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SEA itinerary confusion...plan for Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand

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Mar 29th, 2013, 08:37 PM
  #1
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SEA itinerary confusion...plan for Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand

Hi all!

I am planning the longest trip I have gone on thus far in my backpacking career. I will plan to go to SEA in December-January, ending up with a week or maybe now slightly longer in New Zealand on the way back. I have looked into a few itineraries and ideas and now am getting a little overwhelmed with possibilities.

The two constraints I have schedule-wise are that I need to be in Bangkok from Dec 30- Jan 6th for advanced massage course, and then 5 straight days at any time before that for the general massage course. I can do the general course in Chiang Mai or Bangkok so thought about doing a week in CM to explore a northern city.

So, this is: Dec 14- Dec 29 free (16 days), at least 5 of which would be in Chiang Mai prolly.

Originally I had this idea to get a cheap flight I found for under $100 to Hanoi, work down the coast using the trains, onto Cambodia, and then to accommodate schedule, potentially another cheap flight to Thailand or bus/train if schedule worked out.

But I also am wondering if at the end of a busy year (will have just taken pre-clinical tests for acupuncture school, might be pretty fried), if I should not miss out on the beaches in Thailand/Cambodia (Koh Chang or Sihanoukville look best fit for me if travel is not too much of a pain), maybe even Vietnam (where?) and do that for a couple days at first, or at some point. Laos looks awesome but maybe I leave this for another trip, just too much!

I also thought maybe I can go for a few days somewhere after I finish on the 6th- ie, a couple days in Cambodia then or beach or whatever.

Some things that looked very great are the following: Siem Reap, Preah Vihear, historical sites in Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Hoi An, maybe the caves outside Dong Hoi, and of course stuff in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. A beach at some point sounds good as well as hot springs if possible!

I can't say I'm particularly convinced I need to go to Saigon, and Phnom Penh isn't crucial to me this time around.

In addition to all this nonsense, a friend of mine gigs at one of the fancy casinos in Macau and is begging me to stop by for a few days. Is Macau even worth it? It would be fun to hang but maybe I could drag him to meet up somewhere on my trip (though a free couple nights in a fancy hotel wouldn't be SO bad and I might even get a few gigs myself and make some decent money (I'm a musician also).

What makes sense here of maximizing travel time and experience and budget? My flights to/from Asia will be basically free, so I don't mind a couple cheap internal flights when it makes sense. I want to take train in Vietnam and Thailand when possible, buses are ok too if reasonable length (not interested in 24 hr ones this time).

Thank you sooo much in advance for helping a frazzled med student try to make a plan!
daichovo is offline  
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Mar 30th, 2013, 09:59 AM
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So, if I am reading this correctly, you have 16 days free, 5 of which must be in Chiang Mai, meaning you have 11 free days. With that little time, you want to plan carefully so you don't spend all of your time in transit. I'd suggest that of the places you mentioned being interested in, I'd suggest Cambodia, time in Siem Reap to visit some of the many temples at Angkor (get Dawn Rooney's book, Angkor: A Guide to Cambodia's Wondrous Temples) then beach time in Cambodia and/or Thailand. That will easily fill your 11 days. Forget VN unless you have a couple of weeks to spend there.

If you plan to travel overland to Siem Reap, read about the various scams and how to avoid them at www.talesofasia.com There are cheap flights within Thailand (Air Asia) so unless you love trains, take the hour hop to Chiang Mai rather than the overnight train.
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Mar 30th, 2013, 11:29 AM
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flying to siem reap can be quite expensive. i guess it depends on your level of interest in religious ruins.. it is however fabulous as kathie says..

koh chang is a moderate thai island. takes a whole day to get there even with a flight..

there are other islands which you might prefer.

btw, over the holidays hotel prices are their highest and reservations are tight.. reserve now..

for hotel ideas: www.sawadee.com
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Mar 30th, 2013, 01:35 PM
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rhkkmk-I saw a flight to Siem Reap for $90, I thought that was quite reasonable. Which other beaches might I prefer?

I'm planning on staying in hostels or couch surfing, that link to sawadee is way out of my budget and seems like an advertisement.

Kathie- I do love trains and actually have heard only positive things about the train overnight to Chiang Mai (including from a close friend), so I definitely plan on taking it. It's cheaper for sure and an experience, good scenery in morning, plus saves hotel fee for a night, sounds like a winner to me!

I only planned on spending a day- day and a half at Angkor/Siem Reap and a day at Preah Vihear. Not sure what I would do with myself for 9 other days. I don't NEED that long at the beach and again, I'm not convinced I need it at all. Just not sure.
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Mar 30th, 2013, 01:46 PM
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that flt is cheap... from where? what airline.?

i did see your backpacker designation---at 69 i am long past that stage, so my info is more upscale...sorry...have fun.
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Mar 30th, 2013, 01:48 PM
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You may or may not be able to get to Preah Vihear, as there are chronic military skirmishes in the area. There are many dozens of accessible temples near Siem Reap. A day or a day and a half there is really not enough. Take a look at the book I recommended. It will help you decide how long you want in the area. You might also look at www.theplf.org for something else you might do in Siem Reap.

(BTW, Bob isn't advertising sawasdee, it's a local Thai booking site many of us use - but you are right, it doesn't include hostels. You might try www.hostelworld.com or one of the other hostel booking sites.)

How much are you planning to pay per night for accommodations? You might want to consider www.sevencandlesguesthouse.com in Siem Reap.

If Angkor is a must for you, how much time you ultimately want in the area will be a determinant of how much additional time you have. I spent a week in Siem Reap and would have enjoyed even more time there. You might be satisfied with a minimal three days.
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Apr 4th, 2013, 10:40 AM
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I've been using hostelworld mostly b/c of free gold membership via Nomadic Matt's site (no booking fees) and I also look up small local places on tripadvisor too, there's a lot of places I see there that weren't on hostelworld, if I have a little more $ to throw.

That guesthouse looks really great but again definitely above my budget (I'm looking at $5-10/night, and yes, it does make a difference to me if I save $10-15/day). I've learned at this point that I sleep like a log anywhere; I don't even require a bed (hammocks are great in central America). I also don't plan on spending much time at the hostel/etc. I like to use that money saved for activities/travel.

No worries on the hotel recommendations; I guess I didn't make it clear that I'm a 31 yr old backpacker...or perhaps, flashpacker. I have a little money I can use but need to use it VERY wisely.

Preah Vihear- I've read that people are getting in there no problem (as of March 2013), of course you can't cross to other side, but touring temple is not an issue. Anyway it's several months off and worst comes to worst I spend an extra day in Angkor.

Will definitely check out that book on Angkor, thanks for the recommendation!

Which beaches did you recommend in Cambodia/Thailand? Sihanoukville looks good for my budget, but seems like a bit of a pain to get to (takes up a whole day of travel). Any other recommendations that take a short time? Again, I don't mind taking overnight trains or a cheap quick flight.
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Apr 4th, 2013, 11:50 AM
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Since you are traveling overland, any beach you go to from Siem Reap will take at least a full day to get to. Sihanoukville will be the closest and will have the least expensive accommodation.
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Apr 4th, 2013, 09:29 PM
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daichovo, feel free to email me at [email protected] and I can give you tips on New Zealand. Just let me know what type of things you're interested in. We've traveled NZ quite extensively in our time here and have lots of great suggestions!
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