Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Asia
Reload this Page >

In What Order? Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap, Saigon

In What Order? Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap, Saigon

Aug 22nd, 2009, 03:38 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 267
In What Order? Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap, Saigon

Friends from Providence have asked me to plan an upscale February trip to Asia. I live in Taiwan, so they would start out here for a few days; they'd sight see and get over jet lag.

Although I've lived in Asia for a while, I'm unsure of how to arrange this trip. Here's where they'd like to go after Taipei: Bangkok, Chiang Mai (or Chiang Rai), Siem Reap and Saigon (or Hanoi). They have about two and half weeks. Travel between some of these places seems complex. For instance, Chiang Rai would be really appealing to me (we'll join them for part of the trip) but it might be too much hassle in terms of flights and connections.

I imagine, but don't know, that it might be cheaper for me to book things here than for them to book my itinerary from the States.

What do you think? Funny how much more anxious you get when you're making plans for someone else! Thanks Fodorites.
jgmc is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2009, 05:58 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,942
i think you could probably do better with costs from there but much can be done on the internet too....air asia flights as an example...

i think i would do the following: taipei to bangkok on air asia (currently 690 your money) and then use bkk for a hub...stay a few days, or go directly to chiang rai via air asia again....then fly back to bkk and either stay your few days (5 is a nice number) and then fly air asia to VN...i think hanoi is the more interesting city....and then either they could fly home from there or back to bkk on air asia where they could fly home from or back to taipei....

air asia is a fantastic carrier and can be totally booked on line with e-tickets.... make sure you spend the extra money to have a reserved seat thus allowing you advance boarding...
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2009, 08:01 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,902
Bob, you've left out Siem Reap. Siem Reap adds some complexity as the only non-stop carrier from bangkok is Bangkok Air and it's an expensive flight.

If they have say, 17 days/nights after Taipei, I'd suggest something like this: Fly Taipei to Bangkok, then Bangkok to Chaig Rai and stay at the Anantara at the Golden Triangle for 4 nights. The Anantara can provide airport transfers (about 1 hour drive). The transfers are a bit expensive, but well worth it IMO.

Fly back to Bangkok and stay 5 nights. I always recommend somewhere along the river. The two top hotels are the Pen and the Oriental, but also consider the Shangri-La

Fly to Siem Reap for 4 nights. There are a number of excellent hotels, such as Hotel de la Paix, the Victoria, La Residence.

Fly to Hanoi for 4 nights, stay at the Sofitel Metropole then fly to the city where they will catch their flight home.

I'm not really sure you booking from Taipei will save them money. There was a time when that would have been true. I book everything via the web these days.
Kathie is online now  
Aug 22nd, 2009, 08:03 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,902
Oops, I should have mentioned, I consider the Golden Triangle area much more interesting than Chaing Mai, and consider Hanoi more interesting than HCMC, so put those in the itinerary. If they wanted Chiang Mai and/or HCMC, those could easily be substituted.
Kathie is online now  
Aug 22nd, 2009, 08:11 AM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 267
We (my husband and I) have been to Bangkok, Siem Reap and Hanoi, but not yet to Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai. Would you consider CR the more interesting of the two? Are there elephant camps nearby?

Thanks for your tips -- very helpful. I will pass on your suggestions to our friends; if their time runs short, they may have to cut out Hanoi, but it still would be a great trip.

I usually use a travel agent here in Taiwan, but it sounds as though this could all be booked online.

Again -- THANKS.
jgmc is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2009, 08:16 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,902
If you stay at the Anantara, there is a division of the Thai Elephant Conservation Center on the grounds. Nothing could be more convenient! The Anantara is a beautiful resort.

Personally, I'm not fond of Chaing Mai. It's a huge, sprawling city with significant air pollution. There are some interesting places to visit, but I'd much rather be in the Golden Triangle area.
Kathie is online now  
Aug 22nd, 2009, 07:28 PM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 267
The Anantara looks lovely and Chiang Rai sounds fascinating. If our friends want to go really upscale, should they consider the Mandarin Oriental in Chiang Mai?

Right now, based on your advice, I think we'd fly into Bangkok and then head directly out to Chiang Rai. (However, when I looked into this last year, it required an overnight in BKK -- couldn't make any connecting flights. I need to see if this has changed in a year.

Then, back to BKK for some sightseeing. We've enjoyed the Royal Orchid Sheraton before but I'll compare rates with the Shangri La. I also liked the Metropolitan, which had a pretty room and great prices, but I think first time visitors should stay on the river.

After that, our friends can head off to Siem Reap. If they have time, they can continue on to Hanoi (which would be cool in February I think. I was there late in March and was quite chilly.) This is starting to take shape -- what do you think?
jgmc is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2009, 07:44 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,942
the $500 must be for 2 rooms or a suite...i just looked at the prices on asia rooms
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2009, 07:45 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,902
The MO in Chiang Mai is pretty over the top, but not in a good way - gaudy, Disneyesque. If they really want to go to Chaing Mai, the Four Seasons outside of town is the best place for them. I'd still prefer to be in the Golden Triangle.

I always stay at the Royal Orchid in the Towers rooms. I love all the extras and the location is perfect for me.

Yes, I think the trip is taking shape - lots of good options.
Kathie is online now  
Aug 22nd, 2009, 07:48 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,942
i think the sh-la will be quite a bit more than the ROS???

peninsula is really about as good as it gets....the newer hilton on the river is ok, but the rooms are a bit odd shapped...

plaza anthenee, sheraton grande, conrad, hyatt, banyon tree are nice alternatives hotels too, but not on the river...
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2009, 11:01 PM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 267
Kathie, RHKKMK,

Are you using an airline site or a travel site when you book flights?

It looks like we can fly from Taipei to Chiang Rai on Thai Air, with a fairly long layover in Bangkok, but no overnight. And the BKK airport is pretty nice, barring any more political problems.



Thai used to land in Taipei en route to the States, but they seem to have dropped a lot of those routes. Our friends may find EVA easier to book.
jgmc is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2009, 04:45 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 63
In 2.5 weeks forget about VietNam and just enjoy Thailand and Siem Reap.

You can bus to Siem Reap - a decent look at the monuments will take 3-4 days. Get a 4-day pass - TAKE EXTRA PASSPORT PIX.

VietNam will involve expensive air trips, VISAS arranged BEFORE YOU LEAVE. Ha Noi would be the best but why would you miss Ha Long Bay?
BuonMeThuot is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2009, 07:14 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,942
the www.airasia.com site....
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2009, 07:29 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,902
jgmc, I use airlines sites to book, as I find the travel sites are always more expensive. Air Asia has very low prices, but they are a budget airline, so know the restrictions before you book... no luggage transfer on flight connection even between two Air Asia flights, no refund or rescheduling if you miss your flight, even if it is Air Asia's fault, etc.

For hotels, the hotel booking sites are often (but not always) best.

I remember when Thai used to stop in Taipei on the way to Bangkok... I did that on my first trip to Bangkok and that was a long time ago! Yes, your friends will likely find EVA to be the best option from the US to Taipei. And your idea of flying Thai to Chiang Rai with a layover in BKK makes sense.

I'm afraid BMT's info is uh... problematic. He is certainly correct that if your friends want to go to VN they need a visa arranged in advance. Some people love Halong, some don't but your friends don't have time for Halong Bay in their itinerary. But the info in Cambodia...

Your friends certainly do not want to take a bus to Siem Reap. It takes a full day, is an uncomfortable trip, and you have to deal with the scams at the border. You no longer need to take a passport photo along for Angkor, as you'll have a photo taken when you buy your temples pass. The temples passes come as one, three, and seven day passes and can now be used as individual days within a longer time period. For instance, you can stay in Siem Reap for a week and go to the temples on three different days scattered throughout the week and you only need a three day pass.
Kathie is online now  
Aug 23rd, 2009, 06:01 PM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 267
Kathie: when you say "the hotel booking sites are often but not always the best" are you referring to, say, the ROS's own site, as opposed to, say, Sawadee?

I think Halong is a bridge too far. I see the trip as a three part trip: Nature (Golden Triangle); City (Bankgok); Ruins (Angkor Wat). I think that provides a nice variety for a first time visitor. (Plus, of course, they will have had several days in Taipei and gotten a sampling of the Chinese influence, as opposed to SE Asia.)

They may well want to continue onto VN if they have the time. I agree that Hanoi is more interesting and certainly prettier, but I did enjoy the vibrancy of HCMC -- we were there last CNY and, even with many shops and restaurants closed, the festive mood was contagious and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

As a side question, if my husband and I wanted to continue on to Luang Prabang from Chiang Rai, would that necessitate a return to Bangkok and another flight up? That's the only way I see if so far. I'm not sure we'll have the time this year, but we've never been to LP and would love to go.

EVA will probably make the most sense from the States. Unfortunately, I got lured into UA's mileage program as they used to have a non stop flight from TPE - SFO. Now I have the miles, but they don't have the route! Oh well!

Everyone: thanks again.
jgmc is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2009, 06:40 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,902
I book the ROS directly, as I typically use points to get 50% of the rack rate on a Towers suite. But for other hotels, I always check the hotel's own site plus usually three booking sites: sawasdee.com agoda.com asiarooms.com Sometime I check some other sites as well, depending on whether I'm finding a good deal. I looked at the Anantara site, and their prices are high right now, so I'd go with a booking site.

If you and your husband want to go to Luang Prabang, you have a great option from Chiang Rai. Get a car and driver to Huay Xai (maybe an hour drive) and catch the Luangsay boat. There is an overnight stop at their eco-lodge, and you get to Luang Prabang the next day. I've not done it yet but it's on my list! You could then fly back to Bangkok and home to Taipei.
Kathie is online now  
Aug 23rd, 2009, 07:47 PM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 267
Kathie, That sounds absolutely dreamy! Thanks for the tip. I'm on it.
jgmc is offline  
Aug 27th, 2009, 08:51 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 846
I too loved the Golden Triangle area-So much history. |Our guide got us a room at The Ledgend. I had read about the suites with a private pool. Our guide was able to upgrade us-it was a house|!! It was pure bliss. I didn't see this hotel mentioned-we were there almost 2 years ago-Chris (In Chaing Rai.
BeniciaChris is offline  
Aug 27th, 2009, 09:50 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 74
JGMC, I did the same trip in Dec 2007. LA-Bangkok-Siem Reap-Bangkok-Siem Reap-LA, and loved every minute.

You can see the first 8 days at http://www.wired2theworld.com/
the rest of it I did on my own--8 days in Chiang Mai and I was never bored--yes, it's a big city, but I found it charming and the markets and food great--make sure you are there on a Sunday so you can take advantge of the food festival that happens then. Crowded, but so much fun if you are adventure minded in your eating...

Chiang Mai has a great guide, Sgt Kai--he can arange day trips foor you to anywhere...he took me on a private trip to the Golden triangle --and although the first day going there was fascinating and very much fun, the Triangle site itself I found it way too over done..there is no romance of the 60's left there...

Siem Reap--I highly recommednd Ponhery Li to tour anyone to Angor Wat, not only a wonderfully knowlegeable guide but a no pareil humna being. You can read about her on that trip report as well....

Like Kathie, I am a Sheraton fan and have stayed at the Royal Orchid--my daughter and her husband prefer the Peninsula--

In Siem Reap we stayed at the Victoria--fanatastic! and I can recommend Jeff / Legends of Siam Tour Co. who booked the hotels for us nad more for that trip--an american living in Bangkok, he is quite knowlegeable..and very helpful.

I am happy to "talk" off line if you want more info...
KrisMom is offline  
Aug 28th, 2009, 03:07 AM
  #20  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 267
The boat downriver from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang only leaves three days a week and won't work for our schedule. Too bad, for it looks like a great idea. Next trip!

I will look into the Legend as well as Anantara in Chiang Rai.

I am encouraging our friends to go to Siem Reap. Two years ago, we stayed at the Heritage Suites, which was a Relais & Chateaux property and quite nice.

So, I think we will go from Taipei to Chiang Rai and then back to Bangkok for a few days. Our friends can stay on in Bangkok, and then go to Siem Reap.

On to make bookings....Thanks again.
jgmc is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:44 PM.