Am brand new to these forums but have been enjoying this website for the last few months of idle planning/wish-list making for a trip through SE Asia in Nov/Dec 09.
We have from the 15th of November until the 25th of December and our ideal route would take us from BK through Cambodia and up Vietnam before flying back from Hanoi .
Having read a few posts here however I'm a little concerned as to whether this would be doable/enjoyable for this amount of time.
We are both relatively experienced travellers (though not in this part of the world) and hardy when it comes to travel time and conditions. So we are fine with uncomfortable travel and aren't really looking to lie on a beach for 5 weeks.
Is this (enjoyable and) doable in this amount of time? If so which locations can be missed/which are must-see/dos?
Our (draft) itinerary would be:
Bangkok to Siem Reap & Angkor Watt
to Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh to Shianoukville and back
Phnom Penh to HMC
Make our way north (I haven't quite planned this part yet, any advice re how much time we should budget and where we should go would be greatly appreciated)
Hanoi to Ha Long Bay (the obligatory Junk cruse)
Hanoi to Sapa and hill area
Fly Hanoi to Bangkok
Is this all doable, and where should we focus our attention?
#1 mandor700 has been a member since 26/6/2009. Posts: 5
The suggested route is 'doable', assuming fly BKK - Siem Reap, PP - SiaGon.
I think I'd be happier making comment if you added:
1/. what is YOUR focus for the journey. That is, (for example) to:
* experience culture in the various places,
* just to see the principle sights/stay in GH (or whatever)/eat meals/etc,
* do tours, etc.
* engage in the travel, eg. ride motorbikes, go sailing, etc.
or some / all of the above,
2/. A more detailed sort of timeframe expectation in each of the various places.
We are planning on doing everything bar the Hanoi -Bkk flight overland.
As for our focus, we are much happier doing our own thing than on any sort of tours, and or travel options would reflect this.
This is why I don't feel that moving around would necessarily be so bad for us, and we are hardy enough to function on long bus and train trips, but I obviously don't want to spend ALL the time on a bus.
So our mode of transport would be bus in Thailand and Cambodia, with the option of river travel depending on availability (which I hear is limited these days) and time frame. Then some combination of train and bus in Vietnam, with train being my preference as I'm a bit of a train buff.
As for time we would likely start with
2 days BKK (arriving late night)
1-2 days to Siem Reap depending on how lazy we are feeling
2 days Angkor Watt etc (I know allot of people including yourself recommend more, so we will play it by ear)
1 day travel to Phnom Penh (depending on MOT, very keen on seeing the lake)
From here we would probably look to have a week - 10 days in Phnom Penh, Shianoukville and anywhere else we choose (still early days).
From here getting to HCMC (once again depending on MOT but likely bus)
As I said Vietnam is where I am having trouble due to being unsure of exactly how intense the travel will be to get from top to bottom. Assuming the above schedule and a bit of a safety cushion we still have 20-25 days to make it to Hanoi and back to Bangkok with hopefully a few days there at the end also.
If we feel that the schedule is very tight I feel like we probably could loose a few days in Cambodia in favour of Vietnam.
#3 mandor700 has been a member since 26/6/2009. Posts: 5
As you say, your itinerary is still early days and subject to change - I suggest it will.
Re: Siem Reap, the passes are 1 or 3 days (the latter being advisable). Also look at:
especially note the comments re: Kampong Khleang.
The Tonle Sap journey to PP is long & from reports, just a flat water experience where you mostly see only water!!!
- - -
On another post here the traveller is going from the Mekong Delta to Cambodia. Maybe you can entertain doing the reverse:
PP > Sihanoukville > Kep > Ha Tien > Rach Gia > Can Tho > Saigon (as a route, not necessarily day by day).
This would 'save' time returning to PP, and then motoring down the Mekong.
- - - -
The VN part needs a few ideas from you.
The train largely follows Highway 1, and this IS the tourist trail. So, what you will see are the tourists, the touts, etc., etc. The real Vietnam lies where the tourists are not.
Nevertheless, are you interested in being with other tourists doing the tourist 'must see' ala Lonely Planet? Or, do you want a mix of tourist trail with beaches? Or, would you prefer just of the 'trail' a bit. If so, what do you want to do other than have your bum on a seat?
I'll await your considerations here before adding.
I just read another post of Vietnam, maybe you can read and consider for your journey.
Especially read the last contribution by 'Jules'. I'm envious and wanting to 'do it' already.
Thanks for all your help.
I am particularly keen on the PP > Sihanoukville > Kep > Ha Tien > Rach Gia > Can Tho > Saigon route you suggested which does seem like a great roundabout route and potentially would be (slightly) less touristy than what we will be experiencing elsewhere.
Any idea roughly how long this would take and a leisurely (but not crawling) pace?
I've always wanted to do a motorcycle tour but I'm not sure if we will have the time unfortunately to pull off one like this. Like you I am quite jealous however.
#7 mandor700 has been a member since 26/6/2009. Posts: 5
...PP > Sihanoukville > Kep > Ha Tien > Rach Gia > Can Tho > SaiGon...
PP > Sihanoukville - 4 hours,
Sihanoukville > Kampot > Kep - 3 hours,
Kep > Ha Tien - 1/2 hour,
Ha Tien > Rach Gia - 2 hours,
Rach Gia > Can Tho - 2 to 3 hours,
Can Tho > SaiGon - 4 hours,
Rach Gia > SaiGon - 6 to 7 hours (there are night buses).
In most cities (except Siem Reap) motor bikes are available for hire and are a fun way of seeing the places. But, I'd not use in capital cities as one is competing for space with urban guerilla's - and an accident might cost you plenty if the other driver seeks extortion (less a problem in more rural locations).
Good advice Bruce. Riding a bike in Bangkok is high adventure.
#9 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957