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Southeast Asia

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28 Days Later - 4 Weeks in SEA

Posted by rlvincent on 10/8/2015 at 05:13

Hey guys!
Hoping for a bit of advice on a travel itinerary for 4 weeks of travel in South East Asia. My plans are totally open and flexible so open to all suggestions! I've got a bit of an itinerary(hellish and overcrowded as you can see) but up for any tips or 'must sees'
Me and a buddy will be backpacking and trying to do everything on the cheap - looking for things off the beaten path but don't know too many of those! Really into hiking and anything outdoorsy so a bit more of that on the books would be awesome.
Start - fly to Yangon from HK - 4 days in and around Yangon
fly to Mandalay - 6 days in and around Mandalay / Bagan
fly to Bangkok - three days over a weekend in Bangkok
land travel to Siem Reap (1 day, sleeper train/bus?)
3 Days in Siem Reap
land travel to Phnom Penh (Half Day)
2 Days in Phnom Penh
land travel to Ho Chi Minh (1 day)
2 Days in Ho Chi Minh
land travel to Hanoi (2 days, stop over in Hoi An?)
4 days in Hanoi (and around, Hu Long Bay etc.)
Back to Hong Kong!
As I said, it looks a little insane and doesn't include to much off the beaten track or hiking stuff so is by no means final! Open for general tips on backpacking around SEA as well :)
Thanks,
Ryan

#1 rlvincent has been a member since 10/8/2015. Posts: 4

Posted by MADMAC on 10/8/2015 at 07:34

This must be crazy itinerary week! Second one this week.

You didn't specify likes or dislikes, so that makes it tough to comment intelligently.

All of your destinations are a LONG WAY apart. I think you figured that out.

28 days is enough to enjoy one country. So unless you have some compelling reason that you're all over he map here, I would recommend you cut things down. There is lots to see an do in any one of these countries, so without a compelling reason to race around, it's hard to comment on this.

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

Posted by Gogomobile on 10/8/2015 at 08:06

Good luck with that.

#3 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412

Posted by rlvincent on 10/8/2015 at 09:36

@MADMAC, thanks for the advice! Like I said, I'm pretty unfamiliar with South East Asia (only ever been to Bangkok and Phuket with my dad, staying in resorts and such so a very different experience from what I'm hoping to have!) so don't really know what to see beyond the main sites.

The main reason we want to cram so much in is because the mate I'm going with doesn't get much of a chance to get out of the US so this would be his big trip out to South East Asia.

Very much into having a solid mix of trekking, I figured Myanmar would be a good place for this - using mandalay as a base thus why I put staying there for 6 days - and city days/nights. Insanely intrigued with getting into the local food scenes, esp in Vietnam as well as days spent being an absolute tourist in the city then getting into the nightlife later on. Basically, I find just about any suggestion sounds right up my alley, we're both very relaxed about everything and enjoy just about everything we've heard the region has to offer (another reason we want to swallow as much as we can).

A second possible Itinerary we were considering would be the beginning half in Myanmar as above, but going through Laos to Hanoi. Cutting a significant amount of rushing out of the plan albeit still crossing a huge distance and through what I'm assuming would be more difficult transport/infrastructure.

#4 rlvincent has been a member since 10/8/2015. Posts: 4

Posted by MADMAC on 10/8/2015 at 10:20

I would cut Burma and Vietnam. Just too much moving around. These are all vastly different cultures. It will all become a blur with this much movement in so short a period of time.

Bangkok and environs (Ayudhya and Kanchanaburi) will easily fill a week. Head to Trat for a day or two and then cross into Cambodia and hit up Siem Reap. From there off to Phnom Phen. Great city with lots to see and do.

That should eat all of your time, hit the single biggest highlight of SEA (Angkor Wat) and still be slow enough to enjoy it here. Pace of life is what this place is about. So a slow pace has a lot going for it.

Trust me on this one.

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

Posted by MADMAC on 10/8/2015 at 10:26

Something to get you in the mood:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMzab83LdqM

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

Posted by Gogomobile on 10/8/2015 at 22:16

If food and trekking are the goals do Umphang or Mae Hong Son for trekking plus northern food is food. Trang and Trat have good food plus access to beautiful islands.

Umphang is near Burma so you could do it as well. 2 countries is more than enough in your time frame.

#7 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412

Posted by Gogomobile on 10/8/2015 at 23:57

Northern food is good.

#8 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412

Posted by rlvincent on 11/8/2015 at 00:23

Thanks for the advice guys, I like the sound of Umphang and Mae Hong Son for trekking and good food is always a plus!

We'll definitely cut down the plan for sure but would still like to make it to Vietnam.

What kind of timescale would you alot for Vietnam? Presuming we'd like to make it mainly to Hanoi and the surrounding area. Cutting out Myanmar from the plan would presumably make it more possible to do a Bangkok - Trat - Siem Reap - Vietnam route?

It's so hard to cut down! Myanmar I would say tops the list of places we'd like to go as we've gotten the most advice from our friends on the country and I have a friend who's been living there for 6 months we'd likely meet up with - he suggested a 10 day route between Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan , then fly to a jumping off point for another set of destinations. I've heard that Bagan is monumentally better than Angkor Wat - on scale, things to do and also significantly fewer tourists. What's your view on this?

Lots of questions. Sorry guys. And thanks for the advice thus far.

#9 rlvincent has been a member since 10/8/2015. Posts: 4

Posted by MADMAC on 11/8/2015 at 00:48

I mean if you have your heart set on Burma, then just just do Thailand and Burma. Take 12-14 days to see highlights in each one. Remember not to plan something for every day. You need days where you do nothing. Just get a massage, read a little, catch up on your email and so forth.

Save Vietnam for another time. It's really not working into your schedule. Bangkok, Siem Reap, PP and Hanoi - you could do it, but it's hectic.

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

Posted by Yesterday on 11/8/2015 at 05:08

Hey, I think the first part of your trip sounds great. But, I think fly (its cheap) from Siem Reap to Hanoi and skip PP, HCM and Hoi An. This adds a whole week into your time! You haven't said anything that shows a strong interest in those places and you'd really just be passing through. Then redistribute those seven days on to Thailand and Hanoi (so you have time for overnight in Ha Long Bay plus exploring and eating the fabulous food). I think three days is enough in Siem Reap assuming you just feel compelled to go there to see Angkor Wat while you're in SEA.
As for backpacking tips - I don't see much adventure in the plan (?). Also, I've found that sometimes doing a tour, though not 'backpacky' can really add to your experience of a place. A few hours with a local is great, learn a few words, ask heaps of questions, get their perspectives. When I say tour I'm thinking cycling, kayaking, trekking that sort of thing - not sightseeing so to speak.
Its so tempting to try and see lots of places, but you're truly lucky to have four whole weeks. Try thinking 'what can we do that would be amazing?' instead of 'where should we go?' You've got time to get somewhere out of the way, go trekking and camp out with a guide, collect food in the jungle, take some beers for the evening if that's your thing.
I guess what I'm really saying is plan to do stuff, not just see stuff.


One more thing, write down your daily spend for the first few days, its amazing how the few little things extra add up when the budgets tight, and it encourages walking instead of tuk tuks and taxi's - which in turn encourages exploring!

#11 Yesterday has been a member since 9/8/2015. Posts: 33

Posted by Gogomobile on 11/8/2015 at 06:05

Burma gets far fewer tourists than Cambodia and Angkor Wat is the no 1 attraction so yes it will be crowded. There are smaller versions of Angkor in Thailand in Burilam called Phanom Rung and Muaeng Tham. Few tourists but nice places.

#12 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412

Posted by rlvincent on 11/8/2015 at 23:47

Hey guys, thanks so much again for all the advice. We've decided to cut out Cambodia and southern Vietnam (adding nearly 2 weeks to the itinerary) to spend more time in Thailand and adding more to our time around Hanoi (Ha Long, Mu Cang Chai, Sapa etc.) which gives us 10 days in Myanmar, 8 in Thailand and 10 in Vietnam.

One more question (for now!), what is travel like between Yangon and Mandalay? I've seen that there are overnight buses which would save us loads of money over a flight between the two. Are there reputable sites to buy tickets in advance or is this something we'll need to do once there?

Thanks again!

#13 rlvincent has been a member since 10/8/2015. Posts: 4

Posted by Gogomobile on 12/8/2015 at 09:38

Overnight buses suck and are more dangerous. You might save coin but takes half a day to recover from lack of sleep. Worst way to travel imo.

#14 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412

Posted by MADMAC on 12/8/2015 at 09:39

"Overnight buses suck and are more dangerous. You might save coin but takes half a day to recover from lack of sleep. Worst way to travel imo."

I got to agree here.

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

Posted by daawgon on 13/8/2015 at 11:30

I tend to agree with Yesterday when it comes to Cambodia and Vietnam, except that I would fly from Siem Reap to Danang/Hoi An, and then travel to Hanoi. I agree that you won't miss all that much by bypassing Saigon - just another big city.

SE Asia is much larger than you're thinking of, and your original itinerary is unreasonable. It's very true that long distance buses are extremely dangerous - you might think they're cheaper, but in reality considerably more expensive (burial prices are not cheap!)

#16 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 1,159

Posted by MADMAC on 13/8/2015 at 13:13

"I agree that you won't miss all that much by bypassing Saigon - just another big city."

But my son loves it. Saigon is his favorite city in SEA. And he's lived here for 6 years. We are all different. I just think the OP is biting off too much.

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


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