My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to SEA at the end of the year. I'm 19 and he will be 20. We get there on the 5th of November and we have about 10-12 weeks to travel. I know its not a long time, but its all we have because its during our uni break!
We fly into Hanoi and were thinking of heading south to Ho Chi Minh, across to Cambodia, up through Laos then down through Thailand. We want to see as much as we can but we don't want to be on the move all time time either. We aren't big drinkers/clubbers etc, so we are more interested in the cultural aspects and having a bit of an adventure.
Basically, I was looking for some help on our itinerary. Do you think this will work? And is there anything that is over-rated or under-rated that guidebooks and things might not mention?
I also have a few basic questions,
1) how much do you think we should budget for? We will be staying in hostel type accomodation and doing everything by bus/train etc.
2) is Malaysia and Singapore worth adding onto the end of our trip? Or should we focus on the other 4 countries and spend longer there?
Thanks for your help!
#1 Clare1993 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 22
I don't like to offer budget advice as I always go over budget myself. However, considering the timeframe I'd say stick to the four countries you've got set, giving you an average of 3 weeks in each, and you'll find that you already have to skip a number of things you'd really like to be doing, or places you'd like to see.
With the extra expense of getting down to Malaysia and Singapore you may want to take a pass, and most importantly, they are more expensive than any of the other destinations you have chosen.
Although Madmac is right that you will be on the move often you can take longer trips less often. e.g In Vietnam what is there really to see between Hanoi and Hoi An? Take the train or bus (I would use the train).
Also you can incorporate moving into part of the experience such as Easy Rider tours through the central highlands if you want. Even motorbike it yourself.
#4 stefanw has been a member since 10/12/2010. Posts: 50
Thanks Casey and Stefan, that does help.
Stefan, ive heard trains in vietnam are good but you have to be careful of what class you take or something? Whats the best kind of ticket to buy?
Madmac, what was the point of your comment? I was wanting advice because they are the places we are going and we only have limited time.
#5 Clare1993 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 22
The best train information on the web: www.seat61.com
I took a sleeper from Hanoi to Hue (Hue and Da Nang are good spots between Hanoi and Hoi'an). I had gotten bumped up the Levitrain and that was nice, but the airconditioned soft-sleeper is fine from what I saw. Ordinary hard seat was just that, a wooden bench, not good for a long ride. However, when booking the seat from Hue to Da Nang (a gorgeous stretch that you must do during the daylight) we took soft seats and they were comfortable for the few hours between those locations.
"Madmac, what was the point of your comment? I was wanting advice because they are the places we are going and we only have limited time."
My point is that if you insist on covering that much ground in that much time you will be on the move all the time. You said you didn't want to be on the move all the time - well, you can't have it both ways. You're covering a lot of distance with that itinerary, that's a lot of bus time. Stefan's Easy Rider idea is not a bad one (providing you can ride) but basically getting from point A to point B costs you in terms of time and money, time being the greater offender (although visa fees for your plan above will eat somewhere upwards of 200 USD for the two of you). Going up down through Vietnam, across Cambodia and up through Laos will be particularly painful because the transportation infrastructure there is not very robust. Bus rides are slow and uncomfortable.
Do yourself one favor and don't attach a timeline to it. Move when a place no longer interests you. You get to what you get to, you don't sweat what you miss. Then at least you will minimize the movement stress.
Going down Vietnam and across Cambodia from PP to Siam Reap isn't terribly bad travelling apart from the fact that Vietnam is a LONG country taking approx 40 hours total on the train. I would split that up into 3-4 trips over 3 weeks.
In Cambodia on sealed roads travel is not horrendously long as the country isn't so spread out.
A lot of people on here recommend having very little planning, moving slowly and when you feel like it. Honestly though most backpackers move much more quickly. You will see some people covering the whole of vietnam in 7 days, which is crazy.
I can't see how you would find it to much travel if you are moving every 3-4 days.
US$30 should be doable although I would take more if it were me. The worst part of a trip for me is having to constantly think "Can I spend this dollar or not". I would take US$40 with the money set aside for visas already and a couple of hundred spare just in case you want/need it.
#8 stefanw has been a member since 10/12/2010. Posts: 50
I have to agree with stefanw that 3 weeks in Vietnam is ample time for a backpacking vacation when you want to sample the area for a first time visit. I've never had to do it that way because I live close by enough to make it down once or twice a year. Usually I'd spend 3 weeks on one part of a country, say Southern Laos or Northern Thailand from BKK. However, if you make a general plan to say 1 week in Northern Vietnam (Hanoi, Sapa, Ha Long Bay), 1 week Hue, Da Nang, Hoi'an and 1 week HCMC and the Delta up into Cambodia, then you'll find yourself moving around a lot but not so much that you won't be able to settle down from time to time and relax. After bouncing about Northern Vietnam for a fast week you'd find that Hue-DaNang-Hoi'an are all relativily close and a week is ample time to explore that area. Certainly spending a full 2 months in Vietnam would offer you a lot more opportunity but I think if you cut out Malaysia and Singapore as indicated, perhaps cut Cambodia to two weeks to allow more exploration of Thailand's North and Centre before Island hoping to end the trip you'll be very pleased with your journey.
(Though another good option would be to check out some beaches in Cambodia before heading up to Siem Reap in which case you'd still probably be okay with just over 2 weeks there for a sample)
Casey and stefan, thank you so much!! Your input has been really helpful and I'll definitely take most of your advice! Obviously we'd love to be able to spend 6 months there but we don't have the time or the money.
Are there any beaches/places you'd say are overrated or anything? I've been told not to bother with Phuket as it is very touristy and there are some much nicer alternatives.
#10 Clare1993 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 22
I found the beach by Hoi'an a little small (could have been weather washing it away) and dirty compared to the open expanse of China Beach near Da Nang - and great local life there as opposed to the tourist glut of Hoi'an. My recommendation would be to stay in Da Nang and rent motorbikes to visit Hoi'an for the day - but to each their own, some love Hoi'an (you'd still need a bike to reach the beach easily form Hoi'an while if you stay on the east side of the river in Da Nang you're a 5 minute walk to the beach - though the more happening part of the city is west of the river).
Another beautiful spot of beach that is not yet overdone is Phu Quoc Island. They call it the Phuket of yesteryear - or something like that. It is a relatively inexpensive flight on Vietnam airlines from HCMC and could well be worth couple days if you'd like to do that rather than the beaches of Cambodia (if you look at the island on a map it looks more like part of Cambodia anyway). I haven't been to Cambodian beaches so can't make a comment either way on that.
From my memory the end of your trip would be a good time of year to hit up the Ko Chang island chain on the eastern end of the Gulf of Thailand. I liked that area as it is not so hot on the tourist trail as locations on the other side. My favorite isolated beach there was Long Beach (Salakphet Bay), but island hoping on Ko Wai (Snorkeling) and Ko Maak (Lazing on the beach, food) can get you some other nice experiences. Its about an 8 hr bus ride from Bangkok and though I haven't been to Trat some say that's worth a night as well (though with your schedule probably best to take a pass and just spend the time on the islands).
If you want to go Phuket way, the word from fellow travelers is Koh Jum to get away from the bustle of Phuket and what has become of Phi Phi.
Other recommendations are that Southern Laos should not be overlooked, though you're on a tight schedule . . . with 3 weeks in Laos I'd still recommend if you are crossing into Laos from Siem Reap to stop four just a couple nights in 4,000 Islands, then, if you're comfortable getting a motorbike (little 120 cc) to take a couple nights out to the Bolaven Plateau to see Tad Lo and Paksong (NOT an overrated experience) and though you'll have seen Siem Reap the town of Champasak is as much a pleasant part of the experience in visiting Wat Phu. Reading about how outlandish Vang Vieng has become it may be a good idea to skip ahead to Vientiane and then pass straight to Luang Prabang. I also like to give a shout out to Pooh Eco travel if you want to do a 2 night hike around Chiang Mai that doesn't involve the usual overcrowded elephant rides and bamboo rafts - pricey but well worth it.
wow thankyou so much for all your tips!
what are your opinions on northern thailand? the best places to see/stay?
#12 Clare1993 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 22