SE Asia using Exotissimo

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Aug 20th, 2008, 04:29 PM
  #1
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SE Asia using Exotissimo


We are planning a first time trip to SE Asia in Jan/Feb 2009. While we have traveled independently in Europe, I am apprehensive about traveling independently in Asia. First, we looked at tours - OAT and Adventures Abroad. Since we have to book our air separately (tour companies air from Hawaii was too expensive), insurance will not cover our air should the tour be cancelled because of not enough people signed up.
After reading the Asia Talk on Fodors, I think we can do it on our own. It's giving me confidence. I contacted Exotissimo, as many people seem to have been pleased with them. We are awaiting a quote from them. So here are my questions, followed by the tentative itinerary.

1. As first timers, should we work with a US agent who would work with Exotissimo? Since communication is all via email - will we miss important details. Our Maui agent can get us the air but does not work with Exotissimo.

2. Do you have any suggestions about the itinerary? Any improvements? Should we cut out Hue/Hoi An because it's too few days but takes extra travel time?

Any suggestions are welcome.

Day 1 Arrive Bangkok
Day 2 Bangkok-Siem Reap
Day 3 Siem Reap
Day 4 Siem Reap (free)
Day 5 Siem Reap
Day 6 Siem Reap Danang Hoi An
Day 7 Hoi An Hue
Day 8 Hue
Day 9 Hue Hanoi Halong Bay
Day 10 Halong Bay Hanoi
Day 11 Hanoi (free)
Day 12 Hanoi Luang Prabang
Day 13 Luang Prabang
Day 14 Luang Prabang - Chiang Mai
Day 15 Chiang Mai
Day 16 Chiang Mai
Day 17 Chiang Mai - Bangkok
Day 18 Bangkok
Day 19 Bangkok
Day 20 Bangkok Depart

Thank you.

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Aug 20th, 2008, 05:18 PM
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I think you can easily do this on your own - you don't even need Exotissimo. But they are well reviewed so if you'll feel more confident, go ahead and use them. I don't know why you would need a US agent to work with them. Have your Maui agent book your air in and out of SE Asia, Exotissimo can book your ground and intra-Asia flights. Next trip, I expect you'll do it all on your own - easy to do in SE Asia.

You are visiting 4 differnt countries - 6 stops - in three weeks. This is way too much. You need to spend some time in each place in order to get any experience of it. I think you should cut it to 4 stops, you'll have time to experience each place and get a taste of it. Really, even with just 4 stops, you'll only get a taste.

Many would recommend you choose one country with perhaps one side trip for 3 weeks, and this would be wise. (Say, three weeks in VN with a side trip to Cambodia or three weeks in Thailand with a side trip to Luang Prabang.) But if you really want a glimpse of all four countries, this is what I'd recommend:

cut Hoi An/Hue as you aren't giving yourselves time to experienc eit anyway, and cut one more place: I'd personally recommend cutting Chiang Mai, but you could cut a different city. You don't have enought time in LP to have any real experience of it, so if it is lower priority for you, cut that.
So you might end up with:

5-6 days in Bangkok, some at the beginning, some at the end.
4 days Siem Reap
4 days Luang Prabang
4-5 days Hanoi/Halong Bay.

Save the other places for your next trip!
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Aug 20th, 2008, 05:47 PM
  #3
 
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I agree with Kathie that you are trying to do too much. Also all that booking in Hawaii will do is raise the cost and reduce the control you have over your itinerary. I would approach each country individually and book flights on your own. As with Kathie's recommendation, I would skip Chiang Mai and probably Hoi An and Hue just because of the logistics of getting to these places. I think your trip will be more relaxed if you can cut out some of the flying. 3 full days is all you need in Siem Reap and that can include your arrival day providing you get the first flight out of Bangkok. If you are really into temples then allow the extra day or two. Luang Prabang should be savored but 3 or 4 full days should be fine. We have planned almost 5 full days in Hanoi plus 2 days with an overnight in Halong Bay next April. Plan on 3 preferably 4 full days in Bangkok.
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Aug 20th, 2008, 06:20 PM
  #4
 
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very good advice above...it you wanted to do bkk, siem reap (angkor) and luang prabang, this would make a very nice trip, imo.

this could easily be planned all on your own with our help and believe me we will give you tons of help..

in SR and bkk you might want a guide for some of the time and we can assist with names and contacts for that..

we know tons of hotels in all these places and at most price ranges, so can assist then as well..

you need to book LP hotels NOW!!! they are in short supply..

the VN and SR trip is also another venture...

asia is not like europe in movement and sightseeing....you have to slow way down....move more slowly...

for instance, i would never suggest to arrive in bkk day one and immediately move to an important sightseeing place like SR without at least one full day of down time to adjust...
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Aug 20th, 2008, 06:33 PM
  #5
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Thank you Kathie and Craig,
I was hoping to get replies from you two, as I have learned so much from you already.
NOW, I know we can do this trip independently. I needed a little supportive push.

My husband was stationed in Thailand, during the "American War", so Thailand is a must see. Angkor Wat is a must see. After reading this forum, I'm really interested in Luang Prabang, It sounds like what SE Asia was years ago. We can cut Hoi An/Hue and Chiang Mai. If we cut anything else, I would consider cutting Hanoi - is that wise?

So, we can do the 4 countries with the # days you all suggested (or eliminate Hanoi):
Bangkok
Siem Reap
Hanoi/Halong Bay
Luang Prabang

OR
tour Thailand with a side trip to Siem Reap - any recommendations for a Thai itinerary?

We have some hard decisions to make - like choosing candy in a candy store. I guess if we fall in love with SE Asia, we can always return for another trip.

Thanks for your advice -- better than a travel agent's.



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Aug 20th, 2008, 08:03 PM
  #6
 
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It is like a candy store - so many wonderful confections to choose from.

If you opt for Thailand and Angkor, I'd suggest time in Bangkok, and one or more places in the north (I prefer the Golden Triangle area to Chiang Mai, but that's a personal preference). Some people like to have some beach time during their stay, and there are plenty of options for that (though living on Maui, I can't imagine you need to go to Thailand for a beach!).

If you could save VN for another trip, you could do Bangkok, Angkor, Luang Prabang... We spent a week each in Siem Reap and Luang Prabang and loved it. This itinerary would be my personal preference. Some people are content with a full three or four days at Angkor. If you are, then you might opt for Bangkok, Luang Prabang and somewhere in Northern Thailand and Angkor.

Do your research on Angkor to decide how much time you need there. I always recommend Dawn Rooney's book, Angkor. Get the latest edition (2006?).

I invite you to look at our photos of SE Asia. These may give you a better idea of what you want to do with your three weeks.

www.marlandc.com
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Aug 21st, 2008, 12:37 AM
  #7
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Thank you rhkkmk (Bob) and Kathie,

When my husband came home this afternoon, I told him, our entire itinerary had changed. We like the Bangkok, Siem Reap, Luang Prabang combination, using any extra days in Thailand.

Bob - I checked out hotels in Luang Prabang and found the Three Nagas is fully booked for Jan, Feb (except for 3 days). La Residence is over $400 with taxes included. I think Luang Prabang is going to drive our itinerary.

Kathie - I will check your website and do some homework to decide on our final itinerary. Yes, you're right, no beach resorts for us.

I also need to find out about air flights. The shortage of hotels in LP means I will have to put my planning into high gear. Thanks.
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Aug 21st, 2008, 02:48 AM
  #8
 
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Thailand, SR and LP will make a wonderful trip. In LP, take a look at the Apsara. It is a little basic, but will do. We stayed at the Maison Souvanaphoum and it was pleasant, but not great. It is a step above the Apsara. We liked being able to walk everywhere and not needing a shuttle from Residence.

In SR, see if you can get Ponheary or her brother Dara as a guide. They can be reached at [email protected].

In BKK, see if you can Tong or one of her team. Try TourwithTong.com.
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Aug 21st, 2008, 04:01 AM
  #9
 
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We did the identical trip you are now planning in 2006: Bangkok, Siem Reap and LP. We had slightly less time but wound up with 8 days in Bangkok. You can read my trip report here, if you haven't seen it already:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...7&tid=34767241
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Aug 31st, 2008, 10:05 PM
  #10
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Aloha,

I am back with questions and hope you can help me further. I checked out what everyone recommended.
I got a response from Exotissimo on the original itinerary above, the price quoted is $3600. But, while waiting for their reply I got your input and changed our plans.
So we have settled on:
Day 1 Arrive BKK
Day 2-3 BKK (get over jet lag)
Day 4 Fly BKK to Luang Prabang
Day 5-9 Luang Prabang
Day 10 Fly Luang - Siem Reap
(SR Airways flies this route only on T/Th/Sat)
Day 11-14 Siem Reap
Day 15 Fly SR to BKK
Day 16-19 BKK
Day 20 Depart BKK

We've had a hard time finding a travel agent on Maui who has done much in Southeast Asia. We are waiting on an agent to get us air from Honolulu to BKK as well as air in SE Asia. We are flexible for Jan-Feb.

My questions are:
1. Should we avoid Chinese New Years in any of the 3 countries? Thailand's NY is Jan 24-26, 2009. Cambodia's is in April. Laos's NY is in Feb ? Any suggestions for when to start our trip?
2. For the flights in SE Asia, if I want to use Bangkok Air's Discovery Pass, is the best way to just reserve the flights online or should I let the travel agent book it?

Once we have our air, then we can book a Luang Prabang hotel. They are booking up real fast.

Any other recommendations are welcome. We're off to Seattle to visit friends, so I hope our agent will have information for us when we get back.

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Aug 31st, 2008, 11:29 PM
  #11
 
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Hey Cats: you're getting such good advice from these guys you don't need mine.

But don't AVOID Chinese New Year. Embrace it!

New Year in Bangkok is a blast in Chinatown! Remember, it all happens just in one area - not all over town. I think you're gonna have a great trip. Just keep asking questions in here...

But I'd stay IN town in Luang Prabang. Not that you'll listen to me. You might like to check out my latest adventures in Siem Reap for some [non-temple] oddities. I just KNOW you need your ears cleaned....
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Sep 4th, 2008, 08:19 PM
  #12
 
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hi , we did a trip to angkor wat and used ponheary as our guide. she and a driver were always on time. we visited luang prabang which loved it , we stayed at sala prabang nice small hotel right on the mekong and right where the night market are and all restaurants the web site is www.salalao.com
good luck
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Nov 14th, 2008, 06:22 PM
  #13
 
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What did you end up deciding about Chinese New Years? The one thing I read which influenced my decision about doing a Singapore stop on the way home is that at least in Singapore, the first two days of Chinese New Year are often quite quiet with many businesses closed which I hadn't expected.

The one thing I would change in your itinerary if you're still looking for feedback is add a day or two to SR -- you have so much in BKK on the way back.

We are doing the same routing mid to the end of January -- did you firm up your dates yet?
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Nov 15th, 2008, 09:59 AM
  #14
 
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I had the exact same thoughts as the OP when I started planning my trip. I've never used an agent before (except for safari to Africa) but thought I may save some time and benefit from their experience/expertise

Our desired itinerary was the following:

- 4 nights in Bangkok
- 3 nights in Chiang Mai
- 4 nights in Luang Prabang
- 3 nights in Siem Reap
- 4 nights in Phuket
- 2 nights in Singapore (visit my cousin)

I wanted "standard" western hotels (ie., a westin type)in BKK and CM, but more local places in LP and SR. We were willing to do a big splurge in Phuket at Amanpura, Banyan Tree, Trisara type place.

The quote back from the agent was over $5000 PER PERSON for hotel, and $1300 PER PERSON for internal air! I was shocked and decided to do it on my own.

So, now I have all the hotels and air booked, and the cost came to about $5200 for hotel (this includes 3 nights at the Spa Pool Pavillon at the Banyan Tree, which is actually the majority of the hotel cost), and $621 for internal air (Air Asia from BKK-CM, Tiger Airways for Phuket-SIN, and the rest on Discovery Airpass). It's literally a fraction of the quote.

I don't really understand the business model of travel agents. If any of them offer to plan the trip for a flat fee, say $200 per week, I would've used someone for their expertise and for saving me time. But this kind of mark-up just seems outrageous.

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Nov 15th, 2008, 10:01 AM
  #15
 
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BTW, seems like we're all going at the same time . We'll be there Jan 22 thru Feb 11.
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Nov 15th, 2008, 05:47 PM
  #16
 
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Just a small correction on Ponheary and Dara Ly's email address (Siem Reap)
[email protected]

Good for you for working out your own details!
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Nov 28th, 2008, 08:50 PM
  #17
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Aloha,

We will miss Chinese New Years and will be there in Feb.
We ended up with:
4 nights Bangkok at President Solitaire in Sukhumvit
6 nights in Luang Prabang at Grand LP
5 nights in Siem Reap at Bopha Angkor
4 nights Bangkok at Marriot Resort

My husband picked some hotels and I got the others from asiarooms.com. We found a good travel agent on Maui who got us the air. What drove our itinerary was the flight from LP to SR. They only have the flight 3 days a week. The agent was unable to get the routing we wanted via the Discovery Pass so we paid the regular fare. Our air from Maui to Bangkok via JAL with an overnight in Narita is $1300 per person. Internal air via Bangkok Airways is $690 per person. Our hotels are $2000 for 19 nights. That leaves a lot of money for restaurants and massages!

We got Kim San for 2 days in SR. My husband thinks we can do Bangkok on our own except for the Floating Village. I'm not sure if we need a guide in LP. I tend to like to have a knowledgeable person give me an explanation, my husband prefers to go on our own.
We have the Nancy Chandler map and I've ordered Rooney's "Angkor". Now for the fun part, researching restaurants, history, etc.

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Nov 28th, 2008, 09:18 PM
  #18
 
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LP is so easy to wander on your own. As needed, you can hire a boat on the river or a car to take you to the waterfalls, etc. At the Grand, you'll be about 20 minutes out of town. I believe they have a shuttle.

In Bangkok, I agree you can do it on your own. I'm not a fan of the floating market, but some others have raved about going there with Tong.
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