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Itinerary Help: Siem reap to HCMC

Posted by SoloGirls on 13/1/2014 at 18:12

Well I think I've changed my plans about 50 times in the last week. I was wondering if anybody would chime in about which option they would choose out of the following. I only have about 10 days to do this and I don't want to be on the go the entire time. I think some of these options would create that. Some of this includes Vietnam. But I had to pick one forum or the other.

Issues: I need to get a Vietnam Visa during this time. I've read S-Ville is the best option as it happens in 20 minutes or so vs. other cities dating 2-3 days.

Option A:
Day 1: Leave Siem Reap go to Sihanoukville .
Day 2: Get Vietnam Visa in the AM then take boat to Koh Rong
Day 3: Koh Rong
Day 4: Koh Rong
Day 5: Return to Sihanoukville spend the night.
Day 6: Leave 7am for PP. Spend night.
Day 7: Take Boat down Mekong to Chau Doc. Spend night.
Day 8: Bus to HCMC
Day 9: HCMC
Day 10: Leave HCMC
- Mekong Boat Ride (something different from the rest of my trip I have planned)
- Quick Visa for Vietnam
- It's a long trip to S-Ville just to back track back to PP for the Mekong Boat ride.

Option B:
Day 1: Leave Siem Reap go to Sihanoukville.
Day 2: Get Vietnam Visa in the AM in S-Ville. Spend day and night.
Day 3: Take bus to Kep. Spend night.
Day 4: Travel rest of the way to Phu Quoc via bus/ferry
Day 5: Phu Quoc
Day 6: Phu Quoc
Day 7: Phu Quoc - take later flight to HCMC.
Day 8: HCMC
Day 9: HCMC
Day 10: Leave HCMC
- A bit slower paced
- Get my visa for Vietnam easily
- Phu Quoc interests me a bit more the Koh Rong
- No Mekong Boat ride
- Won't spend any time in PP.

Option C:
Day 1: Leave Siem Reap for PP in the Am. Apply for Visa there. Spend night.
Day 2: Spend day in PP.
Day 3: Hopefully the visa is done? Take boat down Mekong. Spend night in Chau Doc.
Day 4: Travel to Phu Quoc
Day 5: Phu Quoc
Day 6: Phu Quoc
Day 7: Phu Quoc - take later flight to HCMC.
Day 8: HCMC
Day 9: HCMC
Day 10: Leave HCMC
- Mekong River
- Get some time in PP (if it's worth it?)
- Less back and forth travel.
- Visa mightn't be ready when I want it to be.
- Skipping S-Ville (though I hear that's not so bad of a thing. But everybody is different.)

*I could add a day to any of these options , but it would mean rushing through Siem Reap in 1 day. Is the city itself worth a visit, or should I just spend the day at the temples and then move on?
*Should I take two days to travel from SR to S-Ville if I chose an option that includes that? Is it doable in one without taking a night bus?
*Is it worth it to fly from Phu Quoc to HCMC instead of ferry then bus? It's only $35 for the flight.

I also had an idea of going to Mui Ne instead of something. The landscape looks interesting there.

What do you all think? Is that enough time for HCMC? Too much time? I'm heading to Thailand after that and that day is pretty much set for when I leave. Another consideration is that Phu Quoc is expensive comparatively. I'm on a tight budget and I'm trying to keep costs as low as possible without compromising my safety or the safety of my bags at whatever place I'm staying at.

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Posted by caseyprich on 13/1/2014 at 20:18

I think you'll find Cambodia cheaper overall than Vietnam, so if you are on a tight budget that should certainly play into your decision making. Even with the budget though the flight involving Phu Quoc-HCMC is a great way to save time and not expensive at all, so if you do choose Phu Quoc I highly recommend you fly (get there overland for the ferry fun and then take a one-way to HCMC).

It looks like in 10 days you are certainly trying to hit a lot (that said keep your plan to relax at least one more day in Siem Reap , I'm not a huge temple visitor but two full days would be a minimum I'd say). A day of travel at the start and it seems your main concern is which beach to hit? Honestly, if you are headed to Thailand next won't you have time to see some beaches there? You could also cut the worry about the Visa by arranging it before your departure through an agent or consulate in your home country - if you know your schedule so formally you need not wait until you get there and then that doesn't have to play into your calculus.

For option B, I'd rather spend the night in Kampot over Kep - I say that with 99% certainty that Kampot is a better spot than Kep. In fact, what I notice about your itinerary is there is no stop there and you are kind of skipping passed PP for the most part, you also don't stop in any of the Mekong Delta towns or cities really - just pass through. I think of Can Tho as one of my two favorite spots in Vietnam, if anything just because it is a 5 minute walk from the riverfront and then you feel like you are just hanging out in real Vietnam. Personally don't see that much in HCMC with just such a quick stay as you have. As for PP, if you are in Cambodia and interested in the history of the place you really should stop there and visit the Khmer Rouge sites on offer, which you could do with one full (psychologically hellish) day. The nights on the river front are nice too, and the National Museum is a fun experience after Siem Reap.

So, I"m not really sure what you are looking for - but it looks like you really want some beach time before Thailand? I guess I'd suggest you skip Phu Quoc because of price concerns, but also the river ride down the Mekong would probably be more interesting than a beach before Thailand beaches. What reasons do you have for skipping passed PP, Kampot and delta towns like Can Tho? Is this primarily a beach relaxing vacation and Siem Reap is just more of a single cultural highlight you are going for?

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Posted by SoloGirls on 13/1/2014 at 21:17

Yes, I mentioned that skipping the Mekong would be a disappointment (con) to option B.

I do want a little dose of beach in the middle there. I live in Canada, it's MUCH needed. haha. But I'm interested in seeing the sites as well. So point taken about maybe choosing to spend more time in PP. I've sort of opted against getting a visa ahead of time because it seems like it's drastically more expensive here from what I've read. So maybe in that case, option C is the way to go.

I'll be in HCMC for 2.5 days. That's not enough time to see anything?

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Posted by Geer1 on 13/1/2014 at 23:40

Cambodia is much cheaper then Vietnam. Think $5-10 for cheap private rooms compared to usually 15+ in Vietnam. Transportation is more as well although food is similar(and usually better in Vietnam).

In Phnom Penh you should be able to get a next day visa from most tour offices/guesthouse unless there on a weekend(Sihanoukville consulate might not be open on weekend either, I am not sure). You may even be able to get same day visas in Phnom Penh if you go to the consulate there. Worst case you should get it back in 2 days.

As I mentioned in your other thread I am pretty sure you can also get a next day visa in Kampot , I got mine there and believe that it was next day service(although I would have an extra day just in case).

Siem reap temples alone are worth 2 days(the town is ok but you can see enough of it in evenings) imo so I wouldn't shorten that to 1 day. The temples are amazing and a highlight of many peoples trips(including mine).

Phnom Penh is worth a stop(even though I wasn't a huge fan of it). As mentioned the national history museum is great to stop at after you have seen the temples in Siem Reap . Tuol Sleng and/or the Killing Fields are a must see imo, not because they are great sights but because they are something every tourist in Cambodia should know about. 1.5 days or so is enough and as mentioned should be enough time to get a visa as well(wasn't for me though as the consulate was closed due to the kings funeral).

Since you are on a budget and don't have that much time I would probably pass on Phu Quoc. Koh Rong will probably be decent but eats up time getting to/from. If I were you I would consider Kampot then Koh Tonsay. The accommodation is very simple but you can always just spend the day and then head to Kep if you don't want to stay on the island. I enjoyed the beach for such a small simple island, supposedly has bio luminescent algae too although I didn't notice it(didn't bother to go swimming at night though either).

So what I would say

Day 1: Leave Siem Reap go to Phnom Penh, arrange for Vietnam Visa. If early enough go see museum or something else that interests you, otherwise just look around the river front, markets etc.
Day 2: Go see Tuol Sleng and/or Killing Fields, if you only want to do 1 then this will only be a few hours so could see museum or royal palace etc. Even both might only be a part day, I can't remember exactly how long they took. Visa should be done.
Day 3: Wait for visa if not finished, then take bus to Kampot. Spend the afternoon/evening looking around town and relaxing.
Day 4: Rent a scooter if you are up for that or hire a moto taxi and go see a couple sights around town(caves, Bokor NP, salt fields, pepper farms, small zoo and more).
Day 5: Travel to Koh Tonsay, spend the day on the beach. Spend the night if you want or head back to Kep.
Day 6: Spend another day on the beach if you want, if back in Kep could look at NP and around town instead.
Day 7: Cross over into Ha Tien. Hop on a bus to HCMC right away if you want otherwise look around, relax and take a night bus(Kumho has a good night bus for very reasonable prices, 180k if I remember right).
Day 8: HCMC (War Remnants museum is a must, if you want to see Cu Chi tunnels book a tour and they will usually drop you off at the museum if you want).
Day 9: HCMC (History museum and Reunification palace are neat, check out a pagoda or 2 as well)
Day 10: Leave HCMC

This is very similar to what I did(I saw a couple more things/spent a little more time but these were the best parts imo).

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Posted by caseyprich on 14/1/2014 at 00:08

I agree with Geer's itinerary, thoughI think both he and I are known supporters of Kampot. I didn't realize you could get direct from Ha Tien to HCMC, so I wasn't suggesting, I always like the Can Tho stop off. Also, wasn't saying there is not enough to do, rather that you won't get the feel of the Delta and Vietnam in HCMC like you would in a place like Can Tho or by taking a boat down the river. I would honestly shave a day off HCMC and take the bus to Can Tho to do the floating market and explore the neighborhoods around Ho Xang Thoi (little lake in the middle of the town) in the afternoon before taking the bus to HCMC the next day. Of course, that cuts in on your relaxation time. Probably better to follow the above schedule of Geer and still cut that day out of HCMC to stay an extra day around Kampot/Kep where it is cheaper and much more relaxing than HCMC. I don't hate HCMC, I just don't like it nearly as much as the smaller town like Kampot, Can Tho, Da Nang and such.

Anyway, no matter what you'll enjoy a few spots so much that you won't want to leave them. If you did want to skip beach time and get that chance for the Mekong boat ride I could suggest . . .

Day 1: Leave Siem Reap to Battambang to explore for a day or two on motorbike the two temples north (better) and south (good view) of the city along with the killing cave. A very vibrant city that is not nearly as touristy as Siem Reap.
Day 2: Battambang
Day 3: Battambang [could cut out to speed up your journey]
Day 4: Head to Phnom Penh, arrange for Vietnam Visa. If early enough go see museum or something else that interests you, otherwise just look around the river front, markets etc.
Day 5: Go Tuol Sleng and/or Killing Fields (If only one, I think the killing fields has the best free audio-tour I've ever had and gets you a little out of the city, so I'd choose that). As I said, love the national museum.
Day 6: Wait for visa if not finished - Head down river to Vietnam.
Day 7 - 10: Delta area of either Chau Doc/Can Tho & HCMC

You could cut Battambang down to a single full day if you like. Anyway, this would give you the chance to see a little more of Cambodia than just Siem Reap & PP while at the same time giving you a chance to see more of Vietnam than just HCMC. I know you want the beaches . . .I'm just putting it out there to confuse you.

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Posted by SoloGirls on 18/1/2014 at 22:59

Thanks for the suggestions. I am interested in seeing the tunnels and the war museum. It's good to know it seems to be worth the visit. I do have two days in SR, but the first day will be after a very long 24 hours of travel. I'm not sure how up for temples I'll be. I was kind of planning just relaxing, walking around. I don't know if I, personally, need two days of temples. I get bored quickly and like to move onto new things. But you never know!

Against the advice of many, I have started booking the first few nights. I know everybody says to play it as it goes, but I've noticed that many of them are already booked up. Plus, I like to do my research on places first. Maybe the next time I go, I'll be able to be a little more free spirited about it.

I'll plan to do the killing fields as well. I think I should have time to do that the first day hopefully? I'm going to take the early bus in to PP.

Beaches are a must. I don't mean to go all girly, but they are! haha. I grew up in sunshine and moved to Raincouver. I'm desperate for it. I'm still very interested in Phu Quoc - especially before it becomes overrun by a party scene as so many places seem to. But all the other suggestions have been well considered. I'm looking into prearranging a visa here to ease my mind. I'll see how that goes.

Thanks a ton for the suggestions. I've ruled out S-Ville because of it and that was always the plan from the start. But I think it's probably a good decision.

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Posted by SoloGirls on 19/1/2014 at 00:07

Okay... here is my revamped (packed) plan. Is it too crazy? I looked up Can Tho and would love to see it. I don't have much time, but I figured I could get an afternoon flight in and then leave the next day late afternoon. That way I could get up early to do the market. I don't know, I think I may be cramming too much in. This also leaves me one day noon - bedtime in PP. This is of course assuming I can get my Vietnam visa here.

I originally cut off the start of my trip when I listed my plans for you since it was already set in stone. But I'll add them in, so there are a few more days accounted for here.

Day 1: Arrive late in Siem Reap .
Day 2: Siem Reap
Day 3: Siem Reap
Day 4: Leave early for Phnom Penh . Spend rest of day and night there.
Day 5: Leave Phnom Penh on Boat down Mekong. Arrive in Chau Doc. Spend Night.
Day 6: Bus to Ha Tien then Ferry to Phu Quoc
Day 7: Phu Quoc (it has to be done - sorry guys [img]smileys/smile.gif[/img])
Day 8: Phu Quoc
Day 9: Take flight to Can Tho. Spend rest of day and night there.
Day 10: Do floating market in the morning. Take a late afternoon/early evening bus to HCMC.
Day 11: HCMC
Day 12: HCMC
Day 13: Fly out early morning.

I'm pretty good being go go go, but I don't want to be stressed out. I'll have some down time in there in Phu Quoc. I also think the river day will be pretty relaxing and I won't think of that as a travel day personally. Too much? Would I be able to do the war museum and tunnels in HCMC in one day? I don't know why HCMC interests me more that PP. I don't have a specific reason for that. Maybe I should take one of those days and give it to PP?

Thanks again for your suggestions. I have been factoring them in. All except for the Phu Quoc thing. [img]smileys/smile.gif[/img]

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Posted by caseyprich on 19/1/2014 at 04:58

Glad you decided on Can Tho - it is a great place to just wander around. Really, none of these are epic bus rides, I think your average trip from Can Tho to HCMC is 4-5 hours. That should be about the same all over and with a good book and a window seat I find bus rides can actually be a relaxing part of a journey.

Also - I really liked Phu Quoc, stayed on a quiet place up by Bo Resort. I think the trip sounds busy, but I enjoy being a bit busy on holiday myself. Day 4 & 5 will be a bit busy and I'd consider an extra day in PP to check out the Killing Fields. I never went to the tunnels in HCMC, didn't really look that interesting, mixed reviews of the place (and I'm a history teacher . . . ).

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Posted by SoloGirls on 19/1/2014 at 05:25

Yeah I'm glad I did too. Thanks for the suggestion! I think it adds some good variety considering I'm not venturing off the beaten path. I think I also have all my travel sort of mixed up so that it won't be like I'm just going from bus to bus. I've got the boat in there and a ferry and a plane.

It does definitely seem busy. But given that I'll be alone, I think busy is good. Just as long as it's not overkill.

Do you think that Can Tho deserves more time than HCMC? Currently I have just over 24 hours allotted to Can Tho. I'll fly in in the afternoon. So I'll have the evening to stroll around the city a little. Then I do plan on doing the floating market bright and early. I'm not sure if I want to commit to the 7 hour tour they do, or if the 3 hour one will suffice. I could steal a day from HCMC

Also, I opted against taking any night buses in Cambodia due to all the safety warnings. Does that hold true for Vietnam as well, that you know of?

I was also considering taking the ferry from Rach Gia instead of Ha Tien. I've been reading mixed reviews about the reliability of the ferry from Ha Tien. Apparently it's often not even running? I realize it would be a longer ferry ride though.

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Posted by caseyprich on 19/1/2014 at 20:00

I'd recommend the 3 hour tour. I've been to Can Tho twice and done that tour (having gone with different people each time). Both were really nice - but after 3 hours I'm ready to finish up the tour. I'm sure most people love HCMC, and I don't dislike it, I just like Can Tho more. I think it is a smaller place that is easy to get to know and the people are very friendly. The kind of place where dipping into a side street you might run across some folks having iced coffee who invite you to sit down with them and next thing they are making you lunch for no charge, or where cheap and easy Pho can be found that is made to local taste. If you arrive in the evening you'll probably just stay around board walk and not get a chance to explore the deeper neighborhoods as for a single women traveler you may find the cramped allies and such a bit disconcerting. So, if you do the 3 hour tour, and aren't leaving until evening, that gives you the afternoon to explore west of the boardwalk, check out of your hotel, leave the bag at the front desk and I'd recommend walking straight down Ngo Quyen until it sort of becomes less a road and more a sidewalk and then talking a right, some lefts, and getting lost in there. You can do this in the time you've allowed yourself. If you aren't booking ahead, I'd say just see if you fall in love with Can Tho and stay an extra night if you feel like it.

I've never taken a night bus in Vietnam. Most of my bus jaunts have been around 4-5 hours and I don't mind doing them during the day so I can watch out the window, don't consider it wasted time.

Can't give any clear advice on the ferry, save that I've always heard the same thing you have, Rach Gia very dependable, Ha Tien not as reliable.

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