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

Need help figuring out the routing for a trip to SE Asia in Jan 2014!

Need help figuring out the routing for a trip to SE Asia in Jan 2014!

Apr 20th, 2013, 01:39 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,788
Need help figuring out the routing for a trip to SE Asia in Jan 2014!

I've been reading and studying everyone's trip and wish I had 3 months, not 3 weeks, to travel. And I'm grateful for the 3 weeks- many other working folk can't even get that.! But making choices is not easy - there are so many places to go!


I've come up with the following for a trip in 2014, probably leaving mid-January:
Bangkok-5 nights
Chiang Mai - 4 nights
Chiang Rai - 3 nights
Luang Prabang - 4 nights
Siem Reap - 4 nights

In my research, I've found that Korean Air flies in and out of Chiang Mai, Siem Reap, as well as Bangkok, so my current thinking is to fly into Bangkok and return home from Siem Reap. I was initially thinking about flying directly to Chiang Mai, but I think I'd prefer to start in BKK.

In order to utilize Bangkok Air's discovery pass, we need to have 3 of the flights from their list of routes:
1) Bangkok to Chiang Mai
2) Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
3) Luang Prabang to Siem Reap

1) The challenge is figuring out how to fit Chiang Rai into the itinerary. There are no flights from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang, so it looks like I need to get back to Chiang Mai for the flight. The flight from CR to CM (okay, I'm getting tired writing out the names now!) is a bit expensive, but I'll do it if necessary. Is it possible to fly from CR to CM on the same day we fly from CM to LP or do I need to return the prior day? I could take the bus back to CM the prior day as well, but either way, I hate breaking up the itinerary that if I don't have to (that is CM - 3 nights, CR - 3 nights, CM - 1 night), but I'd rather be safe than miss a flight. Am I making sense here?

2) I plan on buying international tickets during the summer, and will get the discovery pass at that time. Is this reasonable or do I need to do this earlier?

Thanks! I have some itinerary questions, but I'll post that separately.

Paule
progol is offline  
Apr 20th, 2013, 02:15 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 8,892
Unless you have a particular reason to visit Chiang Rai I suggest from Chiang Mai you continue on to the Mekong River, cross over to Laos and take a boat ride down the river to Luang Prabang. I've done it twice, once on a cargo boat, but this one is better:
http://www.luangsay.com/

The boat takes 2 days (plus a day to travel from Chiang Mai and stay overnight prior to boarding the boat) and is a much more interesting experience, including Houei Say and the Luang Say Lodge in Laos, in addition to the ride down the river to Luang Prabang.
MmePerdu is offline  
Apr 20th, 2013, 02:21 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 8,892
I should add that Chiang Rai is on the way to Chiang Khong where you'd cross to Huay Xai (Houei Say), Laos to get the boat. The first trip I took a bus from Chiang Mai that stopped in CR before continuing to CK. You could stop for a few hours in CR or overnight if you like then continue on to CK.
MmePerdu is offline  
Apr 20th, 2013, 04:06 PM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,788
Thanks, MmePerdu, for the suggestion. I'll have to look into it.

As a first timer to the area, I am intrigued by the area around Chiang Rai. From my reading, it looks like there are several interesting sights, as well as being located in an area that is quite lovely. I thought Mae Salong might be an interesting & beautiful place to see, and I would also like to visit a Hill tribe or 2 with a guide. So yes, I think that I would like to see Chiang Rai. But I'm still developing the itinerary and will look at your suggestion of the boat ride to Laos.
progol is offline  
Apr 20th, 2013, 04:13 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,160
IMO you don't need to fly from CR to CM as the drive only takes about 2.5 - 3 hours.
Hanuman is offline  
Apr 20th, 2013, 04:14 PM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,788
Also., if I do this, I won't be able to use the discovery pass for Bangkok Air. I won't have the minimum number of flights to be eligible for the pass.
progol is offline  
Apr 20th, 2013, 04:52 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 8,892
Local flights in that part of the world tend to be cheap so I wouldn't base your movements on qualifying for a pass. Go for the experience.
MmePerdu is offline  
Apr 20th, 2013, 05:09 PM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,788
I will definitely consider your suggestion. In the meantime, I wonder if there is anyone who can answer my original question concerning the flights from CR to CM and from CM to LP.

Thanks again.

Paule
progol is offline  
Apr 20th, 2013, 05:18 PM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,788
Just looked at the price list and at nearly $500/person, it's a bit above what I want to spend. It does look like a very nice trip, though.
progol is offline  
Apr 20th, 2013, 05:30 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 8,892
Same route, also 2 days, freight boats full of backbackers. Leave from pier in Huay Xai, stop overnight in Pakbeng, on to Luang Pranbang, fraction of the price, no charge for adventure.
MmePerdu is offline  
Apr 20th, 2013, 06:08 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,160
Hmm... the drive from CR to CM will only take you 2.5 - 3 hours. If you were to fly it will take you 15 - 30 minutes to go to CR airport + 1 hour prior to your flight departure + 35 minutes flying time + 15 minutes to wait for your luggage and + what ever connection you are going to make after CM. Total minimum time consumed flying = 2.3 hours.

If you really want to fly there are a few airlines that offer seasonal flights and yes January will be during the period that these airlines will be flying. One of these airline is Kan Air, a new airline that I don't know much about but you can do some research on it.
Hanuman is offline  
Apr 21st, 2013, 03:18 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,788
Thanks Hanuman, very helpful! The google map gave me a driving time of 4+ hours, so this seems much more manageable.

MmePerdu, you've now gotten me thinking about that boat ride. The backpacker option would not really cut it for me, either,but I've found 2 moderately priced cruise lines that sound like they would be okay - Shompoo and Nagi of Mekong.

The more I read about the cruise, the more it intrigues me; not sure yet if I'll include it or not, but am thinking about it seriously.
progol is offline  
Apr 21st, 2013, 06:22 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 8,892
I found the boat on the Mekong from the "Golden Triangle" to Luang Prabang to be an even more interesting experience than the towns before and after in some ways. It was suggested to me by an American vet who lives in Asia who I'd met at the guesthouse in Chiang Mai. I deviated from my path to include it. That was the backpacker boat. I liked traveling on the river so much I booked the Luang Say trip a couple of years later, after starting first in another boat from Jinghong, China. I recommend it highly.

If you decide to do it, before crossing to Laos be sure to visit the Opium Museum http://www.houseofopium.com/ in Chiang Saen, just north of Chiang Khong. Fascinating.
MmePerdu is offline  
Apr 21st, 2013, 07:56 AM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,788
The museum is definitely on my list of things to be seen. If I do the boat trip, I would stay 2 nights in Chiang Rai, then drive to Chiang Khong for the night or take the ferry to the Laos side, depending upon the service we would use.

See, the wheels are spinning - of trip planning, that is!
progol is offline  
Apr 21st, 2013, 10:45 AM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,788
How much does one see along the river? Is there any interaction with villages, or is it basically looking out the window? In a longer trip, this would be great-- not sure in a relatively short trip. 2 full days on the water with no real touring sounds like a lot of time. Has anyone else done this?
progol is offline  
Apr 21st, 2013, 10:59 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 8,892
If the boats you're now looking at follow the same itinerary as the 2 I mentioned then you'll stop overnight at a village, Pakbeng. Otherwise, mostly beautiful scenery, karst outcroppings, occasional people going by and on the banks, very Asian, you know you're not in Kansas. For instance, a boat went by with an elephant standing calmly in the center of a craft not much bigger than it was. If seeing an isolated corner of the world going by sitting on the deck of a boat won't move you then, you're right, it may not be for you. But infinitely better than flying with just the investment of 1 more day.
MmePerdu is offline  
Apr 21st, 2013, 11:52 AM
  #18  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,788
Thanks, MmePerdu, I'm going back and forth, but it sounds intriguing. I have time to ponder before deciding, fortunately!
progol is offline  
Apr 21st, 2013, 12:31 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 10,141
Just to offer you another view on the boat trip -- We did the Luang Say boat trip from Luang Prabang to Chiang Khong. I really didn't think it was worth the money or even the time even though we had 9 weeks for our trip. I found much of it rather boring. There are clearly some interesting viewing along the way, but 2 days was way too much for me. If we passed karst formations then I blinked and missed them or they were underwhelming esp as compared to Aonang and Halong Bay, VN. On the boat trip we went to 2 villages and the budha cave not far from Luang Prabang. (It can be visited from LP). The overnight stay was in a lovely hotel on the river. We didnt go into any villages that night form the hotel. There was a show that night after dinner. Also it was freezing in the am so if you go be prepared with warm clothing in case you encounter the type of weather we had. We were there in January 2012.

We took a bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai -- as Hanuman says it was about 2.5 hours or so and very inexpensive. We enjoyed Chiang Rai and I
think spending a couple days there is well worth it.

If you haven't already, u can click on my name and read our TR which describes the boat trip in detail and the bus trip. Just have to scroll thru our long report to the relevant portions.

Once you have your plans figured out, I would get the DP asap. We couldn't get flights from BKK to Krabi in late January. I booked in the summer for January.

BTW - I think your original plans sound quite good.
yestravel is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2013, 04:29 PM
  #20  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,788
Hi, yestravel,
I know I wrote back, but clearly the post didn't come through! Thanks so much for the feedback! Very helpful! I do go back and forth on whether or not to do this boat trip, and your comments really do address my concerns of finding it boring. I've been reading about the company Nagi of Mekong on TA, though, and a lot of people enjoy the slow ride down the Melong. I'm looking at it this way- the first day would be the transit day regardless (as in traveling from CR to CM to LP) and the next day would be the day I would've done a boat trip from LP.

I haven't decided but am still going back and forth.

Thanks for your comments about the itinerary - I was quite pleased with it when it came together,

I did read your TR a while ago, and will definitely read it again.

Thanks again! I really did write back- but mustVe lost the connection when I tried to submit it.
progol 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 11:48 PM.