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Itinerary help - Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand

Itinerary help - Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand

Mar 28th, 2004, 04:55 AM
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Itinerary help - Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand

Here's a real challenge for you! I'm going on a once in a lifetime trip to southeast Asia and am looking for some itinerary help. PLEASE don't tell me not to try doing too much because I'll be back - I probably won't. And I genuinely LIKE to travel fast (not insane, but more quickly than many here) - so please don't tell me I'll enjoy it more if I do. (Sorry if that sounds like a rude start - but that's the advice virtually everyone gives and we're not all alike - some of us really do like to see a lot in a relatively short time!) So for those of you still reading ... is this logistically doable and not totally insane for someone who wants to see as much as possible in three weeks?
Fly to Hanoi - 3 nights
Halong Bay - 2 nights
Hoi Ann/Hue - 3 nights
Saigon - 2 nights
(not interested in Mekong Delta)
Fly to Siem Reap - 3 nights Angor Wat
Fly to Bangkok - 4 nights
Fly to Chaing Mai - 2 nights
Fly to Phuket - 3 nights
Fly back to Bangkok - 1 night before flying for home

Specific questions - am I hitting the highlights? I'm interested in culture more than shopping - enjoy temples, museums, and soaking up unique ambience. I enjoy shopping for local-type gifts/souvenirs (but not for clothes, handbags, etc.). Am looking for as much variety as possible for the time I have available.
Are there any places I could skip and still see the best things? I'm thinking about cutting Ho Chi Minh - but how would I get to Angor Wat? Also, is there anywhere that's a must-see that I should do (even if I have to cut something else)?
And lastly - I've never been to Asia - can I do this trip on my own or would it be simpler to take a tour (although I haven't seen a tour that offers quite what I want - plus I need to travel fairly cheaply). Suggestions on how to arrange this so I'll at least have transfers at airports and touring help? Thanks so much!!!
althom1122 is offline  
Mar 28th, 2004, 06:05 AM
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I can only comment on the Cambodia-Thailand portion of your itinerary and it is definitely very doable. It's clear that you know your travel goals and how to accomplish them.

Just a couple of thoughts to consider ...

Considering your interest in the culture, you might want to venture over to the Thailand forum and ask the really knowledgeable people over there about your expectations of absorbing the Thai culture in Phuket. There might (or might not) be better places to spend three nights if that's your primary criterion. If you're looking for a beach lifestyle, whether with Asian culture or not, I also wonder if there aren't drop-dead beautiful beach areas somewhere else in southeast Asia that will be more consistent with your once-in-a-lifetime aspirations.

As part of your Bangkok segment, I would encourage you to spend one of those days going to Ayutthaya. Culturally, it was the second capital of Siam for a few centuries. Because much of it provides a different look and feel (partly because of its age), it will add variety to the Thai segment of your itinerary that you're looking for.

If I understand your travelstyle correctly, I would strongly advise that you not take a tour. Travelling independently, you'll have a lot more flexibility to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, and how much time you want to spend doing it. You'll likely incur the typical hiccups of traveling somewhere for the first time, but probably nothing major. I can't imagine an easier place of a foreign-speaking language to get around in.

As for airport-hotel transfers, simply go to the desks inside the airport or take a cab. There's lots of information about that in the Thailand forum. Regarding Angkor, there are lots of recommendations here about arranging for a driver or driver and guide. Do so in advance and have them pick you up at the airport. Wherever you go, make sure you have the hotel name and address with you, preferably written in the native language.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Mar 28th, 2004, 06:13 AM
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I forgot to mention that part of the rationale of going to Ayuthaya is because of its very direct historical impact on Angkor, which is on your itinerary.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Mar 28th, 2004, 08:40 AM
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Firts, it doesn't matter which "forum" you post it on here (Thailand, Cambodia, VN) because it all shows up on the Asia forum. Those selections only have impact on the search function.

I'll start by saying that I am someone who goes to Angkor and stays a week (or Hanoi or Luang Prabang, etc.). So I while I respect that you are a "fast" traveler, I would begin by eliminating any unnecessary stops.

If I were you, I'd cut out HCMC. It's a large moderinzed city, and I don't think it would fit what you want from your travels. You could substitute Sapa if you wished. However, unless you have a special interest in VN, I note that of your 23 nights, 10 are in VN. VN is interesting, but is not the most interesting of the SE Asian countries in my opinion. You might want to cut to one night at Halong Bay, and not do Sapa (which, frankly, gets mixed reviews. On another site, it has been nominated at the place in the world with the most abusive street hawkers and touts.)

I'd also cut out Phuket. Phuket is such a resort center, I don't really think you get much of a Thai flavor from it. You'd be better off choosing a different beach area if you must have beach. If you don't feel that you have to have beach, I'd suggest that you substitute Luang Prabang, Laos.

In that case, you might manage your trip by utilizing the Bangkok Air World Heritage Pass. (I may have the name wrong, but check their website.) It's a pass that takes you in a circle route, through Bangkok, Luang Prabang, Siem Reap, Hue, and Sukothai. This would allow one more histoic stop, Sukothai, at another old Thai capital. You could fly from Hue up to Hanoi to get in that portion of your trip.

This idea would reorganize your trip, and would give you a couple of stops at wonderful old world hertitage cities not currently on your list, while eliminating a couple of stops that I think aren't consistent with your stated goals.
Kathie is online now  
Mar 28th, 2004, 12:54 PM
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Wow, you've definitely given me something to think about. I think you both may be right about Phuket - I'm not so much into beach resorts... was just thinking it would provide something completely different. I don't really know anything about Luang Prabang (or Sukothai, either) - guess I need to do some more research! Sapa appeals to me because of some pictures I've seen - it looks beautiful. Also, I like the idea of Ayuthaya - thanks - will definitely check into that.
althom1122 is offline  
Mar 28th, 2004, 01:23 PM
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Just some beginning info:

Sukothai is one of the old Thai capitals. I haven't visited it, but Mike Buckley has. You can find some of his comments on this board.

Luang Prabang is a World Heritage city in Laos. It was the old capital. It is filled with beautiful wats (dozens of active wats with monks in residence) and lovely old French colonial architecture. The old palace is now a museum. At the confleunce of two rivers, the town as a slow, laid back feel. In addition to wandering the town, there are the Pak Ou caves nearby. You can take a boat up the Mekong to this Buddhist pilgrimage site. People often visit the two sets of waterfalls nearby the town as well.

You can see photos of several of the places I talked about (Angkor, Luang Prabang, Hanoi, Bangkok) at www.marlandc.com
Kathie is online now  
Mar 28th, 2004, 02:38 PM
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Kathie - thanks... between your first post and this more recent one, I managed to find your photos after reading some of your other postings and... sigh... it ALL looks beautiful. Yes, I want to try to squeeze in LP! Good grief, I said this is a once in a lifetime trip... but maybe I could come back. There are just so MANY places I want to see! I'm pushing 50 (ouch) and can only afford one trip a year (and only a BIG one every other year)!
althom1122 is offline  
Mar 28th, 2004, 04:26 PM
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Many of us on this board are addicted to SE Asia and go back regularly. Join the club!
Kathie is online now  
Mar 28th, 2004, 05:12 PM
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Firts, it doesn't matter which "forum" you post it on here (Thailand, Cambodia, VN) because it all shows up on the Asia forum.

It can matter to some. As an example, when I enter the Asia forum I don't read any of the messages. Instead, I immediately go to the Thailand and Cambodia forums. Had he not posted his message in one of those two forums, I would never have seen it. Maybe I'm alone in my usage of the forum. Maybe not.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Mar 28th, 2004, 05:27 PM
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If you take Kathie's suggestion and go to Sukhothai AND if you find Bangkok so compelling that you can't do everything you hope to there, consider skipping Ayutthaya. That's because Sukhothai and Ayutthaya are somewhat similar in that both are former capitals of Siam, have lots of larger-than-life Buddha images, chedis, etc., etc. The decision would be easier to make if you go to Sukhothai before going to Bangkok. On the other hand, if you are one of the few like my wife and me that simply don't get "templed out," you'll be very glad you saw both.

Regarding practicalities about Sukhothai National Historic Park, be aware that whether you stay in Sukhothai or Phitsanulok, it takes a relatively considerable long amount of time to get to the park from the airport considering it's a rural area. I understand Phitsanuoluk is almost an hour away and don't know how far that airport is from the town center. At Sukhothai, it takes more than an hour to go from the airport to the park. Moreover, because transportation is limited, you'll probably have to resort to using one of the vans that stops at several hotels, requiring more time.

If you do go to Sukhothai, try to plan your itinerary so you are there during the morning. There is a major temple (Wat Mathathat) that is simply glorious in morning light and less special in afternoon light.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Mar 28th, 2004, 06:01 PM
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i'm a slow poke generally but that is because of the intense heat and humidity ... if you are coming from the usa, be forwarned that your first day is a waste and the rest of your trip will go better if you relax on that day---stay at the pool....
staying at the better hotels, in my opinion, makes for easier travelling on a whirl wind....better assistance available usually...

i think all you have laid out is possible, but i have some suggestions...
one nite at halong bay is plenty as long as that allows you one full day there...
i would skip chiang mai...for your interests, i don't really see it as a must---i personally do not like it at all...
i too would skip ho chi minh...i have looked at it in the past and skipped it as not of much interest, except for the caves if that interests you??
as for phuket?? well it is mostly a party place...i would prefer koh samui or hua hin or phi phi....all are relaxation places....with nice scenery

i too would skip ayuthaya if i was going to angkor wat...i understand the history connection, but Ay is boring if you have the chance to go to angkor...you might extend angkor to 3 full days...book early arrival and late departure (7PM)

also it is best to get there from bkk

you don't need an organized tour ...do it on your own, but it is essential that you do lots of advance planning...use this forum for general advice and specific advice, but only after you have done extensive research using guide books for the areas of interest...
you can get local tours from the hotel desk the same day or booked the previous day...

sorry to tell you but you will be back, believe me....
rhkkmk is offline  
Apr 1st, 2004, 03:34 PM
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I recently returned from visiting SEAsia on the Mekong World Heritage Tour (my trip report can be accessed on this web site through the key words).

The trip included Bangkok, Sukhothai, Luang Prabang, Danang, Hoi An, Hue, Siem Reap/Angkor, and back to Bangkok. I thought the tour was an excellent value and offered innumerable options re: number of days in each city/town, hotels, sightseeing plans, airport transfers, etc.

My favorite city was Luang Prabang---truly a gem; stay at the Pansea Phou Vou Hotel if possible. Vietnam was somewhat interesting but, for me, not worth a repeat visit. Siem Reap is a must see; truly remarkable; for fun, take the balloon ride overlooking Angkor Wat, it's just $10.

I made all my travel arrangements via Diethelm Travel; they are a Swiss company that is based in Bangkok + they have offices in all of the Mekong World Heritage cities/towns.

Bon Voyage!
hellosandiego is offline  
May 4th, 2004, 07:35 PM
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Posts: 20
We spent 2 weeks in Thailand and Cambodia in February.

We loved Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. If you are on a time budget, if you are a fast traveller, and if you are not a temple fanatic, 2 full days and and 1 night in Siem Reap would do the trick.

We found Thailand enjoyable but very touristy and Westernized. Phuket was particularly bad in this regard. Ko Phi Phi, which we heard was less touristy, was full of visitors. I would recommend finding a quieter island to enjoy the beaches without the mob scene.

The temples in Bangkok and the Grand Palace are really worth seeing - again, we are fast travellers and managed to do this in one day.
casper is offline  
May 5th, 2004, 12:13 AM
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I too am a quick traveler usualy cover most big cities in a day... the trick is wakeing up ealry and eating on the go. resting on subways, busses etc. and taking some quick naps at your hotel...

althom.... your original post made me laugh since I too am used too geting naged "what did you see in such a short time you have too stay blah blah too see anything"

Angkor can easally be sceen in a day. can you can fly in early and take a moterbike or yet taxi. stright too the site. it is actually half way between airport and city.. the siem reap (sp) is nothing. so skip it.. at the airpot negotiat what you want too pay for the taxi/ moterbike too take you there and pick you up and transport you too each temple. A moterbike will go for about $5 a day, but skip it, if is the reainy season..(I learned my leason)..

LP also can be sceen in less then a day even if you go too the country side. just check out a map. it's a litle town.

someone here posted how they took a cheep train ride up too ayutaya rented a bike and saw everthing in a day and ruterned that night.

you cna easilly see most all sites in three weeks with time too chill out.

try using bangkok air pass.. or other passes. the trick is using BKK as your gate city.

I've seen discount fares from vietnam too bkk using air france.... From BKK many cheap tickets can be found.
orgy7 is offline  
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