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Southeast Asia forum

23 days - split between Vietnam and Thailand - comments please

Posted by cpelser on 28/1/2013 at 10:22

Hi guys

We're a young married couple travelling to Vietnam and Thailand. (Arrive 9 March Hanoi, flying out 5 April Phuket)
I've spent endless time reading Travelfish tips etc etc, but the more I read, the larger my wishlist gets!

Now we're scuba divers, and will definitely do a 4/5 night liveaboard while in Thailand towards the end of our journey.
That leaves us with around 23 days in which to see a part of Vietnam and part of Thailand.

With regards to our travels, here's what we like:
* We'll be first time travellers to SE Asia.
* We love nature, a relatively active travel experience (anything from trekking to hiring scooters, snorkeling, biking or fishing)
* Some luxury, combined with mid-range options
* We love diving, but this needn't be the main driver of our travels
* Religious / cultural sites are nice, but we'd split this to do "nature" type of activities twice as much as seeing temples etc.
* We'd like to shop for two or three days, hence we'll include Bangkok
* We'd like to be in the jungle trekking / swimming / rafting at some point

Here's my reduced wishlist:
Hanoi (2 or 3 days) - maybe more with excursions starting and ending here
Ha Long Bay (Hoping 3d / 2n, but may have to 2d/1n)
Choice between
* SaPa (don't know if the travel time is worth it)
** Hue and Hoi An (Another 3 / 4 nights)
Bangkok (3 days) (We'll fly from wherever in Vietnam to save time)
Maybe Koh Tao, but not sure, as we'd like to also see the Emerald Cave, Khao Sok, Phi-Phi, maybe Krabi
Khao Sok (for Floating Raft Houses - are there better options for these in Vietnam / closer to Bangkok?)
Liveaboard for 4 or five nights
Islands in the Andaman (We'd like to do the very touristy things - see Emerald Cave, Maya Beach)
We need to end with at least one night in Phuket, our flight out is midnight on the eve of 4 April.

I know I haven't given much information, I'm especially struggling with the Vietnam part, don't know what to take or leave..

Comments will be appreciated.
As I said, we may consider going to Koh Tao,but this would probably only be for diving? as it doesn't seem like Koh Tao has too much else, and this may keep us from Phi Phi etc?

#1 cpelser has been a member since 4/1/2013. Posts: 9

Posted by somtam2000 on 29/1/2013 at 01:25 admin

Ok a solid itinerary questions with lots of info regarding what you like etc -- useful - TAKE NOTE OTHER PEOPLE WITH ITINERARY QUESTIONS! :-)

Here's one take:

9 Mar Arrive Hanoi
10 Mar Hanoi
11 Mar Hanoi
12 Mar Ha Long Bay
13 Mar Ha Long Bay back to Hanoi in evening, night train to Hue
14 Mar Hue
15 Mar Hue
16 Mar train to Da Nang , then minibus to Hoi An
17 Mar Hoi An
18 Mar Hoi An
19 Mar Hoi An
20 Mar To my knowledge nobody is flying Da Nang to Thailand anymore, so you'll need to backtrack to Da Nang & get a domestic flight top Hanoi or Saigon and fly to Bangkok from there (I think -- check the usual suspecxts for low cost flights)

21 Mar by hook or by crook in Bangkok!
22 Mar Bangkok
23 Mar Bangkok
24 Mar Bangkok, night bus to EITHER Khao Lak (south west coast) OR Ko Lanta for a liveaboard - Lanta works better with rest of itinerary
25, 26, 27, 28 Mar on the boat!
29 Mar transit south to Ko Muk (for Emerald Cave)
30 Mar Ko Muk
31 Mar Ko Muk
1 Apr Transit to Ko Phi Phi
2 Apr Ko Phi Phi
3 Apr Ko Phi Phi
4 Apr Phuket
5 Apr Phuket & depart

Now in the above I've ditched Sapa -- would suggest you choose between Hue and Sapa -- fitting both in too busy IMO.

Hoi An will satisfy your shopping fix.

Ko Tao: No time

Re Jungle Vs Emerald Cave: I'd say Khao Sok is FAR more interesting & engaging & fun than the Emerald Cave. So another option would be to go Bangkok -> Khao Sok -> Ko Phi Phi (via Krabi) -> Phuket... I'd probably do that.

At risk of blowing out your trip further :)
Doing KS National Park independently
More Andaman Sea Islands than you want to know about
An interesting diversion from Bangkok (should you get shopping out of your system in Hoi An!)

More questions, ask away!

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
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Posted by cpelser on 31/1/2013 at 05:41

I don't know whether this will sound crazy, but here's some changes - as we can get cheap flights on the 19th of March from Saigon to Bangkok:

9 Mar Arrive Hanoi
10 Mar Cat Ba (hopefully transfer via the high-speed boat?)
11 Mar Cruise the bay
12 Mar Cat Ba back to Hanoi
13 Mar Hanoi, overnight train to Hue
14 Mar Hue
15 Mar Hue
16 Mar train to Da Nang , then minibus to Hoi An
17 Mar Hoi An
18 Mar Hoi An
19 Mar Hoi An - Da Nang and flight to Bangkok
20 Mar Bangkok
21 Mar Bangkok
22 Mar Bangkok (possible excursion)
23 Mar Bangkok
24 Mar Bangkok, night train / bus to Khao Sok
25 Mar Khao Sok
26 Mar Khao Sok
27 Mar Khao Lak and Liveaboard
28 Mar Liveaboard
29 Mar Liveaboard
30 Mar Liveaboard
31 Mar Khao Lak to Railay Beach
1 Apr Railay Beach
2 Apr Ko Phi Phi
3 Apr Ko Phi Phi
4 Apr Phuket
5 Apr Phuket & depart

The only thing I'm unsure about here are why we're spending so much time in Hue and Hoi An and Hanoi.
Should Vietnam be predominantly about cities and things, or are there nice excursions around central Vietnam as well?
Between Bangkok, Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An it almost feels to me we're spending too much time in towns and cities.

I'm also quite set on doing Cat Ba and a cruise from there (day cruise), so don't know whether I'm allowing too little time to rest and spend too much time travelling at the start of our trip.

What should a time-frame be to Cat Ba from Hanoi and back?
Day 1 - depart early from Hanoi Hotel, catch high speed boat to Cat Ba. Spend afternoon around Cat Ba
Day 2 - Cruise into Lan Ha Bay
Day 3 - Back to Hanoi and catch an overnight train already? Should we leave early or late on day 3 from Cat Ba

I'm still a bit worried we have too much on our plate, especially at the end when we're just two days on Phi-Phi, Railay and Phuket each..

What would an itinerary look like for 6 days in Hue and Hoi An? (I can only see so many "old houses" before I want to go swim, raft or kayak)

#3 cpelser has been a member since 4/1/2013. Posts: 9

Posted by somtam2000 on 31/1/2013 at 22:22 admin

Personally I'd give more time to Hanoi and less to Hue , but I do like Hanoi a lot and it isn;t to everyone's taste. Otherwise, looks reasonable to me -- I'd be inclined to skip Raileh and transfer instead straight to Ko Phi Phi to give yourself a bit more time...

One good Bangkok excursion -- even an overnight is Amphawa -- very interesting area and a traditional contrast to the bigger cities.

The Ha Long portion will be most easily done through an agent in Hanoi as they'll be able to sort out your train connections and advise on timetabling. You'd be leaving Cat Ba late morning at the latest.

Most people find Hoi An considerably more interesting than Hue -- there is more on offer where Hue is primarly the tombs & temples.


#4 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
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Posted by cpelser on 4/2/2013 at 11:55

Good comments..
Skipping Raileh would add some time, good suggestion.. I only wanted to go to Krabi for the "Jungle" and Hot-water falls, but if Khao Sok has similar or better spots, I could maybe add a day there and a day on Phi-Phi.

I still don't think I've found the perfect split for us. It feels like we'll miss the type of experience that Sa Pa offers, unless we could add this as day/overnight trips from a place like Hoi An or Bangkok?

On one side I feel like I've read too much! I'd need a year or three to do Vietnam and Thailand comprehensively, and on the other side reading informs you where you're likely to get more utility for your preferences.

I need comments on the following still please:
Our current schedule is (nights spent in brackets):

Hanoi (1)
Ha Long (2)
Hanoi (1)
Hanoi - Overnight Train (1)
Hoi An (3)
Bangkok (3)
Amphawa (1)
Khao Sok (3) (Head to Lanta or Khao Lak for Liveaboard, don't know which?)
Liveaboard (4)
Phi Phi (4)
Phuket (4)

Does the transfers between the places seem reasonable?
I don't know whether we can continue from Amphawa to Khao Sok, or should we return to Bangkok first?
Also, Khao Sok to either Koh Lanta or Khao Lak, which?

#5 cpelser has been a member since 4/1/2013. Posts: 9

Posted by somtam2000 on 5/2/2013 at 20:49 admin

It will be more practical to go back into Bangkok from Amphawa and head south from there.

I've never done a liveaboard so can't comment on the Lanta/Khao Lak choice -- have heard good reports about both.


#6 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
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Posted by LolaNguyen on 6/2/2013 at 02:05 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

Re your Hoi An day/over-night trips that might make up for missing Sapa it is possible to do a tour out to the hill tribes towards the Laos border, a good site to get an idea of trips you can do from there is Hoi An Motorbike Adventures, even if you don't want to do the motorbike thing it shows you whats do'able in one or two days with Hoi An as your base and the hills, mountains and Ho Chi Minh Trail are all within easy reach. The countryside in Central VN is stunning.
To add to your list! You might want to look at the Cham Islands from Hoi An, you can dive, snorkel and trek parts of the island on a day trip. There are two dive operators - Cham Island Divers and Blue Coral. Its micro diving so not so great if visability is poor.
Monkey Mountain via the Son Tra Peninsula is also worth a day - mountains, perfect white sand beaches, jungle and monkeys.. leave your shopping to Bangkok!

#7 LolaNguyen has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 94

Posted by cpelser on 6/2/2013 at 02:14

Great, then our trip is almost finalized!

I love the idea of motorbiking from Hoi An .. Should I book these Hoi An excursions beforehand, or leave them till we're there?

#8 cpelser has been a member since 4/1/2013. Posts: 9

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