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Help from all seasoned travelers to SE asia

Help from all seasoned travelers to SE asia

May 17th, 2014, 12:26 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 878

I don't blame you for wanting to see as much as you can especially on your first trip to SEA. Agree that the TA first plan was way too much, but you don't have to cut much to make it doable. Our first time was on a cruise ship with just a day in each port. We loved each port and were hooked.

Your plan below for the five stops is doable IMO. If those are the places you really want to see on your first trip ...go for it. You won't be sorry you went to each place; you may be sorry you couldn't stay longer, but you can always plan to go back.

3 nts bankok
4 nts chiang mai
3 nts Siem Reap
3 nts hanoi
1 nt halong bay (I do want to visit it even if briefly)

You have time in each place to see enough to make it a worth while trip and if you love the area as much as many on this board, you will plan for many more trips.

We did a similar trip in 2009 from Hong Kong to Bangkok with much the same advice from the board that you are getting...."you are traveling to fast, trying to see too much....slow down!" I didn't listen very well and we had a great trip! We are planning another for next year.

I say start with Hanoi and the Bay and work toward Bangkok. That is what we did. As suggested check for direct morning or evening flights as it will maximize your time in each place and minimize the actual travel time. If you can get a direct flight or a short connection to Siem Reap, head there next. I will have to say, you have to really love temples to spend more than two full days there. (One day of temples was enough for us, we moved our Bangkok flight up one day!)

From Siem Reap go to Chiang Mai even if you have to go trough Bangkok. Then finish your trip in Bangkok.

I picked out the things I really wanted to see in each of the places we visited in 2009. Halong Bay was one of those places...but to have two full days in Siem Reap which everyone said was not enough, it just didn't work. I am sorry we didn't short change Siem Reap from the beginning and see the Bay. Don't get me wrong, I am glad we went to SR and saw Angkor Wat and some other temples. They are fabulous! BUT, a full day was enough for us and we could have used the extra day for the Bay instead of moving on to Bangkok.

You might find my blog from that trip helpful in planning your short time in each place...we didn't go to Chiang Mai. We talked about it, but it was the burning time there so that was out, so we had a longer stay in Bangkok than I first planned on.

At least the blog (with pictures) will give you an idea of what you can see in a short amount of time. We had been to Bangkok at the end of a cruise for a few days several years before so we were really laid back there...you can do much more than we did.


Go to March in the index on the right hand side and click on March 16 the day we head to Hanoi. This part of the trip last until March 26 when we fly on to Africa.

Hope it helps you decide what is best for your trip.
cwn is offline  
May 17th, 2014, 11:53 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,630
Certainly, the itinerary cwn suggests is do-able, though rushed. It depends on your priorities. If you are really interested in Angkor, a mere two full days won't be enough. But do your research and see what makes sense for you. Also, I'd never spend 5-6 hours each way to Halong Bay on such a short trip, but it might be what you want. So take all of our comments with the perspective of different people's wants and needs.
Kathie is offline  
May 18th, 2014, 12:49 AM
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 1,897
Too many pre-booked flights and/or tight deadlines to meet in such a short time is a recipe for disaster. It only takes one spanner in the works to completely screw things up. And in SE Asia the spanners come in all shapes and sizes!
LancasterLad is offline  
May 18th, 2014, 09:17 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 9
Thank you all seasoned travellers. I have taken into consideration your suggestions and my preferences and here is what I have come up with. We will be disembarking the japan cruise on june 20. Hence, we will fly to bangkok that afternoon arriving in the evening
4 nights bangkok ( that gives us three full days to vidit the mayor temples, ayuttaya and the markets
3 nights chiang mai. ( early morning flight, so we will have 2 1/2 days. City tour, doi suthep, elephant ride
4 nights siem reap. Fly early morning. Arrive on time to visit angkor vat in the afternoon, 2 days to visit the other temples ( sorry, i still cannot commit to memory the names). The las day we will visit tonle sap in the morning. We fly late in the afternoon yo Hanoi
Hanoi. We will only overnight upon arrival since the next day we will drive to halong for a 2 night cruise. Upon return, we will have only two days in Hanoi and fron there we fly to tokio to tske our return flight to Mexico.
I know it is rushed and I will be missing by not staying longer at each place, but I do not know when I can go bsck snd zi do want to do the cruise on hslong bay.
Now, if anyone can help me with suggestions of hotels for bangkok ( we are thinking shangri la), for chiang may ( have not decided), for siem reap, and for hanoi. Your suggestions are gratefully appreciated
cayetana is offline  
May 18th, 2014, 11:11 AM
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 1,897
No more input from me. Good luck!
LancasterLad is offline  
May 18th, 2014, 12:34 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 878

Well, I will give you some input. Kathie is right about all of our comments, you have do what is best for you. We can only give you some ideas and opinions for you to think about.

Personally having done a more rushed trip, I think your plan sounds fine for a first and maybe (or maybe not)only visit. We really love Bangkok and only had three full days the first time there but saw the major temples and did a day trip outside of the City and fell in love!

You can definitely get a taste of Hanoi with two days (see my trip report). So it looks like you have ticked all the boxes for the things you are interested in with time for the Bay cruise, Chiang Mai and Siem Reap.

You have your flights spread out enough to allow some room for a delay. But in your planning for the various stops, do allow for delays on travel days.

For Bangkok, many of the Asia Board regulars advised us to stay on the River either at the Shangri La or the Peninsula or the Mandarin Oriental.

We have stayed at the Shangri La and the Peninsula and eaten at the other. They all are very good and next door or across the river from each other in an ideal location. Do spring for the River view rooms, you won't be sorry!

The river is wonderful to watch and many sites can be reached by the river ferries and you are very near to the skytrain which is really the only way to move around in the city!

My favorite is the Peninsula. We are going next March and right now the Shangri La has a better priced package, so we will be staying there. I would say go with the best deal there.

For Angkor Wat, we stayed at Victoria Angkor which was very nice with a beautiful salt-water pool and lovely grounds and very reasonably priced with breakfast included. They had two restaurants. The food was good in both. I am sure others will suggest other good hotels there.

In Hanoi we stayed at the Hilton and really liked it. The food was good also. The Metropole Hotel, a well known hotel, was under renovation at the time and was not getting good reviews due to noise and dust. We went over to the hotel and it looked very nice, but there was a lot of construction every where at the time.. The hotels are close to each, just a couple of blocks apart with the Opera House between them. It is easy to get to the sites either walking or short taxi rides. There are some pictures of the various hotels in my blog.

Your cruise and post cruise trip sound great!
cwn is offline  
May 19th, 2014, 04:57 AM
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 464
See or do? Better to research destinations and find out specific attractions they have to offer rather than just picking well known touristy places.

A lot of the highlights for me dont rank in the top 10 most visited places. Why? Most tourists are lazy and just visit well defined tourist zones which offer little in the way of real culture and youve got touts in these places making the hard sell. Its a fake environment.

A good way to research a country is simply look at a map and then google some of the places you have never heard of and read up on them. Can find some real gems this way.
Prachuap is offline  
May 19th, 2014, 05:01 AM
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 532
Bangkok-Shangri La is about 5 minutes walk to Central Pier for river transport and Saphan Taskin BTS station. We didn't stay there but at Bossotel next door as cheaper at $60 per night and it had a small pool. We were on a budget but if not, I would have stayed at Shangri-La. We had dinner there, looked around and it's a beautiful property. I didn't do any shopping in Bangkok other than at JThompson House but loved Wat Arun, Wat Po, and the Palace.

Chiang Mai-you said you want to ride the elephants so you need to check on the ones mentioned to see if they offer that. We spent the day at this place, elephants looked to be well cared for but I must admit didn't think to check reports from animal welfare groups beforehand. Thai Elephant Home www.thaielephanthome.com

Maybe Patara Elephant Farm www.pataraelephantfarm.com
oOn the right side of the page you will see a list of lots of videos posted-Elephant Nature Park, Thai Elephant Home, etc.

Doi Suthep not what I expected. Lots of souvenir stands and very crowded with almost a Las Vegas feel. Lots of glitter. But I'm still glad we went. Did a great cooking class in CM.

If you decide to go to Chiang Rai contact Jermsak. We had him for 2 days and he's a gem but he gets booked fast.

Siem Reap-if you're into temples then this place is amazing. We did the 7 day pass but being older we had a slow pace. I covered Cambodia in my blog and attached pics. Here's the link
Go to the right, look down and find Siem Reap dates in January of this year.

Didn't do Vietnam or Laos so can't offer anything there.

Have a great trip and wear a hat, drink lots of water and don't forget the sunscreen!!
chris45ny is offline  
May 19th, 2014, 07:20 AM
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 464
Doi Suthep is the most visited temple and mountain in northern Thailand by farangs/foreigners.

Go to Lampang, Phrae and Phayao if you want nice temples that arent tourist set ups.

Northern Thailand is nice but Chiang Mai central is like disneyland. Most fake atmosphere in the whole country.

Best thing to do in CM is hire a car so you can escape the tourist traps and see the countryside and the real highlights.
Prachuap is offline  
May 20th, 2014, 04:06 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,630
I'm not fond of CM, but your posts like "Chiang Mai central is like disneyland. Most fake atmosphere in the whole country." are simply silly. Such pronouncements are boring and unhelpful.
Kathie is offline  
May 20th, 2014, 04:39 AM
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 464
Its true. The centre of CM is extremely touristy. People should know that in advance. Some like that, some dont but its good to know in advance.

Very helpful to know what you are in for.
Prachuap is offline  
May 20th, 2014, 09:39 AM
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 1,897
CM isn't on my list of 'must return to' places either. It's Bangkok on a smaller scale, with too many 2-strokes and other dirty vehicles polluting the place. Give me Isaan and the north east, Nong Khai in particular, any day of the week.
LancasterLad is offline  
May 20th, 2014, 05:41 PM
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 464
LL is on the money. Issan is a good alternative to CM. 99% less tourists, nice food, friendly locals and without the annoying touts and touristy junk markets. CM night mkt is $5 fake watches and endless junk.
Prachuap is offline  
May 20th, 2014, 06:30 PM
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 1,371
It is the OPs first time to Thailand, and indeed SE Asia. Issan and the north east might best be tackled by someone with a bit of SE Asia experience already gained.

Chiang Mai has a compact easily walkable old city with lovely temples, some great food (both in restaurants and at the night market) and has easy access to natural attractions like Doi Inthanon NP.
The Sunday night walking street market had loads of ethnic handicrafts when I was there in February 2014.

Comparing Chiang Mai to Disneyland is ridiculous.
sartoric is offline  
May 20th, 2014, 10:25 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,243
Cayetana, given the amount of time you have allocated it makes sense to stay in and around Chiang Mai for your time there. I have visited the city a number of times and enjoy the the place. I usually spend a few days there before renting a car and driving around the spectacular scenery of north. Unfortunately you don't have time for that. If you did want yo see some of the countryside then I would take a look at Chiang Dao. There are plenty of interesting activities there. Just google. Chiang Dao Nest for info. Or , as Sartoric suggest, Doi Inthanon is worth a look.

Sartoric has summed up Chiang Mai perfectly. Parts are certainly packed with tourists but if you don't want that sort of thing then they are easily avoided. The night market is good for foodstall but is generally not the place to by souvenirs. The walking market has better quality stuff but does get very busy. Both are worth a quick look. Loads of wats to explore and it is easy, with the aid of a guide book, to wander the streets of old city for hours.

we stayed at the Shangri La in CM on our last visit and enjoyed our stay. It is in a relatively quiet location but still close to the night market. Worth considering upgrading to the Exec floor if they haven't hiked their rates too much. If you are looking for something cheaper/smaller 3 Sis B and B on the edge of the old town is very nice.

It is years since I have visited Siem Reap established but two places in which I have stayed are the Foreign Correspondents Club and the Victoria. The former, very modern, the latter more colonial. I would check out the reviews on booking.com to help you choose.

The Metropole in Hanoi is generally considered one of, if not the, top hotel in Hanoi. We stayed about 6 years ago and whilst it was a very nice hotel, the service was hopeless. More recently we have stayed in small hotels. Try to find somewhere close to the Old City.
crellston is offline  
May 21st, 2014, 04:59 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
I would suggest staying at Yaang Come Village boutique hotel in Chiang Mai. It is very well located. I like the Thai style of the place. Doi Inthanon is a fabulous day trip out of Chiang Mai. One of the large stupas was undergoing minor renovations when we were there several weeks ago, but that doesn't detract from the beautiful gardens and scenery. On this trip you can also visit the highest point in Thailand and several waterfalls. Well worth the time IMO.
simpsonc510 is offline  
May 21st, 2014, 05:13 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 24,454
It is true that Chiang Mai seemed to have acquired a lot more traffic between my first visit (1998) and my second (2002) and I imagine it is worse now, but to compare it to Disneyland (or Epcot) is indeed ridiculous. Now, if we were talking about Singapore...

Do you have any interest in cooking classes? Not something I usually do, but I had a good time with this oufit in CM: http://www.thaicookeryschool.com/
thursdaysd is offline  
May 21st, 2014, 10:13 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,243
If your are considering a cooking course then thethaicookery school mentioned by Thursdaysd is also worth considering as a place to stay. Chef Sompon also has a few very nice rooms in his house next to his school. Breakfast is included and dinner is optional but well worth it for one night. Cooked by Sompon himself ist was one of the best meals I have ever eaten in 25 years of visiting the country.
They also provided free transport to and from the city with a guide if required.
crellston is offline  
May 22nd, 2014, 12:32 AM
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 464
Looks like Disneyland to me with all the tourists there minus the rollercoasters.
Prachuap is offline  

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