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Thailand, Cambodia AND Laos OR hanoi - 14 nights SEA

Posted by bab117 on 2/9/2015 at 08:02

Good morning fellow Travelfish members!! I have perused Travelfish for hours/days/weeks when considering planning my trip. I am getting married in late Nov and on Nov 30th I leave for SE Asia/Indochina for my honeymoon. I have 14 nights, 15 days in Indochina. My fiance and I are planning to visit Bangkok, Siem Reap, Ko Phi Phi , Luang Prabang , Hanoi/Halong Bay.
I know what you´re going to say and you are right. This is not enough time at all to see 4 countries. Unfortunately I can´t possibly get more time from work and I sincerely don´t know when the next opportunity will come to travel there again, if it ever does. Over the next 15-20 years it will be completely impossible and my fiance does not like small spaces or long flights, I have no idea how I convinced him to go all the way over there now. I wanted this to be an unforgettable honeymoon. So that is why I really want to try and see as much as we (reasonably can). Limiting myself to 1 or 2 countries is not really an option for us. We are willing to fly between each of the countries and are using Aurora/Vietnam stay to book the tours and hotels.

So here is why I am posting. I would love your help in deciding where to visit. The itinerary (as set by a travel agent even) is as follows:
Arrive in Bangkok
2 nights in Bangkok, 2.5 days
2 nights in Siem Reap, 2 full days total
5 nights in Ko Phi Phi (this is non-negotiable), 4.5 days
2 nights in Luang Prabang, 2 full days, total
2 nights in Hanoi/Halong Bay, 2 full days, total
1 night in Bangkok to rest before the 33 hour trip back

We are limiting ourselves to about 1 main city in each country to be able to do this. The dilema is here: I have heard that the cruise in the Halong Bay is amazing and that 1 night is not enough. Sincé we have only 2 nights in Vietnam, I have the option of spending 1 night in Hanói and 1 night in Halong Bay, 2 nights in Halong Bay and not even seeing Hanoi OR cutting out Luang Prabang and devoting those 2 nights to Hanoi.

Please please, help me with any feedback you can. If you have any preference, please explain why. Again if I don´t go to Laos now I don´t think I will ever be able to, same for Hanoi.

Thanks so much, I truly appreciate it!!!!!!

#1 bab117 has been a member since 2/9/2015. Posts: 6

Posted by MADMAC on 2/9/2015 at 09:07

"I wanted this to be an unforgettable honeymoon."

Well, you got that. I hope it doesn't lead directly to the divorce.

"Limiting myself to 1 or 2 countries is not really an option for us."

Of course it is. You don't want to, but it's an option.

Your itinerary here doesn't note travel time. Each time you go to a new location, even flying, you will eat the better part of a day. You have to check out, travel to the airport, pre-board / board, fly to destination, get to the hotel, check in. This is half a day gone. If you're flying in the morning, then kiss goodbye leisurely romantic nights with a bottle of wine late into the night. Nope - got to get to sleep to be ready to be on the go the next day.

SEA is not about seeing things. Yes, there are things to see, but it's much more about pace of life. Racing from place to place, getting some happy snaps of some 'amazing" scenery and then racing off to the next spot is not going to be a lot of fun and it's certainly not going to be romantic.

14 days? 3 places MAX. You convinced your fiance to travel with you when he doesn't like confined spaces, well after this trip he won't be going anywhere with you again.

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

Posted by MWasser6 on 2/9/2015 at 09:22

I would say not only cut out Luang Prabang , but also Siem Reap .... You are being overly optimistic when you say you have 2 nights and 2 FULL days in Luang Prabang and Siem Reap, but getting from Siem Reap to Ko Phi Phi will require 2 flights and a ferry, meaning your second day in SR is completely gone, and you might not even get to Ko Phi Phi if you don't make the afternoon ferry. On top of that, you want to go from Ko Phi Phi to Luang Prabang, but have you considered if this is even possible in one day? You need to get from KPP to an airport which might take a few hours, then fly to Bangkok first.

This trip requires flying 7 times in 14 days on top of your 33 hours in and out.....doesn't sound too much fun to me...

#3 MWasser6 has been a member since 6/8/2012. Posts: 19

Posted by Gogomobile on 2/9/2015 at 10:07

Crazy plan that makes no sense. Halong Bay is dirty. Phang Nga is better and you will already be on Phi Phi.

Your plan reads more like a troll than a serious plan.

#4 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412

Posted by bab117 on 2/9/2015 at 10:12

Mwasser, thank you for the reply! I have actually factored in flight times. Hence why it is 2 full days rather than 2.5. The flights are about to be booked with Bangkok Air. Also, we will not be taking the Ferry but rather a private boat to Ko Phi Phi after the flight Siem Reap - BKK - Phuket. This way we´re sure that we can´t miss it.
I gather from your suggestions that I should cut out Luang Prabang? Should I stay those two nights in Hanói to minimize hopping from country to country and stay in Vietnam? Or maybe spend 1 night in Hanói and add 1 night to Siem Reap??


MADMAC... I was waiting for you to reply hence my saying "I know what you´re going to say". And frankly, why are you so mean to everyone? You literally go around trolling these forums and being actually just plain mean and NOT helpful to anyone who doesnt have a full month to spend in each SEA country (which for us corporate-working folks, not retired like you, is not that feasible). If you don't have something nice and helpful to say, DONT SAY ANYTHING AT ALL. You are literally the bully of travelfish and cyber-bullying is pathetic.
Please refrain from replying if you´re not going to be helpful and just waste my time with an attempt at an online argument. Thank you.

#5 bab117 has been a member since 2/9/2015. Posts: 6

Posted by Gogomobile on 2/9/2015 at 10:18

Madmac's advice is good and sensible for any reasonable person.

You must be a troll.

#6 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412

Posted by bab117 on 2/9/2015 at 10:26

gogomobile.... you are the other person who just goes around bullying all of the posters. The request was "please help" not "please insult me." It is quite sad that you get such pleasure from being anonymously mean to people. I don´t understand it.....

*********To anyone future kind people who consider replying and advising me: The question was whether to cut out Luang Prabang and use that time in Hanói or to shorten the cruise and do 1 night in Hanói and keep Luang Prabang. Future posters, if you cant reply to that question, please do me a favor and refrain from replying.

#7 bab117 has been a member since 2/9/2015. Posts: 6

Posted by TerroirTravel on 2/9/2015 at 10:40

Step 1- fire your travel agent, and find one that has even a tiny bit of SE Asia experience. Like the others have said, this is a terrible itinerary. Combine that with one traveller that hates planes, and this is recipe for major discord. You are also assuming that these planes will be on time... Or that there are planes between your locations.

Step 2- you have too many absolutes. Flexibility in life is important.

What do you want from this trip? Spending a nice time together? History? food? culture? ... Or passport stamps? Because your agenda only works for the last one.

I agree that you should limit yourself to 3 locations. Since Ko Phi Phi is a must, I'd suggest this:

Day 1- arrive BKK, spend night near correct departure airport (you'll arrive Suvarnabhumi, likely, and Don Mueang is where you'll probably depart from. They are not close.
Day 2- travel to Ko phi phi.
Day 3-8 play, enjoy mandatory 5 days, recover from jet lag.
Day 8- travel to Siem Reap. (Ferry + 2 flights)
Day 9-12 Siem Reap. Hire a driver for the day, Visit Angkors Wat, Thom, Ta Prohm, etc. one day, go to the Rolulos group on another. Walk around town, go to the spice garden, hold hands.
Day 12-14 return to BKK, walk lots.

#8 TerroirTravel has been a member since 1/2/2014. Posts: 76

Posted by TerroirTravel on 2/9/2015 at 11:06

MADMAC- how dare you impart your wisdom and experience to the poster instead of telling her exactly what she wants to hear! :)

#9 TerroirTravel has been a member since 1/2/2014. Posts: 76

Posted by MWasser6 on 2/9/2015 at 12:27

i will second TerroirTravel's itinerary, substituting Hanoi/Halong Bay for Siem Reap if you preferred. Either would work. But doing all of them plus Luang Prabang is crazy.

#10 MWasser6 has been a member since 6/8/2012. Posts: 19

Posted by MADMAC on 2/9/2015 at 12:52

I guess I'm just a bad guy.

Bab - your original itinerary looks great. I'm sure it will be a ton of fun. Go for it, let us know how it was when you get home.

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

Posted by alisonrd on 2/9/2015 at 14:34

bab117,

I will echo the general idea that others are saying -- this is too much. Even if you never get to Asia again, you will have fonder memories and a better time if you spend longer in fewer places. I'm familiar with the struggle of having to choose, as I also work full-time in a traditional 9-to-5 with only 3 weeks vacation annually. Although there are many places I'd love to see, I have made the hard decisions to cut out many amazing places so that I could actually experience a place rather than just fly through. As another poster said, think about what you want out of where you are: walking around cities, seeing natural wonders, food, beaches, etc. and then just knock out to only 3 places. Give yourself time to enjoy! And if your fiance hates travelling, help him/her out by making this as relaxed a trip as you can.

Having said that -- the difference between Luang Prabang and Hanoi and Halong Bay are vast: they are all so different (while I haven't yet been to LP, I've been to Hanoi and Halong Bay). It's therefore really just up to you and what you like. Halong Bay is beautiful but definitely a bit of a tourist machine. I had two nights on a boat and was glad to be able to get further away than just being on a boat for 1 night. Hanoi is busy and crowded, but there are lots of little great food and drink places, and historical sites if you like that, good to sit on the corner and watch it all go by. I'd say either do EITHER Halong or Hanoi, but not both; and EITHER Vietnam or Laos, but not both. You can't go "wrong" by picking one over another; all are great places to go. Just think about the kind of experience you want (relaxed/urban/lanscape/etc.) and pick from that.

Good luck with the trip.

#12 alisonrd has been a member since 20/7/2015. Posts: 7

Posted by bab117 on 2/9/2015 at 15:00

Hey alison, thank you so much for the tips. I completely get what you mean about devoting time to just a couple of cities. I think in the end I am going to (sadly) cut out LP for now and possibly devote 1 extra night to Vietnam and 1 extra night to Siem Reap . I am sure its not enough but atleast with 3 nights in each city I´ll get a taste of what they can offer. I am still deciding though if I should do 1 night in Hanói, 2 nights on the cruise, and 3 nights in Siem Reap OR devote 4 nights to Siem Reap and just pass through Hanói to go straight to Halong Bay and not spend any night in Hanói. I might have to stay one night in Hanói to make it to the 3 day 2 night cruise in Halong but I guess I will have to check the logistics to see if its required.

#13 bab117 has been a member since 2/9/2015. Posts: 6

Posted by somtam2000 on 2/9/2015 at 15:09 admin

Can we keep things polite please everyone?!

I would concur though that this is an extremely busy itinerary with some eye watering logistics, for example Ko Phi Phi to Luang Prabang would entail:

Morning ferry from island to Phuket (or Krabi), transfer to airport, flight to Bangkok and then another flight to Luang Prabang - I've not had a coffee yet, so haven't checked flight times, but that would be the best part of a day lost I think...

But anyways, if you were set on doing the above (and, as with the others, I don't think that is a great idea) but...

I would recommend reordering slightly to go:
Bangkok
Ko Phi Phi
Bangkok
Siem Reap
Hanoi
Luang Prabang
Bangkok

This makes more sense as you get the Phi Phi diversion (which is in the opposite direction to everything else) out of the way and then can fly SR to Hanoi and continue flying around counter clockwise.

Ideally though, I would drop either Luang Prabang, Hanoi (or both!) totally.

You may also want to read our coverage of Ko Phi Phi - it is a large diversion on a very packed trip, and, well, it isn't quite how it looks in the brochures!

Anyway, hope that helps.

Good luck!

#14 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,090

Posted by somtam2000 on 2/9/2015 at 15:13 admin

Oh, one more thought, given this is a honeymoon, if you end up going to Hanoi, select your Ha Long Bay tour carefully -- if there is one thing where you generally get what you pay for, it is on those tours. Boat quality varies tremendously -- especially at the more budget end of the stick.

Good luck!

#15 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,090

Posted by bab117 on 3/9/2015 at 10:31

Hi Somtam,
Thank you for your advice. I was looking at junks for the Halong Bay and I am leaning towards the Indochina junk Dragon Pearl which on the 2nd night hosts a dinner in a cave. If not that junk, maybe the Dragon Legend which is the newest more luxury boat. They both look really gorgeous. If you know of any other good junks, please let me know!
Based on yours and others tips, ultimately in the end we are thinking of doing the following itinerary:
Bangkok
Phi phi (to minimize flights and stay domestic for that time)
Siem Reap
Hanói
Halong Bay
Bangkok (just to fly out comfortably the next day)


That way we just have 3 international flights and 2 domestic.


I have been working with 2 travel agencies actually: HansaPeru (the Lufthansa company) and Aurora/Vietnam Stay. The latter is the one I am currently working with and remarkably, both not only approve of the itinerary but suggested it. I do completely respect the opinions of more seasoned travelers but I just wanted to note that the aforementioned plan isn´t the concoction of a crazy person but rather the recomendation of 2 acredited tour companies. But oh well, to each his own...

#16 bab117 has been a member since 2/9/2015. Posts: 6

Posted by MADMAC on 3/9/2015 at 11:51

"I do completely respect the opinions of more seasoned travelers but I just wanted to note that the aforementioned plan isn´t the concoction of a crazy person but rather the recomendation of 2 acredited tour companies."

Travel companies are funny that way. In their mind, more is more. Less is more doesn't make sense to them. And maybe from an advertising perspective, having travel plans with lots of highlights makes it sound like you are getting more for your money. Your dilemma is a very common one. Not much time, don't know when they can return, want to see "as much as possible." The reason for that desire is understandable. Especially for those who have been to Europe. Europe is full of sights. The worlds most impressive and beautiful architecture. Lovely cities with deep history. The great highlights of Rome, Paris, Barcelona... SEA isn't like that. For the most part the architecture of the cities is completely unremarkable. Concrete jungles - literally. Within those might be some architectural marvel, but basically these are not beautiful cities. What makes them great is they are alive. They are vibrant.

When you leave the cities, the single biggest attraction is the pace of life. Life has a slow and easy feeling in the rural areas. When you move slow, and you enjoy hanging out, reading a book, feeling the breeze... everything is inexpensive. Meals are leisurely. Travelling around here is a pain the ass. Buses basically suck. Taxi rides tend towards the hectic... But you can't beat this place for chilling out. People who are coming for a short time and don't know when or if they can come back don't comprehend this very well, if at all. They want Paris, Rome and Barcelona - or the Asian version of it. And there is no Asian version of it.

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

Posted by Gogomobile on 3/9/2015 at 17:53

I know a few travel agents and even though they try to upsell to make more money its common knowledge that you need 3 nights to get beyond a rushed trip. These two agents must never have been to Asia or are just being greedy. There are bus tours that do 1 or 2 nights here and there but they take care of everything from go to whoa. Seriously not recommended if you want to have fun.

#18 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412


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