Southeast Asia forum

Itinerary Laos/Thailand 31 days March

  • topbanana

    Joined Travelfish
    6th January, 2013
    Posts: 9


    we are planning a trip to Thailand and Laos in March. It is our third trip to SEA. So far, we have done one 4 week trip from Saigon to Hanoi in 2007 and another 4 week trip (Bangkok - Siem Reap - Battambang - Phnom Penh - Rabbit Island - Phnom Penh - Don Det - Don Kon - Champasak - Pakse - Ubon Ratchathani -Bangkok) in 2010.
    As we already have been six days in Bangkok the last time, we are not going to spend many days there this time. So far our itinerary looks like this:

    1. Flight to Bangkok
    2. Bankok – Phitsanulok - Sukhothai (Daytrain+Bus)
    3. Sukhothai
    4. Sukothai – Chiang Mai
    5. Chiang Mai
    6. Chiang Mai
    7. Chiang Mai Chiang Khong
    8. Chiang Khong - Huay Xai Luang Prabang (Slow boat)
    9. Luang Prabang
    10. Luang Prabang
    11. Luang Prabang
    12. Luang Prabang – Phonsavan
    13. Phonsavan
    14. Phonsavang – Vang Vieng
    15. Vang Vieng
    16. Vang Vieng
    17. Vang Vieng Vientiane
    18. Vientiane – Bangkok (Nighttrain)
    19. Bangkok – Chumphon Ko Tao
    20. Ko Tao
    21. Ko Tao
    22. Ko Tao
    23. Ko Pha Ngang
    24. Ko Pha Ngang
    25. Ko Pha Ngang
    26. Ko Pha Ngang
    27. Ko Pha Ngang
    28. Ko Pha Ngang – Bangkok
    31. Flight Back from Bangkok

    Our favorite experiences in SEA so far have been staying at the „Two Dragons“ Guesthouse in Siem Reap and exploring the temples of Angkor , Cycling in Don Kon (Laos) and relaxing at the Mekong Riverside in Champasak (Laos)- We really liked the tranqulity of South Laos! We made all trips during the rainy season and enjoyed that there were few tourists at Angkor – we had Bayon for us alone and even at Angkor Wat we usually had one side of the base-relief for us alone.
    My question is, I am usually not a person that can spend a week just sunbathing on the beach. However, I appreciate a cold beer at beautiful beach and I have seen a lot of beautiful fotos of beaches in South Thailand. Therefore, we decide to spend the last week of our trip on some nice beaches in the south of Thailand.
    So far I have not been to any of Thailand's beaches. There are so many that it is really hard for us to make out where to go. I prefere a quite beach with some small bamboo huts and would never go into one of these huge resorts at a beach. As we are not sure where to go, Ko Tao and Ko Pha Ngang are just placeholders in our itinerary. We appreciate any suggestions for nice islands with beautiful beaches in Thailand which are not too crowded.
    Suggestions for additional stops in Laos/Thailand on our trip are welcome - I would like ot add at least 1-2 stops there that are a bit(not too much) off the beaten track. Also tips for charming cozy family run guesthouses in Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang or other stops on our trip are welcome. The best tips for nice guesthouses and stops on my other trips came from other travellers – not from guideboooks :-)


    #1 Posted: 6/1/2013 - 13:11

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  • somtam2000

    Click here to learn more about somtam2000
    Joined Travelfish
    21st January, 2004
    Location Indonesia
    Posts: 7371
    Total reviews: 24
    Places visited:
    At least 113

    OK, I'm going to point you to a few stories elsewhere on the site concerning islands in Thailand -- we have a lot :)

    Thai islands to lose yourself on
    Thai islands for nature lovers
    Which far southern island in Thailand
    Andaman Sea Island hopper

    And here is the section on the Andaman islands off the Thailand blog -- there is a lot there!

    I know you mentioned Ko Pha Ngan but I think you may find a more relaxed budget option on the Andaman Coast.

    As far as gulf islands go, again to the blogs for Ko Tao, (note this is quite diving focussed).

    One suggestion for a stop off would be Chiang Dao to the north of Chiang Mai. It's a lovely area.

    Last but not least, re the above itinerary, the Huay Xai to Luang Prabang part takes two days -- not one. Other than that it looks pretty reasonable to me.

    Sorry to answer with a bunch of links, but give some of the above a read and come back with more questions if you have them.


    #2 Posted: 6/1/2013 - 21:38

  • Xircal

    Joined Travelfish
    24th December, 2012
    Posts: 95

    February to April is the so called 'burning season' in the north when farmers slash and burn forests and old rice fields to create farming land. It gets pretty bad around Chiang Mai at that time of the year since not only is Thailand the culprit, but also Laos. The prevailing winds tend to blow the smog from Laos into Thailand to add to the misery.

    See this news report for an example of how bad air pollution becomes in the north between February and April:

    #3 Posted: 7/1/2013 - 08:19

  • topbanana

    Joined Travelfish
    6th January, 2013
    Posts: 9

    thanks for the replies. I have read now several reports about the burning season - it seems that especially last year it has been really bad. Many travellers advice not to go there during that period. However, we have vacations from 09. March to 06. April. I really would like to see Chiang Mai and Laos but if it is really that bad we are thinking now of an Island hopping tour in the south of Thailand. There the burning season probem seems to be less serious. I know that there are a lot of island - thanks for all the information collected on this page - but I am still not so sure if 4 weeks island hopping in South Thailand is bit too much - I have never been there. I just imagine that I could get bored after two weeks of beaches - hopefully the islands will prove me wrong ;-) Maybe we give it a try and drive up to chiang mai and if it is really too bad we turn around - I am not really convinced of that idea at the moment. If you have some suggestions for nice places in the south to visit apart from nice beaches you are welcome :-). The smog-problem seems to cover also Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng - or?
    @somtam2000: thanks for the hitn with the adaman islands - sounds awesome!

    #4 Posted: 7/1/2013 - 15:23

  • somtam2000

    Click here to learn more about somtam2000
    Joined Travelfish
    21st January, 2004
    Location Indonesia
    Posts: 7371
    Total reviews: 24
    Places visited:
    At least 113

    No worries - re the smoke, it can get pretty bad in Laos, especially the north, but I'd suggest just keeping an eye on the news etc and see a bit closer to the date. If it is bad there will be people complaining about it here in Travelfish!

    #5 Posted: 8/1/2013 - 05:55

  • topbanana

    Joined Travelfish
    6th January, 2013
    Posts: 9

    We will check the AQI short before we leave and then decide which of our itinerarys we will go for :-) March/April seems to be a really good time for the south - a bit hot but not so crowded. Maybe we better save the north and Laos for a second trip - whithout smoke. We now made a second Itinerary for the South Thailand option. Usually we book no guesthouse ahaed - are there places in our itinerary, where we better should? If you have any recommendations for places we should not miss or really good places to stay, we appreciate any hint!
    The second Itenerary looks like a slower pace trip with more shorter distances -what I usually prefer. The first one has several longer bus/train rides.


    Itinerary 1 North Thailand & Laos & Ko Chang 2
    1.Flight to Bangkok
    2.Bankok - Phitsanulok - Sukhothai (Daytrain+Bus 5-7h)
    4.Sukothai - Chiang Mai (Bus 6h)
    5.Chiang Mai
    6.Chiang Mai
    7.Chiang Mai - Chiang Khong (Bus 2 1/2h)
    8.Chiang Khong - Huay Xai
    09.- 10. Huay Xai - Luang Prabang (Slow boat)
    11. Luang Prabang
    12. Luang Prabang
    13. Luang Prabang
    14. Luang Prabang - Phonsavan
    15. Phonsavan (22.03)
    16. Phonsavang - Vang Vieng
    17. Vang Vieng
    18. Vang Vieng
    19. Vang Vieng - Vientiane
    20. Vientiane - Bangkok (Nighttrain)
    21. Bangkok - Ranong - Ko Chang (Nightbus+Boat 10h)
    22. Ko Chang
    23. Ko Chang
    24. Ko Chang
    25. Ko Chang
    26. Ko Chang
    27. Ko Chang -Rangong-Bangkok(Bus Boat 10h)
    28. Flight Back from Bangkok

    Itinerary 2 South Thailand: Island Hopping
    1. Flight to Bangkok
    2. Bangkok - Petchaburi (bus 2h)
    3. Petchaburi & Kaeng Krachan National Park
    4. Petchaburi - Hua Hin (30 min.)
    5. Hua Hin - Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park - Kuiburi National Park
    6. Hua Hin - Pratchuap Khiri Khan
    7. Pratchuap Khiri Khan - Chumphon (2h) - Koh Tao (midnight boat 6 h)
    8. Koh Tao
    9. Koh Tao
    10. Koh Tao - Koh Pha-Ngan (boat)
    11. Koh Pha-Ngan - Ang Thong Marine National Park
    12. Koh Pha-Ngan
    13. Koh Pha- Ngan - Krabi - Railay (boat/ bus/boat)
    14. Railay
    15. Railay - Koh Lanta (boat 2h)
    16. Koh Lanta
    17. Koh Lanta - Koh Phi Phi (boat 1,5h)
    18. Koh Phi Ph - Krabi - Ko Yao
    19. Ko Yao
    20. Ko Yao -Ao Phang Nga
    21. Ao Phang Nga - Khao Sok National Park
    22. Khao Sok National Park
    23. Khao Sok National Park - Koh Chang 2
    24. Koh Chang 2
    25. Koh Chang 2
    26. Koh Chang 2 - Bangkok
    28. Flight back from Bkk

    #6 Posted: 8/1/2013 - 16:48

  • DLuek

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
    19th June, 2008
    Location Thailand
    Posts: 1106
    Total reviews: 14


    It seems like you're doing a fine job figuring things out, but since you asked:

    If you liked Angkor, I definitely recommend Sukhothai, and you might take a day trip up to Si Satchanalai from there, especially if you're okay with a little motorbiking. Si Satch is a wonderfully quiet historical park with ruins similar to those at Sukhothai, but with NO other tourists. Even when I went on a Saturday the only other visitors were a group of Thai Buddhist pilgrims dressed in all white.

    Re southern Thai islands, Ko Chang Noi sounds like a good choice to end the trip if you stick to the 1st itinerary. It's extremely laid back, which I find to be a good thing, but you may get bored after that many days. It's also not quite as "idyllic" as some islands - certainly it's nice and the jungle is pristine, but it lacks the picture perfect turquoise water and white sands of many other Andaman islands. Another option would be to make the trip down to Khuraburi, about an hour south of Ranong , and visit Ko Phra Thong instead. It has a similar laid back bare bones bungalow sort of vibe as Ko Chang Noi, but it's also in the same vicinity as Ko Surin , which is the most visually stunning Andaman island I've been to. Ko Surin is national park - you could overnight in a tent or just go as a day trip. I'd recommend 1 night if you can swing it. Incredible snorkeling there. I also probably prefer Ko Phra Thong slightly over Ko Chang Noi... The inland landscape is desert/savannah, totally different from anything you'll see elsewhere in the region, and it's a great place to bicycle around. Has a very untouched and "out there" feel. It also has incredibly vast golden sand beaches and is way off-the-beaten-track... You'll probably know all of the other travelers staying on the island by the end of 3 nights!

    Oh yes, if you do go to Ko Chang Noi, you might take a half-day for Ngao National Park out of Ranong, but don't miss the hot springs on the way, which are much better than the ones closer to Ranong town.

    As for the second southern Thailand itinerary, it looks pretty good to me, although that is a lot of beach time. One thought is that you're looking at some rather large, touristy islands - Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan, Railay and Ko Lanta. Personally I'd opt for smaller, less touristy islands on the Andaman side like the aforementioned Ko Chang Noi, Ko Phra Thong and Ko Surin, as well as, for example, Ko Muk, Ko Kradan, Ko Bulon Lae, Ko Libong, Ko Sukorn, Ko Tarutao etc. Although, Ko Yao seems like a good non-touristy choice (never been so can't say for sure). I also definitely recommend Khao Sok and Ao Phang Nga, although a boat trip on Chiew Lan Lake in Khao Sok is a very similar experience, though with better scenery, than one on Ao Phang Nga. The area around Phang Nga town is also quite beautiful - an amazing cave, waterfall, mountainside cave temple, and the town itself is a charming and cheap spot to lose a day.

    Looking at both itineraries, it seems like you really want some history/ruins, some nature/national parks and some island time. I don't see any reason not to do that. As far as I know, the burning season is a northern Thai/Laos thing... Unless it's really bad, it's no reason not to go to Sukhothai, and you could always hit other ruins in that vicinity such as Si Satch, Kamphaeng Phet, Lopburi, etc., or even pop over to Phimai in Isaan with a couple day stop at Khao Yai National Park. Then head south to whichever islands and national parks you choose down south. Could even make a stop at Amphawa along the way.

    Just my two cents.

    #7 Posted: 8/1/2013 - 21:56

  • topbanana

    Joined Travelfish
    6th January, 2013
    Posts: 9

    Wow, thanks for that detailed answer DLuek! Mainly, I added Ko Tao and Ko Pha Nga to the itinerary because they are the only Gulf Islands on the trip. Without them we are only going to see the Adaman Coast Islands without knowing what we miss on the Gulf Side ;-). Thanks for the hint with Surin Islands and Ko Phra Thong they seem indeed a good choice. If we change Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan for Surin Islands and Ko Phra Thong, would be something like:
    1. Flight to Bangkok (08.03)
    2. Bangkok - Petchaburi (bus 2h)
    3. Petchaburi & Kaeng Krachan National Park
    4. Petchaburi - Hua Hin (30 min.)
    5. Hua Hin - Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park - Kuiburi National Park
    6. Hua Hin - Pratchuap Khiri Khan
    7. Pratchuap Khiri Khan - Chumphon (2h) - Ranong (bus 3h)
    8. Ranong -Ngao National Park - Koh Chang 2
    9. Koh Chang 2
    10. Koh Chang 2 - Rangong - Kuraburi (1h bus) - Ko Phra Thong
    11. Ko Phra Thong
    12. Ko Phra Thong - Kuraburi - Surin Island National Park
    13. Surin Island National Park
    14. Surin Island National Park - Khao Sok National Park
    15. Khao Sok National Park
    16. Khao Sok National Park - Ao Phang Nga
    17. Ao Phang Nga
    18. Ao Phang Nga - Ko Yao Noi
    19. Ko Yao Noi
    20. Ko Yao Noi - Krabi - Ko Phi Phi
    21. Ko Phi Phi
    22, Ko Phi Phi - Railay
    23. Railay - Krabi - Bankok
    24. Bankok - Phitsanulok - Sukhothai (Daytrain+Bus 5-7h) (09.03)
    25 Sukhothai
    26. Sukothai - Bangkok (bus 5-7h)
    27. Bangkok
    28. Flight back from Bkk
    The funny thing: if we do the trip like this we travel 4 weeks on 20 pages of the Lonely Planet Thailand (out of 600 pages) ;-) Which gives rise to another question: Are the islands further south like Ko Lipe, Ko Libong very different from the islands further north - meaning better change one in the north for one in the south to get a bit more diversity?

    #8 Posted: 11/1/2013 - 15:02

  • topbanana

    Joined Travelfish
    6th January, 2013
    Posts: 9

    Hi, we are back and had a wonderful trip! Thank you DLuek for the hint with Surin Islands and Ko Phra Thong! Both were a highlights of our trip. I just wish we had some more days on Ko Phra Thong. In 3,5 days we were just able to explore the endless beach. We stayed there with 3 other travelers and shared the 18 Km of beach :-D. On Surin Isalnd we tented two nights at Mai Ngam beach - regarding sand and water, this was the best beach I have been so far. If I find the time, I will write some more here on travel fish and post some fotos of our trip!

    #9 Posted: 15/5/2013 - 02:05

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