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SE ASIA Important Birthday AND Anniversry

SE ASIA Important Birthday AND Anniversry

Feb 11th, 2012, 06:54 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 184
SE ASIA Important Birthday AND Anniversry

Hi all
Looking at SE Asia for the above!!
Very enticing!!
I am still having fun researching and trying to figure out what do do
I will probably do 3 weeks in mid October to early November 2012
I have been in touch with 2 private tour providers-very professional
A couple of questions 1. Discovery Pass
I am not 100% clear on how this works
How do I get coupons?-or do I just plug in the at minimum3-6 legs
of the itinerary and the excellent prices come up?
2 .Please suggest minimum time for these places-we like to see
things in great detail and not rush
Hanoi Siem Riep Phnom Penh Hue Hoi An Luang Prabang
3. Best combo - 2 countries

Thanks

Sandy
sb1020 is offline  
Feb 11th, 2012, 08:48 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,668
Discovery Pass - you have to buy this from Bangkok Air before you leave your own country. No travel agent can buy it for you, and you can't buy it once you get there. Do a search for Discovery Pass here - there are many posts about it. You buy your whole itinerary at once to get the pass. You can do it over the phone or via email.

How much time in each place? remember to figure in travel time. I always figure any travel day is a day lost, so anything I get to do on a travel day is a bonus. So three nights somewhere is a mere two days.

Hanoi - I'd say a minimum of four days. We spent a week with one day trip out of town and found plenty to do.

Siem Reap - depends on your level of interest in the temples. It takes three full days just to see the so-called major temples. We spent a week and loved every minute. Get Dawn Rooney's book, Angkor: A Guide to Cambodia's Wondrous Temples to help you figure out how much time you will want in Siem Reap. Also, check out www.theplf.org for something else you can do while in Siem Reap.

Phnom Penh - most people feel two days is adequate.

Luang Prabang - Again, we spent a wonderful week here. I'd say 4 or 5 days minimum if you want to get a real sense of the place. This is a place to go and absorb slowly.

Hue/Hoi An - probably three days each.

Are you planning to use Bangkok as your entry point to Asia? I think the Discovery Pass only makes sense if you do this.

Please do look at weather patterns. November is very rainy (flooding) in Hue and Hoi An. October is rainy in Thailand. I use www.weatherbase.com

You are welcome to view our photos of most of these places at www.marlandc.com
Kathie is offline  
Feb 11th, 2012, 10:01 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 975
I agree with Kathie's recommendations, though I might subtract a day each from Hue/Hoian and add Halong Bay. (Didn't go to Luang Prabang.) We took an an overnight cruise on Halong Bay in November and it's one of the best memories of our 6 weeks in Vietnam and Cambodia (we had perfect weather and a full moon, which made it extra special). You might consider 2 nights on the bay. We liked the Dragon Pearl junk--great service and food, and a fun group of other guests as well.
aprillilacs is offline  
Feb 12th, 2012, 05:45 AM
  #4  
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 184
Thanks Kathie and Aprillillacs

So I will continue to research this trip, but October/early
November does not seem to be the optimal time to go, and I will change the dates

Aprillilacs, your blog was wonderful and I really enjoyed
reading it. I was in contact with the same TA-they were prompt with their replies
How did you find their guides?
Did you also use them for the Cambodia portion? Did they arrange the hotels there as well?

Kathie, how did you organize your trip vis a vis hotels,(TA or your own bookings) guides and transfers?
I have travelled all over Europe, USA, China, South Africa
Egypt and will be in Peru for 3 weeks in May and have used TAs in different manners

I definitely like to have my itinerary , hotels (arranged by TA or myself) and air in place before I leave,
Should I have all my guides in place beforehand or will the hotels be able to provide adequate transfers, guides etc

Thanks Sandy
sb1020 is offline  
Feb 12th, 2012, 08:00 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,668
Except in Burma, I organize all of my trips myself, booking flights, hotels on my own. I have a number of favorite hotel booking sites I use, as well as checking with the hotels themselves. I don't book hotel transfers, as they tend to cost 2x-10x what they cost via taxi. I always use the taxi stands inside the airport to get the "real" price as opposed to bargaining with touts - you'll always end up paying more. (I do use a car service for when I land in Bangkok after 20+ hours of traveling, the same car service I've used for many, many years) Note that some hotels in VN will provide airport transfers for a reasonable price - it's worth asking.

In VN, local agents can often get you hotels for less than you can get yourself, so it's worth checking with well-regarded agents such as Tonkin or Vietnamstay. Hotels can help with a guide if you feel you need one. I rarely use guides, and there is no need for a guide in any of the places you are going, IMO, with the possible exception of Angkor, if you haven't done a lot of reading and don't intend to take Dawn Rooney's book along.
Kathie is offline  
Feb 12th, 2012, 08:52 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 975
sb, we found November/early December to be a great time to travel in Vietnam and Cambodia. We liked all the guides Tonkin arranged for us in Vietnam. They all spoke good English, though on occasion my husband had a little trouble understanding the accent (I didn't). We especially liked our guides in the north and northwest (Hieu) and in Hue/Hoian (Thuan). Tonkin booked both of them, but note that Thuan is also bookable through the website toursbylocals.com. He was awesome--a very gentle soul with so much insight to share.

Normally when we travel we make all our arrangements ourselves, and I do agree that Vietnam would be a fairly easy place to do so. Because we were on such a long trip going to so many different countries, we took the easy route and had Tonkin arrange a personal tour. It made for a different--and hassle-free--experience. If we go to Vietnam again, though, we will do it on our own and hire guides only as needed.

We made our Cambodia arrangements on our own, though Tonkin did book our flights (on Vietnam Air) to Siem Reap and back to HCMC from Phnom Penh. Cambodia was really easy to do on our own. We booked a guide with an air-conditioned van in advance for 3 of our 7 days in Siem Reap and then used tuk-tuks for the rest of the time. The combo worked really well. We found that all the hotels we stayed in were more than willing to help out with logistical arrangements (e.g., purchasing tickets for the boat from Siem Reap to Battambang). Unless you want a specific guide, I would advise waiting til you get there.
aprillilacs is offline  
Feb 12th, 2012, 09:07 AM
  #7  
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You guys are great!!
Thanks a lot for all the info
Aprillilacs-did you book your driver in SR once there or beforehand and if beforehand-from where?

Kathie, your photos were wonderful!

Sandy
sb1020 is offline  
Feb 12th, 2012, 01:32 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 975
We booked our guide (who doubled as driver) in advance. It wasn't without surprises, though. We booked with a fairly well-known guide named Kim San, who for the most part gets excellent reviews on various travel sites (he's been mentioned on this forum in the past). I booked months ahead and he reconfirmed 4 days before we arrived. On pickup day, however, we were met NOT by Kim San but by Chamrong, another guide, who told us that he was Kim San's brother and that Kim San couldn't be with us because he was attending a wedding.

Hmmm, we'd heard of the bait-and-switch but I really wasn't expecting it to happen to us! No worries, though--we went along with the switch and had a wonderful day with Chamrong, who was knowledgeable, gentle, easy to understand, and had a good sense of humor. I was kind of expecting Kim San to show up on the second day (we had booked him for 3 days), but the next morning it was Chamrong again. When I asked about his "brother" (who knows if Kim San is really his brother?), he said that Cambodian weddings last several days, meaning that we'd not be seeing Kim San.

We were, as I said, very happy with Chamrong although a bit annoyed with the switch routine. I've read other accounts where that has happened--for the most part the substitute guides have worked out, and ours certainly did. If you're interested in contacting Chamrong, you can find him also on toursbylocals.com.
aprillilacs is offline  
Feb 13th, 2012, 12:48 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 2,759
With 3 weeks I would limit your trip to no more than two countries. We spent 3 1/2 weeks visiting Thailand and siem reap and another 3 1/2 in Vietnam. There is an incredible amount of places to see in all your destinations. We stayed 5 days in Hanoi, although I would say 4 would be acceptable. I think 2 days in hue and 2 in hoi an are fine. Like kathie suggests, you need a minimum of 3 days in sr. We spent 5 days there and would love to get back. We did 2 nights on a junk, but if time is an issue then one is more than sufficient. I see sapa is missing from your itinerary, but I am not certain about the weather there at that time of year. It was a major highlight for us, so weather permitting, I would add it to your itinerary.

We made all our own plans and rarely used guides. In Hanoi we spent an enjoyable day with the Hanoi kids. We did hire a guide in sr, but regretted our decision as we would have been happier with a guide for one day leaving the test of the time to wander on our own. We used a guide from one of the forums, but would have been happier with the nice taxi driver who took us to our hotel, or with a tuk tuk driver who could easily have been hired.

We did use Tonkin to book our train tickets to sapa and they were very reliable. You can easily find drivers through your hotels.
dgunbug is offline  
Feb 13th, 2012, 12:53 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
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We spent 8 days in Bangkok with a day trip to ayutthia (highly recommended) and to the floating market with tong (another major highlight). There was plenty to do. I think you need to narrow down your destinations so as to avoid spending most of your vacation on airplanes.

Whatever you pick will be wonderful and will leave you with a thirst to return to se Asia.
dgunbug is offline  
Feb 13th, 2012, 05:11 PM
  #11  
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Posts: 184
Hi dgunbug
I agree with 2 countries in 3 weeks-and I think that your breakdown of time requirements is right on....so at least 2 trips (I still work) and then some.......
thanks for all the great suggestions
Sandy
sb1020 is offline  

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