Hey y'all. I'm heading to SEA in early Nov till mid Dec. I plan on traveling by bus or train except for the the leg between Vientiane to Phnom Penh where I plan to fly with Lao Airlines. And I'd like to take the slow boat down Mekong to Luang Prabang . I would like to know if 5 weeks are sufficient to see the following:
Thailand (8 nights)
Bangkok (2), Ayutthaya (1), Sukhothai (1), Chiang Mai (2), Chiang Rai (2)
Laos (9 nights)
Houay Xai (1), Pakbeng (1), Luang Prabang (4), Vang Vieng (2), Vientiane (2)
Cambodia (6 nights)
Phnom Penh (2), Siem Reap (3), Battambang (1)
Thailand (6 nights)
Ko Chang (4), Bangkok (2)
I have 5 more nights and wonder where to spend them? Are 5 nights enough to head to Northern Laos or should I spend them as I go in places I like best? Also is it enough to see either Ayutthaya or Sukhothai? If yes, which one should I see/skip? Should I book ahead or is it easy enough to find places to stay as I go?
#1 kolibri1 has been a member since 10/6/2012. Posts: 3
Personally, I think your first 8 days in Thailand is too tight. You will be spending a good portion of your time travelling, and not enough time 'enjoying'. Also, I haven't been to either Ayutthaya or Sukhothai, but understand from my reading that you probably won't want to go to both so may cut one of these out (and esp given the fact that you will also be visiting Angkor Wat presumably). You're going all the way up to Chiang Mai/Rai, but have allowed yourself little time to see much of it.
Having said that, definitely keep your 5 days up your sleeve to be used as you decide to along the way. You will no doubt come to a point where you just don't want to move on for another day either because a place has grabbed your interest or you're just tired of moving.
Since you are travelling in Nov/Dec, I'd suggest that you not pre-book anything along the way (other than your first nights in Bkk). You can then find accom in the other places as you arrive, or if you want, book them a few days ahead of time once you are comfortably with your timing. Do not pre-book them months ahead of time as you will lose all flexibility to change your plans as you go - and you WILL want to change your plans.
What you can do ahead of time, though, is research some places where you think you will want to stay. I often like to have a list of my preferred accom options (top 2-3) as I arrive so that I know where I'm heading when I get of the bus. This is especially usefule when you are swarmed with a gadzillion tuktuk drivers in Cambodia who all want a piece of you!
Your plan is totally possible - but you may get a little tired like Lizzy says. I'd agree with cutting out either (or both) A or S and applying that to a longer stay in Chiang Mai . The city itself is nice, but it was taking a two night trek out into the hills that was a highlight for me on that leg of my trip. As Ayutthaya can be done as an overnighter with return the next day to BKK you could always consider saving it for the end of your trip - of course, if you do that I bet you may not even go, though it allows you to save some time. Go direct form BKK to Chiang Mai for a few days and then take a couple days getting to Luang Prabang where you'll rest again - you'll feel less tired that way.
Since you have those five days to play with not included here I think it simply looks busier than it is - as the section from Chaing Rai to LP is normally split up like that for the slow boat - that is your longest leg of travel.
I've been to both Ayutthaya and Sukhothai . Frankly I preferred Sukhothai - I found it quieter (once you were away from the crowded main entrance to the park and the busiest couple of sites - renting a bicycle is best way to explore the extent of the park) but both are worth visiting (IMHO) so I'd suggest you pick whichever one fits better into your itinerary.
Transport wise, Ayutthaya is about an hour from Bangkok, but Sukhothai is either a long bus from Bangkok (I think 6 or 7 hours), or a train to Phitsanoluk (6 hours?), then 1 hour by bus. So you'd have very little time to see the site after all that travelling if you only planned on spending one night. If you do decide you'd prefer Sukhothai, I'd suggest spending 2 nights, so you have a full day to explore the historic park.
@busylizzy - Thanks for this thorough reply. I think I will skip both Ayutthaya and Sukhothai and will add the additional nights to the time I'll spend in Northern Thailand. And thanks for the hints about booking ahead. I was a little concerned whether I could just show up at a place or not.
@caseyprich - I am looking forward to a trek, too. Any thoughts on whether to do it in Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai?
@antoniamitc-hell - Maybe I'll go to Ayutthaya from Bangkok then. This way I am flexible whether to do it at the beginning or at the end.
#5 kolibri1 has been a member since 10/6/2012. Posts: 3
It is a little more expensive than your usual day trip with bamboo raft and elephant ride (which I abhor) - but I highly recommend Pooh Eco Travel out of Chiang Mai. In fact, I had such a good time on that trek that it was one of my major impulses to finally become an active user on this site and give them positive feedback. The two night trek included meeting some really nice(and fun) local people (most treks are led by Karen who now live in Chiang Mai) near the border with Myanmar and some pretty basic easy hiking. I haven't been as far north as Chiang Rai myself, so I can't say if it is better than that. If you want to save money you could try to book yourself into a trek ahead of time so that you can join on a group (I think they try to do no larger than 6). However, I also recommend that you just stop by the office in the city and get a feel for the people who work there to see if you think its worth the extra cash.
(of note: The "Kill nothing but time" thing doesn't really hold up as our guides flushed out a tarantula and egg sack and roasted it for us - and the locals we were hiking around with were really doing there best to bring down some birds for dinner ).