Southeast Asia forum

23 days - split between Vietnam and Thailand - comments please

  • cpelser

    Joined Travelfish
    4th January, 2013
    Posts: 9

    Hi guys

    We're a young married couple travelling to Vietnam and Thailand. (Arrive 9 March Hanoi, flying out 5 April Phuket)
    I've spent endless time reading Travelfish tips etc etc, but the more I read, the larger my wishlist gets!

    Now we're scuba divers, and will definitely do a 4/5 night liveaboard while in Thailand towards the end of our journey.
    That leaves us with around 23 days in which to see a part of Vietnam and part of Thailand.

    With regards to our travels, here's what we like:
    * We'll be first time travellers to SE Asia.
    * We love nature, a relatively active travel experience (anything from trekking to hiring scooters, snorkeling, biking or fishing)
    * Some luxury, combined with mid-range options
    * We love diving, but this needn't be the main driver of our travels
    * Religious / cultural sites are nice, but we'd split this to do "nature" type of activities twice as much as seeing temples etc.
    * We'd like to shop for two or three days, hence we'll include Bangkok
    * We'd like to be in the jungle trekking / swimming / rafting at some point

    Here's my reduced wishlist:
    Hanoi (2 or 3 days) - maybe more with excursions starting and ending here
    Ha Long Bay (Hoping 3d / 2n, but may have to 2d/1n)
    Choice between
    * SaPa (don't know if the travel time is worth it)
    ** Hue and Hoi An (Another 3 / 4 nights)
    Bangkok (3 days) (We'll fly from wherever in Vietnam to save time)
    Maybe Koh Tao, but not sure, as we'd like to also see the Emerald Cave, Khao Sok, Phi-Phi, maybe Krabi
    Khao Sok (for Floating Raft Houses - are there better options for these in Vietnam / closer to Bangkok?)
    Liveaboard for 4 or five nights
    Islands in the Andaman (We'd like to do the very touristy things - see Emerald Cave, Maya Beach)
    We need to end with at least one night in Phuket, our flight out is midnight on the eve of 4 April.

    I know I haven't given much information, I'm especially struggling with the Vietnam part, don't know what to take or leave..

    Comments will be appreciated.
    As I said, we may consider going to Koh Tao,but this would probably only be for diving? as it doesn't seem like Koh Tao has too much else, and this may keep us from Phi Phi etc?

    #1 Posted: 28/1/2013 - 10:22

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  • somtam2000

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    Ok a solid itinerary questions with lots of info regarding what you like etc -- useful - TAKE NOTE OTHER PEOPLE WITH ITINERARY QUESTIONS! :-)

    Here's one take:

    9 Mar Arrive Hanoi
    10 Mar Hanoi
    11 Mar Hanoi
    12 Mar Ha Long Bay
    13 Mar Ha Long Bay back to Hanoi in evening, night train to Hue
    14 Mar Hue
    15 Mar Hue
    16 Mar train to Da Nang , then minibus to Hoi An
    17 Mar Hoi An
    18 Mar Hoi An
    19 Mar Hoi An
    20 Mar To my knowledge nobody is flying Da Nang to Thailand anymore, so you'll need to backtrack to Da Nang & get a domestic flight top Hanoi or Saigon and fly to Bangkok from there (I think -- check the usual suspecxts for low cost flights)

    21 Mar by hook or by crook in Bangkok!
    22 Mar Bangkok
    23 Mar Bangkok
    24 Mar Bangkok, night bus to EITHER Khao Lak (south west coast) OR Ko Lanta for a liveaboard - Lanta works better with rest of itinerary
    25, 26, 27, 28 Mar on the boat!
    29 Mar transit south to Ko Muk (for Emerald Cave)
    30 Mar Ko Muk
    31 Mar Ko Muk
    1 Apr Transit to Ko Phi Phi
    2 Apr Ko Phi Phi
    3 Apr Ko Phi Phi
    4 Apr Phuket
    5 Apr Phuket & depart

    Now in the above I've ditched Sapa -- would suggest you choose between Hue and Sapa -- fitting both in too busy IMO.

    Hoi An will satisfy your shopping fix.

    Ko Tao: No time

    Re Jungle Vs Emerald Cave: I'd say Khao Sok is FAR more interesting & engaging & fun than the Emerald Cave. So another option would be to go Bangkok -> Khao Sok -> Ko Phi Phi (via Krabi) -> Phuket... I'd probably do that.

    At risk of blowing out your trip further :)
    Doing KS National Park independently
    More Andaman Sea Islands than you want to know about
    An interesting diversion from Bangkok (should you get shopping out of your system in Hoi An!)

    More questions, ask away!

    #2 Posted: 29/1/2013 - 01:25

  • cpelser

    Joined Travelfish
    4th January, 2013
    Posts: 9

    I don't know whether this will sound crazy, but here's some changes - as we can get cheap flights on the 19th of March from Saigon to Bangkok:

    9 Mar Arrive Hanoi
    10 Mar Cat Ba (hopefully transfer via the high-speed boat?)
    11 Mar Cruise the bay
    12 Mar Cat Ba back to Hanoi
    13 Mar Hanoi, overnight train to Hue
    14 Mar Hue
    15 Mar Hue
    16 Mar train to Da Nang , then minibus to Hoi An
    17 Mar Hoi An
    18 Mar Hoi An
    19 Mar Hoi An - Da Nang and flight to Bangkok
    20 Mar Bangkok
    21 Mar Bangkok
    22 Mar Bangkok (possible excursion)
    23 Mar Bangkok
    24 Mar Bangkok, night train / bus to Khao Sok
    25 Mar Khao Sok
    26 Mar Khao Sok
    27 Mar Khao Lak and Liveaboard
    28 Mar Liveaboard
    29 Mar Liveaboard
    30 Mar Liveaboard
    31 Mar Khao Lak to Railay Beach
    1 Apr Railay Beach
    2 Apr Ko Phi Phi
    3 Apr Ko Phi Phi
    4 Apr Phuket
    5 Apr Phuket & depart

    The only thing I'm unsure about here are why we're spending so much time in Hue and Hoi An and Hanoi.
    Should Vietnam be predominantly about cities and things, or are there nice excursions around central Vietnam as well?
    Between Bangkok, Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An it almost feels to me we're spending too much time in towns and cities.

    I'm also quite set on doing Cat Ba and a cruise from there (day cruise), so don't know whether I'm allowing too little time to rest and spend too much time travelling at the start of our trip.

    What should a time-frame be to Cat Ba from Hanoi and back?
    Day 1 - depart early from Hanoi Hotel, catch high speed boat to Cat Ba. Spend afternoon around Cat Ba
    Day 2 - Cruise into Lan Ha Bay
    Day 3 - Back to Hanoi and catch an overnight train already? Should we leave early or late on day 3 from Cat Ba

    I'm still a bit worried we have too much on our plate, especially at the end when we're just two days on Phi-Phi, Railay and Phuket each..

    What would an itinerary look like for 6 days in Hue and Hoi An? (I can only see so many "old houses" before I want to go swim, raft or kayak)

    #3 Posted: 31/1/2013 - 05:41

  • somtam2000

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    Personally I'd give more time to Hanoi and less to Hue , but I do like Hanoi a lot and it isn;t to everyone's taste. Otherwise, looks reasonable to me -- I'd be inclined to skip Raileh and transfer instead straight to Ko Phi Phi to give yourself a bit more time...

    One good Bangkok excursion -- even an overnight is Amphawa -- very interesting area and a traditional contrast to the bigger cities.

    The Ha Long portion will be most easily done through an agent in Hanoi as they'll be able to sort out your train connections and advise on timetabling. You'd be leaving Cat Ba late morning at the latest.

    Most people find Hoi An considerably more interesting than Hue -- there is more on offer where Hue is primarly the tombs & temples.

    Cheers

    #4 Posted: 31/1/2013 - 22:22

  • cpelser

    Joined Travelfish
    4th January, 2013
    Posts: 9

    Good comments..
    Skipping Raileh would add some time, good suggestion.. I only wanted to go to Krabi for the "Jungle" and Hot-water falls, but if Khao Sok has similar or better spots, I could maybe add a day there and a day on Phi-Phi.

    I still don't think I've found the perfect split for us. It feels like we'll miss the type of experience that Sa Pa offers, unless we could add this as day/overnight trips from a place like Hoi An or Bangkok?

    On one side I feel like I've read too much! I'd need a year or three to do Vietnam and Thailand comprehensively, and on the other side reading informs you where you're likely to get more utility for your preferences.

    I need comments on the following still please:
    Our current schedule is (nights spent in brackets):

    Hanoi (1)
    Ha Long (2)
    Hanoi (1)
    Hanoi - Overnight Train (1)
    Hoi An (3)
    Bangkok (3)
    Amphawa (1)
    Khao Sok (3) (Head to Lanta or Khao Lak for Liveaboard, don't know which?)
    Liveaboard (4)
    Phi Phi (4)
    Phuket (4)

    Does the transfers between the places seem reasonable?
    I don't know whether we can continue from Amphawa to Khao Sok, or should we return to Bangkok first?
    Also, Khao Sok to either Koh Lanta or Khao Lak, which?

    #5 Posted: 4/2/2013 - 11:55

  • somtam2000

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    At least 113

    It will be more practical to go back into Bangkok from Amphawa and head south from there.

    I've never done a liveaboard so can't comment on the Lanta/Khao Lak choice -- have heard good reports about both.

    Cheers

    #6 Posted: 5/2/2013 - 20:49

  • LolaNguyen

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
    28th August, 2012
    Posts: 94

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Re your Hoi An day/over-night trips that might make up for missing Sapa it is possible to do a tour out to the hill tribes towards the Laos border, a good site to get an idea of trips you can do from there is Hoi An Motorbike Adventures, even if you don't want to do the motorbike thing it shows you whats do'able in one or two days with Hoi An as your base and the hills, mountains and Ho Chi Minh Trail are all within easy reach. The countryside in Central VN is stunning.
    To add to your list! You might want to look at the Cham Islands from Hoi An, you can dive, snorkel and trek parts of the island on a day trip. There are two dive operators - Cham Island Divers and Blue Coral. Its micro diving so not so great if visability is poor.
    Monkey Mountain via the Son Tra Peninsula is also worth a day - mountains, perfect white sand beaches, jungle and monkeys.. leave your shopping to Bangkok!

    #7 Posted: 6/2/2013 - 02:05

  • cpelser

    Joined Travelfish
    4th January, 2013
    Posts: 9

    Great, then our trip is almost finalized!

    I love the idea of motorbiking from Hoi An .. Should I book these Hoi An excursions beforehand, or leave them till we're there?

    #8 Posted: 6/2/2013 - 02:14

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