SE Asia trip, please help me decide

Old Jan 17th, 2021, 05:35 AM
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@crellston I've read about the Chinese dams on the Mekong and their impact on the river and the lives of the people that depend on the river. I understand progress, but not by destroying the environment, this is very sad. I hope all the dams projects will be revised and the lives of people living outside of the Chinese borders considered too. I will not be able to compare it to anything else, but I'm very interested to see the delta and spend some time there.

The northern Laos seems more complicated to plan, and with limited time in the area I don't think we're ready to accept major changes in itinerary or timing. I think we'll save this for a later trip, when we'll be retired. There's enough to keep us interested in the South.

@Kavey We're saving the rest of Vietnam for a later trip. My original desire was Vietnam and Angkor Wat, but I could not find a time of the year for both; by the time the North Vietnam warms up, AW is boiling. Thanks for the Delta info, that's very helpful. Most of the info I find is from people who see it as a day trip from HCMC, and then advice on travel boards who say "don't do it as a day trip, spend some time there", but there is little info on how to plan several days there. I will also want to include a day or two in the submerge mangrove forest area. This part of the trip will require more reading on my part. Did you spend any time in Phnom Penh? It seems more laid back than HCMC, I wonder if it's a good place to start our delta trip from.

Your Thailand post brought back wonderful memories. We spent 3 weeks there in 2018 and would love to go back someday. Thank you for it, perfect to start my Sunday morning.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2021, 05:38 PM
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As an earlier post mentioned, 3 days (2-3 nights) for Angkor Wat is enough. It's a small town (obviously the temples are the focus) .Amazing place but you do not need 4 or 5 days.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2021, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by irenemcmahon9824 View Post
As an earlier post mentioned, 3 days (2-3 nights) for Angkor Wat is enough. It's a small town (obviously the temples are the focus) .Amazing place but you do not need 4 or 5 days.
Not necessarily, don't be so didactic. For some people that's plenty of time, for some people it's not enough. It wasn't enough for me and I went back.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2021, 05:50 AM
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Knowing us, we'll be in the "2-3 days is not enough" category, so we're planning for 5-6 days. This will allow us time for birding, a day trip to Koh Ker, maybe see some villages and landscapes outside of AW, maybe visit the villages on stilts on Tonle Sap, there is more that would interest us in that area besides the temples.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2021, 06:09 AM
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thursdaysd - so true. When I visited a few years ago with my family we spent 4 days in Siem Reap to visit the nearby temples and then a further 2 days on a road trip to visit sites further afield with an overnight near Preah Vihear on the Thai border - a fabulous temple complex but far from Siem Reap (some 4 hours each way - but with lots of fascinating stops along the way including Pol Pot's last redoubt in Anlong Veng, Kbal Spean, Banteay Srei, Kaoh Ker and Being Mealea as the highlights). It was great to see sites not overrun with hordes of others.

Some people subscribe to the 'seen one church seen them all' (or something approximating it) mode of travel - many others do not.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2021, 06:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Greenhorn View Post
thursdaysd - so true.
Some people subscribe to the 'seen one church seen them all' (or something approximating it) mode of travel - many others do not.
I think we all enjoy different things which I'm always happy about as it spreads the tourism out. I'm not a huge temple fan but can spend hours and hours in museums, others don't like museums but may love temples. Thats one good aspect of travel boards -- one hears all different viewpoints, none better than the others. Vive la Difference!
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Old Jan 23rd, 2021, 07:24 AM
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I agree that we all like different things and have different ways of enjoying them. I have been fortunate enough to "do" Angkor in several different ways. The first time we spent a week there five days of which were spent taking the usual advice to visit the temples in the early morning and late afternoon which was nice an relaxed and the midday dip in the pool was very welcome. Back then there weren’t too many tourists around so it was easy enough to do without running into crowds. We managed to get out and about into the countryside, tonle sap etc. as well in that time

The next time we got a three day pass an took a different approach full intending to spend all three at the temples from dusk to Dawn, rather than taking a midday break, we spent the first two days, full time at the temple complex and by day two and managed to see most of what we wanted to see, almost as much as on our first visit. By day three, we had had enough of the crowds, gave up and headed into the countryside.

The third trip was with my wife’s parents who had limited time so we spent 1.5 days at the temples which was plenty for them.

my original point in saying that 5-6 days was way to much was partly in the context of the OP having just 3 weeks to allocate time. IMO that is too large a proportion of time to allocate to to the one site when there is so much else to see in the region. Even a day or two shaved off the time in Angkor would enable more relaxed time in other place or another location and three full on days visit the temples of Angkor, if the OP wants to see as many as possible, would free up days for elsewhere. IT is one of those places where planning out EXACTLY a what you want to see in advance and getting guides and transport organised in advance is well rewarded.

PS Green makes a good point re Preah Vear - relatively easily done as an overnight trip from SR and very different to Angkor. The renowned Ponheary Ly at Seven Candles Guesthouse runs tours to Prear Vear.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2021, 07:37 AM
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xyz99 - turning my mind to this as I currently have no heart to plan a trip for myself with so many covid related restrictions, I will offer this after having spent some time in the region you are planning to visit.

First off - you are right to skip northern Vietnam in winter - our last trip in April was perfect.

If I had 21 days on the ground (excluding travel time) and given your interests I would spend it as follows:

Ho Chi Minh City - 3 days

Mekong Delta boat trip ending in Chau Doc - 3 days - look at Song Xahn Sampans (we had a truly great trip with them some years ago on a beautiful private boat - take mosquito repellant) - as crellston recommended the Ben Tre area and the Cai Rang floating market are both great

Express boat to Phnom Penh - 1 day (though only takes a few hours)

Phnom Penh - 2 days - a lovely city with some gruesome Khmer Rouge sites to visit should you be so inclined

Car to Battambang - 1 day - (lots to see along the way)

Battambang region - 1 day - (don't miss the bat caves at dusk)

Car to Siem Reap - 1 day (lots to see along the way)

Siem Reap and surrounds - 5-6 days (this would allow time to visit Tonle Sap and see post above about sites outside Siem Reap - highly recommended and no doubt good birding to be had along the way)

Flight to Luang Prabang (would do this late afternoon on the last day in Siem Reap - may need to be via Bangkok) and spend remaining time.

Kampot and Vang Vieng and indeed many other places in Cambodia and Laos have their charms and are worth visiting too, but only if you had more time.

No doubt others will have different opinions.

Whatever you decide, have a great trip - I am envious.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2021, 08:06 AM
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yestravel - my family has to put up with me enjoying time in both temples and museums - they usually bail on me pretty quickly.

crellston -. for me - allocating time in advance for visiting places I don't know well (or at all) can be frustrating - I usually get it right but sometimes not. You provide a wealth of information - thank you.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2021, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Greenhorn View Post
yestravel - my family has to put up with me enjoying time in both temples and museums - they usually bail on me pretty quickly.

crellston -. for me - allocating time in advance for visiting places I don't know well (or at all) can be frustrating - I usually get it right but sometimes not. You provide a wealth of information - thank you.
I agree about the allocating time to new places. When we retired and started traveling for lengthy trips, that was always a challenge. How much here vs there? Unfortunately it seems difficult to impossible to just wing it like we could do back in the day. We do make lots of adjustments along the way with cancelling and rescheduling.
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Old Jan 24th, 2021, 05:53 AM
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Greenhorn yestravel crellston Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is fabulous info and makes planning so much easier.
Yes, we all like different thinks, and that's great. Many times I read about places to go/see that were never on my radar, but were enjoyed by others. And then the surprise follows, because less known places are generally less crowded and oh, so worth it. Mixing them with the rest is key in having a satisfying trip.

All the country side places around AW are very interesting to me, so that might change some plans. I need to read more about them.

It's hard to determine at home what we'll like most, where to spend more time, but seeing different opinions from like-minded travelers helps a lot. What were people doing before the internet? We try to see enough, but never aim to see it all. Well, that's impossible unless we move there. We avoid 1-night stops, and try to spend at least 3 nights in a place. Greenhorn, your suggested itinerary is a great starting point, thank you. I won't know exactly the number of days we'll have, it will depend on flights and we hope to use miles, but the plan is for about 3 weeks all together. Hopefully when we retire we'll be able to travel for longer.

One more time, thank you, I think this will be a wonderful trip, hopefully travel will be possible by next year.
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Old Jan 24th, 2021, 01:45 PM
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Glad I could be of some help - have fun planning.
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Old Jan 31st, 2021, 11:06 AM
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Taiwan!! But it is not in SE Asia. Jan-Feb you can expect birding peak season as many endemic birds from higher mountain coming down because it is too cold on top of the mountains. I went there last Feb 2020 for 21 days I still not having enough. I didn't join any birding group. I travel casual and still managed to captured tons of great photos as well as some endemic birds too.

Vietnam, you may consider central or southern region. There are some famous national park near Da Nang and also in HCM. Those region won't be as cold as the Northern part.

I was unable to post any photos attachment as still new here. System doesn't allow for post below 10.

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Old Feb 1st, 2021, 12:14 PM
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Thanks, Dixon. I haven't thought about Taiwan, adding that as another option.
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Old Feb 1st, 2021, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by xyz99 View Post
Thanks, Dixon. I haven't thought about Taiwan, adding that as another option.
Transport in Taiwan are very convenient. You can take High Speed Rail from North to South in 1 hours (HSR only available in West coastal). East coastal normal train still quite enjoyable and you can also enjoy beautiful sea coast.

English not an issue there for most. Most elders can speak Japanese and majority traders surprisingly can even speak some Korean. Just some signage don't have English. You can always ask, people there are very friendly.

Feel free to ask or pm me if you have any further question.


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Old Feb 5th, 2021, 05:49 PM
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We did five days in Siem Reap in Jan 2019. We did not love Siem Reap but Angor Was was certainly spectacular-the crowds were not. If you plan it right, you can avoid the worst of them. I highly recommend getting good guide ahead of time. We were beyond lucky to have Ponheary Ly be our guide (she is a CNN top ten heroes finalist for her work in Siem Reap). Please look into hiring a guide through her group, you will not be disappointed.

Also on Tonle Sap go to Kampong Khlang fishing village, it is far less touristy- we were the only tourists there. So much more authentic then the other villages that have been changed and are now tourist attractions.

Here is a link to my blog with loads of pictures from our time in Cambodia. Unfortunately you will need to scroll through the beginning part of our trip which was Myanmar (spectacular). Cambodia begins on Dec 31. We visited many of the archaeological sights outside of Angor Was as well.
https://wordpress.com/post/totraveli...dpress.com/765

Our trip to Cambodia and Myanmar was our first trip to Asia.
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Old Feb 6th, 2021, 05:09 AM
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Hi odie1,
Great info, thanks. I've read a lot about Ponheary Ly, and she is on my short list of guides to contact. I'm sure the guide would be able to suggest the right village to visit, but good to know you enjoyed Kampong Khlang.

It seems your blog is not public, I need an account for it, which I don't have. Myanmar would be a wonderful addition to AW, but I don't think it's a safe destination now.
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Old Feb 6th, 2021, 05:45 AM
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Originally Posted by xyz99 View Post
Hi odie1,
Great info, thanks. I've read a lot about Ponheary Ly, and she is on my short list of guides to contact. I'm sure the guide would be able to suggest the right village to visit, but good to know you enjoyed Kampong Khlang.

It seems your blog is not public, I need an account for it, which I don't have. Myanmar would be a wonderful addition to AW, but I don't think it's a safe destination now.
Her foundation offers experiences as well, we did one - backpack distribution -which was beyond rewarding. She also has different options as well as far as day outings or you can come up with your own. Our two days with her were fabulous!

Sorry. It is public. I copied in the link from my account.
Try this one if you like:
https://totravelistolive678431148.wo...-and-cambodia/

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Old Feb 6th, 2021, 05:52 AM
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Another vote for Ponheary Ly! We stayed at her seven candles guesthouse for a couple of weeks whilst in Siem Reap. "Ethical tourism" at its best. Do consider, the trip she runs to Koh Ker + a school that her foundation runs.
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Old Feb 7th, 2021, 07:55 AM
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odie1 Thank you for sharing your wonderful blog. Such a great trip, I loved reading about it. Myanmar really sounds wonderful. We had the same problem: Vietnam was the first choice, but not good for Dec-Jan time frame, so we'll keep that for a different trip. For this trip, I'm also considering Malaysia - better wildlife and birding opportunities there.
We'll have to see how travel will be impacted by Covid later in the year. I'm an early planner, but it's hard to do that now, we'll have to wait some more. Even if we get vaccinated, we need the rest of the world (+ hotels + restaurants) to open up. I checked some restaurants in Siem Reap, they're closed until end of March, and that's a shame, this is high season for them probably.

crellston yes, we are considering the Seven Candles guesthouse for our stay, it looks like a perfect choice. Thanks!
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