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Is my 23 day trip to Vietnam and Cambodia too busy

Is my 23 day trip to Vietnam and Cambodia too busy

Old Jul 3rd, 2017, 01:41 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2017
Posts: 6
Is my 23 day trip to Vietnam and Cambodia too busy


I am hoping that someone on here will be able to give me their thoughts on whether this is a good itinerary or way too busy....?

Myself, partner and 2 friends are looking to Visit Vietnam for 15 days and Cambodia for 8 days arriving just before Christmas 2017 and departing in Jan 18.

We haven't decided yet whether to go to Lan Ha Bay to save 2 hrs driving from Hanoi or go on Indochina Junk tour around Bai Tu long rather than Halong bay.

Cu chi tunnels and My son are also additional tours I have added but haven't totally decided if it's too much or not to include them as whilst I am very excited about going to these destinations I am conscious of the fact we have very little down time to absorb the place other than in Hoi An.

Our proposed route is
Day 01 ARRIVE HANOI Early in morning

Day 02 HANOI - Full Day City Tour

Day 03 HANOI - BAI TU LONG or Lan Ha Bay for 1 night

Day 04 BAI TU LONG or Lan Ha Bay - HANOI - Fly to HUE

Day 05 Full day tour of Hue

Day 06 HUE - HOI AN – Drive and visit Non Nuoc Beach & Cham Museum in Danang en route via Hai Van Pass

Day 07 HOI AN - Half Day Tour of Hoi An

Day 08 HOI AN FREE DAY unless do tour of My Son?


Day 10 Fly to HO CHI MINH CITY - Half Day tour

Day 11 HO CHI MINH CITY - Cu Chi Tunnel Half Day Tour

Day 12 HO CHI MINH CITY – Mekong Delta. Stay at CAN THO

Day 13 CAN THO - CHAU DOC - Full Day Tour incl floating market

Day 14 CHAU DOC - Full Day Tour

Day 15 CHAU DOC - PHNOM PENH via Speedboat

Day 16 PHNOM PENH - Full Day City Tour


Day 18 BATTAMBANG - Full Day Tour

Day 19 BATTAMBANG – drive to SIEM REAP

Day 20 SIEM REAP - Angkor Thom, Bayon, Ta Prohm & Angkor Wat Full Day Tour

Day 21 SIEM REAP - Banteay Srey & Tonle Sap Lake Full Day Tour

Day 22 SIEM REAP - Community Village Full Day Tour

Day 23 Free day in Siem Reap until evening when fly home

If any one does have any thoughts on where we're going or the route/duration in each place I would be very grateful.??

Many thanks
pinkpixie is offline  
Old Jul 3rd, 2017, 02:21 PM
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You have no free time to speak of in Hanoi. The length of time I spent wandering (weeks) isn't a measure of how anyone else might do it, but to leave none at all is, I think, a shame. It's perfect for that kind of visit and I'd mine some of the other locations for free time, or not do the tours. You even have 2 free days in Hoi An, another great hangout place, though much smaller, and I agree. Give Hanoi at least that number of unencumbered days.
MmePerdu is offline  
Old Jul 3rd, 2017, 02:35 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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You have crammed your schedule full of tours. You don't need any of those tours. Both VN and Cambodia are easy on your own, and you will get the emphasis you want rather than a canned spiel from a guide. I agree with MmePerdu, you will want some free time in Hanoi. Hoi An is much-loved by many, but is highly touristed. You will get more of a sense of the country and culture in Hanoi than in Hoi An. Also, read about the tours you have chosen - are you aware that the tours of the "Cu Chi tunnels" have nothing to do with the tunnels that were used during the VN war?

For Angkor, get a copy of Dawn Rooney's book, Angkor: A Guide to Cambodia's Wondrous Temples and read up on the temples. It takes three days just to visit the "major" temples, but you have opted for tours which have no flexibility. You will want to choose the temples to visit rather than accepting a canned itinerary. I wouldn't bother with the trip to Tonele Sap. Also, what is the "Community Village Full Day Tour"?

With some judicious editing, this can be a wonderful trip.
Kathie is offline  
Old Jul 3rd, 2017, 04:10 PM
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Yes it is too busy and will be very exhausting. We spent three months covering the same ground. Some photos and more info in the Vietnam and Cambodia sections of our blog @

If you have limited time and want to pack a lot in, which it seems you do, then tours may well be the answer, at least for some locations. Tours will be essential for Bai Tu Long etc. but the main sites in Hanoi are easily done solo. I agree with the others that more time in the city would be preferable. If it were me, I think I would cut the Bay Area completely and spread the time between other locations to make the trip less rushed.

I do think you have too much time in Hoi An. Hue is more interesting IMO. My Son would be an unnecessary diversion.

In Hue, try to make time for some of the Imperial Tombs. The citadel is now open at night so I would definitely do that then rather than in the daytime. Stop off at Lac Thien for something to eat, itbis right by the citadel.

Can Tho, I would just get the bus there, do a tour of the floating market v.early, say 05.30 - easily arranged at the dock. You could be back at your hotel by 08.30 and get the bus to Chau Doc which is worth spending more time in.

The Cham villages can easily be done by boat yourself. I would highly recommend a tour to Sam Mountain and the submerged forest. I may still have the details of the guide we used if you are interested.

In Battambang it is easy to arrange a tuk tuk driver for a trip to the caves, temples and bamboo railway. I think we paid $25 a day.

Don't waste your money on a half day tour to Cu Chi, a real tourist trap. Spend the time in Saigon where there is more than enough to see to fill a couple of days.
crellston is offline  
Old Jul 4th, 2017, 04:29 AM
Join Date: Mar 2014
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Attempt too much = achieve too little.

In Phnom Penh, make sure your full day [by tuk tuk] covers in this order...

Killing Fields>> S21 Genocide Museum>> Russian Market>> Hotel for shower/swim relax>> Happy Hour [1700-1900 at the Foreign Correspondents Club on Sisowath Quay.

Battambang. Definitely get out into the countryside for a day by tuk tuk, and like Crellston mentions make sure you do the Bamboo Train.

From Hue to Hoi An, consider getting the train from Hue to Danang.....great journey, go 3rd Class [sit on the left hand side]. From Da Nang get a taxi to Hoi An.

Cham Museum in Danang. It didn't float our boat.

Hoi An. We stayed there for a great week. Had free pushbikes from the hotel [Travel Lodge], and wandered.
LancasterLad is offline  
Old Jul 4th, 2017, 07:02 AM
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I'd want more time in Hanoi than Hoi An. Hanoi is much bigger. Hoi An is nice, but relatively small in the centre and verrrry tourist oriented (picture matching signs on all the shops and cafes).

I'd wished I'd given Hue more time than the day and a half we were there.

Battambang is the sort of place where I think you get more out of it by not being too goal oriented. It's just not that kind of place.

Maybe you'll pack more in with the tours, but we're not big on spending too much time on them and usually enjoy the independent time more.
CounterClifton is offline  
Old Jul 4th, 2017, 07:15 AM
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"Maybe you'll pack more in with the tours,..."

Which brings us to what may be the crux of the matter, to pack more in or not to pack more in (that is the question!). I am certainly of the pack-less-in persuasion and why, if that isn't the first element of discussion to get out of the way, any advice that follows may not apply.
MmePerdu is offline  
Old Jul 4th, 2017, 08:07 AM
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I often say that SE Asia is a part of the world that rewards slow travel. If you move too fast, you'll be able to check things off a list, but you won't gain a sense of place and culture.
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Old Jul 4th, 2017, 11:50 AM
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OOh thank you so much for all of your replies (I don't know how to thank each of you individually or I would). As you might have guessed, I was thinking it looked too full on hence why I decided to ask the question to see what others thought. I totally agree with your sentiment as this is how I spent 18 months backpacking.

I will consider the cons of tours and which ones to drop ( I didn't use to do them but learnt the pro of a tour for me is it forces me to go bed earlier as I know I have to get up early ready for a tour, whereas without that incentive I get up a bit later!!)

You've answered my concerns about whether to do My Son (given we're going to Angkor Wat) and Cu Chi tunnels rather than have down time. IF I'm not doing My Son then can definitely have one less day in Hoi An and I will try to convince my friends to swap this to Hanoi (they'd fancied an extra day by the beach, rather than Hanoi which we've been told will be cold when we arrive). Our hotel also includes free bikes and use of one of the posh hotels by the beach hence why extended our stay here so could relax.

My friends in particular don't want to spend the holiday researching and booking things, esp. given we're going at a busy time, hence why prefer to book it in advance so sorted and know all arranged.

Halong bay does seem to be a marmite trip - most people seem to think it looks lovely and a must see but the polluted waters and no. of boats spoils it for them. This is one of the reasons we were thinking of going for the 1.5 hr journey to port for La Han Bay trip which is also less touristy, even though bit dearer. Anyone been to this area and know if missing out by not going to main Halong bay area?

Crellston - I had already seen parts of your brilliant blog so will look it up again for Mekong. Wish we had 3 months though - very jealous!

This is our trip in the delta after first night: in Mekong Delta on day 13 after Cai Rang floating market the tour takes us to "Chau Doc then to Tra Su Forest by sampan. On the way to the forest you will visit a small village of ethnic Khmer, where you will learn about the importance of Buddhism in the community and have the opportunity to chat with monks at the local monastery."

Day 14 - Go to Chau Doc’s floating market, visit local Cham Village, return to boat and cruise towards Sam Mountain, visit two of the iconic temples. In afternoon Cycle through villages

Does this sound ok based on your experience or do you think we are missing something worth doing/spending too long here rather than adding a day to rest somewhere else?

Lancasterlad - Our Phnom Penh tour (if go for it) is palace,
Genocide museum, killing fields. Time for Russian market on 1st day when arrive. Would you recommend the palace? Love the sound of the gentleman’s club so thanks for that tip.

MMePerdu - I have always been concerned that we don't have enough time in Hanoi especially given we'll be jet lagged on first day so I will look at this again. Just been warned about the weather being cold.

Which area in Hanoi would you recommend staying at in relation to the lake - top, middle or bottom of it?

CounterClifton - thanks for your comments. Do you think one and a half days is enough for Battambang as we did originally have 2 1/2 days here to relax before a day was swapped to Mekong Delta?

Kathie - I will definitely get the book you recommend, thanks.

Someone had suggested that you leave Angkor Wat until the end otherwise the others can seem like an anti-climax. Anyone agree?

I would like a guide at some point in the temples to explain some of them to me as I don't want to spend all of my time reading the guide book instead of enjoying looking at them.

"The village trip" from Siem Reap is "visit Knapor Community 40km away who are practicing community based tourism, a sustainable approach to tourism that is created by and benefits the whole community. After learning about the village go on oxcart then ride through the fields to reach a hidden jungle temple -learn about the history of the ancient Khmer Kingdom.
Continue to the home of a family who earn their income from making woven, reed brooms. Observe how the delicate brooms are made and try your hand at helping out! Guided walk around the village and meet the farmers and fisherman of the area. Have a Khmer family style lunch, then head back to SR via a Buddhist temple to receive a traditional Khmer blessing from the monks to bring you good fortune for your travels ahead."

Any thoughts if this sounds genuine as did ask and told it wasn't set up just for tourists like a zoo but good chance to see rural life in Cambodia and help a charity/sustainable community?

As I'm sure you all learnt when you went, it's so hard balancing what to drop given it all sounds amazing but time constraints means something has to give in order to experience time to absorb the place and people watch as well as the main sights.

All help very gratefully taken (especially as I have chronic fatigue which is managed by medication but all of this travelling does concern me whilst I obviously still want to ensure friends enjoy their time there ).

Can't thank you enough for everything you've all spent time writing already xx
pinkpixie is offline  
Old Jul 4th, 2017, 12:14 PM
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My take on Halong Bay (including photos) is about half way through this trip reportbr />

Basically I thought it stunning and worth the time spent there. There was litter in places, and certain tracts were crowded, but we also toured plenty of quieter, and in some cases, virtually empty bits.
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Old Jul 4th, 2017, 12:18 PM
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"Which area in Hanoi would you recommend staying at in relation to the lake..."

There are 2 lakes, the big one north of the old town, and a smaller one to the south, Hoan Kiem Lake which is the one I suspect you mean. I stayed here, west of Hoan Kiem Lake near the cathedral, a good place for those on a budget and walking distance to anywhere around the lake:
MmePerdu is offline  
Old Jul 4th, 2017, 02:03 PM
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People are generally divided on whether to take the trip to Halong Bay - it's a lot of boring riding in a car for a short time on the water. I think part of what divides people is how much pollution/trash they experienced there.

You can hire a guide for Angkor if you'd like. Yes, you won't have to read about it much ahead of time (though I still recommend you peruse Down Rooney's book), but you may get a guide who talks too much for your taste. Give your guide feedback on how much info you want. If you want a guide, hire a private guide rather than taking a tour.

I'm not sure about the "Village trip." It might be an authentic experience or it might feel like a "Human zoo" with arm-twisting to buy products.

This would be an ambitious itinerary for anyone, but I can't imagine doing it with chronic fatigue. Make sure you take time out to rest - take care of yourself rather than taking care of your friends.

When you are on tours you will have less flexibility to take time out and rest when you need it... another reason to nix as many tours as possible.
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Old Jul 4th, 2017, 02:52 PM
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Your tour in Chau Doc sounds fine. All the main areas are we covered. Murray Guest House is a great place to stay and dinner or drinks at the Victoria Chau Doc on th terrace would be a great treat!

I second MMePerdu's suggestion of staying near St Josephs to the east of Hoan Kiem Lake. A great location for getting around the old quarter, French quarter and to HCMs Mauasoleum complex. We have stayed at many places aaroudnthe city hit a couple of weeks ago we were at the Splendid star Boutique Hotel, tpyards from St Jospeh. $30 pn - excellent location and really, really nice staff.
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Old Jul 4th, 2017, 03:24 PM
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"I second MMePerdu's suggestion of staying near St Josephs to the east of Hoan Kiem Lake."

West of Hoan Kiem Lake.
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Old Jul 4th, 2017, 09:23 PM
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East, west, where am I going, where am I at.....Hanoi can be tricky! Take a compass, and have an half decent map handy. All the streets have name signs, that's a definite plus.

We spent 8 days in Hanoi [3+5], walked miles at our pace, often just's surprising what might be around the next corner

We stayed a 10 minute walk north of Hoan Kiem lake at the excellent 3b Homestay....inexpensive, comfortable, breakfast included, and quiet. As it was on the northern edge of the Old Quarter it made it easy getting to Hanoi Airport. We caught the Airport bus @ 50k dong each.

The International Terminal at Hanoi Airport is excellent, Domestic not so. Traffic into town flows quite well.....a zillion times better than into Saigon.

The road circling Hoan Kiem lake is traffic free at weekends, a big plus.

Didn't go to Halong.....didn't fancy the travelling. Didn't go to Sapa either, too much building work in progress.

Sorry, didn't visit the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.
LancasterLad is offline  
Old Jul 4th, 2017, 09:35 PM
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My pictures of the Metropole across the lake, where I'd really like to stay!
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Old Jul 4th, 2017, 11:14 PM
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We intended to go to Halong, but was still enjoying Hanoi after nearly a week, so we just did short trips to villages. Not so much as an "encounter", just kind of random. We'd spotted a local festival and at another place, women doing greco-roman wrestling (well, how could you not stop?)

Couldn't ever swing the Metropole, but it's a good place to stop in for fancy ice creams. Young rice and matcha.

At different times (before and after a side trip to Laos for Lao New Year), we stayed at La Siesta, north of the lake and near St. Joseph, west of the lake. I feel like either are ok, they're so close. But we enjoyed the La Siesta location more and I liked wandering the alleyways near there.


pinkpixie, I think it's hard to predict how long people need. We can be major time wasters . Battambang doesn't have a huge amount to "do". There are minor outlying temple sites, the thing where someone pedals you down the train tracks (we didn't do that) and a general market. We actually spent our time at a school run by monks on HIV prevention and unexpectedly, at a street kid's shelter we stumbled on and brought supplies for (how to use sport equipment, etc), so not a good basis for making time recommendations.
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Old Jul 5th, 2017, 12:53 AM
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You were badly informed.....that flat-bed shifts at a rate of knots, human pedal power it definitely ain't.

Plenty of Youtube videos.

One of the highlights of Battambang, and an enjoyable way to start a day in the beautiful countryside by tuk tuk.
LancasterLad is offline  
Old Jul 5th, 2017, 01:38 AM
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st Jospephs is of course, to the west of the lake. Good job my wife has an excellent sense of direction,

Counterclifton - I have to disagree with your summation of the attractions of Battambang. Whilst I agree that the town itself is nothing special, we found loads to do in the surrounding areas. The are some delightful, if restored Khmer temples, easily reached by bike or tuk tuk. Further afield there is EK Prhom, the killing caves and the impressive Banon Temple. There are also the "bat caves" which can be visited at dusk on the way back to town.

I think it's a good stopping of place for a night or two for those that don't want to fly between PP and SR and want to see more of the Cambodian countryside.
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Old Jul 5th, 2017, 01:23 PM
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Thank you again to all of you for spending your time giving me your assistance, it really is appreciated. I will now go away and research all of your suggestions and look at hotels on the west of Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi.

For those of you who went to Cambodia, I understand that the circus train in Battambang where they do some shows and the better performers perform in Siem Reap. Did any of you go to the circus or hear which is the best place to watch it?

Once again thank you so much to all of you, I really am grateful xx
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