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Extended trip recommendations--Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand?

Extended trip recommendations--Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand?

Apr 20th, 2019, 09:10 AM
  #1  
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Extended trip recommendations--Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand?

At the end of January (2020), we will be taking a Uniworld river cruise from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap. It lasts for 12 days total. We'll fly into Ho Chi Minh city a day early. The BIG question is what to build on after 3 days in Siem Reap? We aren't 'beach people' (although we love water). We love history, culture, unique/off the beaten track places (that are accessible since we're not as young as we used to be), and wildlife/nature. Budget is not a factor. That's a lot of options and it makes me dizzy! Any expert advice would be welcomed and I promise an entertaining trip report. We are booking flights with points and miles and can return from just about anywhere as long as we make a decision soon. Any thoughts or experiences you might share? Thanks in advance.
adhock is online now  
Apr 20th, 2019, 02:36 PM
  #2  
 
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SE Asia is my favorite part of the world. From Siem Reap, you have lots of options: Laos (I especially recommend Luang Prabang), VN can take up a lot of time, 3 weeks at least if you want to do a northern to south or south to north route. Thailand is lovely And very accessible. There are parts of Malaysia I love, like Georgetown, Penang, and Kuching. Perhaps my favorite place is SE Asia has been Burma (Myanmar) in recent years. It's a country still going through difficult times, but the people are really wonderful. Take a look at some of our photos at www.marlandc.com and see what interests you.
Kathie is offline  
Apr 20th, 2019, 10:32 PM
  #3  
 
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You say "extended trip" but how long will you have and where will you go on your river trip? If just a week or two then I may look at flying from SR to Hanoi where you will find history in abundance and combine it with a trip into the mountains of the north. Hanoi will also likely be reasonably convenient for your homebound flight. Some places are fairly remote but these days, there are lots of guided tours available that make most places easily accessible. If arriving in Saigon, you could also consider stopping for a few days in Central Vietnam, maybe Hue or the Central Highlands. Hue is great for history, and food, the Central Highlands are more about nature and ethnic minority villages. Weather wise, it is a good time for most of Vietnam, although the centre of the country may still be a little wet.

Some info and photos of our time in Vietnam on our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com/category/vietnam/

There is also a lot to see in Cambodia other than Siem Reap Phnom Penh is an often overlooked city but you are likely to be at least passing through on your cruise. Kampot and Kep on the coast are nice with lots to do and see especially once you get out into the countryside. Agin some info on our blog - just click on the destination tab to change the country.

Luang Prabang is a short flight from Saigon and is certainly very pretty, but it is definite not "off the beaten path" far from it.

For something a bit further away but a place we really loved, was Taiwan. We spend a week there a couple of years ago and it wasn’t nearly enough.

As you say, there are a lot of options!
crellston is offline  
Apr 21st, 2019, 08:31 AM
  #4  
 
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Lots of good advice above. I looked up your tour and see that you are indeed going to PP. From SR you might go on to Battambang and the coast, but I think crellston's suggestion of Hanoi is probably a better fit and easier to reach. I also agree with him that LP's days as "off the beaten track" are well behind it.
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Apr 25th, 2019, 08:10 AM
  #5  
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Thank you both for the suggestions. After considering options, we're opting to spend 6-7 days continuing in Vietnam, starting in Hue and then ending up in Hanoi. If any has any thoughts on specific things to do/see, please share!
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Apr 27th, 2019, 10:29 AM
  #6  
 
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We have just recently returned from the same Mekong River Cruise, but from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh/Saigon, so the opposite direction. It was excellent, the itinerary, the staff, the dining, the excursions. Except for taste in beaches, because we do enjoy those, it sounds like our interests are very similar so am guessing you will really enjoy this cruise.
I would not be in such a hurry to vacate Siem Reap after just 3 days, we found the area fascinating beyond "just" the temples of Angkor Wat and the 3 days tour focus will understandably be on the temples. Perhaps my opinion is biased towards our preference to soak in the environment of a place a bit more when we can. We are very happy that we opted to do that in the Siem Reap area.
There are interesting day trips (besides just some chill time by the pool), we went to the Artisans Angkor silk farm just outside SR via tuk tuk - highly recommend, even though you will be going to the Artisan shop in town that sells the silk products as part of the cruise itinerary. The farm tour is free, with a showroom if you are inclined (which only seems fair, after seeing the process). We took another tuk tuk and then boat trip out to a fishing village on Lake Tonle Sap, imo best seen in the dry season of January/February to see the houses on stilts and the village roads that would otherwise be under water from the rains. And tho not part of the river tour, we found the visit to the Angkor Panorama Museum very worthwhile on a number of levels, including a better overview of the Angkor Wat complex. We were glad to have seen that first, before the temple intensives, thanks to our private guide.

We had an excellent private licensed guide, who we highly recommend, Tha could provide tuk tuk or vehicle transportation but we so enjoyed the tuk tuk adventures where he accompanied us in the tuk tuk and a tuk tuk driver... did the driving. =) We did use his vehicle for airport transfer, because of luggage more than distance. We also added a single, slower temple day to visit the less busy sites, Banteay Srei and Preah Kahn and visited the not-tourist market as well as the usual one. Most of these extras were at Tha's recommendation and we are grateful for every one.

I'm not sure if Fodor's approves of giving names and contact info for guides, maybe there is a way to exchange that kind of info via pm if you are interested.
out_and_about is offline  
Apr 27th, 2019, 11:22 PM
  #7  
 
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"I'm not sure if Fodor's approves of giving names and contact info for guides" not a problem as long as it is not advertising". Do share so other may benefit.

Adhock - With 6/7 days I would probably just concentrate on Hue and Hanoi. There is a huge amount to see in both cities. Hue deserves a couple of full days, maybe one for the Imperial Citadel, pagodas and Perfume River and another visiting the Imperial Tombs ( a lot more interesting than the term "tombs" would imply.

I suppose you could add a couple of days and include a visit to Hoi An, very quaint, very pretty and VERY crowded. You will doubtless fly into Danang and out of there to Hanoi so you could incorporate a trip to the Marble Mountains just outside of Danang ( allow a couple of hours).

Hanoi warrants spending the majority of your time there, especially if you are interested in Vietnamese history as it has some excellent museums. It is a manic place so choose your location and hotel carefully - happy to offer suggestions if needed as we have stayed in a variety of places in Hue and Hanoi over the years.

In Hue, I would recommend you hire a guide or take a tour to make the most of your time there. Easily arranged via your accommodation or an agency. It has to be said the guides are not usually great but the transport provided make for an efficient use of time.

It is relatively straightforward to visit many of the sights in Hanoi by taxi as they tend to be grouped together. e.g. If visiting Ho Chi Minhs mausoleum, there are many sights around there like teh Military Museum, his stilt house, palace, the Temple of Literature, train street etc. Are all within walking distance. A driver/guide is relatively inexpensive.

If you wanted a change of pace/ scenery and to head out to the countryside, then you could consider Ninh Binh or the Mai Chau Valley, both are beautiful but you probably don’t really have enough time. Likewise, Halong Bay - you need to spend a night on a boat there and would easily spend at least a morning getting there and an afternoon coming back. IMO not worth the effort.
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Apr 28th, 2019, 06:50 AM
  #8  
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Thank you all. Crellston, this itinerary is almost exactly what we decided to plan (perhaps with an extra day in Siem Reap at the end of the cruise) but we'd only gotten as far as logistics. Filling in the details is the next step and this was super-helpful. And, yes, suggestions on lodging/hotels would be great and appreciated.
adhock is online now  
Apr 30th, 2019, 10:11 AM
  #9  
 
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""I'm not sure if Fodor's approves of giving names and contact info for guides" not a problem as long as it is not advertising". Do share so other may benefit."

Not advertising, just personal experience. Our guide's name - Sok Rotha (Sok is his surname), he goes by Tha. His knowledge was extensive, required for licensed guides, and his English was excellent, not a heavy accent like some. In fact, his accent is kind of British. His email address is [email protected] and he uses 2 cell phones
+855 12 68 93 93
+855 93 68 93 93

An example of how we felt he was an honest man - another tuk tuk driver suggested we go north of Siem Reap to some picturesque water falls, it would be a full day trip's charge given we would need to hike in after the drive and then drive back to Siem Reap. But Tha recommended we not go because water levels were low then, since it was toward the end of the dry season of March/April. Probably wouldn't have looked like the pictures!
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Apr 30th, 2019, 09:58 PM
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For hotels in Hue, I would look at Azerai La Residence which is set in a beautiful Art Deco building on the river which used to be the French ambassadors residence in the 1930s. A little bit out of the centre but worth it for a couple of days as most of the time you will be out and about. It is close enough to the bridge to walk to the citadel if you wish. The riverside rooms have fantastic views of the Perfume river. It has changed management from Accor since we were there so things may have changed.

Another nice, smaller and cheaper place closer to the restaurant Quarter is Scarlett Boutique Hotel.

In Hanoi, for a 5 * place I would go for L’Opera which is much better value than the more famous Metropole and is in a good location in the French Quarter.

In the Old Quarter the are a myriad of choices, confusingly, many have very similar names! A couple of nice mid range places we have stayed at are the Silk Path Boutique Hotel at the bottom end of Hoan Kiem Lake, Meracus 2 a block back from the Lake. I also liked the Sunline in Bao Kahn Lane a very quiet haven (unusual in Hanoi) a block back from the lake and close to the top of the lake and the real heart of the old quarter.
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Apr 30th, 2019, 11:24 PM
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Do't anticipate Hanoi being overly warm in early February, paricularly before 1000 and after about 1500.
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May 4th, 2019, 02:10 PM
  #12  
 
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Definitely include Hanoi at the end. That is where we started, spent four nights before the cruise tour began there. Then we flew to Siem Reap for a stay to see Ankor Wat followed the Mekong river Cruise on AMAWaterways., ending in Saigon. Then we flew to Bangkok for another week independently.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
May 15th, 2019, 02:12 PM
  #13  
 
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6-7 days continuing in Vietnam

Originally Posted by adhock View Post
Thank you both for the suggestions. After considering options, we're opting to spend 6-7 days continuing in Vietnam, starting in Hue and then ending up in Hanoi. If any has any thoughts on specific things to do/see, please share!
Dedicating about a week to see a bit of the middle of Vietnam and then the north will allow you to get a nice feel for the country. I nice idea would be to spend 3 days in the central region. You could stay in Hue and easily take in the beautiful Hoi An. This would leave you with 4 days in Hanoi, lets say you take one of those days to travel leaving you with 1 day to take in a city tour, which would include sights such as the museum of ethnology (learn about the 54 different ethnic groups of vietnam). You could then decide to take a 2D/1N Halong bay cruise. You can combine your cruise with a sea plane experience of the bay should you wish! You can easily have it arranged so that you go straight from your cruise to the airport.

An idea of an itinerary might look like this

Day 1: HUE CITY TOUR – DRAGON BOAT ON PERFUME RIVER
Day 2: HUE – DANANG BY TRAIN – BA NA HILLS – HOIAN
Day 3: Hoi An walking tour - evening flight to Hanoi
Day 4: HANOI CITY TOUR
Day 5: Halong Bay Cruise with Sea Plane
Day 6: Halong Bay Cruise - Flight home

Hope it gives you some food for thought

​​​​​
distanttraveler99 is offline  
May 15th, 2019, 11:35 PM
  #14  
 
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If you like the outdoors, and off the beaten track, you could consider climbing a mountain in Cambodia - Mount Aural is the highest peak. So few people climb it, but its pretty awesome. Climbing mountains in Southeast Asia is usually a great way to experience the forests and jungles because those are the places that agriculture hasn't hit yet.
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May 16th, 2019, 09:06 AM
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In Penom Penh, we had a wonderful dinner and experience at Romdeng. The train street kids to work on the hospitality industry.
The Genocide Museum and The Killing Fields are a large part of Cambodia’s tragic part and I recommend that you visit them.
We used Air Asia to travel around SE Asia.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
May 16th, 2019, 09:36 AM
  #16  
 
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I must caution you about the suggestion from distant traveller. That suggestion gives you almost no time in Hanoi, The long, boring drive to/from Halong Bay will take up a lot of your time. There is plenty in the city of Hanoi to keep you interested and busy.
Kathie is offline  
May 16th, 2019, 06:36 PM
  #17  
 
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Originally Posted by Kathie View Post
I must caution you about the suggestion from distant traveller. That suggestion gives you almost no time in Hanoi, The long, boring drive to/from Halong Bay will take up a lot of your time. There is plenty in the city of Hanoi to keep you interested and busy.
kathy,
Clearly you are unaware that the drive is now only 2hrs due to a new highway that has been opened. Maybe you do not live in the city?
Admittedly there is plenty in Hanoi but with such limited time and the chances of the visitor not retrning to this destination again many visitors only spend 1 day with a hanoi tours, explore the old quater in the evening of there arrival.
distanttraveler99 is offline  
May 16th, 2019, 10:02 PM
  #18  
 
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There is a new highway from Hanoi to Halong and it does take less time but in reality, I doubt it would really add much actual sightseeing time to experience taking into account the embarkation and disembarkation times of most of the boats.

Unless the original poster has an overwhelming wish to see Halong, then with just 7 days there, it is just not worth it.

As for the itinerary proposed in #13 above, if you were to sit down and add up the actual time spent in transit - planes, buses, taxis, etc., this would likely take up a very large proportion of the actual time available for seeing the sights. A common problem when using Vietnam based travel agencies who always seem to focus on packing in as many destinations as possible. Vietnam rewards a slower pace of travel - a cliche I know, but less, really can be more when travelling in SE Asia.
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May 17th, 2019, 06:42 AM
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Originally Posted by HappyTrvlr View Post
In Penom Penh, we had a wonderful dinner and experience at Romdeng. The train street kids to work on the hospitality industry.
The Genocide Museum and The Killing Fields are a large part of Cambodia’s tragic part and I recommend that you visit them.
We used Air Asia to travel around SE Asia.
Hire a Tuk tuk for the day. Wear a surgical mask, and be careful of your belongings while in the vehicle.
- Killing Fields first for a couple of hours.....then S21 Genocide Museum. KF is very tasteful, S21 is raw.
- Followed by lunch, and a wander round the Russian Market.
- Return to hotel for a swim and scrub up.
- Finish with the Happy Hour at the FCC [Foreign Correspondents Club] on Sisowath Quay from 1700 to 1900. Get there a few minutes early and bag a seat on the balcony.
LancasterLad is offline  
Jul 29th, 2019, 02:33 PM
  #20  
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Thank you, everyone!

Flights made (all on points), some hotels confirmed, others tbd. For those, I'd love to hear anyone's personal experiences/suggestions. This is our joint 65th birthday trip (does that count as 130 years?) and we have extended it to a month!

Have booked the Park Hyatt in HCMC (points and then River Cruise meet-up). Booked the Azerai in Hue and The Sofitel in Siem Reap.

In Hanoi, considering L'Opera (Crellston's earlier recommendation), The Delicacy Hotel (new, small, quiet, supposedly great location, reasonably priced @3* with 5* reviews), and The Apricot Hotel. Experiences? In Hoi An, The Anantara Hoi--any feedback on that one? Alternative recommendations? Orchid Cruise 2-night cruise Halong Bay--supposedly goes off the beaten routes. Open to other options. Also the Emeralda Resort in Ninh Binh.

Would love to hear anyone's experiences with these and any other recommendations. Have also booked a few private tours, cooking classes, art gallery visits, but am interested in anything out-of-the-ordinary. We also leave a lot of time for pure exploration. Thanks again for helping me do this deep dive. We're so excited.

adhock is online now  

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