Was interested in feedback on our proposed itinerary for Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam. What do you guys think? Any "must-sees" missing?
Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia (67 days)
- we generally like to travel in the slower side, preferring on spend at least 3 days in the majority of places, and longer in major cities/sites (though there will certainly be exceptions)
- most into nature & food, followed by culture/history. not big on "party places"
- tried to structure the "loop" to follow the weather [starting early-mid Nov and ending mid-Jan]
- "planned" number of nights is in [x] but it's just an idea...we were going to try to play it by ear (which will be um...*interesting* for a compulsive planner like me! ;-))
Hanoi (side trips to Halong Bay and Cuc Phuong Nat'l Park) [8, incl 2-3 in HB & 1 in CP]
Luang Prabang 
Pakse (side trips Champasak/Bolaven Plateau) [3-4]
Don Khon 
Siem Reap [5-7]
Phnom Penh 
Koh Rong Saleom (via Sihanoukville) [3-4]
[not sure if we would cross over to Vietnam at Ha Tien or Chau Doc]
Chau Doc 
Can Tho [2-3]
Ho Chi Minh City [5 - incl New Year's? Dec 31 not Tet]
Hoi An [4 - hopefully full moon fesitival]
what do you guys think? I think we might have enough time to add in one more place along the way...any suggestions?
also wanting to gut-check our budget...we are happy with simple clean places, though will eagerly seek out & pay for hot water. :-) We like good food, but not too much drinking, and will definitely want to spend on activities. Is $100/day for two of us (not including flights) good? Is it over/under budget?
Are you talking about using Pakse as a base to explore the Bolaven Plateau and Champasak? If so, I wouldn't recommend this. Pakse is good for a couple of days, but there's not a lot to do there other than eat and wander around town checking out the colonial architecture and the temples. I've been there a few times and have always enjoyed the laidback feel of the place. It's pretty quiet.
I'd just go and do the Bolaven Loop for a few days, then drop down to Champasak for a couple more, check out Wat Phu early early early some morning (rent bikes ... it's almost exactly 10 km from Champasak along the river ... beautiful ride in the nice, cool morning), then continue on to Si Phan Don.
$100 should be much more than enough for two people.
My wife and I recently spent 24 days travelling through Vietnam and found that we did not need as much time in places like Can Tho - you probably just need 1 day (overnight) in this area and a maximum of 3 days in HCMC but everyone likes doing different things and travelling in different ways. There are so many options by bus, plane and motorbike.
What we found really interesting was taking an easy rider tour from Nha Trang (travelled from HCMC to Nha Trang by plane with Vietnam airlines) to Hoi An along the HCMC trail and visiting some places along the way such as Buon Ma Thout, Pleiku, Kham Duc etc. Travelling by motorbike was safe and our guides were excellent and some of my friends have also used the same guide before. We found it really worthwhile travelling into the regional areas and to escape the hectic nature of HCMC.
Our guide Hai (firstname.lastname@example.org) is very flexible with travel plans and will arrange all accommodation etc. Hai's website is www.motorcyclememory.jimdo.com if you contact Hai just tell him that Jarrod from South Australia recommended your trip. Travelling by motorbike was a great experience and would highly recommend it to anyone.
Hoi An is a beautiful place and 4 days there will also be plenty and you can do see a lot of the surrounding areas such as marble Mountains, Da Nang etc all in one day.
Accommodation was really cheap everywhere we went - in HCMC we stayed in the Beautiful Saigon Hotel for less than $28USD/night, Hoi An (Long Life Riverside Hotel) was about $45USD/night and Hanoi (Hanoi Spring 2 hotel) about $55USD/night. Most places also include breakfast in the price.
If you have time while in Hanoi it's worthwhile catching the night train to Sapa. We were originally going to stay at Halong Bay for a few nights but decided a 1 night 2 day tour was enough. Also it takes about 4 hours by road to Halong Bay.
Eating in Vietnam is also very cheap and we had meals at a mix of nice restaurants and street stalls. Some days you will struggle to spend even $10USD on food.
Anyway hope this helps and enjoy your trip. We will be heading to Laos and Cambodia around Decemner to January and are looking at spending about 3 weeks in both countires.
I'm a compulsive planner too but I found that you are better off booking your accommodation where you start from and nothing else and then make the arrangements while you are there. Accommodation isn't much of a problem in Vietnam.
Hope this helps.
#3 Jarrod32 has been a member since 28/7/2011. Posts: 6
thanks very much to you both! Jarrod - on the motorbike tour, do you each have your own motorbike or do you ride on the back of one with the guide?
re: sapa, i keep going back and forth on it...people keep saying it's become so touristy...wasn't sure if it was worth the cost/trouble...
I like your trip. It will naturally change here and there as you like/dislike things. I agree on you choosing 5 days for HCMC. People fail to realize the magnet of people fropm all around Vietnam and the region who stay here. They see big cities and think it is all western influence and no culture. Most DO NOT get into the small local corners of the cities because there is no obvious attraction. But "People" are the attraction. There are less jaded people a few kilometers down many roads that have never seen a tourist. I could spend twice as long there and am sad that I didn't. Don't treat any place as...we have to see this or that because its once in a lifetime.....only if you make it so.
"They see big cities and think it is all western influence and no culture. Most DO NOT get into the small local corners of the cities because there is no obvious attraction. But "People" are the attraction"
Bingo! Could not have said it better myself. Of course, I don't find western influence "jading". Saimun, close to where I am building my country house, is about to open a Lotus Express! Yes! Civilization is arriving at last.