Photo: Street food Phetchaburi Soi 10, Bangkok.

Southeast Asia forum

Last 5 weeks of freedom! please help with my itinerary - Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos,

Posted by Becca on 13/7/2010 at 08:42

Hi there,

My boyfriend and I are off on a 5 week, 35 day trip to South East Asia. Im a medical student and am trying to make the most of my freedom before I descend into a hospital ward never to be seen again!!Im pretty sure thats why my itinerary is way too full, but as I'm also a complete backpacking novice so i would love some help and advice, is this even feasible?

The plan of attack...

Day 1 and 2 - arrive bangkok, acclimatise, sightsee...
Day 3 - bus to Poipet border, and on to Siem Reap
Day 4, 5, 6 - Siem reap, moving on to Battambang in the afternoon of Day 6 (?bus)
Day 7 - Battambang
Day 8 - to Phnom Penh by bus
Day 9, 10, 11 - Phnom Penh, moving on to Chau Doc, Vietnam by boat in the afternoon of day 11
Day 11 - Bus to Rach Gia
Day 12, 13, 14, 15 - Fly to and relax in Phu Quoc Island
Day 16 - Fly to Saigon, sightsee, book train tickets etc
Day 17 - Sightsee in Saigon then catch overnight train to DaNang
Day 18 - Arrive Danang, bus/taxi to HoiAn
Day 19, 20 - Hoi An and in afternoon of Day 20 go back to Danang to catch overnight train to Hanoi
Day 21, 22, 23, 24 - Hanoi, cruise of HaLong bay, then back to Hanoi
Day 25 - Bus Hanoi(if only we could afford the flight) to Luang Prabang, Laos
Day 26, 27 - Luang Prabang
Day 28, 29 - Journey up river, overnight in Pakbeng and on to Huay Xai, cross to Thailand and stay in Chiang Khong.
Day 30, 31, 32, 33 - Travel to, sightsee, and trek around Chiang Rai
Day 34 - Fly Chiang Rai to Bangkok
Day 35 - Sightsee, shop etc before flying home

I also have a few questions,

Ive noticed many people seem to do the route the other way round, is there a reason?!

Secondly regarding travelling to Laos via Nam Can crossing, ive read the border crossing section, which was very helpful, but was wondering if any buses run from Hanoi? or do you have to make it to Vinh and catch one from there? How long do they take? how much do they cost etc?

Also, in an effort to focus im not going to Hue, is this a major mistake? The city seems to get mixed reviews... Is there anywhere else I could speed things up?

Finally thanks in advance for any help, im hoping to solve some "minor planning disputes" between the boyf and i, so any input from people who've been would be very much appreciated

Becca and Tim =)

#1 Becca has been a member since 13/7/2010. Posts: 3

Posted by hamilove on 13/7/2010 at 18:18

We have just finished a similar trip (didnt go to laos) and with a plan similar to yours. All looks fine and youll notice that it is easy to change plans once there. We where first time backpackers yet when we didnt like a place it was easy to organise to move on quickly.

In regards to Danang to Hanoi when we where there (june 2010) it was cheaper to fly that leg and about 10 hours quicker, so that might be option.

#2 hamilove has been a member since 12/12/2009. Posts: 25


Posted by Nokka on 13/7/2010 at 20:19

It's possible, but it is pretty fast. You'll have a lot of travelling to do.

I flew from Saigon to Danang, which was really cheap with Jetstar (though they changed the flight time by 10 hours the day before travel, which was irritating) and from Hue to Hanoi (Vietnamese Airlines - also quite cheap and always excellent).

I went to nearly all the places you are going, but took a fair bit longer than you. Even then, at times we weren't ready to leave places. If all you do is travel and have little time at your destination you then have little time to do the stuff that you really want to do. My advice would be to do a bit less, to be honest. If I was doing the trip again within your timescale, I would miss the Northern Thailand part. Yes, its nice, but in my view not as extraordinary as some of the other places you are going. I would head back to Bangkok from Luang Prabang and spend a couple of days, or maybe slightly longer getting back via Vientiane and NE Thailand. I would definitely stay longer in Laos. You could easily stay longer in Luang Prabang, you can trek from there or go by river up to Nong Khiaow - a much more scenic river trip than the one up the Mekong via Pakbeng. This would also enable you to spend a bit longer in Hoi An, a lovely place - plus enabling you to go by train from Danang to Hue for one night. (Very scenic journey and though Hue wasn't our favourite place the Palace there is awesome.)


The time saved in N Thailand will give you that extra time and, in my view, will help you slow down a little and see a lot more. As you say, this will be your last chance to travel for as long for some time. Try to get the most out of that time; spending many days in transit will not give you lasting memories.

#3 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259

Posted by Becca on 13/7/2010 at 23:35

Thanks Hammilove and Nokka, will definitely be taking your advice. Its really reassuring to know that its easy to change our plans while were out there. I was wondering if anyone knew how long in advance you have to book flights, or if you can just turn up a few days before, that way we can leave our options open?

I think were going to cut north thailand and come back to Bangkok via Vientinae and the train through NE thailand. Nong Kiaow looks lovely too. thanks!

#4 Becca has been a member since 13/7/2010. Posts: 3

Posted by hamilove on 14/7/2010 at 05:11

Flights can be booked the day before. We used jetstar and I just booked via the web and the flights within Vietnam averaged out to around $40.00. We used Vietnam airways once and they cancelled the flight on us so didn't use them again.

In siem reap try and stay at the Mandalay inn. It's cheap ($15.00) and the staff are amazing and it's a great place In a crazy town. I'm sure there are more luxurious places but the prices can be pretty high.

#5 hamilove has been a member since 12/12/2009. Posts: 25


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