Dream trip itinerary

Jan 16th, 2005, 06:13 AM
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Dream trip itinerary

I'm in the very early stages (dreaming phase) of a planning a trip to Southeast Asia. After doing tons of reading on this forum, I think I'd like to see these places:

Halong Bay
Hue/Hoi An
Angkor Wat
Luang Prabang
Chiang Mai

So... my questions are:

1. What would be a logical order for doing such a trip?
2. How long would it reasonably take? I'm not one for lingering (Kathie - as much as I love your advice - I feel sure I'd go nuts with 5 days at Angkor Wat!). So I'd like to move as quickly as possible, but also avoid total craziness.
3. What would be the best way to arrange such a trip? I've never been to Asia before and am nervous about going on my own, but haven't found any organized tours that cover where I want to go.
4. Are there any places I could easily cut? Are there any places that are must-sees that I've omitted?

As for my interests - less interested in big cities than in small-town/countryside cultural experiences. Would like to get some clothes made. Enjoy museums/temples (in small doses at a time). Love strolling and people-watching. Not into 5-star hotels and western-style luxury - prefer intimate, local-style places.

Eagerly awaiting your input! I probably won't do this trip til 2006 (have already been dreaming about it for 2 years, but STILL haven't nailed it down!). Oh... and when would be the best time of year? Presumably Nov-Feb?

althom1122 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2005, 07:01 AM
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karen you don't say where you live, but i will guess usa or canada...that might make a difference as to how you structure the trip, i.e. transportation etc...

you also do not say how long you could be on this trip and that too is very important..

caution: asia is not like europe....small towns are not necessarily all that interesting, with the possible exception of LP...while you might not wish to stay in lux places, many of us find that to assure a certain level of comfort (and that not be extreme comfort), you need to stay in fairly upscale places or else there is the possibility of health risks...

until recently comig for north america you would usually start in bkk...that is no longer true as united ?? has instituted direct flights to VN....this opens up new opportunities...

bagan puts you in another country for one stop...is this good use of time?

in the case of angkor, i think you have to plan on 3 full days....along this line if you have never been to SE asia before you have no idea about how dealing with the extreme heat and humidity will affect your everyday life....you have to slow down...

being single is no problem and you could do it easily...just that its nice to share the price with someone...

the best time would be nov-feb but i have been in may/june and that was ok and i might return there at this time again this year... prices are less in the may/june timeframe by the way---maybe 20-30% less for some things..
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 16th, 2005, 07:13 AM
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I'm coming from the eastern US. And could probably get up to a month off for this trip. And - yes - I hear what you're saying about luxury hotels. Definitely want an oasis to return to at the end of a busy day. But would prefer smaller places if possible - it doesn't have to be a big international chain - just somewhere clean and air-conditioned, with reasonably comfortable beds.
althom1122 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2005, 10:08 AM
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A month is a wonderful amount of time to spend in Asia. However, I strongly suggest that you schedule some rest in your itinerary. If you speed around and see "everything", you'll be unnecessarily exhausted. If you truly love Asia, you'll be back soon. You could mix upscale hotels with smaller ones. This luxury might provide enough relaxation alone. 4 and 5 star hotels can be very "cheap" compared to Western prices, especially in BKK. You might want to say how many days you would like to be in each location. This will clarify what is possible. Remember, you'll lose at least half a day every time you switch locations.
Gpanda is offline  
Jan 16th, 2005, 10:39 AM
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Here are my thoughts:
Bangkok - 8 days. Split up 4 days and 4 days
Hanoi - 3 full days
Halong Bay -- 1 day/1night
Sapa - 2 days but it takes a long day to get there and another day to get back
Hue - 2 days
Hoi An- 2 days
Luang Prabang - 2 or 3 days
Bagan- 1 or 2 days (personally I'd skip this since it is the only place you are going in Burma)
Chiang Mai - 3 or 4 days

Then you have to factor in all the travel. So it will end up being a good 28-30 days.
1. Bangkok
2. Bangkok
3. Bangkok
4. Bangkok
5. Hanoi
6. Hanoi
7. Ha Long Bay
8. Hanoi
9. Sapa
10. Sapa
11. To Hanoi
12. To Chiang Mai
13. Chiang Mai
14. Chiang Mai
15. Chiang Mai
16. To Angkor Wat
17. Angkor
18. Angkor
19, Angkor
20. To Luang Prabang
21. Luang Prabang
22, Luang Prabang
23. Luang Prabang
24. To Bagan
25. Bagan
26. Bagan
27. To Bangkok
glorialf is offline  
Jan 16th, 2005, 10:57 AM
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Recommend book trip to Bangkok round trip. 4-5 weeks.
After you decide exact cities/small towns you want to go, contact a travel agent to make airline reservations.
I recently went to Bangkok, Chaing Rai, Chaing Mai, Luang Prabang, Angor Wat, Vietnam and back to Bangkok. Because my trip was over the holidays, had difficulty booking getting the days I wanted to stay in some towns. Only had two nights in Angor Wat area because could not get flight out at later date. Not all flights leave daily.
You can book mini tours when you arrive in each city. I recently wrote trip report.
Have fun researching your dream trip.
IsisMnroe is offline  
May 2nd, 2005, 02:50 PM
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I am getting a bit more serious about planning for this trip and have faced the likelihood that I'll have to scale it back to two weeks. But that will mean that my daughter (24) can go with me! So that will be fantastic.
What would you think of something like this:
- 3 nights Bangkok
- 3 nights Chiang Rai
- 3 nights Luang Prabang
- 3 nights Siem Reap
- 2 nights Bangkok
(And save Vietnam/Myanmar for another trip)
Based on another thread I saw, I decided we'd do Chiang Rai and skip Chiang Mai. Is that wise? The other option would be to do both of them and skip Luang Prabang instead. I know it's rushed, but is it reasonable?
althom1122 is offline  
May 2nd, 2005, 03:16 PM
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It depends on what you like. If you've been looking at other threads, you'll no doubt see that I like Chiang Rai more than Chiang Mai. It's more conducive to nice day trips--the Golden Triangle, possibly over the border into Myanmar, Boat on Mekong and Hilltribe visits. You don't have to go one a two or three day trek to visit some hilltribes, this can be done as a day trip.

As for skipping Luang Prabang and doing CM instead, it would be much easier since you can either take a very short flight to CM from CR or go overland in about 3-4 hours. That might make more sense from a logistical standpoint. But, Luang Prabang is really magical, much more so than CM. LP is very small and can be walked in a few hours. It's good to spend a few nights there however so you can take your time to see the temples in depth and perhaps take a nice ride on the Mekong and stop off at some villages. As for CM, others can give you better info on it than I can. Although I spent several nights in CM and visited some temples, an elephant camp and shopped at the night market, I was very ill while there and was bedridden for a lot of the time I was there (which of course means I have to go back ;-) ) You might want to do CM instead of LP though just so you can concentrate on Thailand.

A side trip to Angkor is a good idea. It's a short flight and you will see some of the most magnificent structures made by man. 3 nights there will allow you to see not only the most famous temples but some others as well.

Saving VN and Burma is a wise choice if you only have two weeks. Both countries deserve at least one week each and that would mean missing a lot.

One thing you can count on, no matter what you choose, it will be fantastic since all of these places are gems, and you will have a great time.
laurieco is online now  
May 2nd, 2005, 04:20 PM
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Luang Prabang really appeals to me a lot, so I would hate to skip it and the flight isn't that long. I've seen pictures (including Kathie's) and it looks great. And Angor, of course, is a don't-miss. Am still a little torn between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, but my impression is that the former is a smaller town with more of an intimate cultural experience and the latter is a big city. One thing I definitely don't want to miss - I've always wanted to ride an elephant! I know that's an option in Chiang Mai, but what about Chiang Rai?
And is this a trip we can easily plan ourselves? I get the impression it would be fairly easy to arrange. If we have a travel agent line up tours/transfers for us, would we most likely be with a group on the tours, or would it just be us and a guide, or what?
althom1122 is offline  
May 2nd, 2005, 04:21 PM
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And am also DEFINITELY interested in a hilltribe experience. Didn't realize we could do it as a daytrip - that might be good.
althom1122 is offline  
May 2nd, 2005, 04:21 PM
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If you have a full two weeks in SE Asia the new itinerary you outline is probaly (just barely) do-able. I'd definitely recommend that you include Luang Prabang, and I prefer the Golden Triangle area to Chaing Mai. If you can, stay at the Anantara at the Golden Triangle. That will give you some rest in this otherwise busy schedule.

You are scheduled rather tightly. so you'll want to make your plane reservations in advance, especially since the flights to Siem Reap and to Luang Prabang fill up. And there are not non-stop connections between some of your destinations. Thus, as you go from, say, Chaing Rai to Luang Prabang, you'll have to change planes and airlines (either CR-BKK-LP or CR-CM-LP). Likewise for LP to SR. Thus, you'll lose most of a day on these transfers. If you can eek out even a few more days, it will make your trip less harried.
Kathie is offline  
May 2nd, 2005, 04:51 PM
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Thanks, Kathie - it hadn't occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to make direct flights between these points. Should I try making the arrangements myself or consult with a travel agent? And how long in advance do I need to get things lined up? We're thinking about January or February (or possibly March). Are pretty flexible - is one month clearly superior weather-wise for our destinations?
althom1122 is offline  
May 2nd, 2005, 04:53 PM
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There may be early morning flights from BKK-- I know there's one to Vientienne that we took, they may have one to LP as well so you don't waste a day. Connections between Laos and Cambodia may be more difficult since everything seems to go through either BKK or CM. Check Thai, Bangkok Air and some smaller regional airlines. Check Lao Aviation too. Not the safest airline but I've flown them several times without incident. (Just ask for the flights on the French planes--Airbus I think--rather than the Chinese made planes which aren't as safe). You may be interested to know that you can fly from BKK to Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai for 499 baht on Air Asia. That's about $14.00.

Riding an elephant should not be a problem in Chiang Rai, I'm fairly sure you could arrange it. You don't need a travel agent to plan your trip, you can make arrangements for private tours once there if you feel the need. I agree with Kathie, do all the air in advance otherwise you may find that you can't get on a flight and that would be a major drag. I understand the need to "see it all" but you can't. Once you accept that and realize you can revisit these places, you'll enjoy it that much more. Running around and living out of a suitcase can be tiresome but if you plan some down time, you'll enjoy the experience more. On the other hand, if you pack a lot of different places in, you will get a taste of it and then know where you want to return to for more in depth discovery. It all depends on what you want out of this trip and your tolerance for moving around.
laurieco is online now  
May 2nd, 2005, 06:24 PM
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you can easily do all the arrangements yourself...for much of the trip you can use bangkok air...they are the sole bkk to siem reap carrier...they have an air pass ...you have to buy 3 segments at least...you qualify...you can use them at $80 per segment from bkk to siem reap (angkor) and also to LP....their domestic flights are $50 each segment...its a huge savings...they have a nyc office...call their 800# and you can arrange it all if you know your days...check things out first on the web site...when you call you may be talking to india however...so what eles is new??
you cannot charge them but rather have to send a check to them in ny...its easy...i did my may/june res with them and it all worked very well...some have reported having trouble with agents...i did not in several calls...if you have trouble just hang up and re call....

the anantara is a wonderful location although a bit costly for that area--about $125....it is fantastic however...they have an elephant camp on the grounds with 4 elephants...my room looked directly out on the river with myanmar (burma) on the other side...the hotel is remote...3 nites is perfect there...you can rent a car in CR and your daughter can easily drive up to anantara in about one hour...no traffic and excellent roads---avis is at the airport...i had a toyota...$125 for 3 days...there is not a great deal to do in that area but sufficient for 3 days...i'd skip CM---i dislike it generally...

the only other thing i might suggest is for you to concentrate on thailand solely with maybe one foreign destination and add a beach few days---koh samui is wonderful and bkk air is the sole agent there...your daughter may really like that....the peace resort there is particularily nice...
rhkkmk is offline  
May 2nd, 2005, 06:41 PM
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Sigh. I know, I thought about the beach option. I'm not a big beach person, and for that matter, neither is my daughter. But I know the beaches are beautiful... still I can't imagine skipping either LP or Angor to go to the beach. I wish we had a month! And one other thing - for a first trip to Asia, are my choices good ones? I've been really torn about Vietnam - and hope to go back, but which is better for a first trip? And which would my daughter likely enjoy more? (We both like art, culture, shopping, eating out but not fancy, and off-beat things - like a balloon ride or the elephant ride I mentioned or other exotic-type things.) I'll check into the air pass option. Also, several people say they don't particularly like Chiang Mai (which is why I don't mind missing it), but what are your reasons? What don't you like? Hadn't thought about the car option - don't know about that - seems STRESSFUL for a first trip to Asia!!
althom1122 is offline  
May 2nd, 2005, 07:35 PM
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My husband and I aren't beach people either so I know what you're saying. We spent 3 nights in Phuket and quite frankly, we were bored by the second day. Yes, the beaches are beautiful but if it's not your thing, you should probably skip it. My feeling is, if I want to lie on a beach somewhere, I can go to the Carribbean which is much closer and cheaper to get to. The one sort of beach place I did enjoy was Hua Hin, a lovely little town about 3-4 hours from BKK. We stayed at the Sofitel Central Hua Hin, a very delightful hotel. We went there directly from Chiag Mai and I was recovering from my illness and it was a great place to relax and recoup. We didn't really go to the beach though, we stayed at the pool, but the beach was only a few dozen yards from the pool so it was the best of both worlds.

From what I can gather from your posts, I would skip Chiang Mai and the beach and go to Luang Prabang and Angkor. I think with those and BKK and Chiang Rai, you will get a great introduction to SEA. If you try and throw Vietnam into the mix, it will be too much. You really need time in Vietnam. Unlike Laos, where you can probably just go to LP, Vietnam has many destinations worth going to. Picking one is like going to Australia and only seeing Sydney--there's so much more to it.
laurieco is online now  
May 3rd, 2005, 06:56 AM
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Hello Karen,
I will be travelling by myself for my first trip to Asia in July. Our interests and likes in terms of travel seem to be similar. I just finished grad school, so I am still travelling on a budget, but looking to get the msot out of it. I will be going
Hanoi: 3 days
a day trip out into the countryside
Halong Bay: 2 days
Hoi An: 2days
Angkor: 4 days
Bangkok: 4 days

I wanted to go to N. Thailand as well, but the travel to and from took more from my budget and time, so I opted for more time in Vietnam. It seems you are still torn about Vietnam. I will reply when I return to give you my opinions. Good luck in your travel planning!
SandyD1 is offline  
May 3rd, 2005, 07:16 AM
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For a first trip to SE Asia, I like your choices, althom. VN is a bit harder travel, so saving it for later will mean that you are better prepared. By the way, in addition to riding elephants at the Anantara, you can also bathe them, learn about elephant handling, etc. If you just want to ride an elephant, you can do that at Angkor.

The best time to travel to SE Asia is December, January, and February. The weather is always hot, but will will be less oppressive in those months. March will be much hotter. January would be ideal.

I'm also not a fan of CM. It's billed as "country" but it's the second largest city in Thailand, but without the big city attractions of Bangkok. The Golden Triangle will be more special. If you are at all worried about driving, you can arrange pick up by the Anantara at the CR airport.
Kathie is offline  
May 3rd, 2005, 01:00 PM
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Sandy - yes, please do post when you return! Your itinerary sounds like the OTHER one I've thought about! (And by the way, I too, am just finishing grad school - although I suspect I'm a little older than you!)
And Kathie - We could BATHE an elephant as well as ride one? THAT would be awesome. I once made a list - at a friend's suggestion - of 50 things I'd like to do before I die. One of the things was to TOUCH an elephant. I never have and, silly though it may sound, would like to do so. (Now, touching a snake, no thanks - in fact, no way.) Yeah, I think we may arrange to be picked up by a driver.
The only question I still have at this point is how far in advance we need to nail down things like the inter-Asia flights, and for that matter, any other arrangements (like for a driver, a tour guide at Angor, etc.). I'll probably have a million more questions as time goes on! Am I REALLY going to do this? I'm just grinning from head to toe thinking about it! (I LOVE to travel but have never ventured to Asia - am fortunate to be going to Africa next weekend with my master's degree program!) So, thanks again, and I look forward to getting better acquainted as I have more questions.
(althom is a derivative of my father's first and last names - he's deceased but was a major traveler and instilled the love of traveling in me, so i created my screen name in his honor)
althom1122 is offline  
May 3rd, 2005, 03:14 PM
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I would arraange the flights a month or two in advance. If you wait too long you may find you are shut out of the flights you want as these are all very popular destinations. As for tours, guides and drivers, unless you know of a driver or guide from these forums that you really must have, all of these can be arranged once you are there. Hotels and local travel agents can do that in each destination or, you can just show up at a place like Angkor and there will be people waiting to help you but you may not like the guide you get.
laurieco is online now  

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