Southeast Asia forum

Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam in 7 weeks

  • Dankpc

    Joined Travelfish
    19th November, 2013
    Posts: 2

    Hello,

    I'm new in this forum and would appreciate some help for my route!
    Me and my girlfriend are heading to Bangkok in 11 days (yea i know we're quite late organizing - we just came back from South America!) and would love to hear some tips/must-see's or do's from some SEA experts in this forum ;)

    So we're both students and obviously don't have too much money (so we prefer cheap transportation).
    I'm more the relaxed beach and islands guy and my girlfriend loves nice landscapes and the local cultures (if that makes it easier for you to suggest us places to go).

    I've been reading through some suggested itineraries and most of them recommended going north to Chiang Mai, pass the border to Laos, then head to Vietnam to work your way down to Ho-Chi-Minh city, cross the border to Cambodia and finally back to Thailand.


    First of all we're not sure whether to go north or south from Bangkok first. Of course we wanna do both - what do you think is better? Are the beaches in the south nicer (or maybe less crowded) now or in January?
    Also i was a bit concerned about the typhoon that hit the Philippines and parts of Vietnam - is it "safer" to stay on the main land now and do the beaches and islands lateron?


    I'm excited for your answers!

    #1 Posted: 19/11/2013 - 12:24

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  • Geer1

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

    Typhoon did no damage in Vietnam, no need to worry about that.

    7 weeks isn't much time to try and do all 4 of these countries. I did them in about 11 weeks + 4 weeks of volunteering and I still missed out on a few things. Luckily I planned it so I can go back and easily see most of the places I missed in a future trip.

    With that in mind, forget southern Thailand unless you would prefer to forget about Vietnam or something else to shorten your trip. Can easily spend 10-14 days in Thailand just going from Bangkok then north and over towards Laos border. Laos is again easy to spend 10-14 days, more if you decide to change your route and head overland down into Cambodia before heading up Vietnam(depends if you want to see southern Laos). You can whirlwind through Cambodia in a week like most people do but I recommend checking it out more as it was one of my favourite countries. Again 10-14 days is better here imo. Already that has you 30-42 days(4-6 weeks), Vietnam is pretty much a minimum 3 weeks(I would suggest 4-5) if you want to see south, middle and north regions. To save time definitely look into flying HCMC to Danang or vice versa as it will save 2 days of travel, has reasonable ticket costs through jetstar and you won't miss much in between. HCMC, Hanoi and Siem Reap all have reasonable flights to Bangkok through Air Asia depending on the final route you choose.

    Unfortunately with that route you won't see much for beaches(worthwhile ones anyways). If that is really more what you would like to focus on maybe do Thailand and Cambodia and maybe even a touch of Malaysia if so inclined.

    #2 Posted: 19/11/2013 - 21:31

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
    Total reviews: 10

    May I suggest a significantly shorter itnerary unless you really love sitting for hours and hours, over and over again, on shitty, crowded buses. Being a bus combat veteran I can assure you it sucks. To make the loop you are suggesting, you will be doing some seriously long bus travel that will eat, I'd estimate, ten days of your total time at least. So picture these horrible 12 hour or longer blocks of time (kind of like long distance plane travel only not as comfortable) and doing it over and over again. It's really nice if you can keep those legs short, and keep the time between bus trips long. But you don't have time for that.

    As an alternative I suggest getting into Bangkok and flying straight to Phnom Phen Cambodia. From there, make your way to Siem Reap . PP is a fun city, and Siem Reap will allow you to take in Angkor Wat. From there you could head to Trat in Thailand. Some beach time but not on the tourist trail so your girlfriend can get to see some normal Thai urban life. From Trat, make your way to Bangkok. You can visit all the usual suspects or not, depending on preference. From here head north to Ayuhdya. I like this place, the old capital. Some find it a touch too touristy and it is, given it is so close to Bangkok. It's also a living city, not stuck in a time warp. But I like the vibe on the place. From there Kanchanaburi would probably suit both of you - enough to see and do there. Then head south down the peninsula, slowly make your way to Phuket and then Krabi and get some seriously nice beach time. That's the way I'd go. The distances aren't so brutally long and you aren't spending all your time on the road and worn out when you get to each place.

    #3 Posted: 19/11/2013 - 23:08

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

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

    Never understand these people who want to spend half their holidays sitting on lousy buses! Above 5 hours buses suck big time. Fly fly fly. Flights are so cheap in SEA.

    #4 Posted: 26/11/2013 - 10:23

  • Geer1

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

    Because some people are willing to put up with a little bit of discomfort to save a few hundred dollars...

    #5 Posted: 26/11/2013 - 14:37

  • Dankpc

    Joined Travelfish
    19th November, 2013
    Posts: 2

    It's not like we want to spend that much time in public transport...we wanna have good money/value ratio and obviously wanna see the most during the time we're in sea!

    So we did some planning and were thinking of followin itinerary:

    THAILAND
    Bangkok: 3D
    Fly to
    Krabi: 7D
    Fly back to Bangkok
    6-7h bus to

    CAMBODIA
    Siem Reap: 2D
    Phnom Penh: 2-3D

    VIETNAM
    HCMC: 2D
    Bus 4-6h
    Mui Ne: 1-2D (Skip?)
    Bus 5h
    Nha Trang: 2-3D
    Bus 8h
    Hoi An: 2-3D
    Hue: 2D (skip?)
    Train 15h
    Hanoi: 3D
    Halong Bay: 3D/2N trip

    We''re keeping the option of flying from da nang (hoi an) to hanoi in case we're running out of time. In case of mui ne and hue we've heard different opinions and are willing to skip these cities in order to save time.


    Fly/bus (24h) to

    LAOS

    Vientiane: 3D
    Luang Prabang: 3D
    Luang Nam Tha (Trekking Center): skip
    Huay Xai: skip


    THAILAND
    Chiang Rai: 2D
    Chiang Mai: 3-4D
    Sukhothai: skip?
    Ayuthaya: 2-3D

    We read that sukothai and ayuthaya are similiar and that second is the better option if you have to choose.

    In total it's 48 days if you take all the cities and the longer duration of stay and 44 days if you skip the marked cities. Since we've got about 51 days it's obvious that we cannot do all the cities,but we wanted to give you an overview of the route!

    So guys what do you think of the route? I know it's a lot of travelling and a lot of bussing,but we really wanna see a lot!

    #6 Posted: 26/11/2013 - 16:20

  • Geer1

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

    Imo you are missing 2 of the highlights along that route. A) Khao Sok National Park Lake Tour in Southern Thailand and B) Paradise Cave near Dong Hoi in Vietnam.

    Both of these would be easily added in so research them and see if you think you would like them. They along with the Angkor temples were my 3 highlights of my trip. Khao Sok can easily be done by a side trip from Krabi or after Krabi(could then head to Surat Thani and take night train/bus back to Bangkok then fly to Siem Reap, Air Asia has reasonably flights).

    Siem Reap is worth 3 days imo. Can easily just steal that from Phnom Penh . Phnom Penh is a 1-2 day stop imo, just make sure you see Tuol Sleng and Killing Fields.

    If I was going to skip any place it would be Mui Ne and Nha Trang. All they have are average beaches, no other real attractions and they add in a lot of bus/train time. Jetstar has cheap flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Danang and that is what I would do if I were to do it again.

    Hue is worth stopping imo, the citadel and tombs are completely different to anything else you will see in SEA. Khai Dinh tomb was my favourite.

    I would consider doing the slow boat from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai, you aren't seeing a whole lot in Laos and although I wasn't a huge fan of the slow boat it did show some interesting aspects of Laos and gives you better taste for the scenery. Takes 2 days but that could be made up by knocking off time in Vientiane(little to see or do, just your run of the mill city).

    Try to be in Chiang Rai on a weekend to see one of the walking streets, Sunday is better imo but both are decent(night bazaar isn't really worth going to unless you have a bunch of buddies and just want to sit around and drink beer).

    Sukhothai or Ayutthaya are usually done in 1 day by most people. Not enough to see for 2-3 days. I don't know which is better, Ayutthaya is definitely easier to fit in though due to its proximity to Bangkok.

    #7 Posted: 26/11/2013 - 17:23

  • Geer1

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

    Imo you are missing 2 of the highlights along that route. A) Khao Sok National Park Lake Tour in Southern Thailand and B) Paradise Cave near Dong Hoi in Vietnam.

    Both of these would be easily added in so research them and see if you think you would like them. They along with the Angkor temples were my 3 highlights of my trip. Khao Sok can easily be done by a side trip from Krabi or after Krabi(could then head to Surat Thani and take night train/bus back to Bangkok then fly to Siem Reap, Air Asia has reasonably flights).

    Siem Reap is worth 3 days imo. Can easily just steal that from Phnom Penh . Phnom Penh is a 1-2 day stop imo, just make sure you see Tuol Sleng and Killing Fields.

    If I was going to skip any place it would be Mui Ne and Nha Trang. All they have are average beaches, no other real attractions and they add in a lot of bus/train time. Jetstar has cheap flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Danang and that is what I would do if I were to do it again.

    Hue is worth stopping imo, the citadel and tombs are completely different to anything else you will see in SEA. Khai Dinh tomb was my favourite.

    I would consider doing the slow boat from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai, you aren't seeing a whole lot in Laos and although I wasn't a huge fan of the slow boat it did show some interesting aspects of Laos and gives you better taste for the scenery. Takes 2 days but that could be made up by knocking off time in Vientiane(little to see or do, just your run of the mill city).

    Try to be in Chiang Rai on a weekend to see one of the walking streets, Sunday is better imo but both are decent(night bazaar isn't really worth going to unless you have a bunch of buddies and just want to sit around and drink beer).

    Sukhothai or Ayutthaya are usually done in 1 day by most people. Not enough to see for 2-3 days. I don't know which is better, Ayutthaya is definitely easier to fit in though due to its proximity to Bangkok.

    #8 Posted: 26/11/2013 - 17:23

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
    Total reviews: 10

    OK, I'm going to give you the flip side, because Greer and I obviously see things really differently here. I'll just highlight rather than make a long post, as you'll understand what I'm saying right away.

    You left out the bus hours in Thailand and Laos, but those are considerable as well. You have a LOT of bus travel here. Not a little. You can see that. It will be very unpleasant. It's as if you are taking long haul aircraft flights, without the amenities, every two to three days.

    The reason you intend to do so is emodied in this sentence:

    "I know it's a lot of travelling and a lot of bussing,but we really wanna see a lot!"

    I know I sound like a broken record here (does anyone use that idiom anymore since records are a thing of the past?) but SEA is just not about seeing things. There are things to see, but Europe is way better for sight seeing than SEA is. Construction here tended towards wood for the most part, and the tropics eat wood rapidly. The Europeans developed maginificent architecture (as did some ancient middle eastern societies) and I found those places to be non-Pareil in terms of architecture. There is some of that here (Ankgor Wat for example) but the real charm of SEA is the feel of the place: The slow pace of life, the easy going nature of things that the tropics engender. When you race around from place to place at a hectic place, the single biggest element of SEA charm is being destroyed in the process. This itinerary isn't relaxing, it's exhausting. You'll need a vacation just to recover.

    On top of this, for the cultural tourist, I have always taken at face value that people are really interested in the culture of the locales they are visiting. Culture is about people at it's core, and if you move rapidly from culture to culture, it will be a blur. You'll make no friends (except maybe some other tourists), learn no language, hell in a couple of years you probably won't be able to remmember which cuisine was what with any accuracy. You'll have a bunch of pictures, but it's difficult to imagine that you'll look back on this massive bus ride with fondness.

    On a side note:
    "Phnom Penh is a 1-2 day stop imo, just make sure you see Tuol Sleng and Killing Fields."

    I strongly disagree with this. I loved PP and found it an engaging and interesting city. I spent just over a week there, and it wasn't long enough. I made a couple of cool friends there whom I am still in touch with and intend to go back in a couple of months.
    I did go to Tuol Sleng, but I do warn you it's a haunting place. For historical reasons we owe it to the victims not to forget what happened there. But even now when I saw Greer's post here I could see the images of those poor people sitting for the mug shots waiting to be tortured and executed. There was banal evil at work there that will haunt you for the rest of your life when you are confronted with it.

    #9 Posted: 26/11/2013 - 22:53

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

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

    U dont see much from buses. Fly then hire a car and u see far more interesting things that way. Or do lots of boat trips as the best scenary in SEA is in Phang Nga bay area.

    #10 Posted: 27/11/2013 - 05:59

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  • Geer1

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

    Oh yeah, also see national museum in Phnom Penh it is definitely worth going to. As per MadMac's comment, if you have time to hang around for a few days and going to try and meet and hang out with people there I am sure you could have a good time. If you are just going to look at sights then move on it is only a 2 day stop as the rest of it is just your regular dirty SEA city. If you just want to relax and hang out with other people there are far better spots imo.

    Me and MadMac have talked about different point of views for quite a while now. He travels slow preferring to actually move to and fully immerse himself in other cultures. He gives good advice but you need to be willing to travel quite slowly and sometimes even need to be somewhat fluent in the local languages to get the full effect. I am more focused on seeing the sights and I disagree with MadMac about lack of sights in SEA. You can't see karsts, jungle, bamboo houses, budhist temples, khmer temples and much more in Europe. There are also other sights like Lakes, Waterfalls, Caves, City architecture etc that you can see similar things in other countries but none will be the same. Khao Sok Lake, Kuang Si Waterfall, Paradise Cave are all amazing sights that are world class quality for example. I do agree that experiencing local culture, seeing the difference in lifestyle between SEA and the western world, eating the food and experiencing a few festivals if possible is a big part of travelling to SEA, there are good sights but the cultural difference is what really makes SEA nice to travel in. I actually volunteered for a month in Chiang Rai and I quite liked the experience I had there as I did and saw things I never would have doing the regular tourist things.


    Tuol Sleng is definitely a powerful experience, I knew little about what happened in Cambodia and am very happy that I went as it has helped me understand Cambodia's people and country better. The war remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh City is a similar experience, it is just something you have to understand these countries history.


    Another thing that MadMac triggered in me is that Vientiane to Luang Prabang is a 12 hour full day bus ride. Vientiane has little to see or do and I believe flights are cheaper to Luang Prabang. Maybe fly to LP and then spend a few days heading north to Nong Khiaw/Muang Ngoi or hit up Oudomxay/Luang Namtha instead.

    Overall with only 7 weeks you are going to miss out on things and travel could be a little painful at times. You are only getting tiny insights into Laos and Cambodia but maybe you will enjoy it enough to come back and see some of these countries in more detail later.

    #11 Posted: 27/11/2013 - 10:08

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

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

    "I'm more the relaxed beach and islands guy and my girlfriend loves nice landscapes and the local cultures (if that makes it easier for you to suggest us places to go)."

    Unless you spend a week getting to know the locals you won't experience much local culture. Trang to Krabi has awesome landscapes and beaches. Not sure why you want to take long bus rides elsewhere. Go visit Prachuap on the way back to Bangkok. Really nice beachside town with the best seafood oh so cheap and few foreigners.

    With 7 weeks I'd just do 3 countries max and see things properly.

    #12 Posted: 27/11/2013 - 11:02

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