This will be our first trip to South East Asia: Proposed itinerary as follows - just looking for a bit of advice as to whether this is feasible and whether the travelling will be a killer...plan to go in Jan / Feb 2014
Phase 1 - Vietnam - we would like this to be more of a quick stop in a number of different places. If we had longer we'd probably get on the train down the coast to Saigon but given we've only got a few weeks we'd like to get to our destination as quickly as poss to maximise time
- Fly to Hanoi and head to the coast for a couple of nights to an island near Halong Bay
- Fly down the coast to Hoi An and mooch about for 2 or 3 nights, maybe jump on the train briefly here to see more of the coast
- Fly to Saigon for night or 2
Phase 2 - Cambodia
- Bus from Saigon, through Phenom Penh to Coast of Cambodia for 5 nights to Koh Rong (is this the best way to travel into Cambodia ?)
Phase 3 - Into Laos
- Bascially want to get from South coast of Cambodia to Luang Prabang in Laos as efficiently as possible - Have read that Sihanoukville airport fly's to Luang Prabang ?? But that the route may not be available at the moment ?? What is the next best / quickest way to do this ?
So we've got a few questions:
1. Do we need to be booking accommodation or is it more fun to wing it ? Id prefer to have maybe the first place booked and then to just rock up and see what we can find a the rest of the places...is this wise ?
2. We think this itinerary is do able but want to understand if this is too ambitious...so if anyone has any advice on this...or any other ideas that we may find useful...then it would be greatly appreciated..
Nick & Laura
#1 Polaris1976 has been a member since 4/6/2013. Posts: 3
Congratulations and best wishes for a wonderful honeymoon. However, the itinerary you've got has you travelling (literally on a bus, train, plane, or to and from one) for about half of the trip. Is that really how you want to spend your honeymoon?
Consider scaling back a bit, like doing either north or south Vietnam but not both, or visiting southern Laos (Pakse, Champasak, Bolevans Plateau) instead of Luang Prabang, etc. Just remember that transport in southeast Asia, and particularly in laid-back Laos, is slow. Regards.
For a honeymoon (and maybe even for a regular three week trip) I think you have planned far too much. I would stick to one country and three to four locations maximum for a three week honeymoon. Just think how tired you will be after your wedding.
Also, IMO, Cambodia and Laos are not very good honeymoon destinations. The food is not particularly gourmet (I love street food / noodles etc but not for my honeymoon!) and I'm not sure you can find luxury to the same extent as you would in many other places. Sure they are cheap but I'm assuming you are willing to splurge a bit on your honeymoon.
I think if you want to come to this region, then Thailand is the best option (for food, luxury, infrastructure and comfort levels). You don't need to spend three weeks lying on a beach. You could have five or six days in Bangkok, similar in the North and then ten days to finish on a paradise island.
#4 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738
Thanks people - point taken about too many stops, especially in vietnam.. will scale back a little.
neither of us have ever travelled before so we really want to shuttle about a little. Have found what look like some pretty luxurious island resorts off the coast of Cambodia too, not too fussed about Ã¼ber posh places or gourmet food tbh.. street noodles is all good with us !
If flight goes from sihanoukville to Luang Prabang then that's not too arduous a trip is it ? Luang Prabang has really hit a note with us, sounds amazing. Lots of boutique hotels, cycling to local waterfalls and elephant treks.
thanks for all the tips...
#7 Polaris1976 has been a member since 4/6/2013. Posts: 3
Why don't you fly into Bangkok, take a flight to Laung Prabang to check it out, then pick a nice Island to spend the rest of the time? This should be a romantic time for the two of you, not an arduous, sweat tortured tour of the region. There's a time and a place... I'm just sayin'. If I did this to my wife, she'd have divorced me (of course, she still might).
Ok thanks again for all the helpful suggestions, revised itinerary as follows: - Also, this will be 6 months after wedding so as much as its called a honeymoon we are not looking for your typical romantic Maldives style all inclusive gettaway
- Fly to Hanoi and spend 2 days exploting
- Fly to Luang Prabang for 5 nights and back to Hanoi.
Then we have narrowed down to 2 options:
1. Remain in Northern Vietnam for 10 days, maybe head to Cat Ba Island and then a short flight to Danang for Hoi An, Hue and some coastal action etc.
2. Fly to Phenom Penh, catch a 4 hr bus to Sihanoukville and head to Koh Rong and do a bit of island hopping for 7/8 days
So if we want a bit of adventure, lots of culture, a bit of partying, a bit of luxury and something we'll remember for the rest of our lives, which option sounds the best ?
thanks for helping us out
Nick & Laura
#9 Polaris1976 has been a member since 4/6/2013. Posts: 3
I really liked PP. But although I enjoyed it, the KR period hangs over it like an omnipresent Ghost. It's worth going, but I wouldn't for a honeymoon. I guess you're stuck flying into Hanoi (I haven't been to Vietnam, but I don't know one person who has who doesn't say it's a more stressful and difficult travel destination than Thailand. Even those who like it) and since I haven't been to Vietnam I will have to defer to those here who have been on what there would constitute a romantic getaway kind of place.
MM - would agree with you re PP. Think the history of the place and the ever present sadness in the eyes of the locals (notwithstanding their unbelievable friendliness) would hang heavy on a honeymoon (or a delayed honeymoon).
Hoi An would potentially have honeymoon criteria - great food, nice beaches and pretty good infrastructure. It is a great little town. Check out the weather in Jan/Feb.
#11 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738
Agree that Hoi An is a beautiful spot for a bit of romance. But also, I would recommend the Cambodian islands over Cat Ba anytime. Check out Koh Rong Samloem or one of the quieter resorts on Koh Rong, such as Palm Beach Resort.
In terms of luxury, I would argue that Cambodia offers quite a lot for less budget. Check out The Plantation in Phnom Penh or one of the resorts in Kep and you'll see what I mean.
As a Phnom Penh resident, I disagree about the Khmer Rouge hangover - if you don't visit the Killing Fields or S-21, there's really nothing to remind you of the past. Not sure about the "ever present sadness" in people's eyes - generally you'll hear lots of laughing and singing from the locals. OK, some of the singing is bad karaoke, but that's part of the fun! Phnom Penh is a growing and vibrant city, and a fun place to spend a few days enjoy some good eating, drinking and dancing, if that's your thing.
I'd recommend booking your first night in a new country, and booking ahead if you want to stay at a particular hotel, but otherwise it's usually fine to rock up and see what you can find.
Abigail - do you not think all the amputees constantly begging would remind you a lot of what has gone before?
For the record I did enjoy PP and also loved the people.
#13 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738
You get the same thing in India and other countries which haven't got the same past. Plenty of the amputees have lost their legs in car accidents rather than as a result of war. I think it goes with the territory of visiting developing countries.
About 50% of the Cambodian population is aged under 20, and the majority of Cambodians were born after 1979 and do not have direct experience of the Khmer Rouge era. Most Cambodians I know are very positive - their country's economy is on the up, life is better than before, there's access to education and job prospects.
When I first visited Phnom Penh and went to S-21 it did cloud my perception of the country and the people for a while afterwards - it's a horrible past and difficult to get your head around. However, I found that Cambodian positivity and love of fun easily cancelled that out after a while.
Obviously Cambodia is dealing with a lot more UXO than India is. So it has that on top of the other potential problems. But I also noted not what I would call a "sadness" but rather a more unspecified feeling. Even in Germany, where the Nazi period has been dead for over 60 years, it remains with them and is a palpalpable legacy. Mass political violence is not a legacy that goes away quickly. When I was in Cambodia it did not share the same upbeat feel as Thailand does. That said, I liked Cambodia (minus the food) and I will go back, but I wouldn't go there for a honeymoon. There's a time and place for everything.
MADMAC - not sure if you made it down to the South Coast but the food is excellent there. Needless to say it's seafood orientated - very nice and cheap, think fresh crab curries for $4-5. I had some beef lok lak down there too but I'm guessing that's widely available in PP as well.
#18 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738
I understand the feeling MM felt and believe me the population might be young overall but the people who experienced the atrocities haven't disappeared and neither have their tormentors.
At least, in Germany some sort of line was drawn by The Nuremberg Trials. In Cambodia there are still a lot of families suffering mental torment from that era.
As far ad the idea that Cambodia is an up and coming nation growing prosperous that would depend in which side of the divide you sit.They were using teargas against protesters who had lost their homes the other morning on Monivong. Land grabbing is on the rise, to provide factory space for economic development.Factory strikes are getting more common as the wages fails to match the cost of living.
It's not only the past which puts that sad look on peoples faces.
China - I don't like the ocean and I don't like seafood either. Maine Lobster... that's about it. I don't like fish. My culinary experince with Cambodian food was pretty negative I'm afraid. Maybe next time I'll find something I like.
South East Asia will be your second true love after the marriage.
These are just a few thoughts that I hope will help having made many of these mistakes myself first hand.
You will be tired. The marriage will be great - but tiring. You will also have jet lag (I suspect).
I also suspect you will fly into Bangkok as it is so much cheaper. Factor in a few days there as it is just a wonderful city. I would book the first night, at least, just to make things easy.
I would then stick to Laos and Cambodia. There is more than enough there to fill 3 months let alone 3 weeks. Madmac might say 3 years of even 3 decades. I would personally leave Vietnam for another trip. My logic is that Laos and Cambodia are changing fast. Vietnam has already changed fast. In 5 years time Laos and Cambodia will be a lot different - Vietnam less so. What better time to go? Hope that does not put the cat amongst the pigeons.
How about this ?
Fly to Luang Prabang. Go cheap on the flight. All carriers are perfectly safe. Stay in the centre of the town if you can. Might be worth booking to avoid disappointment.
Then, in essence, head south. Where you stop will be a matter of choice but can include in order;
Vang Vieng. Now nicer than the lager soaked horror it was. Rural, pretty, relaxing. Would mean a tough bus journey. My personal vote would be against.
Vientiane the capital. Short flight. I personally love this "city". It is really like Thailand was 20 years ago but changing fast. It is no bigger than a town. Good value too with nice food and great value massages. 2 to 3 days would be enough.
Pakse and Champasak . Short flight to Pakse and then think of staying there or, my choice, Champasak. Riverside heaven and Wat Phu is a superb temple. I just adore this part of south east asia. A real insight into country life that is almost like a little bit of time travel. The country and lovely, but it is the people who really add that bit of magic.
Thousand Islands in deep south Laos. I have never got past Champasak as I like it so much - but many rave about these islands.
On overland to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. Superb. Just superb. Hit the wrong temple at the wrong time and lots of toursists. Plan it for just a thought or two and you will almost literally have your breath taken away. Good hotel and food choices. Very competitive so lots of bang for your buck.
Then the options get trickier as they are so many. Doing a chunk of the above will leave you a long way into your trip. Time to relax ?
Could be Phnom Penn. I have also been equivocal about the place. I just find it the wrong side of sleazy. That said it is hard to understand Cambodia without seeing the horror of the killing fields and the converted school used as a prison. Deeply moving both in terms of how bad it was, and also how remarkable the people are to have survived it, not literally, but more in the way that they have. You might want to fly here anyway from Siem Reap.
Then, time for beach ?
Kep and Kampot on the Cambodian coast is lovely. Famous for Art deco, crabs (cooked that is), and pepper - all good things. Only about 3 to 4 hours by road.
Or if you wanted to see a bit more Thailand cross over to Ko Chang or one of its neighbours depending on your tastes. I hate to say it but the Travelfish guide is rather good on this bit.
Then on to Bangkok (by bus or bangkok airways flight from Trat), home, married life, children, a dog or two, or simply planning the next trip.
Enjoy. Whatever you do you will love it. It is a wonderful part of the world. Have a superb time, and send us a virtual post card !
Congratulations! (to both your marriage and your coming SEA trip.)
Since you mentioned that neither of you have travelled before, more so to SEA, do you have a special liking to Vietnam? I ask because while I like every country in SEA, I feel that Vietnam might not be the easiest country for a first time SEA visitor - the pace, and the people (more crafty and tricky, of course NOT the entire nation but more to those who deal with tourists like taxis etc.).
Every SEA country has excellent choices for tropical beaches (not Laos, but there is the Mekong), jungle trekking, history, culture, and food. But I can still pinpoint the below:
If you are into tropical beaches and islands, South Thailand is best, then Cambodia and Vietnam have good places too. Jungle trekking - North Thanland & Laos. Food - Thailand & Vietnam. History - Cambodia, but every other country has their own. Culture - you will be shocked in every country, maybe more so in Cambodia &Vietnam.
So now you can see that with your limited 3 weeks here, it is a choice between either Thailand or Vietnam, then squeeze in a bit of Cambodia and/or Laos. IMO, Thailand (other than Malaysia) offers the best orientation for western tourists, due to its better infrastructure and a more matured tourism industry. Then it makes it easier for you to venture into the rest of the region. But if you have a special feeling for Vietnam, go by all means, you would enjoy there too.
And as Basil said, Laos should be visited now, it would be much different in a few short years, this is then followed by Cambodia.
If you ask me to list some "must see" places assuming you only have 3 weeks, and might not be coming back to SEA in a long time to come, then:
1) Angkor Wat (Cambodia)
2) Luang Prabang (Laos)
3) Hanoi + Halong Bay (Vietnam)
4) Hoi An (Vietnam)
5) Southern Thailand Islands and Beaches
The list is far from complete because there are just so many other nice attractions here, and you may not have time to cover Thailand, so just a suggestion for your current trip and maybe a second visit.