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Southeast Asia forum

Friendly 1st-time advice sought for 3 month trip to Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia & Viet Nam

Posted by bobby_gigi on 18/4/2011 at 18:49

Hi all,

Firstly I'd like to say how helpful this website has already been, and thanks in advance for any specific help you can give to me and my friend Mike.
We are setting off on June 5 and staying out there until August 29th.

We are landing in Bangkok and would like to explore some of mainland Thailand and a number of its islands, KL and the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia, and then Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam - perhaps loosely following the suggested itinerary for that area on the website. We each have around £3000 for three months so it will very much be a backpacker's budget.

Our main queries for now are:

- Our proposed route is to go from Thailand to the Western Gulf coasts, into Malaysia, back up the Andaman coast and then up to Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam. Is there an alternative that you believe would suit us better?

- We are in the process of deciding how long to spend in each place. For argument's sake, say we dedicate six weeks to Thailand and its island, two weeks for Malaysia and a month for Cambodia, Viet Nam and Laos - is three months enough time, or are we trying to fit too much in?

- It's well-known that money goes a long way in Thailand, but we're expecting places like Malaysia and Viet Nam to be more expensive. Should we be worried that £1000/month might not be enough?

- Finally, any recommendations of places to go and things to see would be great. We're looking to strike a balance between chilling out on beaches with experiencing local culture, sightseeing and party destinations.

Thanks for anyone taking the time to read this and help out, I will definitely look to advise others in return once I've been and gone!!

#1 bobby_gigi has been a member since 18/4/2011. Posts: 3

Posted by bobby_gigi on 19/4/2011 at 23:19

Just bumping this up.
I realise I'm asking a lot of questions at once but if anyone can answer just one it'd help us on our way...

#2 bobby_gigi has been a member since 18/4/2011. Posts: 3

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Posted by Tilapia on 19/4/2011 at 23:35


You're going to be there when it's raining, so you might not want to plan too much in advance. The weather may determine where you can, and cannot go. Parts of Cambodia and Laos can be pretty unpleasant to travel in when the monsoon rains come.

How long in each place? That is something only you can decide. You'll probably stumble on people and places that make you want to stay longer, or cut your time short. I do think that one month for Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos is really pushing it, though. I'd pick one (Laos) or two of them (Laos & Cambodia), but all three seems a bit much for such a short time.

For beaches and islands, etc., look at Tezza's site ..., as well as the info on this board.

I think that Isaan, along the Mekong River between Chiang Khan and Nong Khai is excellent, as is Southern Laos (Si Phan Don) for slow travel and taking it easy ... but the weather may not be cooperative at that time. These are not really party places, though. For that, head to Vang Vieng, Koh Phangan, Pai, Bangkok. There are probably others I'm not aware of.

If you don't plan to visit Angkok in Cambodia, you can see some killer temples in Sukhothai and (even better) Si Satchanalai just north of Sukhothai. You can rent a motorbike in Sukhothai and make a day or two of it.

Sangkhlaburi is a fantastic little, out-of-the-way town about 4 hours from Kanchanaburi, which is about 1 1/2 hours from Bangkok. K-buri also has a bit of a scene, but I wouldn't describe it as a party scene.

Your budget should see you through just fine.

Have a blast.

#3 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,521
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Posted by jnelson232 on 20/4/2011 at 02:02

Just to piggy-back on Tilapia weather will be a huge factor. In june and july the west coast of Thailand is the rainy season. However Ko Phangan has good weather year round.
( thats where I'll be end of june)

In Malaysia, the best islands to go at this time of year is Tioman on the east coast of the peninsula. I also would not skip Angkor Wat because even though it is super touristy, it is also one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. Take two days and see the outside temples as well to avoid being surrounded.

Also if Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos are way to rainy. Then I have heard great things about Sri Lanka and there are cheap flights out of KL all the time.

#4 jnelson232 has been a member since 28/3/2011. Location: United States. Posts: 37
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Posted by Tilapia on 20/4/2011 at 02:45

Sorry ... I typed out "Angkok in Cambodia," when I obviously meant Bangkok ... no, ANGKOR.

True what jnelson232 says about Angkor. It is an amazing place. Worth going to if the area isn't flooding.

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Posted by busylizzy on 20/4/2011 at 03:11

Just a quick reply to a couple of question:

One month in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam? It's way too much. You're on a tight budget, so you won't be flying between destinations presumably. Allow one day for travelling between each destination (ie Hanoi to Hue) - that will soon eat up your month.

Spend less time in Malaysia (1 week) Thailand (4 weeks), you can get away with one week in Cambodia to see PP and Angkor, and allow up to 3-4 weeks in Vietnam. I haven't been to Laos yet so can't comment but will be there later this year, and in that country alone, I can't figure out how to do everything I want to see in 4 weeks! You might even be best to assume you won't make it to either Laos or Vietnam so that you can spend more time enjoying the places that you DO get to.

Don't book anything ahead of time to give yourselves max flexibility. Your plans WILL change. This way, you can cram in another country if you find your moving at a fast pace, or you can skip a few places if you find you have naturally slowed things down.

In terms of costs - I found Vietnam to be the cheapest by far out of the countries you mention - my daily costs were about 2/3 of what I spent elsewhere.

#6 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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Posted by bobby_gigi on 20/4/2011 at 18:55

@ busylizzy - thanks for your reply. We won't be booking up anything before we leave, we'll just play it by ear - don't want any undue restrictions. We've already spoken about trimming down time in Thailand and will dedicate 5 weeks to Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam, but I think your advice about picking two countries to definitely see and leaving one as a maybe is spot on.

Tilapia - thanks for your recommendations. Had not heard about Sangkhlaburi, sounds just like the kind of place I'd enjoy. As for the weather, we'll just have to take our chances. Obviously the weather forecast page on this site can help us with our framework.

Cheers JNelson, we're set on going to Angkor Wat and that sounds like a great way to explore it.

An additional open question - where, out of all the places mentioned will be the most expensive? Busylizzy, I was surprised you said you found VietNam cheap, as I'd heard it was pricier than Thailand? Obviously it will vary depending on what you're up to, but working on living costs it would be interesting to compare.

#7 bobby_gigi has been a member since 18/4/2011. Posts: 3

Posted by busylizzy on 21/4/2011 at 05:58

Yes, Vietnam was far cheaper. The thing that distorted it in the end was a 9-day EasyRider tour and that brought my daily costs up to the levels that I had spent in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. If you take the EasyRider tour out, it was definitely cheaper. You get far more for your $$ in terms of accommodation in particular.

Of course, the more you move around, the higher your overall costs. It's actually cheaper to stay in one place (less travel costs, and you can negotiate better rates for longer stays). Cut down your destinations and your overall costs come down.

Whenever I checked into a guest house, and asking the price, I would always discretely ask if that was their best price, or if they would discount if I was staying for 3 days. Sometimes that worked to knock another few dollars off.

#8 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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