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Have plan for first SE trip. What do you think?

Have plan for first SE trip. What do you think?

Old Nov 6th, 2012, 03:08 PM
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Have plan for first SE trip. What do you think?

SE Asia has topped our travel destination wish list ever since we went to India five years ago. But it just didn't happen. Conferences in Zielona Gora, Rio, and Florence, and a wedding in Derby, displaced SE Asia. Today I finally booked our tickets in and out of Bangkok, arriving 9 January. Before I commit to internal air and hotels, I'd very much appreciate suggestions from the experienced SE Asia travellers.

Here's what I'm thinking (we are not shoppers but we are eaters!):

1 night at airport hotel in BKK before flight to Siem Reap
4 nights in Siem Reap
3 nights in Luang Prabang
4 nights in Hanoi (no Halong Bay)
3 nights in Hue
2 nights in Hoi An
3 nights in HCMC
4 nights in BKK

We don't want beaches or treks to hill tribes so I'm limiting Thailand. Is that a bad idea? We don't have a particular interest in Vietnam but it fits in well.

Suggestions most welcome, Thanks!
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 12:34 AM
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Visit Vietnam first and go to Cambodia and then tuk-tuk border to Thailand. (?)
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 01:31 AM
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Marija if BKK is your "in and out" of city, or the destination your flight from the US will arrive at and depart back home from then I suggest the following.

BKK - Siem Reap on Bangkok Airways
Siem Reap to Luang Prabang via BKK on Bangkok Airways
Luang Prabang to Hanoi via Laos Airways
*note that the above destination are all covered with the "Discovery Airpass" from Bangkok Airways. http://bangkokair.com/pages/discover...irpass-routing
Hanoi - Hue or Hoi An by domestic airline
Hanoi - BKK by any airline but I would opt for a direct flight and the most economical for a one way ticket will be Air Asia.

For Vietnam I personally like Hanoi above the other cities but I haven't been to Hue yet. I would skip HCMC and add nights somewhere else.

January is the perfect time of year to visit IMO!
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 05:27 AM
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Thanks, Hanuman. Where would you add nights?
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 06:19 AM
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Two nights in Hue, giving you about a day and a half for looking around, is enough (and worthwhile). Saigon/Ho Chi Minh deserves more time, especially if you want to take excursions out of the city. It is rapidly becoming an international centre and is essential if you want to understand Vietnam today.
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 06:46 AM
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"We don't have a particular interest in Vietnam but it fits in well."

Marija, If you don't have a particular interest in VN, why not choose a place you do have a particular interest in? That's a lot of time to spend in a place you aren't very interested in.

With that many nights, you could go to Burma.
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 07:25 AM
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Kathie--we are very interested in the general area, especially Angkor Wat and Bangkok. This is meant to be an "overview" trip, so Vietnam is geographically a good fit. We've greatly enjoyed a lot of destinations that we weren't dying to see before we arrived but we included them because we were in the general area. We are easy to please travelers but do appreciate good advice.
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 08:26 AM
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>>

We had 1-1/2 days in Hue and it was perfect. You can even see all the sights in one very long day (we went on an 8-hour+ motorbike tour). The city itself isn't particularly special, but there is so much to see.

>>

I agree only IF you plan to take excursions out of the city. We enjoyed Saigon, but it is much more of a modern international city than other places in Vietnam, so if I had to skip one, that would be it. If you do NOT do excursions outside the city (Mekong, Cu Chi Tunnels), 1-1/2 days is enough there, too.
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 08:31 AM
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We are also not shoppers, but look forward to sampling great food wherever we go. We've only been to SEAsia once, so certainly not "experienced" in travel to the area.

I had the opposite expectations for our 9 weeks in SEAsia. I thought VN would be the highlight of the trip, but in fact it was Thailand that really wowed me. The food in Thailand was fantastic. That said VN was certainly interesting and I'm glad we went. I preferred Hanoi to HCMC, but glad we spent a couple days in HCMC. The modern city was welcome at the end of our trip. We spent 3 nights in Hue and also in Hoi An. Could probably have eliminated one of the nights in Hue. I know were are in the minority but we got templed out in Siem Reap with just 3 nights there and it was incredibly hot (we were also there in January). Also somehow we seemed to have missed really great food there. OTOH food in Luang Prabang was a a big surprise, really loved it.
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 10:21 AM
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We are all different and like different things. I've been traveling all over SE Asia annually since the mid 1980s. I rarely say this here, as so mnay people love VN, but VN is my least favorite SE Asian country. We enjoyed our time there and we found it interesting, but not compelling. That said, you might love it.
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 03:32 PM
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Warm greetings Marija and warm congrats on forthcoming initial journey to SE Asia; very special region.

Initial perusal, your itinerary holds promise for some joyous times. Any chance of perhaps enticing you into spending time (and funds) in our fine home of Singapore? If so, would be honoured to give lodging suggestions. And, noticed you are flying into and out of Suvarnabhumi. Can assure you from ongoing Bangkok business trips, Singapore Airlines continues to provide fine business class service, BKK-SIN, return. Again, pleased to assist.

Wish I could help you with Cambodia and Vietnam, but those two countries are not on my current Asia business travel circuit, and have yet to find time for holiday.

Now, with beloved Bangkok, more than happy to give some thoughts. Not knowing your ultimate budget, will give the upmost thanks and gratitude to the great management, staff and friends at a sweet little riverside resort called The Siam. Will be forever blessed for having experienced a weekend at the property this past July, during her 'soft opening' period -- and rates. Our lodging was a river view pool villa; didn't want to leave. (But have been back over the past months for dining at her Chon Thai restaurant and will return later this month. What a unique place.)

Should The Siam be a bit of a budget buster, will propose the Mandarin Oriental, followed by the Peninsula. Special times, riverside. Can highly and personally vouch for both. (And will also give a promo to my current BKK business travel hotel, the Four Seasons. Should you stay at the FS, try to spring for a cabana lodging.)

Have many more BKK (and SIN and SQ) thoughts to offer you, Marija, but business travel calls on this fine early Singapore morning. Get to kick off this trans-pac with SQ16 J today; always an honour with great crews and friends. Will post more, over the next ~ 3 weeks, 'on the road'.

I am very happy for you; savour your planning. Warm morning wishes to you and all,

macintosh (robert)


... Singapore Airlines, You're a Great Way to Fly ...
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 05:02 PM
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Hi Marija,

Your first eight days are almost identical our trip in January of this year--almost to the day (we left Chicago on the 10th and arrived on the 11th, I think)--except that we stayed in Bangkok rather than at the airport.

In hindsight, I would have booked our time in Bangkok at the start--both to provide a buffer for delays and to acclimate ourselves to the time zone and climate before we set off touring temples and such in Siem Reap. We missed our connection in Tokyo and had some tense moments as to whether we'd get to Bangkok on time to catch our separate reservation to Siem Reap. All worked out, but we were exhausted when we got to Cambodia, and the first few days were kind of a blur.

We spent a week in Hanoi the previous year (w/ Halong Bay) and loved it--it exceeded our expectations. So, hopefully Vietnam will exceed yours as well.

Enjoy and happy planning!
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Old Nov 8th, 2012, 06:18 AM
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The question you are asking is really one of personal choice. There is nothing “wrong” about the itinerary that you presented and I’m sure you would have a great trip if you don’t change a thing.

IMHO, I don’t think you’ll need 4 nights in Siem Reap. There are several morning flights from Bangkok that arrive there before noon so even though you’ll be tired, you could actually begin touring that afternoon. A day at the central Angkor complex with another touring some smaller temples outside of the city and a 3rd day relaxing or back to more temples will probably satisfy you.

The suggestion to book flights via the Bangkok Airways Discovery Airpass (with some flights on Lao Air) is a good one and will save you a lot of money. You need a minimum of 3 legs to qualify and with flights from BKK to REP to LPG to HAN, that’s doable.

We’ve really enjoyed all of our trips to Vietnam and while we think the food in Thailand is the best in the region (and maybe the world), the food in Vietnam is also terrific and remarkably inexpensive.

Normally we really encourage people to try and fit in a side-trip out of Hanoi to Sapa but since you aren’t interested in visiting hill tribes, it’s probably not for you.

One suggestion that you might want to check out: The Discovery Airpass flight from Siem Reap to Luang Prabang has one stop in the small Lao city of Pakse. Pakse itself is not much of a tourist destination but it is where you could meet up with the Vat (aka Wat) Phou Mekong Cruise. You might want to free up a few nights (you’ll need 4; depending on your choice, maybe 1 from Siem Reap, 1 from Hanoi, a couple from between Hue & Hoi An and/or 1 more from HCMC) so that you can fit this 2-night cruise into your schedule.

The boat itself is a converted ferry with only 10 cabins. The cabins are small but reasonably comfortable and each includes a well designed en suite. The staff is very welcoming and includes full time French and English speaking guides. The food is good. The scenery is amazing. But for us, the best part of the cruise was the chance to meet and get to know some amazing people from all over the world. There are departures out of Pakse every Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday so you’ll need to arrange your schedule to arrive there the day before one of those and you’ll probably want to spend the night in Pakse on the day the cruise ends.

If you’re interested, you can find a more detail description of the cruise at http://www.se-asiatravel.com/lao-pdr...mekong-cruise/. Towards the bottom of the page is a link to a short video we shot while on the cruise earlier this year.
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Old Nov 8th, 2012, 08:17 AM
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Thanks for all of your comments and suggestions. I'm rereading many of the trip reports and have emailed for the Discovery Pass. We can't decide whether we would like a Mekong cruise. Our Yangtze cruise was a dud, quite boring, and we hate to be captive. Anyone done both?
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Old Nov 8th, 2012, 09:46 AM
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I loved the Residence d'Angkor in Siem Reap and hired Kim San as our guide. It was a little oasis in chaos. Kim San did everything to make our trip special.

Loved the Sofitel in Hanoi and the Shangri La Krungtoep Wing ( sp) in BKK. The seafood lunch at Lord Jim in the Mandarin Oriental was spectacular. They also had really good Peking Duck in their chinese restaurant.

I too thought a lot about a Mekong Cruise but in my mind it appeared to be more of the same after the first day.

Happy Planning.
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Old Nov 8th, 2012, 10:47 AM
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Marija, I think your allocation of days is very good for your itinerary. Personally, I'd add another day to Luang Prabang, but that is a matter of individual preferences. Of course, I think four nights in Siem Reap is perfect for someone who is only moderately interested in the temples.
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Old Nov 8th, 2012, 06:05 PM
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You plan is ok. It is better stay in Hue 2 nights and Hoi An 3 nights. There are more things to do in Hoi An than Hue.
1 day in HCM city and 2 days/1night to MekonG delta

Nice trip
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Old Nov 9th, 2012, 08:29 AM
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>>

This is one I can't agree with. HoiAn is a very charming little city, but it's more R&R than anything -- nice hotels, great beaches, excellent dining, but in terms of "sights to see", there's a lot more in Hue than HoiAn. We spent about 9 hours sightseeing in Hue and could have easily filled another morning. In HoiAn, we spent every day at the pool/beach, and went into town late in the afternoon to wander around, people-watch, eat and drink.
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Old Nov 9th, 2012, 11:20 AM
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I agree in general with sf. There was more to c in Hue, but the town lacked the charm of HoiAn. And as sf said, it's perfect for some R&R. The charm of Hoi An was that you could just wander around and observe life on the back streets away from the main drag. Hoi An also had really good food. You can take a short ride out to see the ruins at MySon which is worth the drive. We spent half a day doing that.

On your question re the cruise -- I have not done either of the one you mention, but we did cruise from Luang Prabang to N.Thailand. It was 2 days and one night and I found it a bit of a snooze. It stopped at a cave and couple villages, all of which I could have skipped. Some of the secenry was really nice, but for two days it was a bit much for me. I realize the one mentioned above may be different, but thought I'd share our cruise experience.
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Old Nov 9th, 2012, 02:50 PM
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I have visited most of the destinations you planned and those suggested either on vacation or as part of extending business trips a few dats..
In my opinion you are spendingne (1) day too many in Siem Reap, Hanoi and Hue and I would not consider Singapore for it's far less facinating than any of the above, in my opinion. If you can get Air asia, not the ideal Airlibne for confort but reasonably priced I would take the 3 full days (likely 4-5 nights) and fly to Bali which has it's own unique culture or to Yogjakarta, with their magnificant Temples that will blow you away. You may have to fky ibto Soko but Yogjakarta is only 40-45 minutes away in non-commuter hours.Car service to Yogja would cost $25 tops.If you where to do that a guide we used twice will be one of the highlight of your trip I think. [email protected]. He gets hotel discounts and would pick you up at airport and deliveryou ack as well. Yogja is quite facinatinatng as is Bali. But you would chose one for 3 full days. Consider it.
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