Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Asia (
-   -   VHS - 8 Week Trip (Asia/India) (

vhs100 Dec 29th, 2008 02:27 PM

VHS - 8 Week Trip (Asia/India)
Hi again Guys;

Firstly - I hope everyone has had a great Xmas?

Secondly - I'm in the process of planning my next trip (plan to depart 27 Feb) and as usual I am leaving things rather late. I don't have a great deal of spare time so I am going to be brave and leave a lot to arranging things en-route but I need to get major flights booked.

Outline plan - 4 weeks to include parts Laos & Vietnam (seems to be the place to go) and 4 weeks to include Kolkata/Darjeeling area and somewhere in southern India OR Sri Lanka.

The commitment of everyone on this site has been instrumental in the success of my last few holidays and as always, any suggestions and recommendations will be gratefully received for example;

Arrival point in Asia - Hong Kong or Bangkok? Not sure which is the easiest for onward travel. Love BKK but have not been to HK.

Does it make more sense to do Laos then Vietnam, the other way round or does it not matter? I will be looking for the most efficient route to make best use of time but want to include as much overland travel as practical.

For India I particularly want to go to Darjeeling and probably Sikkim. Is Kolkota airport the best route to access these areas?

Many thanks - Vicky.

JaneB Dec 29th, 2008 05:52 PM

We flew from Kolkata to Bagdogra and rented a taxi to drive us on to Darjeeling for $50 US several years ago. The road was horrible and I am sure it is no better now. We did not go to Sikkim.

dogster Dec 29th, 2008 08:06 PM

Hi Vicky: May I just say that I reckon you'd get more out of this board if you looked at a map and did some basic research first.

I'll try not to be too blunt but that you don't know that Bagdogra airport or Siligiri railway stn is the way into Darjeeling shows me you havn't even turned to page one of the Darjeeling book, ever clicked on Google or made any attempt at all. Bless you. Let me help you get started.
First, type 'darjeeling' into the little box above...

Then type the words 'darjeeling tourism' in Google search - you'll find some guided tours. Nah, I'm not suggesting you take ANY of them, but that'll give you the basics - logistics, options, transport.

Decide on how long you want to stay in the area, a budget and some indication of what you're looking for - then we can help.

Sth. India is a long way from the Darjeeling. Fly to Chennai from Kolkata. is a good start.

vhs100 Dec 31st, 2008 01:55 AM

Hi Dogster - thanks for the step by step guide. Sorry but I forgot to mention that we are visiting a friend in Kolkata hence our arrival there first and start point for travelling onwards and upwards.

Although nowhere near an expert I am fairly familiar with this site having used everyone's very helpful advice in the past to visit several places in India including Mumbai, Delhi, Varanasi, Agra, Jaipur, train, plane and automobile.

I'm not sure what help I am asking for really - best method for getting to the Darjeeling area from Kolkata I guess and views on 'must sees'. I do of course have access to a huge amount of information already through this site, various books I have on India and of course google, not to mention the relevant train and air services, timetables, prices etc, so no doubt I can work it out for myself.

Thanks again - I will research further - watch this space.

JaneB - thanks for your feedback.

dogster Dec 31st, 2008 02:33 AM

It's easy Jane. Just a flight from Kolkata to Bagdogra

Then it's a three hour drive up to Darjeeling.

This place is amazing but pricey.
if you stay with them, they'll do the drive included.

Windermere Hotel In Darjeeling is really strange and good. Dunno the site.
Sikkim is great too. Just next door.

vhs100 Dec 31st, 2008 08:33 AM

Thanks Dogster - this is the kind of info that is helpful. I'm sure Jane will be interested too!


thursdaysd Dec 31st, 2008 10:59 AM

Alternative route to Darjeeling is a night train from Kolkata to New Jalpaiguri, followed by the "toy" train up to Darjeeling. A lot slower than flying, but so much more interesting! See, and

The web site for the Windamere (which I loved) is For my trip report on getting to Darjeeling from Bhutan see - Into India and Steaming to Darjeeling.

vhs100 Jan 1st, 2009 05:23 AM

Great info - thanks thursdaysd.

Your trip report site is really helpful and interesting too. My problem is that the more I read, the more places I want to go and see and I find it difficult concentrating on the just the places I have already decided on for this trip. If I go to X....I could also include Y and Z and so on. I have just about gone around the world and all from my sitting room!!

My planned departure date is 27 Feb so I must focus!!

thursdaysd Jan 1st, 2009 06:13 AM

Vicky - ah, trip creep! An insidious disease... (Similar to feature creep, which tends to attack when shopping.) So many places, so little time, right? But the more I travel, the more time I want to spend in the places in I visit, so I'm trying hard to cut back on the number per trip. You've already got plenty - just start a list for the next one.

vhs100 Jan 1st, 2009 07:53 AM


leonf Jan 1st, 2009 11:01 AM

I so know the frustration of wanting all the sweets in the shop but there just ain't time to do it all - is it just me or are all you posters wealthy retirees or playpeople who can take untold time out to travel the world in style - don't get me wrong I'd do it like a shot if mrs f & I didn't have day jobs & a pesky mortgage to pay.

vhs, I almost came on like snoop dogster & caught myself muttering "ooh, 4 weeks to cover both Vietnam AND Laos?" Yep dogster. lol it's me again after a long lie down away from this forum. Something about the horror on rolling ndtv news coverage last month in Mumbai clashing with all the oohing aahing about which luxury hotels to stay in; also the aforesaid day job keeps getting in the way of interesting stuff.

We spent a fairly frenetic 3 weeks in February travelling from north to south vietnam, with 3 days or so in each of Hanoi, Ba Be lake (really intrigued by some of your recommendations crestellon, but that's another thread sometime), Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon & a week on Phu Quoc (Bo Resort -lovely), but I guess if you focus on only 1/2 places max in each of Vietnam & Laos its ok.

Funnily enough, we're going to Darjeeling & Sikkim in the first week of March - flying from Delhi (also a fast train visit to the Golden Temple at Amritsar)-Bagdogra (Kingfisher)for 10 days or so, then flying to Mumbai (Jet & Jet Lite via Kolkatta), then o/night train to Goa on 11 March, for another 10 days before train to Mumbai flight to UK. Incidentally, I found our UK travel agent Trailfinders to be much more helpful & slightly cheaper to book Indian domestic flights than the airlines websites.

I think thursdaysd is right, it should be fine to take the o/night train from Kolkatta-NJP. We also plan to take the toy train, but only the steam version from Kurseong (via Cochrane Place hotel -thanks dogster)at 3pm, about 3/4 hours to Darjeeling (bandh/strike action allowing; there's some political unrest in those hills).

I have to hand it to the dog, the dude knows his stuff. We're also staying a few days at Yangsum Farm he mentions in Sikkim, the folks, & scenery & walking there sound really nice.

We're staying at Vivenda dos Palhacos in South Goa 2 nights, another 2 nights at Wildernest "ecoresort", then 5 nights at Yab Yum resort (domes apparently) in Aswem, north Goa. Check them on google out of interest, they all 3 look intriguing, to me anyway; although clearly not the Taj/Oberoi style of many fodorites.

Dogster you see I took your advice we've aimed at 2 (mainly) areas, strangely the 2 smallest states in India, & flying rather than endless trains, Tigers & temples another time. Thanks guy.

Have a great trip vhs, it does sound superb.

vhs100 Jan 1st, 2009 12:58 PM

leonf - apart from booking the major flights the idea is that whilst we have a general route in mind, we will decide each leg of the trip as we go along. It remains to be seen therefore if we actually make all of the places I have on my list!

I know that my trip is ambitious and this is the first time I have approached a trip in this way - I just need a framework to work from and the proof of the pudding as they say is in the eating.

Your trip looks just as interesting - you will be in Darjeeling/Sikkim ahead of us. We expect to be there from early April so I hope that you will be posting a trip report & of course any recommendations - must sees, places to eat etc.

Incidentally, I have read that you need a visa for Sikkim although I believe you don't need to arrange in advance.

dogster Jan 1st, 2009 08:44 PM

vhs: I admire your make it up as you go plan. I guess you're aware that you'll have to spend many, many hours on the road sorting out your travel arrangements...

Everything won't just snap to attention when you need it to - offices will be closed, people won't answer their phones, just changing an airline ticket can take you half a day, buying a train ticket may take you five hours, tours will be cancelled, people won't give a rat's arse whether you live or die as long as they get your money, they will lie.

Send an E-mail off - when in India, don't assume for a moment it will be answered. Your first and most essential tool will be your laptop and your mobile phone. Yeah, you could live in internet cafes sorting out your advance bookings - better that than boring old sight-seeing, eh? lol. The mobile is CRUCIAL. So is internet access on the road. Do it - but, I promise you, it's time-consuming to the extreme. Business is done different ways in different places. India is unique... Don't try to nickle and dime your way thru. This way of operating is cool but ultimately, may prove MORE expensive if you find yourself in a spot. Sometimes you have to buy your way out.

Do it, by all means... prove me wrong. Show me the way to do it minus stress and time-waste and I'll be travelling like you in a heart-beat. It can be done easy - and sometimes things go smooth as silk. But when it screws up - Lordy! Things can go pear-shaped very quickly.

But that's adventure. That's travel. That's life. I'll be looking forward to the trip report.

Heya leon: I'll reply to you on the other thread.

vhs100 Jan 2nd, 2009 07:50 AM

Hey Dogster - I heed your wise warnings and promise I will put more meat on the bones before I leave.

I know you are right in that I don't want to be sat in internet cafes the whole time but on the other hand I am seriously tempted by the thrill of the unknown and working with the situations as they unfold. Not a sensible approach I know and therefore I am already albeit somewhat reluctantly looking at 'fixing' some legs of the journey & accommodation in advance.

dogster Jan 2nd, 2009 08:05 AM

Yeah, that's the go. Give yourself some holidays from the daily grind. Prebook a chunk for a week, then off into the unknown, then a safe bit.

I've always found that if you just book the first transfer to your first hotel, and a couple of nights somewhere central in advance then you've found your feet and can operate. Make it up from there.

The problem is that you get leapt on, seconds after you exit the airport. Any indecision is fatal. You need a plan or you'll get driven to the Cockroach Hilton. Heh. Or worse - the Love Hotel.

And once that's happened a few times, you don't want it to ever happen again.

vhs100 Jan 2nd, 2009 09:41 AM

I will certainly be avoiding the Cockroach & Love Hotels!! but I know what you mean about being leapt on at the airports.

I have found a couple of flights, accommodation and a particular train journey I want to do which I am now in the process of trying to book.

Thanks - Vicky.

vhs100 Jan 2nd, 2009 10:06 AM

BTW - your itinerary sounds fascinating.

leonf Jan 3rd, 2009 11:08 AM

My heart always says just take things as they come - there's so much variety in Asia, India especially, & go with the flow etc., but... with a limited time frame I don't want any of those bad times & jostling with touts, so we always end up planning the whole thing in advance; it seems to work OK, but when we do retire & spend glorious months travelling...aaah, one day at a time sweet lord!

Vicky I believe one does have to get the Sikkim permit (with passport photo) in advance; apparently there's a Sikkim travel office in Delhi, possibly also in Darjeeling too?

We're staying at least 2 nights in DJ at the Dekeling hotel (good reviews in LP & TA - am I allowed to mention them Kathie?), & they apparently have a good restaurant they also own 4 suites just out of town called the Hawk's Nest Resort. Windermere sounds very colonial & faded grandeur, but we've opted for the friendly Tibetan folks at Dekeling - will certainly take afternoon tea at Windermere in proper style though.

Dogster has endorsed the Yangsum farm option in Richenpong, Sikkim, I reckon we may stay longer there & give Kalimpong a miss (had booked 2 nights at Himalayan Hotel - know irt anyone?)

Just a thought - keep an eye on the politics - I note that an activist/official of the Gorkha independence movement was lynched yesterday in Kurseong - check the Darjeeling Times site.

See you later.

dogster Jan 3rd, 2009 08:01 PM

Check this out Leon: I think this is exactly what you're looking for. [You can car between places if you don't want to walk.]

There is another company that does the same stuff. Google. Name escapes me. BTW one phone call to Yansum Farm would sort this out easy. Young Thendup is a splendid guy. Follow your nose - it's leading you in the right direction. Just blow out Kalimpong hotel now.

Kalimpong is just a sh*t hole with views. You'll see. Don't stay in town there.

Homestay/Farmstay ahhh - fantastic! Hotels? Crap.

vhs: Leon's right about the Sikkim visa. You can do it in Darjeeling but, when you apply for your Indian visa at home, you can get it then, too.

vhs100 Jan 4th, 2009 03:33 PM

Thanks dogster/leon - Just filled in the online application which includes an additional form for the permit application for Sikkim.

I like the look of Yangsum Farm - Dekeling Hotel looks OK too - like leon, the Windamere is a bit pricey for us. I do like a couple of luxury 'treats' en-route but think I will save these for elsewhere. Perhaps Kolkata.

Whilst looking at flights form BKK to Kolkata have realised I could stop off at Port Blair (Andaman Islands) - I know here I go again... but it looks so tempting and when will I pass this way again?

leonf Jan 8th, 2009 09:43 AM

Vicky,if you can, I certainly would. Haven't been there but from the photos & comments I've seen it looks like a "Wow" experience (To quote another thread recently). What airline would that be, BKK - Kolkatta stopping over? Are you also heading south after sikkim?

Dogster thanks for the i-esacape link - I'd seen it when booking Yangsum; don't they have some gosh darned nice places! We'll take your tip & talk to the guy - he's already assured me he'll sort out everything, including my mini-obsession the weather.

dogster Jan 8th, 2009 10:52 AM

Yup leon, trust him. He's a totally cool guy. Gentle and honest. Weather he can't solve. Tell him the guy who got lost sent you.

By the way, there's a cheese factory an hour down the road. To this day I regret not buying that Sikkimese cheese.

This is your task, leon. You are my representative - to taste and enjoy said cheese while chanting 'Dogster is the best! Ya-a-ay!'

vhs100 Jan 8th, 2009 01:00 PM

leonf - Jet Airways fly Bangkok - Port Blair - Kolkata. I mut say it is very tempting.......

Yes we are going south after Sikkim - still not sure where yet. Some of my family will be on a 2 week holiday in Goa and I would like to 'surprise' them for a few days but we have been to Goa 3 times already.

Ideally I would like to go South of Goa perhaps Kerela or South East to Chennai region or Sri Lanka.....still planning and of course I am talking massive distances. Will mainly depend on cost of flights - we do not have a bottomless pit of money as my husband keeps reminding me!


vhs100 Jan 8th, 2009 01:02 PM

Dogster - no pun intended - should read "I must say" not MUT...

leonf Jan 9th, 2009 10:21 AM

Would that be yak cheese - no matter, I'm on to it.

Vicky, all we saw of Kerala was 5 ddays chilling in Varkala - OK, impressive red cliff above decent beach,several reasonably priced accommodation options (had a very pleasant bungalow large room at Preece Resort) but a bit too many trinkets, dreadlocks & trance music cafes, one of which gave us both amoebic dysentry from 'fresh' fish. It's also pretty hot'n humid in April.

I was intrigued by both the backwater cruises, & the Periyar Reserve, but time ran out. Old town Cochin was nice for laid back sight seeing food for 1/2 days max.

What about the first beach in Karnakata (I'm going on memory of the guide book as I'm at work) - looks intriguing, but accommodation limited?

leonf Jan 11th, 2009 06:56 AM

Sorry, that should be of course Karnataka.The beach is Gokarna. Our paper today had some details of canoeing/homestays in Kerala,

vhs100 Jan 11th, 2009 01:30 PM

Thanks leonf - I checked out your link and I am particularly pleased to see the Peak District featured - this being the area where I live and might I add a very beautiful part of the country!!

My plug for Derbyshire aside, I think we will go to Karnataka - a different option to Kerala and perhaps less touristy??

Less than 7 weeks to go - final tweaks to the 'suck it and see plan' coming together - hope to post soon........

leonf - when do you leave?

leonf Jan 16th, 2009 09:52 AM

Hi again - yep, lovely part of the world, although I'm guessing those icy roads a week ago had you dreaming of Indian beaches. We leave for Delhi on Thursday 26 February, & now the visas have arrived it's getting real. There's still apparently an indefinite strike "in the hills" around Darjeeling, but if we can just get through to Sikkim, all will be well I'm sure - I really hope we can ride that steam narrow guage train though, from Kurseong.

By the way, if you need to book internal VN flights, we found Handspan Travel very efficient, based in Hanoi. They do all the usual organised tours if you want them, but the flights were a real godsend as you can't book online individually.

As I've said before, I'd recommend the Bo Resort on Phu Quoc for 3-5 days on the beach with woderful VN food & a very hospitable Viet/French couple managing it.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:50 PM.