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Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand Itinerary

Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand Itinerary

Old Sep 17th, 2012, 08:02 PM
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Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand Itinerary

Hoping to do a three week trip to above countries in November/December. I think I've whittled down my stops to a manageable number, but would like some opinions. On my list: Hanoi, HaLong Bay, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh, Siem Reap, Bangkok and Phuket or Phi Phi. (Already took out Sapa, Cat Tien National Park, Hue, Mekong Delta, Chiang Mai.) We like to pack a lot in on our trips! We are not opposed to flying between cities to save time. Does this sound do-able? Any advice on how much time to spend in these places? Any advice on the air passes that are offered? I haven't yet found one that covers all my destinations. And dare I dream that I can add another stop to my list?
Thanks!
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 02:20 AM
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Hi Sek90 - I was just in Vietnam in May this year. We focused on the North for 10 nights and ended in Bangkok for 2 nights. Hanoi is doable in 4 nights. We did this and managed to see the sights (a tour with Hanoi Kids), a street food tour (which was excellent) and an overnight tour to Halong Bay. I would recommend flying as even just in the north, the distances are far and this will leave you more time at your destinations and less time feeling rushed. We did Sapa as well and we were bushed!!

In Phuket/Phi Phi there really is quite a bit to see if you enjoy snorkelling, seeing beautiful scenery and generally chilling in the sun. You could easily do a week. I adore Bangkok and have been there 3 times. 3/4 nights would give you a good sample of sightseeing, shopping and a tour or 2.

I am not sure about Ho Chih Minh, Hoi An or Cambodia but with what you have taken out, I think it is doable in 3 weeks as long as you fly between destinations. Just remember you generally lose at least 1/2 day when travelling this way but that is all a part of the fun I think. AirAsia are a very affordable option to do this in Thailand and to Vietnam.

Enjoy your holiday!
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 05:51 AM
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Start my counting how many days you have on the ground in Asia. Depending on where you are flying from you will lose either one or two days getting there. You have 7 destinations listed, if they were divided equally, that would be three nights at each destination if you have 21 nights on the ground in Asia. Three nights is just two full days. One of those destinations is Halong Bay, where you likely want to spend just one night. Still, I think you need to cut one more destination.

You will want a minimum of three full days (4 nights) in Siem Reap just to see the major temples. Do you have a copy of Dawn Rooney's book, Angkor: A Guide to Cambodia's Wondrous Temples? The book will help you prepare for Angkor and will help you decide if three days is enough for you.

I's say you need three full days (4 nights) for PhiPhi, as you have to consider the ferry as well as the flight. While you could probably be ok with a two days (3 night) visit to HCMC and Hoi An, Bangkok has so much to see and do, three full days is just an introduction.

There is no airpass that covers all of these destination. You will need to buy individual flights.

One of the questions you have to answer is how much of your vacation do you want to spend in transit. If you have three nights each place, you will be spending one-third of your days in transit. Some of those may be short flights - just an hour to the airport, an hour there, an hour to your next hotel, others like to Halong Bay will involve three plus hours of very boring driving each way, or a flight and a ferry to/from PhiPhi.
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 06:00 AM
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look at the bangkok air pass to see if that would work for you to siem reap and thailand destinations... air asia and vietnam air for vn trips..

here is what i would do:
skip halong bay
4 nites hanoi
3 nites hoi an (a place to relax too)
3 nites HCMC
5 nites at least BKK
5 nites beach
skip cambodia
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 08:48 AM
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I think you would be hard pressed to fit all that in 3 weeks. I would not skip Halong Bay (one of our favorite desetinations!), but would probably cut out Cambodia unless you are temple afficionados and intent on seeing Angkor Wat. Then I would probably consider eliminating some beach time. We spent two weeks in Vietnam last Dec. and did HCMC/Mekong, Hoi An, Hanoi/Halong Bay.

You have done a good job already eliminating what I'm sure were must sees on your list, but I still think you probably have one too many destinations.

We flew Air Asia to destinations in Thailand and between Thailand and Cambodia. Inexpensive and decent airline. We flew Vietnam Air internally in Vietnam - not as cheap but great airline.

Here are some links to my trip reports along with pictures:

Vietnam - http://www.fromhometoroam.com/catego...hristmas-2011/

Thailand/Cambodia - http://www.fromhometoroam.com/catego...land-cambodia/
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 09:06 AM
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its clear you need to be planning an additional SEA trip

if you skip halong bay, many of the same type of rock formations may be seen off of krabi as part of your beach time
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 11:18 AM
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I would not skip Cambodia - siem reap is spectacular. What I would cut would be Saigon and the mekong. If you take a trip out to tonle sap lake, you will see floating villages and very similar scenery as in the delta area.
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Old Sep 18th, 2012, 08:41 PM
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Thanks everyone for your replies. When looking over my itinerary, I realized I have a lot of big cities. I like big cities and even live in one, but I also like to experience smaller cities or towns. I think there is more atmosphere and people are friendlier/easier to talk to. I really don't think that I will want to spend more than 3 (full) days in the large cities. This has been my m.o. in all my other travels. I'm leaning towards skipping HCMC altogether so I can spend more time in Hoi An and maybe Hue. Doesn't the ride between have nice scenery?

What I've found interesting in researching this trip is that people seem to be really divided about Hanoi and HCMC, almost like you can't like both. One person says skip Hanoi and go to HCMC and the next person says skip HCMC and go to Hanoi. For those of you who have been to both, what's your take?

I've also heard mixed reviews about Ha Long. Rhkkmk, what did you dislike about it that you would skip it? And I'm a little confused about Phuket. Are the karst formations all in one spot, or are they all over Phuket Bay? Is one place more scenic than another? And Kathie, how long is the ferry from Phuket Town to Phi Phi?

Siem Reap is a must for me (Angkor Wat actually was the impetus for this trip). Thanks for the info on the book Kathie. I will try to pick it up this weekend. I'm also just realizing how much there is to do there. Thanks dgunbug for telling me about Tonle Sap Lake--it's now on the list

jgg, I browsed your trip reports and look forward to reading them more in-depth later this week. Looks like you had great trips!

Stac2109, what is Hanoi Kids? And did you arrange the street food tour through your hotel?

Thanks again everyone. I will be doing some more research and may be back with more questions and/or and updated itinerary. Don't you just love this site? So fun to share!
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Old Sep 19th, 2012, 01:30 AM
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Hanoi Kids is a free tour with a university student so they can practise their english. It was really a special tour as you get such a great insight into the local culture. My guide had excellent english and was truly a delight. You can google them to find their website and email them. They took a little while to get back to me to confirm. The street food tour I found via a blog called Sticky Rice. Mark is an Australian expat and has lived in Hanoi for 10 years. He has excellent knowledge of Hanoi and knows all the good street vendors. The Pho we tried was amazing. I strongly recommend it if you are not afraid of trying street food. Even my daughter tried everything so it was a hit with her too.
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Old Sep 19th, 2012, 03:34 AM
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We also used the Hanoi kids and highly recommend them. As for Halong bay, rhkkmk likely said to skip it as the drive to and from there is endless and boring and it will eat up a great deal if time. I strongly suggest including hue for 1 1/2 days. The tombs are very interesting. The ride between hue and Hanoi an is scenic. If you click on my name you can read my trip report and if you send me an email I'd be happy to share my vn trip notes. Have you considered sapa? It was a highlight on our trip.
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Old Sep 19th, 2012, 05:39 AM
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If Angkor is the impetus for this trip, you'll want more than the minimum 3 days to see the major temples. We spent a week there and would have enjoyed even more time. Pause at this point and re-plan your itinerary around Angkor. You don't need to spend a week there, but make sure you have enough time. Traditionally, you do temple visiting from dawn until near mid-day, return to your hotel to rest, cool off and have lunch, then go back out about 3 until dusk. THis keeps you out of the sun at the hottest part of the day and allows your driver to have the traditional main meal of the day with his family.

Here is something else to consider in Siem Reap www.theplf.org
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Old Sep 19th, 2012, 12:57 PM
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If Siem Reap is a must then of course you should include that! We have been to both Hanoi and HCMC and have to say we preferred HCMC to Hanoi, however, if you are looking for places to cut out, I think I would eliminate HCMC. As much as we liked it, it is a bit more European and less Vietnamese than Hanoi, though I would not refer to HCMC as "just another big city" as others do.

About Halong Bay, yes, the drive is very long and boring but definitely worth it. Also, I have not been to Krabi, so can't compare the rock formations, but for us it wasn't just about seeing the rock formations (though they are spectacular), but the whole experience of spending the night on the boat, visiting the fishing village...it all made me feel like we were in another place and time.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2012, 09:32 AM
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You're right, everybody has an opinion; what some people like, others would just as soon do without. I spent 3 1/2 weeks last November in Vietnam, and 2 1/2 in December in Cambodia. The blog from my around-the-world trip, aprilaroundtheworld.blogspot.com gives some details on what I liked best -- take a look at the Oct/Nov 2011 archive if you're interested. We didn't get to Thailand on that trip, so I can only comment on Vietnam and Cambodia. A lovely 3-week trip (saving Thailand for next time) might be:

Hanoi 4 nts,
drive to Halong Bay 1 nt
drive back to Hanoi and fly toHue 2 nts
drive to Hoian 2 nights
fly to HCMC 2 nts
fly to Siem Reap 4 nts
bus to Phnom Penh 2 nts
drive to Kampot/Kep 3 nts
drive to Phnom Penh to fly home

Of course, when I say "drive to" I don't mean you should do the driving--you should hire a car & driver.

There are lots of other great places to go in Vietnam and Cambodia, but this would be a nice trip if you don't mind moving around so much. It would give you a good mix of city and countryside, including the very laid back Kampot and Kep, which we really enjoyed. Also, I think the overnight trip on Halong Bay is indeed worth the crazy drive.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2012, 11:37 AM
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In March 2012, we did the exact itinerary Aprillacs proposes for Vietnam and Siem Reap (we didn't get to Phnom Penh or Kampot/Kep (spent 4 nights in Hong Kong though). The only difference was we did a same-day round trip to Halong Bay which I do not recommend! It's an excellent 2-1/2 week itinerary.
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Old Oct 4th, 2012, 07:02 PM
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Loved your travelogs jgg and aprillilacs! I will have one too someday...after I win the lottery and make traveling my full time job

After much deliberation (and also taking into consideration what my husband wants to do), here is what I have planned:

-Arrive in Hanoi 10 pm-ish so I'm really starting the fun part of the trip the next morning.

-Hanoi 2 full days/nights
-Overnight trip to Ha Long
Return to Hanoi for one more night OR fly out same day to
-Hoi An for 2 or 3 days
-Fly to Siem Reap for 3 days/nights
-Fly to BKK for 3 days/nights
-Fly to either Phuket or Krabi and Phi Phi for 4 days
-Fly back to BKK one night and return home in a.m.

I'm still unsure about Hoi An and how much time to spend there; considered 2 days with another day in Hue, but that seemed too rushed. Then again, 3 days and 4 nights in Hoi An seems like maybe too much?

Also unsure about Phuket v. Krabi. I would like to see both Phang Nga Bay and Phi Phi, but not sure of the best way to go about this.

Any additional comments or suggestions?
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Old Oct 4th, 2012, 09:50 PM
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We did the overnight in Hanoi after returning from Halong Bay, and I kind of wished we hadn't done that and just headed on to our next destination. If you can get a flight late enough I would probably head to Hoi An.
We loved Hoi An and had plenty to do, even without any beach time due to the weather. The street food tour we did with Taste of Hoi An was one of our favorites from the whole trip, as well as the cooking class with Van of Green Bamboo. We also really enjoyed the bicycle tour with Heaven and Earth Bicycle Tours. You will also want some time to leisurely walk through the town. We found plenty to do in Hoi An!
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Old Oct 5th, 2012, 08:39 AM
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>>

I believe there is a flight around 8:30 p.m., because we almost took it. If possible, try to arrange to be driven directly from Halong Bay trip to Hanoi airport (rather than going back into the city first). If you decide to go to Hue, I KNOW there's a night flight, because we did take that one -- arrived in Hue around 10 p.m. from Hanoi.

We liked HoiAn quite a bit - charming town, great restaurants, excellent beaches - but I think 2 days is plenty there. Walking around town can be done late afternoon/evenings, even if you do some sightseeing during the day. The town itself is very small.
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Old Oct 5th, 2012, 03:07 PM
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I agree with sf about Hoi An. Also, we had our driver take us directly to the airport from Halong Bay. Our flight (VN airlines #1545) to Hue left about 8 p.m. There was nothing to do at the airport, but it was fairly painless and avoided the hassle of going into the city, spending the night in a hotel there, and leaving for the airport again. Instead we got to spend a full day in Hue before moving on the next morning to Hoi An.
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 08:46 PM
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Finally starting to book some things. Yeah, I know, we leave in 2 weeks. Don't want to rush into anything

Anyway, I booked my Ha Long tour and unfortunately could not arrange for a direct ride to the airport. Rather, they will return us to the city center, and then we have to take a cab to the airport. For those of you who have returned to the city center from Ha Long, do you remember approximately what time you got back? I need to take the 6:35 pm flight to Hoi An, but is this going to be possible? Not sure what traffic to the airport will be like or what the security/check-in is like?
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 08:54 PM
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Oh boy, make that the 6:00 flight. 6:35 is sold out.
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