Photo: Street food Phetchaburi Soi 10, Bangkok.

Southeast Asia forum

First time Great Indochina loop: opinion on itinerary, thanks!

Posted by t0uchable on 5/3/2010 at 22:46


Me and 4 friends are going to travel the region from last week of august till third week of september (4 weeks).

It is the first time we go out of Europe so I tried to include all the highlights and get a small bit of the beaten track, but not too much :p.

After extensive research on this site, lonely planet and footprint guide I managed to make some kind of itinerary. It would be great to have some opinions about it, and its do-ability :p.

1. Fly Bangkok
2. 1 night and day in BKK
3. Nighttrain to Nong Khai
4. Vientiane (1 night)
5. Vang Vieng (2 nights)
6. Luang Prabang (3 nights)
7. Flight to Hanoi
8. Hanoi and Ha long Bay (4 nights)
9. Then I'm stuck: train to Hue (1 night)-Danang - Hoi An (1 night)
OR flight to Nha Thrang (3-4 nights). But this depends on the weather in september; is it possible to do this last minute?
10. Express train to Saigon
11. Saigon (2 nights)
12. Chau Doc (1 night) -- boat border crossing
13. Phnom Penh (2 nights)
14. Siem Reap (3 nights)
15. Battambang (1 night)
16. BKK

Is this tour too tiring or possible in a small month?
Should I stay longer in some places?
Is Nha Thrang worth it in september?
Is Saigon a good partyplace? Or better options for nightlife?

thanks a lot for answers and such :)

#1 t0uchable has been a member since 5/3/2010. Posts: 6

Posted by t0uchable on 6/3/2010 at 00:44

I think Cambodia & Laos are quite simple for the itinerary. 6 nights each, quite balanced I suppose.
The rest is for Vietnam but I have no idea what to do.
I'd like to spend more time in Mekong Delta and Nha Thrang, maybe skip Hue, Hanoi and Hoi An.
Or is that a bad idea? :D

#2 t0uchable has been a member since 5/3/2010. Posts: 6

Posted by somtam2000 on 6/3/2010 at 14:47 admin

I'd skip Nha Trang totally and spend more time in Hoi An -- no way is NT worth 3-4 days given your time constraints. Saigon has a good nightlife, there is also a big party scene in Vang Vieng. Siem Reap and Phnom Penh also a lot of fun for a night out.

#3 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,652
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Posted by t0uchable on 6/3/2010 at 21:05

Thanks a lot somtam2000!

I will consider your advice.
Nha Thrang has 2 appealing sides to me:
- nightlife
- beaches
It looks like we do enough party places already, so that's solved.
Then the beaches.
I wanted to include a 'chill'point for a couple of days in the middle of our trip.
Maybe I can combine Hoi An with Da Nang and China Beach.
We probably save some transport time like this and if weather is really bad we can do other things in the region. This looks like a safe 'weather proof' solution.
1 night Hue, 3 nights Da Nang/Hoi An (still need some research for nice hotels, distances between the two and the beach and transport possibilities)

Hanoi-Hue (plane or train)
Hue- Da Nang (train, yes!)
Da Nang - Saigon (plane)

Also: I wanted to add an extra night in Can Tho for the floating markets and maybe a bicycle trip in the delta. Is it worth it? Or is it better to use my scarce time in central vietnam?

One more thing: in theory this looks like a pretty okay schedule to me; but since I haven't got a clue about the 'real' distances in the region, I wondered if this isn't too hard? Will I be travelling a lot?
I looked at the travel times and it seemed okay but some skilled advice would be nice about transport. Thank you!

#4 t0uchable has been a member since 5/3/2010. Posts: 6

Posted by mellimoon on 7/3/2010 at 09:11

Have you considered a few days rest at the end of your manic adventure? Koh chang is almost enroute from Southern Cambodia, there's a great travellers beach there.

I did a similar trip to you... my advice... maybe you will be rushing through places to much, and not getting to know any of the countries very well. If you ditched vietnam, you could spend more time in Cambodia exploring more off the beaten track. This would make a very handy loop back down to Koh Chang at the end.

Just my suggestion!

#5 mellimoon has been a member since 13/3/2007. Posts: 11

Posted by MADMAC on 7/3/2010 at 11:12

I would skip Vietnam and Cambodia totally. Two weeks to see Thailand isn't anything. And two weeks to see Laos isn't much either. In this schedule you are spending a lot of time on buses and trains - and you don't have a lot of time. There is a LOT to see in Bangkok alone. and Bangkok looks like the only place in Thailand you are even glancing at - for one jet lagged day.

On the other hand, if it's Vietnam you really want to see, then just fly from BKK to Hanoi and start your tour there and end it in Phnom Phen.

#6 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by t0uchable on 19/3/2010 at 20:05

Thanks for the reply madmac and mellimoon.
I considered your advice.

But for Thailand: we decided to do Thailand separate another time, because there is so much to see.

I decided to cut something on my trip, with the following thoughts in mind:
- Cambodja only 6 nights is the absolute minimum so we can't cut something here.
- We all want to see the delta and HCMC.
- Da Nang - Hoi An - Hue: the ideal resting point with lots of things to see, do, and beaches, all in short distances.

So that leaves: Laos or Hanoi -Halong...

I'm thinking to skip Hanoi (only use it as a hub to fly to Da Nang) and so we win almost 5 nights.
We could use those extra nights in Hoi An, the Delta and one in Cambodja and 2 spare days :).

I'm really attracted to Laos, especially Luang Prabang (more than Hanoi) and I would really hate to skip that.
The thing that convinced me was that people are more friendly and the easy-going life in Laos (as I was told) and the tourist-hassle and chaos in Hanoi. Am I wrong?

The itinerary seems balanced and a bit more relaxed if I have 5 more nights to divide over the rest, isn't it?

So, is it a good idea to skip 'nothern vietnam' over Laos?

ps: I read about the recent protests in Thailand. Will this have an inlfuence over flight prices in the near future?

#7 t0uchable has been a member since 5/3/2010. Posts: 6

Posted by MADMAC on 22/3/2010 at 16:58

The protests don't seem to be causing any real disruption. I just left BKK yesterday, and everything was fine.

I would still cut Laos and simply do Laos on your next trip with Thailand.

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by tayloroz on 23/3/2010 at 12:45

Just come back from a similar trip except without any time in Thailand and yes, you are pushing it hard but it is do-able. We found Halong Bay an absolute highlight and consider it unmissable even though it was very cold and wet while we were there. Hanoi is also very different from Saigon so good to see both sides of Vietnam. If you base yourself in the old quarter you can see plenty in Hanoi in 1-2 days so 3 nights there plus a Halong Bay trip would be fine then fly south. We also loved Laos and are already planning to go back so we are so glad we didn't drop that. I would just decide to take a chill break in either HoiAn or Nha Trang but not both. You can fly to both from Hanoi (if you fly to Danang for HoiAn get your driver to stop at marble mountain - it's well worth a look). Nha trang is more of a party place than HoiAn from our experience - the Louisianne Brewery during the day and the Sailing Club at night are good hangouts. HoiAn has more touristy stuff and great shopping (get clothes, shoes, jewellery custom made in a day) and there is a reasonable beach 4km down the road - an easy bike ride. We also found it a bit cheaper then Nha Trang. Also - a word of caution - do not rely on the trains to be on time or even turn up at all. They are evidently notorious for not running to schedule but you get very little information from the rail officials - just updated delay advices every couple hours. We ended up spending 6 hours in the Nha Trang station waiting for a "delayed" SE day train to Saigon. We were eventually told that the line from Hanoi was closed indefintely and there would be no Reunification Express trains at all then put on the local slow overnight train at 6.30pm (for which we paid extra!). The more savvy locals had already organised to catch express buses to Saigon earlier in the afternnon. So the moral of this story is make sure if you are relying on trains that you have a plan B organised.hope this helps.

#9 tayloroz has been a member since 23/3/2010. Posts: 4

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