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Southeast Asia forum

3 month route through Thailand/Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos - constructive criticism wanted!

Posted by kmc on 30/5/2011 at 17:08

Hi all,

My wife and I are fortunate enough to have nabbed 3 months off our respective jobs from the end of September this year through to Christmas which we're going to spend going through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Having read most of travelfish, sketched out a route on a map and tried to avoid retracing our steps as much as possible, I think we're getting close to something sensible. Would appreciate any comments - at the moment I think we'll aim to spend about 1 month in each of Thailand & Vietnam, and about 2 weeks in each of Laos and Cambodia.

- Fly into Bangkok, catch a flight straight to Trat
- Visit Ko Chang & Ko Maak before heading to the Cambodia border crossing at Hat Lek/Koh Kong
- From there, head to Kaoh Rong & Kaoh Samloem
- Bus across to Phnom Penh
- Taxi up to Battambang
- Boat over to Siam Reap
- Bus to Poipet then train to Bangkok
- Train out to Kanchanaburi & Sai Yok
- Possibly bus out to Sangkhlaburi (but we'll have to retrace our path)
- Bus to Ayutthaya from Kanchanaburi to pick up the train north
- Bus to & from Sukhothai
- Train to Chiang Mai
- Bus to Chiang Dao
- Bus/boat to Chiang Rai
- Bus to the Laos border crossing at Chiang Kong
- Huay Xai -> Pakbeng -> Luang Prubang boat (with Nagi if possible)
- Either fly to Vientiane or bus to Phonsavan and then fly to Vientiane
- Fly to Ha Noi from Vientiane
- Head west to Mai Chau
- Then East to Ha Long Bay
- Then train down through Phong Nga
- Hue
- Hoi An
- Nha Trang
- Mui Ne
- ending up in Saigon
- My Tho, and somehow meander out to Rach Gia
- Flight from Rach Gia to Phu Quoc
- Flight from Phu Quoc -> HCMC -> Bangkok -> Trang
- Starting at the bottom of a few islands and working North...Ko Muk
- Ko Ngai
- Ko Lanta
- Ko Phi Phi
- Make our way to Surat Thani for the train to Prachuap Khiri Khan
- Back to Bangkok and reluctantly home.

#1 kmc has been a member since 27/5/2011. Posts: 13

Posted by Rasheeed on 30/5/2011 at 18:03

Lots of stops. My math has you in each destination for 11 hours and 16 minutes each. But i could be off....

Keep all these places as possibilities. Stay flexible. Be ready to cut a leg out of the journey if you find you love it somewhere.

Southeast Asian busses aren't the greatest place to spend a vacation.


#2 Rasheeed has been a member since 4/11/2010. Location: Cambodia. Posts: 311
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Posted by Tilapia on 30/5/2011 at 21:08

The first thing that I thought while reading this was that you're wasting a 30-day on-arrival visa for Thailand, and will have to be watching the clock when you return to Thailand from Canbodia as you will only receive 15 days. That is, unless you plan on being in Trat province for close to a month, or unless you have a multi-entry visa before you arrive.

You can avoid re-tracing your steps to/from Sangkhlaburi by taking the train either to or from the Hellfire Pass from either Bangkok or Kanchanaburi.

#3 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,521
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Posted by DLuek on 31/5/2011 at 11:11 TF writer


You've obviously done your research... It actually reminds me of an itinerary I put together when my girlfriend and I did a 4 1/2 month SE Asia trip a couple years ago. However, we ended up totally abandoning that itinerary and just making it up as we went along, which you have the knowledge and flexibility to do as well.

My advice is that the itinerary, as it's listed, is overly ambitious. As 'sheed points out you'll be spending a lot of time in transit, and trains/busses in the region are not too quick. They can also be crowded (especially busses), dirty and hot.

But you've done your research so it seems like you know what's out there and you know how to go about seeing it... Use your knowledge as a base of ideas to draw from, but don't be afraid to use that knowledge in an improvisational way. Choose the places you really feel are "can't misses" and try your best to get to those. But don't sweat it if you miss one or two, and don't stress yourself over covering every single inch you had planned. Don't be afraid to book a flight or two before-hand, or to make definite plans for something like the Huay Xai > LP boat, but also leave yourself some breathing room. Even with flights I've found that most short regional routes can be purchased just 2 or 3 weeks in advance.

If you find yourself in a place you really love, then stay longer. And don't be afraid to drop a destination or two if you're just tired of traveling or whatever. When my lady and I went last time we ended up spending almost 2 months in Hoi An alone, which we had originally intended on passing through for a few days. We just fell in love with the place and made friends with some locals, and that ended up being one of the most amazing travel experiences I've ever had. Yeah, we had to sacrifice Luang Prabang and Sukhothai, which both were places I felt I "had" to see, but hey, it's good to have something new to look forward to for next time.

In conclusion, as long as you know what you're doing logistically from place to place (and it seems like you're pretty well on top of your transit options), just take it as it comes and enjoy yourself. I feel like every time I try to plan a trip the trip ends up turning around and telling me what to do, and the unexpected is usually the most memorable. :)


#4 DLuek has been a member since 19/6/2008. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,298
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Posted by kmc on 6/6/2011 at 02:43

Thanks for the comments folks. Having had a thought about how long we're likely to initially want to stay in each spot, I think we're definitely going to have to shave a few locations off somewhere along the line! Will update this thread again in the near future with a revised route + Google Map if I can embed it.

#5 kmc has been a member since 27/5/2011. Posts: 13

Posted by kmc on 1/8/2011 at 23:23

Slightly revised route now:

- Fly into Bangkok & connect to Phnom Penh
- Next morning head to Sihanoukville and on to Koh Rong (2-3 days)
- Kaoh Samloem (2-3 days)
- Phnom Penh (2-3 days)
- Taxi up to Battambang (1 day)
- Boat over to Siem Reap (2 days)
- Bus to Poipet & train to Bangkok (1 day)
- Train to Nam Tok/Sai Yok
- Same day back to Kanchanaburi (2 days)
- Train back to Bangkok to catch overnighter to Chiang Mai
- Bus to Chiang Dao (1 day)
- Chiang Rai via Fang, Tha Ton & boat (4 days)
- Bus to the Laos border crossing at Chiang Kong
- Huay Xai -> Pakbeng -> Luang Prabang boat with Nagi of Mekong (2 days)
- Nong Khiaw and back to Luang Prabang by boat (2 days)
- Fly to Vientiane (3 days)
- Fly to Hanoi from Vientiane (3 days)
- Ha Long Bay (2 days)
- Then overnight train down to Hoi An (3 days), followed by
- Nha Trang (2 days)
- Mui Ne (2 days)
- Saigon (2 days)
- A Mekong Delta tour (3 days)
- Phu Quoc (3 days)
- Flight from Phu Quoc -> HCMC -> Bangkok -> Trang
- Starting at the bottom of a few islands and working North...Ko Muk
- Ko Ngai
- Ko Lanta
- Ko Phi Phi
- Flight from Krabi to Bangkok (2 days)

This cuts out a few places, like Sukhothai, Koh Chang, Ko Maak, Shangkhlaburi, Phong Nga and Hue, but does mean we've still got some spare time to take an extra day here or there.


#6 kmc has been a member since 27/5/2011. Posts: 13

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