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Six Week South-East Asia Trip: Advice

Posted by cj2294 on 5/4/2016 at 18:28


I have a six-week trip planned with my girlfriend from 23 May until 4 July, starting and finishing in Bangkok. Were both in our early twenties, although not into the whole party scene, more interested in seeing some wildlife, temples, and key sites.

I feel like I have done a fair bit of research, however, this is both our first 'extended' (more than a week) trip and neither of us has been to Asia before. I have drawn together my first plan and would welcome any comments/opinions. My main concern is how much the weather and rainy season will effect our trip. Is there any 'must see' sites that we're missing? Have also decided not to go to Laos, purely because of limited time and everywhere I read says 'try not do too much'.

In terms of budget, we have set around £1500 each (excl. International flights) meaning we can fly between a few places and stay in private rooms.

23rd May-25th: Bangkok
26th-27th: Pak Chong (Khao Yai National Park)
28th: Ayutthaya
29th: Lopburi
30th: Chiang Mai
31st-2nd June: Free to explore North, thinking Lampang and Pai
3rd-5th: Siem Reap (Fly from Chiang Mai via Bangkok)
6th-8th: Phnom Penh
9th-26th: Vietnam; Saigon, Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Ha Long Bay & Hanoi
27th-2th July: Flight back to Bangkok then spend 5 days in South Thailand (suggestions appreciated given time of year)
3th: Back to Bangkok to fly back home the next day

This gives 18 days in Thailand, 6 days in Cambodia and 18 days in Vietnam.

One other query I had was with the Thai visa. I understand you get a 30-day pass when you first arrive. However, we will be leaving Thailand and then reentering after the 30 days. Do we simply get another 30-day visa or will we have to apply for an extended one when first receiving the visa?

Any comments/suggestions much appreciated :)


#1 cj2294 has been a member since 5/4/2016. Posts: 2

Posted by DLuek on 5/4/2016 at 23:23 TF writer

You're trying to do way too much in too short a time.

For example, you've alotted the 26th-27th for Pak Chong and Khao Yai, then the 28th for Ayutthaya . What about travel time? Going from Bangkok to Pak Chong on the 26th will take at least a half-day, and going from Pak Chong to Ayutthaya on the 27th will take about the same. So best case scenario you'll have one late afternoon and evening for Pak Chong and Khao Yai, which is a huge area. Then you'll have one late afternoon and night for Ayutthaya.

It's the same deal straight down your itinerary... Going to Chiang Mai , Lampang and Pai in three days would be impossible. Even getting to Pai would be a stretch with that much time. In three days you could hit Chiang Mai with a day trip to Lampang, but not more than that.

When planning a trip, I usually aim to have at least one full day (preferably 2-3 days at a minimum) in a given destination, not including transport days. Travel by bus/train/plane is always tiring and it's not wise to expect to see much of anything after traveling, arriving, finding your guesthouse, settling in and starting to get your bearings. It's also not fun to be constantly on the go.

So I'd suggest choosing the destinations that look best to you and alotting at least one full day in each. Transport days should be separate (yes North Thailand is one region, for ex., but that doesn't mean you can jump from one town to the next in an hour -- tap in some routes on google maps and you'll see what I mean). So a six-day trip to North Thailand would look something like this:

Day 1: Fly to Chiang Mai, settle in
Day 2: Explore Chiang Mai
Day 3: Bus to Pai
Day 4: Trekking to hill tribe village
Day 5: Relax around Pai
Day 6: Bus back to Chiang Mai, stay one night and catch flight the next morning

#2 DLuek has been a member since 19/6/2008. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,346

Posted by cj2294 on 6/4/2016 at 10:21

Thanks for the response DLuek.

In more detail, the original plan for Pak Chong to Chiang Mai was:

26th: Morning - Travel from Bangkok to Pak Chong (3 hours)
Afternoon - Khao Yai half day tour
27th: Full day Khao Yai tour
28th: Morning - Travel from Pak Chong to Ayutthaya (3 hours)
Afternoon - Explore Ayutthaya
29th: Morning - Explore Ayutthaya, travel to Lopburi (2 Hours)
29th: Afternoon - Quick look round Lopburi before catching sleeper train to Chiang Mai.
30th: Arrive early in Chiang Mai

But point taken about having full day at places and taking time to recover after transit. Did you feel the timings for Cambodia/Vietnam were more realistic or still trying to do too much?


#3 cj2294 has been a member since 5/4/2016. Posts: 2

Posted by DLuek on 7/4/2016 at 00:23 TF writer

For me it would be too much across the board. One day of travel and then one day in a destination and then another day of travel and another day in a destination, and so on... It would be tiring, stressful and would only allow you to get a superficial glimpse of each destination. Ideally I prefer to choose fewer destinations and devote significant chunks of time to them, which allows me to go a bit beneath the surface of the local life while also having the time to just relax a bit and wander around without feeling pressured to hit the key sites before I leave. I also prefer to keep things somewhat flexible so that I can spend longer in a certain place if I happen to like it. Unless you have more energy than the average human, my guess is that you'll feel like you need a solid five to seven days in one place, at some point, just to relax and rejuvinate. With that much time in one place you'll start to know your way around and maybe get to know some of the locals. You'll be able to return a few times to a favorite street food stall or restaurant that you love -- those are the sorts of things that stick with you once you're back home. Some people like whirlwind trips where you're back on a train or bus every other day -- I can respect that -- maybe the almost-constant movement provides inspiration or something. But unless you take particular pleasure in the transport side of traveling, you might want to rethink your itinerary, maybe narrow it down to just a few different regions (i.e. North Thailand or Phnom Penh area or Central Vietnam).

#4 DLuek has been a member since 19/6/2008. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,346

Posted by daawgon on 10/4/2016 at 16:37

At that very hot and sticky time of year you would be exhausted after the first 10 days from moving around so much, and 6 wks is not really that much time when you consider the ground you want to cover.

My area of expertise is Vietnam, and you're rushing from one stop on the tourist trail to the other, and missing some really great places enroute. Really the best of Vietnam is not one place or another, but it's extremely friendly and interesting people. By rushing so much, you'll never really get to meet them. Why not take the advice of people who love this country, and enjoy some places off the beaten tourist trail such as the village of Bai Xep near Quy Nhon or Bac Ha in the NW Highlands. Halong Bay and Hoi An might be beautiful, but also overrun with tourists and have some of the highest prices around.

If you really want a good vacation, I say to restrict the trip to no more than 2 countries, and just wing it and come and go as you please. Too much planning can ruin the best of trips!

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

Posted by M4rv1n on 15/4/2016 at 01:41

As others have said, you need to factor travel between places into your schedule.

Many people make the mistake of wanting to see everything, which is not possible and are afraid of missing out something. Nothing bad is going to happen if you see one less temple or beach.

My suggestion is to cut south of Thailand and consider spending some beach time in south Cambodia as you'd be in the area anyway.

#6 M4rv1n has been a member since 15/4/2016. Posts: 1

Posted by Robprrtt on 15/4/2016 at 02:17

Your itinerary sounds good in Vietnam, but i have some advices for transfer for you. When you travel from Hue to Hoian, you should book train ticket to travel with 4 hrs and US$5/way which is best way to travel to Hoian, don't think about bus which is too expensive and slow. Further, Halong bay cruise is best activity in Halong, don't forget enjoy it.
Happy travels!

#7 Robprrtt has been a member since 28/3/2016. Posts: 17

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