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Southeast Asia forum

5 and a half weeks. How far can you go without being wiped out?

Posted by Tazzfalcon on 3/1/2009 at 04:47

Hi, (Re posted from Thai forum section)

to reintroduce myself: Im going to SE Asia for five and a half weeks from mid March to Late April,

Now, im really getting into the idea of doing the whole backpacker/independent traveller thing (all be it with my girlfriend). However I 'am keenly aware than some people do SE Asia in 5 months and still complain they haven't had enough time and I don't want to feel like all ive seen is the inside of a bus/train/taxi etc.

I should clarify the SE Asia I 'am really talking about is: Thailand (I 'am flying in and out of BKK), Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Vietnam being the least likely to happen, depending on the advice i get on this thread (due to its overland distance from Bangkok)... Additionally I really want to get down to the South of Thailand at some stage and spend a night or three on Ko Phi Phi.

I digress, my question is - using only overland and river transport (no internal flights due to budget constraints) how far can I realistically go without spending say, more than a quarter of my time on or in some kind of vehicle.

#1 Tazzfalcon has been a member since 20/12/2008. Posts: 18

Posted by somtam2000 on 3/1/2009 at 07:47 admin

In five and a half weeks, assuming you don't want to travel like a madman, you could do something like:

Thai islands 10 days (2 days to travel)
North Thailand (say three towns and a trek) 2 weeks, 4 days of travel.
Bangkok 4 days
Northern Laos (so river trip south to Luang Prabang, Muang Ngoi or Nong Khiaow and Vang Vieng and Vientiane) 2 weeks, 4-5 days of travel

You could scrimp and fit in a side trip to see Angkor Wat (allow five days -- 3 at the site and 2 in transport).

Vietnam -- save it for the next trip!

Hope that helps

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,996
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Posted by brucemoon on 4/1/2009 at 06:35


Before adding to the good advice of somtam, there are some simple questions you really need to ask yourself. For example:

Am I going to SE Asia to (1) 'do' SE Asia so I can mark it off my list of places I've been (2) have a journey and also get an idea of whether I'd want to revisit, and if so, where, or (3) get an experience of local customs / flavours / etc.

If (1), don't bother trying to perfect an itinerary, just go to those places on the 'must do' list and try and minimise travel time.

If (2), work out if it's mainly a city-fied journey you want, or a rural journey (the latter will, by definition take in cities).

A rural focus would suggest that you don't plan too much. Rather, work out a frame (sort of like Somtam has suggested) and be very prepared to change it along the way. As you haven't been to SE Asia before, no amount of reading will 'inform' you of what is 'best' and what is not.

For example, Somtam mentions the Thai islands/beaches. For me, I live on one of the best beaches in the world, and so this part of Thailand isn't such a big deal. But, if you came from the midwest of US, it would really BE something. So, don't assume because some marketing agency rates a place as 'fantastic' that you will similarly agree on visiting the place.

In some respects, #2 is about the journey, not the places you go.

If (3), then rather than 'do' the grand tour, target 5-7 places in varying locations that you can stay and absorb the ambience, experience the customs, and engage with locals.

Those that say after 5 months, it wasn't long enough were into #3. One important reason why its not long enough is that the more one engages with people from a very different culture, the more one comes to learn about one's own culture (and the mortifying stupidity of some aspects). As well, upon analysis of differences and introspection, one also learns much about oneself (and hopefully grows in strength and tolerance because of it).

Another aspect is that most SE Asians (but not Malaysia & Indonesia) are Buddhist. This religion fosters a quite different perspective towards social relations than is evident in the 'west'. Most people come away saying things like "they are such a friendly and beautiful people". To really engage with this aspect, #3 provides you with such an opportunity.


#3 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by TheBronze on 22/1/2009 at 00:36

Hey there, now we are going to Asia for 40days... also in&out of BKK pretty much scrapped our old rough itinerary, and are planning one based off of must sees, being Laos, (LP, VV, Vientiane), Cambodia (Angkor/ Siem Reap , PP), Vietnam (HCMC), and Thailand (Bangkok, Islands) going from BKK-Siem Reap overland, Overland to PP and HCMC, Fly back to Siem Reap (if not PP than bus), quick layover and fly to LP(Lao), and overland to the Islands MAYBE flying BKK to Krabi..
Any suggestions on things to leave out/add in/ and especially time in each place?

#4 TheBronze has been a member since 2/10/2008. Posts: 15

Posted by brucemoon on 22/1/2009 at 08:25

The Bronze

Before making comment, 2 things:

1. where are you entering/leaving SE Asia?

2. what sorts of things do you consider as 'must see'. Explaining this, to someone interested in history, archeological sights will be 'up there'. To someone who rarely sees beaches, the islands would be a 'must'.


#5 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by TheBronze on 23/1/2009 at 22:59

We are flying in and out of BKK, PLan on being in Ko Phangan for the june7 full moon party, would LOVE to see Railay and Ko Phi Phi, as well as Angkor, and HCMC.
We are flying the leg BKK to HCMC and working our way back, heading north to Laos than flying LP - BKK and just taking trains etc to Southern Thailand.
Sound like too much?

#6 TheBronze has been a member since 2/10/2008. Posts: 15

Posted by brucemoon on 24/1/2009 at 06:41


I don't know your entry/exit dates, but...

If you are going east before Sthn Thailand, then...

I think I'd suggest you spend that amount of time that satisfies you in BKK, then go to Saigon (I detest HCMC) and spend that amount of time. I'd then take the Mekong entry to Phnom Penh [a 2 day bus/boat journey]. In PP I'd spend a day to see the Tuol Sieng Museum, the 'Killing Fields' [start by 8:30 and return by lunch] then the National Museum + Royal Palace in the pm. Next day I'd take a bus to Siem Reap for at least 3 days to see Angkor [you may like to try deep fried spiders along the way at Skuon!! - maybe not!!).

And, from Siem Reap, I'd fly ...

If time is running out, and you choose to forget Laos, then (Bangkok Airlines) to Koh Samui (to save time and get you in the locality quickly).

Or, fly from Siem Reap to Luang Prabang (actually cheaper than Vientianne). Do the LP area, and take the slow boat to Huay Xai - Chiang Khong (2 days). From Chiang Khong, 1 day to Chiang Mai (spend a couple of days in CM) then I'd fly to Koh Samui to get to the south quickly.

If seeking discount airline options in the area goto:


#7 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

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