Will be arriving the beginning of July in Thailand, and then heading to Vietnam and Laos, returning towards the end of Aug to Thailand. Would love some advice on what would be the best transportation heading to Vietnam (is it worth going through Cambodia just to reach Vietnam, or is flying the only option?) What would make more sense, starting with Vietnam or Laos?
#1 L100 has been a member since 12/5/2013. Posts: 13
Well . . . if worth it going through Cambodia you mean is it worth it to see the temples of Siem Reap and stop off in Phnom Penh - it isn't a bad excursion. That said, you have 2 months and I don't know how much of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand you want to see.
I'd plan to go up through Northern Thailand and then cross overland/boat into Northern Laos - from there you could eventually get to Vientiane and back track via LONG bus ride to Hanoi or head further south and cross into Vietnam around Hue if you want to skip Northern Vietnam. You probably don't want to do that though, so it leaves working through on the bus or then paying for a flight from Vientiane or Luang Prabang over to Hanoi. I think this is a better option than working across Cambodia at the start if you are considering avoiding it. At that point - if you get to HCMC and don't have the extra time you can try and catch a flight over to Ko Samui (those islands will be the least rainy that time of year) to relax for the end of your trip -- or if you do have the time overland it through Cambodia over to BKK to catch a cheaper flight to the islands.
If you reverse it, then you invest that time into Cambodia when you are not that fully invested in visiting it -and you've already used those holiday-days and can't get them back. It also makes it more likely that you'd be entering Thailand's north overland from Laos and you won't have the longer visa on arrival that you get by flying into Thailand.
I think it's totally worth it to go through Cambodia to visit Siem Reap and Phnom Penh , and that way you could do a big loop starting and finishing in Thailand. The advice I always give is not to try to fit too many places into a short space of time. In 2 months you can see a lot, but keep in mind that moving every couple of days will mean that you spend a lot of time in transit, which is very tiring and not much fun.
With that in mind, you could do something like this:
Spend time exploring Bangkok + surrounds. You could use this time to see the south of Thailand and maybe islands like Ko Tao / Samui / Lanta / Phi Phi.
Then you could go from Bangkok to Siem Reap, which takes 6 - 8 hours bus then taxi. Few days in SR, then a bus to Phnom Penh, spending a couple of days there.
Then Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is about 6 hours by bus.
Then work your way north through Vietnam by trains and/or bus.
Then fly from Hanoi to Luang Prabang with Lao Airlines for $161 (checked on http://www.laoairlines.com/ ). This saves you the extremely long and uncomfortable bus ride that Casey mentioned earlier.
Go south through Laos by bus, stopping for a few days as your chosen destinations.
Re-enter Thailand from Laos at one of the border crossings (Vientiane, Huay Xai etc.) depending on how far south in Laos you choose to travel. You will then be in the North-East of Thailand so you could explore Isan (name for the north-east region) or go west towards Chiang Mai.
Explore more of Thailand to finish your trip!
Hope this is useful :)
I would think about three additional things.
One, because of the months you're travelling, you're going to experience heat and humidity like you won't believe. Prepare for it. Plan on having lots of down time to shelter and recover from the heat.
Two, don't plan the 2nd month very closely. This is your first trip to SE Asia, right? So you don't know whether you'll want to explore the cities or the towns, hill tribes or rivers, ruins or restaurants, or even which country. Leave time in your 2nd month to make plans on-the-run.
Three, I would wind up in Laos. It's the most relaxed place, especially in the south. You can hang out anywhere, of course, but I'd say it's easiest in Laos. Except Laos doesn't have beaches. A convenient beach place is Phu Quoc, a Vietnamese island in the S China Sea near Cambodia. The most laid back spot there is Sao Beach at the southern tip of the island. But don't anyone I told you. Damn tourists are ruining the place!
#4 monte_rio has been a member since 21/5/2008. Posts: 2
Heard the weather in North India is terrible & dangerous - might these storms move towards southeast Asia: Thailand Laos Vietnam or Cambodia?
#5 L100 has been a member since 12/5/2013. Posts: 13