Me and 2 friends are currently doing some research for our 3 week roundtrip in South East Asia in November. We are defenitely interested in history (I studied archeology at university ;-), culture, nature. No interest in beaches ;-)
Please find below the itinerary so far:
- Brussels - Bangkok
- 2 full days in Bangkok
- Travel by train and bus overland to Siem Reap
- 2 full days in Siem Reap
- travel to Pnom Penh by boat
- 2 full days in Pnom Penh
- travel from Pnom Penh to Saigon
- 2 full days in Saigon, day 2 leave to Hue on nighttrain
- from Hue then we have around 8 days to get to Hanoi to catch a flight to get back to Bangkok
As you see we are not planning on taking any flights in South East Asia, we would like to do everything by boat - bus - train. Only thing that concerns me bit is the last week to get from South-Vietnam to North Vietnam by train; 1 week doesn't seem enough to me and we defenitely would want to go to Halong Bay.
All comments are welcome!
greeting from Belgium
#1 Lawoat has been a member since 29/6/2009. Posts: 59
I suggest you are taking on far more than you can manage.
Elsewhere, I've constantly berated people for spending far too much time in buses/planes/trains/boats/etc. The criticism is equally valid for your journey.
Let me be frank: the least enjoyable part of any holiday is the tedium of travel. But, to get a taste of various places, one needs to travel.
The following train/bus trips are tedious and boring:
BKK to Siem Reap
Siem Reap to Pnom Penh by boat
Pnom Penh to Saigon
Saigon to Hue on nighttrain.
Yes, every traveller will make the best of a travel experience by finding entertainment, but basically if you can avoid the tedium you'd be best to so do.
Personally, as the Angkor pass is either 1 or 3 days, I'd spend 4 days at Siem Reap (1 exploring Tonle Sap) and only 1 at PP.
I'd also suggest you explore the idea of flying (given your very short schedule in the area). Go look at Discovery Airpass go to:
That way you'll have much more time to actually explore your heritage/culture journey.
If you really don't want to fly, then I'd limit your journey to one (best) or two countries ONLY.
You're flying into and out of Bangkok. I would ditch the vietnam piece altogether, for the reasons that Bruce cites. These are long bus/train trips you are planing. Real long. I would go from Bangkok to Buriram to check out the Khmer ruins there. Working that theme, I would then head off to Siem Reap (which will eat plenty of time alone) and check out Angkor Wat.
There is a scholar up here in Isaan named Asgard Moellerup, he has done extensive work on studying ancient Khmer ruins in Isaan. I can check out some more info on this theme if your interested.
#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
It's interesting you suggest Buriram .
When at Angkor , mentally I kept referring back to Buriram as a template to comprehend many of the ruins.
In some respects, I thought, the reconstructed ruins at Buriram are more enlightening that those at Angkor.
Even so, the sheer scale of Angkor is overwhelming.
There are many other smaller sites as well. I am not familiar with them, but Asgard sure is, he loves that stuff. He's an interesting guy, having written a book on Thai, Isaan, Lao linguistics (I bought it). He lives out my way, and he loves to talk archeology (he's an arheologist by trade). Anyway, I'll do a little reasearch on the subject if someone really wants to find some places to check out that are minor, off the beaten path, but of historical interest.
#5 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Thanks guys for the swift reply...
I know the train - boat - bus trips are going to be a pain in the ass, but I think its one of the easiest ways of getting in touch with other people. I might have got a bit of a too romantic idea on it after reading Paul Theroux's books ;-)
I have read the other topics on the forum and its clear to me we need to spend some more time in Siem Reap for Angkor Wat. I will probably need to have some more pub-meetings with my friends to see if we can change the schedule :-)
I have looked at the Discovery Airpass and have 2 questions:
1. Is Air Asia not cheaper?
2. Do you need to book return flights or are single flights permitted? Easier for a roundtrip!
If you have smaller sites off the beaten track..always happy to know about these places ;-)
#6 Lawoat has been a member since 29/6/2009. Posts: 59
OK, I'll track him down when I return from Bangkok. He's a little hard to get ahold of, as he lives in the sticks with no cell phone service (meaning you can't call him). But I should be able to reach him at some point.
#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Yes, must agree, Paul Theroux is a bit of a romantic. My view is that we make the best in bus/boat/etc. by engaging with other people. But, I can't remeber the last time I got an email return from someone I met on a bus/boat/etc. and exchanged contacts.
Yes Air Asia can be cheaper - even doing the place > KL > another place. But, air travel into/within Laos & Cambodia can be very expensive.
My understanding of the airpass is that you cannot fly the same route twice. So, if you wanted to go from/to Bangkok, you'd have to do something like BKK > Vientiane > Siem Reap > BKK.
"But, I can't remeber the last time I got an email return from someone I met on a bus/boat/etc. and exchanged contacts."
I did meet a Kikuyu woman on the night train from Nairobi to Mombassa and that turned out to be both romantic and a long term friendship. Seems like a long time ago now.
#9 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
"I did meet a Kikuyu woman on the night train from Nairobi to Mombassa and that turned out to be both romantic and a long term friendship."
More details please ;-))
Thanks for all the help, I will put my revised trip on the forum pretty soon then... I have read a few other topics on Vietnam on the forum and I am not going to say I got scared a bit but it seems that Cambodja and Laos are bit more "easy going"...and I did like the comments on Vientiane and Luang Prabang...
So little time, so much to see
#10 Lawoat has been a member since 29/6/2009. Posts: 59
Another way of looking at the 'loss' of Vietnam is that the 'remaining' nations are largely Buddhist and that creates a quite different cultural presence than that found in Vietnam. Hence, the potentiality of cultural clash (in the mind of the traveller) will enable a more pleasant journey.
"More details please ;-))"
What would you like to know?
#12 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Look, this isn't the Penthouse Forum.
I met the lady in question in the dining car on the night train from Nairobi to Mombassa. She was not a poor woman, so like me, she was able to afford to buy two first class tickets in order to have her own sleeping cabin (they accomodate two). She was dining alone, and I found her attractive in the extreme. I smiled at her, she smiled back, I invited her to my table. I bought a bottle of wine, we talked and found out we had a lot in common (we both loved East African politics), A, led to B, led to C and she ended up spending the evening in my sleeping cabin. She was a sweet, classy lady, but frankly economically speaking I was below her status. There was no way I was going to be able to keep her in the lifestyle to which she was accustomed (even though I made good money at the time). She made it clear in the morning that when we arrived in Mombassa we would be parting company. But we did stay in touch for quite a while after that.
#14 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957