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Southeast Asia trip itinerary - feedback please!

Southeast Asia trip itinerary - feedback please!

Aug 12th, 2019, 10:33 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 87
Southeast Asia trip itinerary - feedback please!

We are traveling to Southeast Asia this fall. I would like feedback on our preliminary itinerary.

We are a retired couple. We travel extensively on our own (not on tours), occasionally hiring local tour guides. We are "slow" travelers. We like to take our time poking around museums etc. We also enjoy exploring parks and nature. Again at a slow pace - my husband does not walk quickly, and can't resist taking a picture of any interesting plants he passes. And of course we love to try the local food!

The parts of our trip that are set:
We arrive in Bangkok late Friday November 1. We plan to spend the next three weeks exploring Thailand, ending up in Phuket Nov 19th for a family wedding Nov 23rd. Nov 24th we fly to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to visit family for 7-10 days. We fly back to the USA from Phnom Penh Sunday December 22nd.

Itinerary - Thailand
Bangkok 4-5 nights. Temples, Museums, Food et al
Chiang Mai 7-8 nights. We plan a 4 day/3night hill tribes tour with Thailand Hill Tribe Holidays. Any feedback on this tour group would be appreciated. We will be in Chiang Mai during the Yee Peng and Loy Krathong festivals. So explore museums and temples during the day, and enjoy the festivals at night.
Ayutthaya 2-3 nights.
Bangkok 2-3 nights
Fly to Phuket. Our plan is to have a couple of days in Phuket to explore before family arrives for the wedding. We are not "lie on a beach" people. It looks like there are some interesting boat rides etc to do in Phuket. And this is the first time we've visited a SE Asia beach.
Fly Phuket - KL for week with family.

After KL itinerary.
Siem Reap 7 nights
Luang Prabang 5 nights
Hanoi 4 nights
Phnom Penh 2 nights
Late flight 22nd Dec to USA.

Does this sound like a good division of our time? Suggestions?


wendy236 is offline  
Aug 12th, 2019, 11:00 AM
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I loved Luang Prabang back in 2002 and 2004, but now it is overcrowded with tourists. Unless you are using it as a base for hikes, and likely even then, I would take time from LP and add it to Hanoi. That seems a bit long for Ayutthaya too.

I have no knowledge of the company you mention, maybe crellston will weigh in. I, personally, would probably not do such a tour, I find them too intrusive, but some are better than others.
thursdaysd is offline  
Aug 12th, 2019, 01:10 PM
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That was what I was about to suggest, skip Luang Prabang & add the time to Hanoi. The only exception I'd suggest would require some rearrangement of the itinerary, doing a 2 day boat trip down the Mekong after Chiang Mai from Huay Xai (in Laos across the river from Chiang Kong, Thailand) & ending with a couple of nights in Luang Prabang. I've done that twice, also years ago, 2nd time with Luang Say & enjoyed it very much. https://www.luangsay.com/cruises-lao...ht-down-river/ It can also be done in reverse.
MmePerdu is offline  
Aug 12th, 2019, 01:12 PM
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Thanks for the feedback. I think shifting a couple of days from Luang Prabang to Hanoi makes a lot of sense. RE Ayutthaya, I figured 2 nights gives us 1 full day, 3 nights gives us 2 full days. It looks like there are a lot of temples, and a couple of museums to explore. It sounds like 2 nights will be enough, even for slow travelers.

And thanks for the feedback on the Hill Tribes tour. The company sounded like they avoid the "Disney" stops. But you comment is a good nudge to go back and read about the details to make sure we're comfortable with it.
wendy236 is offline  
Aug 12th, 2019, 01:36 PM
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Mme Perdue,
Thank you for the cruise suggestion. As we must be in Phuket and KL in the middle of the trip, I suspect the Mekong cruise may not fit into our schedule.
wendy236 is offline  
Aug 12th, 2019, 10:54 PM
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A few random thoughts on your plans:

Bangkok & Ayuthaya - I think your time in Bangkok is about right, although I would probably condense into one visit to save one ride to/from the airport. One day is sufficient for Ayuthathaya. some choose to spend a night there but it really depends upon your level of interest in ruined temples. a nice way to visit is by train one way and taxi the other or by boat along the Chao Phraya taking in Bang Pa In summer palace en route. IMO Sukothai is way more impressive than Ayuthaya and could be visited en route to CM.

Chiang Mai A week is a long time for CM even with a Hill Tribe tour. I have no ida what that particular outfit are like in terms of ethics and responsible travel but most operators are not good. Exploitation of the minority peoples is rife. I would avoid the areas close to CM , north of Chiang Rai would be better but you do need to get far off the beaten path to avoid the "human zoo” type of place. it is a while since we have been but we enjoyed driving the Mai Hong Sorn loop. Fern Resort near MHS used to operate Community Based Tourism initiatives which were very good and would be worth checking out. I can offer a lot more info on the MHS loop if interested.

Phuket as far as boat rides are concerned, we took my in laws on a John Grey Sea Canoes trip for their 50th wedding anniversary and loved it https://www.johngray-seacanoe.com . There are other boat trips in abundance all around Phuket. It may also be worth looking at Khao Son NP - we did a nice boat ride there through the lakes and Karsts. 2-3 hours from Phuket.

After KL itinerary I agree with Thursdaysd’s summation re Luang Prabang. We first visited in the 90s and loved it. We returned in 2008 and were shocked at how busy it had become. That said it is busy for a reason! On balance, I would be inclined to forget about Laos.

With 18 days to play with, I think I would radically rework this section your trip. 7 days in Siem Reap would be too much for me. reducing that time and forgetting LP would perhaps free up time to explore more of Vietnam or other sections Cambodia. I would perhaps look at Hanoi - Saigon- Mekong Delta (maybe a cruise through to Phnom Penh). you may find some ideas in our blog for Vietnam - https://accidentalnomads.com/category/vietnam/ scroll down for several posts on the Mekong, Hanoi and Saigon. we especially like Chau Doc (more boat rides!) from where it is easy to get a boat to PP.

Anyway, apologies fro rambling on. just a few thoughts.
crellston is offline  
Aug 13th, 2019, 12:48 AM
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We loved Luang Prabang in 2017, compared to Thailand it was wonderful..... quieter, cleaner and much more friendly.
Cyansiam is offline  
Aug 13th, 2019, 09:28 AM
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creeston thanks for your thoughtful response.
RE Bangkok & Ayuthaya. Our Bangkok time is split because the Yi Peng & Loy Krathong festivals fall during this period. It sounds touristy but fun so we decided to try to be in Chiang Mai during this year's festivals (Nov 11-13th). I will keep an eye out for a way not to return to Bangkok - possibly by adding a stop in Sukothai. We are hoping to take the train from Chiang Mai to Ayuthaya. Thanks for the suggestion!

RE Ayutthaya. Everyone seems to say "one day" - so probably 2 days for us. We really are leisurely travelers. My husband walks slowly due to an old injury - and takes lots of pictures. When we plan hikes, I take the estimated time and double it. It seems to work. We can spend a day poking around a museum most tourist would rush through in 2 hours. So 2 days sounds reasonable.

RE Chiang Mai tour. The tour we are looking at is to Chiang Rai and the surrounding hill country and border areas. I looked at reviews and their website again. It appears to be run by locals in a community supportive way. Hopefully we're right. If not, we can always request to skip certain stops. As we're visiting during a busy week we decided to line up a driver and guide ahead of time.
Re Chiang Mai - we'll be there during the 3 day festival. We'll be fitting temple and museum visits in around performances and parades. And if we cut it short a day we miss the second festival. It will probably be crazy. And touristy. But it's a chance to see what the festivals are like. And we can always take a day trip out of town to a park if we wish.

Phuket - thanks for the suggestions!

After KL. I will look at shortening time in Siem Reap and LP, and spending more time in Viet Nam. You mention a cruise through to Phnom Penh. Where would it start - Saigon or Chau Doc? That sounds like a good alternative to another flight!

Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions!
wendy236 is offline  
Aug 13th, 2019, 10:26 AM
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WRT getting to PP. I'm sure there are cruises, but there is alao transport. When I did it I took a boat from Chau Doc to PP, but it was definitely not a cruise. I booked through one of the myriad travel agencies in Saigon. But crellston's info is a lot more up to date.
thursdaysd is offline  
Aug 13th, 2019, 12:37 PM
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I looked up the boats he recommended. They didn't sound like a cruise. "Fast Boat" - I'm not sure exactly what they mean by Fast Boat. Is it the ones that sort of hydroplane and go bump bump bump if they hit any waves? On the river I suppose "waves" are likely not a problem. But it didn't look like a tour boat trip. Efficient transport.
wendy236 is offline  
Aug 13th, 2019, 09:08 PM
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On our last trip through the delta (which is all covered in detail in our blog linked in #6) we got the bus from Saigon to Ben Tre, spent a few nights there, took a small boat around that section of the delta and then rented a boat to sail to Can Tho (for Cai Rang floating market, some time in a homestay etc) and then by bus to Chau Doc (a huge amount to see and do). From Chau Doc we got the fast boat to PP. the fast boat is a 40 seater boat which takes 5-6 hours to PP inc. a stop at the immigration post. It is not especially fast, just a bit faster than most on the Mekong. Certainly no waves! If you are interested in doing it that way, let me know I could dig out details of the accommodation, boats etc. The boats and buses were are arranged by our accomodation. Guest houses and hotels in Vietnam are very good at doing that sort of thing for their guests. We had the luxury of time but you could probably do the same trip in less time, maybe 4 -5 days.

The cruises I mentioned are entirely different. Much more luxurious, usually in converted rice barges. We saw a few "Mekong Eyes" boats making the journey and I think Pandaw do the same. Clearly much more expensive than the way we did the trip. As your husband is a keen photographer, the photo ops will blow his mind!
crellston is offline  
Aug 15th, 2019, 12:11 AM
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I think 7 nights in Siem Reap is too much, so you can cut 2 or 3 nights in Siem Reap and add those nights to Hanoi.
DinHo is offline  
Aug 17th, 2019, 02:45 AM
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2-3 days in Siem Reap is tiring for me, but probably fine if you only want to see the major temples. Might be good to consider potential temple fatigue.
kapia is offline  
Aug 17th, 2019, 05:24 AM
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We were in LP quite a few years ago now, but loved it! I have a cousin who travels extensively and she was just there for several weeks this past winter and she loved it. Yes, it's busy, but as Crellston said, it's busy for a reason. I also agree with those who say cut back on SR. Like you we are also very slow travelers these days so agree that where others might say 1 day, we tend to enjoy more. We had a wonderful guide, Jermsak, in Chaing Rai. He also did tours around CM. He had very definite views on the Hill Tribes and tours and what one could see. If you think you might enjoy a private guide for a day or couple of days, I highly recommend him.
yestravel is offline  
Aug 17th, 2019, 06:51 AM
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My first visit to SR was for three nights. I found it too short, and went back a couple of years later for another four nights.
thursdaysd is offline  
Aug 17th, 2019, 10:17 PM
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An absolute race, with way too many days in not-so-fanbtastic Thailand and only 4 days in fabulous Vietnam, where you miss Halong Bay, the amazing Northern Mountain with its colorful minorities and markets, "Halong Bay on Land" of Ninh Binh/Taml Coc, and worldwide-famous Hoi An.

AT LEAST, from very charming Luang Prabang, go north to Nongkiew and pass the Viet border direction Dien Bien Phu, then bus DBP-Sapa, 2-3 days in Sapa and the day express bus SapaExpress direct Sapa-Hanoi (NOT the grueling night train) ; when you see the stunning pass before arriving in Sapa, Sapa itself and the minority villages around (Cat Cat, Ta Van and Ta Phin), you will understand the difference with so-so Chiang Mai !

Last edited by Larsay; Aug 17th, 2019 at 10:21 PM.
Larsay is online now  
Aug 18th, 2019, 08:25 AM
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I'm someone who spent a week in Siem Reap and loved every minute! We are all different. The very first "rule" of trip planning is "Know Thyself." So what is essential for one person is not necessary for another. If you have traveled at all in this part of the world, I expect you can figure out whether 7 days in Siem Reap is too much for you. Do you have a copy of Dawn Rooney's book, "Angkor: A Guide to Cambodia's Wondrous Temples?" That will give you excellent preparation for your visit to the temples and can help you. decide how much time is right for you.

Larsay obviously loves Halong Bay. Some people love it, others find it too much time spent (driving there and back) for too little return. And there have been complaints about pollution - especially plastic trash in the water. Likewise, opinions on Sapa are divided. Some people love it, others find the harassment by the hill tribes sellers to be intolerable. We are all different.

I loved our time in Luang Prabang, back in 2002. While I know it has chenged a lot, that doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile now. I think it might be hard for me to return and see how much busier and more developed it it, but for you the comparison would be to other places in SE Asia as they are now, not as they were so many years ago.

Enjoy your time in my favorite part of the world!
Kathie is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2019, 01:14 PM
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Thanks for all of your suggestions!
Our Thailand itinerary has not changed much. Bangkok 4 days (Bangkok 4+2 split is crazy but it allows us to be in Chiang Mai for the Yi Peng and Loy Krathong festivals). Fly to Chiang Mai. 1 day Chiang Mai. 4 days Chiang Rai and surrounding area and back to Chiang Mai 3 days of temples, museums, and Yi Peng and Loy Krathong festivals. Maybe a day out of town. Then night train to Ayutthaya. 2 nights Ayutthaya, and train back to Bangkok for antother 2 days. One plus for splitting our Bangkok time is that we will be over jet lag when we return. Then fly to Phuket for 5 days. Two days at the beginning on our own to explore before family wedding activities start.

Then a flight to Kuala Lumpur for a week+ with family. The wedding date and KL dates are fixed. I tried to add Sukhothai to our Thai segment but it seemed to cut our Bangkok time too short.

I have reworked the "after KL" portion of our trip. Feedback please!
Fly KL-Siem Reap arriving Wed December 4th. 5n/4 + a half days in Siem Reap.
Fly Siem Reap-Luang Prabang. 3n/2+ a half days Luang Prabang
Fly Luang Prabang to Hanoi. 8n/7d Hanoi and northern Vietnam. I haven't filled in the details yet.
Fly Hanoi-Phnom Penh. 2n/2d Phnom Penh. Late flight on last day back to USA.

Feedback please!
wendy236 is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2019, 09:13 PM
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Sukhothai is superb and Bangkok is not ! So, "suggestion plase" is one less day in concrete Bangkok Metropolis and 1 day Sukhotai and around (for ex the beautiful ruins of Si Satchanalai north of Sukhotai, which I perfered to the latter)

Last edited by Larsay; Aug 22nd, 2019 at 09:18 PM.
Larsay is online now  
Aug 22nd, 2019, 11:05 PM
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"Sukhothai is superb and Bangkok is not" Like comparing apples and oranges / chalk and cheese! They are very different places. Bangkok is a huge thriving city with some amazing and varied sights from bustling markets to, incredible temples and some fantastic food. Something for everyone. Sukhothai is beautiful similar in some respects to Ayutthaya but harder to get to and I don’t see how you could fit it in and do what to plan to do re Loy Kratong Etc in Chiang Mai.

As an alternative to the train back from Ayutthaya to Bangkok, you could try and find a boat trip which takes you back via Bang Pa In

It is just tinkering at the edges, but I would drop a day in Siem Reap in favour of an extra day in Phnom Penh. Two days is enough to see the main sights but I would probably want some time just to chill out before the flight home. Some terrific restaurants and bars. Worth seeking out the Foreign Correspendents Club down by the quayside for sundowners.

A week in Hanoi / the north is a good amount of time to explore the delights of the city and elsewhere in the north, but where to choose??
crellston is offline  

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