Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos Itinerary

Old Aug 19th, 2009, 04:58 AM
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Crellston-I'd like to reread the Vietnam portion of your around the world trip report, but I cannot find a link to your trip report. What did you title it, or could you provide me the link. I am planning a trip to Vietnam and am sure your report would provide some much needed information. Thanks.
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 06:03 AM
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Hello sueblue,

Your itinerary looks great to me too, my family have been to only Cambodia (Phnom pen and Siem Reap) and Vietnam (Hanoi, Sapa and Halong bay with aboard the Emeraude cruise).

So here just our commend for Cambodia that we have a great personal trip.

Also you should reverse you plan head from Saigon to Phnom pen, then to Siem Reap and flight to Luang Prabang (there no any direct flight from Phnom pen to Luang Prabang).

D 1. Fly to Phnom pen. Lodging The Pavilion (very nice pool room)
PM. Visit Royal Palce, Silver pagoda and museum.

D 2. Visit Killing Field, Tuol sleng Museum and Russian market.

D 3. Fly into Siem Reap (Tara Angkor Hotel)
PM. visit Prasat Kravan, Srah Srang, Banteay Kdei, Eastern Mebon & sunset at Pre Rup.

D 4. AM visit Bayon Temples (enjoy 20min elephant ride from the gate to Bayon), Phimeanakas, Baphuon, elephants terrace and leper king.
PM. Angkor Wat until sunset.

D 5. AM visit Banteay Srei and Jungle Temple TA PROHM.
PM. visit Preah Khan, Neak Paon and Ta Som.

D 6. Fly to Luang Prabang.

Happy holiday

Daniel77 is offline  
Old Aug 19th, 2009, 08:02 AM
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Thanks everyone!

Crellston, is it 3 to 4 hours to Mai Chu or 3/4 of an hour? I had gotten a quote from a Vietnam based tour operator for $320 for the excursion, single occupancy, at a homestay with a private car and driver for one person. I thought this sounded very high as I know travel is pretty inexpensive in Vietnam. Does this make sense? Also, when you do a homestay, are the accomodations pretty clean? Can you shower there and is it comfortable? If you are on a tour, do you sleep with other travelers there? Can you also stay at a hotel in the area if you want?

If we add another day in Hanoi, but still want to spend the 4th day in Laos, could we see the countryside and get more of a flavor for the local people with a full, full day to the outskirts?

My friend is pretty intent on spending 4 days in Central Vietnam so we will still need to tweak the itinerary a bit. (I wish we had more time, but one has to get back to work and we are taking 3 weeks off.) If we have to pull another day off, where would you pull from? I was thinking of the Mekong Delta as Thursdaysd suggested.

Thursdaysd, I hope it will be 4 nights in Siem Reap but not sure how it will all pan out once the travel time is included.

I am still torn on the Halong Bay thing where my friend will be vs. Mai Chu . As I've posted, I was in Guilin, China and did the 4 hour cruise there and don't want to be redundant but I also don't want to miss anything. My friend will also be sleeping on the boat which I DEFINITELY don't want to do.

Lastly, all, what do you think is a ballpark fair cost for a 3 week trip, assuming private car and driver, flying place to place, and staying in Superior First Class hotels? My friend and I will be staying in separate rooms so I imagine a single supplement comes into play.

Thanks again everyone!
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 08:50 AM
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sueblue, sorry it is 3 to 4 hours from Mai Chau to Hanoi. We left afetr breakfast and were back in time form lunch. Your tour does sound expensive but that is the price you pay for booking from outside Vietnam. You could get the same tour a lot cheaper from an operator in Hanoi but that will take time, relistically the best part of half a day. A group tour may well be cheaper and in essence the only difference in a trip of this type and duration would be the trip there and back. You could do you own thing on arrival.

The accomodations we stayed at were very clean. We were in a wooden hut on stilts right by the paddy fields sleeping on a mattress on the floor. There were showers and toilets available in a block close by and meals were served outside in the courtyard around the fire. All very friendly and the food was excellent.

The peple are also very friendly and invited us to a party being held by the local communist party for some political science students from Hanoi Uni. Lots of local dancing and a fair amount of rice wine was consumed by all. One of those times that sticks in your memory for along time. We were there about three years ago so it was just homestays and nothing else, but now there are a few hotels (one quite upmarket I believe). I really would be relaxed about the homestay experience, I have done it many times and it is a great way to meet the locals. I am not sure about the sharing rooms thing but feel sure that there are dorms for sharing but most people were in there own rooms.

If you want to see the countryside then I feel that Mai Chau is the place to go. I will try and post a few photos to our blog when I get a moment and post a link on this thread soon.
crellston is offline  
Old Aug 19th, 2009, 08:56 AM
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shelleyk - here is the link

This was only a short trip, as we had to cut itshort and fly back to BKK as I failed to notice that the Vietnamese Embassy in Vientienne put the wrong date on our visa! If you are planning a trip, I have been to a lot of other places in the country that are not in the blog and would be happy to help if possible.
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 01:52 PM
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Hi SunBlue:
I live in VietNam and spend a great deal of the time 'on the road' and, like others, have to say you are biting off too much! Way, way too much!

Of the three countries you have in your itinerary, VietNam is the most advanced, followed by Cambodia and then Laos.

Road AND rail speed should be calculated at 45 kilomtres per hour average in VietNam. The same speed applies to roads between VietNam, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Laos is a whole slower story.

The difference between the infratsructure of China and VietNam is night and day. (Guilin is similar to Ha Long Bay). Please don't use your experience there as a basis for anything further south!

Entering and leaving through SaiGon is a mistake. You should have used Bangkok as, confirming what another person said, you will need a multi-entry visa.

I hope you haven't booked any internal flights" we have a price war developing here and new carriers about to join the fray.

Your proposed routing should be HCMC > Da Nang (for Hoi An) then BUS )no flights) to Hue and on to Ha Noi.

HCMC can be knocked off in 3 days; Hoi An in a day and a half; ditto with Hue and three days in Ha Noi. NOTE: Museums and the like are open for fewer hours each day than government offices. Assume opening at around 08.00H and they close for 90 minutes at lunch then call it quits around 16.30H. They are NOT open every day of the week. This, too, will affect your timing. I suggest you also scrub the adapted-for-fat tourists Cu-Chi tunnels. Very unrealistic. Now.

City tours of HCMC were cancelled last year as not many found them worthwhile.

The 'Mekong Delta area outside of Ho Chi Min(H)' is actually a LONG way out of HCMC and, unless you have time for a 2-day/1-night tour, should be ruled out. It will take you about 5 hours on the road to reach Can Tho which is considered to be the nearest part of the Mekong to HCMC. Do NOT use **DELTA TOURS** - really, really bad.

Ha Long Bay cruises are 2-days/1-night with road transportation included. I recommend > > for 15 cabin boats or the < > for a larger 50 cabin boat. Costs around USD$100 or so.

Mai Chau and/or Sa Pa. Both ethnic minorities but transportation is wildly different. Sa Pa is by overnight rail (avoid the Queen Hotel as baggage content thefts have consistently been reported) whereas Mai Chau involves road transportation and sleeping in 'guest long houses'.

Remember the speed calculation above.

Car/driver-guide. You CLEARLY understand WHO is paying for the guides FOOD and ACCOMMODATION. Make sure the arrangement is clearly stated in writing. Ha Noi travel agents are slippery.

You seem determined to see Phnom Penh. Grubby place. Your time would be better invested in flying straight to Siem Reap - it's the only way PP looks good.
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 03:57 PM
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Thank you so much Buonmethuot! So much to digest! I wanted to see Phnom Pen to learn more about the killing fields and to get more of a sense of Cambodia. Does it not provide that? (It's amazing how different everyone feels about everything!) Is there another place in Cambodia you would recommend instead? Also regarding Cu Chi, why do you suggest not doing this? I thought it would be fascinating. I also read that the tunnels outside of Hue might be even more interesting as they are more elaborate and less touristy. Do you agree?

It seems like it is so inexpensive to travel in Indochina, but I think for simplicity's sake, we will use a well regarded local operator. Can you suggest anyone who does a great job but passes along price breaks . . . ie, reduced fares due to airline price wars, etc?

Thanks again for your very thorough response!
sueblue is offline  
Old Aug 19th, 2009, 11:21 PM
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Link to photos of Mai chau, sapa..
crellston is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 05:44 AM
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Sue, note that BounMeThuot is a shill for an agency in VN. It's not clear which one, but his approach so far is to malign agencies that many people here have had excellent experiences with. All of the reputable agencies will pass on savings to you for air and hotels. As a couple of agencies for quotes and compare. If you look he replied to 10 threads yesterday.

Take what BMT says with a very large dose of salt.
Kathie is online now  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 11:42 AM
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Thank you, Kathie. I miss the old days when there were fewer people on this site, and most were well intentioned.
sueblue is offline  
Old Oct 4th, 2009, 01:32 PM
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Just want to mention a place to stay in Siem Reap if you have not booked anything yet.
My friend and I backpacked through Asia for our 50th birthdays and went to Siem REap, staying at Earthwalkers. It is a very basic, clean, but wonderful place. I see now that they have added a swimming pool since we have been there. We both had our own rooms, A/C private bath etc for $14 per night, but I see now that they are $19.
They arranged to have us picked up at the airport in a tuk tuk and also arranged a car and driver for us both days we went to the temples.
Cost was $20 per day and we were very satisfied.
The thing I liked the best about this place was that the women, Scandanavian decent, were very involved with projects in the area, CHildrens Hopitals and the people of TonLeSap who are some of the poorest.
Anyhow, if you are just looking for a clean safe place to stay that will make you feel good about supporting the local people too this may be a good option
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Old Oct 7th, 2009, 10:25 AM
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I spent a couple months over there last year and head back again soon.
SOme comments.
Dont be too rigid in your travels.
I didnt plan anything until I got there. Asia runs really smooth. Geared toward tourist and travlers and every hotel will help you with tours, events, taxis, train info etc etc.
Hanoi it a must see. The old Quarters is amazing! An odd experience would be Ho Chi Mings embalmed body and resisdense. The Hanoi Hilton Military Prison, and the War Museum. and of course the market. You could do this all in two days. I would highly recommend a train trip north of Sapa and then do a "home-stay" trek to the mtn village tribes. This was the highlight of my trip and am doing it again in two months.
I met some wonderful Hmong Hill children that insisted they take me to their village and showed me their familys, homes, school, countyside. I had a wonderful time with them. I went solo so NOT with any other tourist which is the way to go. They made me lunch in their homes, it was great to watch them cook, laugh and talk while chickens and pigs ran through the house being chased by their dog. I would be happy to connect you with my now friend Lo Ti Mai and she could meet you in Sapa and take you to her village. She is a very beautiful Hmong girl and speaks great English. Let me know if you want these connections.

Other things.
Hue is amazing. I hired a guy named Nho who drove me on his scooter to all the royal temples and citidal and waited paitently while i went through each one. One that was even amazing was he offered to drive me on his scooter to Hoi An which took about 7 hours and INCLUDED 4 stops at some really cool places. YOU cant get this type of tour anywhere!!! The ride was safe, luggage secure and protected from any rain. We stopped in Danang and ate at a great restaurant too. I would HIGHLY recommend seeing this area on the back of a scooter!!! Great sceneary, nice to have the fresh air in your face INSTEAD of being on a crowded bus with farting drunken college kids who party all night! LEt me know if you want MORE info and connections to Nho. (he;s not the only one who would do this service either but i would recommend highly!!!)

Hoi An is awesome too esp. if your into photography...the local market and boats near the water are worth a 2gig memory card! Make sure you walk to the waters edge to see the fish selling and bartering among the locals. Its amazing!!!!!!!!!!!
A side trip to the temples of My Son is awesome too!!! Great photos and very quiet.

As far as Cambodia...well
Phenom Phen is amazing.
Go to the Roayal Palace in the morning. and then get a ride to the Torture Prison then the Killing Fields. Its an Eye opener!!! I did this all in ONE day. I hired one of those bike carrage persons who waited while i went into these sight!!!

Seim Rep--- Well....take three days to see it. Hire a guide who will drive you each morning too all the sights and will wait for you outside each on. Amazing place!!! MAKE sure to go to the floating villages too!! amazing photos, people, color, oh the childing are so beautiful. I have also an inside tip to another floating village which not a lot of people see, I can get you in contact with my driver who will take you. This ALL can be covered in 3 long days but worth it!
hope that helps
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Old Oct 12th, 2009, 04:27 PM
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Hi everyone . . . I took a LONG break from planning this trip because I planned and visited Turkey in the interim! Here I am again trying to focus and nail things down because our trip is fast approaching in December. I've been trying to work with some tour operators to handle our arrangements because quite frankly I'm exhausted from all of the planning and we need to get the logistics down. The problem is we keep specifying our desired itinerary and the tour operators keep coming back with something different . . . generally less days in some places than we requested and more in others. I don't know if they just cut and paste from different tours and pretend to customize for you, but I'm getting really frustrated with all of the back and forth -- particularly because I seem to be the one doing most of the work! Here is what we'd like to do. (It was suggested that we travel clockwise from Ho Chi Minh through Cambodia and Laos and back through Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh rather than visa versa for efficiency purposes -- however, the flights don't seem efficient at all as many of the departures are only once per day and not very conveniently timed!)

Day 1: Depart US
Day 2: Arrive Ho Chi Minh Late Night
Day 3: Exlpore Saigon, No Travel
Day 4: Explore Saigon No Travel
Day 5: Cui Ci Tunnels and Whatever Else
Day 6: Fly Phnom Penh, Earliest Possible We Were Told is 12:30PM - 1:20PM, Tour, War Emphasis
Day 7: Tour Phnom Penh, Including Killing Fields
Day 8: Fly to Siem Reap, Earliest Possible (I think there may be flight at 8:20AM - 9:10AM, though tour operator suggested driving thru Battambang) Tour Angkor
Day 9: Tour Angkor
Day 10: Tour Angkor
Day 11: Fly Luang Prabang (12:40PM - 2:05PM, Seems to be only one flight per day?)
Day 12: Tour LP, including Pac Caves and Elephant Ride
Day 13: Tour LP
Day 14: Tour LP, Fly to Hanoi (4:45PM -5:45PM, Were told this is only flight?)
Day 15: Tour Hanoi
Day 16: Tour Hanoi
Day 17: Halong Bay Overnight
Day 18: Halong Bay, Return to Hanoi (Found flight to Hue 5:10 - 6:20PM but not sure if available or if we could get there in time?)
Day 19: Fly to Central Vietnam Earliest Possible (Hue 7:10AM - 8:10AM)
Day 20: Central Vietnam
Day 21: Central Vietnam
Day 22: Central Vietnam, Latest Evening Flight to Ho Chi Minh (9:20PM - 10:30PM)
Day 23: Depart Ho Chi Minh for US at 11:40AM

I know most of you will say this is too rushed but we really wanted to cover these areas and I am at my wits end in how to cut it. Believe it or not, I was thinking about cutting a day from Angkor and adding it to Luang Prabang because I would like to have 3 full days there. (Right now we have two full days and another 1/4 and 1/2 separate days.) I know we are also probably one day short in Hanoi . . . Help! If only the flight times were early morning and late evening, it would make the itinerary much more appealing!

I hope I'm not repeating myself here with the same questions but now that I have some flight information, it's making the planning even harder.

Thanks again everyone for all of your help!

BTW, if anyone knows a really conscientious travel agent who speaks English well, knows the lay of the land, and will takeover the arrangements and also provide GOOD counsel, please let me know!
sueblue is offline  
Old Oct 12th, 2009, 07:01 PM
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Hi Sue,

Where are you flying from? The reason why I'm asking because subject to your flight out, you may be able to get an open jaw ticket such that you can fly into Phnom Penh and have your return flight home out of Saigon since if you're visiting central Vietnam towards the end of your trip, you'll still need to get to Saigon or Hanoi for an outbound flight. This would also eliminate the need for a multi- or double-entry Viet visa which you will need if you're using Saigon as a roundtrip hub. But roundtriping from Saigon might well prove to be less expensive than open jawing into Phnom Penh, even with the cost of a multi-entry Viet visa.

Another option is open jawing to Bangkok as your entry point since there are budget flights on Air Asia to Phnom Penh from BKK. But this needs to be balanced out by what the connection time is since if you're arriving at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi late at night, then you'd have to spend a night in BKK.

Otherwise, you're itinerary seems fine to me.

For your revised plan of flying Saigon to Phnom Penh, Cambodia has a new airline called Cambodia Angkor Air which is a Cambodian-Vietnam Airline joint venture and may be less expensive than Vietnam Airline's flights from HCMC to PP and/or Siem Reap.
Although the VIP bus between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap takes 5 hours, it does offer the opportunity to see Cambodia's countryside and is less expensive than the a flight between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. When you factor in getting to the airport, checking in, and getting to your Siem Reap hotel, it'll save you only a couple hours. Just an option.

Both Lao Airlines and Vietnam Airlines offer the Siem Reap to Luang Prabang route with Lao being slightly less. Likewise for the Luang Prabang to Hanoi flights.

If it came down to scratching one day from Luang Prabang or Angkor, I'd vote an extra day in Siem Reap for Angkor.

Also, for getting to Hue from Hanoi, there is an overnight sleeper train too as another option to flying if you return from Halong Bay too late for the pm flight.

Anyways, hope this gives you some options and it all works out well. Have an excellent trip.

If it came
seagypsy is offline  
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