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Southeast Asia forum

5 Weeks in SE Asia in July - looking for feedback

Posted by Dorotich on 5/3/2014 at 21:51

Hi Everyone;
My wife and I are planning a 5-week journey through SE Asia with our two children (ages 20 & 22) this July. We are veteran travellers, having taken month-long family trips on 3 occasions (Canadian maritimes, France/Italy, Greece/Turkey) and experienced wilderness backpackers. This will be our first visit to SE Asia and we would really love to get an overview of the region by visiting Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam (we fly into Bangkok and out of Hanoi). I have been scouring the Travelfish website and forums looking for insights from regional experts in order to build a workable itinerary.

Originally we had planned to utilize diverse means of transport (buses, trains, slow-boats) but on further reflection, I am not sure that my wife's susceptibility to motion sickness (exacerbated by the heat and humidity) would make this a very pleasant experience. We have decided (for better or worse) to mainly fly from point to point and base our explorations from some key centres. We love the idea of spending numerous days in one area to get at least a small sense of the people and the locale. I am worried that perhaps I have planned too much and would greatly appreciate hearing from those of you with first-hand experience.

Have I given too much time to one region or not enough to another? Do I have a reasonable mix between relaxing beach time, more adventurous trekking, and cultural activities? Is there too much time in the big cities? Is there something we should drop?

Bangkok - 3 nights ---> Fly to Koh Samui
Koh Pha Ngan - 4 nights ---> Fly to Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai - 5 nights ---> Fly to Luang Prebang
Luang Prebang - 4 nights ---> Fly to Siem Reap
Siem Reap - 3 nights ---> Bus to Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh - 3 nights ---> Bus to Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh - 3 nights ---> Fly to Da Nang
Hoi An - 4 nights ---> Fly to Hanoi
Hanoi - 5 nights (including 2D/1N Halong Bay cruise)

#1 Dorotich has been a member since 5/3/2014. Posts: 8

Posted by amnicoll on 6/3/2014 at 05:54

At the end of the day I can not advise you on the ballance you must prioritise but it does look as if you have a lot of time in the big cities and not much time to enjoy any trecking

#2 amnicoll has been a member since 10/1/2005. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 686


Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 6/3/2014 at 09:00

You will need to buy visas for 3 countries which adds to expense plus all the flights.

I would stick to 2 countries and visit some smaller places. Too many cities imo and too much jumping around.

#3 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by somtam2000 on 6/3/2014 at 10:09 admin

A few thoughts:


Bangkok - 3 nights ---> Fly to Koh Samui
Koh Pha Ngan - 4 nights ---> Fly to Chiang Mai

With the above you've got half a day (more or less) from Bkk hotel to Samui and then another few hours to Ko Pha Ngan , then same again to get back north to Chiang Mai. I'd drop Ko Pha Ngan and stay on Samui, or if you just want some easy beach time, go to Ko Samet which is reachable by bus from Bangkok and is find for 2-3 days of lolling on the beach.

Chiang Mai - 5 nights ---> Fly to Luang Prebang
Luang Prebang - 4 nights ---> Fly to Siem Reap

Unless you're planning on trekking from Chiang Mai (which I wouldn't recommend) I'd change this and do 4 nights in Chiang Mai and 4 in Luang Prabang

And I'd give the spare night to Siem Reap.

Siem Reap - 3 nights ---> Bus to Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh - 3 nights ---> Bus to Ho Chi Minh

Given how much flying you're already doing, either fly this or go for a two day/one night tour that will take you through a bit of the Delta.

Ho Chi Minh - 3 nights ---> Fly to Da Nang
Hoi An - 4 nights ---> Fly to Hanoi
Hanoi - 5 nights (including 2D/1N Halong Bay cruise)


Above looks fine.

As has been pointed out above, you've covering an awful lot of territory in a very short time, and if it was me, I'd drop a country (Laos) and slow down a bit.

But it is doable.

More questions, ask away :-)

#4 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
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Posted by MADMAC on 7/3/2014 at 13:30

It ain't my style, but everyone ain't me.

#5 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by Dorotich on 7/3/2014 at 17:38

Thanks for the replies so far. It has been just the nudge we needed to give a re-think to our plans and focus on fewer regions. Here is Version 2 of the itinerary, which is clearly a work in progress.

somtam2000 - I would love to hear your suggestions about the best way to explore the Chiang Mai region. We definitely want to get out into nature and traipse about in the jungle from whichever jumping-off point suits it best.

Bangkok - 3 nights ---> Fly to Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Region - 6 nights ---> Siem Reap
Siem Reap - 4 nights ---> Bus to Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh - 3 nights ---> Bus to Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh - 2 nightsMekong Delta (2 nights in Can Tho and explore on our own OR 2-day organized bicycle tour from HCMC???)----> Fly to Dalat
Dalat - 3 nights (explore Nat'l Park) ---> Fly to Danang
Hoi An - 4 nights ---> Bus or Train to HueHue - 3 nights ---> Fly or overnight train to HanoiHanoi - 4 nights (including 2D/1N Halong Bay cruise)

#6 Dorotich has been a member since 5/3/2014. Posts: 8

Posted by somtam2000 on 7/3/2014 at 18:39 admin

Yes, that looks a bit more sensible :-)

While Chiang Mai was northern Thailand's first real "trekking centre" any trekking you do from there today is going to involve a lot of transport and, most likely, a heavily touristed experience. But you have six nights, so what I'd do is spend 2 or three nights in Chiang Mai doing stuff like visiting Doi Sethep, the many temples, the markets and shopping etc etc etc See here for a bazillion ideas . What I'd then do is travel north for an hour or so and spend the balance of your time in Chiang Dao -- from where there is plenty of possibilities, some great places to stay and it's generally a lovely little spot. Another option would be Soppong but that is a bit further afield.

Some more informatioon on trekking in the north is here and here.

For your Mekong Delta part - bear in mind there are plenty of 2 day/3 day tours you can do that will take you overland from Phnom Penh to Saigon. A little touristy, but you'll get to see the Delta and some of them pass through Can Tho -- that could save you some time.

I'd be inclined to shave a day off Phnom Penh and give it to Hanoi, but that's just personal preference.

Hope that helps.

#7 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
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Posted by eastwest on 7/3/2014 at 22:08

To be honest, I would consider dropping Phnom Penh altogether and fly from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City. I agree with others that you have a lot of cities in your itinerary.

Considering motion sickness of your wife she will be grateful you take out two 6+ hour busrides. Especially the road SR to PP is not in great condition.And while Phnom Penh is a great and interesting city/capital it isn't on the same level as Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang, Hoi An and Hanoi. The time you safe you could add to some of your other destinations or add Sapa in northern Vietnam.
I reckon Sapa would be a great addition if it wasn't for the travel to it. But if your wife can handle a sleeper train that would be my choice given that you both love the outdoors. The cooler climate will be welcome as well.

#8 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778


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