i´ve never been to asia and i´ve got about 2 months for my "trip of a lifetime" ;-)
sadly i have to back by the beginning of november, so i have to travel during the rain season.
my planned itinerary so far:
1 week in tokio and surrounds
flight (via kl) to bali
1 week in bali (ubud?)
flight back to kl
2/3 days in kuala lumpur
flight to hanoi
5 -6 weeks to travel overland from hanoi (and halong bay) - luang prabang - vang vieng - vientiane - phnom penh - sieam reap - bangkok
flight home from bankgok
do you think it is possible within my timeframe to travel overland from hanoi through the whole of laos and cambodia to bangkok during the rain season? and is it worth it or should i fly some distances instead? would you choose a diferrent route?
i am thankful for any advice!
The central part of your post (for me) is:
"5 -6 weeks to travel overland from hanoi (and halong bay) - luang prabang - vang vieng - vientiane - phnom penh - sieam reap - bangkok - flight home from bankgok.
If 5 weeks, then 35 days. If 6 weeks, then 42 days.
Let me flesh out a rough itinerary...
day 1 - arrive HaNoi
day 2-3 - HaNoi
day 4 - go to Halong Bay
day 5 - Halong Bay
day 6 - rtn HaNoi - catch night train to Lao Cai - Make sure a Saturday
day 7 - to BacHa market (only on a Sunday), then SaPa
day 8 - SaPa
day 9 - bus to Dien Bien Phu
day 10 - DBP
day 11 - bus to Muang Khua (overnight MK)
day 12 - either bus or boat to Nong Khai (bus via OudomXay)
day 13 - trekking Nong Khai
day 14 - boat to Luang Prabang
day 15-17 - Luang Prabang
day 18 - bus to Vang Vieng
day 19 - Vang Vieng
day 20 - bus to Phonsovan
day 21 - Plain of Jars
day 22 - bus to Vientiane
day 23-25 - Vientiane
day 26 - fly Vientiane - Pakse
day 27-29 - tour around Bolaven Plateau area
day 30-31 - bus to Phnom Penh
day 32 - Phnom Penh
day 33 - bus to Siem Reap
day 34-37 - Siem Reap & Tonle Sap
day 38 - fly Bangkok
For me, this is a travel journey, not an experience journey.
To understand what I mean about a 'travel' journey versus an 'experience' journey, go read what I wrote at #4:
- - - -
So, it depends on what your focus is going to be... See much and experience little, or see enough but experience heaps.
Please really take note that it is the experiences you enjoy on your travels that will stay in your memory for a long time. The monotonous, boring, bus/train/boat rides will soon be forgotten. So, in 10 years, what do you want to remember?
- - -
Hope this helps.
If you can afford it, you could always fly either the Ha Noi to Vientiane route, or the Vientiane to Phnomh Penh route (or both). That would make your itinerary more doable since both those journeys are very long. Unfortunately, I don't think any of the budget airlines do either of those routes, though I could be wrong. Of course, there are plenty of things to see in between HaNoi and Vientiane, and Vientiane and PP, but you really don't have enough time to enjoy it all. Keep in mind that even major roads in Cambodia are dirt, so travel can be very difficult that time of year there.
Good luck - and don't put too much pressure on yourself to make it the "trip of a lifetime". One thing I've learned from 3 trips to SE Asia is not to have any expectations... It will be what it will be, but it will most certainly be memorable.
"The monotonous, boring, bus/train/boat rides will soon be forgotten."
Not so for me... I remember them all. I just wish I could forget them.
I am with Bruce here. Running around from place to place like a Japanese tourist with a camera collecting happy snaps of some place, race off to the next destination, get some happy snaps there and off again... hell. Pure hell.
@bruce: i am aware that i have to concentrate on a few places only in each country to avoid the travelling becomimg too much. i wouldn´t want to travel every second day. for that reason i intend to visit only hanoi and halong bay in vietnam / only siem reap and angkor in cambodia. just in laos i´m not sure if i should concentrate on luang prabang, vang vieng, vientiane only. would i miss out on a lot if i skipped the whole south of laos?
@dluek: i could afford to fly both legs you mentioned and i have been thinking about that. there are 2 reasons why i can´t decide: a) i would bypass a huge part of laos (see above). b) flights i would have to book well in advance (or not?), so i wouldn´t be flexible anymore if i´d like to spend a couple of more days in one place i especially like.
@madmac & bruce: i have often read that bus travel is an essiantial part of the experience. from you comments i take that you disagree completely, right?
Thanks for coming back with your comments, it makes our contributions meaningful.
Bus travel is, well, bus travel. At first, it's great. One is wide eyed and interested in all that occurs. After a while it gets monotonous. Soon ones bum gets sore, sometimes smells get a bit too much, the bus may be bumpy, etc., etc., etc..
But, there is a balance. Some bus travel, even if it's long, tiresome, etc., is part of the fun. One sees, experiences much more in a bus than on a plane.
The point I am making when I write about a travel versus an experience journey is not about bus travel per se rather about the number of bus journey's in a trip, and the length of time taken by bus journey's.
The words I wrote (above) sum it up:
See much and experience little, or see enough but experience heaps.
So, what would I choose to keep in, and leave out...
I'd keep everything up to Vientiane (but spend a bit more time at some of the places along the way), then fly Siem Reap (Laos Airlines).
I don't think the extra time for Phnom Penh (given your limited time) warrants the place (even though there's some interesting reminders of hardship, etc.)
Then, pick up as from Siem Reap.
I suggest to retain the HaNoi to Luang Prabang section because you WILL see a different side of SE Asia. I did the reverse way (go see my blog at www.travelblog.or/Bloggers/brucemoon/).
thanks, bruce, i will have to read up on a few of the places you mentioned in your itinerary ;-)
2 more questions:
a) is it possible to book the flight just a day or 2 in advance while i´m in vientiane? online or in a travel agency or at the airport?
b) is it necessary to book accomodation in advance in any of the places?
"@madmac & bruce: i have often read that bus travel is an essiantial part of the experience. from you comments i take that you disagree completely, right?"
I REALLY HATE the long bus rides, even in a nice air conditined bus with big reclining seats. Now, maybe that's because I live here, and when I go to Bangkok that's how I get there. It's a ten hour bus ride.
I kind of enjoy the shorter rides on the Song Teaw (they're pickups with overhead cover and a couple of small benches mounted in the bed). riding on those, I always get into a good conversation with some poor farmer or student or something... and the rides are not so long that I begin to hate it.
If I were a tourist here, I would say a long bus ride or two is OK, but I don't want to spend literally four or five days on a bus over a three week period - no way. I would rather soak in one or two cities than try and see and do everything. But that's just me.
My experience of Laos Airlines isn't enough, you'll have to talk to a travel agent, or send an email to they site (use IE as the browser - Laos Airlines only works on that - and you'll see the email address [ www.laoairlines.com/ ] ). Being a full cost carrier, you may well be able to, but I don't know.
The time you are travelling is not peak season, so NO. The accommodation guide here on Travelfish will give you an indication of what's around.