Southeast Asia forum

5 weeks - Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia

  • Lewis2312

    Joined Travelfish
    27th January, 2014
    Posts: 5

    Hi,

    Me and my girlfriend are spending 5 weeks, mid-June to mid-July, around SE Asia. We haven't planned much of an itinerary as we have just finished university and wanted it to be a spur of the moment plan. We have 3 weeks to plan it and in terms of criteria we would like to do some sightseeing, cultural activities, possibly a jungle trek, and any MUST see places. Nightlife is not of as great importance to us but we would still like to sample it. We are just looking for some advice on places within each country people who have experience them would recommend, we appreciate any help.

    Thanks!

    L & A.

    #1 Posted: 23/5/2014 - 10:01

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    ****, you can squeeze in Burma.

    #2 Posted: 23/5/2014 - 10:10

  • hmrolstomt

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 10

    Hi L&A,

    Have you considered taking a bicycling tour? I'm going to be in the region at the same time and have heard that a cycling tour is a great way to lots of "out of the way" things at a nice pace. I'm looking for cycling partners as tours in my budget have a two person minimum. I'm hoping to do a tour lasting anywhere from 7 to 15 days. Let me know if you're interested and we could talk details. Either way, have a great trip!

    Cheers,
    Hannah

    #3 Posted: 23/5/2014 - 19:29

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
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    That is a really broad question - there are amazing places in every country and also a lot of debate over the amazing nature of these places. Some will advice to stay well away from the tourist trail, some found a few of these places fantastic, there is rural, there is urban, and I think with such a broad question you're not going to get much of a response here. There are a lot of articles on this site about routes you can take to hit some of the most often enjoyed/tourist trail locations - but other feature articles about out of the way loops that are well done on motorbike like the Bolaven Plateau (Pakse-Tad Lo-Paksong). I'd recommend you start with those. On the individual location pages that you can follow up on there are often a few helpful reviews and somtam's descriptions of the places in more detail.

    Your cheapest flight will probably be into either Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok or Hong Kong . . . maybe Hanoi or HCMC, not sure how the prices are for long distance international flights to those airports, but from my personal experience they just done scream, "well priced and massive hub airport that will have cheap tickets." You may want to avoid Thailand for now as the situation unfolds there. If you are going to avoid Thailand then you may as well avoid Burma as it will be flight in. That said, with 5 weeks you could probably do something involving Vietnam and Cambodia that would have a lot of what you're looking for. If you were to fly into Hanoi you could then spend 3 weeks traveling down the length to HCMC and check out the Delta before heading over to Phnom Penh and then up to Siem Reap (Angkor Wat), exploring that for a week before heading into the mountains in the southwest for a jungle strike and maybe a few days on the beach (rainy season then?) near Sihanoukville to relax a few nights at the end of the trip before heading up to Phnom Penh or over to HCMC quickly in order to fly back to Hanoi and catch your flight home. This is just an idea that strikes me as doable in 5 weeks, many people may say to spend the entire 5 weeks in Vietnam, but I think you could move through Vietnam in around 3 weeks and then 2 weeks in Cambodia.

    #4 Posted: 24/5/2014 - 06:09

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    I'm with Casey here. Vietnam - maybe Cambodia if you hit Hanoi and move south. Even that's stretching it. Remmeber this golden rule: A lot of movement = bad. Less movement = good.

    #5 Posted: 24/5/2014 - 12:26

  • Lewis2312

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 5

    Thanks for the feedback, rather than seeing many places in each country we are thinking of possibly spending 4/5 days at each destination and go to maybe 2 destinations within each country. I know this may not be many travellers way of travelling but there a certain areas in each country we really want to see.

    Currently up for debate of each country are;
    Thailand - Bangkok, Chang Mai, Pattaya, Khao Lak, Krabi town
    Laos - Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Si Phan Don, Vang Vieng, Mekong river, Bokeo Nature Reserve

    Vietnam - Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Hanoi, Hue, Ha Long Bay

    Cambodia - Siem Reap, Kampong Som, Phnom Penh, Koh Ker, Angkor Wat


    As I say, we are looking at spending 3/4/5 days in each destination. Trying to pick 2/3 destinations from each country is obviously very difficult and depending on opinion will vary between recommendation.


    We are mainly wanting to know those opinions, are also which of those destinations are 'do-able' in 3-5 days. I know that you could see much much more than 3-5days worth but as this is our first time visiting the area we are wanting to do the 'traditional sightseeing attractions' and where possible engage in cultural activities and perhaps a jungle trek or something along those lines.


    Many thanks!


    L&A.

    **ALSO** we are flying to (10th June) and from (15th July) Bangkok Airport. We are then looking to use internal flights to get between destinations quicker.

    #6 Posted: 3/6/2014 - 11:06

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Well, given all you have wrote here's my two cents for what it's worth:

    Thailand: Bangkok, Ayudaya, Kanchanaburi.

    Vietnam: Hanoi , Halong Bay, Sapa.

    Laos: Vientiane, VV, Luang Prabang .

    Cambodia: Sieam Reap (where Angkor Wat is located), PP

    You can fly from Bangkok to Hanoi, Hanoi to PP, PP to Luang Prabang then overnight train back to Bangkok.

    Good luck and have a fun trip.

    #7 Posted: 3/6/2014 - 11:54

  • eastwest

    Joined Travelfish
    17th December, 2009
    Posts: 772

    If it was just for me for 5 weeks I'd visit the following places

    - Hanoi (city, culture), Halong (nature, swimming), Sapa (ethnic culture, nature) and/or Mai Chau (scenery, etnic culture) and spend 8-10 days

    - fly to Luang Prabang (culture, nature, scenery) and surrounds spend 5-6 days there

    - fly to Siem Reap and spend 3-4 days at Angkor (culture) and surrounds

    - bus to southern Cambodia and spend 10 days in Kampong Som (party, beach), Kampot (party, rural areas) and/or Kep (relaxation,sea food)

    The remaining days I would spend near wherever my flight is to/from

    #8 Posted: 3/6/2014 - 21:22

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    You left out Thailand Eastwest.

    I'll be the first to admit, if it was me I would just stay in Thailand. But obviously the OP is looking at hitting the famous locations.

    BTW I inverted Vientiane. VV, LP. the order should be reversed.

    #9 Posted: 3/6/2014 - 23:46

  • caseyprich

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    Well - you're currently up for debate areas cover most of each of the countries. I like what eastwest offers, but as Madmac says, there is no Thailand in that plan (with your flight in-out of BKK). Madmac, you seem to have missed beach time, which I imagine would be an important part of relaxing at the end of a long trip. So, without further ado, my recommendation (a bit half arsed and keeping in mind that nightlife is not as important so spending less time in major cities and skipping Pattaya at all cost) . . .


    Thailand [7 days]: BKK a couple nights to acclimate and then a bus (no need to waste money on a flight) to Chiang Mai where you can do a jungle trek (Pooh Eco Travel, check it out). Fly to . . .


    Laos [7 days]: Luang Prabang area for a week, then fly to . . .


    Vietnam [12 days]: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay 4-5 days and then skip Sapa as you've already been in the jungles a bit around northern Thailand and Laos and instead take an overnight train to Hue to explore the old city for some history. Just a day or two in Hue and take a morning train for the great view to Da Nang and from there a quick ride to Hoi'an for a couple nights. From there you'll have to fly from Da Nang to Cambodia . . . is this possible? Certainly not cheap I guess. Maybe you could save some cash by flying instead to HCMC and spending a night or two there before onward to Siem Reap via a flight.


    (Hanoi/HaLongBay 5 nights, Hue 2 nights, Hoi'an 3 nights, HCMC 2 nights - Hue/Hoi'an are roughly the same region so you might just skip Hue if you prefer the 5 nights in one spot and just hit Hoi'an.)
    Cambodia [7 days]: Siem Reap (3-4 nights . . . then two options, head to southern Cambodia for some beach time at the end of the trip before returning to BKK via a flight out of Phnom Penh OR head over the border and down toward Trat to spend some beach time on Koh Chang or another island in that archipelago for beach time at the end of the trip.


    All of this is a bit rushed and you'd probably be more relaxed if you cut out something like Chiang Mai or Luang Prabang.



    #10 Posted: 5/6/2014 - 06:16

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Casey, the didn't mention beach time, which is why I left it out.

    Believe it or not, some people are not interested in the beach.

    Can't speak for the OP, but they didn't mention it.

    #11 Posted: 5/6/2014 - 10:11

  • Lewis2312

    Joined Travelfish
    27th January, 2014
    Posts: 5

    Really appreciating the feedback!

    Beach time hadn't been on our criteria but we do like the thought of spending our last few days on a beach.

    We definitely want to use flights as a means to be able to see more destinations but don't want to miss any transportations routes that are must-do's themselves. We read somewhere about the slow-boat (possibly from Thailand to Laos) for 2/3 days, can anybody offer any advice on that?

    Currently, we are thinking something along these lines.

    11th June - Arrive in Bangkok
    12th June - Bangkok
    13th June - Bangkok
    14th June - Fly to Chiang Mai
    15th June - Chiang Mai
    16th June - Chiang Mai
    17th June - Fly to Luang Prabang
    18th June - Luang Prabang
    19th June - Luang Prabang
    20th June - Vang Vieng
    21st June - Vang Vieng
    22nd June - Vientiane
    23rd June - Vientiane
    24th June - Vientiane
    25th June - Fly to Hanoi
    26th June - Hanoi
    27th June - Ha Long Bay
    28th June - Ha Long Bay
    29th June - Fly to Hue
    30th June - Hue
    1st July - Hoi An
    2nd July - Hoi An
    3rd July - Fly to Ho Chi Minh City
    4th July - Ho Chi Minh City
    5th July - Ho Chi Minh City
    6th July - Mekong river delta
    7th July - Fly to Phu Quoc Island
    8th July - Phu Quoc Island
    9th July - Phu Quoc Island
    10th July - Fly to Phnom Penh
    11th July - Phnom Penh
    12th July - Siem Reap
    13th July - Siem Reap
    14th July - Siem Reap
    15th July - Morning flight to Bangkok, fly home from Bangkok (night flight)

    Sorry for the long list. Please would people give their view on this itinerary.

    As previously stated, I know many people wouldn't travel in such a 'rush' but if you WERE to do it this way, do you think this seems a reasonable plan?

    We are looking for advice on each place, as to whether we should spend less or more days there? If people recommend more then perhaps we would look at taking a place out or spending less somewhere else.

    Does there appear to be anywhere that we aren't going that is a generic 'MUST' destination?

    Again, this is only a plan outline and by no means is set in stone, that's why we are looking for advice and feedback haha!

    Thanks again!

    L&A.

    #12 Posted: 5/6/2014 - 10:56

  • MADMAC

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    IT does look exhausting - but doable. I was surprised there's flight to Phu Quoc, but checked it out. Plenty of 'em. Shows what I know. Good luck and have a fun trip.

    #13 Posted: 5/6/2014 - 19:53

  • Geer1

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    Not what I would do but for different reasons then others have posted.

    Going to all the major cities/airports you are missing out on the best things these countries have to offer imo.

    My favourites and what I would consider must sees in these countries are Khao Sok NP Lake Tour in Thailand, Paradise Cave in Vietnam and Angkor Temples in Cambodia.

    Everywhere else is just kind of the same and you aren't going to gain a lot by seeing a lot of these cities. Vientiane for example had nothing of interest to me and I would have gladly skipped through it. As far as cities go Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang were decent. Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok had a few interesting places and the rest were barely worth seeing, definitely not worth the extra cost of flights imo.

    But hey, do what you want.

    #14 Posted: 5/6/2014 - 20:29

  • eastwest

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    It's a lot of cities on that list and I would certainly take a few of

    - 3 full days in Vientiane is definitely too much considering that you will visit so many cities. It's a pleasant city with some beautiful pagodas but I wouldn't visit it altogether with such a schedule. Plan for some real downtime in a rural area with scenery.
    - And because I would skip Vientiane I would skip Vang Vieng as well and just fly in and out of Luang Prabang. Road travel isn't the greatest in Laos. Beautiful scenery can be found in easier places in the region. That's why I recommend Sapa or Mai Chau.
    - Also Ho Chi Minh city I would leave out (even though it's one of my favorite cities) unless you are interested in contemporary urban asian culture. The majority of tourists are not too happy with the hectic traffic and pace there. If you are interested in the Vietnam war sites then you can also visit tunnels and sites near Hue and DMZ.
    - I'd fly straight from Hoi An/Danang to Phu Quoc
    - Perhaps add some beach time in Thailand before your flight home

    #15 Posted: 5/6/2014 - 21:21

  • Turkishpizza

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    Agree with Geer. A lot of travelling for not much. You could fly into the north or south of these countries and easily spend a few weeks in one region seeing the towns and villages. Asian cities are heavy traffic and polluted.

    #16 Posted: 5/6/2014 - 21:51

  • caseyprich

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    See Madmac, everyone likes the idea of ending a long holiday on the beach once they hear it [img]smileys/tongue.gif[/img]

    The slow boat you are talking about is between Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang , you take a bus to Huay Xia (?) and then it takes two days to get to Luang Prabang (with an overnight stop in Pakbang). So - very slow and if you are going to do that, then I'd highly recommend you take eastwest's advice and cut out Vang Vieng and Vientiane, just concentrating on Luang Prabang in Laos to save time.

    Now, if you save 5 days out of Laos by doing this, you'll probably want to put 2 of them toward Luang Prabang and I'd suggest the other 3 get added into your Vietnam trip (unless of course you take the slow-boat, then you've only saved 2 or 3 days). That way you don't have to double back at the Delta (you can overnight in Can Tho and onward to Rach Gai to take the ferry to Phu Quoc) and can maybe add one more night to Phu Quoc to really relax at the beach. Anyway, you have a lot of choices to make and a lot that you want to see. If you decide to cut anything out, other than VV and Vientiane, I'd agree again with eastwest that HCMC and Can Tho (though I love Can Tho) could be sacrificed by a direct flight from Da Nang to Phu Quoc if you decided it was just to hectic of a plan.

    This really makes your trip sound more like a regional hit list: Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai), Luang Prabang, Northern & Central Vietnam, Phu Quoc and Siem Reap (via PP). Which sounds a lot more doable when phrased that way and not overly scheduled. As such, if you got bored during the long stay in Luang Prabang you can always take an overnight trip up to Nong Kiaow and get some boat time in on your return to Luang Prabang (thus skipping the much more time consuming slow-boat option).

    As for 'not to be missed' travel sections. Make sure that from Hue to Hoi'an you take that train, I love trains and it is one of my favorite short-haul legs in Asia.

    #17 Posted: 6/6/2014 - 05:56

  • Lewis2312

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    Thanks again for the replies and advice!

    On review, given your views, we are favouring that we might miss a few cities (seems VV and Vientiane would be the ones to miss) and spending more time in more rural areas could give us a greater experience!

    Does anybody know a good region to visit a few islands?

    If we are going to take 5/6 days off then we would like to spend it on some lovely islands to relax? We don't mind which country off but any that stand out to people?

    With the view to some of the cities we are thinking of taking day trips to places, not particularly staying in the cities.

    We often do things as it happens, so if we meet people and they recommend somewhere we will give it a go.

    Each time we receive feedback and look at other places we change our minds haha! Seems so difficult to try get the best places/experiences!

    Thanks again,

    L&A.

    #18 Posted: 6/6/2014 - 16:23

  • Geer1

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    "Seems so difficult to try get the best places/experiences!"

    That is because you are trying to fit too much in. I spent just under 4 months in those countries and I feel like I barely scratched the surface, couldn't imagine trying to get a taste of them in only 5 weeks.

    #19 Posted: 6/6/2014 - 20:18

  • Lewis2312

    Joined Travelfish
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    Well unfortunately we don't have the time or finances to do a longer trip.

    That's why we are trying to do as much and experience as much as we can for time/finance.

    Of course we understand that we aren't going to be able to experience everything, but if you were in our situation with 5 weeks, wanting to 'sample' the culture and main sightseeing places in these countries how would you go about it?

    #20 Posted: 7/6/2014 - 03:59

  • eastwest

    Joined Travelfish
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    Lewis,

    Never mind the "hardcore" backpackers here.
    You have every right and reason to do the trip your way. It's your holiday and spend your time and money any way you see fit. Don't get distracted by the "you're doing it wrong" crowd. It always seems so pointless to me to say such things while knowing that a poster doesn't have the time/money to do it their way.

    Rant over

    To come back to your last question:
    You already have time planned on Phu Quoc which is a great island to relax.

    For the very end of your trip you have a few choices (given your departure from Bangkok)
    - After Siem Reap head to southern Cambodia and spend some time on the islands off Sihanoukville. They are very relaxing an not as heavily developed as in Thailand. Although things go pretty fast there now as well
    - After Siem Reap take a bus to Thailands eastern islands like Ko Chang, and the smaller islands around and then slowly work your way towards Bangkok (perhaps spend a few night on Ko Samet)
    - After Siem Reap fly to Phuket (via Bangkok) and visit the southern islands in Thailand

    Have a great trip.

    #21 Posted: 7/6/2014 - 06:05

  • Geer1

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    Lewis if I only had 5 weeks I would probably only go to 2 of these countries(probably Thailand and Cambodia). Since you are willing to spend more on flights you could probably add in Luang Prabang but I personally would leave Laos until you could set aside 2-3 weeks to see more of it.

    Here is a rough idea to think about.

    Fly in to Bangkok, spend a week in Bangkok area(Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi etc), head north spend a week in Chiang Mai area(maybe all in Chiang Mai with a quick stop in Chiang Rai), head east and take slow boat to Luang Prabang then spend 3-4 days in LP(so around a week in Laos) then fly to Phnom Penh, spend a couple days there then bus to Sieam Reap and spend 3-4 days there(so a week in PP and SR) then head back towards Bangkok with a stop at Koh Rong or Koh Chang on the way. That is still a whirlwind trip but gives you a taste of Thailand, brief view of Laos, the highlight of Cambodia(and possibly SEA) and some beach time to relax before heading home.

    Main things I would recommend doing/seeing.

    Bangkok: Temples, grand palace, couple museums, shopping
    Chiang Mai: Tons of things to do, hiking, elephants, cooking courses, decent zoo, tiger kingdom, rafting and more
    Chiang Rai: White temple and black house, walking street markets if you can hit it on a weekend
    Luang Prabang: Couple temples, Kuang Si Falls(rent a scooter and ride there if you feel up for it, is a beautiful ride)
    Phnom Penh: Tuol Sleng Prison and Killing fields(not going to be your favourite places but are must sees imo), national museum
    Siem Reap: Angkor temples obviously
    Island: Relax

    I really think you would feel like you got a lot more out of your trip if you did something like this compared to flying everywhere for 2-3 days. You will also save a lot on travel costs. You are still missing out on a lot of what these countries has to offer but at least you would be getting a decent taste and if you decide you really like it can come back in the future.

    Just my 2 cents. The key to seeing these countries and any other areas when you only have short vacation periods is to do it in multiple trips, not try and fit everything into one because inevitably you will end up missing most of what they have to offer.

    #22 Posted: 7/6/2014 - 08:07

  • caseyprich

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    If you are looking for islandS to see, then go with the Ko Chang suggestion. You could spend some time exploring the big Ko Chang and then bounce down to Ko Wai for two nights to get a much smaller experience. It is also simply fun to take a boat between islands, a real tropical vacation kinda vibe. I liked bouncing around those islands.

    #23 Posted: 7/6/2014 - 11:35

  • MADMAC

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    "Phnom Penh: Tuol Sleng Prison and Killing fields(not going to be your favourite places but are must sees imo)"

    I went to Tuol sleng but I will not take my family there. I'll let the OP decide what she wants to do. But for me, nope. It's a huanted place. Even as I sit at the keyboard I can see the faces of those poor kids looking out at me. It was worse than going to see Dachau.

    #24 Posted: 8/6/2014 - 07:24

  • Geer1

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    Tuol Sleng is definitely a tough experience but it is also a huge eye opener. I wouldn't take kids there but do recommend people go see it to get an idea of what Cambodia has gone through in the not so distant past.

    #25 Posted: 8/6/2014 - 10:31

  • caseyprich

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    The Killing Fields are also a must see. I thought the audio-tour was amazing and packed with important historical details. IMO the best option is to take a ride out to the Killing Fields in the early morning before the day heats up, and then head to Tuol Sleng afterwards. I think that KF is more informative and puts TS into a better perspective. Hire a Tuk-Tuk for a half-day for the trip and just have them drop you off at TS so you can wander back through the neighborhoods afterwards.

    #26 Posted: 8/6/2014 - 13:07

  • Turkishpizza

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    It's all morbid and sad. Cant think of anything worse to do on a holiday. Like visiting graveyards but far worse. Turning sad events into tourist attractions is a bit sick.

    #27 Posted: 8/6/2014 - 19:39

  • Geer1

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    No it isn't it is informative.

    Would you go travel around Germany without looking at anything related to the war?

    #28 Posted: 8/6/2014 - 21:38

  • MADMAC

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    "Would you go travel around Germany without looking at anything related to the war?"

    Yes - in fact you'll be hard pressed to find a whole lot realted to the war. A few old concentration camps like Dachau are kicking around. Most of the relics are long gone though. Most tourists who go to Germany are going to events like the over-priced, over-hyped October Fest and Neuschwanstein. In most towns and cities you'll find nothing at all related to the way - maybe some war memorial to the dead.

    The KR period was short and horrific. I can understand why people go - I went - to see places like that. But I won't take my wife or daughter. My knows what happened and I can tell my daughter what happened without her visiting these kinds of places.

    I would never describe any one place as a "must see" for anyone on vacation because we all have different tastes. But I most certainly would not call Tuol Sleng or the killing fields "must sees". They are historical for sure. But if you are on vacation to enjoy yourself and relax and decompress then they are the last places you want to go see.

    #29 Posted: 8/6/2014 - 22:15

  • caseyprich

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    I personally go on vacation to unwind and relax while also soaking up history and culture. Disclaimer, I am a history teacher. I think if you are in Cambodia it is to see the ruins around Siem Reap, historical. Also, not really that relaxing if you think about it. So, what else should you see while there, my opinion is that you should better understand the recent upheaval that has shaped the country. That is why I call it must see. I think the 'IMO' opinion should be pretty clear when someone says something is 'must see'.

    #30 Posted: 8/6/2014 - 22:35

  • MADMAC

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    I enjoy history - so for me that's relaxing. But some people don't give a **** about history. They are interested in nighlife or food or architecture. For them, the short psychotic KR period doesn't resonate. Just like if they went to Germany (fantastic architecture, great food) they might have zero interest in seeing something from WW II. Lots and lots of tourists go there and don't see or have anything to do with the war.

    It really does depend on the individual. I would never tell someone something is a "must see". The verbiage is deceptive as it applies everyone should see it.

    #31 Posted: 8/6/2014 - 23:42

  • Geer1

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    Ok, should have said must see from a travellers point of view.

    If you have no interest in seeing killing fields or tuol sleng then there isn't much point in going to Phnom Penh imo. So there is another couple days you can spend elsewhere.

    #32 Posted: 9/6/2014 - 00:54

  • MADMAC

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    "Ok, should have said must see from a travellers point of view."

    All "travellers" are not the same Greer. There are no "must sees" from any kind of tourists point of view.

    "If you have no interest in seeing killing fields or tuol sleng then there isn't much point in going to Phnom Penh imo. "

    This is just bizarre in my view. Phnom Penh is a vibrant place, a national capital with plenty to do and see. This is like saying there's no point in going to Munich if you aren't going to go to Dachau.

    Maybe it will be of interest to the OP, maybe not. I don't know. But PP is a whole lot more than the KR period. I spent eight days there and would like to have spent more.

    #33 Posted: 9/6/2014 - 01:21

  • Turkishpizza

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    War history can be done in a tasteful and respectful way. Having skulls stacked up and people taking photos like its "cool" is vile.

    Far more interested in German food and beer than references to sickening torture chambers.

    #34 Posted: 9/6/2014 - 01:42

  • Turkishpizza

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 40

    So there is nothing in PP but sites dedicated to a sad history? I find that hard to believe. The people living there would have lots of activities and hobbies. They would not be sitting around dwelling on the past.

    #35 Posted: 9/6/2014 - 01:47

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
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    PP, the riverfront is a very nice place to relax in the evening and I enjoyed the National Museum as well. I guess for me, getting to know the history that has created the poverty and such that you see traveling through Cambodia is very important. Same thing with going to the UXO museums in parts of Laos and the DMZ around Hue. However, I speak as a history nut and American. Of note, OP asked for "MUST see places" so I think they were fishing for such personal opinions.

    #36 Posted: 9/6/2014 - 06:46

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    "OP asked for "MUST see places" so I think they were fishing for such personal opinions."

    Which is fine - except that I would disagree there are such places. But I do understand responding to the request. For me I went to see it out of respect, but I would never call it a "must see" or even advise people to go. A heads up on "Hey, you might be interested in..." is cool. I would never call anything a "must see". I didn't see the world that way.

    What I really found strange was Greer's notion that that is the only reason to go to PP. It's a large capital city full of vibrant life, markets, restaraunts, chess players, dancers... tons of things to do and sights to see. As you point out, the riverfront is cool. Saying the only reason to go is see the two most depressing locations there is downright strange.

    #37 Posted: 9/6/2014 - 08:58

  • Geer1

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    There are dozens of places I would rather see and that I bet the OP would rather see instead of Phnom Penh . Phnom Penh is just your average poor dirty south east asia city. Yes the national museum was good but if you are going to Angkor Wat then it isn't worth a special trip for. The river scene was entertaining enough to kill an evening but I didn't bother to go back again. Places in Cambodia that I would rather go back to instead of Phnom Penh include Siem Reap, Kampot, Kep, Koh Tonsay, Battambang, Kratie and even Kampong Cham... Phnom Penh just had nothing special to offer to me other then Tuol Sleng, the Killing Fields and the National Museum.

    As for the killing fields and tuol sleng not being a must see for travellers I disagree. You can't fully understand the country without knowing what it went through and those 2 sights are without a doubt the best 2 sights to explain what happened. I feel the same way about the war remnants museum and cu chi tunnels in/near Ho Chi Minh. Sure if you are on a vacation and feel it will ruin your vibe then by all means skip it but if you are travelling to these countries to understand their cultures, history and lifestyles then you have to go see these places to fully understand why Cambodia and its people are the way they are.

    #38 Posted: 9/6/2014 - 14:50

  • Turkishpizza

    Joined Travelfish
    11th May, 2014
    Posts: 40

    The history of Cambodia is well known worldwide. I find it sickening that people are profiteering on the back of torture and murder and tourists are actually promoting this stuff. To write off a whole city and saying it only has museums and sites dedicated to death and misery as attractions is sad.

    #39 Posted: 9/6/2014 - 19:21

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
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    I didn't say that is all it has. I said that is all I feel it has for reasons to go visit the city. The other reasons you guys have mentioned to go visit can be said for almost any town/city in south east asia. For example there are many towns with a river front scene, Kratie, Kampong Cham, Ha Tien, Luang Prabang, Chiang Khong, Bangkok etc. Most other towns/cities also have markets, restaurants, dancing etc. The thing with Phnom Penh is that if you have seen places like Bangkok, Luang Prabang, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap etc then you aren't going to see anything new unless you go see the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng.

    #40 Posted: 9/6/2014 - 22:29

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6341
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    Greer, I respect your opinion, but I have to disagree on PP. I understand your rationale for why you would advise people to go. There is a logic there. But as for the city itself, I found it one of my favorites in the world. That list includes Mombassa, Kenya; Augsburg, Germany; Kingston, Ontario and Mogadischu, Somalia. All very different places. All have a certain charm. PP has that charm as well. Where you and I are very different (I suspect) is I go to places to meet the people. I found PP a really easy place to do that. Sights are absolutely secondary. PP also had excellent food. I don't like Cambodian food, and PP had a lot of varied international cuisine (including a superb Japanese BBQ place).

    "Travellers" are not really interested in the culture of the places they go. Be honest here. It's very superficial. To get into culture takes more time than people who aren't dedicated to learning language have. "Traveller" is another word for tourist who is sightseeing instead of hanging on a beach. So he goes someplace for a couple of days, gets some happy snaps, and moves on.

    #41 Posted: 9/6/2014 - 23:07

  • Turkishpizza

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 40

    People interested in Cambodian history can read a range of books. A 2 hour superficial visit to a misery museum is a token attempt to be interested in their history.

    #42 Posted: 10/6/2014 - 01:29

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
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    My last comment on this, for many people reading a book does not have the same impact as visiting the site. Also, the Killing Fields audio-tour is not superficial, it is very informative and respectful. Sometimes visiting these sites is what prompts someone to be interested enough to read the books. Simply brushing off museum visits as tokenism is just as generalizing as saying a city only has museums to visit.

    #43 Posted: 10/6/2014 - 06:39

  • Turkishpizza

    Joined Travelfish
    11th May, 2014
    Posts: 40

    You are promoting these places as must sees which implies the city has nothing better to offer. I cant see Cambodians spending their weekends visiting misery museums. They would have more worthwhile positive things to do.

    #44 Posted: 10/6/2014 - 07:02

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6341
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    I would never say these places aren't worth going to. I am just saying they aren't the alpha and the omega, which is what Greer said. PP is a great place. It's a ton of fun. It's not, as he described it, just another poor, dirty city. It's a dynamic, fun place. That was my big objection. As I said before, I spent eight days there, and it wasn't enough.

    #45 Posted: 10/6/2014 - 09:00

  • somtam2000

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    Personally I'd say a visit to Tuol Sleng & the Killing Fields are essential for anyone looking for an insight into what happened in Cambodia. Tuol Sleng in particular is absolutely harrowing. I can't think of anywhere else quite like it. It is unique.

    Phnom Penh itself, I loved it. We lived there for two years and I was dragged kicking and screaming out of the place. Love it.

    So yes, def visit the TS and KF, but there is a lot more to Phnom Penh (and Cambodia) then the legacy of the KR.

    #46 Posted: 10/6/2014 - 09:07

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6341
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    "Personally I'd say a visit to Tuol Sleng & the Killing Fields are essential for anyone looking for an insight into what happened in Cambodia."

    I woudl argue they are not "essential" in the same way going to Auschwitz is not "essential" to what happened in Nazi Germany. Instructive, yes. But you will get more comprehension of what happened from quality books on the subject. You will get more emotion from visiting these locations, I'll grant you.

    "Phnom Penh itself, I loved it. We lived there for two years and I was dragged kicking and screaming out of the place. Love it."

    Here is where you and I are violently in agreement and the part I am glad you posted, because you and I see this the same way. As I said, I was only there eight days, and it wasn't enough.

    #47 Posted: 11/6/2014 - 02:00

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