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Pretty last minute... 18 days Vietnam/Cambodia(/Laos?).. please help with itinerary

Posted by mimishu on 8/11/2015 at 22:01

Hello all :)

Spontaneous vacation and very overwhelmed with all the options!

- arriving Thu Nov 12th morning in Ho Chi Minh, leaving Sunday Nov 29th from Bangkok
- couple in mid 20s

- budget to fly to minimize travel times
- no need to check all tourist boxes
- looking for a combination of sightseeing and off time
- idea was so far 6-8 days in Vietnam (from south to north), 2-3 days in Laos if it fits in, 6-8 days in Cambodia

Any help/thoughts appreciated and feel free to bug me with questions if you need more info!

Thank you!

#1 mimishu has been a member since 8/11/2015. Posts: 5

Posted by chinarocks on 9/11/2015 at 04:56

As amazing as it is, I don't think North Vietnam fits with your logistics or available time.

Spend a few days in Saigon and then take a boat to Phomn Penh when you are done. After exploring PP, that will be a week gone.

Shoot down to Kampot for a few days, I found it interesting although it definitely splits opinion. Alternatively if you want some beach time instead then you could take in Sihanoukville. Then I would head up to Siem Reap / Angkor temples and then on to Bangkok. It's not advisable to take a night bus in Cambodia.

So, roughly speaking:

Saigon - 3 days
Mekong Delta, boat to PP - 2 days
PP - 3 days
Kampot or Sihanoukville - 3 days
Bus to Siem Reap - 1 day
Siem Reap / Angkor - 3/4 days
Fly to BKK and time there - 2/3 days

#2 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738

Posted by mimishu on 9/11/2015 at 06:13

Thanks chinarocks!

So this has clearly more weight on Cambodia which I don't mind. Few follow ups:

1) Is it worth staying 3 days in Saigon? Are there any day trips you would recommend from there?

2) As an alternative we could also start our trip in Hanoi and work our way south from there over 7-8 days if that makes more sense, then take the boat to PP and stay in Cambodia for another 8-9 days? Is that realistic?

Also, we've been to Thailand before so no need to spend much time in Bangkok on this trip

#3 mimishu has been a member since 8/11/2015. Posts: 5

Posted by chinarocks on 9/11/2015 at 08:35

The emphasis on Cambodia was purely because I thought you had to start in Saigon. If this isn't the case, as you suggest, then I would definitely say start in northern Vietnam.

One option would be to spend 10 days there seeing Hanoi, Sapa and Halong Bay.

Then fly to Luang Prabang and see it and Vientiane over 7 or 8 days.

Then fly from Vientiane to Bangkok for your journey home.

This is based on you saying (i) that you don't mind flying a few legs and (ii) that you don't need to spend much/any time in BKK.

#4 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738

Posted by mimishu on 9/11/2015 at 21:40

Quick update here, finalizing the plans a bit more now...

too stuffed itinerary??

Day 1: 2pm land in Hanoi , spend late afternoon and evening in Hanoi
Day 2: leave early morning for Halong Bay, overnight cruise
Day 3: Halong Bay and return to Hanoi, overnight train to Sapa
Day 4: Sapa
Day 5: Sapa and overnight train back to Hanoi
Day 6: Hanoi and evening flight to Hue
Day 7: Hue, maybe in the evening already to Danang
Day 8: Danang, in the evening to Hoi An
Day 9: Hoi An
Day 10: Hoi An, evening flight to HCMC
Day 11: travel to Phnom Pen
Day 12-17: PP/Siem Reap/Angkor Wat/sleep
Day 18: early flight to Bangkok

#5 mimishu has been a member since 8/11/2015. Posts: 5

Posted by altmtl on 9/11/2015 at 22:06

Oh God, I'm overwhelmed just looking at such a planned fixed schedule... I couldn't travel like that but that's me.

#6 altmtl has been a member since 18/5/2009. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,003

Posted by chinarocks on 10/11/2015 at 03:45

OP - please don't proceed with your latest plan. I've counted approx. nine place in 18 days - movement every second day, which is madness (clearly).

Could you just spend your 18 days in Vietnam? That would be a reasonable plan with 10 or 11 days up north, 4 in Hoi An and 3 in Saigon (roughly speaking).

Do you have to fly home from BKK? Into Hanoi and out of HCMC (or vice versa) could work a lot better.

#7 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738

Posted by michvet3 on 10/11/2015 at 04:56

Lots of great suggestions. I've lived in Vietnam for ten years now--led a walk from Saigon to Hanoi and have seen many additional sites throughout the Country. Although I love Sapa, it is getting a bit overloaded with tourists these days and because of this, the people have gotten a bit pushy with their sales. You may want to consider Ha Giang instead--many of the same types of views and ethnic groups, but not spoiled by the tourists. Either place is great, however. Ha Long Bay is a nice place to visit, as well, but make sure you book your tour from Hanoi and not actually in Ha Long Bay. You can get better and cheaper tours through hotels outside of the city. If you have a chance, along the way South to Hue, or DaNang, consider stopping in Dong Hoi to visit the caves. These caves are spectacular! Other highlights going South: Hoi An and Na Trang (awesome beaches, especially Bai Dai, just South of the city). Instead of spending a lot of time in Ho Chi Minh City, think about adding Dalat to the mix--it's not far from Nha Trang. Obviously, you'll never be able to see it all, but these places should be your focal points, unless you prefer big noisy cities. Good luck and if you do stop in Dong Hoi, I hope to bump into you.

#8 michvet3 has been a member since 29/11/2014. Posts: 2

Posted by mimishu on 10/11/2015 at 19:14

Thank you all for coming back and saving from crazy travels :)) Flying out tonight...

We have some buffer time in the back and don't necessarily need to spend much time in Cambodia. Have so far only booked our first night stay in Hanoi and will take it from there without too much stress. Probably Halong Bay cruise first, then Sapa (or Ha Giang) , then fly to Hoi An (so probably skip Dong Hoi unfortunately) and see how much time is left. Hopefully we will have another 6 days or see left after that to head over to Cambodia and spend the remaining time around Angkor Wat if not we just head straight to Bangkok from there.

I'll report once there what we end up doing!

#9 mimishu has been a member since 8/11/2015. Posts: 5

Posted by mimishu on 18/11/2015 at 18:14

Itinerary so far, we will probably fly out to Cambodia tomorrow already and spend a bit more time there. Decent amount of travelling but we always arranged transport as we went/felt like so doesn't feel too rushed (yet)

Day 1
Land hanoi 3pm
Transport to Serendipity Hotel in the old quarter, can highly recommend
Nap
Walk around the lake and old quarter
Dinner at Red Bean Restaurant (pricier side but great food and service)

Day 2
8am Shuttle to Halong Bay for 2day/1night cruise with AClass - Stellar
Boat was perfect (just renovated) with great food, staff and good program. Maze Cave we visited was too crowded otherwise perfect.

Day 3
5pm return Hanoi
Walk around old quarter, dinner local Pho
Overnight train to La Cai, we booked only a few hours before so no beds left in the nicest ones but still slept like a stone, just bring ear plugs

Day 4
Early morning arrival in La Cai
Scenic Taxi ride to Ta Van (1.25 hours roughly)
Stayed at My Tran Homestay, perfect!
Breakfast
Quick nap
Trekking and enjoying the landscape for the rest of the day, great trekking routes starting right at the homestay
Dinner at the homestay

Day 5
Full day of trekking
Early evening taxi ride back to La Cai
Overnight train to Hanoi

Day 6
Arrive in the early morning in Hanoi
Taxi to the airport, early flight to Da Nang
Drop luggage off at Frangipani Hotel (recommend)
Some time at the beach
Walked up to the Lady Buddha (rather go by scooter, bicycle, taxi; decent amount of walking along mountain road), taxi back
Rented a scooter, 8$ for 24hrs (probably cheaper from locals)
Dinner at Madame Lan (decent, view nice if outside table)
Scootered/walked around Da Nang, Dragon Bridge, ...

Day 7
By scooter from Da Nang to Hoi An and back
On the way stop at Marble Mountains
Mid morning arrived in Hoi An, walk around the old town, lunch at Phi Banh Mi (very good)
Afternoon ride back to Da Nang, we took the street that goes directly from Hoi An to Da Nang on the way back which is probably a bit faster than riding to the waterfront first but road construction made it partially very dusty, in general it felt safe as long as you don't go faster than 40 or 50 km/h, stay on the right side and get used to the large roundabouts, roads were less crowded than I expected. we had no problems but have cash on you in case you need it
Afternoon back in Da Nang, some more time on the beach
Evening train to Hue (shame to miss the views on the train but we didn't make the afternoon one), ticket was 59VND for soft seat at the station

Day 8
Wake up in Hue now

Day 9
Afternoon flight to Phnom Penh

#10 mimishu has been a member since 8/11/2015. Posts: 5


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