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Cambodia forum

3 and half weeks backpacking Cambodia and Laos - tips, advice and suggested route

Posted by NatalieP on 1/3/2011 at 17:28

I would be so grateful for any tips or advice you could give me.

I will be travelling for 3 and half weeks around Cambodia and Laos. I shall be travelling on my own – for the first time. I fly in and out of Bangkok and was wondering if you had any advice on where I should go and what route I should take. I luckily land around 7am and dont want to hang around in Bangkok- happy to carry on my travels.

I leave mid April and come back early May. Happy to not take internal flights..

What I want to get out of the holiday is – to really take some amazing photos of people, historic sites and places of natural beauty… and to talk to as many people as possible both travellers and locals.

I am slightly apprehensive about, taking my camera out and about with me.. being a girl..though I am very sensible.

Any thoughts would be so so very helpful

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Posted by shotgun on 1/3/2011 at 18:23

Hi Natalie,

What parts of Laos and Cambodia do you want to see? 3 weeks isn't a lot of time if you will be traveling mostly by local transport.

You could quite easily catch a Minibus from Bangkok to Siem Reap spend a couple of days there checking out Angkor, then onward to Phnom Penh and back up towards Laos to cross the border (sorry unsure of what the exact border crossings are at the moment and my passport is off getting visas so cant check it) from there travel north through Laos to Pakse, Vientianne and Luang Prabang where it is probably going to be best to catch a flight back to Bangkok to save time. Either that or fly to Luang Prabang to start with and travel down to Cambo in a backwards route to what i just mentioned. I think that rough guide will give you a few days in a few different places.

Im sure that others with more experience in the region can provide a more detailed, informative reply though.


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Posted by eastwest on 2/3/2011 at 08:48

The route described by shotgun is nice but I don't think you should try to make it all the way to Luang Prabang in that timeframe without flying a bit.

If you insist on visiting both countries you should stop in Vientiane and head back to BKK. You could reach Luang Prabang but you need time there to enjoy the place and once you've reached it you won't have much left of that.
I'd say you need roughly 1 week for Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, 1 week for northern Cambodia and 1 week for southern Laos.

Luang Prabang, which is well worth a trip, is better to visit in a trip that includes northern or northeast Thailand and Laos if you don't want any flights.

You won't have any difficulties finding the things you're interested in and there are also some posts on this forum about taking pictures.

have fun

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Posted by caseyprich on 2/3/2011 at 09:24

I agree that with LP you need to fly back to BKK. However, I am a big fan of Laos and would recommend more time in Laos and less in Cambodia. I have to caveat that - I've never been to Cambodia, but those I know who have, have always said they preferred Laos.

If you just want to see Siem Reap you can do that in less than a week on a bus from Bangkok. Then you can cross the border at Veun Kham/Dom Kralor and check out Southern Laos. You could easily spend a few weeks here - but give yourself 1 week should be fine. Si Phon Don (4,000 Islands) is a place of much natural beauty and a good traveler scene, I'd recommend 3 nights there to relax. Then you could head up to Champasak for a chance to enjoy a quiet Laos town and see Wat Phu - 2 nights. Skip the Bolaven Plateau since you don't have time and take a VIP bus from Pakse straight up to Vientiane - a couple nights there and then you have a lot of time to enjoy Luang Prabang.

If you are really opposed to internal flights I'd recommend you reverse this course so that you end your trip in Siem Reap as it is much quicker to get from SR to BKK if you have to in a hurry and your schedule has gotten too tight.

In Laos don't worry about taking out your camera to take pictures - just ask before you take a picture of a person or a home. Petty theft is about the only real crime foreigners face in Laos, and it isn't a mugging, think breaking into a bungalow or possibly pick-pocket.

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Posted by peter27 on 4/3/2011 at 19:57

Iwould say that just focus on Laos in your current trip and explore itto the best. It offers plenty of things to do and see. This way youcan have a great and memorable trip. Trying too much to see in lesstime is not a good idea. You can plan to see the rest of attractionsin your next trip.

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Posted by peter27 on 4/3/2011 at 20:01

Iwould say that just focus on Laos in your current trip and explore itto the best. It offers plenty of things to do and see. This way youcan have a great and memorable trip. Trying too much to see in lesstime is not a good idea. You can plan to see the rest of attractionsin your next trip.

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Posted by AbigailatPenhandInk on 5/3/2011 at 13:15 TF writer

..... I'm a fan of both Laos and Cambodia, but agree that if you're travelling by bus etc it will take a lot of time. However, every bus journey is a little adventure in itself!

Siem Reap and the temples are well worth a visit, but it will be *very* warm at the time you are travelling. For photo opps, though, you can't do much better.

Luang Prabang is a beautiful place to spend a few days, and visit waterfalls and caves outside the town. If you have the time, the boat trip from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiow (not sure of spelling) is amazing - it takes about 8 hours on a slow boat, which is not a tourist boat but just a regular service which runs when there's enough passengers. You can buy a ticket from the riverside in LP and the scenery is truly stunning and worth a numb backside. You can stay overnight in Nong Khiow and catch a bus back to LP.

I've not been to southern Laos (LP is the furthest south I got) but I've heard good things about it.

That said, Cambodia is a fabulous place to visit, with plenty to see and people to meet. Outside of Siem Reap, which is very touristy (but for good reason), there are some wonderful quiet places to visit, such as Kratie where you can see Irrawaddy dolphins and Sen Monorom in Mondulkiri where there's waterfalls and elephant treks.

In my experience, buses in Cambodia are more comfortable and generally quicker than in Laos.

As for your camera - if you're careful you should be fine. I see lots of tourists with their camera dangling from one arm without a case, clearly worth hundreds of dollars, which seems to asking for trouble, but even then most of them don't have a problem with thieves. Around Siem Reap and Phnom Penh you should be aware that the possibility exists of someone snatching your belongings from the back of a motorbike, but it's still unlikely.

Single women travelling alone don't generally have issues, but it's wise to get transport back to your guesthouse late at night, rather than walking. If you can find a moto your GH recommends, that may give you a bit more peace of mind.


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Posted by NatalieP on 9/3/2011 at 00:22

Thank you all for taking the time to reply – it is gratefully appreciated.

After much thought and also advice – have decided to concentrate my time on one country – Cambodia, I don’t want to rush or spend too much unnecessary time travelling.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions or thoughts or where I should skip or avoid. Not sure how long I will need in each place… happy to keep this flexible.

I would like to see the North Eastern part of Cambodia – not sure where or how long to dedicate to this so any advice would be brilliant
Thank you all once again :

I think this is going to be rough itinerary:
BangkokSiem Reap (From the airport, for frequent buses need to make my way to Mo Chit Bus Station, In total preparing for 9hrs)
Siem Reap
Angkor Wat and other ruins[/li]Tonal Sap river boat Chong Khnea floating village.[/li][/ulist]
Siem Reap – Battenbang (2 – 4hrs)
Bamboo Train[/li]Wat Banan [/li]Phnom Sampeau[/li]Banteay Chhamar [/li]Banteay Top[/li][/ulist]
Battenbang – Sihanoukville (2 – 3hrs)
Arrive at serendipity Beach to mingle with backpackers, likely to leave early and head to a quieter beach[/li]Probably spend more time in Otres Beach[/li]Like to stay in small island , heard Bamboo and Koh themi are nice[/li]Ream National Park[/li][/ulist]
Sihanoukville – Kampot (2hrs)
Photos of the town[/li][/ulist]
Kampot – Kep (45mins)
Stay in Rabbit Island[/li]Takeo[/li] Tonle Bati [/li][/ulist]
Kep – Phom Phen (3hrs)
Phom Phen
Killing fields[/li]Tuol Seng Museum[/li]Royal Palace[/li]Silver Pagoda[/li]S21 Prison[/li][/ulist]
Phom Phen - Kampong Cham (4hrs)
Kampong Cham
Day Trip[/li][/ulist]
Kampong Cham – Ratanakiri (8 - 12hrs)
Yaek Lom LakeBan Lung Lake[/li]Katieng Waterfall[/li]Tribal cemeteries of Tumpoun[/li]Chaong waterfall[/li][/ulist]
Ratanakiri - Sen Monorom
Sen Monorom
Elephant trekking [/li]Bou Sraa Waterfall[/li]Phnom Dak Reimon ‘Sea forest’[/li][/ulist]

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Posted by Flyman on 9/3/2011 at 20:12

Nice thread, I'm glad to now also have some advices for my Southeast Asia trip.

Natalie, I'll head down there in the same time period as you, let me know if you would be interested in exploring the area together for a couple of days in the beginning!

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