Photo: Street food Phetchaburi Soi 10, Bangkok.

Southeast Asia forum

Thailand, Laos, Cambodia: Another itinerary to rate!

Posted by jonny5 on 17/9/2009 at 13:14

Hello everyone,

I'm an American student currently living in Japan. This whole thing started as a glorified visa run, but I eventually decided on make a real (but too short) trip out of it. I'm a reasonably experienced traveller (probably not experienced as most of you, though!), but this will be my first time in SE Asia. As much as I want to have an "authentic" experience and meet and interact with locals, I can't help but notice my current plans are pretty much only the big tourist hot spots. Of course, my main interests are history and food, so I'm not sure it can be helped too much! Oh, and I'm going next week! (I think I should've done this earlier, but...)

I never stick to an itinerary, but this is a rough idea of the route I want to take:

27th & 28th: Bangkok
29: Aranya Prathet
30: Poipet to Battambang
October 1st: Battambang
2-5: Siem Reap
6: Fly to Vientiane
7: Vientiane
8: ? (From what I hear, VV wouldn't really be my cup of tea, but I think a pit stop along the way is a good idea.)
9 - 14: Luang Prabang and surrounds
15: Fly into Chiang Mai
16: Chiang Rai (I have a Thai friend I'm meeting here, and there's a night train to Ayutthaya , right?)
17: Ayutthaya - Bangkok
18: Fly back to Japan

Let me know what you think, please! Thank you!
Jonny

P.S. Should I have already booked the flights to Siem Reap and Chiang Mai? I can still do that fairly cheaply in country, right?

#1 jonny5 has been a member since 14/9/2009. Posts: 3

Posted by MADMAC on 18/9/2009 at 01:32

Alternatively you might spend a little time in Bangkok, see the sights, then head to some place like Nong Khai on the night train, hang out there for a while and see how the "interacting with locals" goes. Then head to Vientiane.

#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957


Posted by exacto on 18/9/2009 at 04:59

hey jonny,

wow. this looks like a crushingly busy itinerary to me. if you think this might be your only chance to visit SEA, then go for it. but if you think you might be back, i'd streamline the schedule a bit.

here's a few thoughts that may (or may not) help:

you can easily make it all the way from Bangkok to Siem Reap in a day by road or in a few hours by air, so unless you are particularly keen to visit Aranyaprathet and Battambang, i'd try to save a few days by going straight from BKK to Siem Reap.

the bus ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang is an all-day sort of thing. personally i loved it, particularly the switchbacks through the mountains, but not everyone enjoys this bus trip. flying from VTE to Luang Prabang is also an option.

since you have the chance to fly so much (BKK to Siem Reap, Siem Reap to VTE, VTE to LP, LP to Chiang Mai ), if you haven't yet you might want to look into the Discovery Air Pass. there is info about that option on Travelfish. i think it might be a good idea to sort out your flights before you go too, since you are on a tight schedule and the number of flights and seats on those routes is limited.

are you meeting your friend in Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai ? i ask because there is an overnight train from Chiang Mai to Ayutthaya and on to Bangkok but no train from Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai is about three hours by bus from Chiang Mai. also, i love Ayutthaya, particularly as a warm up to Angkor and Siem Reap. but it may be a bit of a let down after Angkor.

if you are looking to streamline your itin a bit, one option may be to cut out the Cambodia portion. limited time and money sometimes means making tough choices. i thought MADMAC made an excellent suggestion about exploring BKK a bit and then taking the overnight train directly to Nong Khai, exploring that, and then heading into VTE and continuing your trip more or less as planned from there. regards.

#3 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,651
 Where has exacto been? 

Posted by CheapCharley on 18/9/2009 at 09:00

Lots to do on that trip. 3 days Angkor Wat good do the large loop. Vientine was a waste. Luang Prabang was very cool and I would have spent another day in Ving Vang the best burger in Asia is at the Ausie guesthouse named I forget? on the strip but I am sure you will find it. Night train to Nog Kai was good advise. 2nd class aircon. book it as far in advance as you can. My advise would be fly into Luang Prabang and then travel over land to Nong Kai and catch the train to Bangkok or fly from Vientine to Chaing Mai Cheap Flights Laos

totaly agree that batembang is a waste of time one of the worst borders to cross, takes forever the guards are some of the worst for over charging . Taxi bus touts all lie through their teeth (I speak some Khmer) The town itself has no redeaming value that I can see.

Get a motorbike and drive any direction out of Chaing Mai and you will have a great time and meet lots of locals when you stop for directions and refreshments. Don't stop at the dog farms (don't ask)

Monsson should be mostly over, nice and cool.

#4 CheapCharley has been a member since 18/9/2009. Posts: 2

Posted by MADMAC on 18/9/2009 at 17:48

Charlie
Remember different strokes for different folks. I know some people who love Vientiane and hate VV. It really depends on what the individual in question is looking for.

#5 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by CheapCharley on 18/9/2009 at 18:48

I wish I had those 4 days back the only thing that I liked was the Patuxy tower, Now of course if you like ladyboys and a fountain there is lots to do in Vientiane.

VV some of the most awsome scenery on the planet!

#6 CheapCharley has been a member since 18/9/2009. Posts: 2

Posted by mattocmd on 18/9/2009 at 19:29

Greetings neighbor. I'm an American in Korea.

I always say this over and over but it really is too much. You have a 20 day trip and it looks like you will spend half that time in taxis, busses and at the airport.

Most of the places that you plan to visit are visited by many other travelers. You'll interact with the locals, but to the extent that they'll see you as a potential customer for whatever service they provide.

But as far as your plans go, just look at this.
30: Poipet to Battambang
October 1st: Battambang
2-5: Siem Reap
6: Fly to Vientiane
7: Vientiane

So your only going to spend a day and a half in Battambang, then the 4 hours or so it takes to get to Siem Reap. The next three days you'll spend looking at Ankor Wat then your going to wake up and go to the airport to fly to Vientiane for only a day before you go to VV for only a day then go to LPB?

Whoa thats busy. I'd take it easy and enjoy yourself. How about cutting one country out for next time. Do whatever you want I'm just saying that time in SE Asia is precious and time wasted on travel cuts into other valuable time.

If I were you I would cut out Cambodia. That would help you geographically since you have to end up in Chiang Rai to meet your friend.

Anyway think it over. Your way is feasible but I know after long bus rides or dealing with inter-SE Asian air transport, the last thing I want to do is think about another long ride only a couple of days later!

#7 mattocmd has been a member since 13/6/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 365

Posted by MADMAC on 18/9/2009 at 22:15

"I wish I had those 4 days back the only thing that I liked was the Patuxy tower, Now of course if you like ladyboys and a fountain there is lots to do in Vientiane ."

See there you go - some guys are into lady boys. And Rufus like Vientiane and hate VV and I don't think he's into lady boys.

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by jonny5 on 19/9/2009 at 11:44

Thanks for the advice!

Point taken. I'll definitely clip a few destinations. I'm not sure about removing Cambodia entirely, though. I'm somehow attached to the idea of going there, and I can't say when I'll be in the area again.

Really, planning this trip has been murder for me. In travelling Korea and Japan (or anywhere I've been, for that matter), I usually find that I prefer backwater little towns that aren't even in the guidebooks. There's still old stuff (i.e. temples and castles) to look at, but no one's there to mess up the view, and the people are just nicer and more laid back than they are in Tokyo or Seoul. Since I lived in these countries(and they have millions of trains and busses on paved roads!), going was easy. I guess I just planned this trip by thinking up all the places I'd already heard of and then finding them on a map. I think I'm going to replan my entire trip, now.

Thanks again!

#9 jonny5 has been a member since 14/9/2009. Posts: 3

Posted by MADMAC on 19/9/2009 at 12:47

OK, that was an important piece of info. You enjoy backwaters that are interesting - consider going to Ubon Rathathani and then to Khemerat and up the Mekong from there. Not traveled hardly at all by tourists. A stop in Mukdahan and the Phu Phra Thoep national park might interest you. Then go to That Phanom - one of the oldest Chedis in Thailand. Just a great temple. Then on to Nakhon Phanom and see Ho Chi Minh's old house. There are almost no tourists up there, and the mountain view across the river is beautiful. Then on up from NKP to Nong Khai - long drive which you might want to break up - zero tourists on that stretch of the Mekong.

Something to consider if you want to get off the beaten path.

#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by jonny5 on 22/9/2009 at 23:37

Hey,

Just wanted to say thanks again for all the advice. I agonized over it, but I finally decided to cut the Cambodia leg of this trip and take it slow up to Laos and back around to Chiang Rai. Angkor will still be there when I make it around to SE Asia again (...at least, I hope it will). The places Madmac mentioned sound fantastic, and I still have two days to figure out how to get there! Ha! Thanks again!

#11 jonny5 has been a member since 14/9/2009. Posts: 3

Posted by MADMAC on 23/9/2009 at 00:41

Have a great trip and let us know how it goes.

#12 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957


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