Hello, I am planning a 4 week trip to Southeast Asia visiting Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Singapore. I have been looking for a few weeks now about the best way to get around from each place i.e. Bus, Train or Plane. At the moment I am leaning more toward flying between each place because it is quicker, but I worry that I will miss out on some of the amazing scenery which I have really enjoyed on past overseas trips plus it is a lot more expensive. There is obviously some places which require a flight.
Below is my itinerary:
Ho Chi Minh City
Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!
Thanks in advance
#1 amanda091 has been a member since 7/5/2013. Posts: 2
With this schedule I almost feel like every location requires a flight. I don't mean to throw a wet-blanket on your plan, but I think you really need to cut back. A four week trip gives you on average 2.6 days in each location if you exclude your arrival and departure day from the region. That also doesn't count that each day you leave a place to go to another you're basically getting breakfast, catching a cab, arriving early for an international flight, arriving and going through customs, getting a cab at the airport, getting into town (airports aren't close to town in most these areas) and checking into a hotel. So you could almost count each day you travel between locations as lost except for the great breakfast you'll enjoy (especially fond of Vietnam's selection) and trying out a new cuisine for dinner. If you figure that in you're now at about 1.7 days per location you've chosen. Which means if you want to explore city site and museums and make a day-trip out of the city to see something else, then you're going to have to spend only one full day in some other location.
To choose three of the spots you've selected: Chiang Mai is a nice town, best if you spend about two days getting to know it and you really only get what the area has to offer if you take an overnight trek (2 days 1 night minimum) out into the surrounding hills that border around Burma. Siem Reap I think everyone will agree is a minimum 3 full days, 2 full days if you are on a very short schedule. Hoi'an requires that you fly in-and-out of Da Nang, which is only 30 minutes away, but also a place worth exploring (riverside and beachside bars each deserving a night of their own) and the area offers a lot to explore if you think about Monkey Mountain (Da Nang), Marble Mountain, the beach, the DMZ, the nice train ride to Hue , Hue itself (you could easily spend a week just in this region).
If you are big on scenery you should focus more on that instead of the big mediocre cities. On my trip I went to all those places except the ones in Malaysia. I really enjoyed Chiang Mai and Siem Reap but the rest of the places to me were just another city that I likely won't go back to unless flying through.
Unless you really are a city person I would change your itinerary and focus on a smaller more easily travelled region. Pick maybe 2 countries and try to focus on seeing more of what they have to offer, try and get away from the tourists traps a bit as you will enjoy it much more.
Thank you very much for all your feedback I really appreciate your insight into this. Myself and my partner are quite seasoned travellers, we have found from past trips that we don't really like being in the same spot for too long. Majority of the places we are visiting we are spending 3 nights so we will have 2 full days and one 1/2 day, we have also arranged a lot of tours with private companys which take us out of the major city and into the countryside. We are the type of people who will go back back, so if for instance we love Vietnam we will plan a trip to go back there and see the country more in depth. We are just run into trouble in the past where we have spent 5 - 6 nights in one place and really didn't enjoy ourselves. Therefore, this trip we have opted to see more at a glance, decide what we like then plan another trip to go back and spend more time there.
In regards to the public transport, I was worried our only option might be to fly. I was looking at the train ride between Bangkok to Siem Reap but it is a long trip so perhaps more worthwhile flying!
Thanks again for all your feedback!! :)
#5 amanda091 has been a member since 7/5/2013. Posts: 2
You don't need to spend 5-6 days in one location. The point is that you can go to an area and see more of it instead of only having time to check out the main cities themself. For example the best thing about Hanoi is its proximity to Halong Bay, Sapa and Paradise Cave yet you won't really have time to enjoy any of these places and the same can be said for other locations as well.
To me the main cities were some of the most disappointing parts of my SEA trip. I am not a city person to begin with so when I go to a place that is just a dirtier lower class city then what I am used to with only a couple mediocre temples/museums etc it does next to nothing for me. I am kind of glad I saw them but they are a fair way down the list of things that I enjoyed on my trip.
As far as transport is concerned flights are your best option for the most part. Bangkok to Siem Reap you could take the bus but that will use up most of a day(train doesn't go the whole way so wouldn't bother with it). The overland border crossing is a pain though so another reason to fly although flights to Siem Reap aren't cheap. More details on your itinerary below.
To get to Penang and Singapore you can definitely take bus or train from Kuala Lumpur. Penang to Phuket can be done by train/bus but would eat up a day. Will have to fly to Chiang Mai , Chiang Mai to Bangkok is probably one of your easiest connections by taking night train. Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh will have to fly. Same with to get to Hoi An (have to fly to Danang and then bus over). Hoi An to Hanoi you might as well take night train(have to get to Danang anyways).
To add - you may as well take the night train from Chiang Mai to BKK too, because there isn't great scenery for seeing.
Make sure the night train doesn't leave too late as the best scenery you'll see will be the stretch from Da Nang to Hue . . . get on the east facing side of the train and enjoy.