We are a couple late 20s/early 30s and planning to to backpack for 3 months in S/E Asia. I have burned my eyes researching on the net and have come up with our rough itinerary below (please feel free to copy, it is fairly cookie cutter, sharing the love).
I just have a few questions on it. Any help greatly appreciated.
1) Does it seem like a good plan? We are new travellers.
2) We have roughly 14 weeks to do the below. Is the time set out for each leg reasonable?
3) If so, then we have 3-4 weeks available. Any recommendation to fill that time realistically along that route? There is a definite lack of plan between Laos (4,000 islands) to Cambodia. So that could be the window and location to fill some more time.
4) We are travelling from London UK and would need to go to Perth Australia after S/E Asia (to visit family) then back to London UK. (London - Bangkok, Bangkok - Perth, Perth - London). Anyone recommend good flights/special backpack tickets? It seems booking the tickets individually is costly.
Thailand – 3 weeks
Stay: Thailand – Bangkok (1-2 nights) (Visa: 30 days)
Travel: Thailand – Bangkok- Sukhothai or Ayuttayah
Stay: Thailand – Sukhothai or Ayuttayah (1night)
Travel: Thailand – Sukhothai or Ayuttayah – 4 hour bus - Chiang Mai
Stay: Thailand – Chiang Mai (2-3 nights) (Check out Pai, 3 hour bus)
Travel: Thailand – Chiang Mai – 3 hour bus - Chiang Rai
Stay: Thailand – Chiang Rai (1 night)
Travel: Thailand – Chiang Rai - 3 hour early AM bus - Chiang Khong )
Travel: Thailand – Cross at Chiang Khong – Laos - Huay Xai,) (Visa)
Laos – 3 weeks
Travel: Laos –Huay Xai – same day boat, 2 days, 9 hours - Luanphrabang
Stay: Laos – Luanphrabang (1-2 night, sort of Vietnam Visa)
Travel: Laos – Luanphrabang – 8 hour coach - Vang Vieng
Stay: Laos – Vang Vieng (2-3 nights)
Travel: Laos –Vang Vieng – 4 hour coach – Vientiane
Stay: Laos – Vientiane (1 night)
Travel: Laos – Vientiane – VIP 10 hour sleeper bus – Pakse
Stay: Laos – Pakse (Bolaven Plateau, 2 nights)
Travel: Laos – Pakse – 3 hour bus – 4000 islands
Stay: Laos – Don Det / Don Khone (4000 islands, 2 nights)
Cambodia – 2 weeks
Stay: Cambodia – Siem Reap (2-3 nights, Angkor)
Travel: Cambodia – Siem Reap – 8 hour morning boat – Battambang
Stay: Cambodia – Battambang (1 night)
Travel: Cambodia –Battambang – Thailand Bangkok – (cross at Poipet) (Visa)
Thailand – 2 weeks
Stay: Bangkok (1 night)
Travel: Thailand – Bangkok - Kanchanaburi
Stay: Thailand – Kanchanaburi (1 night)
Travel: Thailand – Kanchanaburi - Bangkok
Stay: Thailand – Bangkok / Travel to islands (Island hopping, 1 week+)
Then on to Perth
Thanks again. Hopefully leaving in 2 months, so very excited.
#1 EnglishmaninNYC has been a member since 3/7/2011. Posts: 6
Why are you sorting out a Vietnamese Visa in Luang Prabang when you don't appear to be going to Vietnam ? I sorted out my VietVisa in LP and, from memory, it took longer then a day or 2, though maybe they had a speedy service for more money. We went up to Nong Khiao from there (recommended) and stayed a few days and the Visa was ready when we returned to LP.
Other than that your route is fine. It is very well travelled route. A bit confused as to exactly how long, or where, you are staying as your number of nights in each country don't seem to add up. If that's to give you plenty of flexibility, then that's all to the good.
If you go to Sukhothai from Bangkok, one night won't be enough to see the area, unless you are planning on taking a night train from Bangkok to Phitsanulok and arriving in Sukhothai early in the morning.
North of Sukhothai is an area called Si Satchanalai . The temples in this area are much more impressive and interesting than Sukhothai. I love Sukhothai, but Si Satchanalai is a way better spot for temples. You can rent a motorbike in Sukhothai and ride there in about 1 - 1 1/2 hours. It's worth it if you're interested in Thai history and temples, plus it's a really nice ride up there through fields of sugar cane and rice. Si Satchanalai park is a beautiful, shady spot where very few people go. Fantastic!
Ayuthaya can be done as a day trip from Bangkok, but it's also a nice spot to spend a night or two.
I wouldn't bother going back to Bangkok from Kanchanaburi en route to the south. You can sort out a train ticket in advance and then catch it somewhere like Nakhon Pathom, or work your way south on the bus stopping in at a couple of places like Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ban Saphan Yai or Chumphon.
Finally, I think that Kanchanaburi is worth more than just one night, especially if you want to visit Erawan. Also, a 3-hour minivan ride beyond K-buri will bring you to Sangkhlaburi which is a really nice little town for a night or two.
Thanks for the tips, really appreciated.
I will add in a couple of extra nights as recommended. Still seems that I have a couple of weeks free/flexible time. So might try to add a few more things in.
I had the note about the Vietnam visa, as I heard it is a good place to pick it up (just in case we end up going to Vietnam). Might be a good way to fill the other couple of weeks. Although I heard Vietnam is the least enjoyable of these countries, in terms of longer travel times and more aggressive tourist tactics. So slightly lost how to spend those two free weeks in the itinerary. Any suggestions?
#4 EnglishmaninNYC has been a member since 3/7/2011. Posts: 6
I don't think the extra two weeks will be a problem at all! It's very easy to fill in two extra weeks just by going a bit more slowly.
You'll probably find yourself wanting to stay somewhere you like for longer than planned anyway and if you're feeling ill/very tired one day, it won't affect your itinerary too much if you postpone a long bus ride until you're feeling well enough to travel.
Any extra days can be tagged onto the beach time at the end
I'm a bit puzzled by something in your Cambodia itinerary... why are you going all the way to Poipet to cross into Thailand? If you're going to Battambang anyway, you might as well use the Pailin border crossing. I haven't done it but I've heard it's a nicer experience than Poipet.
More border info on the map in this link.
Anyway, if you do do that, here's another suggestion... a minor itinerary tweak which would save some backtracking and time on buses.
As you can see on the map you'd cross into Thailand not far from Trat. It's a pleasant town to spend a night in, plenty of guest houses and a good night food market if I remember right (I haven't been there for a few years).
Next day you could do some island hopping to Big Ko Chang and its smaller quieter satellite islands, Ko Mak, Ko Wai and Ko Kut. (You could break up the journey back to Bangkok by stopping off at Ko Samet too if you wanted).
Then back to BKK, side trip to Kanchanaburi and off to Perth.
Depends what islands you want to visit though....maybe you have somewhere specific in mind?
Have a look at the Air Asia site for cheap flights.
Thanks SBE, the tips regarding the islands are gold dust! Thank you. Saves me from having to go back to Bangkok as a jumper point to the islands. So much easier to go straight there.
I read somewhere that Poipet was the usual border crossing point for Battambang , but I was misinformed looking at that map and will go on to Trat.
I will definitely end up in Battambang after Siam Reap. Just need to figure out a worthwhile route from 4,000 islands to Siam Reap. I don't believe there is a direct ground route, so will probably go via Kratie for the dolphins.
Thanks again, the itinerary has changed yet again (for the better!)
#6 EnglishmaninNYC has been a member since 3/7/2011. Posts: 6
You're most welcome. As I said, it's a while since I've been to Trat. I went to Ko Chang in 2004 and I've heard it's become much more developed since then. Might not be a bad thing if you've been roughing it for months but if you want fewer tourists and quieter, then head to the smaller islands around there. The only one I've been to is Ko Maak (in 2006) and I went directly there from Trat.
I much preferred Ko Maak to Ko Chang myself (because it was quieter and there were fewer tourist ripoffs) though there was a lot of flotsam and jetsam on the beaches. Another poster called exacto said there wasn't too much of a trash problem when he was there in 2009 so maybe they clean up the beaches better nowadays.
The quietest and least developed island is supposed to be Ko Kut (often spelt Ko Kood if you want to do a search on TF). Ko Wai is the other one, but haven't been there either.
As for your other question... does this help?
There's a bit about the Laos Cambodia border crossing in the other link I posted above too, seems to be the most recent update.
Here are some older trip reports from another site...unfortunately the most recent one is dated 2008 but maybe worth reading for the detailed descriptions.
It does help. Thank you again. Can't wait to get this trip started.
#8 EnglishmaninNYC has been a member since 3/7/2011. Posts: 6
Koh Mak is definitely a great island, but since my favourite spot was ripped down (Lazy Days) I haven't been back. But I have been to Koh Wai since then. Nicer beach, pretty inexpensive, decent food. Day traffic was a pain, but a temporary one.
Last time I went to Koh Chang it was so busy and so noisy (hammering, electric saws, and dump trucks rumbling up and down the road) that I hitched back to the pier and went back to Laem Ngop and immediately got onto the ferry for Koh Mak. Much better.
Trat really is a nice, chilled out spot and, as SBE suggested, it has a great, though not large, night market. Good spot to stop for a night or two before or after an island.