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17 day trip to Thailand and Laos (Is it feasible?)

  • Dutch

    Joined Travelfish
    19th March, 2012
    Posts: 11

    My girlfriend and I are planning a 17 days trip to Thailand and Laos at the end of August. After doing some research this is our (current) travel itinerary/day planning:

    Day 1: arrival at Bangkok at around noon.
    Day 2: Sightseeing in Bangkok and night train to Chiang Mai
    Day 3 and 4: Sightseeing/activities in Chiang Mai
    Day 5: Bus to Chiang Khong (arrival at about 4pm). Getting a visa to Laos.
    Day 6 and 7: Slowboat on Mekong river to Luang Prabang (through Pek Beng)
    Day 8: Sightseeing/activities in Luang Prabang
    Day 9: Flight Luang Prabang to Vientiane, bus to Nong Khai. Visiting the Sala Kaew Ku park.
    Day 10: Bus to Udon Thani
    Day 11: Sightseeing/activities around Udon Thani
    Day 12: Flight Udon Thani to Bangkok, train to Bang Saphan Yai
    Day 13 - 15: Resting and relaxing at the beach of Bang Saphan.
    Day 16: Train back to Bangkok.
    Day 17: Flight back home

    Link to map:
    http://www.delijstemaecker.nl/thailand-laos-map.png


    Any expert feedback on our itinerary would be much appreciated! Things I'm not sure (/worrying) about: Is it wise to put so many km's in 17 days? Are we going to be able to catch our planes if we have some minor holdups? Should we spend more time in Chiang Mai and skip the beach?

    It's going to be our first backpacking trip. After numerous holidays on the islands of Greece we're trying to find some more adventure in Thailand (but of course we still want to be able to call it a holiday!)

    Any advise is more than welcome!
    Cheers,

    Dutch

    #1 Posted: 19/3/2012 - 08:37

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  • eastwest

    Joined Travelfish
    17th December, 2009
    Posts: 772

    It is feasible but very short time in each place. You'll probably regret having to leave Luang Prabang after 1 day already.
    I would personally cut out Udon Thani and fly from Vientiane to BKK because that would give you more time to spend in LP. If you're done in LP after 1 day you can always decide to add Udon Thani at the last moment

    #2 Posted: 19/3/2012 - 08:57

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
    Total reviews: 10

    I would strongly recommend against this. A lot of people come here with these packed itineraries because they don't understand a few key differences between SEA and western civilization:

    1. Transportation infrastructure here, especially outside of Thailand, tends to be pretty slow. It just takes longer to get from A to B. It also tends to be pretty uncomfortable.

    2. SEA is much less about seeing things than, say, Europe is. What makes this place cool is the pace of life. It's slow and easy - especially when you leave Bangkok (which admitedly is not).

    SEA isn't about seeing tons of things - it's about chillin'. And racing around from place to place isn't chillin'

    If it were me (and it's not), I would not attach timelines to anything. Get off the plane, have a general direction of travel. Leave one place when it's no longer fun or interesting and move on to the next place on the list. You get to what you get to, and don't sweat wherever you don't get. If you end up spending you whole vacation in Bangkok, so be it. The goal is to have a good time and relax. If you want to sight see - do that in Europe. It's much better.

    #3 Posted: 19/3/2012 - 09:15

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
    Total reviews: 10

    Laos has no trains though...

    #4 Posted: 19/3/2012 - 13:08

  • altmtl

    Click here to learn more about altmtl
    Joined Travelfish
    18th May, 2009
    Location Earth
    Posts: 832
    Total reviews: 5

    I would skip Udon Thani...
    and frankly I would skip Laos, since you are going to Chiang Mai, - Pai may be a good option to LP. I do think Bang Saphan Yai is a good beach choice, but there is not much to do except relax on the beach... you can of course rent a motor bike and visit the nearby attractions there. I agree with MADMAC - relax and chill.

    The night train is a good idea... you can book your ticket online in advance, I suggest this because it's a popular route... http://www.thairailticket.com/esrt/Default.aspx?language=1 - 2nd class sleeper is fine.

    #5 Posted: 19/3/2012 - 13:08

  • stefanw

    Joined Travelfish
    10th December, 2010
    Posts: 50

    I would definitely cut down on the number of places. Get rid of Udon Thani and Bang Saphan Yai unless you really want to have some beach time. Possibly skip Chiang Mai and spend an extra day in BKK, if you think you'll prefer BKK over CM. Also spend longer than a day in LP.

    It's much better to spend a few more days in places you really want to go rather than go to every place.

    #6 Posted: 19/3/2012 - 15:40

  • altmtl

    Click here to learn more about altmtl
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Earth
    Posts: 832
    Total reviews: 5

    Added point: Going to Laos just to take the slow boat & just to visit LP? It really doesn't sound worth it to me - wasting 2 days on a boat. Save Laos for another time when you can really visit the country.

    Focus on Thailand. - Kanchanaburi & Ayutthaya, as well as the floating market at Amphawa are pretty close to BK.

    #7 Posted: 19/3/2012 - 21:10

  • BrettC

    Joined Travelfish
    17th March, 2012
    Location United States
    Posts: 9

    I guess the obvious one for me is fly from Chiang Mai to LP. Save yourself the two days and spend them relaxing. Alternately, take a trip that just goes from Bangkok to Chiang Mai to LP to Vientiane. You'll be amazed at how little time it feels like you have, and spending only a day or two in any one city will leave you feeling disappointed, especially since once you factor in travel times you may only have a few hours in a given city.

    To make it feasible you'll need to cut something, preferably two things.

    #8 Posted: 19/3/2012 - 23:01

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
    Total reviews: 10

    Cut the distance - cut out Laos. Not enough time to do it right. Bangkok and a beach. You got enough time for that.

    #9 Posted: 19/3/2012 - 23:09

  • Dutch

    Joined Travelfish
    19th March, 2012
    Posts: 11

    Thanks for the all the advise! Admittedly I did hope for the "feasible, go for it!"-reply. I guess we should really cut some things then. (Though Isn't being in hurry part of the backpacking experience? j/k)


    Some quick replies to your (much appreciated) feedback:

    --- MADMAC #3: "I would strongly recommend against this. A lot of people come here with these packed itineraries because they don't understand a few key differences between SEA and western civilization:

    1. Transportation infrastructure here, especially outside of Thailand, tends to be pretty slow. It just takes longer to get from A to B. It also tends to be pretty uncomfortable" ---

    It's true that I've never been to SEA. But I have been doing quite a lot of reading on the subject of transportation so I do like to think I understand (at least to some amount ) the differences in infrastructure in comparison to Europe.

    --- altmtl #7: "Added point: Going to Laos just to take the slow boat & just to visit LP? It really doesn't sound worth it to me - wasting 2 days on a boat. Save Laos for another time when you can really visit the country" ---

    I kinda liked the idea of being on the Mekong for two days, I didn't really see it as a waste of time. Wouldn't it be a fun experience?


    Anyway, I guess it's back to the drawing board! Things I don't want to cut out:

    - Chiang Mai
    - The beach: my girlfriend really wants to stay a few days at the beach, so I don't really want to cut that out.

    The other destinations are open for reconsideration. I hope you guys are willing to criticize a new (less packed) itinerary in a few days. Thanks all!

    #10 Posted: 20/3/2012 - 05:28

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  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
    17th June, 2011
    Posts: 684

    17 days --> stick to one country. Bangkok, Chiang Mai and a beach would not be unrealistic for a relaxing 17 days.

    Isn't being in hurry part of the backpacking experience?

    Not at all. The opposite actually I would have said.

    #11 Posted: 20/3/2012 - 06:53

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
    Total reviews: 10

    China is spot on here. Rushing around shouldn't be a vacation experience ever. The whole point of a vacation is to relax and have fun.

    Chiang Mai, Bangkok, a beach... You'll be glad you limited yourself to that.

    When you have a few months, you can start to spread out and move around more.

    #12 Posted: 20/3/2012 - 07:46

  • BrettC

    Joined Travelfish
    17th March, 2012
    Location United States
    Posts: 9

    The big advantage of doing just Bangkok, a beach or two, and Chiang Mai is that you can sleeper train most of your travel, which is uncommon in SE Asia. Traveling while you sleep will help alleviate some of the travel fatigue that comes with long hours on buses. You'll also find it cheaper and more relaxing than flying around, although you should get used to slight delays - arrival times for trains in Thailand tend to be overly optimistic, but it's not as bad as the travel agents trying to sell you bus tickets would have you believe.

    #13 Posted: 20/3/2012 - 21:14

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
    Total reviews: 10

    Brett
    I think Plane beat train any day - unless you have a beautiful woman sharing your cabin with you for those long hours. But train is a touch cheaper, and for those who fear flying it's probably safer and certainly feels safer. That counts for me. But I can take one hour to fly to Bangkok from Ubon or something like 10 hours to take the train. Even if I am sleeping on the train, I'm eating a lot more time and that's an evening I could be out in the city that I am not because I am on the train.

    #14 Posted: 21/3/2012 - 00:09

  • BrettC

    Joined Travelfish
    17th March, 2012
    Location United States
    Posts: 9

    Even most natives I've discussed it with have preferred the train to flying. Having said that, these conversations almost exclusively took place on a train. As for a beautiful traveling companion, I think OP did say s/he was traveling with their girlfriend, which makes the train meet your self-declared criterion for beating the plane. As for price, a first class sleeper cabin to Chiang Mai is 1500 baht each way. A Round Trip Flight is on the order of 4500 baht with Bangkok Airways.

    Not to be disagreeable, but I'm not seeing the downside, other than maybe missing a few hours of salsa.

    #15 Posted: 21/3/2012 - 00:41

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6341
    Total reviews: 10

    Missing a night of salsa - that's a pretty huge downside for me.

    People who can afford it almost always fly. That is indigenous persons. Backapackers tend to be looking for some sort of "experience" and thus avoid flying unless they are pressed for time.

    I take the crappy bus for 750 baht because it makes economic sense. But I loathe it.

    #16 Posted: 21/3/2012 - 03:28

  • theChosenOne

    Joined Travelfish
    26th March, 2012
    Posts: 12

    It is doable but one thing I would say is do not book anything apart from the first few days. I have met loads of people who change their mind about their itinerary and regret cementing their plans before arriving.

    #17 Posted: 27/3/2012 - 00:22

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