OK, first of all..thank you in advance for any advice you are able to provide. My wife and I will be taking our 1st trip to SEA starting in September. Would truly appreciate any guidance/advice on the following:
1. What to expect in terms of weather (Yes, we are aware it is the wet season)?
2. Any suggested/recommended itineraries.
As far as #2 is concerned, we are both mid-budget kinds of people (don't need the high end) and appreciate local flavor as opposed to high-end comforts. We are not looking for someone to create our trip for us...to the contrary...we're hoping for some guidance on a suggested route/or path that will get us started and give us some info to get a rouogh plan sketched out.
To that point...how are the suggested intineraries here?
#1 44cuse has been a member since 3/8/2009. Posts: 11
This site has weather information (do a search for individual countries) including two rather good interactive weather maps.
Given the extensive knowledge TF has of the region I expect the suggested itineraries are pretty good as a rough guide to get started! You can find some in the "before you leave" box at the top of the page.
SBE has said what I'd also recommend: use the Before you leave scroll down box up top.
Also, a further up, there is a Thailand link which has a blue box to the left with regions, wheich, if you place your mouse over, lists towns, go and study.
Similarly, there is Stories link. Type Thailand in the right hand side box when there, and read the various offerings.
If, when you have a rough idea, many here on Travelfish can help you hone your journey.
As this is your first journey, maybe also read this.
I realize that you've posted in the Indochina and Thailand forum but have you considered Indonesia, and more specifically Bali, Lombok and east to Flores.
Weatherwise it's ideal and since many family travelers and students will have had to return home for school, it's also much less crowded.
Anyways, it would also help if we had an idea as to what you like to do in your travels.
Otherwise, I'd recommend:
Cambodia 1 week (Phnom Penh and Siem Reap with at least 3-4 days for Angkor)
Laos 2 weeks (a standard route from Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, Nong Khiaw, Moung Ngoi, Luang Namtha, exiting at Huay Xai 4.5 hours away and crossing into northern Thailand for Chiang Rai, or Mai. And of course this route is easily reversible.)
Thailand 2 weeks (Bangkok 3-4 days book-ended; Sukothai, Chiang Mai and/or Chiang Rai, Pai, Mae Hong Son; then 3-5 days at a beach/island to relax before returning home).
Hope this helps.
#4 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136
Good point about Indonesia seagypsy! In fact AFAIK, the whole of Indonesia has good weather at that time of year but Bali/Lombok/Flores would indeed be a pretty good itinerary option for 5-6 weeks then. Very varied landscapes and a good mix of things to see and do.
Thank you very much for your suggestions. I took some previous advice (well, I guess I was planning to do it anyway) and have done a bunch of reading (capped off with just getting off a 5 hour flight where I read travel books the whole time) on the topic. Here is what I am thinking and I would truly appreciate ALL feedback (positive, negative, neutral) as I do not consider myself an expert on the region or know-it-all and am truly interested in leveraging the experiences of others.
Arrive: Bangkok-2 days, acclimate, etc.
Fly to Hanoi...2 days in Hanoi
Out to Ha Long Bay (2 days) return to Hanoi
Hanoi up to Sapa for 2-3 days return to Hanoi
Fly to Nha Trang and head to Dalat. (Is Na Trang worth a stop?)
Dalat to: Need Mekong Delta suggestions
Mekong Delta to Chau Doc and boat to Phnom Pen
Phnom Pen 2 days then to Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat 2-3 days to Ko Chang or Ko Samet
3 days Ko Chang/Ko Samet
Beach to Bangkok...train to Chang Mai
2-3 days in Chang Mai
Chang Mai to 7 days in Laos
Looking at this rough (assume 2 day in the delta, and 3-4 days in Dalat)...it's about 33 days which gives us room here and there. That said, I could be crazy with this and open to feedback. Here are some assumptions we made based on research:
1. Weather in Vietnam is better than weather in Southern Gulf and Andaman Coast in Sep/Oct.
2. The beaches of Thailand (Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, etc...which we would like to do) are not going to be good during this time of year due to surf and rain.
3. Sapa is cool. ;) Literally not temperature. ;)
Here are the mix of activities and fun we are looking for (not in order of priority):
1. We do want some beach time; prefer good mix of party and ultimate relaxation in another.
2. We are interested in the Hill Tribes and seeing the culture of those regions.
3. Neither of us climb (although recommendations on running would be welcome as we are both runners)
So please do respond with any reviews of this high level plan (feel free to comment on the places, the ability to fit all this in, active vs "too active"...we do like to chill, transport and border crossings, etc.)
Again, thank you in advance and best to all.
#6 44cuse has been a member since 3/8/2009. Posts: 11
Hmm, the thing that I'm noticing with your itinerary is that starting from Bangkok, you're going north the working your way back south to Thailand, then back north again to Chiang Mai into Laos and back down again to Thailand.
I think it'll be easier if you do a loop or circle starting from Bangkok, then Cambodia, Vietnam working north to Hanoi, the fly across to Luang Prabang, and then west again to Chiang Mai and back down to Bangkok (or reversing the route) which will save you time and money and still cover the same destinations. And you could hit the Thai beaches at the beginning, and/or again at the end, too.
#7 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136
"Hmm, the thing that I'm noticing with your itinerary is that starting from Bangkok, you're going north the working . . ."
Sorry about that, I lost some words but I meant 'that starting from Bangkok, you're flying north to Hanoi and working your way back south through Vietnam and back to Thailand. . .
Guess I gotta do a better job proof reading my own postings. Sorry.
#8 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136
I'm wondering about the end bit...
train to Chang Mai
2-3 days in Chang Mai
Chang Mai to 7 days in Laos
Do you have a reason for that? It appears to me that it may be possibly better to either do that before Vietnam, or go up to Laos and across to nthn Thailand after Siem Reap (and then down to the beaches).
- - -
Is your HaLong Bay a 2 nighter on the Bay? If so, got any ideas? There's some good stuff there, and crap.
For SaPa, go read my post here at #8 - for full details. Note the Sunday BacHa market bit. So, if you choose to do, it may mean your HaLong Bay comes after SaPa (merely timing logistics).
I liked Nha Trang . Its unashamedly western oriented. The beach at Nha Trang leaves much to be desired, but to the south is Cam Rahn Bay which is a great 'open' beach.
Dalat is lovely. There's a bus to Saigon, and Vietnam Airlines fly it.
From Saigon to Chau Doc, you can either buy a bus/boat package to PP, or self navigate to Chau Doc. Maybe you could better highlight your thinking here.
I suggest more time is needed for Angkor. Because many people underestimate the scale and size of the temples, I wrote a post to assist people. A few clowns with huge ego's have expressed negative sentiments (but, as this is a public blog sobeit). But, at least see what I initially wrote. It may change your mind. Also, take note of the Tonle Sap bit. Many overlook this wonderful experience. So, go look here.
- - -
When you write 7 days in Laos, did you have anything particular in mind?
Thanks for both of your very quick replies. There are a couple of reasons for the way the itinerary played out.
1. We have a firm date to be in Cambodia to travel to Angkor Wat with someone else at a specific date that happens to fall about 20 days after our arrival in Bangkok.
In a perfect world we would have flown in to Hanoi. However, we already had this itinerary when we learned we had to meet up with someone. So the net is...we have 20 days after arrival to do whatever prior to getting to Cambodia. The feeling was that since we have 20 days prior to our need to be in Cambodia, we would use that for Vietnam. To break this down even further...If we did Chang Mai, then Laos, then Vietnam, then on to Cambodia...we'd essentially be forced to do all those things within 20 days.
We have 40 (give or take) total days for Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand so if there is a better/more efficient way to do this, I would be very open to the suggestions. Fundamentally, the Cambodia timing is what drove the logistics.
Do either of you have any sense for the weather issues I have read about in the Gulf region region? Are Phuket, Ko Samui, etc useless during Sep/Oct?
Thanks! Let's keep the dialogue going and I will definitely read your post.
#10 44cuse has been a member since 3/8/2009. Posts: 11
"So the net is...we have 20 days after arrival to do whatever prior to getting to Cambodia. The feeling was that since we have 20 days prior to our need to be in Cambodia, we would use that for Vietnam."
Ahh, no wonder. Now it makes a lot of sense and YES, I'd agree that flying into Hanoi and working your way down to Cambodia to meet up with your friend is the best use of those 20 days.
I did a snorkeling trip in Nha Trang a long time ago (back in the days of Mama Hanh) and was very disappointed so that's why I recommended waiting until you're back at Thailand's southern beaches/islands. Plus, it's great to wind-down a trip with beach-time. As to late Sept.-Oct. it's the transitioning to the end of the monsoon season on the Andaman coast so it'll be a toss up between whether the gulf islands or the Andaman coast will be better. Might have to play it by ear for the time being.
#11 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136
I was starting to think....
What is the main attraction for you to go to Dalat for 3-4 days, while very very little time given to SaPa.
And, why the Siagon - PP overland trip?
This is not rhetorical, rather, to understand your logic.
SeaGypsy...thanks for verifying and apologies for not being more clear at the outset with our limitations.
Bruce, I am not opposed at all to suggestions on adjustments timing wise. So please, if you have a suggestion (and I DO know you are trying to be polite and rsespectful as opposed to subjective) please feel free making it. Again, I'm far from an expert or even a learned novice with this region, so I welcome all suggestions.
The reason for the extra days in Dalat is that we have a very good friend who spent a month in Vietnam. One of the highlights of his trip was a motorcycle tour (4 or 5 day) out of Dalat. While we do not want to go out for 4 or 5 days, we were thinking 1.5 days in town with 2.5 days motorcycle tour.
Also, SaPa can be extended...none of those initial timelines were set in stone (with the exception of when we need to be in Cambodia).
As for Saigon to PP...I just felt like a boat ride across the border would be cool and to see a bit (if quick) of the Mekong. I'm certainly open to more practical suggestions.
#13 44cuse has been a member since 3/8/2009. Posts: 11
Thanks for the comments.
Like your friend, I also have a fond spot for Dalat. Rather than overland, and be tired as hell, I'd fly HaNoi - Dalat, and spend the extra time relaxing & enjoying HaNoi / Halong / SaPa. I'd also look at riding around on the back of a harley (if you can't ride yourself). There's some good info on who/etc., here on Travelfish.
Given that this is your first visit to SE Asia, and I'm sensing that a bit of comfort goes a long way, then I'm thinking the Saigon - PP trip may turn out to be YUK for you.
I did the trip (organised by SinhCafe) last year. This is how it went.
On bus @ 8am, ride south for 4 1/2 hours. Stop aside a big river at a town (My Tho, I recall). Get on a boat for a quick trip past other boats out to the Mekong River proper, turn around to head back to shore. These flotilla of boats (of all sorts of shapes & sizes) were said to be a floating market!!! Then headed up a canal to alight on a rickety wharf to go see various 'old' handicrafts (rice paper drying, popcorn making, etc., etc.. Hop back on the boat, get taken out into the Mekong, then into a canal to an island for an obligatory meal stop (the time = 2 hours), the food was revolting, the 'attractions' were pathetic, and we all felt 'trapped'.
We then reboarded the boat to alight at Can Tho (on the Bassac River). We were now hered onto a bus for a long long drive to Long Xuyen. We got off for a barge crossing, then continued to Chau Doc (late in the day). Next morning, a float through the area on small boats to look at small scale fish farming, a muslim village, before changing over to a larger vessel for the trip to Cambodia.
The real appeal, for me, was from the Cambodian border to near Phnom Penh. But, would I recommend? If you are young and adventurous and have the time, yes. For you? My sense is probably not. There are nicer boat journeys in SE Asia that I'd recommend.
So, given this, I'd suggest more time in / around HaNoi, fly to Dalat, fly to Saigon - spend a couple of days in/around Saigon to note the different ambience, then fly to Phnom Penh. After that, do the bus to Siem Reap, and give yourself the opportunity of a 3 day pass, and at least one day down on Tonle Sap at Kompong Khleang (go see another on this here .
Hope this helps
That is EXACTLY the type of info I am looking for. Apologies for the long delays in getting back to you after you have generously helped me out. I was stuck in an airport for 12 hours in Newark, NJ while en route to Maine. So had a lot of time to be posting here. Once in Maine I was on an island with no power (so obviously no Internet). ;)
Thanks for the info on the Mekong trip. That makes a lot of sense to me. As for Da Lat and the recommendation to fly down...thanks for that as well. And yes, given our timing, that is likely to be what we will do. And the motorcycle ride in Da Lat is a big part of why we are heading there.
What are your favorite beaches/islands?
#15 44cuse has been a member since 3/8/2009. Posts: 11
I am so biased about beaches. I live in Australia on one of the best. So, I'm really prejudiced because I've yet to come across a place that is as clean, casually relaxed, with good swimming, etc.
I'm sure others will place their votes on this topic.