Have 2 months, deciding where to go in SE Asia.
First of all, I apologize -- I am sure you all see posts like these on a regular basis.
Here is the story, I have 2 months (maybe more money permitting) and originally I wanted to goto Thailand. After doing some research my trip to Thailand mutated into Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and then maybe some Thailand at the end.
Do I base the meat of my trip on Thailand? Vietnam? Laos?
Were any of you in this situation on your first trip to SE Asia? If so please let me know on what you decided on and why.
Any insight is much appreciated.
On our first trip to Asia we spent three months travelling Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia. Laos and Cambodia are relatively small countries so you can visit them in a short time (of course, you can spend as long as you want there!). Vietnam is longer, to travel the whole country would need a minimum of 2 weeks, and personally I would suggest three. But you can decide on one part of the country to see. The first time we went to Vietnam we only visited the North, for 10 days.
I would suggest you look at airasia.com for the sort of cheap flights you can get in the region. It means you can cover a greater area.
An option for a route would be:
Fly into Bangkok, spend a couple of days there acclimatising and exploring. Then travel North, perhaps stopping in Ayuttaya and Kanchanaburi. Up to Chiang Mai. Spend a couple of days there, perhaps do a trek in the hills. Then cross the border into Laos and go to Luang Prabang. If you are short of time you can fly. Travel through Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiene. Then you can either go into Vietnam, or go back into Thailand and go South.
So you could either travel South through Vietnam, or travel South through Thailand. Up to you. Then into Cambodia to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Back into Thailand and South to spend some time on the islands.
That's the typical route backpackers take. I guess where you go depends on what you are looking for. Jungles, temples, cities, beaches, diving, chill-out, parties...the choice is yours in Asia!
I'm planning a trip like this but am finding it hard to wrap my head around how long the travel between destinations will be. My route is similar to that which you have suggested. Can you answer a couple of questions please KK??
1) I think there is an overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, is that true?
2) To get from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang is about 3 days on bus - so I've read. Is that the only way or are there trains that are a bit quicker?
3) What are the travel options between Luang Prabang --> Vang Vieng and Vientiene?
4) I plan on flying between Vientiene and Ha Noi, is that the most economical (time and $) way to get there?
5) There is an overnight train from Ha Noi to Hue, is that correct?
6) If traveling further south including De Lat, would it be mostly by bus?
...sorry, more questions than I thought! Thanks for your help =)
We were exactly the same as you - Thailand turned into the entire region. In terms of where you should bank on spending most of your time I would say Vietnam. There is so much to do and see there. We spent a month there but you should be able to see plenty in 3 weeks. 2 weeks in Laos will let you go tubing in Vang Vieng, visit the unforgettable Luang Phrabang and also Vientiane or the Plain of Jars and bomb villages near Phonsavan. Bear in mind that getting from place to place in Laos usually takes longer than the other countries. Most bus journeys will be somewhere between 6 and 10 hours. 2 weeks in Cambodia would be enough time to see the temples of Angkor and the history of Phnom Penh. This would leave you a couple of weeks for Thailand. Maybe a few days in Bangkok, a few days in Chiang Mai and a relax on one of the islands. Take a look at our blog for more of our route and PM if you need any info.
1) Yes, there are overnight trains between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. They're comfy, cheap and save you a night's accommodation.
3) Luang Phrabang to other areas in Laos will be by bus. There are no trains. The journeys you mention are roughly 5-6 hours for LP - VV and about the same from VV to Vientiane from what I remember. You can fly but by the time you get to and from airports as well as checking in, etc, it's not always much quicker and is much more expensive.
4) In terms of time, it will be much quicker to fly between Vientiane and Hanoi. We did the same in the opposite direction. It was more expensive but we did not have enough time left on our visa to do it overland.
5) There is an overnight train from Hanoi to Hue. Again, cheap and comfortable.
6) Getting to Da Lat would need to be by bus. The rail system tends to follow the coast down whereas Da Lat is in the Central Highlands. The bus journey there will probably be quite long, depending of course on where you take it from. It's worth it though, especially if you're into outdoor activities. And don't miss a day with the Easy Riders.
Hope this helps guys
A&A thank you for clearing that up for me! Maybe there is a train stop along the coast line closest to De Lat which would make it quicker to get there than if I caught a bus straight from Hue?
I have been reading about Easy Rider adventures, I would love to do some riding. Did you hire motorbikes while you were there? I sold my KTM 690 supermotard just over a month ago and miss it a lot =(
In planing my itinerary I was planning for about 10 days in Laos and Cambodia but with all the travel time included it's going to have to be about 2 weeks now as you suggested. I don't want to be rushing away as soon as I get there. Hopefully I still get time for India/Sri Lanka/ Pakistan!
Nha Trang would probably be a good place to get the train to and then a bus from there to Da Lat.
When you arrive in Da Lat Easyriders will ask you as you check into your hotel/guesthouse if you want a tour. The person behind the desk will tell you if they are legit. You ride pillion and they act as a guide. You could rent a bike there and do it yourself but you wouldn't get the inside info.
Hmmm I'm not really comfortable riding pillion, I'd much prefer to be in control! I wonder how expensive it would be to hire a bike and a tour guide?? Failing that I'm planning on meeting up with some couch surfers so maybe I can organise a ride with them.
Do you know if there's an over night train from De Nang to Nha Trang??
Thanks again!! =)
Yes, there is an overnight train from DaNang (I assume that's where you meant) to Nha Trang. Then you get a bus to DaLat from there.
You can go from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang by plane, Laos Airlines do it. It takes an hour. Or you can take a boat down the Mekong river. It takes 2 days.
Have a look at some blogs from the area, it might help with your trip!