Photo: Street food Phetchaburi Soi 10, Bangkok.

Southeast Asia forum

My First S.E.A trip! Help please....

Posted by AngusW on 5/4/2012 at 22:05

Hey everyone,

I've found this site incredible for my preparations, but I thought I'd like to throw my itinerary out there to see what people think. Bascially I'm after tips on must sees along the route, and a reality check as well from those that have done the trips I'm planning.

Me and the girlfriend have 36 days. End May - End June (Wet I know!!)

Singapore - KL
KL - Bangkok (Fly)
Bangkok - Siem Reap - Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh - Yangon (Fly)
Yangon - Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai - Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang - Hanoi
Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh (Possible fly route if we run out of time).

This is just a rough sketch, and I haven't booked the internal flights yet.

Any and all advice will be hugely appreciated!

Thanks :-)

#1 AngusW has been a member since 4/4/2012. Posts: 13

Posted by MADMAC on 6/4/2012 at 00:24

Wow man, you are all over the map here. This is an expensive trip, as you are incurring at least 8 different visa fees (So somewhere upwards of 300 USD in visa fees alone for the two of you) and flights all over. You don't explain why you want to do this. It's A LOT of time and money consuming travelling to race around. IF your air port of departure is the same as your air port of entry (Singapore) it's more money still. Without knowing why you want to do something like this (it's kind of insane - covering this distance should take about 6 months at least) it's hard to comment on it.

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Posted by AngusW on 6/4/2012 at 03:39

Thanks for the prompt response MadMac. Yea thats definitely fair enough. I'll try and explain my intentions a bit better.

I really won't have another opportunity to travel to s.e.a for quite sometime so I wanted to get in as much as humanly possible (in a perfect world I'd be there for a year like my mate) That is why I've decided to add a bunch of flights between the most distant and hardest legs to do overland. My logic is that it will free up more of the precious time that we have, so we can at least have some freedom to check out a bit of each region.

I'm fully accepting of the fact that I will miss large portions of the true character of each country, but like I said I'm happy at this stage to just make it a sampler, for a longer trip sometime in the future.

In saying that, will we spend the majority of my time traveling overland? Any other honest thought are much appreciated :-)

#3 AngusW has been a member since 4/4/2012. Posts: 13

Posted by eastwest on 6/4/2012 at 04:50

I don't think there are any direct flights from phnom Penh to yangon. Even if there was it wouldn't be worth it for just Yangoon. Myanmar is certainly worth at least 4 weeks and just visiting Yangoon is pointless and doesn't give you that much of a clue about the country. It's a beautiful city though (it was 15 years ago when I visited) with its faded colonial buildings.

I would skip Yangoon and divide the extra time over the other places you're visiting. Or include Hoi An, Halong Bay or Sapa. Those are places that would fit in with an itinerary such as yours.

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Posted by altmtl on 6/4/2012 at 05:55

I have to agree with the others, your plan is flawed... You have to do much more research... city hoping from one country to the next is no way to visit SEA.

#5 altmtl has been a member since 18/5/2009. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,003
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Posted by EdSue on 6/4/2012 at 07:12

We have just completed our third trip to SE Asia and like the others I agree that you need to rethink your itinerary. First off I would say you are doing it the wrong way round as it is cheaper to begin and end your trip at the same airport e.g. Saigon. You can then go by bus to Phnom Penh and it is easy then to reach Siem Reap. We would suggest private car from there to the border, then taxi onwards to Bangkok. Considerably cheaper than airfares and quicker than by bus. US$5 at the border waved around with your passport ensures that you won't have to queue too long to get through! Consider Bangkok to Chaing Mai by overnight train, thus saving on both time and cost of a hotel. Second class a/c sleeper is great but you must book 60 days beforehand. Look at for info.

Think about flying from Chaing Mai to LP but if you must go via Chaing Rai be careful about the location of your hotel. Ours was at Chaing Sean (although it was listed as CR area which was actually another 40 minutes on the bus) and we had to pay for a taxi to get to the border (which luckily we shared) as the only local 'bus' was constantly full, so you may want to skip this part of the journey if you are running short of time.

You will probably need to fly from LP to Hanoi (not sure if this is via Vientianne) then if you can spare the time take the train down to Saigon. Some parts are recommended by Theroux (who knows a thing or two about trains) as one of the best train journeys for views in the world.

Finally - have a great time and leave the rest to look forward to another year!

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Posted by caseyprich on 6/4/2012 at 10:36

I'd cut out Yangon as above and KL at that - you won't really get anything but a tentative feel for Malaysia from a couple nights in KL, and though I personally like it better than Bangkok I don't think you should go to the hassel of airports and what-not when that time could be spent better soaking up a night or two in Nong Kiaow or Hue.

I'm not sure what the draw to Singapore is, but many people go there - I'd think you'd get a lot more out of flying into BKK and then doing a quick run through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam . . .wow, I'm out of breath just typing that . . . to get a sample of the region.

I understand the sense of necessity for seeing a lot of places in a short time, and the willingness to forfeit depth for breadth, but I think the breadth is stretched a little too far here. Consider that though you'll be flying between to save time, once you get to a place the vast number of possibilities that open up there are almost excruciating - the day trips outside of Chiang Mai, overnight buses away from Luang Prabang, and simple extra afternoon getting to know the people at the cafe in Da Nang are often what make places like those special and settles them deeply into your memory. I'm not saying you need to spend a week somewhere to 'feel it' and have 'credibility', just that if you may not find yourself content to move so quickly.

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Posted by AngusW on 6/4/2012 at 12:49

Hey all,

First off cheers for the reality check, I definitely needed it!!

I think I should clarify my plan a bit more at this point. Singapore is our return destination, due to the cheap return flights I got from NZ. Regarding KL, I only want to stay there for a little bit because I've already been briefly, but we do have a friend there so that complicates it a tad.

I'm still pretty keen on Myanmar, and I'm fully willing to sacrifice other parts of the trip for it...but I am definitely open to dropping it as a destination. What are your thoughts on this?

Any other must sees would be appreciated too...

If I make the needed changes, do you think we could pull this off without getting too flustered? I don't mind a bit of pace with my traveling, my folks took us on some pretty whirlwind trips back in the day.

Cheers again..this is awesome. I'm getting so much more excited!

#8 AngusW has been a member since 4/4/2012. Posts: 13

Posted by MADMAC on 6/4/2012 at 14:39

Well here are my thoughts, for what they are worth. SEA is less about seeing things and more about pace of life and lifestyle. It's slow here (Bangkok not withstanding). It has a few things to see, but it's not like Europe in this regard, full of mangnificent architecture and so forth. This is a place to chill. So racing around kind of defeats the purpose. If you have your heart set on Burma, then work your way up to Bangkok, hope over to Rangoon, and spend about four weeks in Burma and enjoy it, vice racing off to the next destination.

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Posted by stefanw on 6/4/2012 at 17:35

If you want to go to Burma definitely go and don't limit yourself to only Yangon. I could almost guarantee that you would be disappointed you stayed such a short time in a country that you want to go to so much.

There is equally as much to do in Burma as any other country in SEA.

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Posted by caseyprich on 6/4/2012 at 22:52

If you're set on doing Singapore, KL, and Yangoon - then cut out Cambodia and/or Vietnam.

AND: Go from BKK to Myanmar to Chaing Mai and over to Luang Prabang , if you have time from LP you can go down to Vientiane and then back to BKK - fly from there to Singapore for your return flight.

OR: Go from BKK to Myanmar to Chaing Mai and over to Luang Prabang, fly from Luang Prabang to Siem Reap go over to PP and fly from there to Singapore. If you've managed to save time you could cross into the Mekong delta and check out HCM flying from there to Singapore . . .

OR: BKK to Myanmar to Chiang Mai and overland to Luang Prabang then fly to Hanoi and work your way to Ho Chi Minh, fly from there to Singapore. If you've managed to save time somewhere else on your journey you'd still have the option to go into Cambodia from Ho Chi Minh . . .

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Posted by AngusW on 7/4/2012 at 01:00

Yea, Yangon was just a flight destination. I was looking at making our way from there, to the Mae Sot /Myawaddy border crossing, and just soaking in the sites in between.

Heres a draft itinerary:

Sing - KL (3 days)
KL - Yangon (Fly)
Yangon - Mae Sot (12 days)
Mae Sot - Bangkok - Siem Reep - Phnom Penh (9 days)
Phnom Penh - Hanoi (Fly)
Hanoi - Halong Bay - Ho Chi Minh (9 days)
Ho Chi Minh - Singapore (Fly) (3 Days, already booked)

More realistic?

Caseyprich you recommend the North Thai/Laos overland route over my other options, any particular reason for this?

Thanks heap again...

#12 AngusW has been a member since 4/4/2012. Posts: 13

Posted by caseyprich on 7/4/2012 at 02:38

Because I think Loas is awesome (that said I've always gone there with a lot of time on my hands to spend in a small area) . . .

. . . and found the people in Northern Thailand a lot friendlier than BKK and the islands (not to say those people weren't friendly also).

I think your option is a good sample of the region - just if you haven't been to Thailand before it seems strange not to check out the north as well, there is a lot of character from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang that would give you a much different impression of the region compared to all the big cities like BKK, PP, HCM, KL & Singapore. I feel like the Northern Thailand/Laos part of the trip lets you get into the slower rhythm of the area that is what most places are like outside of these capitals.

That said, Laos is most often the country that gets left of the map when people find themselves cutting out destinations - have met many people who traveled Thai/Cambodia/Vietnam and just skipped over Laos because of time constraints. You are managing to hit two of the major highlights for a journey to SE Asia with Siem Reap & Ha Long Bay, I feel like Luang Prabang and Chiang Mai are high up there for culture and history to match. I'd maybe consider getting a dose of the quieter side by going to Hue/Da Nang/Hoi'an (June is said to be a great time of year to visit there) in central Vietnam by shaving off a day or two somewhere else and maybe cutting out HCM.

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