Beginning in the Lao capital of Vientiane, this trip plan takes you through southern Laos, entering Vietnam around the DMZ. From there you head south taking in some of the highlights of southern Vietnam, including a stop in the lush Mekong Delta. Once you're finished in Vietnam, you take a hard right and head up the Mekong River to the capital of Cambodia Phnom Penh, them move further west to the magnificent ruins of Angkor Wat just outside Siem Reap. Once you've had your fill of Khmer ruins, strike west to the Thai capital, Bangkok.
For those set on getting an experience in Laos, Vietnam and Laos, but with only limited time, a trip like this is a good choice, as while you miss the north of both Laos and Vietnam, you save a lot of time that would otherwise be spent getting from A to B. If you do have more time, there are lots of extra sidetrips that can be built onto a trip like this.
If you're willing to fly a few routes and skip out some of the lesser-known spots, you could cover all three countries in as little as two weeks, but we'd say that was a really bad idea -- unless your idea of a holiday is to be on the move just about every day. Realistically a comfortable minimum to do the following route, with stops at all the designated towns, would be at least three weeks, with four weeks an even better idea.
Aside from knocking off destinations, the best way to save time it to fly some of the legs, for example Saigon to Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Bangkok.
One day: Skip any one town
Wow, well the potential for sidetrips is almost endless -- take a look at our trip-plans for the individual countries to get some ideas.
If you want to fit in some island time in Thailand, check out our Thailand islands and more islands trip plan, otherwise refer to any one of the specific country plans for more ideas.
To help you work out how you'll get around, we've listed the trip durations for the various forms of transport available. Note that with the exception of flight times, these are average trip times, so no hate mail if you take the slow train.
|THE REGION: Southern Laos, Southern Vietnam and Cambodia|
|Da Nang||Hoi An||-||1:00||-||-|
|Hoi An||Nha Trang||-||19:00||9:00 (from Da Nang)||-|
|Nha Trang||Mui Ne||-||7:00||7:00 (Ma Lam)||-|
|Can Tho||Chau Doc||-||3:00||-||-|
|Chau Doc||Phnom Penh||-||-||-||5:00|
|Phnom Penh||Siem Reap||1:00||4:00||-||6:00+|
|Siem Reap||Bangkok (via Poipet)||1:00||10:00||-||-|
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!
Burma lends itself to a short fast trip with frequent flights thrown in or a longer, slower trip where you don't leave the ground. There isn't much of a middle ground. Ground transport remains relatively slow, so be wary about trying to fit too much in.
Roughly apple-shaped, you'd think Cambodia would be ideal for circular routes, but the road network isn't really laid out that way. This means you'll most likely find yourself through some towns more than once, so work them into your plans.
How long have you got? That's not long enough. Really. You'd need a few lifetimes to do this sprawling archipelago justice. Be wary of trying to cover too much ground - the going in Indonesia can be slow.
North or south or both? Laos is relatively small and transport is getting better and better. Those visiting multiple countries can pass through here a few times making for some interesting trips.
The peninsula is easy, with affordable buses, trains and planes and relatively short distances. Sabah and Sarawak are also relatively easy to get around.The vast majority of visitors stick to the peninsula but Borneo is well worth the time and money to reach.
So much to see, so much to do. Thailand boasts some of the better public transport in the region so getting around can be fast and affordable. If time is limited, stick to one part of the country.
Long and thin, Vietnam looks straightforward, but the going is slow and the distances getting from A to B can really bite into a tight trip plan. If you're not on an open-ended trip, plan carefully.
This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.