I wondered if anyone could help please? My boyfriend and I are planning on travelling around in SE Asia in Janurary. We leave on the 16th Jan and come back 1st May so were hoping to fit quite alot. We fly into Bangkok and need to get to the Ko Phangnan for 23rd Feb. I'm struggling to figure out the best route from Bangkok though Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos back to Bangkok. We keep ending up in Vietnam during Tet which I've heard is a nightmare to travel at the time - is that correct? I've also seen a couple of posts about border crossing being difficult in some places and I just wondered if anyone had done the loop and could give me some help?
We've then got two weeks on the Islands in Thailand then onto Maylasia for a week or two, then to Indonesia for the rest of my time. Is this enough time in each of these places?
Thanks so much for any help you can give me.
#1 Bradley155 has been a member since 30/11/2012. Posts: 1
When you reenter Thailand if it is overland you'll only get 15 days, I don't know how long you plan to take on Ko Phangnan, I expect you'll be flying between there and BKK though. Other option is to fly back into Thailand and you get another 30 days.
I've been in Vietnam around Tet twice now and spent one period hidden away on Phu Quoc island where the only problem had to do with a water pump that was shut off for 3 days to avoid angering something or other . . . the other time I was around Danang and it was very festive and enjoyable, but both times I hunkered in and didn't try to take buses for a few days before and after the main 3 days of the holiday. . . this could be something that is not practical for the speed of your trip.
Basically you're wondering about how to do six-weeks in Thailand-Laos-Vietnam-Cambodia and most people on this site are going to recommend you cut out at least one country - I'd say that just making your way through Cambodia and the up Vietnam with a flight back from Hanoi to BKK would be credible, this would give you a chance to nest somewhere around Tet if you wanted to. Spend 2 1/2 weeks exploring Cambodia, enter Vietnam around the 1st of February around Rach Gai and then you could take a couple days to get to Phu Quoc island by Ferry in order to hunker down on the beach there during Tet (book room ASAP for over Tet). After that explore the Delta and HCMC, see how much time you have remaining and decide about what you want to see on the way up to Hanoi.
The other option would be to reverse direction from BKK to Hanoi so that you spend January bustling down from Hanoi to HCMC and then fly from HCMC to Phu Quoc to relax for a few days during Tet (if you want to do that make sure to book rooms and flights ASAP). Then explore the area around the Mekong and HCMC before entering into Cambodia and eventually going overland to BKK.
If you must see all these countries (which I can understand) then I'd recommend a quick trip up to Chiang Mai then overland Chiang Rai crossing into northern Laos and the boat down to Luang Prabang , down to Vientiane . This is a trip that could easily play out to three weeks, though with only two nights in each location you could do it under two weeks (seems too fast for me though, you'd want to stretch out the time in Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang and so maybe just give yourself all of January for that).
To avoid Tet you could fly from Vientiane to Cambodia, spend two weeks exploring there and then enter into Southern Vietnam to explore as much of Vietnam as you can/like before flying back to BKK from most likely either HCMC or Danang. Hanoi is a little rainy and chilly in February anyway . . . .
There are a ton of possible permutations of this trip, so I'm just laying out a few routes that I would consider in your position - - I'd be most thankful not to be planning the trip alone, because the decision in the end is not easy.
16 Jan to 23 Feb is more than 30 days: 39 in fact. If you want to stay in Thailand for that length of time, you'll have to apply for a 60 tourist visa. The visa expires as soon as you leave the country unless you obtain one which is valid for two or three entries. See this Thai Consulate site for details of what each costs: http://www.thailand-visa.com/
If you arrive in Thailand by air and don't have a tourist visa, you can only remain in the country legally for 30 days. As caseyprich mentioned, if you arrive via a land border, you only get 15 days. If you remain in the country beyond either or these two periods (depending on which way you entered the country), you become an illegal alien commonly known as an 'Overstayer'. The fine for this offence is 500 Baht a day. It will also be recorded in the immigration system database which may influence permission to enter the country again at a later date.
There are also visa issues in Vietnam and if you propose to enter the country via a land border, you need a full blown visa issued by the Vietnamese Embassy. You can make do with a VOA (visa on arrival) if you arrive by air. But you still need a so called 'letter of approval' from a Vietnamese travel agent which you then have to present to immigration at the airport.
I won't go into these things too deeply now because you may already be aware of the requirements. But it is advisable to get the recommended jabs for SEA which are Twinrix which provides you with lifelong immunity to Hepatitis A & B and DTP which provides you with immunity to Diptheria, Tetanus and Polio for 10 years. Since you're so close to your departure date now, I'd recommend you talk to your physician a.s.a.p. if you haven't taken either.