My wife and I are planning our first SE Asia backpack trip next year, very exciting - but also fairly terrifying! :-)
We have a total of 6 weeks exactly. We hope to get a taste for Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. We are landing in Bangkok on 7 Jan and booked into the Lamphu Treehouse hotel on our arrival for 3 nights. Splashing a bit above budget, but wanted a reasonably 'soft landing' in the region! :-)
After 3 nights in Bangkok, we plan to do the following:
- Bus to Aranyaprathet and overnight
- Early morning border crossing and taxi to Siem Reap (holding thumbs we make it through the visa/taxi scamfest)
- 3 nights at Siem Reap
- 1 night at Phnom Penh
- Cross into Vietnam (road or boat to border?)
Dilemma #1: Need some help planning the next +-10 days exploring Mekong & HCMC. Phu Quoc island looks beautiful, but getting to Rach Gia looks potentially tricky. Any ideas/suggestions?
- Fly from HCMC back to Bangkok
Dilemma #2: At this stage we will have +-3.5 weeks left.
As we both love natural reserves, we would like to leave a few days at the end to explore Kaeng Krachan/Hua Hin.
So, we are leaving ourselves +-3 weeks for beaches & island hopping.
Option 1 - Ko Tao/Ko Samui/Ko Pha Ngan
Option 2 - Phuket/Phi Phi/Krabi
Option 3 - Try and in squeeze all of the above.
On previous travels, we usually prefer to spend longer getting to know fewer areas well, rather than rushing from place to place. Which is my concern with trying to take Option 3 above.
Also, we are not into the raucous party scene, and are looking for the more quieter, remote, tranquil beach areas. Places with good snorkelling are an extra bonus.
Appreciate any help/ideas/suggestions. Love the website - travelfish is half the reason we are doing this trip :-)
-Richard & Melissa
Durban, South Africa
I'm afraid I can't help with the Vietnam question above, but I do have a few comments on your itinerary.
First, the border crossing fiesta at Aranyaprathet/Poi Pet really isn't all that bad.
Second, flying back from HCMC to Bangkok you should be able to get a 30-day visa waiver on arrival, but if you are staying any longer than those 30 days, you might need to apply for a visa in Vietnam before arriving.
Third, I'd let the weather and time of year help me decide between your Option 1 vs. Option 2 choices above for Thailand beach hopping. Normally I suggest that people try to do fewer destinations, but in your case, three weeks is a good chunk of time and probably enough to see all the places you mentioned. Logistically speaking, you could fly from Bangkok to Phuket, then ferry to Phi Phi and on to Krabi, then bus to Surat Thani and Samui, then ferry to Phangan and on to Koh Tao. From there to Chumphon and a quick trip up to Hua Hin. At least you wouldn't have to backtrack. Having said all that, I'd still keep those plans fluid and let the weather be a big, last-minute factor in deciding what to do. Hope that helps. Cheers.
On the delta part, I'd suggest getting the boat from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc then Can Tho (by bus) see the floating markets etc, then bus to Rach Gia for an overnight before boat to Phu Quoc Island .Once you're done on the island you can either fly direct back to Saigon or take another route back up through the Delta.
For your island hopping, perhaps consider option 4 :-) head further south to either Trang or Satun . See this story: http://www.travelfish.org/feature/135 for a roundup on the islands off Trang, or else off Satun you have Ko tarutao, Ko Lipe and others. all tend to be more relaxed spots that Phi Phi etc.
Glad to hear you've found the site useful!
Thanks exacto and somtam.
We are keeping out second leg in Thailand at 28 days so we'll be under the 30 day visa limit.
Hadn't even considered the islands further South. From my travel books and research online, it seems the political issues are all quite a bit further South than Trang; the Trang area seems to be considered generally safe. Gosh: trying to pick islands to stay on near Trang is next to impossible! Thanks for the link to the article on islands in that region, they all look so beautiful it's impossible to choose...I always prefer to go with a local's advice: so, any local knowledge anyone can share on which island to choose? ;-)
Taking your advice somtan, after arriving back from Saigon, we're going to fly from Bangkok to Phuket, then make our way South from there to Phi Phi, Ko Lanta , and then either on the mainland from Krabi to Trang, or if possible directly from Ko Lanta to one of the Trang islands by boat (is this possible?).
Depending on how our timing is going, we could either fly back from Trang to Bangkok, or train back up the mainland via Hua Hin.