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Approve, criticize, or improve my 6 week itinerary in Thai-Camb-Vt-Laos!

Posted by naomiolson on 29/4/2011 at 19:48

Here's what I've got planned for a trip for 2 in summer of 2011:

THAILAND (3 nights)
June 16: arrive Bangkok,pig out on pad thai.
June 17: Bangkok
June 18: Bangkok
June 19: fly from Bangkok to Siem Reap
CAMBODIA (5 nights)
June 20: Siem Reap
June 21: Siem Reap
June 22: bus/boat from SR to Phnom Penh (5 hour bus ride, boat-? hrs)
June 23: Phnom Penh
June 24: bus/boat from PP to Ho Chi Minh City
VIETNAM (12 nights)
June 25: Ho Chi Minh City
June 26- July 6 GAP " Roam vietnam" tour (up coast of Vietnam ending in Hanoi )
July 6: fly Hanoi to Vientiance
LAOS (10 nights)
July 7: bus from Vientiane to Ban Na hin (5-6 hrs on bus)
July 8: Konglor (KongLo) Cave
July 9: bus from Ban na Hin to Vientiane (5-6hrs on bus)
July 10: Vientiane to Luang Prabang (10 hrs on bus, yuck!)
July 11: Luang Prabang
July 12: Luang Prabang
July 13: Luang Prabang
July 14: Luang Prabang to Pakbeng (9 hours on boat)
July 15: Pakbeng to HuayXai (9 hours on boat)
July 16: Huay Xai to Chiang Khong to Chiang Rai (2 hours) to Chiang Mai (4 hours bus)
THAILAND (13 nights)
July 17: Chiang Mai and surrounds
July 18: Chiang Mai zipline and hiking and stuff
July 19: Chiang Mai
July 20: Chiang Mai
July 21: fly Chiang Mai to Phuket --to Phi Phi if get there in time for ferry, if not nextmorn.
July 22: ferry from Phuket to Ko Phi Phi (2 hours)
July 23: Ko Phi Phi
July 24: Ko Phi Phi
July 25: ferry from Ko Phi Phi to Krabi
July 26: Krabi
July 27: Krabi to Surat Thani (2 hours bus) Train from Surat Thani to Bangkok (9 hours train)
July 28: Bangkok
July 29: depart Bangkok

OK guys, have at it.
Please keep in mind the following:
We already paid for the Vietnam trip so those dates are set in stone
We have a deadline of being in chiang mai by the 16th of July.
We really want to do the Konglor cave if it is possible.
I know that we’re cutting it tight with a couple of these stays. I know that some of the traveldays are long, and often packed together. If you have any suggestions for things to cut,please let me know.
If I have to shave a day off of our stay somewhere, would you rather have an extra day in Luang Prabangor in Chiang Mai?

Thanks in advance for all your feedback, it helps a lot

#1 naomiolson has been a member since 11/4/2011. Posts: 6
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Posted by MADMAC on 30/4/2011 at 01:25

It's a lot of road time - but since the majority of it is in your Vietnam leg, which is set in stone, I think you'll have to live with it. Of your six weeks, literally one full week or so will be spent on bus, boat, taxi or plane.
Flying the Hanoi to Vientiane leg is smart. But given the transport distances in Laos, I would have cut it out altogether and headed from Hanoi back to Thailand. You have a lot of travel time in there.
Given the hectic pace, I'm not sure why you don't just stop at either Phuket or Phi Phi, and leave it at that as some chill time that's absent the rest of the trip.

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Posted by naomiolson on 30/4/2011 at 01:54

Thanks madmac!

I think you're right about the pace, but I don't think I have the heart to cut Laos out altogether!
What do you think of this plan:
Instead of flying into Vientiane , we fly from Hanoi to Luang Prabang? That would slow down our pace a lot. We wouldn't be able to see Vientiane or that cool cave, but I'm sure there are a lot of other cool things to do around LP. That would cut out three days of pure bus time. What do you think?

Also, Can you elaborate a little bit on what you mean by just stopping at Phuket or Phi Phi?
My thinking for that leg is that I was trying to break up the travel a bit. Our main goal is Phi Phi and the surrounding area like Maya bay, but I'm not sure we'd get to Phuket in time to catch the ferry the same day that our flight arrives. Also, I'm not sure it is possible to get from Phi Phi to Krabi to Bangkok all in one go, so I thought we'd break that up as well by spending a night in Krabi somewhere.

In general I am always torn between just pushing through and getting to a destination so we can relax there and enjoy it, or whether we should break up the travel into smaller chunks of travel time and enjoy spending a night at a place along the way. There is definitely something to be said for not having to pack your bags every morning though.

Thanks again for your response!

#3 naomiolson has been a member since 11/4/2011. Posts: 6
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Posted by MADMAC on 30/4/2011 at 02:14

Well everyone has a different perspective, so I can only give you mine. I DESPISE buses. Anything over two hours is really beginning to suck. So if I were coming here for vacation (and I live here, so my perspective is different) I would fly into Bangkok, and not plan to leave until I was tired of it. Then I'd go someplace like Kanchanaburi because it's interesting and close. Then each leg from that point would be decided when I was tired of that place, and my next leg would be very close again.
What you are doing is something I would never do - the SEA loop hitting the classic famous locations. So that puts you on buses a lot.
If you can fly directly to Luang Prabang, then do it. That presupposes, of course, that you want to go there more than Vientiane, which itself is an interesting city. In any event your plan looks good to reduce road time.
What I meant by staying at Phi Phi is you can just stop travelling arond at that point and enjoy that area without getting on another bus until you have to go back to Bangkok. Spending an uninterrupted 7 days chilling on a tropical beach is a great way to close out what promises to otherwise be a pretty hectic trip.

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Posted by busylizzy on 30/4/2011 at 07:09

Hi Naomi - since you have posted your itinerary, I will respond here rather than to your PM. And it's always good to get the perspective of others!

I agree with Mac - it's doable, but you'll be moving at a rapid pace. A couple of things that I would do:

- busride from SR to PP is more like 6 hours - but add another couple for phaffing around/waiting time. It's a nice ride though (as far as longish bus rides go).
- you only have 1 day in PP. I assume this is do see S21 and the killing fields, which is doable in a good 1/2 day. That will allow you the rest of the day to explore a bit, visit a market and maybe do a river trip but not much else. That's fine if that's all that interests you.
- depends on your budget, but maybe consider flying from Vientiane to LP. That would save you that long 10-hour busride. I haven't been to Laos yet, but from what I understand 10 hour busrides can turn into a lot longer! Flights on Laos Air are expensive though.
- the busride from Krabi to Surat Thani I thought was more like 4-5 hours by memory, not 2. Just double-check that. Regardless, I would be more inclined to book a cheap Air Asia ticket from Krabi to Bankgok rather travel overland via Surat Thani. That could be one more day on an island, and be less tiring.

I am currently planning a 6 week trip myself. I have decided to forego some of the long busrides and just pay more for a flight so I can just get there and not be so washed out. I would consider the 10-hour bus rides if I had more time to play with, although I would tend to look at breaking it into two trips by staying overnight somewhere. Mind you, from VTE to LP the place to stay would be Vang Vieng, and that may or may not appeal.

Hope that helps!

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Posted by caseyprich on 30/4/2011 at 10:42

I agree that you'll feel a lot fresher if you fly from Hanoi to Luang Prabang . It looks like you're really interested in natural beauty, but maybe save the big cave for another day - for some reasons I've never been keen on visiting that area of Laos as that seems to be the only attraction. I think its more something to stop and see if you're on the way from Northern Laos to Southern Laos and want to break up the journey. A few days around Luang Prabang can also be broken up by taking a night to go up to Nong Kiaow for an evening in a quiet riverside town with some nice scenery. A nice walk to the east of town and you'll come to an old Pathet Lao cave, not as spectacular I'm certain.

Considering that you want to enter Thailand from the North you've got two full days on the boat with a night in Pakbeng. I've never done this trip, and the main reason is people tell me they got board stiff when they did it downstream (even faster) and didn't really want to continue the next day. Now - that said, it is a nice cruise on the Mekong for two days and maybe that is more relaxing than taking a bus up there. However, if you want to save time you could always fly from LP to Chiang Mai . This way you'd arrive in Chiang Mai on the 14th instead of the 16th --- or take the two extra days in Laos - (keep in mind that last I checked these flights didn't run every day).

It definitely looks from your itinerary that you want to see and move through a lot. The legs from Hanoi-Laos-Chiang Mai are going to be a good chance to save yourself both time and travel fatigue. I'd only do the boat ride up the Mekong if you feel rested and wouldn't rather spend the time with people other than tourists - as I don't think your going to get a great local experience on a tour boat up the river. Same thing with the long bus from Hanoi to LP or Vientiane - the scenery is nice but it's going to be dark for half the trip anyway.

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Posted by busylizzy on 30/4/2011 at 13:23

Following on from what Casey said - if you considered going to Nong Kiaow as per his suggestion, you can take a boat ride there and bus back (or vice versa). This way you get the boat experience, but limited to one day, and they you can fly to Chiang Mai.

This is probably going to be my 'compromise' - I had also planned the 2-day boat trip from Huay Xai to LP but decided NK sounded like a better alternative for me (because of other things that I want to do ).

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Posted by naomiolson on 1/5/2011 at 17:43

Thanks, guys! I had thought I read on peoples' posts that the flight from LP to Chiang Mai is no longer in service. But I just checked the discover airpass and they do indeed fly that route. I have heard very mixed reviews of the boat trip. I have read that the bus journey from LP to HX is not a great option either. Thanks for the Nong Kiaow suggestion, I'll look into it!
Thanks for making me feel less bad about missing the Konglo cave. Maybe if I come back and do a "road less traveled" tour I can check it out along with southern laos.

I really appreciate all of your feedback; it relieves a lot of anxiety when you're trying to plan a trip to somewhere you've never been. Thanks so much!

#8 naomiolson has been a member since 11/4/2011. Posts: 6
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Posted by greektraveller on 6/5/2011 at 00:43

too much planning in my opinion....

#9 greektraveller has been a member since 24/1/2011. Posts: 44

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