Photo: Canals of Ca Mau, Mekong Delta.

Vietnam forum

26 days HCM-Hanoi via Cambodia, Laos

Posted by Lyinginthesun on 7/12/2011 at 01:09

Hey, I'm planning a 26 day trip in Jan/Feb, and am wondering if my proposed route is feasible in that time. I intend to travel from HCM to Cambodia, back to Vietnam, up to Laos, over to Sa Pa and then to Ha Noi to depart. I would prefer to spend a day or 2 in each location.

Specifically I land in HCM, go south to Can Tho, then through Chau Doc to Phnom Penh . From Phnom Penh I intended to head to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. Then from Siem Reap to Ban Lung in Ratanakiri, over to Pleiku in Vietnam, and from there to My Son and Hue .

From Hue I was planning to head up to Vinh, and from there catch a bus to Phonsavan in Laos (apparently 12 hr bus ride) to check out the plain of jars.

Then Phonsavan to Luang Prabang, from there to the border crossing at Dien Bien Phu . From Dien Bien Phu to Sa Pa/ Lao Cai , and then Lao Cai to Hanoi.

Is this possible at a reasonable pace, or am I cramming too much in?

If this is not a sensible plan what would be another cunning plan? I'm not really into beaches, so was planning to stay inland, near the mountains, rivers, temples etc.

#1 Lyinginthesun has been a member since 7/12/2011. Posts: 5

Posted by chinarocks on 7/12/2011 at 03:45

Unless you're having a competition with one of your mates to see who can have the least relaxed, most rushed and crammed trip of alifetime, then I would abandon this plan ASAP.

In almost 4 weeks and if you want to avoid beaches then a sensible plan would be Laos and Cambodia - split roughly two weeks in each. Laos has lots of mountains and temples - Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng etc, then head South to head into Cambodia. Depending on how long you stay in Laos (potentially all your time if you really wanted to relax and soak up the culture), you could just stick to the North of Cambodia (Kratie, Angkor, Battambang, Tonle Sap) and then potentially head back from there to Bangkok to catch a flight.

If your flight into Ho Chi Minh city cant be cancelled then you could do what I've said in reverse.


#2 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738

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Posted by Lyinginthesun on 7/12/2011 at 18:35

Hmm, I like the idea of HCM to Hanoi spending two weeks each in Cambodia and Laos. in your opinion is that possible without being too rushed? or would it be more worthwhile to spend a month in one region, say Hanoi-Laos-Hanoi, or HCM-Cambodia-HCM (or Bangkok)?

#3 Lyinginthesun has been a member since 7/12/2011. Posts: 5

Posted by chinarocks on 8/12/2011 at 04:31

I guess what you suggest is not a bad idea but I think if I had your time (i.e. almost 4 weeks) I would rather do (i) Cambodia/Laos or (ii) Vietnam.

If your preferences are staying inland near mountains, rivers and temples then Laos is tailor made for you. Whether you pair that up with Northern Vietnam or Cambodia is a personal preference really, as both are excellent.

Where are you flying in and out of?

#4 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738

Posted by MADMAC on 8/12/2011 at 08:23

It sounds like you are flying into and out of Hanoi . It seems like you would want to hit the highlights in the north and then head south working your way to Saigon slowly. In and around Saigon you could easily eat a week. Why hurry around? Defeats the point of coming to SEA. Once time is up, fly back to Hanoi for your flight out.

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Posted by chinarocks on 8/12/2011 at 09:34

I wouldn't disagree with MADMAC, who is effectively saying spend all your time in Vietnam. Put it this way, you certainly won't get bored.

Do the highlights up North in 10/11 days and then spend two weeks coming down slowly thru Hue, Hoi An, and HCMC and the South.

If you like mountains, then (as well as Sapa) hit Dalat.

#6 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738

Posted by Lyinginthesun on 8/12/2011 at 14:24

I'm landing in HCM and departing from Hanoi , though this can be altered.

I like the idea of going from HCM to cambodia, then up through Laos to Hanoi, but if I could spend a week around Saigon as Madmac says then I guess I would end up missing a lot.

Perhaps it would be more worthwhile to head north from HCM-Dalat-Pleiku, and then from there into Laos, through Laos to Phonsavan and Luang Prabang and then to Hanoi, so skipping Cambodia, not spending much time in Vietnam, but seeing a lot of Laos.

The idea to move up Vietnam HCM-Hanoi was my initial idea, its one I like especially if I can take my time and get away from the coast, but now ive realized Laos is there, with its mountains, rivers and temples, and that seems a lot more appealing to me.

My main concern with heading into Laos is that I may find myself halfway up the country when I should be in Hanoi, while Vietnam doesn't seem to run the risk of that; if i need to it seems I could grab a bus or train and be in Hanoi in 1-2 days.

Is Laos as isolated as seem to think it is? Mainly if I find my self midway up the country, will there be small centers to catch flights from, or swift overland buses?

#7 Lyinginthesun has been a member since 7/12/2011. Posts: 5

Posted by MADMAC on 8/12/2011 at 23:05

The problem with going from Hanoi down to Saigon, then over to Cambodia and then up through Laos and back into Vietnam and on to Hanoi again is that is an enormous amount of road time. Buses will be slow, especially in Cambodia and Vietnam. You will eat a week or more of your vacation time sitting on a bus.

When you say "Miss so much" it indicates the point of your trip is to see things. And maybe it is. But again, what makes this region special is the slow pace of life, not the great sights. There are a few, but basically it's not that kind of place. You want to see great architecture, go to Europe. If you are intent on racing around to see things, you will miss out on the one thing that makes this environment cool - the lasseiz Faire approach to life.

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by chinarocks on 9/12/2011 at 03:06

If you land in HCM and leave from Hanoi, then just stick to Vietnam. Cambodia and Laos would be madness too. MADMAC is right, journey times in Cambodia and Laos take forever and you will not see enough of each country.

If you want to see more than just Vietnam then you perhaps try and change your return flight from Bangkok. You could land in HCM, spend a week there and around the Delta and into Cambodia through the Delta (do independently if possible). Then spend 16/17 days in Cambodia and head from Siem Reap to Bangkok.

The point you make on Laos above is correct, you could end up being stuck there and, IMO, Laos is the last country you want to be rushing around chasing your tail as it is so relaxed.

Option 1:
HCM-Hanoi, 26 days through Vietnam, NO OTHER COUNTRY

Option 2:
HCM, Tunnels, Mekong Delta and travel time to Phomh Phenh, 7 days
Cambodia, 16 days
Travel to Bangkok, allow for delays etc, 2-3 days

#9 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738

Posted by haitranxuan on 9/12/2011 at 22:48

Posted from within Vietnam.

Hi Lyinginthes-un,
What's do think about this destination for your 26 days trip:
Hanoi-Maichau-Sapa-Bacha-Halong bay-Hoian-hochiminh-mekong delta-chaudoc-phnompenh-siemriep

You can start from Siem Riep and then cross the border to HCM city and travel up north to hanoi and fly to Vientian or Luang Prabang and finish off in Luangprabang. I think 26days it's good to pack all those places.
You can see the detail of this itinerary at:

Hope you sort out your best travel plan.

#10 haitranxuan has been a member since 18/7/2011. Posts: 5

Posted by Lyinginthesun on 11/12/2011 at 20:56

Ah decisions!

Madmac, you make a good point, I was in a mind set of covering ground, whereas I think I would prefer to soak up the people of an area.

Chinarocks and Haitranxuan, I like all 3 plans, its a shame i cant do all of them. I'm wondering if I would have enough time to go up the mekong from HCM-Phnom Penh- Siem Reap , then fly back from Siem Reap to HCM (or Dalat) and from there head north along inland roads to Hoi An and Hue, then to Sapa, Maichau and Hanoi.

Without the flight I think i'll have to stick to one plan, eg either HCM-Hanoi through Vietnam, or HCM-Mekong-Cambodia-depart Phnom Penh.

I suspect that if I went to Cambodia I would want to spend a lot of time exploring remote ruins, which I'm sure is time consuming.

I may have to save Cambodia and Laos for a future open ended trip.

What I will probably end up doing, is lounging around HCM for a few days harassing the locals, before slowly making my way through the Mekong, from there I may head north to Hanoi, making my way up Vietnam over a few weeks, or I may take Chinarocks advice, and head up the Mekong to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Angkor, other places in central Cambodia, before departing from Phnom Penh.

#11 Lyinginthesun has been a member since 7/12/2011. Posts: 5

Posted by daawgon on 12/12/2011 at 00:15

This sounds like a first trip to Indochina? People think it looks pretty compact on a map, and simply try to see too much. 26 days is not much time, and you'd have to rush around no matter where you go - don't forget that Jan 23rd is Tet (several days before and after are affected by the crowds). I think you should choose either all Vietnam or all Cambodia/Laos, and not try for the whole area. Even 26 days in 2 regions would be fine (I vote for North and Central - Hanoi , Sapa, Hue, Hoi An and Halong Bay). Spend 2 days in Saigon and fly to Danang to start the trip at Hoi An. I find Hanoi to be the real jewel in the crown in Vietnam (Saigon is just a VN version of Los Angeles IMHO!) Better get cracking with transport reservations if you're coming for late Jan!

#12 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,152
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Posted by Lyinginthesun on 12/12/2011 at 02:57

Transport reservations during tet is something I've been wondering about. Would you consider reservations necessary if I'm not too fussed about which days i travel on? E.g. if my itinerary isn't too tight?

#13 Lyinginthesun has been a member since 7/12/2011. Posts: 5

Posted by MADMAC on 12/12/2011 at 11:27

Good luck and hope you have a good time. Come back here afterwards and let us know how it went.

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Posted by vietnamvisit1 on 16/12/2011 at 03:52

Posted from within Vietnam.

Why don't you arrive Cambodia first then through Ho Chi Minh on mekong river. Visit Vietnam then go ahead to Laos. Fly back home from Laos. By this way you don't return Vietnam. if go to Ho Chi Minh first then to Cambodia and back Ho Chi Minh.

#15 vietnamvisit1 has been a member since 15/12/2011. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 12
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