Southeast Asia forum

5 Weeks - (Thailand) - Vietnam - Cambodia

  • nikeshbjani

    Joined Travelfish
    26th June, 2013
    Posts: 2

    Hi Guys!
    This is my first time actually posting on the forums, I've been researching this trip for a while, and I've found reading through the posts here quite helpful, but I was hoping for some help on my itinerary?
    I'm travelling solo around Southeast Asia from the 15th August to 20th September (In and out of Bangkok), it's my first time in the part of the world, and one of my first times travelling alone (I did a short month long interrail last summer, so this is going to be very different to what I'm used to, which I find exciting)
    So I was initially thinking of spending a few days in Bangkok, then like 2 and a half weeks in Vietnam and 2 weeks in Cambodia, but now I'm thinking of having some time in Chiang Mai before returning to Bangkok and getting a flight to Hanoi, working my way overland (and the occasional flight if I must) through Vietnam and Cambodia to Bangkok. Is it ridiculous to even consider trying to fit in Chiang Mai before going to Vietnam? I know it seems a bit ridiculous when there's so many places in Vietnam that are supposed to be worth seeing but I didn't really want to go to Thailand and not see Chiang Mai.
    Anyway, here's my potential Itinerary - it's very loose and adds up to a few days less than I actually have (I think like 2), but what do people think? More than anything, is it feasible, if not what do people think is worth cutting out, and also is there anything that people think I need to add? I'm interested in a bit of everything really, especially history. Not too fussed about doing long treks, a few short excursions maybe, and potentially a few beach days (but not sure how much use that would be in rainy season?)


    BKK - 2
    overnight train
    CHIANG MAI - 3 (5)
    BKK - 1 (6)
    HANOI - 2 (8)
    HALONG - 2 (10)
    SAPA - 2 (12)
    HOI AN - 3 (15)
    NHA TRANG (or Mui Ne) - 2 (18)
    SAIGON - 2 (20)
    PHNOM PENH - 3 (23)
    KAMPOT/KEP - 3 (26)
    SIHANOUKVILLE - 3 (29)
    SIEM REAP and ANGKOR (VIA PP) - 3 (32)
    BKK - 1 (33)


    So what do people think? Any suggestions would be more than appreciated!

    #1 Posted: 28/7/2013 - 06:08

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6409
    Total reviews: 10

    Honestly, going anyplace for two days is a waste of time. It takes you the better part of a day to get there, the better part of a day for your next transition. You don't have transportation days factored in, and with this much movement you are blowing about two weeks in movement. Movement here tends to be slow anyway. So you check out of your hotel, go to the bus station, get a ticket, wait for the bus, then sit on it for hours, get to the new destination, check into another hotel - bingo, day is shot. You have that evening and the next day and then you are in movement again. Even three days means two days at the place, one day in transit.

    The other issue is of course language. Three countries - bag it, you won't be learning more than hello.

    I honestly think one month is time to chilll in one country. There is so much to see and do in any one of these countries, there's just no reason to spread yourself so thin and spend so much time on the road. The more you move around, the less you see.

    #2 Posted: 28/7/2013 - 06:48

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
    14th September, 2012
    Posts: 540
    Places visited:
    At least 42

    Language barrier won't be a factor for him as he will be sticking to main tourist areas. True he will likely only learn hello and thank you but that is all that most tourists learn even if staying longer then a couple weeks...

    This itinerary is WAY too intense on travel time. Transfer from Halong to Sapa will take a full day itself(possibly more depending on transfers) and Sapa to Hoi An can only be done with 1 day on train/bus to Hanoi and then flight to Danang followed by bus to Hoi An(talking 15+ hours travelling at least if you are crazy enough to book a flight right when the train/bus should get back into Hanoi). Is 2 days in Sapa worth the 3+ days of travel it is going to create you?

    You need to start researching transportation availability since it looks like you have neglected this so far. One thing to also know is that these buses and trains are often late by 2-3+ hours from what is advertised.

    With your time and ideas I would skip on Thailand since you aren't really seeing anything there anyways and put that time towards Vietnam. That gives you roughly 5 days to spread around through Vietnam once you have figured out the travel restraints(which left as is would pretty much only cover your travel time).

    #3 Posted: 28/7/2013 - 13:03

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    Don't understand this whole rushing around thing that 2/3 travellers post as itineries. Unless you are 80yo and unlikely to travel again forget it. Pick 2 or 3 main areas and see them properly. If you like SEA and you're not too old you can go back and visit it many times over. Some people travel there every year for 20-30 years because they love it and they enjoy themselves without trying to rush around.

    You should be looking at 3,5,7,10 days in places. You only spend 1-2 days in a place if you don't like it.

    Waste of time going to CM or BKK for a short time. For CM you need 5 days to include a trek and for BKK you need time to explore the city/area nearby.

    You are also visiting BKK 3 times for some reason. Going to CM and back makes no sense and you've got 13 major moves in your trip which is crazy.

    If you actually did that plan you'd be so exhausted and tired the whole time it would completely suck and defeat the purpose of travelling/holidaying.

    Cut half the destinations off and have another think about it.

    #4 Posted: 29/7/2013 - 08:45

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6409
    Total reviews: 10

    With the exception of going "trekking" in Chiang Mai, I agree with everything Leonard just wrote.

    #5 Posted: 29/7/2013 - 09:07

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
    17th June, 2011
    Posts: 684

    OP - if you leave out Chiang Mai then this can be done, it will be fast paced but it is doable.

    When you've had your fill of Bangkok then fly to Hanoi and do as you've planned. I've seen crazier itineraries on here but I would suggest/advise a few things:

    - Sapa ticks a lot of the same boxes as Chiang Mai (trekking/hiking, tribes, nice scenery) so in your timeframe I wouldn't do both.

    - Fly from Hanoi to Danang, which is an hour from Hoi An . This will save you a lot of time. Check out Jetstar for cheap flights.

    - Cut Nha Trang and add this time to Hoi An, which also has a lovely beach and this would also give you some time to get shirts and suits knocked up if you so fancy. Nha Trang is tacky and doing this will allow you fly from Danang to Saigon, thereby saving more time.

    - There are direct overnight buses from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap, which is a great help. Check out the reputable operators though as I recall a few accidents not so long ago on this route.

    - If you feel you need to cut something, contrary to a lot of guide books and websites, I would say leave Halong Bay. It is beautiful but some people would say it is quite a lot of effort and expense, and 2-3 days gone, just to see some karst formations. Whereas Hanoi, Sapa and Hoi An (and I guess Saigon) are all must sees in Vietnam.

    Enjoy it anyway!

    #6 Posted: 1/8/2013 - 10:01

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
    14th September, 2012
    Posts: 540
    Places visited:
    At least 42

    Hoi An is a must see? Hoi An to me was one of the most overrated tourist grabs on my whole trip. Yes the whole town is set up for tourism with restaurants and shopping and cheap mediocre to poor quality clothing available but other then that it has little to offer. To me it was way too touristy and I didn't enjoy it at all but I also wasn't interested in shopping there though. Nha Trang isn't amazing but does have a nicer beach then Hoi An and has some decent diving if you want to give that a try. Nha Trang is kind of a pain to get to since it is either a couple long bus rides or a couple flights so it is worth considering skipping if it isn't a high priority.

    A must see in Vietnam that isn't on this itinerary is Paradise Cave by Dong Hoi. That would add a couple more days to see though.

    I do agree that Halong Bay is overrated. Decent karst formations but polluted and from what I hear usually overcast/poor visibility. I didn't get to Sapa but guessing I would have enjoyed it more. Would definitely consider skipping Halong Bay to give more reasonable time to go to Sapa or to see Paradise Cave.

    #7 Posted: 1/8/2013 - 15:32

  • nikeshbjani

    Joined Travelfish
    26th June, 2013
    Posts: 2

    Hi! Thanks for all the replies and advice,
    Yeah, by the sounds of it that plan was beyond ambitious so I'm swerving Chiang Mai, just spending a few days in Bangkok after my flight then flying straight to Hanoi. I'm then hoping to do Halong Bay, Hoi An, HCMC, Phnom Penh potentially via Chau Doc or something, then Sihanoukville and Siem Reap, then back to Bangkok for a night before my morning flight back to London. That's the bare bones of where I want to go, although I could end up adding a few places here and there depending on how it goes, and how I'm feeling (e.g. I'm still maybe hoping to try and see Sapa). Is there anywhere essential that I've missed out? I know what counts as important depends on the traveller, but anything that you guys would personally suggest as just plain amazing?

    #8 Posted: 2/8/2013 - 09:35

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
    17th June, 2011
    Posts: 684

    I really enjoyed Kampot and Kep. Hire a motorbike and zip around the province. Great scenery and food and friendly people. Base yourself in Kampot (the Bodhi Villa is nice).

    But, as has been said many times before, don't overstretch yourself.

    #9 Posted: 2/8/2013 - 09:42

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6409
    Total reviews: 10

    "Great scenery and food"

    It was my one rub with Cambodia. I really did not like the food.

    #10 Posted: 2/8/2013 - 12:56

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  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
    14th September, 2012
    Posts: 540
    Places visited:
    At least 42

    Food in Cambodia leaves a little to be desired and much of it is mediocre quality rip offs of Western or Thai food.

    That said the food in Kampot and on Koh Tonsay was good. Rusty Keyhole in Kampot had some decent ribs(were great considering hadn't had any other good ones on my trip. Koh Tonsay had decent seafood and I believe Kep is the same.

    #11 Posted: 2/8/2013 - 17:13

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    Halong Bay looks like a dirty downmarket version of Krabi.

    "but I didn't really want to go to Thailand and not see Chiang Mai"

    It's just a city, nothing special. A lot of the highlights in Thailand involve the islands and beaches which you're missing out on.

    You want great scenary and food? Go to places like Trang, Krabi, Kanchanaburi, Koh Chang or try a bit of Issan like Khong Chiam in the Ubon province.

    #12 Posted: 3/8/2013 - 08:39

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6409
    Total reviews: 10

    "A lot of the highlights in Thailand involve the islands and beaches which you're missing out on."

    Not for me. But I'll be the first to admit I'm an outlier.

    #13 Posted: 3/8/2013 - 10:56

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
    14th September, 2012
    Posts: 540
    Places visited:
    At least 42

    You aren't seeing anything in Thailand(Bangkok is meh...) so missing out on Chiang Mai is just a reason to go back and actually see Thailand in the future. If you enjoy this trip then next go around I would recommend going to Thailand and spending around the same time(4-5 weeks) just in Thailand.

    #14 Posted: 3/8/2013 - 11:04

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6409
    Total reviews: 10

    "Bangkok is meh..."

    Does this mean something in English?

    #15 Posted: 3/8/2013 - 11:17

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
    14th September, 2012
    Posts: 540
    Places visited:
    At least 42

    Lol.

    Bangkok is mediocre. Just a big dirty city really. I spent 4 days there and it was too much when you consider the other much nicer places in Thailand. I am not a city person to begin with so my view is probably a little biased, my point is just that seeing Bangkok is like seeing the butt hole of Thailand imo. If he enjoys his trip I would definitely recommend returning to Thailand and seeing it in detail as up north and the islands down south and probably even Isaan region have much more to offer then Bangkok.

    #16 Posted: 3/8/2013 - 11:34

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6409
    Total reviews: 10

    Greer
    Bangkok has more to offer than any other single destination in Thailand. But many of the things it has to offer most people are not coming to Thailand to indulge in. So for any kind of structured dance (Ballroom, salsa, Tango) Bangkok has the best scenes. Bangkok has the most vibrant Muay Thai scene. Bangkok has the most vibrant boxing scene. Bangkok has the best selection of foreign restaraunts. So if you want to pursue your hobby in Thailand, whatever that hobby happens to be, Bangkok will likely have the best opportunity to do so.

    Bangkok also has lot of history. The historic temples on the Chao Praya, then there's Chinatown, travelling via canal, excellent shopping from all ends of the spectrum.

    I personally really enjoy Bangkok when I get down there (which admitedly isn't often - a couple times a year - it's just too far). Of course, if you don't like cities, you won't like Bangkok. Because all of the negatives of cities are significantly amplified there. I don't like natural environments and find them boring and I don't like the ocean. So Bangkok is more interesting for me than anywhere else in Thailand - but only for limited doses. I live in a small city now for a lot of reasons, but one is that Bangkok would be too hectic to live in for me year around, although if I didn't have a little girl I might reconsider that.

    #17 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 07:20

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    Bangkok can take time to appreciate it. I hated it at first too but really like it now. As MM says it's got plenty of most things except mtns/beaches. BKK nightlife is miles ahead of anything else in the country and then you've got temples, museums, shopping and other things like Muay Thai.

    "Isaan region have much more to offer then Bangkok."

    Issan is good to visit but the attractions are really spread out and you need a car or bike to fully appreciate it.

    #18 Posted: 4/8/2013 - 07:57

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