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SE Asia Honeymoon - Laos, Cambodia, Hanoi?), etc!

SE Asia Honeymoon - Laos, Cambodia, Hanoi?), etc!

May 12th, 2008, 10:48 AM
  #1  
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SE Asia Honeymoon - Laos, Cambodia, Hanoi?), etc!

Greetings esteemed Fodorites! I've enjoyed and benefited from the collective expertise on this forum. I've spent a week or two trying to come up with the perfect SE Asian trip/honeymoon. My fiance and I went to India (Rajasthan and Calcutta) for three weeks in February but have never been to SE Asia. Part of my intinerary is based on the notion that this part of the world is changing so quickly and that much of its charm (this is perhaps a universal idea) is fast losing out to globalized norms, development and technology. With that said, I want to hit Luang Prabang and Siem Reap before these places REALLY change (for the worse). Originally I was planning on combining these two spots with Hanoi (and flying into and out of Bangkok, principally so I can get some first-class tailoring done on the cheap)...but as my thinking and research evolved, I thought maybe it made more sense to extend the trip to three weeks to allow us to see more of Laos and Cambodia - from what I've read it sounds like many of the places in Thailand and Vietnam, to varying degrees, have very much changed from the tourist crush and collar, and that Laos and Cambodia retain a much more laid back, less developed (and in parts) "colonial" era charm. With that said here's where I've gotten:

Day 1 - fly into Bangkok overnight from JFK - stay at Baan Chantra
Day 2 - Bangkok
Day 3 - fly to Luang Prabang
Day 4 Luang Prabang
Day 5 - Luang Prabang - TREK into surrounding countryside
Day 6 - TREK
Day 7 - TREK
Day 8 - back to Luang Prabang, relax at La Residence
Day 9 - Luang Prabang
Day 10 - Fly to Siem Reap - probably Viroth's Hotel
Day 11 - Siemp Reap
Day 12 - Siem Reap (plan on touring with Ponheary and spending half a day at one of her schools - would like to give out some of the materials from a large donation and also sponsor a big, festive meal)
Day 13 - Phnom Penh stay at The Pavillion
Day 14 Phnom Penh
Day 15 - get taxi to drive us to Kampot
Day 16 - Kampot
Day 17 - Kampot
Day 18 - Kep at Knai Bang Chatt
Day 19 - Kep, go to Rabbit Island and chill out
Day 20 - back to Bangkok
Day 21 - Bangkok/leave for NYC in evening

Would very much welcome your thoughts. Everyone says Luang Prabang is a beautiful, languorous place to chill and walk around - I figured that since everyone says the countryside in Laos is so beautiful that it'd also be a great place to do a several day trek to really get a flavor for the scenery and to adjust to the pace of the landscape (which is tough to do on a daytrip returning to your room at night). This adds up to a full week in the Luang Prabang region so not sure if too long though. Only 3 nights in Siem Reap, but I see myself getting "templed out" after a while - sorta like hitting great museums in Paris - my main interests are really food and just being out and about in a foreign country to take in the scenery, people, food and architecture. Figured that Phnom Penh would be interesting to see - we loved Calcutta - and that spending only one night would be too little given transit. Finally we're spending a good chunk of time at the end in Kampot and Kep. Kampot sounds like a very interesting town very much off the beaten tourist path with some worthwhile day trips - Kep would afford some beach time at the very end to just chill and so close to Kampot would make the travel quite easy. I figured that Kampot and Kep would allow us to see a side of "the real" Cambodia....and one that may be quickly changing. Many thanks!!!
Nontaco is offline  
May 12th, 2008, 11:14 AM
  #2  
 
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You will have a great time. I would slightly modify your itinerary to provide more time in BKK. It's a great city and has a magic of its own. You'll have to cut a few days from somewhere else, but I think it will be worth it.

Esteemed? Only by ourselves.
Gpanda is offline  
May 12th, 2008, 11:52 AM
  #3  
 
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I think this is a wonderful idea for your trip. I do think you are moving around too much and don't have enough time IN the places. For instance, it takes a full three days just to see the major temples of Angkor, and it appears that you have perhaps two and a half days total there, and I expect that at least half a day will be occupied with a school visit.

Likewise, you have little time in Luang Prabang itself, maybe two days at most.

Transport takes time in SE Asia. So you'll spend a lot of time in transit. Often, it takes most of a day to get from one place to another when you consider all of the checking our of one place transport, and actually getting checked in for your next stay.

I think you'll need to make some hard choices about cutting destinations if you are going to have time to experience these amazing places. Wouldn't it be sad to make all the effort to get to these places before they are impacted too much by the outisde would, but not stay long enough to get a real experience of a place. My general guideline for myself is at least three full days in each place.

By the way, I agree with Gpanda, Bangkok is an amazing city. Do try to have a bit more time there.
Kathie is offline  
May 12th, 2008, 08:47 PM
  #4  
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Point well taken that it might be cramming too much in one trip - I think I was guilty of that when we went to India in February. There's a world of difference between rolling through a town or area and exhausting the sites to see and having that extra time one you've already explored a bit to really soak in the atmosphere and people. I'm now thinking of going for two weeks and dividing between Bangkok, Hanoi and Luang Prabang - saving Cambodia for another time. Two big questions: I'll be going in late August/early September - basically the height of rainy season. Does the rain really crimp your style or is it more like a torrent for an hour or two in the mid afternoon that just kinda refreshes the day? And also, my (uninformed) idea of Bangkok is a fairly modern Asian city.....how come you guys love it so much?
Nontaco is offline  
May 12th, 2008, 08:55 PM
  #5  
 
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Bangkok is a real mix of the old and the new. It has a modern Skytrain system, but also the old water taxis. It has luxe shopping centers and gilded wats. You can shop for anything from traditional crafts to designer clothes (Thai or European), silks or sapphires. It has wonderful massage and spa at bargain prices. And the food! Wonderful Thai food with a complexity of flavors you don't get elsewhere. You can stay in wonderful hotels for reasonable prices.

Thai are renowned for their hospitality. The warmth and welcoming attitude of the people really makes a difference.

If you aren't a city person, you may find it all a bit overwhelming at first. If you are a city person, you may find yourself instantly addicted to Bangkok.
Kathie is offline  
May 13th, 2008, 09:59 AM
  #6  
 
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I'm going to be the voice of dissent. Bangkok is Bangkok and I reckon in a couple of years it will still be Bangkok.

Cambodia is "evolving" at a rapid pace, not all of it for the good. In another couple of years it will definitely be a different place, not just Siem Reap and the temples, but all the Cambodian destinations on your list. I would go now.
offwego is offline  
May 13th, 2008, 12:37 PM
  #7  
 
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And I'll join you offwego!!!

I love Bangkok....but in small doses.
I very much like your itenary Nontaco and would pretty much stay with it.

Bangkok may have luxe shopping centres, designer clothes, silks and saphires?????
But sorry Kathie, not my idea of 'the perfect honeymoon'!! In fact not the perfect trip for any occassion.

Cambodia is changing rapidly so yes, I would make that a big part of your trip. The Angkor Complex is truly a 'never to be forgotten' experience. Absolutely jaw-dropping, but the surrounding area is changing almost day by day....so grab the chance when you can. I fear it will become less accessible in the very near future. And of course, there is much more to Cambodia apart from Siem Reap.

Bangkok is a perfect hub for visits to SEA, and if you are bitten by the bug, as many of us are, you will have loads of opportunities to visit there again....but like I said....it's fine in small, short doses!

At least, that's how it is for me. I am so excited and enthusiastic when I arrive there, but after a couple of days, I just can't wait to move on.
LeighTravelClub is offline  
May 13th, 2008, 01:27 PM
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Lori, I love Bangkok (as you know) and would add a few days there simply because it is convenient as it's the gateway city. I agree that while Bangkok is changing , as is the whole world, it's not a place I'd name as one that is going to change dramatically in trhe next few years.

Leigh, I think one's feelings about Bangkok depend a lot on whether one is a city person or not. I'm very much a city person, and can't get enough of Bangkok no matter that I've been there 20+ times!
Kathie is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 08:38 AM
  #9  
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Well I pulled the trigger and purchased the tix with a proposed itinerary in mind - here goes!

Day 1 - fly into Bangkok
Day 2 - Bangkok
Day 3 - fly to Siem Reap
Day 4 - Siem Reap
Day 5 - Siem Reap
Day 6 - Siem Reap
Day 7 - Pnom Penh
Day 8 - Pnom Penh
Day 9 - Kampot
Day 10 - Kampot
Day 11 - Kampot
Day 12 - Kep
Day 13 - Kep
Day 14 - Kep
Day 15 - back to Bangkok
Day 16 - leave around midnight after a full day in Bangkok

I realized that with this number of days, I could spend 4 days in Angkor and still go on and spend 4 days in Luang Prabang and 4 days in Hanoi. But I thought that there's also so something to be said for just concentrating on one country and seeing some less touristed places in Cambodia. Kampot seems like a town that in 5-10 years could be much more popular. And very convenient to then travel on to Kep for a few days by the ocean (staying at Knai Bang Chaat). In Siem Reap I've made reservations at The One Hotel - small single room type place - but quite expensive - right in the middle of Siem Reap - I was also thinking of Viroth's and La Residence - but liked the idea of the privacy of staying in literally our own place, not being with the tourist hoard and having easier and more access to the market and downtown area of Siem Reap.....any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!
Nontaco is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 09:31 AM
  #10  
 
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Not wanting to criticize your itinerary because you are on honeymoon. But 6 days in Kampot and Kep seems to me a little bit long. Both places are very close to eachother. Furthermore I heard that Bokor Hill is closed to the public since last February. And the beach in Kep (except maybe Rabbit island) isnt worth mentioning it. Sihanoukville is also not far from Kampot and there are better beaches. And if you avoid the weekend it is not so crowded.
wolfmisc is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 10:06 AM
  #11  
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No you may be right - some of my planning my have been infected by "backpacker-itis" - the idea that there are some great out of the way places to see and experience if I were 22 and backpacking around SE Asia for 6 months.....as opposed to trying to craft a 2 week-ish SE Asia trip as a young attorney. I've never been to SE Asia, but from the ton of reading and research I've done...the most compelling destinations that I want to see and experience (also taking into account what I believe is the ongoing crush of tourism changing these places) are Angkor/Siem Reap, Luang Prabang and Hanoi. Perhaps the following makes better sense (I'm flying into and out of Bangkok specifically to get some tailoring done so need to bookend the trip that way):

Day 1 - fly into Bangkok, get tailoring done, rest and scarf thai food
Day 2 - fly to Siem Reap
Day 3 - Siem Reap
Day 4 - Siem Reap
Day 5 - Siem Reap
Day 6 - fly to Luang Prabang
Day 7 - Luang Prabang
Day 8 - Luang Prabang
Day 9 - Luang Prabang
Day 10 - Luang Prabang
Day 11 - fly to Hanoi
Day 12 - Hanoi
Day 13 - Hanoi
Day 14 - Hanoi
Day 15 - fly to Bangkok
Day 16 - leave Bangkok super late in the day (midnight) for flight back to NYC
Nontaco is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 11:50 AM
  #12  
 
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I would stick with your idea of seeing a country more in depth. So I would eliminate Hanoi and spend more time in either Laos or cambodia or Bangkok. Speaking of which giving yourself one day at the beginning and one at the end is NOT the way to get clothes made. You need to factor in at least one and preferably two fittings. So I would strongly suggest three days at the end -- have a fitting immediately upon arrival and if need be another one the next day and get the clothes on the third day.
glorialf is offline  
May 18th, 2008, 11:50 AM
  #13  
 
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nontaco

Isn't it frustrating swinging back and forth on your agenda? Just to put fuel on a fire I will put in two cents...

I agree that a more in-depth stay in one country is a more rewarding trip, especially a country like Cambodia. In your OP you stress an interest in seeing places before they lose their charm...

I would do it like this:

Day 1 - fly into Bangkok, rest and scarf thai food- (do tailoring at end of trip)
Day 2 - fly to Siem Reap
Day 3 - Siem Reap
Day 4 - Siem Reap
Day 5 - Siem Reap
Day 6 - Bus or fly to Phnom Penh
Day 7 - Phnom Penh to Cambodian coast
Day 8 - Cambodian coast
Day 9 - Cambodian coast
Day 10 - Coast to Phnom Penh and fly to LP or Hanoi
(I would chose LP over Hanoi if you're looking for charm, Hanoi over LP if you need some stimulation, but you ARE going back to Bangkok!)
Day 11 - LP
Day 12 - LP --do a day trek
Day 13 - LP
Day 14 - fly to Bangkok-tailoring
Day 15 - Bangkok-possible second fitting
Day 16 - pick up tailoring-leave Bangkok super late in the day (midnight) for flight back to NYC

However you do it, I'm sure you will enjoy your trip! Let us know what you've decided!
offwego is offline  
May 18th, 2008, 04:50 PM
  #14  
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You're absolutely right - if only I could be as obsessive and manaical about my work or perhaps cancer or green energy research as I am about chancing upon the perfect vacation itinerary. Here's the latest incarnation that I've thought of:

Day 1 - fly into Bangkok
Day 2 - stay in Bangkok to relax and recover (remembering that it is a vacation)
Day 3 - fly to Luang Prabang (3 Nagas)
Day 4 - Luang Prabang (3 Nagas)
Day 5 - do a kayaking trip south toward Tad Sae waterfalls....stay in village overnight
Day 6 - do a bit more kayaking, return to Luang Prabang - stay at La Residence
Day 7 - Luang Prabang
Day 8 - fly to Siem Reap
Day 9 - Siem Reap
Day 10 - Siem Reap
Day 11 - Siem Reap
Day 12 - fly or drive to PP
Day 13 - PP
Day 14 - back to Bangkok
Day 15 - Bangkok
Day 16 - Bangkok during day, leave at midnight

So to an extent it's a question of the Cambodia coast and Kampot/Kep or Luang Prabang - obviously all I have to go on is what others have written, etc. - but Luang Prabang does seem so special and unique - both the pace of life there, the architecture and atmosphere, and the beauty of the surrounding countryside. I was just thinking that perhaps Kampot/Kep in the rainy season would be a bit more difficult....a trip to Bokor or Rabbit Island figuratively and literally washed out. Has anyone been to both Kampot/Kep and LP and can weigh in? The idea of remaining in Cambodia and "seeing Cambodia" perhaps has a certain travel obsessive/intellectual consistency and appeal....but LP does beckon.
Nontaco is offline  
May 18th, 2008, 05:24 PM
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This itinerary looks lovely to me. You would have lots of new experiences and you'd have time to pause and relax as well as absorbing some of the culture.

Sometimes, less is more.
Kathie is offline  
May 18th, 2008, 08:05 PM
  #16  
 
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I vote to go with what you've got too. It's a great itinerary.

On to the next phase!
offwego is offline  
May 19th, 2008, 09:48 AM
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The last looks like a great itinerary to me too.
Femi is offline  
May 19th, 2008, 10:49 AM
  #18  
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Alright! Thanks everyone! I could have probably come up with that itinerary right off the bat, but I suppose that going through the several hundred permutations sealed the deal. Since I have such an august crowd before me.....I figured at the end of the stay in Bangkok I'd relax with some luxury - but question is Peninsula or the Oriental? Seems like the Oriental is a good bit more expensive than the Peninsula - and is there truly a feeling of history at the Oriental as compared to the Peninsula....or has that been lost over the years to new development at the property? And any thoughts on Les 3 Nagas vs. The Apsara in LP?
Nontaco is offline  
May 19th, 2008, 01:12 PM
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I think The Oriental will provide you with a more memorable experience.
They are both exceptional hotels, but, for me, The Pen can be anywhere, but The Oriental is truly Bangkok.
Go on, you know you can find a Pen anywhere......but there is only ONE Bangkok Oriental.

For a perfect end to your honeymoon, splash out on the best you can afford at The Oriental.........tell them it's your honeymoon....enjoy, enjoy and create a memory that will stay with you forever!!
LeighTravelClub is offline  
May 19th, 2008, 01:34 PM
  #20  
 
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To me there is no comparison -- the Penn is super deluxe but could be in NYC. The Oriental definitely has the history. Also, if you tell them it is your honeymoon there is a very good chance that they will let you keep your room until you need to leave for your midnight flight leave which essentially gives you a free day. I've been staying there since 1985; stayed at the Pen once and felt it couldn't compare.
glorialf is offline  

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