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Southeast Asia forum

Proposed Itinerary - 5 weeks

Posted by JenHarley on 23/11/2011 at 02:28

Would love some advice if you can spare a few mins to reply!
My partner and I only have 5 weeks (38 days) in South East Asia and, despite what some say, we are trying to fit in alot!
Bangkok 2 nights
Chiang Mai 2 days
Laos - 1 week
Luang Prabang
Vang Vieng
Cambodia - 1 week
Phnom Penh
Siem Reap
and either Battambang; or Kompong Cham; or Kampot - recommendations?
Vietnam - 2 weeks
-The problem is our dates clash with Tet. I have read so many different opinions as to whether to be in Vietnam for Tet or not. Its probably a 'just bite the bullet' and decide kind of thing but really want to enjoy our time there so we are worried we may not if its just too busy. What do you think?
Ho Chi Minh City
tour of Mekong Delta (if time)
Nha Trang
Hoi An
Halong Bay
Sapa - maybe?
An island for a few days (maybe Koh Phi Phi?)
Singapore 3 days

So are we planning just too much? Havent travelled much so really have no idea - but we are unlikely to come back for quite a while...
Any hints or advice would be very much appreciated!!!

#1 JenHarley has been a member since 18/11/2011. Posts: 9

Posted by chinarocks on 23/11/2011 at 03:03

I know it is tedious advice, but yes you are trying to squeeze in way too much!!

Excluding Singapore, you are aiming for 4 countries in one month.

Some people would argue that one month is a perfect amount of time to see all of Vietnam properly. At a push you could maybe see Vietnam and Cambodia reasonably well in one month (3 weeks V, 10 days Cambodia), and this is probably what I would recommend. I think your memories and experiences will be a lot more worthwhile if you travel slower and spend 3-4 days in a place rather than 1-2.

You could fly from Bangkok to Hanoi, do the well trodden Vietnam route taking in all of the places you mention above but in reverse order (do include Sapa).

Your 10 days in Cambodia could be spent PP for 2-3 days, then either Kampot or Sihanoukville for 3 days (Kampot if you want culture and chilled out beers by the river, Sihanoukville if you want ok beaches and a party buzz) and 4 days in Siem Reap/temples.

I'm guessing you could then fly Siem Reap-Singapore via Bangkok, assuming you need to get to Singapore (otherwise it can be missed).

If you do decide to follow the countries you've mentioned above, then please, please cut back on the amount of places you see in each of them!!

You are proposing 4 places in Laos in one week and 6-7 in Vietnam in two weeks. This is crazy!! You need to prioritise!!

Good luck either way.

#2 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738

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Posted by JenHarley on 23/11/2011 at 03:25

Thank you so much for that. As much as I didn't want to hear it I know I was planning too much. You're right, better to see things properly as opposed to spending all our time travelling between places. Will relook at the itinerary and work out something a bit more 'realistic'. Will probably try for the countries but really limit the places we go. Thanks again for taking the time to reply. Much appreciated!

#3 JenHarley has been a member since 18/11/2011. Posts: 9

Posted by caseyprich on 23/11/2011 at 06:00

If you're afraid of the overlap with Tet couldn't you travel through Vietnam in the first part of your trip . . . probably not that practical as you'd still end up there during Tet if you passed through Cambodia first. We were in Vietnam over Tet, but settled into Phu Quoc Island (fantastic and quiet that time of year) - so we didn't have too much trouble to deal with, and really the shut-down is only 3 days, its booking travel around those days that is difficult as well.

Overland from Chiang Mai to LP is a bit of time eaten up as well - you could save time by flying into Laos . . . the itinerary is a bit all over the place, looks like your open to a lot of flights, but Tet does mix things up a bit.

I'd cut Singapore - - - book a roundtrip ticket home-BKK-home. From BKK book a flight directly to Hanoi - take two weeks down to HCMC (assuming that'll help you miss Tet) and then head into Cambodia. Hit the beaches and then PP, Siem Reap save for the end. Catch a flight to Vientiane and then work up to LP - flight from LP to Chiang Mai and then work way back down to BKK . . .

a suggestion. probably not the best. it may be best to cut Cambodia or Laos.

#4 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281
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Posted by tyler on 23/11/2011 at 22:04

You will most likely use the better part of an entire day when travelling to a new place. I know that all of these places seem close on a map but keep in mind your travel days will most likely consist of check out, transport to airport/bus or train station, travel to new destination, transport to guesthouse and check in.
Your original itinerary has you doing this almost 20 times! WAY too much. The suggestions above are well thought out and based on experience. You have some tough decisions to make regarding what you want to exclude. If you must see four countries then I suggest picking two places in each country and give yourself a few days in each one. This will give you some wiggle room to stay longer or move on.
Post your new itinerary and I'll be happy to reply and offer any advice I can - I'm sure many of us will. And it is easier to offer advice if we know what you like to do and what you want to see and how you plan to get about!

#5 tyler has been a member since 7/12/2010. Location: Canada. Posts: 257
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Posted by JenHarley on 24/11/2011 at 23:39

Thanks so much for your help! I will draft something over the weekend and re-post. But I have a lot to think about! Again thanks for taking a bit of time to respond :)

#6 JenHarley has been a member since 18/11/2011. Posts: 9

Posted by JenHarley on 1/12/2011 at 02:13

I posted my itinerary a week or so ago and after some very good advice from you have revised it a bit.
I know I am squeezing a bit too much in but is this a bit more realistic? Would appreciate any comments and also advice for accommodation in each place (we are, i presume what they call 'flash packers'). I hear so many different reviews!!!!....

THAILAND (5 days total)
Bangkok (2 days)
Chiang Mai (3 days)

LAOS (6 days total)
Luang Prabang (3 days)
Vientaine (3 days)

CAMBODIA (7 days in total)
Phnom Penh (3 days)
Siem Reap (2 days)
Kampot or Battambang (2 days) any advice here? or leave them out and extra days in PP or SR?

VIETNAM (17 days)
Hanoi (3 days)
Sapa (2 days) - 3 night/2 day tour
Halong Bay [either 1 night/2 day tour OR 2 night/3 day tour] - yet to decide
Hoi An (3 days)
HCMC (3 days)
Phu Quoc Island [need advice on accommodation!!!]
[dependent on what people think we may also want to check out Mekong Delta for a bit...?]

SINGAPORE (3 days)
We fly from Singapore to NZ so want to check it out for a few days....

Have taken out quite a bit from this, like Pakbeng and Nga Trang and Hue.....Left with the basics but think this may be more realistic and more "us". We are keen for a fun place but also keen for chilled out and relaxed.
I know this may be alot but we will fly between a few places or take overnight trains where need be.
I appreciate any advice....

#7 JenHarley has been a member since 18/11/2011. Posts: 9

Posted by chinarocks on 1/12/2011 at 04:25

Your revised itinerary is definitely better but I would still tweak it slightly further!! Sorry.

Thailand for 5 days and Laos for 6 days seem a bit pointless in the grand scheme of things, unless you have a specific reason for going. If you added 4 of those days on to Vietnam and 7 on to Cambodia you could have much more relaxed trip through each of those countries.

Particularly in Cambodia, as 2 days in Siem Reap is not enough IMO. Regards your question, I have never been to Battambang but would definitely recommend Kampot . Very relaxing, scenic and superb food (in Kampot and Kep, which can done on a motorbike for a day trip).

3 days in Singapore at the end is loads and you are right to see it seen as you are flying out from here.

So go 3 weeks Vietnam and 2 weeks Cambodia with a few days in Singapore at the end. I would recommend starting in Hanoi (flying here if necessary from your hub airport), working all the way down Vietnam over 3 weeks and then crossing into Cambodia through the Mekong Delta, to PP. Then start your Cambodia adventure from here.

Finally, I would bin your day by day schedule before you go. Work out the places you would like to go to before you leave, plan a route and stay in each place a relaxing amount of time until you feel you'd like to move on. Being tied down with a rigid plan will take the fun out of it a little.

#8 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738

Posted by JenHarley on 6/12/2011 at 01:33

Hi Chinarocks,
Once again, itinerary has been revised. I keep trying to tell myself that we wont mind the travel but then reality hits and I think (well, i know) you are right. SO new itinerary:
We start in Bangkok for ease of travel as we fly from New Zealand - Singapore. Flying anywhere but Bangkok from Singapore is ridiculously expensive so....
Bangkok (2 or 3 days) - we thought we may as well have a look around while we are there....
Siem Reap (Bangkok - Siem Reap probably by Train? I know its slower than bus but apparently its quite a good way to see a bit)
Phnom Penh
Mekong Delta
Hoi An
Hanoi - will base ourselves out of here for a bit to see:
Halong Bay
SINGAPORE (fly out from here to NZ)

So we cut out Laos and Chiang Mai - it may only be 9 days but i think it may give us a bit more time in Vietnam and Cambodia.
And yes we have ditched the day by day plan as you suggested!

So, with that being set out, any suggestions? Are there any places you would add?

Again, would love anything you have to say....

#9 JenHarley has been a member since 18/11/2011. Posts: 9

Posted by busylizzy on 6/12/2011 at 02:12

You are still trying to do a lot in a relatively short time, but I think it's do-able. My suggestion would be to be kind to yourself, and fork out for 1-2 flights on the longer legs.

I know flights from Bkk to Siem Reap are still pretty pricey, and I guess it's not that long a journey these days anyhow. So let's look at Vietnam.

I'm not sure when you are travelling, so I just picked a random day in February on the Jetstar website and you can fly from HCMC to Danang (near Hoi An )for VN D 683,000 including baggage. That's about USD$32. Compare that to sitting on a bus for 20 hours (not sure of actual hours, but it's a long way! Check it out here: On a bus, you could stop along the way if you bus, but you didn't indicate that in your itinerary above - and that would eat into your time.

Likewise I think it's about 18 hours from Hoi An to Hanoi. Check out the fare for that route as well.

Honestly, what $100-$200 in the big scheme of things (it the total cost of your trip). Go easy on yourself and make the most of your time there.

#10 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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Posted by MADMAC on 6/12/2011 at 04:13

Well, you didn't start out by explaining things like preferences or objective of the trip. Basically, people don't come out here for the architecture. A few unusual sights excluded (like Siem Reap) SEA has crappy architecture. They come here because:

1. It's cheap.
2. The culture is very different from western culture - the food, the languages, the lasseiz faire attitude about a lot of things and (and personally I think most importantly) the slow pace of life. Obviously your itinerary would not be embracing the latter, inducin stress instead of reducing it.
3. If you are a sex tourist or a beach tourist, it's also appealing for some great beaches to be accessed at minimal expense (or not, depending on preference) and the availability of sex for hire at a reasonable cost and with a good attitude.

You don't appear to be all that interested in beaches or sex, so, that leads us to culture and expense. Certianly there is plenty of natural scenery to be taken in, but really how many happy snaps of differing karst outcroppings does one really want for the photo album? And in order to appreciate the varying cultural differences of the places you are intending on traveling to you need something you don't have - time. Your level of appreciation for even one of these cultures will be extremely superficial at best. The more you add in, the less it becomes. And you also have to remember that getting from point A to B here is time consuming. A LOT of your planned itinerary means going to and from bus stations of airports, traveling on buses or whatever... and at border crossing points. You have about a week of time lopped off your vacation here in transit (maybe more, I didn't look closely).

So the more places you go to, the less time you have to enjoy where you are and the less you will absorb of the local environment - and the higher your stress level.

I also found it a bit peculiar that you are spending so little time in Bangkok, arguably the most interesting city in the region.

#11 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by chinarocks on 6/12/2011 at 05:12

A lot better!! Agree with BL regarding internal flights, with Asian buses nowhere near as relaxing as South American ones, for example.

Taking a couple of flights in Vietnam will add to your relaxation element and will potentially save you a day or two, and at potentially no extra cost.

While the itinerary seems fine, I stress that you shouldn't be rigidly bound by it. For example, if you take a shine to HCMC and feel like spending a week there, then just fly HCMC to Hanoi and skip Hoi An (despite it being a lovely spot).

Best of luck and enjoy!

#12 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738

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