Mai peaceful and lovely in 2000? It wasn't peaceful and lovely in the 1980s when I first visited. The second largest city in Thailand, it's a great example of urban sprawl.

The Thai Elephant Conservation Center is at Lampang, close to CM. So my recommendation is to stay at one of the lovely places in the countryside outside of Chiang Mai.

Note that three nights in each of these places is really only two days. So unless you eliminated travel days in your count, you really don't have enough time anywhere. It takes pretty much a full day to get from one place to another. I agree with Thursdays, skip VN for this trip. It deserves more time (and you deserve a rest).

This would yield three stops, Bangkok, CM and Siem Reap - really the maximum number of places you should visit in two weeks. It will still be busy, but you will have enough time to sample each of these locations. Also, going to VN for three days for 4 of you ends up eating up a lot of money in visas ($65 each) and airfare.

PS I also do not recommend a guide in Bangkok - so easy to do on your own.
Kathie is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 09:01 AM
Original Poster
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Thank you for all of your suggestions. One son is booked to fly back to the US from Hanoi. Maybe we should consider changing that. I do appreciate all the encouragement.

So the general feel is Chiang Mai over Chiang Rai? Ok. I will go with those that have traveled there. I am sure I will have a few more questions as I get into it.

The reason I had wanted a tour guide stems from reading wonderful trip reports of the fishing village and floating market with Tong. It does sound like such a memorable experience. Well, we have never been any of these places so I am sure it will all be memorable.
soleil is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 11:01 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
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Soleil, Tour companies are everywhere. Guides are everywhere. You'll have no problems finding assistance. I agree with others that you don't need one for BKK; we just took taxis to the wats, museums, restaurants, etc. Most speak enough English to get by. In CM, you may want a taxi or guide for the elephant camp, or to go see the hilltribes, etc. You find little tour companies everywhere -- bargain, bargain, bargain. We also go prepared with print-outs from the web about things to see, do, eat, etc. I'm so jealous!! I want to go back to Thailand!!! Have a wonderful trip.
kywood1955 is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 11:11 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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My brother never books anything in advance and he does just fine. You really can do it on the fly. I would advise that you book ahead, but as stated above, you can do that in an afternoon.

Try Tong agian. If she does not respond, BKK is easily doable on your own. The major tourist sites are worth viewing. Just grab a map and do them geographically.

I would book hotels ahead of time. It will give you a chance to plan your touring with a central location.
Gpanda is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 11:47 AM
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Posts: 275
try booking sargeant kai for some touring out of chiang mai- he told us when we were there (xmas) that bookings were down in jan and feb so he may well be available.

if you can do the fishing village and floating market as a day from bangkok that would indeed be great. don't bother with a city tour though. tong is around so keep trying her- I got a follow up email from her today.

IMO, I found that neither chiang mai nor chiang rai were relaxing or exciting places themselves- rather it is what we did while based in those cities- the places we saw, the hiking, boating etc nearby, that were special. In truth, don't stress about which one you choose, as you will be happy with either!
4bams is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 11:53 AM
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If you can get your son's flight changed, do it and forget Vietnam this time around. I was in Chiang Mai in 2000 - it was neither lovely nor peaceful but maybe your friend was staying outside the city somewhere. As Kathie says, it's the 2nd largest city in Thailand. My read on the general feel is that Chiang Rai is the better option, especially if you want to chill a bit. If the price is right for the Le Meridien, go for it - the reviews on tripadvisor are very good and you should be able to do all of the things you want to do from there.

You don't need a guide in Bangkok all of the time but certainly some of the side trips offered by Tong or her associates would be great.

Siem Reap is close enough by air that you can take an early flight and get in a full day of touring so 3 nights = 3 days. Unless you are really into temples, that is all you need. Many, many hotel options in Siem Reap. Do contact Ponheary - I am sure she won't be available but she will set you up with someone who is.
Craig is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 12:59 PM
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Craig's idea about getting to Siem Reap for most of a day of touring works if you are starting in Bangkok. So think about the order of the places to visit.
Kathie is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 01:28 PM
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i vote to bag vietnam too... extend SR by 1 day at least if you like the idea of ruins and maybe even a visit to a school...

all will want more days in bkk, esp the boys...remember jet lague and humidity will require some adjustment...

may i suggest looking at the marriott resort and spa in bkk...best pool for the boys and a nice hotel...

for hotels in general look at this site for prices....they are pre-pay.


also as mentioned above the banyon tree in bkk has some fantastic deals right now....its a fantastic lux hotel...

you can do it all quickly..

i hate CM...its big and not tranquil at all....but elephants are near by....

kathie's timing points are very valid ones...

look at air asia for flights....make sure you add on express boarding however...a life saver...

see what you find and then come back here with ideas and we will give the pros and cons of each...

i actually would like to see you go only to SR and bkk for the best trip ever...

SR is laid back...

do bkk at both the beginning and end of your trip for a few days each..

bug tong as suggested with the urgent words in your title...she is worth her weight in gold...
rhkkmk is online now  
Jan 9th, 2009, 04:25 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,242
No one answered your question directly so I will-yes you are crazy- but there is a cure! Cut down the number of destinatioins as others have suggested. There - you see - now you are cured, back to normal- enjoy your vacation- no charge for this session!
BillT is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 06:17 PM
Join Date: Jul 2008
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With your limited time, as you realize, you won't be able to do both Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. One thing to consider when deciding between the two is the ease of getting to and from each city. You can do an overnight train to Chiang Mai reserving a sleeper compartment now. This is less costly and also saves travel time as you board the train at the end of the day and sleep until just before arriving in Chiang Mai in the morning. You can also book a flight easier to Siem Reap from Chiang Mai (Note - it flies through Bangkok). We are actually flying from Chiang Rai, however, with the flight schedules, we are not certain we will make the connection for the flight to Siem Reap. In our case we decided not to pre-book that flight, but rather keep our fingers crossed that there will be availability without having to wait hours. If we can't get on a flight, then we are going to take a taxi directly from the airport to the Cambodian border and do the overland route which will get us in at the same time as the later flights, but for considerably less money.

Another thing to consider is whether you can change your flights to fly out of Siem Reap rather than going back to Bangkok. Since we are traveling with Korean Air using sky miles, we were able to change our flight and avoid wasting another travel day.

In any event...you will be able to easily plan this trip and wing it as you go if you have to. From my understanding, hotels are not filled to capacity due to all the recent turmoil in Thailand.
dgunbug is offline  
Jan 9th, 2009, 07:19 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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given all recent reports it is crazy not to book the SR flight in advance...they are almost always full long in advance...
rhkkmk is online now  
Jan 10th, 2009, 10:31 AM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 166
I think you can plan a trip in two weeks. My guess is that right now the resorts are not that full (because of the economy).

I have some hotel reviews for Thailand http://www.bombasticlife.com/testing/home/

bombasticlife is offline  
Jan 10th, 2009, 11:01 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 2,433
wow. if i stayed at all those hotels, i'd be bomb-broke-stic
filmwill is offline  

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