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Countries to visit from Bangkok!

Posted by sethomse on 5/10/2011 at 05:34

Hey all, I will be studying abroad in Bangkok this coming semester and would like to check out as much as SEA as possible! Seeing that I will be studying, I figure that for the most part, I will only be able to take trips around 4 days long. Where should I go? Here is my tentative list so far. Let me know what you think!

In Thailand
Beaches/Islands- Really not that into the whole beach party scene but I want to do some deep water soloing so I figure I will go to the islands at least once. From Bangkok, this seems like it is a very easy trip--depending on where I am going.

Ayutthaya- Did some quick research and saw it is about a 3 hour train from Bangkok. Should this be a day trip or maybe a weekend trip?

Chiang Mai - Definitely want to head up north to check out the wats and maybe do some trekking. Given that I will be on a budget, do you recommend the sleeper train or a budget flight? Also, I have read that trekking from Chiang Mai is extremely touristy, should I venture out a little bit and start somewhere else?

"Easy" destinations outside Thailand
Cambodia- I feel I need to see Angkor Wat--thus I will stay in Siem Reap. I am hearing more and more good things about Phnom Penh. Worth it?

Vietnam- I have an uncle in Saigon so I certainly will visit there. Also considering Dalat and Con Dao. Is Hanoi/Halong Bay worth it given that I will be able to see the islands of Thailand/Cambodia.

Laos- I'm going to try my hardest to make it to Luang Prabang. It looks like a gorgeous, incredible city. I am considering Vientiane, but am not sure I wanna do the long bus ride between the two. Thoughts?

Burma- I would like to check out Rangoon but it seems like the visa is obnoxiously difficult.

Singapore- My uncle (from Saigon) describes it as more of a shopping city that is not really worth it. Thoughts?

More ambitious destinations- perhaps these would be week long trips
India- I am thinking Mumbai but would be open to anything.

Sri Lanka- The cultural triangle fascinates me but it seems like a tough place to get to and a relatively tough place to get around.

Thanks for the input! I trust your advice and am not set on any place except Vietnam, so please let me know what you would do!

Excited to find this site, it seems great!

#1 sethomse has been a member since 5/10/2011. Posts: 4

Posted by eastwest on 5/10/2011 at 11:30


Have a great time studying in Bangkok.

I will only comment on the places that I've visited recently:

PP is ok. Not as big as Bangkok (by far) and it has its charms. You do need a few days for Angkor though so combining them in one 4-day trip may be a bit too much. If you fly you can consider it since most flights from Bangkok stop in both places. If you visit PP make it a 2-3 day trip.

If you visit Krabi Ha Long will be more of the same but on a far bigger scale. Hanoi is a pleasant city break and I would just visit Hanoi for 4 days.

Luang Prabang should be on your list. Vientiane may be a disappointment. Combining the two in a single 4-day trip is not a good idea and wouldn't do justice to both places and just a 4-day trip to Vientiane may not be worth it. It's not a bad city but there's just so much more to see and do that is more worthwhile in the region.

Singapore you can definitely leave out. Expensive and indeed for shopping. If you were on a bigger budget you could consider it. Great food and malls but it comes at a price.

#2 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778
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Posted by MADMAC on 5/10/2011 at 11:55

Well, I am assuming that unlike my son, you are not going to be a poor student (he lives on 12,000 baht a month to pay rent, food, and whatever) so you will have money to travel - and fly.

Places I would put on the must list:

Bangkok. There's a ton to see there. One semester is three months. You won't see even close to all of that city, so if you didn't travel a day you would still see a ton.

Kanchanaburi. The whole POW / Bridge thing. Worth seeing and paying your respects and not too far away.

Ayudaha makes a lot of sense. Again, worth seeing and not too far.

Distance counts. As soon as you want to go to another country, you are talking about essentially eating one day there, one back, even if you fly. If you got four days - that's two on the ground in practical terms. For that reason you might want to tack on Siem Reap or Laung Prabang on the end of your trip when you have more than four days.

For beaches, Hua Hin is close. My son loves it and Cha'am.

Learn Thai!

Enjoy being a superstar for a little while.

#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by sethomse on 5/10/2011 at 14:27

eastwest- Thanks for your help! I will definitely look into Krabi. It seems like a very good option, and much more convenient. Also, it sounds like it will allow me to appreciate Hanoi more, which is something that I certainly want to do. Thanks for the help with Laos, so it seems like given my limited time I will probably skip it. Also, Singapore seems like a no go as well on my budget!

MADMAC- Luckily I will be living on more than 12000 baht! I will definitely check out Kanchanaburi, I had not heard of it but I just did some quick research and it looks very worthwhile. Hua Hin looks great as well! I will try my best to be a superstar! After this it's one more year of school and then the real world...

#4 sethomse has been a member since 5/10/2011. Posts: 4

Posted by bpsea on 5/10/2011 at 18:17

Probably my most memorable experience in Vietnam was taking a tour with the Easy Riders from Dalat to Nha Trang through the Central Highlands. It is agreat way to experience the history and culture of Vietnam when backpacking Southeast Asia. I visited waterfalls, places of historical interest, coffee plantations, rice paddies, minority villages and washed each day down wish a few Hanoi Beers and the odd shot of rice wine with the Riders.

I also tried a variety of local food delicacies and had an all-round amazing experience with them. It is a bit expensive compared to taking the tourist buses (maybe between $50-$70 per day), but in my opinion it is definitely well worth it, and they will leave you with memories that will last for a lifetime!

#5 bpsea has been a member since 1/10/2011. Posts: 3

Posted by MADMAC on 5/10/2011 at 20:46

An easy rider tour, when he has 96 hours to get to Vietnam, do the tour, and get back, is probably a stretch. Again, perhaps something he could tack on at the end of his stay (and I agree it sounds like a good time).

You will be a superstar unless you really don't want to be. Of course, I presume you are anglo, but if you are... you're going to like it. My son is treated as if he were Brad Pitt.

#6 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by norbit on 5/10/2011 at 22:46

Don't be put off by the Burmese visa as it's surprisingly easy. 4 days in Rangoon? 2, 3 max is plenty. However if you're very short on time you could probably get away with 1 very action packed day. The rest of the country is much to interesting to waste any more time that necessary in Rangoon. I'd focus more time on Mandalay, Pyin U Lwin and Bagan as they are fairly unique to Burma as opposed to all the other main destinations where there are quite similar alternatives that are easier to access in other SEA countries.
NB: its definately a country where its best to save for when you have more time.

#7 norbit has been a member since 21/8/2010. Posts: 16

Posted by MADMAC on 6/10/2011 at 00:19

How is he going to get from Bangkok to Rangoon, Mandalay, Pyin U Lwin and Bagan and back to Bangkok in four days? Unless Scotty is going to beam him around SEA, I don't think that's going to work. He's going to study, so the whole point is he doesn't have more time. That's why he planned to spend all four days in Rangoon - which really means two days plus since he has to get there on day one and get back to Bangkok on day four. Each of these little excursions he talked about are in four day windows.

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by SBE on 6/10/2011 at 01:07

What kind of visa will you have Sethomse? Is it a multi entry? Because if it isn't then you won't be able to nip off to neighbouring countries for 4 days anyway. Leaving Thailand would make it null and void.

#9 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,052
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Posted by sethomse on 6/10/2011 at 02:55

Hey guys, I will have the multi-entry year long student visa so I will be able to go back and forth outside of the country. I have heard about the Easy Riders! I definitely might look into doing that at the end of the trip or maybe during spring break week! Is there any easy way to get around Burma? To Mandalay or any of the other cities?

Thanks for all the help, as I can research and see what countries and places appeal to me as much as possible but you all are essential to actually telling me what is possible!

#10 sethomse has been a member since 5/10/2011. Posts: 4

Posted by norbit on 6/10/2011 at 10:23

Hence my last sentence; "NB: its definately a country where its best to save for when you have more time".
Like the easy rider tour, why cant he "tack" Burma on at the end of his stay? Where exactly in my post did I say to visit all 4 of those places in the one trip? Was simply giving alternatives to Rangoon.
And since the flight from Bangkok - Rangoon is only a little over an hour, It definately wont take a whole day in transit. Also as Air Asia does that leg at 8pm, why not make an early start the night before and leave after uni one day earlier than planned, thus giving more time?

Assuming the 4 day window is Friday - Monday, I would leave BKK 8pm Thursday, giving one full day in Rangoon where you can have a look around, change money and book a flight to Mandalay for the next day in the morning. When you arrive go on a tour to Amarapura, Sagaing etc and see the highlights. Next day share taxi to Pyin U Lwin, next day back to Mandalay for an evening flight and a look around the city if time permits (you could easily replace Pyin U Lwin for Bagan, depending on personal preference). It's by no means ideal, but travel in 4 days rarely is.

#11 norbit has been a member since 21/8/2010. Posts: 16

Posted by norbit on 6/10/2011 at 10:36

Luckily for you air travel is relatively cheap compared to Laos etc.
We were there a month ago, and we paid the following for flights on Air Bagan (the most reliable airline)
Rangoon - Mandalay = $90
Mandalay - Bagan = $30
Bagan - Heho (Inle Lake) = $55
Heho - Rangoon = $75
You can get alot cheaper on the government run Myanmar Airways, but that's probably not recommended for a variety of reasons.
Burma was one country where we paid the extra and flew the majority of time, since roads and buses are far from ideal (and dangerous as the steering wheel is often on the opposite side to what it should be which makes overtaking treacherous).
Share taxi from Mandalay - Pyin U Lwin takes about 1.5 hours and costs 5,000-6,000 kyat ($6 - $8 depending on the exchange rate you get)
Hope that helps!

#12 norbit has been a member since 21/8/2010. Posts: 16

Posted by MADMAC on 6/10/2011 at 11:19

I guess you see the world differently than I do. Rangoon isn't exactly a small city and the less time I spend in transit and the more time I spend at a location, the better. If he flies out at 8 PM, he's going to arrive in a strange city in a country he's never been in before (that happens to be a police state) and by the time he gets through customs it will be approaching ten at night...
If you got four days, in my view, you should be thinking minimalist. That is, you are going to go to one place and then back to BKK.

#13 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by norbit on 6/10/2011 at 21:33


The 8pm flight is fine. I personally took that flight to arrive in Burma for my first time and wouldnt have recommended it if there were problems. Since there is a 30 minute difference between Thailand and Burma, I think I was in our hotel by 10 - 10.30pm and not just leaving customs.

Anyway, your misinterpreting the whole point of my original comment. I'm normally a big advocate of the mantra 'less is more' when it comes to traveling, however not in this case. Rangoon isnt a particularly pleasant city to visit and it definitely doesnt give a good indication of what the rest of Burma is like. If I was in Sethomse's shoes I would much rather get a quick taste of a country in 4 days and be left with the desire to return, as opposed to forming a somewhat inaccurate opinion by being tainted with only one image of hectic Rangoon in my mind.

I'm not saying my views are gospel, but I think its nice to know other options exist.

#14 norbit has been a member since 21/8/2010. Posts: 16

Posted by sethomse on 7/10/2011 at 03:48

Thanks for the help guys! It looks like I am going to have to extend my stay for an entire month if I want to see everything!

#15 sethomse has been a member since 5/10/2011. Posts: 4

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