I'm trying to plan a 4 week trip from Toronto, Canada to Laos and Cambodia beginning December 2/11 and I am already lost!! I don't even know which airport to fly into. Been to Thailand several times, so don't want to go via that route.
Here's the type of thing I'd like to do, not necessarily in order:
- Ankhor Wat
- get off the beaten track
- hilltribe trekking
- elephant parks/sanctuaries
- the Gibbon Experience (or the new similar thing)
- soak up the local colour, culture, history... and food
- relax in decent hotels
- see as much wildlife as possible
- take in the "must see" sights
So... better to arrive Siem Riep and leave Laos - from which airport? - or enter and leave vice versa?
From what I've read Luang Prabang is one must see. I'm not interested in "the backpacker scene". Nothing against it, have just outgrown it. Can afford to fly a couple of inland routes along the way.
All help GRATEFULLY welcome, as well as any other travel itinerary advice!!
Thanks so much!
#1 sharoonie has been a member since 27/10/2011. Posts: 14
Getting a ticket from Toronto to Laos or Cambodia is probably going to cost WAY more than flying to Bangkok and then catching a regional airline from there (Laos Airways, Air Asia, Nok Air, etc). Also, I wouldn't be surprised if many airlines connect through Bangkok anyways.
In terms of your route, everything you want to do is lined up quite nicely regardless of the order you do it in. You will find all of the things you want to do between Siem Reap and Huay Xai where the Gibbon Experience is.
If you are set on doing the Gibbon Experience, Huay Xai is on the Laos-Thai border in Northern Thailand. You could fly from Bangkok to Chiang Rai the morning after you arrive (most flights from Toronto arrive at BKK near midnight) and cross the border that day. Alternately, you could fly from BKK to Luang Prabang and do a route through northern Laos via Luang Nam Tha (in a region known for excellent ecological attractions and trekking) to Huay Xai. There is a two day boat trip down the Mekong from Huay Xai back to Luang Prabang. Doing the latter loop would minimize the amount of time you spend in Thailand, and cover many of the things on your list.
Once you are back in Luang Prabang, you could a) save time and fly to Pakse in Southern Laos with Lao Airlines for Champasak, Tad Lo, Si Phan Don, and the myriad other attractions in the south, or b) head overland to Vientiane via either Vang Vieng (backpacker central) or Sainyabuli/Pak Lai (one of the least travelled parts of Laos. Getting from Vientiane to Pakse you could go overland or fly. Savannakhet is about 2/3 of the way and is the launching point for some of the best National Protected Areas in Laos, and also accessible by air.
Finish Laos with Si Phan Don if you want to go overland through Cambodia. It is a fairly straightforward route from there through Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. Along the way you could stop in Kratie to look for rare Irrawady River dolphin, or take a long cut from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap via laid back Battambang. Alternately, you can fly from Pakse to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap to save some time. From Siem Reap you can catch one of many flights back to Bangkok to catch your flight home.
Nicer hotels will be available at many points along the way, but there will also be places where luxury accommodation is non-existent. The one part to really spring for something more upscale is to take a luxury cruise on the Mekong from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang rather than the crowded 'local' boat.
It is of course also possible to do the same route in reverse. Take a look at some of the places I've mentioned and see what catches your eye. There are a ton of sights and activities to do in both countries, so you will have to pick and choose to really be able to savor your favorites in the 4 weeks you have. Good luck!
Why don't you go into one of the good travel agencies in TO, like the Adventure Travel Company (an offshoot of Travel Cuts) beside MEC on King St. and talk to one of the SE Asia specialists there? They'll have far better info on possible flights and connections than what you'll get on most forums. Give them a call and save yourself some time and frustration.
If you can travel before December 2nd, Cathay Pacific has great prices on flights to Thailand up until Nov. 30th. Hundreds less than on Dec. 1st and beyond.
Both of the above are correct. Bangkok is the hub for the area and your best and most affordable bet would be to fly to Bangkok and then go from there, and then fly home from there. Keep an eye on the flooding situation there, though.
All the places you want to see will keep you well and truly on the beaten path, but for good reason. Southern Laos, though, as mentioed by frasmc (Si Phan Don, Pakse, Champasak, etc.) doesn't get a fraction of the visitors that, say, Luang Prabang does. It's a really nice area worthy of more than just a few days.
I like that profile photo, altmtl. Gonna be in Montreal next week.
I've tried to see what flights on Qatar cost from TO to Bangkok, but on their website Bangkok isn't one of the destinations when the point of departure is TO. Am I missing something?
Thank you so much, each and every one of you who has taken the time to help me out. Great advice!!
#7 sharoonie has been a member since 27/10/2011. Posts: 14