I am looking into various options at the moment and one thing that I cant make up my mind over is weather to plan my own trip or consider going on a ready made trip. I will be travelling with a friend around August 2012.
I appreciate this is very much down a to a personal choice type question but would like to hear peoples opinions and experiences and apologies if this had been asked before.
We would like to travel from Bangkok to Cambodia then Vietnam and then back to Bangkok via Laos in the space of 4 -5 weeks which could be expanded to 6 weeks but was planning to spend the final week relaxing at a friends house in southern Thailand. If planning it on our own we would be looking to stay in accommodation that gave us a room to ourselves rather than sharing with people.
This Itinerary is taken from a ready made tour but is pretty much what we would follow if we planned it ourselves and the only change would really be just stay in some places for slightly longer. ( depending on any suggestions made here )
Day 1 Bangkok
Arrive at any time.
Days 2-3 Siem Reap/ Angkor Wat (2B,1D)Included local meal. Optional guided tour of Angkor Wat, Tonle Sap floating village, Angkor Museum.
Days 4-5 Phnom Penh (2B)Option to visit Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek (Killing Fields), Central Market, National Museum and Royal Palace.
Days 6-7 Sihanoukville (B)Optional snorkelling boat trip, swim or relax by the beach.
Day 8 Mekong DeltaOptional moto tour to Sam Mountain to see the sunset. Mekong River boat trip.
Days 9-10 Ho Chi Minh CityOption to visit Cu Chi Tunnels, War Remants Museum, Colonial Quarter, shop in Ben Thanh Market. Overnight Train to Nha Trang on Day 10.
Days 11-12 Nha Trang (B)Optional snorkelling boat trip, mud baths, motorbike tour of the area, relax by the beach. Overnight train to Da Nang ( Hoi An ) on Day 12.
Days 13-14 Hoi An (B)Optional cooking school, or explore the My Son Ruins, ride bikes to the beach, riverboat tour or visit the old town.
Days 15-16 Hue (2B)Optional Citadel and Imperial Tombs tour, Perfume River boat trip, countryside motorbike tour. Overnight train to Hanoi .
Day 17 Halong Bay/Bai Chai Harbour (L)Visit Halong Bay for a seafood lunch cruise, visit a cave.
Days 18-19 Hanoi (2B)Option to explore Hanoi, see Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, Temple of Literature, Hao Lo Prison, shop in the Old Quarter.
Day 20 VientianeA short flight takes us to the capital city of Laos. Option to visit temples, National Museum, That Luang (Golden Stupa), markets.
Days 21-22 Vang Vieng (B)Optional hiking, biking, caving, swimming.
Days 23-24 Luang Prabang (B)Optional cooking school, elephant trek, bike rides, temple visits, Royal Palace Museum, Kuang-Sii Waterfall and Bear Rescue Centre, night markets.
Day 25 Mekong River/Pakbeng (B)Cruise the Mekong on an old barge. Optional village walk and local market visit.
Day 26 Chiang Khong (B)Mekong River travel day. Cross into Thailand.
Day 27 Chiang Mai Drive to Chiang Mai. Visit Doi Sutthep, Chiang Mai Zoo, catch a Thai boxing match or grab a bargain at the famous night markets.
Day 28 Chiang Mai/Overnight TrainFree day. In the evening we board our air conditioned overnight train to Bangkok (approx 12 hrs)
Day 29 BangkokOptional Wat Po and Grand Palace visit, shopping, massage.
Day 30 Bangkok (B)Depart at any time.
My Questions are:-
1) How much would you save if you planned this yourself? ( ready made is costing about £1500 plus a recommended £500 to cover other expenses such as meals that aren't covered, I'm not sure how much you would need for any optional extras such as excursions. )
2) My gut feeling is it would be much more of an adventure going your own way but with having such a tight timetable due to work commitments is it safer to go on a ready made?
3) Would it be better to take a slightly slower pace and take longer to do the route than cram it in to 4 weeks and spend two weeks chilling at the end?
4) How much less stressful or stressful would it be to be guided around over travelling on your own?
As you can probably tell this is fairly new to myself so trying to grab what ever information i can to help make the right decision when it comes to a once in a lifetime type holiday.
Thanks in advance for any helpful tips suggested and apologise again for probably repeating a topic that has been talked to death somewhere else on the forum.
I'll have to again say that this is over planning and it's too quick. Sometimes less is more... as others have mentioned in the past
I'm not sure on your amounts, but it's usually always cheaper to do it on your own and book tours on site - when you get there. I'd say cut a country and focus on 3 instead of 4.
Travelling solo is more stressful, but that's part of the adventure. Besides there are two of you, even safer. You can get a guide for day trips to save on time and transport hassles.
I'd say don't worry too much and just go with the flow...
Looks like you have done quite a bit of research so far, good on yah. To me this seems like you have way to much in way to little time. I agree with altmtl's post above sometimes less is more. I went on a one month trip to Thailand last year and it still felt like I was rushed and didn't have enough time.
My suggestion would be to try and do 2 countries and experience them to the fullest instead of trying to cram in 4. Not sure your budget but is it really worth spending travel cost plus visa cost for Vietnam when you are only going to be there for 10 days max. This type of trip will make you feel like you never really got a chance to actually get to know a place and meet some locals. By the time you meet anyone interesting you are already packing your bags and going to the next spot. I know I'm beating this to death but if you really want a trip of a lifetime take the time to research just 2 countries and explore them to their potential.
Also travelling on your own is much better option then with a guided tour in my opinion, you will have more fun meeting people and tagging along with other backpackers for a day trip to a waterfall or mountain trek. That's where you get the stories, memories and connections to last the rest of your life. Anyway interested to see what you decide in the end. Enjoy your planning and the trip it self. cheers mate.
ps if you choose to do this trip in your post you should definitely take those last 2 weeks to just chill on the beach you will need it...enjoy michael
I am now looking into cropping it down to two or three countries, Vietnam is a must for me as I fell in love with the place a few years ago after watching a tv program. at the moment I am thinking of Vietnam and Thailand due to the contacts I have in Thailand.
Will keep this thread up to date with and discoveries I make along the way.
Your problem is a very common one. People coming here often want to see "the sights", big attractions, and the more the merrier. They also want to experience "local culture". These two things are inherently in conflict. You can be a cultural tourist, or sight seeing tourist, but you can't be both. To experience local culture in a meaningful way means getting to know people - and that takes time. The extreme end of the sight seeing tourist is what I call the "Japanese Bustrooper". They pull up in a bus, exit rapidly, fan out with cameras at the ready, get a bunch of happy snaps, and an hour latter are on the bus heading for the next destination. They spend most of their vacation on a bus. Sometimes even eating a box lunch on the bus to save time...
Your plan isn't that extreme, but it's basically a variation on the theme. Which is what some people want. They want to see as much as possible, because they feel like they are getting the most for their money. Sitting around for five weeks, chillin' somewhere, hanging out with locals, drinking beer, seems like a waste of time. Of course, doing this you will experience a great deal of local culture, but it's not something that works for a photo and for many people what they will learn is they don't want to live like a local... So most people who would label themselves "travellers" try to mix it up. Spend a number of days at one location, and then move on to another not too far away. But there are variations of that them. Were it me, I would cut it down to one country, four or five destinations tops. But you aren't me. Maybe a schedule that looks hectic to me is what you want. Ultimately only you can answer that.
Thanks for your info Madmac.
Another question that has cropped up.. looking at traveling through Vietnam and planning to go from Hanoi to Hue by train.. is it worth doing it during the day or can you get away with doing it over night to save time?