Southeast Asia forum

4 week itinerary - Any advice or opionions?

  • Bassfunk

    Joined Travelfish
    24th March, 2009
    Posts: 9

    Hi Everybody

    Me and my future wife are planning a 4 week honeymoon to South East Asia in January next year. After lots of extensive reading (thanks Travelfish) We've decided to pick out a few highlights. We'd like to see Halong Bay, trek in Laos, visit Angkor Wat and chill out on a beach/island. As it's our first time visiting this area we don't mind being in places a bit more touristy (they're popular for a reason right?).

    We've decided to fly most legs to save time, and as it's our honeymoon we can probably afford to splash out a little here and there. We will be stopping in Flashpacker type lodgings and we've decided to keep it simple tried not to be traveling constantly. Here's our itinerary:

    Tue 5/1/2010 Land Bangkok
    Wed 6/1/2010 Fly to Hanoi
    Thu 7/1/2010 Hanoi
    Fri 8/1/2010 Halong Bay
    Sat 9/1/2010 Halong Bay
    Sun 10/1/2010 Hanoi
    Mon 11/1/2010 Fly to Luang Prapang
    Tue 12/1/2010 Laung Prapang
    Wed 13/1/2010 Luang Prapang
    Thu 14/1/2010 Luang Prapang Trek
    Fri 15/1/2010 Luang Prapang Trek
    Sat 16/1/2010 Laung Prapang
    Sun 17/1/2010 Fly to Siem Reap
    Mon 18/1/2010 Siem Reap
    Tue 19/1/2010 Siem Reap Temples
    Wed 20/1/2010 Siem Reap Temples
    Thu 21/1/2010 Bus to Phnom Penh
    Fri 22/1/2010 Phnom Penh
    Sat 23/1/2010 Bus to Sihanoukville
    Sun 24/1/2010 Sihanoukville
    Mon 25/1/2010 Sihanoukville (Island)
    Tue 26/1/2010 Sihanoukville (Island)
    Wed 27/1/2010 Sihanoukville
    Thu 28/1/2010 Bus to Bangkok
    Fri 29/1/2010 Bangkok
    Sat 30/1/2010 Bangkok
    Sun 31/1/2010 Bangkok
    Mon 01/2/2010 Fly home

    So here are my questions:
    -Are we spending enough time/too much time in each place?
    -Can anybody recommend any treks in Luang Prabang?
    -Is Sihanoukville as bad as people make out? We were thinking of stopping on Otres beach for the quiet life or heading to an island.
    -We want to finish up in a more luxurious hotel and thought as we're flying in and out of Bangkok we would see some of it. Any recommendations for higher end ($50 -$100 a night) hotels?

    Any comments or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks Guys

    Pete

    #1 Posted: 14/4/2009 - 16:16

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  • chrispyrolls

    Click here to learn more about chrispyrolls
    Joined Travelfish
    2nd November, 2006
    Location United Kingdom
    Posts: 198
    Total reviews: 4

    Hi Pete,

    The plan looks good to me, altho if you can add a day or so to Hanoi - i think it's definately worth it as there is a lot to take in, whether it's the sites or just sitting on a tiny chair drinking bia-hoi and watching the world go by... lovely!

    If you have not chosen your accommodation in LP yet take a look at Khoun and Khone Bungalows (http://www.khounandkhone.hrorbit.com)- They are a lovely couple and their bungalows are perfect ... especially for your honeymoon. Khoun also arranges treks into the surrouinding area...

    Have a great time

    Chris

    #2 Posted: 14/4/2009 - 18:52

  • Bassfunk

    Joined Travelfish
    24th March, 2009
    Posts: 9

    Thanks Chris.

    Yeah the last few days in Bangkok have sort of been built in as spare days. So I'm sure I could build another day in to Hanoi. It all depends what the weather is like when we get there I suppose. With it being January I guess it could be a bit cold and wet? But if the weathers fine we could maybe hang on a bit longer.

    #3 Posted: 14/4/2009 - 19:21

  • Bassfunk

    Joined Travelfish
    24th March, 2009
    Posts: 9

    Wow just checked out Khoun and Khone Bungalows. Good call Chris. This is now a definate on our must do list. Thanks again for your advice.

    Has anybody else got any recomendations?

    #4 Posted: 16/4/2009 - 03:17

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Pete

    I think you're off your rocker!!!!!

    You want to spend your honeymoon 'on the road' rather than quietly with her!!!!

    What does your future life partner think?

    Elsewhere, travellers have said that Halong Bay in January is FREEZINGLY COLD. No swimming, no snorkelling, no kayaking.... So, why go there when you can't do what the place is famous for?

    HaNoi? I just came back from there (again). But, why are you landing in BKK, and then departing to HaNoi?

    In many respects, the buzz of BKK is akin to that of HaNoi (only safer).

    So, for a honeymoon, I'd suggest a few days of BKK instead.

    Trekking from Luang Prabang - on a honeymoon? Mmmm!!!!!

    While there is trekking out of LP, you'd be traversing a well worn path. If trekking is a 'desire', go look at Travelfish's 'stories' suggestions for better options.

    Personally, I'd suggest you go to Chiang Dao (refer: http://www.travelfish.org/feature/138) and trek from there. I'd even go as far as saying that your honeymoon will be forever remembered (for the right reasons) if you stay to 'The Nest' (budget to eat there too, pricey, but wonderful).

    For a honeymoon, I'd also suggest to leave Cambodia for another journey. Here you are, (to be) just married and you want to share time with your new life partner in a country that is socially, ethically, morally, and economically challenging. MMmmmm!!!!

    To be frank, I think you appear captivated by people's stories and not planning your journey to maximise your experiences, pleasures, and enjoyments.

    So, I'd suggest you only 'do' Thailand.

    BKK 4 days

    fly Chiang Mai (3 days)

    be driven to - or hire a car and drive yourself - to Chiang Dao (3 or 4 days)

    (maybe if you hire a car, you may like to look at Pai +/or Mae Hong Son down to Mae Sariang, and back to Chiang Mai)

    return to Chiang Mai,

    fly southern peninsula (either Phuket, or Krabi), spend remaining time wandering around this lovely area lazing on beaches / islands / etc.

    Fly back to BKK

    Exit to home...

    Cheers

    #5 Posted: 27/4/2009 - 18:11

  • Bassfunk

    Joined Travelfish
    24th March, 2009
    Posts: 9

    Thanks for your advice Bruce. As we're both new to travelling and the area we really do appreciate any advice from people who have already experienced these things.

    The missus is well up for it. We've been together for over 10 years so we've had our share of romantic breaks. and thought we'd give travelling a go. We can lie on a beach in a luxury resort when we're 60. But while we're young we might as well see the world right? Besides we're not really the lie about on Holiday types.

    Is Halong Bay really that cold? I'm from the North of England and often go out walking in the Peak District in sub zero temperatures so I guess it's all relative. Besides I thought Halong Bay was famous for the sheer number of limestone cliff formations rising out of the water? We can do the whole snorkelling and swimming etc later on in our trip. But if somebody can tell us it really isn't worth it in January then maybe we'll think twice.

    The reason for landing in BKK is that it's cheaper to fly in and out of there rather than Hanoi etc from the U.K. The reason for visiting Hanoi is we would like to see a bit of Vietnam and use it as our base when we go to Halong Bay. What do you mean safer? Again surely this is relative? I read somewhere else that while these places might be seen as less safe that still doesn't compare to some of the larger citys in the Western world.

    Is trekking in Luang Prabang ok though? As I said I walk in the Hills around here all the time. I live in Manchester city centre and in half an hour I can be walking in the Peak District. These paths are most definitely well worn but does that make it any less enjoyable? As I've already said I have no experience of this area so this is a genuine question. Is walking the well worn path any less enjoyable than any of your suggestions?

    While planning this trip we did entertain the idea of just visiting one country and seeing all that it has to offer. But after some deliberation we decided that a month off work was too good an opportunity to miss. We are treating this trip as a taster session. We want to visit the main tourist destinations and see the big sites. Then if we find out there's a country we really enjoy then we'll make a plan to visit that place again and perhaps see some of the lesser known areas. And the good thing about travelling this way is our itinerary isn't set in stone. If we don't like it somewhere we'll move on. If we fall in love with a destination we'll extend our stay.

    I appreciate your frankness Bruce. But as we have no experience of the area how else can we plan our trip if we don't as you put it: 'get captivated by people's experiences'?

    Again thanks for your reply. We won't be taking any decisions lightly. This itinerary is one of many possible itineraries. We plan to try and give ourselves as much freedom as we can while maximizing the precious little time we have. It's a difficult balance and your comment has definitely given us food for thought.

    Besides we might all die from Swine Flu before any of this happens. Lol

    Thanks

    Pete

    #6 Posted: 29/4/2009 - 17:17

  • bc3000

    Joined Travelfish
    29th April, 2009
    Posts: 3

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi, I completely disagree with Bruce. I love Cambodia, the people are generally super friendly, and it's nice to be contributing something to people who really appreciate it. Yeah, there are beggars, the government is corrupt, tuk-tuk drivers are always in your face/ripping you off, but I enjoyed myself there. Maybe not the perfect place for a honeymoon but hey, it's different. Angkor Wat is pretty cool, I enjoyed Siem Reap. Even though it's touristy it's nice to just be able to walk everywhere and just chill out a bit. Maybe that's just me- I guess you need to think about what you guys enjoy doing, but if you're so close to the supposed 8th wonder of the world, it'd be a shame to miss out.

    #7 Posted: 29/4/2009 - 22:28

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Bassfunk, in reply...

    Halong Bay

    As you point out, 'cold' is relative.

    I love Halong Bay, it's a great WARM season destination. The heavy moist atmosphere coupled to industrial discharges produces a haziness that for me makes for a sort of romantic-ness. Once way away from other boats in Halong Bay, the haziness also makes one feel as if one is there (almost) alone.

    ps. we chose an operator (relatively expensive) to be AWAY from the maddening throng.

    Yes, the Karst is wonderful. But, for me the Karst scenery wasn't 'big deal' (let me explain).

    In a global sense, the boat trip down the River Li in China (Guilin - Yangshao) is the most superior eye-popping Karst scenery I've personally seen.

    Also, the Karst scenery south and west of HaNoi (in rice paddies) is also just as good as Halong Bay [actually the Karst 'belt' lies in a horseshoe shape from near Ninh Binh in the south of HaNoi, across to around Hoa Binh in the west, and up towards Viet Tri in the north west of HaNoi]. From HaNoi, tourists can be taken to Perfume Pagoda (south) and Nam Toc (west) and they all enjoy the 'rice paddy' Karst scenery.

    For me, the 'attraction' of Halong Bay was not the Karst as such (though it was), rather it was all the other 'attractions' in a Karst setting. On this, see our 'blog':

    http://www.travelblog.org/Asia/Vietnam/blog-373859.html

    - - - - - -

    safer

    When I mentioned 'safer' regarding BKK to HaNoi, I was referring to the craziness of traffic. Despite the fact that so many tourists visit HaNoi and survive, we were advised that the number of westerners taken to hospital after traffic 'accidents' is high. It was for that reason I used the word 'safer'. Many (I included) would baulk at the term BKK being akin to HaNoi. It's not. BKK is much more westernised. HaNoi is just plain crazy!! But, when time is limited, and you've been to neither place, spending time getting to know a place (and the culture, relating with locals, etc.) is to my way of thinking more important/relevant than just 'seeing' both.

    - - - - - -

    Trekking...

    As you point out, trekking can enjoyably be done in many 'time worn' places.

    For me, it's not the trekking per se. Rather, what experiences I will (probably) encounter along the way.

    On this, I wrote to another (and I repeat here)...

    "If you really want a 'taste' of fun, adventure, and a 'close up' of Loas, try the Gibbon Experience...

    Go check out http://www.gibbonx.org/ -

    look also at their 'community links for what others say [eg. http://realtravel.com/e-234008-huay_xai_entry-the_gibbon_experience]

    (also look at http://www.travelfish.org/feature/46).

    If you want trekking with remote communities (and hence interact with them on a one-2-one level without them being jaded by too many tourists), also go see...

    http://www.ecotourismlaos.com/activities/act_trekking.htm#Luang%20Namtha

    or

    http://www.luang-namtha.org/m_vpk/vpk_tourism.htm

    or

    http://www.luang-namtha.org/contact_us/contact_us.htm

    or

    http://www.greendiscoverylaos.com/ecotours/nt.html

    - - - - -

    the big icons...

    Many tourists think of cities. Fewer think of outside cities. Years ago we were also focussed towards cities. Then we slowly discovered three attributes:

    1/. use cities as a base,

    2/. try and 'relate' with the rural as much as possible, and

    3/. slow down the pace of the travel part and get to engage and 'experience' the culture, the people, the friendliness.

    - - - - -

    Cambodia

    bc3000 has very positive experiences of Cambodia. On one level I agree with him/her.

    Simply, we've found that MOSTLY all people in EVERY country are friendly.

    The exception has been (1) money hungry entrepreneurs in cities offering great promises and delivering much less, and (2) touts upset that we didn't take up their offer (or stand still and be verbally hassled by them).

    We also found the non-business Cambodian person to be very friendly.

    But, that is not the 'drift' I was commenting upon.

    Cambodia has a horrendous (recent) past. And, the current gov't is doing zilch to address the poverty, crime, sorrow of its peoples.

    Everyone we've come into contact with that has had any sense of compassion expressed a deep hurt at the current and past plight of the Cambodian people.

    I figured that by going to Cambodia - especially after Thailand, Vietnam &/or Laos - you also would have to cope with the contrast that is Cambodia. So, on a honeymoon where the two of you (I assumed) would be focussing on your personal enjoyment, I considered the 'contrast' that is Cambodia may diminish your pursuit of a 'wonderful' enjoyment that is (or to my way of thinking, should be) a honeymoon.

    - - - -

    I am heartened that my contribution has given you 'food for thought'.

    I am also heartened that you are amenable to taking the journey at a pace that is 'yours' and are open to change along the way.

    As noted above, we've done the quick flit through cities. But, over time we only learnt that we were denying ourselves the time to 'be' within 'their' culture.

    Just to make comparisons, we nowadays tend to spend a month away from home. And, in SE Asia, we also plan to travel no more than about 1000km +/- per month. We just returned from a month-long trip from Chiang Mai (in Thailand) through northern Laos to HaNoi (via Dien Bien Phu & SaPa) in Vietnam. And, in hindsight, we felt the Luang Prabang - Hanoi leg was probably too much as we missed so many opportunities to enjoy local culture and hospitality in northern Laos. But, we were committed to go to SaPa because of our 'aid agency' activities.

    Originally, our month long trips focussed on just part of one nation at a time: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam [although the last trip was for nearly 6 weeks & we included Cambodia], Japan, etc. etc. Now we try and explore/experience culture in places (preferably in smaller areas).

    It is our experience that we really can't get a 'handle' on the local culture and the local people without engaging with them in their language (for us albeit just a few words). So, trying to see many different language groups in a few days prevents one's capacity to engage. And, for us, it's the 'engagement' with locals that makes our journey so worthwhile.

    In conclusion, there are many people that seem to think 'doing' a trip means seeing as much as possible. And, in the end they really only 'do' the inside of a plane, bus, train, taxi, hotel room, etc. If one is comfortable 'doing' the inside of transport vehicles and hotel rooms, then I suppose that style of journey will be enjoyable.

    We tend to want to comprehend the reasons why something was built/people do things a particular way/how people feel about the situation they're in/etc./etc. That means we have to get away from citified living. So, even though we will (often) stay in a city/town (for the comforts / dining / etc), we will usually get a motorbike and spend the day away from the city, or go trekking, etc..

    Hope this helps to focus your planning, and enables you to really enjoy your journey.

    Cheers

    #8 Posted: 30/4/2009 - 07:44

  • misterwoods

    Joined Travelfish
    30th April, 2009
    Posts: 26

    Also planning a four week trip ouselves... For June / July.

    Our rough plan is -

    land in BKK

    overnight in BKK

    overland to Siem Reap - 3/4 days

    overland to Phnom Penh - 1 night

    overland to Sihanoukville - 3/4 days

    overland to Ho Chi Minh - 3 days

    fly to BKK

    overnight train to Chiang Mai - 5 days

    fly to Krabi

    Phi Phi 7 days

    ----------

    Would also like to fit in some time in Laos (possibly at the expense of Vietnam) but not quite sure how to do it without making any of the trip too rushed. But heard so much about it that think it might be a shame to miss out... Our reason for going to Chiang Mai is to trek, maybe we could also cut this out and trek somewhere in Laos? Any advice??

    #9 Posted: 30/4/2009 - 19:57

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    misterwoods

    Sometimes I get so frustrated when I read people's contributions to Travelfish.

    It seems to me that there is a HUGE dialogue and list of contributions from people asking whether their planned itinerary is 'do-able'.

    Essentially, the 'asker' of such questions appears to be wondering whether they can fit in anything more (so that they don't miss anything) or could be in fear of not being able to achieve all that they've planned in their limited time.

    Your comment "heard so much about it that think it might be a shame to miss out" says it all.

    Had you read the various contributions on Travelfish, I suggest you'd have decided to address your planned itinerary BEFORE asking others on Travelfish. Nevertheless, we're here now, so I'll add my penny's worth.

    - - -

    The point I was making to Bassfunk is that all too often, first time visitors to SE Asia think that they can quickly flit through all the icon places and somehow see it all, experience it all, and have a wonderful time.

    I don't know where you live, but try asking yourself how you would plan a trip for someone coming to your nation/area for the first time. And, in your planning, relate the total area they would have to see with the total area of that part of SE Asia you've currently got as your itinerary.

    If you come from New Zealand, it'd be about double the size of NZ - in 4 weeks! If from the UK, it'd be a bit more than double the size of the UK - in 4 weeks. If Europe, it'd be akin to parts of France, Switzerland, Germany and Holland. The European example is relevant here as a journey would have to deal with immigration issues, language, currency, transport, etc. etc.

    The point I am repeating is that we all fall into the trap of trying to see too much, and end up not really seeing anything. In part, because so much time is spent travelling that the most one gets to see is the inside of a plane/train/bus/accommodation room.

    Remember, if you take a plane, not only is there the actual time of the journey, there are hours required in waiting time, orientation with to/from airport travel, etc. If you take a bus, again there is waiting time as well as to/from bus station orientation. In accommodation, few just walk in, dump their bags, and go see the city. Most want to 'settle', check out freebies, literature, clean clothes, have a shower, etc. The point is that the fact of travel IS very time consuming. And, unless planned for, the total travel time is a trade-off with sightseeing, partying, or just plain holiday time.

    I was recently in Chiang Mai and staying at CMBluehouse. I was talking to one of the owners about traveller behaviour. He was saying that on the first day, many travellers 'waste' huge amounts of time. In part, he was referring to those that are exhausted by the pace/taxing-ness/etc of the travel and just wanted to stay in the GH surrounds taking time to 'adjust'. In part also, he was talking about the lack of knowledge the traveller has of the city, and that they spend much time orienting themselves.

    So, unless you are attuned to SE Asia culture, city designs/etc., it's more than likely that on the day you arrive, and possibly into the next day, you won't go far from your accommodation. Maybe you might walk to a nearby temple, or other such constructed site. Is that really engaging with the culture of a city? I suggest not.

    More than likely, it will take you 2 or 3 days just to properly acquaint yourself with the culture of a city such that you can say you get a 'feel' for the place: while at the same time looking at artefacts (whether temples, buildings, markets, etc) to 'bring it all together'.

    Then, there is the topic of language!

    So, my first question (after a very verbose commentary) is "what is the purpose of your trip? Is it to spend much time travelling so that you had a bit of time to glimpse at some icons/" Or, is your focus to engage (in whatever way pleases you) with SE Asian culture?

    - - - - -

    I note your itinerary - and it appears you are spending much travel time to (1) visit Siem Reap for Angkor, (2) visit Chiang Mai for trekking, and (3) visit island locations for the beaches / relation / etc.

    Personally, I'd fly from BKK to REP, thus saving at least 2 days. I'm assuming your flight into BKK is early enough such that you can pre-purchase a link to REP some 3 or 4 hours later (the travel time to city from BKK airport is long).

    In Siem Reap, I'd suggest you also consider a visit to Tonle Sap: maybe visit temples for 2 days, then Tonle Sap for a day (eg. Chong Kneas) then another day at temples.

    To my way of thinking the atrocity that is the recent and current Cambodia warrants a full day in PP. Visit Tuol Sleng Museum and Choeung Ek (killing fields museum), the National Museum and the Royal Palace.

    Travelfish also has a story on an option at PP, go to:

    http://www.travelfish.org/feature/142

    I'm assuming your purpose for Sihanoukville is to 'do' the beaches. Personally, I'm not sure why you want to 'do' Cambodian beaches AND Thai beaches. Yes, they'll be different. Yes, the culture will be different. Yes, the costs will be different. BUT! I suggest that as all humans make comparisons, you will return home and say "we should have skipped ****** because ******* was so much better". My suggestion is that you seriously consider only doing one set of beaches.

    Personally, I think trying to include Saigon would take up too much of your time. As you'll note in my post above, I'm a believer in keeping journey's simple. And, trying to cope with at least two different languages, cultures, ways of life, etc. on this journey will be fraught with many difficulties. I believe that adding another language / culture / etc. for a day or 3 is asking too much of yourself.

    If Vietnam is appealing (and it is), plan to do it another time as a one nation journey (see my blog on Vietnam at - http://www.travelblog.org/Asia/Vietnam/blog-373859.html - and if we had time, we'd have done much more!).

    I've written elsewhere (and above) that the Thai gov't marketing department has done a wonderful job 'selling' the Chiang Mai trekking phenomena.

    Travelfish has acknowledged this fact and provided a 'story' to offer alternative options. Go to:

    http://www.travelfish.org/feature/138

    I've also suggested other ideas (above).

    If you choose to only 'do' one set of beaches, you may have time to visit Laos. On that, there are heaps of references here on Travelfish.

    Cheers

    #10 Posted: 1/5/2009 - 06:23

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