I am planning a trip for 5 weeks for Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia at the end of December and for the month of January 2013. After doing some research, I have a general plan, but I'm sure it needs tweaking. I am interested in seeing a few temples and some pretty scenery. I don't think I have time for trekking, and I'm willing to make that sacrifice. Should I cut out the slow boat? That would save me three days. Where would you add these days to? Thanks to anyone who replies, I appreciate it A LOT!
27 Arrive late PM -Chiang Mai
28 -Chiang Mai
29 -Chiang Mai
30 Travel Day -bus to Chiang Rai, bus to Chian Khong stay in Chian Khong or Huay Xai
31 Slow boat -Pakbeng
1 Slow boat - Luang Prabang (arrive by late afternoon)
2 -Luang Prabang
3 Bus (7 hrs) -Vang Vieng
4 -Vang Vieng
5 Bus (3-4 hrs) -Vientiane
6 Flight -Hanoi
8 Halong Tour -Overnight in Halong Bay
9 Return Hanoi/Overnight Train to Hue
11 Bus (4 hrs) -Hoi An
12 -Hoi An
13 -Hoi An
14 Flight - Ho Chi Minh City
15 -Ho Chi Minh City
16 Bus (5 hrs) -Phnom Penh
17 -Phnom Penh
18 Bus (5 hrs) -Siem Reap
19 -Siem Reap
20 Flight/flight -Ko Sumai and take ferry or stay in Sumai, depending on when we arrive
21 -Ko Tao
22 -Ko Tao
23 -Ko Tao
24 -Ko Tao
25 -Ko Tao
26 -Ko Tao
27 Ferry/flight -Bangkok
31 Flight home
#1 bootshike has been a member since 14/6/2012. Posts: 2
"30 Travel Day -bus to Chiang Rai, bus to Chian Khong"
Minor detail but there's a direct bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong. Go to Arcade bus station and the "Green Bus" counter. It departs 830am arrives about 3pm. Otherwise you have to hassle with changing bus stations in Chiang Rai.
I think you're rushing too much in a few places, like only one day each in Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Hanoi, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap. I wouldn't necessarily skip the slow boat, but maybe a couple less days on Ko Tao and Bangkok. Also maybe skip Hue in favor of Hoi An. Flight Hanoi-Danang will free up an extra day too.
I'm assuming the intent is to see as much as possible in a short space of time and go back and spend more time to the ones you really like in future years. I'm the last person to advise against this: I visited half the destinations on your list plus Bali in May 2009 and despite people thinking I was mad at the time I thoroughly enjoyed it. That said, if you're anything like me you'll end up going back to virtually all of them for a longer period of time anyway...
It also means that your schedule is even more rushed than mine, and I flew more.
Agree with the above recommendation that at least one more day in Luang Prabang, Hanoi and especially Siem Reap is necessary to do them justice. Once you've seen the major temples once you probably won't go back to Siem Reap in future, and it takes at least 2 [near]full days min to see properly (but no more than 3 full days unless you're a temple buff). One day isn't enough to even form an opinion on Hanoi and LPB is much more beautiful than Chiang Mai if you're not planning trekking or much partying.
Agree that Ko Tao and Bangkok are the obvious candidates to trim a day or two off - you're bound to go back to Bangkok; and once you've done your diving Ko Tao is a fairly quiet place. I think Hue is fantastic and underrated, but you have to cut somewhere.
On the other hand 1 day is probably enough to decide whether you love or hate Vang Vieng; you can always go back if you want to tube some more. I haven't been to Phnom Penh yet; flying to Siem Reap from HCM is a possibility if guidebook descriptions don't excite you either.
The above comment on Chang Rai reminds me of something else: check public holidays in the relevant countries closely because they do affect bus (and possibly boat) availability: I couldn't get from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong / Huay Xai the day after one Thai long weekend and had to pay an overstay fine. With your tight schedule you'll need to pre-book as much as possible and have backup plans for what to miss if you can't [pre]book a bus for whatever reason. Dec/Jan is peak tourist season too.
#3 enigmatic has been a member since 14/4/2011. Posts: 84
Hey we're looking at almost the same itinary the same time too!
My boyfriend and I (Canadians, 33&42yrs) are planning our first trip to southeast Asia and we are thinking of starting it Bangkok on the 22nd and then heading up to Chaing Rai about the 28th and following the same path until at least Vientaine, which is where we're waffling on what to do from there. We're traveling a bit slower (on the advice of this amazing website!) and think we'll not be inVientaine until perhaps as late as the 12th of Jan (although we may find ourselves too old for 3 days in Vieng Vang and how many days we stay in Vientaine is up in the air as well).
Not meaning to hijack your thread, but if we have until the 25th when we would have to fly home and I'm wondering what others suggest, should we carry on to Cambodia for Angkor and back into Thailand for beaches, or should we head over to Vietnam in some capacity? We've speed travelled Europe and we know how exhausting being a tourist can be, so we don't want to take on too much. Then again we're more "flash packers" and are not adverse to flights as long as we're not flying every third day! Trains can sometime be a relaxing way to see the countryside, so we're okay with longer rides too.
Appreciate the advice and boots we'll have to share notes!
#4 AprilJef has been a member since 8/7/2012. Posts: 13
I know your probably on your trip at the moment but id love to hear how it went - and the do's and dont's of it all, when you get home. I'm planning a very similar trip for July 2013 (5 weeks also and the same 4 countries) and id love to hear how you got on. Hope your enjoying it so far. Thanks. Talk soon!
#5 daithikelly5 has been a member since 24/1/2013. Posts: 1
I always think it would be interesting to hear back from people that plan these 'rushed' kind of trips. Was it what they expected? What would they do differently?
So many people try to cover as much ground as they can in such a short period (and I've been guilty of it!) - but we don't often hear any followup as to how it actually went.
I don't get the idea at all. Never did. Never will. The only time I rush around is when I ride, and that's because the point of the trip is the ride. But on a bus or plane or train? Those are modes of transportation that are torture instruments...
#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I'm going Siem Reap to HCMC (via Cambodia and the Mekong Delta) in 3 weeks and already feel i'm trying to pack in too much.
That said, this summer I'm thinking of taking my mom and uncle from Luang Prabang-VV-Vientiane-Sukhothai-BKK in 2 weeks . . . and afraid it is too much.
I just finished my trip in Southeast Asia. I ended up doing a different itinerary than the one posted above, but I still sort of packed it in.
I got into Hanoi, Vietnam in the evening of December 28. I spent about 14 days in Vietnam, about 5 days in Cambodia, and the rest in Thailand. I didn't go to Laos. I flew out of Bangkok on February 1. I am not at home, I am in Africa now and I don't have a computer, so I don't have time to type out the whole itinerary. You can look on my blog though, it has a general outline of dates, and I'm pretty sure I talked about how I got to each place. Here is the link:
I was content with everything I saw, but I think Cambodia is a gem and I could spend way more time there. Thailand is not as great as I remember it, tourism has sort of wrecked it. The atmosphere in Cambodia and Vietnam was more to my liking. I took advantage of cheap flights in Vietnam and Thailand, but the flight from Siam Reap to Chian Mai was like $320 US. It saves you time, but its not an easy one on a backpacker's budget. I still cringe when I think about the money I spent on that one. Besides feeling like I didn't see Cambodia (because let's face it, I really didn't) I was generally happy with the itinerary.
I would suggest that anyone doing an itinerary like this would want to do all of the sightseeing first, and all of the relaxing beach stuff at the end. Or break it up in the middle. Just make sure you have some places where you are spending more than one or two nights. No matter how energetic you are, you will need a break once in awhile.
One last thing, if you really want to see the Mekong Delta, go for two days and include a home stay. Don't be tempted by the tours that take you to the Mekong Delta, and then take you by boat to Cambodia the following day. I know it makes sense in theory because you are saving time by not going back to Saigon, but you don't actually get to see anything. If you only have one day, then go for the day and take the bus from Saigon to Cambodia the next day.
#9 bootshike has been a member since 14/6/2012. Posts: 2
I also traveled 5 weeks in January and did almost the exact same itinerary as you did however i went to Laos and it was the highlight of my trip.
PS: You can take a minivan from CM to Chiang Khong around 6:30pm and gets you to CK in 5hours. No need to take a bus. took the speedboat instead of the slowboat.
#10 franks2k has been a member since 17/1/2011. Posts: 10
Planning a trip in April for 5 Weeks. Want to visit Bangkok, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chang Mai & Phuket . Having touble deciding on the in between places. Any suggestions?? And also are we trying to squeeze too much in what time we have? Only planning on spending a couple of days in Bangkok at the beginning and the last week in Phuket and Surrounding Islands but the rest is a still a bit unorganised.
#11 davelloydy has been a member since 15/2/2013. Posts: 1
Dave... recently came back from a 5 week trip... here's my thread about it, with transportation links and various information. It's along similar lines, so many you can find something useful in there
#13 SaltwaterGem has been a member since 4/1/2013. Posts: 22