Photo: Street food Phetchaburi Soi 10, Bangkok.

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35 days BKK/camodia/vietnam/laos highlights nov-dec, whats the best route?

Posted by lauralenny on 5/10/2013 at 11:12

Hi folks

I have just spent the last 2 days reading as much on this forum (and others) as i could and I have to admit I think Im more confused now than I was before!

To set the stage, myself and my boyfriend are travelling for 6 months starting this November and hoping to fit in south east asia along the way. We arrive into BKK (4 days with day trip to bridge over river kwai) on the 17th november and plan on travelling from there through cambodia (7-9 days) vietnam (12-14 days) to laos (7 days). Hoping to finish up in Chiang Mai and fly from there to the thai islands (not included in the 34 days dont worry!) for Christmas.

The main piece of advice I would like to ask is re what direction of travel we should go in. Originally we planned on starting through cambodia from BKK to vietnam up the coast from south to north with a trip to Halong bay then over to Laos and on to Chiang Mai. Having seen other posts on this forum I have done a little day by day below....

3 bridge over river kwai day trip from BKK
5 BKK to siem reap
6 SR
7 SR
8 SR to battambang
9 Battambang to phnom penh
10 PP
11 PP
12 PP to Ho chi minh
13 Mekong delta day trip
14 Ho chi minh
15 Ho chi minh to Mui ne
16 Mui ne
17 Mui ne to Hoi an
18 Hoi an
19 Hoi an to Hue
20 Hue
21 Hue (overnight to Hanoi )
22 Hanoi
23 Halong Bay
24 Halong Bay
25 Hanoi to Vientiane (fly)
26 Vientiane
27 Vientiane to Vang Vieng
28 Vang Vieng
29 Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang
30 Luang Prabang
31 Luang Prabang
32 Luang Prabang to Huay Xai
33 Huay Xa
34 Huay Xai to Chiang Mai
35 fly chiang mai to phuket

My problem now with this is that supposedly after lots of reading the weather in Halong Bay / Hanoi isnt very good at this time of year (mid to late December) so we were wondering if we should mix it up.

Finally Ill get to my questions.

Would it be worthwhile flying straight from BKK to Hanoi and doing Halong Bay a little earlier (around the 21 november) or should we just skip it altogether on this trip and give ourselves more time elsewhere? The schedule above looks jam packed. What is the weather like in Hanoi / Halong bay at this time of the year? I love the sun and swimming and dont think I want to do Halong bay if I cant make the most of it in this regard I would rather come back at a different time.

IF we do this and work our way down south we would pretty much be doing the same stops but I cant work out how to then get us from Cambodia (siem reap) to Laos? Thoughts on this? The flights are super expensive and the overland travel seems to be prohibitive as well.

Or should we continue with original plan and cut Hanoi altogether and just finish at Hue. if this is the case is it easy to get from Hue to Laos?

With regards beach resorts in Vietnam is Mui Ne worth a visit or should we go to Sihanoukville in Cambodia instead- if the weather would be better there?

Do we need to spend a night in the Mekong or is a day trip from Ho Chi Minh city ok?

All thoughts / suggestions / critiques welcomed. I expect I know what some of your thoughts will be already with regards trying to fit too much in. Im already afraid that is the case and am wondering if we should try and cut out some places along the way.

Thanks in advance and also for all the advice I have already garnered from other peoples requests!

Perhaps we will meet some of you along the way.


Laura and Ross

#1 lauralenny has been a member since 5/10/2013. Posts: 4

Posted by Tilapia on 5/10/2013 at 12:17

Can't help you with your Vietnam questions, but I would say that going to Kanchanaburi on a day trip just to see the bridge isn't a good use of time IMHO. I think it is better to go (by train from the Thonburi station on the west side of the Chao Phraya River) and stay there for a night or two at one of the nice guest houses on the river. The bridge is best seen early in the morning before the bus loads of package tourists arrive (and make no mistake ... they will arrive by the dozens), and then use the rest of your time to check out the town and countryside, both of which are quite nice. The countryside on the west side of the river is great for cycling.

I'd also add a day onto Angkor and get the 3-day pass. If you're going to fork over the cash to fly there, why not stay a bit longer and see more of the area? It's worth it.

Have a great trip.

#2 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,521
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Posted by travellingsarah on 7/10/2013 at 00:53 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

I'll chip in on the Vietnam leg then...

Firstly, I wouldn't recommend the stop off in Mui Ne, mainly because to then get to Danang requires a lengthy bus journey or a slightly shorter but still lengthy bus journey followed by a 9 hour or so train journey. Given your limited time, that's a lot of travelling for just one day in Mui Ne. So you could instead fly from HCMC straight to Danang, for Hoi An and then Hue. Of course, that doesn't address your desire for sun and swimming because the weather in Hoi An isn't likely to be beach weather, so I think you need to reconsider how important the sun and swimming part is for you on this part of your trip. If it's important then perhaps skip Vietnam all together on this trip - as you've said you could come back - and go straight from Cambodia to Laos. Both countries will have far better weather at that time of year than the centre and north of Vietnam.

If, however, you really want to at least dip your toe into Vietnam, you could concentrate on the south and either travel by land, via the Mekong, from PP to Ho Chi Minh then fly to Vientiene from HCMC.

Hanoi / Halong will likely already be a bit chilly by end November (not guaranteed - sometimes it's still lovely and warm and sunny) so changing your route won't make a huge amount of difference - although if you could get here early November that should still be nice. Hanoi's not a bad place to be in winter at all, but no, you probably wouldn't want to go swimming at that time of year.

#3 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 684
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Posted by amnicoll on 7/10/2013 at 07:16

direction will not make a huge ammount of differance.

Do not understand the battambang side trip seems a waste of time

Why not go through the Mekong from PP to HCM perhaps via sianoukville and or Kampot/kep

#4 amnicoll has been a member since 10/1/2005. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 916
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Posted by lauralenny on 7/10/2013 at 09:19

Thanks so much for the replies guys.

Amnicoll - is battambang not worth seeing? We have actually decided to cut it out... I really want to go to sihanoukville but my boyf isnt keen.. Is it easy to get across the border via the mekong delta?

travellingsarah - thanks so much for the reply!is there anywhere you would suggest for beach weather in vietnam? my boyf really wants to spend more time in vietnam rather than cambodia but id like to do sihanoukville... im happy to compromise if there is somewhere i might get the weather!? also have decided to skip halong bay altogether and do it another time. frees us up for other places... are you a vietnam vet? anywhere you would recommend we dont miss? do we need to do both hue and hoi an? what about da nang?

have reworked my itinerary below (yes i left mui ne in just as a reminder i would like more beach time) ... any more thoughts?
Thanks again! L
5 Bkk to SR (?fly)
6 SR
7 SR
8 SR to PP
9 PP
10 PP
11 PP to shianoukville
12 Shianoukville
13 Shianoukville
14 Shianoukville to Chau Doc
15 Chau doc
16 mekong to HCMC
19 HCMC to mui ne
20 Mui ne
21 Mui ne to Hoi an
22 Hoi an
23 hoi an to Hue
24 Hue
25 Hue
26 Hue to LP (fly)
27 LP
28 LP
29 LP to VV
30 VV
31 VV
32 VV to vientiane
32 vientiane
33 Vientiane

#5 lauralenny has been a member since 5/10/2013. Posts: 4

Posted by lauralenny on 7/10/2013 at 09:21

also tilapia (does that name come from lake tilapia? i spent some time there volunteering, love the fish!) thanks for the comments... will listen to what you said re kanchanburi. not sure about 3 days in angkor, i think i might get a bit bored. i do love to see it, but i like to fly through things like that... i think if we get there and love it we could always spend extra time!

#6 lauralenny has been a member since 5/10/2013. Posts: 4

Posted by amnicoll on 8/10/2013 at 05:05

It is not so much that Batambang is not worth seeing (there are some nice places out of the city that require 1/2 day trips) but the time you are going to spend travelling compared with the time to see anything.

I would personally spend a day less in Sianoukville and move on to Kampot for a night and then from there cross via Kep (or overnite in Kep) to Ha Tien - there are many posts on this site and on the lonely planet one and the trip is not difficult

You can quickly and easily pick up a vietnames visa in Sianoukeville by the way

#7 amnicoll has been a member since 10/1/2005. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 916
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Posted by theloner on 9/10/2013 at 00:47

Wow! Are you guys trying to win a race or fill your passports with stamps ? I would take at least 50% of your ideas off the list. But if you really enjoy running yourself ragged go for it. This is very typical of most travelers here. Following everybody else like cattle and making a marathon of it. But please be my guest and try out your idea. I would suggest you stay at Khao San Road , the full moon party, Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi, Pai, so you will have a true Thai experience.

#8 theloner has been a member since 7/10/2013. Posts: 116

Posted by Tilapia on 11/10/2013 at 08:01

Hi Laura,

Not from the lake, but from the fish. I didn't know there was a Lake Tilapia, but I'm not surprised.

#9 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,521
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