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Southeast Asia forum

Our 10 week plan for SE Asia. Advice needed.

Posted by vickerella on 21/4/2009 at 06:55

Hi everyone,
Am very excited as a friend and I finally booked our flights to and from bangkok for our trip to SE Asia this summer from the 4th July to 11th September.
We have a plan of sorts that I've mostly come up with from using travelfish but I would love to hear whether you think its feasible. I've mapped roughly how many days we will probably stay in a given place which includes travelling time but we're very flexible. The only strict dates we have are that we have to meet a friend in Chiang Rai on 16th and we have to be in Bangkok by the 24th August so she can fly home. Do you think we may have planned a little bit too much?
Here's what I have so far

4th/5th/6th Bankgok–3 days
7 Ayutthaya-1 day
8/9/10 Chiang mai 1 travel / 2 day stay
11/12/13/14/15 5 day trekking
16 Chiang Rai 1 day
17 Chiang kong 1 day
18/19/20/21/22 Hui xiang to (slow boat)Luang prabang + stay -2 days + 3days
23/24 vang vieng 2 days
25/26/27 Vientiane 3 days
28/30/31/1 fly to Hanoi + stay 4 days
2/3 Ha Long Bay 2 days
4,5,6 Hue 3 days
7,8,9 Hoi An 3 days
10,11,12 Nha Trang 3 Days
13,14,15 Saigon 3days
16,17,18 Phnom pehn 3days
19,20,21 Siem rep 3days
22/23 spare days
24/25 Bangkok
26/27/28/29/30 Ko Tao
1/2/3/4/5 Ko Pha Ngan
7/8/9 Ko Samui
10/11 Bangkok

Do you think we should skip or add anything?

Thanks
Vicky

P.S Sorry about the terrible formatting.

#1 vickerella has been a member since 15/12/2008. Posts: 2

Posted by somtam2000 on 21/4/2009 at 11:33 admin

Hi Vicky,

Certainly doable. In Vietnam I'd consider shaving a day off Hue -- three days there is a lot -- and just allow a couple of "loose" days floating around. That way, if you like somewhere, you've got a spare day up your sleeve.

Also three days on Samui after already spending the time on Ko Tao and Ko Pha Ngan -- I'd skip a stay in Samui and spend longer in the other islnds -- Samui won't be bringing anything all that new to the table...

Also if you're thinking of doing a diving course on Ko Tao, check out our mates Ayesha and Wilco .

Otherwise, looks good!

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,434
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Posted by seagypsy on 21/4/2009 at 16:58

Are you doing your 5 day trek out of Pai or Mae Hong Son areas?
If you're spending a day in Chiang Rai, then I'd recommend either a visit further north to Doi Tung or a visit along the Mae Kok just northeast of Chiang Rai. Or take an extra day for the Xieng Rai area. You don't need a day for Chiang Khong and likewise no need to hand out across the border at Huay Xai .
Likewise, you won't need 3 days for Vientiane where just 1 will do.
YOu might consider going north from Huay Xai up to Luang Namtha or Muang Sing to do your trekking since northern Laos trekking is far less 'beaten' compared to northern Thailand (where tourists have been trekking for over 20 years already).
Instead of the 2 day downstream Mekong River journey to Luang Prabang, you could do your trekking in Namtha (Nam Ha Ecotourism Project) or Muang Sing then head to Moung Ngoi and/or Nong Khiaw via a river journey along the more scenic and cleaner Nam Ou River.
And instead of spending all your time at the 'big 3' gulf islands of Tao, Phangan and Samui, perhaps head over to Ko Chang near the Cambodian coast for a bit more variety. Were it not for it being the monsoon season along the Andaman Coast, then I'd recommend a visit to Krabi Province where the islands and marine life are even more scenic than the gulf islands.
Anyways, just some options to consider. Have a great time.
Another option is a visit to Sukothai en route to Chiang Mai.

#3 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136

Posted by vickerella on 22/4/2009 at 16:47

Thanks so much for your swift replys!
I'm glad you think this is all doable, I was worried about overreaching.
Reading what you've said I think I'll pare down the time spent in Hue to two days and the same for Vietiane. If we get bored even then we'll just move on or go on a day trip.
Thanks for the advice on island plans. I'll look into visiting Ko Chang instead. Is it easy to get to from say Ko Phangan?
Seagypsy,
First off thanks for all the new destinations to think about. To answer you're questions I think we had a vague plan to trek out of Chiang Mai to somewhere in the Pai or Mai Hong Son area but to be honest I don't know too much about that so any advice is welcome. Would it better to trek out of Chiang Rai ?
In respect to the day spent in Chiang Rai, are you thinking that it would be best to add a day to do what you said or are they suggestions for the day. Also practically how long would it take to get from Chiang Rai to Huay Xai?
Though I really like the idea of trekking in Laos, unfortunately we have to be in Chiang Rai on the 16th and I think what you suggest would have us up in northern Laos somewhere about that time. Though I think my friend hasn't actually booked her flight from HK to Chiang Rai yet so if we decided to trek in Loas instead is there somewhere she could fly to in northern Laos to meet us? However even if we decide to skip trekking in Loas would it be worth substituting the 2 day mekong river journey with the journey you suggest. Would it take longer than the two days I've alloted for the journey to LP now? That would be fine as we have a few spare days kicking around and my friend would love to see more of Laos.

On another note. Our plan for visas are this.
30 day free entry in thailand.
Purchase Laos visa in Bangkok.
Purchase Vietnam visa in vientiane. ( which is valid from the day of issue unlike the others)
Purchase Cambodia visa in Saigon.
Then buy a visa for thailand? this is where I get a little lost. The first time we're in thailand we'll have spent 15/16 days there. So if we come back through cambodia do we need a new visa for 17 days???

Thanks for the help

Vicky

#4 vickerella has been a member since 15/12/2008. Posts: 2

Posted by brucemoon on 27/4/2009 at 14:17

vickerella

While Somtan says your itinerary is "Certainly doable", I would suggest much CAUTION.

Yes, it's 'doable', but you will NOT be seeing much of SE Asia. Rather, you'll be spending HUGE amounts of time looking at transport waiting room walls and the insides of the transport itself.

If the purpose of your trip is to say "I've been there", then Mmmmm!!!

If the purpose of your trip is to enjoy what the various places have to offer, then you need to slow down the distance to be traversed, and focus on what it is you want to see/do.

As an aside, I have just returned from a month travelling overland from Chiang Mai to HaNoi. And, I'm kicking myself that I didn't give myself several more weeks. There was so much I couldn't do because of the limited time.

My primary point is that there is so much to do 'outside' of visiting a city/town, but you have to be there to know whether the 'things' are what you actually want to do. Lonely Planet helps provide overall structure, but the details cannot be gleaned from Lonely Planet, a bit from reports on Travelfish, but most from other travellers in country.

Your proposed itinerary is the typical Lonely Planet 'circuit'. It's well worn, the tourism operators will see you coming and you'll constantly be looking for ways not to have 'sharks' and 'touts' hassle you. So, if you want to avoid the constant hassles of sharks and touts, the high prices, and the fake tourist 'attractions' with glossy brochures suggesting mass appeal, then find other places to visit (and there are heaps).

eg. visit: http://www.travelfish.org/feature/108

Also look at: http://www.travelfish.org/feature/110

As for trekking, Thailand tourism has done a wonderful job at making their options sound wonderful. But, imagine how you would feel if you were a person of an ethnic minority in some village and had experienced years of a long queue of westerners coming through your village, take pictures and move on. And, all the while you're supposed to smile at the camera even though some tourism shark gets the money and all you get is the interruption to your privacy, your day, your culture, etc.

For other (read better) Thai options visit: http://www.travelfish.org/feature/138.

If you want to REALLY engage with people, there are other nearby places wherein the ethnic minorities get the tourist monies, do the cultural 'exchange', etc.

For starters, try http://www.luang-namtha.org/m_vpk/vpk_tourism.htm (but to email, you'll need to contact the Nam Tha office).

Similarly, try http://www.gibbonx.org/ [this option is SO SO fantastic}.

Ayathuya is VERY important to Thai people (it's the centre of their culture). However, to experienced tourists, more can be found to be enjoyed at Sukhothai. And, if you go to Sukhothai, also visit Mae Sot (a most incredible melting pot of cultures) and the scenically wonderful frontier town of Um-Phang (you can go trekking here with the Karen peoples).

I suggest a visit to Kanchanaburi ought also be on your agenda (start with an early morning visit to the floating market, then go on for a night or 2 at K). Visit: http://www.travelfish.org/feature/121.

Chiang Mai is great. Don't stay in town and do the touristy 'thing'. Go hire a moto (automatic motorbike) and visit the surrounding hillsides - Doi Suthep and maybe Doi Pui NP. Near Chiang Mai is Chiang Dao which is a wonderful place to stay (check out The Nest), and you can do great walks up the mountain in great scenery Look at: http://www.travelfish.org/feature/66.

On Travelfish, there is a list of places that are different to Pai . I like Pai as there you can ride an elephant into the river and help wash him/her. If you look for an alternative operator to Thoms, you'll have wonderful fun.

Most who visit Chiang Rai say "Why did I choose to go there". Unless you've got a reason to do something located there, it's a very small version of Chiang Mai. If you are going to Chiang Khong, you can take a 5 hour minibus (note my post re: drop off).

While I love Vietnam and the Vietnamese, I suggest that to do the country justice, you need to be there for at least a month (and then you'll only touch the edges).

There is also another compelling reason to not go to Vietnam on this trip. Thailand, Cambodia and Laos are (mostly) Buddhist. Buddhists have a quiet, relaxed, and personable way of going about their affairs. Vietnam is largely of a Chinese (type) disposition and though friendly outside of the major cities, are typically 'in your face'. Many people going from Buddhist countries to Vietnam say that they'd have preferred not to have gone as the (often) opposing cultural values between the two areas 'clashed'. You are proposing to spend much time in Buddhist nations. Keep it that way and use the time allocated to Vietnam to better enjoy your journey in Thailand / Laos / Cambodia.

Siem Reap is not only Angkorian temples, but also Tonle Sap. If you have any interest in the natural environment, add a day to Siem Reap and go to Chong Kneas (or beyond).

You can fly from Siem Reap to southern Thailand, so I'd suggest that you don't hold a firm itinerary there. First, one side of the peninsula can be gorgeous, while the other side windy and blown out. If you plan merely to be there, you can then opt for the side that has the best weather.

Hopefully, you'll now start to revisit your itinerary. If so, also go to: http://www.travelfish.org/feature for other ideas.

For example: http://www.travelfish.org/feature/118.

Cheers

#5 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by brucemoon on 4/5/2009 at 08:32

Vicky

You write...

"On another note. Our plan for visas are this.
30 day free entry in thailand.
Purchase Laos visa in Bangkok.
Purchase Vietnam visa in vientiane. ( which is valid from the day of issue unlike the others)
Purchase Cambodia visa in Saigon.
Then buy a visa for thailand? this is where I get a little lost. The first time we're in thailand we'll have spent 15/16 days there. So if we come back through cambodia do we need a new visa for 17 days???

If you are going to Huay Xai, the visa can be purchased on arrival - no drama's there.

As for Vietnam, if you specify in your application that you want the visa to begin on a particular day, that's how you'll get it (for 30 days from the date specified). As your unbelievably rushed trip has you arriving in VN on 28 August, and departing 16th September, getting a visa to start on (say) 24 August means it'll be valid to 24 September. If, on the otherhand, you take my advice and slow down the distance/speed of your journey, and you plan to get a visa in Vientianne (you can also get in Luang Prabang), then you can specify an 'entry' date at that time.

The Cambodian visa is also a 'visa on arrival' at the border with VN. As is the re-entry into Thailand (though only for 15 days). Maybe you can 'do' less things in Thailand upon return so that you can handle just a 15 day visa at that time.

- - - -

You also write that you want to meet up with a friend in Chiang Rai . Maybe you could get your friend to travel HK - Chiang Mai .

There is a VIP bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong that is only a few baht more expensive than the 'regular bus' that runs through Chiang Rai - and instead of being on transport for a long number of hours, it only takes 5 hours (Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong).

I'd thoroughly endorse the comment by 'Seagypsy' re: trekking in Laos versus nthn Thailand.

Cheers (again)

#6 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941


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