Posted by JarodL on 31/8/2015 at 08:45
I am planning a trip where I would fly into Singapore and spend 6-7 weeks traveling from Singapore, through Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and finally flying from Hanoi to Hong Kong.
I realize this is a lot of ground to cover, but this is my first trip to SE Asia and I would like to make the most of the time since it will likely be a while until I come back to this part of the world (and if I do, NZ and Australia would be next on my list).
Are there any good travel services that can help plan part or all of this? I'm at a bit of a loss trying to figure out where to go and how many nights to stay in various places. I am pretty flexible when it comes to budget. I understand that nice hotels in Vietnam and Cambodia are likely going to cost a lot less than similar places in the some parts of Thailand, so I don't mind spending $500+ in some areas and less in others.
Appreciate any guidance or help anyone can give.
#1 JarodL has been a member since 31/8/2015. Posts: 4
Posted by Gogomobile on 31/8/2015 at 23:53
Making the most of anything means doing the best things possible which depends on your interests. None of which you provided. Travelling from one place to another is tiring and often boring. Pick 10 cities/towns or islands that interest you and just do them. Your trip will be much better doing that rather than trying to see too much.
#2 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412
Posted by Thefinebalance on 1/9/2015 at 14:59
When will you be in Hong Kong? It's my last stop before heading home - will be there from Dec 16-20, 2015
#3 Thefinebalance has been a member since 9/1/2015. Posts: 21
Posted by JarodL on 2/9/2015 at 09:45
Thanks for the responses. The purpose of the trip is to get out and see a part of the world that I have never been to. I can go sit on a beach in the Caribbean, so I don't just want to book nice hotels and stay on the property the entire time I'm there.
#4 JarodL has been a member since 31/8/2015. Posts: 4
Posted by Gogomobile on 2/9/2015 at 10:03
Nobody said you should do that. A city like Bangkok takes weeks to explore. If you went to Phuket or Krabi you could easily spend more than a week doing things each day.
If you visit 20 places the main activity will be packing your bags and looking out bus windows.
It sounds like you have never travelled before.
#5 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412
Posted by JarodL on 2/9/2015 at 10:04
It sounds like you have no good advice to offer, so please waste someone else's time.
#6 JarodL has been a member since 31/8/2015. Posts: 4
Posted by Gogomobile on 2/9/2015 at 10:13
Ive travelled this region a lot. I just gave you good advice.
Good luck with the packing, unpacking and bus windows.
#7 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412
Posted by TerroirTravel on 2/9/2015 at 11:01
Here's my little "formula"
- stay minimum 3 nights in each location. Day 1 is the "travel to" day, days 2 and 3 are exploring, then day 4 is the travel day to the next place, which becomes day 1 for that place.
If you have 7 weeks, that's 49 days. You could visit 16 places using that plan. But, that's a tough pace to keep up, so I'd cut it to 12.
So, what are your interests, as asked above? I don't know what "make the most of it" means to you- miles? Stamps? Culture, food, history?
The good thing about SE Asia is that a lot of travel can be done on the fly, except around Tet or other big holidays. But I found that if I liked a place, I'd stay longer, and if I didn't, I'd move on.
So pick 12 places that interest you, and investigate how to move between them.
#8 TerroirTravel has been a member since 1/2/2014. Posts: 76
Posted by Clay1963 on 3/9/2015 at 12:13
I think I would fly between cities and avoid bus travel whenever possible, but I am no expert on the region. I would say 10 destinations sounds about right, and that may be agressive. If you have 45 days, that gives you 4.5 days per destination but also have to account for travel time. Some destinations like Meekong Delta or Halong Bay, you might stay only one or two nights. Further, TerroirTravel's explanation sounds good.
I have been considering Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam (and also Laos) for our first trip to the region. We like culture, architecture, history, museums, food, nice hotels, wifi. We are not necessarily seeking beaches nor into difficult trekking or hiking. We have some interest in the Vietnam (American) War and the Killing Fields.
For our interests, the following are options we have considered. I wish we had the time. Moreover, I consider this list agressive and a lot of traveling for us, which sometimes we do the opposite and pick less destinations (maybe only 2 or 3) and spend a week or more in each destination. However, for this region, we thought to do more destinations. We generally do domestic or regional flights when possible, which can be inexpensive.
Bangkok (4 days, fly to Chiang Mai ), Chiang Mai (4 days, fly to Luang Prabang ), Luang Prabang (5 days including river/village excursion, then fly to Siem Reap ), Siem Reap (4 days, then fly to PP), Phnom Penh (3 days, then fly or maybe bus to Saigon), Saigon (4 days), Can Tho (1 night then fly Can Tho to Da Nang), Hoi An (4 days), Hue (3 days then fly to Hanoi ), Hanoi (6 days), Halong Bay (1 night cruise), Sapa (3 nights counting the 2 nights train). Lower priority but seemingly interesting are Mau Chai, Battambang, and Vientiane.
I do not think there is necessarily anything earth shattering about us choosing the above destinations. These are the most common destinations I see on suggested itineraries. One nuance is when in a destination may try to do an excursion outside of a tourist area. We are still thinking about that.
#9 Clay1963 has been a member since 16/8/2015. Posts: 21
Posted by mikal83 on 3/9/2015 at 13:23
Jarod, do what you want at whatever speed you want. There are some 'experts' here that will tell you what to do rather than help, as you have found out. Bus up to KL, Penang is, mmmmm ok if you want. Fly to Phuket and see an island or two, or go to an east coast island and ferry around. Train to BKK, you could overnight train to C Mai, but then have to back track maybe to get to Siem R. Bus to PP, then HCMC. Train up to Hanoi hopping on/ wherever you want. Whether you spend more time travelling or overnight bus/train or bigger distances with less stops but more time at destinations..... is up to you!
#10 mikal83 has been a member since 19/1/2015. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 140
Posted by Clay1963 on 3/9/2015 at 20:21
vietjetair.com has the following:
2h-05m flight HCMC to Hanoi for $17.71 + tax/fees = $27.91
1h-15m flight HCMC to Da Nang for $8.83 + tax/fees = $18.14
1h-15m flight Da Nang to Hanoi for $13.27 + tax/fees = $23.03.
These flights are cheaper than good sleepers on the train.
Further, I do not know why you would want to take the bus from Siem Reap to PP unless you want to make stops and/or see the countryside. The flight is 40 minutes.
Likewise, I am not sure why you would do bus or train between Bangkok and CM unless you want to make stops and/or see the countryside, or maybe to save a night cost of hotel by doing overnight travel. The flight is 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Also, keep in mind that flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and HCMC are cheap, and 1 hr or a little more.
Lastly, if you are not looking for beach (but instead could sit on a beach in the Carribean as you say), you could skip Phuket, though I understand Phuket is incredible.
#11 Clay1963 has been a member since 16/8/2015. Posts: 21
Posted by Clay1963 on 3/9/2015 at 21:06
I have yet to research hotels for all of our potential destinations. Based on our limited on-line research for Hanoi , we like Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa in Hanoi in the Old Quarter. A good price for what you apparently get. We also like Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi for the history and luxury but it is in the French Quarter which may be ok. The JW Marriott Hotel Hanoi seems amazing but kind of out of the way I think.
Based on our limited on-line research for HCMC, our top choice so far is InterContinental Asiana Saigon. Good price for the luxury, and the good location in District 1. Others we like are the Park Hyatt Saigon and the Hotel Nikko Saigon. (When we were in Tokyo, we splurged on the Park Hyatt and Four Seasons). The Villa Song Saigon looks awesome but not in District 1. Some people suggest you can stay outside of District 1 to maybe get more the feel of the local life but we have to decided to stay in District 1.
Lastly, backpackers tend to recommend the slow bus or train, and keeping the travel schedule flexible. Yet, booking the luxury hotels in advance can save signficant money. Also, booking the domestic/regional flights in advance can save money. Though, I do wonder nevertheless about trying to be more flexible on the number of days per destination. Yet, I normally book all hotels and domestic/regional flights in advance.
#12 Clay1963 has been a member since 16/8/2015. Posts: 21
Posted by Clay1963 on 3/9/2015 at 21:08
As for hotels, we like nice (luxury) hotels, and willing to pay the price within reason. You mentioned that you like "nice hotels" and "spending $500+ in some areas." Thus, you may want to take any advice in general from backpackers with a grain of salt, who tend to stay in cheaper hotels (and recommend buses).
I see conversations debating between $5 and $10 per night for a hotel, or between $10 versus $30 per night, as if $30 is expensive. And this may make sense for some traveling in the region for months on a tight (poor) budget. I will say it is awesome that you can get A/C and a comfortable bed with good service for $20-30 in some locations in the region.
Note also, as you may know, if you do a homestay for the cultural experience, then the comfort might not be at max and the cost will be small.
#13 Clay1963 has been a member since 16/8/2015. Posts: 21
Posted by TerroirTravel on 3/9/2015 at 21:38
One thing popped out when you were laying out your plan- you aim to fly from Siem Reap to PP. have you considered the river boat?
Here's the boat experience: your guesthouse in SR will arrange it for you, I forget the cost. Something like $20. The minibus that fits 15 will pick you up early, and will easily have 30 on it by the time you get to the dock at Tonle Sap.
You board the tin can, your gear strapped to the back. BUT...
Bring a hat and sunscreen and ride on the top. Go up early, and don't sit near the front /horn. It's about 6 hours, and goes through the lake and river down to PP. It's really a delightful trip, seeing an "interior" away from trains and roads, and it drops you right on the riverfront in PP. There's a "porter" that brings round beer for sale.
(By contrast, I think it'd take you 4 hours to do the SR town to airport (wait) to flight to PP airport to town)
I did this, and loved it. Pale Germans in singlets and shorts baked like lobsters, so wear lightweight clothes and hat.
Disclaimer- I am glad I did this. I wouldn't do it again, because it's noisy and not so comfortable. But definitely an experience to have once, seeing the fishermen and women, the collections of people, the floating villages, etc. If you have balance problems I don't recommend this, as the wale along the side is pretty narrow.
Look at seat61.com for some pics.
#14 TerroirTravel has been a member since 1/2/2014. Posts: 76
Posted by Clay1963 on 3/9/2015 at 22:58
Hi TerroirTraveler, thanks for a good suggestion and a reminder. I had thought about that boat trip SR to PP and think even watched a video of it on youtube a few weeks ago (actually I think the video was boat SR to Battambang). I will look at seat61.com Because we do want to do a boat trip or boat excursion somewhere in the region. And you make a good point that the boat SR to PP not that much longer than flying SR to PP when you consider transport to airports and the airport time. Plus, like you indicate, seems interesting to see the life along the river (at least one time). I had also consider the speed boat from PP to Chau Doc, or even the bus from PP to HCMC because I read the road/bridges have been improved. I have heard about the Mekong River for decades since I was kid, but the boat ride does not have to be on the Mekong River.
Can you also do a river excursion around Phnom Penh? I read about the nice riverside area at PP.
For the possible 4-5 days in Luang Prabang we have considered doing a river excursion near LP, but we also consider staying 3 days in LP and 3-hr bus or private driver to Nong Khiaw for 2 days, and with a day boat ride NK to Muang Ngoy to 1 hr or so north of Muang Ngoy to a village.
In all, however, we may cut Laos, and just do Vietnam and Cambodia, with a river experienced satisfied with the boat ride Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. Though I do understand your disclaimer, and I read other negative comments online about the boat ride SR to PP, though I think we could tolerate it for the interesting side of the experience.
#15 Clay1963 has been a member since 16/8/2015. Posts: 21
Posted by TerroirTravel on 3/9/2015 at 23:34
Hi, I don't know if blog-flogging is banned, if it is, this will be taken down, and I apologize to TPTB. Here's my SR->PP boat post
#16 TerroirTravel has been a member since 1/2/2014. Posts: 76
Posted by JarodL on 4/9/2015 at 18:26
Thanks, some very here helpful information. How is wifi / internet access outside the major cities? I'll need to work a little while I'm there, so it would be nice to not have to go long periods without email access.
Can anyone recommend a power adapter? Eagle creek appears to have one that will work anywhere.
#17 JarodL has been a member since 31/8/2015. Posts: 4
Posted by Clay1963 on 4/9/2015 at 23:35
I have the same question about wifi because both me and my son like having it regular. Plus, I may could extend our trip if I can work remote which would require reliable internet access, as you indicate. I have read wifi is generally good in the majoir cities in the region but do not know, nor do not know about outside the cities.
I thought about spending two weeks in HCMC and treating my hotel room as an office working remote, and with my son staying with his friend's extended family in HCMC those two weeks. That would be in addition to our vacation in the region. But I would need not only reliable email but also reliable VPN access to firm server in the US.
As for an adapter, I have not got to that consideration yet.
#18 Clay1963 has been a member since 16/8/2015. Posts: 21
Posted by TerroirTravel on 5/9/2015 at 11:01
Hi again- I found wifi to be pretty much everywhere. Cafes, restaurants, guest houses, etc. not trains or buses. The only spot that limited their wifi was a farmstay where they only turned it on for 2 hours/day. I also never paid for it- the password was freely given upon request. I did use a VPN.
A universal adapter worked fine, and if you lose or forget it, you can always buy another.
#19 TerroirTravel has been a member since 1/2/2014. Posts: 76
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