I am planning my first trip to SE Asia at the end of the year...planning on seeing Cambodia and Laos. I can take up to three weeks.
After spending what seems like an eternity finding an organised tour that went to all the places I want to see, I am very frustrated to find that the tour will not be going ahead due to a lack of numbers. My dilemma now is do I just go off on my own, and maybe take a couple of short tours in places such as Angkor Wat & Luang Prabang, or should I compromise and go with another tour?
The problem I have is that the tours seem to spend very little time in the places I am most interested in - ie 2 days max in Angkor Wat and Luang Prabang.
As I am travelling alone I am a bit worried that two to three weeks in SE Asia could feel like a long time - I have travelled alone several times but not for that long. I am also unsure how much time I should allow myself in and between each destination if I do go on my own......
I am really struggling to make a decision as to what I should do.
On the one hand I want the certainty and sense of security that a tour can give, but I also dont want to feel rushed and I want to make sure I see all the things that interest me.
Does anyone know of any flexible options that can still be pre-arranged to give me some certainty?! OR can anyone recommend a really good tour?!
#1 Intrepid82 has been a member since 21/4/2009. Posts: 33
There are 2 ways to link into organised tours - either:
book before you start your journey - and hope they do all the work for you, so that you can sit back and enjoy their perspecive on the place/s. Or..
Wait till you arrive in a place, and go book through the local travel agent.
As for Angkor, that's easy (for me to advise). First, go get a book on the temples (eg. Lonely Planet's Cambodia text) and read up all you can. Then work out a rough itinerary of what you want to see each day. You can choose a route that links various temples easily (many are just so close), or a time of erection journey, or some other option. The detail necessary to do this is in the Lonely Planet book (and probably most others).
Once you have a route 'planned' - and ensure you give yourself time at each temple to investigate, enjoy, photograph, etc. - then all you need to do is hire a tuk-tuk for each day to take you around. The tuk-tuk drivers are licensed to enter the area, and are very good at looking after you. Because there are translation guides (ie english or french, etc.), the tuk-tuk drivers won't act as your guide.
So, my suggestion is to take yourself around the Angkorian temples.
The tickets are sold either as a day ticket or a 3 day out of 7.
Try and get to see the Tonle Sap part as well (allocate a day in between looking at the temples to break that part of the visit).
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As for Luang Prabang, the city is oriented for the walking visitor. There are many local travel agents that can organise tours such as a day (or more of) elephant riding, trekking, river boat journey's, cooking classes, and more.
So, for Luang Prabang, go look on the net for some of the various day tour options, just plan to be there for the time you want (in relation to your net investigations)
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Maybe you can indicate how you would ideally like to plan your 3 weeks. For example...
day 1 - arrive XXX
day 2 - ? - tour XXX
day Y - travel from XXX to ZZZ
Then, I (we) can make observations on whether your allocated time is too long/short, and other things.
I will either fly in to Bangkok or Phnom Penh – and this is what I would like to do as a minimum:
Phnom Penh – 1 day
Siem Reap/Angkor Wat – 3 days (possibly 4)
Vientiane – 2 days
Phonsovan – 1 day
Luang Prabang – 3 days
I would also like to take a side-trip from Luang Prabang (such as a 4 day elephant ride/trek like the ones offered by Tiger Trails) and see some villages and scenery etc.
Some of the organised tours I have looked at also fit in some time in Vietnam/ Thailand. As it is my first time to SEA I’d love to see as much as I can, but not necessarily at the expense of the quality of my experience. I’d be glad to know what others on this forum consider to be a good value trip to SEA – but in a max three week timeframe!
#3 Intrepid82 has been a member since 21/4/2009. Posts: 33
Thanks for posting your thoughts.
You say you have a 3 week timeframe. But, you don't say how many days you plan to have in the area/region. Or, how you plan to travel. So, let's look at your itinerary and assume you'd fly into & around Laos.
day 1 - fly into Phnom Penh
day 2 – Phnom Penh - 1 day
day 3 - travel by road to Siem Reap
days 4-8 Siem Reap/Angkor Wat – 3 days (possibly 4)
day 9 - fly Vientiane (orientate & looksee)
days 10-11 - Vientiane – 2 days
day 12 - fly Phonsovan (orient & look see)
day 13 - Phonsovan – 1 day
day 14 - fly Phonsovan > Vientiane > Luang Prabang (orient & looksee)
days 15-17 - Luang Prabang – 3 days
Now, when did you plan to take the Tiger Tours excursion? Within the LP 3 days, or after?
And, you have only 3 weeks (21 days) and you are wondering whether you should also entertain other countries!!!
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If you scheduled the above, but are thinking of road, then that's even more time travelling.
If you fly into PP, would you self-navigate (it's easy) and where would you go/what would you visit?
How do you plan to travel PP - SR? I'm assuming road.
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From the above, I suggest that once a journey is mapped out, and times allocated for travelling, sightseeing, etc., there isn't much left for zipping around the rest of SE Asia.
But, please beleive me when I say that planning your journey to maximise your experience (enjoyment) will result in lifelong memories for the right reasons. Trying to rush around to see everything will be remembered for the wrong reasons.
"But, please beleive me when I say that planning your journey to maximise your experience (enjoyment) will result in lifelong memories for the right reasons. Trying to rush around to see everything will be remembered for the wrong reasons."
Man, this is a recurring themse isn't it? I guess it's hard to explain that what makes this region interesting isn't because of the great sites - this isn't Europe. It's the slow pace of life and the easy going nature (most of the time) of the people here that makes it appealing.
Bruce I think you said it best when you said the pleasure here is just in being here. I guess that's a bit difficult to understand since we tend to think of traveling from point A to point B with a concrete purpose in mind. The idea that I am not going to "see" something, but rather just hang out an experience whatever comes my way isn't exactly one of our strengths as westerners (or Japanese).
Aargh I am SO torn!
A whistle-stop tour of 2 countries in 3 weeks at the end of this year or wait another 15 months and take my time exploring the region?! It may sound like a no-brainer to you, but 15 months is such a long time.....
I have come to the conclusion that if I do go for the 3 weeks option a tour would be good so that I can take in a lot and relax while someone else figures out the logistics....
ANYWAY - thanks for the advice.
#6 Intrepid82 has been a member since 21/4/2009. Posts: 33
Three weeks for vacation - to relax. December? Hit the beach, find a woman, and relax. I mean, if the purpose of the vacation is to decompress... racing around on buses from place to place - well that wouldn't make me relax even if I didn't have to find the bus.
Going from place to place to see iconic sites is fine, but it's hardly relaxing. You sound like you're looking for a vacation as oppossed to a culture tour.
"Given my disposition, I'm not sure that's necessarily a recipe to 'relax'."
I stand corrected.
Find a Thai woman and relax. Admitedly Thai women can stress you out over the long term - but short term they aim to please (totally ridiculous I know).
Intrepid82 to me it seems that you really really want to go now. So why not? How can you be so sure that next year the tour agency will have the sufficient number of people to organise the trip?
If you have the money, the time and the desire to go now don't postpone it. What's the worst thing that could happen (in terms of going with the group or not)? Not seeing everything on your list? Not having a good time (which I highly doubt)? so what? a journey is a journey is a journey...
Also I havent been to Cambodia but I found Thayland and Laos to be much easier than I expected. And in easier I mean finding accomodation, travelling around, eating, finding organised tours, finding people to hang out with and so on. Both countries have lots of tourists so I wouldn't worry about "organising stuff" too much.
#10 xontros has been a member since 3/5/2009. Posts: 19