Photo: Street food Phetchaburi Soi 10, Bangkok.

Southeast Asia forum

Itinerary Laos/Thailand 31 days March

Posted by topbanana on 6/1/2013 at 13:11


we are planning a trip to Thailand and Laos in March. It is our third trip to SEA. So far, we have done one 4 week trip from Saigon to Hanoi in 2007 and another 4 week trip (Bangkok - Siem Reap - Battambang - Phnom Penh - Rabbit Island - Phnom Penh - Don Det - Don Kon - Champasak - Pakse - Ubon Ratchathani -Bangkok) in 2010.
As we already have been six days in Bangkok the last time, we are not going to spend many days there this time. So far our itinerary looks like this:

1. Flight to Bangkok
2. Bankok – Phitsanulok - Sukhothai (Daytrain+Bus)
3. Sukhothai
4. Sukothai – Chiang Mai
5. Chiang Mai
6. Chiang Mai
7. Chiang Mai Chiang Khong
8. Chiang Khong - Huay Xai Luang Prabang (Slow boat)
9. Luang Prabang
10. Luang Prabang
11. Luang Prabang
12. Luang Prabang – Phonsavan
13. Phonsavan
14. Phonsavang – Vang Vieng
15. Vang Vieng
16. Vang Vieng
17. Vang Vieng Vientiane
18. Vientiane – Bangkok (Nighttrain)
19. Bangkok – Chumphon Ko Tao
20. Ko Tao
21. Ko Tao
22. Ko Tao
23. Ko Pha Ngang
24. Ko Pha Ngang
25. Ko Pha Ngang
26. Ko Pha Ngang
27. Ko Pha Ngang
28. Ko Pha Ngang – Bangkok
31. Flight Back from Bangkok

Our favorite experiences in SEA so far have been staying at the „Two Dragons“ Guesthouse in Siem Reap and exploring the temples of Angkor , Cycling in Don Kon (Laos) and relaxing at the Mekong Riverside in Champasak (Laos)- We really liked the tranqulity of South Laos! We made all trips during the rainy season and enjoyed that there were few tourists at Angkor – we had Bayon for us alone and even at Angkor Wat we usually had one side of the base-relief for us alone.
My question is, I am usually not a person that can spend a week just sunbathing on the beach. However, I appreciate a cold beer at beautiful beach and I have seen a lot of beautiful fotos of beaches in South Thailand. Therefore, we decide to spend the last week of our trip on some nice beaches in the south of Thailand.
So far I have not been to any of Thailand's beaches. There are so many that it is really hard for us to make out where to go. I prefere a quite beach with some small bamboo huts and would never go into one of these huge resorts at a beach. As we are not sure where to go, Ko Tao and Ko Pha Ngang are just placeholders in our itinerary. We appreciate any suggestions for nice islands with beautiful beaches in Thailand which are not too crowded.
Suggestions for additional stops in Laos/Thailand on our trip are welcome - I would like ot add at least 1-2 stops there that are a bit(not too much) off the beaten track. Also tips for charming cozy family run guesthouses in Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang or other stops on our trip are welcome. The best tips for nice guesthouses and stops on my other trips came from other travellers – not from guideboooks :-)


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Posted by somtam2000 on 6/1/2013 at 21:38 admin

OK, I'm going to point you to a few stories elsewhere on the site concerning islands in Thailand -- we have a lot :)

Thai islands to lose yourself on
Thai islands for nature lovers
Which far southern island in Thailand
Andaman Sea Island hopper

And here is the section on the Andaman islands off the Thailand blog -- there is a lot there!

I know you mentioned Ko Pha Ngan but I think you may find a more relaxed budget option on the Andaman Coast.

As far as gulf islands go, again to the blogs for Ko Tao, (note this is quite diving focussed).

One suggestion for a stop off would be Chiang Dao to the north of Chiang Mai. It's a lovely area.

Last but not least, re the above itinerary, the Huay Xai to Luang Prabang part takes two days -- not one. Other than that it looks pretty reasonable to me.

Sorry to answer with a bunch of links, but give some of the above a read and come back with more questions if you have them.


#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,939
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Posted by Xircal on 7/1/2013 at 08:19

February to April is the so called 'burning season' in the north when farmers slash and burn forests and old rice fields to create farming land. It gets pretty bad around Chiang Mai at that time of the year since not only is Thailand the culprit, but also Laos. The prevailing winds tend to blow the smog from Laos into Thailand to add to the misery.

See this news report for an example of how bad air pollution becomes in the north between February and April:

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Posted by topbanana on 7/1/2013 at 15:23

thanks for the replies. I have read now several reports about the burning season - it seems that especially last year it has been really bad. Many travellers advice not to go there during that period. However, we have vacations from 09. March to 06. April. I really would like to see Chiang Mai and Laos but if it is really that bad we are thinking now of an Island hopping tour in the south of Thailand. There the burning season probem seems to be less serious. I know that there are a lot of island - thanks for all the information collected on this page - but I am still not so sure if 4 weeks island hopping in South Thailand is bit too much - I have never been there. I just imagine that I could get bored after two weeks of beaches - hopefully the islands will prove me wrong ;-) Maybe we give it a try and drive up to chiang mai and if it is really too bad we turn around - I am not really convinced of that idea at the moment. If you have some suggestions for nice places in the south to visit apart from nice beaches you are welcome :-). The smog-problem seems to cover also Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng - or?
@somtam2000: thanks for the hitn with the adaman islands - sounds awesome!

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Posted by somtam2000 on 8/1/2013 at 05:55 admin

No worries - re the smoke, it can get pretty bad in Laos, especially the north, but I'd suggest just keeping an eye on the news etc and see a bit closer to the date. If it is bad there will be people complaining about it here in Travelfish!

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Posted by topbanana on 8/1/2013 at 16:48

We will check the AQI short before we leave and then decide which of our itinerarys we will go for :-) March/April seems to be a really good time for the south - a bit hot but not so crowded. Maybe we better save the north and Laos for a second trip - whithout smoke. We now made a second Itinerary for the South Thailand option. Usually we book no guesthouse ahaed - are there places in our itinerary, where we better should? If you have any recommendations for places we should not miss or really good places to stay, we appreciate any hint!
The second Itenerary looks like a slower pace trip with more shorter distances -what I usually prefer. The first one has several longer bus/train rides.


Itinerary 1 North Thailand & Laos & Ko Chang 2
1.Flight to Bangkok
2.Bankok - Phitsanulok - Sukhothai (Daytrain+Bus 5-7h)
4.Sukothai - Chiang Mai (Bus 6h)
5.Chiang Mai
6.Chiang Mai
7.Chiang Mai - Chiang Khong (Bus 2 1/2h)
8.Chiang Khong - Huay Xai
09.- 10. Huay Xai - Luang Prabang (Slow boat)
11. Luang Prabang
12. Luang Prabang
13. Luang Prabang
14. Luang Prabang - Phonsavan
15. Phonsavan (22.03)
16. Phonsavang - Vang Vieng
17. Vang Vieng
18. Vang Vieng
19. Vang Vieng - Vientiane
20. Vientiane - Bangkok (Nighttrain)
21. Bangkok - Ranong - Ko Chang (Nightbus+Boat 10h)
22. Ko Chang
23. Ko Chang
24. Ko Chang
25. Ko Chang
26. Ko Chang
27. Ko Chang -Rangong-Bangkok(Bus Boat 10h)
28. Flight Back from Bangkok

Itinerary 2 South Thailand: Island Hopping
1. Flight to Bangkok
2. Bangkok - Petchaburi (bus 2h)
3. Petchaburi & Kaeng Krachan National Park
4. Petchaburi - Hua Hin (30 min.)
5. Hua Hin - Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park - Kuiburi National Park
6. Hua Hin - Pratchuap Khiri Khan
7. Pratchuap Khiri Khan - Chumphon (2h) - Koh Tao (midnight boat 6 h)
8. Koh Tao
9. Koh Tao
10. Koh Tao - Koh Pha-Ngan (boat)
11. Koh Pha-Ngan - Ang Thong Marine National Park
12. Koh Pha-Ngan
13. Koh Pha- Ngan - Krabi - Railay (boat/ bus/boat)
14. Railay
15. Railay - Koh Lanta (boat 2h)
16. Koh Lanta
17. Koh Lanta - Koh Phi Phi (boat 1,5h)
18. Koh Phi Ph - Krabi - Ko Yao
19. Ko Yao
20. Ko Yao -Ao Phang Nga
21. Ao Phang Nga - Khao Sok National Park
22. Khao Sok National Park
23. Khao Sok National Park - Koh Chang 2
24. Koh Chang 2
25. Koh Chang 2
26. Koh Chang 2 - Bangkok
28. Flight back from Bkk

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Posted by DLuek on 8/1/2013 at 21:56 TF writer


It seems like you're doing a fine job figuring things out, but since you asked:

If you liked Angkor, I definitely recommend Sukhothai, and you might take a day trip up to Si Satchanalai from there, especially if you're okay with a little motorbiking. Si Satch is a wonderfully quiet historical park with ruins similar to those at Sukhothai, but with NO other tourists. Even when I went on a Saturday the only other visitors were a group of Thai Buddhist pilgrims dressed in all white.

Re southern Thai islands, Ko Chang Noi sounds like a good choice to end the trip if you stick to the 1st itinerary. It's extremely laid back, which I find to be a good thing, but you may get bored after that many days. It's also not quite as "idyllic" as some islands - certainly it's nice and the jungle is pristine, but it lacks the picture perfect turquoise water and white sands of many other Andaman islands. Another option would be to make the trip down to Khuraburi, about an hour south of Ranong , and visit Ko Phra Thong instead. It has a similar laid back bare bones bungalow sort of vibe as Ko Chang Noi, but it's also in the same vicinity as Ko Surin , which is the most visually stunning Andaman island I've been to. Ko Surin is national park - you could overnight in a tent or just go as a day trip. I'd recommend 1 night if you can swing it. Incredible snorkeling there. I also probably prefer Ko Phra Thong slightly over Ko Chang Noi... The inland landscape is desert/savannah, totally different from anything you'll see elsewhere in the region, and it's a great place to bicycle around. Has a very untouched and "out there" feel. It also has incredibly vast golden sand beaches and is way off-the-beaten-track... You'll probably know all of the other travelers staying on the island by the end of 3 nights!

Oh yes, if you do go to Ko Chang Noi, you might take a half-day for Ngao National Park out of Ranong, but don't miss the hot springs on the way, which are much better than the ones closer to Ranong town.

As for the second southern Thailand itinerary, it looks pretty good to me, although that is a lot of beach time. One thought is that you're looking at some rather large, touristy islands - Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan, Railay and Ko Lanta. Personally I'd opt for smaller, less touristy islands on the Andaman side like the aforementioned Ko Chang Noi, Ko Phra Thong and Ko Surin, as well as, for example, Ko Muk, Ko Kradan, Ko Bulon Lae, Ko Libong, Ko Sukorn, Ko Tarutao etc. Although, Ko Yao seems like a good non-touristy choice (never been so can't say for sure). I also definitely recommend Khao Sok and Ao Phang Nga, although a boat trip on Chiew Lan Lake in Khao Sok is a very similar experience, though with better scenery, than one on Ao Phang Nga. The area around Phang Nga town is also quite beautiful - an amazing cave, waterfall, mountainside cave temple, and the town itself is a charming and cheap spot to lose a day.

Looking at both itineraries, it seems like you really want some history/ruins, some nature/national parks and some island time. I don't see any reason not to do that. As far as I know, the burning season is a northern Thai/Laos thing... Unless it's really bad, it's no reason not to go to Sukhothai, and you could always hit other ruins in that vicinity such as Si Satch, Kamphaeng Phet, Lopburi, etc., or even pop over to Phimai in Isaan with a couple day stop at Khao Yai National Park. Then head south to whichever islands and national parks you choose down south. Could even make a stop at Amphawa along the way.

Just my two cents.

#7 DLuek has been a member since 19/6/2008. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,298
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Posted by topbanana on 11/1/2013 at 15:02

Wow, thanks for that detailed answer DLuek! Mainly, I added Ko Tao and Ko Pha Nga to the itinerary because they are the only Gulf Islands on the trip. Without them we are only going to see the Adaman Coast Islands without knowing what we miss on the Gulf Side ;-). Thanks for the hint with Surin Islands and Ko Phra Thong they seem indeed a good choice. If we change Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan for Surin Islands and Ko Phra Thong, would be something like:
1. Flight to Bangkok (08.03)
2. Bangkok - Petchaburi (bus 2h)
3. Petchaburi & Kaeng Krachan National Park
4. Petchaburi - Hua Hin (30 min.)
5. Hua Hin - Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park - Kuiburi National Park
6. Hua Hin - Pratchuap Khiri Khan
7. Pratchuap Khiri Khan - Chumphon (2h) - Ranong (bus 3h)
8. Ranong -Ngao National Park - Koh Chang 2
9. Koh Chang 2
10. Koh Chang 2 - Rangong - Kuraburi (1h bus) - Ko Phra Thong
11. Ko Phra Thong
12. Ko Phra Thong - Kuraburi - Surin Island National Park
13. Surin Island National Park
14. Surin Island National Park - Khao Sok National Park
15. Khao Sok National Park
16. Khao Sok National Park - Ao Phang Nga
17. Ao Phang Nga
18. Ao Phang Nga - Ko Yao Noi
19. Ko Yao Noi
20. Ko Yao Noi - Krabi - Ko Phi Phi
21. Ko Phi Phi
22, Ko Phi Phi - Railay
23. Railay - Krabi - Bankok
24. Bankok - Phitsanulok - Sukhothai (Daytrain+Bus 5-7h) (09.03)
25 Sukhothai
26. Sukothai - Bangkok (bus 5-7h)
27. Bangkok
28. Flight back from Bkk
The funny thing: if we do the trip like this we travel 4 weeks on 20 pages of the Lonely Planet Thailand (out of 600 pages) ;-) Which gives rise to another question: Are the islands further south like Ko Lipe, Ko Libong very different from the islands further north - meaning better change one in the north for one in the south to get a bit more diversity?

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Posted by topbanana on 15/5/2013 at 02:05

Hi, we are back and had a wonderful trip! Thank you DLuek for the hint with Surin Islands and Ko Phra Thong! Both were a highlights of our trip. I just wish we had some more days on Ko Phra Thong. In 3,5 days we were just able to explore the endless beach. We stayed there with 3 other travelers and shared the 18 Km of beach :-D. On Surin Isalnd we tented two nights at Mai Ngam beach - regarding sand and water, this was the best beach I have been so far. If I find the time, I will write some more here on travel fish and post some fotos of our trip!

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