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First trip to Asia: HK, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. Thoughts?

First trip to Asia: HK, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. Thoughts?

Old Dec 4th, 2008, 09:03 AM
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First trip to Asia: HK, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. Thoughts?

Hi everyone,

Finally I'm getting on the train to Asia.

It's a very last minute trip, but here's what I've come up with:

Day 1: depart US, flying to Hong Kong via London

Day 2: arrive HK late afternoon

Day 3: HK and overnight

Day 4: fly HK to Bangkok, for 2 nights. My plan for BKK is to visit temples, the Grand Palace and Jim Thompson House.

Day 6: either drive to Kanchanaburi or fly to Chiang Mai. If the former, 2 nights. If the latter, 3 nights. My priorities are nature and highest on my priority list is to visit a real elephant camp, where it's not just touristy stuff, but also a place where the animals go for being raised, rehabilitated, etc. I'm obviously expecting the touristy stuff wherever we go, and I will fully lavish every minute I take a ride on one's back, but I want it to be a legit camp.

Day 8 or 9: fly to either Phuket or Ko Samui. My priorities here are to see the landscape. I hear Koh Phi Phi is an idea place, so we'd go to Phuket. But I also hear KS is wonderful. Stay 2 nights.

Day 10 or 11: fly to Siem Reap, stay 2 nights.

Day 12 or 13: fly to Danang. We'll spend 2 nights in Hoi An and 1 in Hue. Not sure of the order.

Day 15 or 16: fly Danang to Hanoi. Spend 2 nights in Hanoi and 1 in Halong Bay.

Day 18 or 19: fly Hanoi to HK and back home.


So, my initial questions and input. We're in our early 30s and have always done these types of trips - visiting lots of places, hopping around after only a night or two. We're active and nature lovers, so we're hoping to get to a national park, we're also hoping to get some hiking or kayaking in.

My priorities are buddhas/temples in BKK, seeing elephants north of BKK, doing a bike trip in Vietnam, Angkor Wat, maybe seeing some tigers, and hopefully doing a village visit. I also may visit a school that my company recently built in Cambodia if I can fit it in.

Thoughts? Anyone with elephant experience? I've written down a few things from the web and books, but it's always helpful to have "live" feedback.

For Hong Kong and Bangkok, we'll try to use points for more westernized hotels. But for the rest, we want cozy little places that speak to the destination we're visiting.

Thanks in advance for your input, I appreciate it!
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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 10:30 AM
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Chiang Mai can give much more "authentic" elephant exposure than Kachanburi. Use the search on this forum to look at some options.

If you're going soon, the weather is much better in Phuket. Check weatherbase.com.

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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 11:05 AM
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Jeez, I'm so sorry! I completely forgot to tell you my dates. I apologize for leaving out this important detail.

We're going in February.
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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 11:37 AM
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Boston, I know you think you want to see everyhting, but I'm afraid with this itineray, you'll mostly see the insides of airports. Slow down! Two nights in a place is really only one day. (you spend most of a day getting from one place to another) So, in reality, you have one day in Hong Kong, one day in Bangkok, two days in Chiang Mai (if you want elephants, go to CM - the TECC for authentic, humane), one day in Phuket or Koh Samui, one day in Siem Reap, etc, etc.

Look at your priorites, and spend time in places that meet your priorities. For instance, if you are intersted in the temples at Angkor, it takes a full three days just to see the major temples. If you aren't interested in the temples, why go there?

If you have 19 days on the ground in Asia, I'd suggest you visit not more than 5 places (and that is a busy schedule in this part of the world). Then you'll at least have a little time to experience the places you are visiting.
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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 11:50 AM
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Hi Kathie, thanks so much for your input and concern. I may switch a few things out for Vietnam, but other than that I think I'll be ok.

I only want 1 day in HK. In BKK, I want to see a couple temples one day and then the Palace the next. In CM, I want to do the elephant thing (I have that website bookmarked with priority thanks!), and DS. The beach - we're toying with dropping this altogether. I was assured by my Asian expert colleague (we work in travel) that 2 days would be plenty for Angkor Wat. I know we'll be moving and hardly sleeping, but that's how we like it

I know one day I'll change and prefer slow(er) travel, and I'll definitely take your suggestion of limiting it to 5 places to heart.

Thank you!
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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 01:11 PM
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BG-the beaches are nice, but they do not have the same Asian feel as do the other locations. For Angkor Wat, see if Ponheary or her brother Dara are available. They are wonderful guides. They can be reached at [email protected]. Also take a look at "thePLF.org". Many on this forum have enjoyed their interaction with the schools.
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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 03:41 PM
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Hi Boston: I hope you'll send us a trip report on this one. I'm with Kathy, I gotta say - but you're you - not us. Nineteen days - you're spending nearly half of it in transit.

So [heh] your report on taxis and buses to and from the airport, details of the hours every flight you'll spend in the transit lounge, airline meals, security and customs will be fascinating.

lol. I've done far more stupid things in my time. Enjoy it.
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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 04:42 PM
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Gpanda, I'll look into the Ponheary Ly Fdn, thank you for the link. I'm not sure exactly where our (my company's) school is in relation to where I'll be.

dogster - as I said in response to Kathie, I'm certainly thinking about changing things around and dropping things.

But, my stupidity has suited me fine in other far reaches of the world, and my experiences have been amazing. Not the same as yours I'm sure, but amazing. So yeah, I'll enjoy my stupidity, thanks
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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 05:04 PM
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I think Really Stupid Travel is an art form. I've been trying to perfect my version of it for years. [No, lol, I'm not being sarcastic]

Sometimes the GREATEST insights come from a kamikaze dash through the continents. Just as long as you know that they are brief impressions and not home truths everything is more than cool. A lot of my travel when I was yr age was exactly like your crazy dash. Grab it, chew it, suck it up any way you can. Get drunk, fall over, get into trouble - lol - excellent.

Yeah, you're reducing every place you go to a cypher: a ruin here, a temple there but, maybe that's all you need. You can go back at leisure later.
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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 05:12 PM
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i'll try another approach....SE asia is not like europe, s. africa, south america, the usa.....moving around is slow...moving from one place always takes 1/2 to one full day.....visiting angkor for 1-2 days is almost worthless unless you want just to see a glimpse of things...

i am from boston and assume that you are too....think of the worst day of your life in the hot summer in boston....that is the way it is 24/7 in s.e. asia....bkk is hot, siem reap is hotter...heat is bad, but humidity knocks you over...

slow down a bit and see 4 places or maybe 5 in your time frame...PLEASE....
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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 05:30 PM
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No-o-o-o-o. Add MORE. I'm polishing the Dogster R.S.T. Award, as we speak.

rhk: you know this - and I know this - but BostonGal doesn't. Heh. Yet.

So let's allow her to learn the hard way. This is what R.S.T. travel is about. The Dogster path to enlightenment has always involved running headfirst into a brick wall.

I salute the crazy gals from Boston.
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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 07:24 PM
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don't you at least want to take ONE day off and visit a wonderful spa for a massage?
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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 07:26 PM
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rhkkmk - hahahahahaha ok NOW I get it!!!

And in which case, I am most certainly changing things. Completely forgot about the heat and humidity (there goes that stupidity again). And I just learned exactly how much dough all those flights will cost me.

Therefore, I have changed plans drastically. Well, maybe not for slow travelers but for the drunk and troublesome souls like myself, it sure as hell feels drastic.

Drumroll.... New plan!

Feb 6, arrive HK
Feb 7, HK
Feb 8, early flight to BKK. 2 nights
Feb 10, early flight to Chiang Mai. 3 nights.
Feb 13, early flight CM to Siem Reap. Assume will take good chunk of the day. 3 nights in SR.
Feb 16, fly SR to either Danang or Hanoi.

Plan A: arrive Hoi An, spend 2 nights.
Feb 18, fly to Hanoi, spend 2-3 nights.
Feb 20/21, go to Halong Bay, spend 2-3 nights.
Feb 23, meander to HK for return flight.

Plan B: arrive Hanoi, spend 2-3 nights.
Feb 18 or 19, head to Sapa for 2 (maybe? not sure how long the travel will take) nights
Feb 20 or 21, head to Halong Bay. 2-3 nights.
Feb 23, meander to HK for return flight.


Thoughts on spankin' new itin?!!

Many thanks. Almost time for bed. Pleasant evening to all.
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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 07:30 PM
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If you all are wondering why on earth I'm bothering with HK at all, it's called frequent flier miles. Couldn't get them for some reason via BKK. Hubby does business in HK a lot. I'm not even really counting it as a 'destination' for this itin.
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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 07:40 PM
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Hi-
Yes, it's a whirlwind itinerary, but I look forward to hearing about it when you get back.
Your new itinerary does not look bad (taking out the islands), but you have replaced that with another destination in Vietnam so you are still moving around a lot.

Some recommendations:
1. Can you fly directly from the Chiang Mai to Siem Reap? I don't think so, but it's worth investigating.

2. Have you looked into the Bangkok Airways airpass? It might work for you and save you some money.

3. In Chiang Mai look into staying at the Baan Orapin Guesthouse, it's lovely.

4. Do check out www.theplf.org in Siem Reap if you can. If you want to read about my experience with them, it's in my trip report on my website- www.wired2theworld.com -look at the 2007 Cambodia report.

5. As for the Halong Bay vs. Sapa choice, you might want to check the weather in Feb for both places to see if that factors into your decision at all. I think Sapa can be quite cold at that time. I don't know about Halong Bay at that specific time, but I know fog is an issue at certain times of the year.

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Old Dec 4th, 2008, 08:15 PM
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much better
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Old Dec 5th, 2008, 06:16 AM
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The weather in Sapa will be extremely cold at that time of year and I believe it could even snow.
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Old Dec 7th, 2008, 05:10 PM
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Thanks Kristina & dgunbug.

We're going with plan A for Vietnam. And a colleague of mine recommended the Reunification Express overnight train from Danang to Hanoi, so I'm looking into that as well.

Thanks all for your input!


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Old Dec 19th, 2008, 09:46 AM
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Flights are not looking ideal, as expected. We're thinking of cutting out Hoi An altogether. That means we have 3 extra nights to play with.

Thinking of adding a night in Siem Reap and 1 or 2 in Hanoi.

I may be mistaken, but it doesn't appear that we're missing much by not going to Hoi An. In reading, the majority of people mention the beach/pool aspect (which we're not interested), having clothes made (I would LOVE this, but not quite enough I don't think), and the Japanese Covered Bridge. This would also save us a good chunk of moolah, which is ever so helpful in these diastrous financial times.

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Old Dec 19th, 2008, 10:08 AM
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Boston, I think you'll thank the airlines for the flights not working out to Hoi An!

Three extra days will make a real difference in this itinerary. I agree you should spend another night in Siem Reap. Have you been to Bangkok before? If not, I'd add at least one day (preferably two) to Bangkok. And are you still planning on 3 nights at Halong Bay? I'd cut one of those so you have more time in Hanoi.
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