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advice from experienced travellers for 3.5week-itinerary needed

Posted by SebastianX on 5/9/2011 at 23:47

hey guys,

i need some tipps for my short 3.5-week itinerary. i focused on some of the major destinations with some must-see places: laos - especially luang prabang (LP), ha long bay, angkor wat and some beaches.

i planned to start in vientiane around nov. 25th and i will be travelling alone - unfortunately, so if anybody is interested to join, that would be great! :) for (almost) each destination i tried to add at least 0.5 day for simply resting...

1. vientiane: arrival in late evening, staying 1 full day and another night and taking the overland bus to LP next morning; by the way: the nice scenery during this ride is the actual reason why im planning to start in vientiane but its not a must - hope the buses are at least as comfortable as the cheap overland rides in india.. ;) ...does that make sense?? otherwise i would take a direct flight to LP...
i am not going to stay in vang vieng - a mistake?

2. 3-night stay in LP, then flying to hanoi

3. arriving in hanoi, doing a halong bay cruise for 2 days, plus 1 full day just to be safe

expected total: 8days including all transportation

now theres 2 options:

4.1 flying (or train) to da nang to visit hoi an - staying there for 3-4 full days, then flying to HCMC --> total: 5 days

4.2. flying to HCMC in the morning, relaxing for the rest of the day; taking a flight to phu quoc next day (4 full days; could also be less, counts as buffer) --> total: 5 days

(flying to nha trang instead of phu quoc might be an option, too)

5. being back in HCMC for some sightseeing (for sure the cu chi tunnels, maybe remnant museum) for 1.5 days --> total: 2 days

6. taking one of those 3-day mekong cruise tours from sinhcafe(?) to phnomh penh (PP), starting in HCMC --> total: 3 days --> could be skipped for a bus ride from HCMC to PP instead if necessary

7. staying in PP for 1.5 days, then heading off by bus to siem reap (1 day for the bus ride) --> total: 3 days

8. visiting angkor by bicycle for 2 full days --> total: 2 days

(9. flying to bangkok, visiting a friend --> total: 3 days)

is that ok for 3.5weeks or is it too much? if yes, any ideas what to skip or do instead?
what is the easiest way to combine HCMC, phu quoc and the start of the mekong tour? from 4.2 to the start of 6. im expecting to spend too much time for just getting from A to B...

i am looking forward for some feedback! Thanks a lot in advance!


#1 SebastianX has been a member since 12/8/2011. Posts: 6
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Posted by eastwest on 6/9/2011 at 18:39

I think it's a bit much in that time frame. You've only allowed yourself the bare minimum of time in each highlight. Better to take off 1 or 2 places and spread that time out over the other places. Or take more flights if the budget permits it.

Which places you scrap is completely up to your interests.

If you go alone I wouldn't go to Phu Quoc which is more a destination for couples and has very little to do but you never know who you meet along the way! Nha Trang is more for partying and meeting other travellers and Hoi An is for mixing culture with beaches.

This is what I would do:
- skip Vientiane and fly to LP. The bus is scenic but you'll see plenty of other scenic places.
- spend a few days in LP
- spend some time in the old quarter of Hanoi.
- do the Halong thing
- fly or train to Nha Trang or Hoi An
- bus or train to HCMC
- do Mekong delta trip for several days and return to HCMC.
- fly to Siem Reap from HCMC

Hope you enjoy the trip any way you choose

#2 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778
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Posted by Nokka on 7/9/2011 at 15:55

It's so difficult to say what you should do as you don't give us much information about yourself. eg your age, your interests. One man's heaven may be another man's hell.

I kind of understand the feeling that you need to keep moving when you're on your own, but I would still slow down a little. What happens if you meet people you get on with ? You're gone next day probably, or pretty soon after anyway. Less tends to be more in these things. Plus, what you see on a fleeting visit is always the touristy stuff - stay longer, even a few days, and you see and understand so much more.

You don't say where you are coming from to get to Vientiane. Bangkok ? If so and that's your starting point I would agree with EastWest and fly direct to Luang Prabang. If your budget stretches that far. Spend longer there and maybe get out to Nong Khiaw or at least the countryside near LP.

Personally I wouldn't try to do all Vietnam. Stick to the north. Hanoi - yes. 2 nights. Halong yes. Hoi An - yes. Probably no more. Leave the south for another time.

If you are desperate to go to Angkor then spend a bit longer than 2 days. If you are doing it simply because you feel you must, leave it and spend longer in Laos and Vietnam. You can probably then get to see some of the South too. Trust me, in only 3 and a half weeks it's enough.

#3 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259
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Posted by SebastianX on 7/9/2011 at 20:00

thanks for your replies, eastwest and nokka!

your answers are what i've almost expected:)

@eastwest: in your suggestion you also skipped PP but returning to HCMC instead... is it generally worth staying in PP for 1-2 days? its just that the mekong trip i already looked at will end there and e.g. the tuol sleng museum must be interesting (this exact tour with PP as the final destination is a nice-to-have but not a must!)

@nokka: and yes i should have added more info about 29 and i simply like to get around and meet new people - which should be key if one travels alone i guess:)

i will probably fly to bangkok from either helsinki or germany. the budget: i thought +/-3400$ is fine with budget accomodations and i dont need upscale restaurants.

heaven: e.g. doing some sightseeing but without visiting each and every monastery or monument i will pass, diversified destinations, trying new foods, having a (local) beer...or some more...(nothing special i suppose...)

big travel groups, (permanent) rain...(simple)

my ideas now after reading your comments:

from BKK i will have a connecting flight to LP, so i will definitely skip vientiane (VT)...from LP i will fly to hanoi.

after being to hanoi and ha long i understand to keep it as flexible as possible then. Thats why i would book all other flights as late as possible, a week in advance...not too risky hopefully??

sounds like it is either the mekong trip or hoi an - in any case i will have to go to HCMC sooner or later and use it as hub at least, right?

what I will book quite soon is my incoming flight to LP via BKK and my returning flight from BKK.

angkor is a want-and-must-see!:)

#4 SebastianX has been a member since 12/8/2011. Posts: 6
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Posted by eastwest on 7/9/2011 at 20:49

Is PP worth it for 1-2 days? Yes, certainly. Your time is however limited. If you had a few months you should definitely stay a few days in PP.

You're right in one of your last statements about it being a choice between Mekong delta or Hoi An . Especially if you want to fit in PP. Seeing your interest in Cu Chi and Tuol Sleng I'd say choose the Delta over Hoi An and stick to just two regions (north and south) and stay flexible within those regions. If you choose Hoi An you're pretty much restricted to a tight schedule because of the distances you have to cover. Don't get me wrong: I love Hoi An and it's a beautiful historical town but you will visit Luang Prabang as well.

In general I'd say now spend half of your time in the north (LP, Hanoi, Halong) then fly to HCMC and spend the other half in HCMC, Mekong, PP and Siem Reap.

#5 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778
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Posted by Nokka on 8/9/2011 at 18:11

Well it's getting better. I reckon after you've taken your 3 days off for Bangkok you have 20 or 21 days, right ? You have to spend at least 4 or 5 nights in the Luang Prabang area minimum to get anything out of going to Northern Laos. 5 nights minimum and preferably 6 for Phnom Penh and Siem Reap . Another 4 or 5 for Hanoi and Halong. That leaves you probably 5 or 6 nights for HCMC and through the delta and on to PP. You'll need to fly from Hanoi to HCMC otherwise forget it. It would be good to fly from HCMC to PP, but I found the prices prohibitively expensive. You will also need to fly from Siem Reap to Bangkok.

It's possible. It's a little fast and you've got a lot of travelling days, but if its highlights you're after then this is doable. No sitting on beaches either. If you still want to do that then something else has to give. Good luck.

#6 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259
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Posted by SebastianX on 10/9/2011 at 23:27

thanks for your help!
i will have 22 full days without counting the arrival day in LP and the departure day in SR to BKK.
the plan now is:
5days in LP area
1day -> flight to hanoi
3days in hanoi
2days ha long bay (organised tour from hanoi)
1day -> flight to HCMC
-> thats a total of about 12days

i want to give angkor 4 days. i think i will decide about either the mekong trip or beaches when im in hanoi, although i dont have many other options i guess...i will use HCMC more as a hub then and not going for sightseeing. what ive read is that hanoi is the more interesting city anyway. would you agree?

the flights from HCMC to PP are really expensive. from PP to SR it seems to be similar...the HCMC-PP flight connection wont be necessary if i did the mekong trip...lets see...:)

#7 SebastianX has been a member since 12/8/2011. Posts: 6
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