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How would you organize this itinerary?

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Aug 18th, 2014, 10:29 AM
  #1
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How would you organize this itinerary?

Hi, I'm taking a year off to travel in 2015 and I wanted to set aside 4-8 weeks for SE Asia. I've read a few trip reports from friends but I'm not sure if I want to go on all the places on their itineraries. I'm looking to cover Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, with just 1 place for the last 3 countries. I know flying is cheap for most of them.

Vietnam
I'm not sure if I should skip Hanoi and go straight to Ho Chi Minh City. I wanted to also see Da Lat and Nha Trang. Then Phu Quoc Island.

Cambodia
Currently I'm only interested in Phnom Pehn and Siem Reap.

Thailand
Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket

And the rest are just Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bali. I might also go to Jakarta to fly out.
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Aug 18th, 2014, 11:26 AM
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If you have 8 weeks, you might be able to cover all of those places, but you won't have much time in any one place. What is your goal for this trip? Are you just lancing at places to see if you want to explore more deeply or are you hoping to have some real experience of a place?

Here are my comments on the places you list:

VN - I don't know why you would skip Hanoi - most travelers much prefer it to HCMC. If you want to visit VN, I think you really need two to three weeks to get a flavor for the country.

Cambodia - do get a copy of Dawn Rooney's book, Angkor: A Guide to Cambodia's Wondrous Temples to help you decide how much time to spend at the the temples. It takes three full days (that means four nights) just to see the "major" temples. I spent week there and would have enjoyed even more time.

Thailand: You will need at least two full weeks and preferably three to see the basics of Thailand. You have chosen the most popular places to visit - is that what you want? If it were me, I'd skip Chiang Mai and choose another location in Northern Thailand instead. Also whether to go to Phuket or another beach area will depend on exactly when you are going.

Malaysia - KL is my least favorite place in Malaysia. There are so many really interesting places to go. For me a couple of days in plenty in KL. Why not opt for Penang or Malaysian Boreno instead.

Singapore - Singapore is an interesting city-state, but be aware that it is very expensive.

Indonesia - skip Jakarta. if yoyo want another location to visit in addition to Bali, choose central Java. And make sure you have at least a week in Bali. Stay some time at a beach if you'd like, but do stay inland near Ubud as well.

This is a wonderful opportunity. Do your research so you can use your time well.
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Aug 18th, 2014, 11:39 AM
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In terms of logistics, plan to fly into one city and out of another to reduce back-tracking. So you might fly into VN, either HCMC or Hanoi, then head either north or south, covering the locations you want to visit, then fly out of the other city to Cambodia. From Cambodia, fly to Thailand. From there to Malaysia, then on to Singapore and Indonesia. Be aware that travel takes time, and you can't really count any travel day as a day in a place (think about from the time you check out of your hotel in one place until you are settled in your hotel in a new location). So if you want two days in Singapore, you will need to stay there three nights. I wouldn't stay fewer than three nights anywhere. Less is more when you are taking about travel, so don't hesitate to cut a location so you have more time in places you really want to experience.
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Aug 18th, 2014, 11:58 AM
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Kathie has given you great advice. Since you seem intent on "doing" SE Asia, I would add Myanmar to your itinerary, even if you have to subtract something else. I consider Bagan and Inle Lake in Myanmar to be "must sees" in the region.
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Aug 18th, 2014, 12:10 PM
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I agree with Craig, Myanmar is the most interesting of the SE Asian countries right now. You would need a minimum of two weeks to visit the must-see places.
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Aug 18th, 2014, 01:39 PM
  #6
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Thanks for the tips! I actually don't to only go to major cities, I'm also interested in outdoor adventures but since I'm not a very good swimmer I'd mostly just stick to trekking, etc. I was basing this off other friend's itineraries, so in 1 month friends covered: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Phuket, Krabi, Penang, Bali, Da Nang, Hanoi.

The only reason I'm excluding Hanoi is because it's far away from all the other places I want to see. I'd also only be going to KL, Singapore and Bali if I can get a travel companion for those parts of the trip. If that doesn't happen, I'd reduce the trip to 6 weeks but if I can, I'd spend the whole 2 months and add Laos and Myanmar as well.

I haven't looked at Myanmar (or any of these places in detail really), what guides should I get for this?

And based on my location how many flights should I expect to take? Things seem really far, but I've also read a lot of travel plans that used slow boats, sleeper buses, etc. It doesn't seem that expensive to fly.
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Aug 18th, 2014, 02:54 PM
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You really have to sort where you want to go. Having been to many of these destinations, my priorities (in no particular order) would be:

Bangkok (5-7 days)
Luang Prabang, Laos (5-7 days)
Hanoi, Viet Nam (4 days)
Bali (7-9 days)
Bagan and Inle Lake, Myanmar (7 days + transit time)
Siem Reap (3 days or more)
Singapore (3 days)
Malaysia (Georgetown & Penang) 4 days
Beach (Langkawi, Malaysia or Thailand) ?

I wouldn't try to cover much more than this. Flight times and overnights are not included in times.

Hope this helps. I have not been Phnom Pehn, Kuala Lampur. In northern Vietnam, I've been to Sapa and Halong Bay. Sapa or northern Thailand would be good ways to see the hill tribes.

For this itinerary, Bangkok would be as good a base as any. Singapore is a good base for Malaysia. Bali is reachable from either Bangkok or Singapore. You may be able to fly between Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Otherwise use Bangkok as your base.
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Aug 18th, 2014, 08:07 PM
  #8
 
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Lots of touristy places. I see no interesting off the tourist trail places on your list. I would pick 2 countries and explore more. All that jumping around requires visas and flights for not much.
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Aug 18th, 2014, 09:46 PM
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Unless you're really into Temples, then Bagan quickly followed [or preceded] by Angkor is overkill, and you'll suffer temple fatigue.

There's much more to Myanmar and Cambodia, and like Prachuap says try and get a bit off the well-trodden tourist trail. Time will fly by, so trying to fit too much in will be tiring and there'll be some places that you'll probably regret trying to do too quickly. Some places you need a bit of time to get below the surface. And you'll be well rewarded by loitering here and there.

For what it's worth this is how we did Myanmar in 2010. I've copied and pasted from another forum I used to use...

"I thoroughly recommend hiring a car/driver/guide. If you want a contact for the driver please send me a pm:

We hired a car/driver/guide for 2 weeks in February.

We paid US$800 (total).

This included the car, petrol, road tolls (plenty of them!), food & accommodation for the driver/guide, and his guiding skills. His knowledge of his country/religions was very impressive.

Before we committed to hiring our driver for 2 weeks, we used him for one day touring round the sights outside Yangon. He was very safe, which gave us the confidence to invest in his services for 2 weeks.

Our driver/guide spoke excellent English. He has a physics degree, but earns more as a driver. His wife has a Masters, but she earns more working from home as a seamstress!

Our safety, comfort and welfare were his top priority at all times.

He was an excellent defensive driver, which is exactly what you need in SE Asia.

It’s worth mentioning that driving standards in Myanmar vary a lot, a hell of a lot! Driving is on the right-hand side of the road, and most cars are also right-hand drive!

Many cars are bashed-up Japanese second-hand exports. Newer left-hand drive vehicles are Government, Military or Diplomatic. 2-stroke mopeds are everywhere (except Yangon), and come at you from all directions, often with 4 or 5 people onboard, or maybe even a stunned pig strapped to the back!

Much of the traffic you’ll encounter on your adventures are either wide carts pulled by bullocks, or over-laden lorries. Overtaking usually comes with a risk. Although the condition of the roads are generally poor with many pot-holes, the verges are usually flat(ish) and wide, which allows plenty of room to manoeuvre.

Cars/lorries and buses have a cute way of indicating that the road ahead is clear to overtake. I won’t spoil it for you, other than to say the system works! Dust is also something to consider. Take surgical masks.

How did we find the driver? He was our taxi driver on arrival at Yangon airport. On our drive to the Summit Parkview Hotel he asked us what our plans were for our stay, and it went from there.

Dead easy really. We had previously thought about trains, buses and planes. But I’m glad we chose our own transport.

He wanted to know where we wanted to visit, and he organised all the details. If we wanted to we could change our itinerary within rerason, as we went along. We took advantage of that in Mandalay, by only stopping there a couple of nights and adding Pyin u Lwin to our adventure.

Our trip took us to...

- Taungoo, for an overnight stop.

- Bagan (3 nights).

- Mandalay (2 nights).

- Pyin u Lwin (3 nights).

- Kalaw (1 night).

- Inle Lake (3 nights).

- Kalaw (1 night).

- and our last night on the road at Taungoo.

We covered 2,500 Kms, which doesn’t sound a lot, but you feel every bump along the way as you criss-cross from one side of the road to the other avoiding the holes!

Our driver was excellent company, and we soon became friends.

What would we change if we did the trip again? I think I’d want a bit more say with our hotels, and have my choices fixed before the adventure got under way. I’m not saying there was anything particularly wrong with his choices though. I’d miss out a few of the smaller temples in Bagan, in fact why go to Bagan again, there’s so much more to see in that wonderful country!"
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Aug 18th, 2014, 11:41 PM
  #10
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Thank you everyone! I'm going to have to research more and hopefully in 2-3 months time will have a good itinerary for 2015. I really want to go to Myanmar now so I might do this separately from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore or I could add an extra month if budget permits.

Is 2 weeks split between Malaysia, Singapore and Bali enough? We'd spend 1 week in Bali, 3 nights in Singapore at MBS and the rest in Malaysia.

Then that gives me the rest of the time in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar where I'll be traveling solo on a backpacker budget. How much would be a good amount to save for this portion of the trip?
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Aug 19th, 2014, 05:09 AM
  #11
 
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I'd stick to Bali and one other destination.
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Aug 19th, 2014, 10:45 AM
  #12
 
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If you are traveling on a backpacker's budget, you may want to reconsider Singapore. Take a look at prices there. In Malaysia, I'd opt for Georgetown, Penang and skip KL. For Georgetown and Bali two weeks are fine.

Thailand, VN and Cambodia you could do in 5 - 6 weeks, though you would be just seeing the major areas.

For Myanmar, I'd suggest three weeks if you can, in two weeks you could visit Bagan, Inle and Yangon. Flying is cheaper, faster and more comfortable than hiring a car and driver. But if you have the time (increase you time to 4 weeks, the max time for a visa) hiring a driver allows you to see more. Note than Myanmar is now the most expensive country for travel in mainland SE Asia, mostly due to accommodation costs. To figure in flights, accommodations, permits for the various places you will want to visit, horse cart in Bagan and boat on Inle, you will need about $150 a day. I was in Myanmar in 2009 and again in 2011 and prices had increased significantly in those two years, as the country opened to more visitors. I have two trip reports here, you can find them by clicking on my name.
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Aug 24th, 2014, 07:58 PM
  #13
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Oh Singapore/Bali/Malaysia would be less of a backpacking budget. Especially since at least 2-3 nights would be spent in MBS and we want to go to a luxurious resort in Bali.

However, would Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia work on a $50/day budget with $150/day for Myanmar?
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Aug 25th, 2014, 07:46 AM
  #14
 
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Work on $60 a day.
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Aug 25th, 2014, 10:02 AM
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Yes, I think you could visit Myanmar for $150 a day. That would include internal flights, admission fees, local transport, accommodations, etc.
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