I'm planning to backpack SEA in May for 24 days. Bangkok, Luang namtha, Luang Prabang, Hanoi , and Ha long Bay are at the top of my list. I'd like to spend about 3-4 days in each of those places. I also need to get back to Bangkok, and I would like to avoid backtracking if possible.
I'm flying into Bangkok on May 11, but I'm not really interested in visiting anywhere else in Thailand given my limited time. I'm mainly flying into Bangkok because the flight there was the cheapest. I'm planning to fly from Hanoi to Bangkok at the end of my trip.
1) Is this a reasonable amount of time to travel to these 5 places or am I rushing it? I do not mind all the traveling, but I just want to know if I am giving myself enough time to see these places. If not, any suggestions on which place to cross off (I am thinking Luang namtha since it is hard to get to).
2) Do you recommend I buy my flight from Hanoi to BKK in advance or can I wait to last minute? If I buy the ticket the day of, anyone know what the price will be like? I would like to avoid doing this to allow for some flexibility.
3) Are there any places in between that are a must see?
4) I am traveling by road, but I do not know the best routes or the logistics, so any advice would be appreciated!
#1 sacer has been a member since 16/3/2012. Posts: 4
Its a pretty direct route you're planning, but with Luang Nam Tha you'd have to do a little backtracking to get to the Laos-Vietnam border. For a rough itinerary, I'd plan 1 week for BKK - Luang Prabang - gives you a couple days in BKK a couple days in Vang Vieng and a couple days in Luang Prabang, maybe one night in Vientiane, you could stretch it out for a little past a week. From Luang Pra Bang you could head into the deeper north by heading up to Nong Kiow and Mung Ngoi and cross into Vietnam at Dien Bien Phu, if you have time head up to Sapa or if you are running behind schedule go straight to Hanoi /Ha Long Bay. Otherwise, from Luang Prabang go out to Phonsovan and the Plain of Jars - then head up to Sam Neua and cross into Vietnam much closer to Hanoi. Either route cuts out Luang Nam Tha hiking, but if you take the northern route you get more rugged country up by Nong Kiaow and Sapa. Either route could be done through in just under two weeks, giving you a fews days around Hanoi and Sapa - but you'd have to speed up the pace from 3 nights each location, trimming your stay in certain spots.
If you know you want to end your trip in Hanoi/Ha Long area, then you may as well by a departure ticket as soon as you can to save money. Give yourself a night or two in BKK at the end of your trip if you like, then you can hit the road the minute you land and know you'll absorb the city on your return. It gives you a reason to stick to your schedule and then you won't worry about the price of tickets - online booking with Vietnam Airlines has always been convenient and easy. Make sure to arrange your Vietnam visa before you depart for the trip.