Me and a buddy are planning a 6 week backpacking holiday over December 2013. Would appreciate some expert/experienced advice. Firstly, we have the following draft itinerary (Return flights Johannesburg and Bangkok):
Bangkok (5 nights)
Vientiane (2 nights)
Luang Prabang (4 nights)
Hanoi (5 nights, including 2 day/1 night trip to Ha long)
Saigon (3 nights)
Siem Reap (3 nights)
Phnom Penh (2 nights)
Kampot/Kep/Rabbit Island/Sihanoukville (7 nights) - Not sure exactly where we will end up here, just gonna wing it
Kho Samui and surrounding islands (11 nights) - Do some island hopping
Keep in mind we will be flying in between the cities. Please comment if you would nip or tuck a few nights here and there.
We also do not want to book accomodation in advance, except the Islands in the end since this will be over Xmas and New Years. Any advice if we maybe should book in advance for the rest? But we will be booking the flights in advance (around September).
#1 Alwyn has been a member since 25/4/2013. Posts: 2
You obviously have a different view of travelling then myself. All those flights and visa fees etc for minimal time spent in an area to me seems like a waste of money and you are missing out on some great sights by just going to the big name cities. That said here are a few of my opinions.
5 nights in Bangkok is likely too much unless you plan on shopping or hitting up night life. Actual sights and such aren't worth that much time imo but city sights aren't really my thing.
I would skip Vientiane unless you have a reason for going there(I can't really think of one myself). Chiang Mai is great so maybe look at it instead, you would want around 4 days there though so would need to shorten something else as well.
Luang Prabang is nice but is somewhat expensive to fly into and out of and for me 4 days wouldn't be worth it but if you want to go just so you can say you went to Laos then go for it. Alternatively you could take bus up to Nong Khiaw and then boat to Muang Ngoi to get a decent taste for what life in Laos is really like(Luang Prabang is just a tourist town). Nice scenery and some interesting people/culture. The "bus" ride up to Nong Khiaw is an experience in itself(take the local bus) and the boat ride has great scenery and river life. Can take boat back to Luang Prabang instead of bus if you want to do that(I am guessing it is a nice trip although maybe slightly uncomfortable as they don't really have seats in those boats.
5 nights in Hanoi again might be a bit much. I was quite disappointed with it although some seem to like it for some reason.
A great place to see in Vietnam is Paradise Cave down by Dong Hoi. If you decide to add this then it would likely make sense to continue on to Hue and Hoi An as well before going to HCMC. If you decided to cut out Laos entirely this is what I would recommend replacing it with.
Kampot and Rabbit Island are nice places to relax with decent things to do/see(nothing amazing but just a nice feeling to them). Sihanoukville is sleazy from what I have heard so I stayed away. Since you are going to be spending a fair bit of time relaxing/island hopping after this I would still consider looking at Kampot and Rabbit Island but would shorten it to 3 or 4 nights since it is similar to what you would be doing later and you could use it to see sights elsewhere.
Khao Sok National Park in southern Thailand is a great place you might want to consider checking out. The lake tour has amazing scenery.
Hopefully that is some help on ideas.
Agree - skip Laos and check out Northern Thailand instead - then see about flight to Hanoi followed by flight to Saigon.
Another option is as above but cut out Hanoi and fly directly to Saigon. Then you can work through the delta (Can Tho) and maybe even over to Phu Quoc island for a couple of nights. Enter Cambodia at Ha Tien and head to Kep/Kampot before heading up to PP and then Siem Reap . . it'll be easier to get from SR to Ko Samuai without having to double back to PP than if you end up in Cambodia near Sihanoukville.
Thanks a lot! This is really helpful. Will definitly do some more homework and adjust here and there.
#5 Alwyn has been a member since 25/4/2013. Posts: 2