Vietnam and Angkor Wat?

Old Mar 3rd, 2020, 11:25 AM
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Vietnam and Angkor Wat?

We are in the very early stages of planning a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam in early 2022. We are a couple in our early 50s, fairly well traveled but with little experience in Asia (only Thailand a few years ago, which we loved).

We have about 24 days for this trip (including travel), and totally flexible when it comes to “when” to go. It will depend on when is the best weather for our chosen destination. Angkor Wat is non-negotiable, and we’re planning at least 4 days there, maybe 5.

We like temples, architecture, good food, scenery and wildlife, photography, local markets. We don’t stay at the most luxurious hotels, but we do not rough it. We pre-arrange tours and drivers, even if that might be more expensive than what we can book directly there.

We love scenery and wildlife, and would like to allocate a decent amount of time to some national parks to enjoy it (we usually hire private local guides for birding). We are not interested in beaches, shopping, nightlife.

My thought is to add Vietnam, with 7-8 days in central VN (Hue, Hoi An, Ninh Binh, Van Long Nature reserve, Cuc Phuong NP) and 7-8 dais in Hanoi area (Hanoi, Trang An, Tam Coc). If we do Angkor Wat + VN, I think the best time for the above itinerary might be Feb-March. SaPa sounds wonderful, but too cold at that time of the year, and I don’t see any time of the year that can work for all these destinations. I really need help here.

Before I start really looking into more details, is the above rough plan ok? I have no idea yet about logistics, transportation (land in Siem Reap and leave from Hanoi?), time allocation, but for a first step: where and when to go? Is this plan ok? Any thoughts, idea, suggestions are welcome. Thanks.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2020, 06:48 PM
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Van Long Nature Reserve, Cuc Phuong National Park, Tam Coc and Trang An are in Ninh Binh province.
If you start in April, it will be warmer in North and you can do Sapa.
Travel from Northern to Central VN and then fly Danang (Hoian) to Cambodia.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2020, 10:13 PM
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My wife and I have travelled throughout Vietnam and Cambodia during every month if the year and there is always some sort of trade off to be done, whether that be because of weather or avoiding crowds. Having said that, I would agree with you that, everything considered, Feb -March, even April is about as good as it gets.

These days no one can predict the coming of the monsoons etc. so I don’t think it is going to make that much difference as to which way you go. We have done similar trips in both directions and my preference ( for no logical reason that I can think of!) is to go north to south.

On one trip that worked well we flew into Hanoi. Spent some time in the city before hiring a guide and driver to take us from Mai Chau to NInh Binh vía the Black River Valley, Cu Phuong NP staying mostly in Homestays in small villages along the way. We did some feasibly serious hiking on that trip but the operator was adaptable and you could do a lot less. Loads of bird life along the way. Highly recommended. Ninh Binh is Kingfisher central!

From there you could head south to Hue maybe stopping off at the incredible Phong Nha Khe Be Caves. We did it by overnight train as it took less time but flying is also cheap.

I would not discount Sapa for the weather. It will be cold but also, sunny with blue skies and the scenery is stunning. I would however skip it simply because of the crowds.

In the south, Saigon is a fascinating city, worth a few days of anyone’s time. It is also the starting point for a trip into the Mekong Delta. Travelling through the delta by bus/boat/car say Ben Tre to Can Tho to Chau Doc makes a great trip covering rural delta life, great food, and some stunning scenery along the way. My personal favourite is Chau Doc for its Cham villages, floating markets and fish farms, Sam Mountain and, as you have an interest in birds, Tra Su submerged forest is pretty special.

it is easy to get a boat fro Chau Doc to Phnom Penh ( worth a couple of days) before flying to Siem Reap for Angkor.

Depending upon where you are coming from and which airline, it may be easier to get a flight back to Hanoi for your homebound flight. Although if flying Emirates they do fly into both Hanoi and PP so an open jaw would work well.

Happy planning!



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Old Mar 4th, 2020, 05:07 AM
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DinHo,
Yes, I noticed my geography knowledge about the region is lacking, sorry. But overall, even if I mentioned then in the wrong area, you got the idea. Thanks!

It seems that both you and crellston suggest starting in the North, and working our way south. Interesting, I thought weather would dictate the other way around. The more I read I think about skipping the Hoi An/Hue area and replacing it with the Mekong delta area. More nature there, so more interesting to us. Yes, birds!!! Do you know/can recommend a birding guide?

I think we have a good general plan now, thank you and I will come back with more detail questions later.

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Old Mar 5th, 2020, 11:57 PM
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Ninh Binh/Van Long/Cuc Phuong -the latter not very exciting - are in the North, not in the Center, and Trang An/TamCoc in the Province of Ninh Binh (Tam Coc is 8 km south of NB). February is not a good month to visit the North, it can be cold and foggy, though, this year, thanks to global warming, we have had temperatures of 22-25° C from end of February and, today, it is 22° C in Hanoi.

I strongly recommend a 2-day cruise in Halong bay, it is truly unique in the world.

I would start with the Center (Hoi An and Hue), then direct night train Hue (or Danang)-Ninh Binh) 3 full days in very charming Tam Coc (with the boat ride IN TAM COC or Van Long, (but you will need a taxi to go to the latter), NOT Trang An, a sad concrete affair developed for Asians groups) ; then day train 3 hours Ninh Binh-Hanoi, 2 days Hanoi, 2 days Halong, and then Sapa, where by that time, it should be much warmer (the week forecast in Sapa is 20 to 25° C); Direct light Hanoi-Siem Reap.
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Old Mar 6th, 2020, 08:53 PM
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Sorry, my mistake. Start with Siem Reap and then direct flight SR-Danang and up reverse of my first suggestion (Hoi An-Hue-Tam Coc-Hanoi-Halong and the mountains)
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Old Mar 7th, 2020, 07:29 AM
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Hi Larsay,
Please expand on "Cuc Phuong -the latter not very exciting". Why is that? We are interested in a day of birding there.
Separately, we are considering moving the trip a little bit earlier (January? early Feb when it's a little bit cooler in Cambodia and the south of VN) but I don't know if 4-5 days in Ninh Binh in January would be ok. Our plans there would involve a boat ride in Tam Coc but if the weather is in the 50s I can't see us enjoying a boat ride in the cold. Then...what about birding there in January? Thung Nam Bird Park, Van Long Nature Reserve, Cuc Phuong NP...how are they in January? Do birds in the area migrate away during winter? Any recommendation for a birding guide?

If we do the boat ride in Ninh Binh area and we also visited Cheow Lan Lake in Thailand, do you still suggest the Halong Bay cruise? Is Jan-Feb a good time for it?

I haven't researched it yet, but the Mekong delta looks interesting and if we decide to spend a few days there (Tra Su submerged forest looks interesting, plus maybe birding in Cat Tien NP, although it seems too far away and not a day trip), then we will probably only have a couple days left for either Hue or Hoi An or Halong Bay. Because of this, I think we will skip Halong Bay.

If you had to pick between Hue and Hoi An, which one would you pick? Thanks.
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