We have 1 month in SEA (we are limited to Cambodia and/or Thailand) and are having a hard time figuring out how to spend our time. It's such an amazing place and we may be trying to do too much. Does anyone have any suggestions for us?
Here's what are tentative itinerary is:
- Fly into BKK and overland to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat and then head to Tonle Sap Lake to visit the floating villages.
- Head to PP and up to Kompong Cham for a homestay on the Mekong River
- Head back to PP and fly to Chiang Mai and visit temples, take cooking classes, trekking and visiting hilltribes.
- Fly from CM to Phuket and island hop - possibly Ko Phi Phi and Ko Wao Noi on the Andaman Sea side all the way up the coast back to BKK (or trade this island adventure for a Cambodia island trip)
Any ideas or recommendations for us are much appreciated!
#1 pucca_girl45 has been a member since 4/11/2012. Posts: 8
A month will go by fast. I would just do one country. From Chiang Mai get a bus and ride a few hours south to Mae Sariang and check out Salwin National Park. Forget both Phuket and Phi-Phi, and go down south to Satun Province and do Ko Lipe and/or Ko Taratao instead, and then check out Thale Ban National Park right on the Malaysian border. You will have had the amazing food of Chiang Mai up north, and then also the incredible food of the deep south -what a perspective. Not so many tourists in either Mae Sariang or Satun. Angkor Wat will be a sea of humanity. Hordes of umbrella-carrying package tourists from Korea, China, and Taiwan blocking the view and making tons of noise. Do you like watching thousands of other tourists walking around and jostling for photo ops?
That's a lot to do in one month! Personally, Cambodia was my least favourite country in SEA. However, that said, Angkor Wat is amzing but it is best viewed at 5-6AM to beat all the crowds so I hope you're early birds! There is nothing in Kampong Cham, apart from a cool temple about 20km out of town, which has great scenery on the way there. But with your time frame not sure it's worth the visit. Also Kampong Cham has an unusually modern feel to it and there really is nothing there to see or do. PP itself is not a great city, unless you really want to go to the killing fields and S21 I wouldn't say it was really worth it.
Personally, if you want to go to Cambodia I would recommend going in and out of Siem Riep for Angkor Wat and spend more time in northern Thailand. The Mae Hae Son loop is absolutely brilliant, with stunning scenery and just beautiful food and people. It is worth looking into and is highly recommended. Many people I met all said northern Thailand was a highlight of their trip. If you also do this, there are better trekking tours when you get to places like Soppong.
Good luck and happy travels!
#3 djkeith has been a member since 28/11/2011. Posts: 13
Thank you both so much! These are very helpful suggestions and we've decided to cut Cambodia from our trip this time and are going to pursue much of what you've suggested - with the addition of a stop over in Vientiane, Laos before heading to the Malaysian border and the Satun Province. Wonderful idea to avoid the crowded islands near Phuket. We are also going to check out the Mae Hae Son Loop too.
Do either of you have any suggestions about travelers medical insurance and vaccinations for Laos? Is there anything besides malaria that we should be mindful of?
Thank you for reading.
#4 pucca_girl45 has been a member since 4/11/2012. Posts: 8
If your going to Laos and northern Thailand make sure you have malaria tablets, otherwise you'll need Hep A & B, but your GP will advise what vaccinations you'll need. Don't have Japanese Encephalitis, as too costly and not worth it for your trip.
If you do do the Mae Hae Son loop, make sure you stop off at Soppong and see Tham Lod also known as the bat cave, it really is awesome. I'd also recommend staying at Soppong River Inn, whilst not the cheapest option (you can barter the price down tho) it was my personal favourite out of all the places I stayed in the whole of Thailand.
#5 djkeith has been a member since 28/11/2011. Posts: 13
I haven't done the Mae Hong Son loop yet, but I really want to. I've spent most of my time in Southern Thailand. Love it down there. Khao Sok NP, Inland Krabi (not Phi Phi, which I hear is destroyed now), Nakhon Si Thammarat (getting farther south there, and the Malaysian influence on the food is just amazing), and you've got Satun province and Ko Tarataou and Ko Lipe, plus Thale Ban -another national park. If you visit Khao Sok and then want an island afterward, you could head to the Andaman Sea and check out Ko Ra Ecolodge.
But this thread is in the Cambodia section! I love Cambodia, and I will be going there for my 4th time in as many years this January, back up to Ratanakiri to do yet another long trek in Virachey National Park. I wouldn't rule out Cambodia completely, but I would choose either Thailand or Cambodia.
You can do two countries in a month. But you have to be very focused, and above all not to try seeing everything: you'll end up rushing through the different cities without enjoying the peaceful pace and charming people of South East Asia.
Starting with Cambodia seems like the right thing to do. When you'll land in SEA, you'll be up for an adventure, and Cambodia will definitely be a greater cultural shock than Bangkok or the Southern Thailand islands. Angkor Temple and floating villages in Siem reap: yes, noone shold miss that. Phnom Penh is great. Not the most beautiful city (I'm not saying it' ugly, it's not at all, it's just not a city that will wow you) but one of my favorites in terms of atmosphere. I would stay 4 days. It'll leave you time to see the main museums and attractions and to "get" the city and its people. Stroll along the river in the evening, stopping on the way to sip on a cold beer and do some people-watching. You'll love it. Oh, and food is great as well. Make sure to try a good fish amok and Lap Khmer! Never done Homestay in Kompong Cham, but I hear it's worth doing it.
As for Thailand, if you want to go north, then I would recommend Pai, somehow more authentic than Chiang Mai. But that's just my opinion, and both will show you a great share of Northern Thai culture.
The islands: I would really really recommend going East. If you're not into super-touristy places, you will hate Phuket. Ko Phi Phi is beautiful though. But the amount of tourists and everything that comes with it (expensiveness, scams, etc..) makes it really annoying.
Don't get me wrong, the eastern islands are touristy as well, but in a much more chilled out way. At the end of your trip, you'll probably just want to relax on a beach without too many people annoying you or crowds to struggle through.
Go to Ko Tao and Koh Phangan, and it'll be much easier for you to find quiet beaches where you can chill out. If partying is also part of the plan, no worries, Koh Phangan also has the full moon party on Haad Rin (self-proclaimed best party in the world).
Bangkok is a tiring city to visit. But it's exhilarating as well. Spend at least three days there. Again, don't try to squeeze as much as you can in a day. You'll end up exhausted. two attractions/museumes a day max. Roam around, try different kind of food, sit down and watch people getting by, go on a boat ride on the Chao Praya, go to Sky Bar at State tower for an amazing Panoramic view, go for a foot massage. And enjoy your last days in South East Asia.
I hope this helps :)
#7 Ova has been a member since 14/12/2012. Posts: 15
Thanks Ova, Greg, and Keith!
Your beta is really helpful and our trip is really shaping up!! Of course massage, cooking classes, and meditation retreats are on our lists.
Initially we had planned to spend a significant amount of time in Cambodia but I think we've decide that it's a separate trip on its own. Though if we get the chance and motivation we would like to see Angkor Wat but it would likely be at the end of the trip when we return to Bangkok.
We are going to explore Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai for a week or so and then head to Chiang Kong and take the slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. We are thinking about this but wonder if it's a scenic trip, and does it make stops along the way in villages, do we need to bring our own provisions like water, food etc? Are there facilities on the boat? I haven't done much research on our travel options to LP but it seems like the slow boat would give us the most opportunity to see much of the Mekong delta area and small villages along the way.
#8 pucca_girl45 has been a member since 4/11/2012. Posts: 8