I am looking to travel around South East Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) around May/June time for approx. 4 weeks and looking for some advice about the best way to travel. I've looked into some of the tours that you are with a group and see multiple places in a short period of time but am i better to just get my backpack and wing it (somewhat as i go) rather than the restriction of a tour?
I'd always recommend doing it yourself over a tour but that's only if you're comfortable doing so. It's very easy to get around SE Asia as many backpackers do it so you wouldn't have any problems. Just know that is does take a while to get in and out of Laos. Also I'm not sure if you realise but May and June is the beginning of the rainy season in that area, so you won't have great weather.
Thanks for the reply. I'm hoping to be finished up by early June to miss the worst of the weather but due to commitments this is the only window i have for the trip or it'll be another year of oh i'll do it someday! i've worked a reasonable amount in KL and Singapore so i'm well accustomed to the downpours, and have been in thailand in July which wasn't horrendous so i'm hoping to catch the start of it before the worse comes.
I don't have a huge amount of time and want to do as much as possible so any tips/hints about the best way/direction to travel would be greatly appreciated. looking at probably 8-10 weeks leaving Mid April with at least 3 already accounted for. I'm not on a shoe-string budget but also not a bottomless one - so happy to fly between destinations etc due to time restraints.
Well I would maybe recommend flying out of Vientiane to Ha Noi, traveling down Vietnam then crossing over from Ho Chi Minh into Cambodia - seems the most logical route to take, but that depends where you're going to be flying into of course. Night buses or trains are good ways to travel through Vietnam, to save on time as the distance between locations are quite far. Buses are really your only option in the other 2, and are usually quite nice in Cambodia.
Some roads in Cambodia and Laos receive considerable damage after a big downpour so might be worthwhile checking your route before you go, in those ones.
I also recommend DIY travel - it's so easy in Indochina. The area is much larger and travel/pace of life moves slowly there. 4 wks is not much time to see all of the 3 countries. Vietnam is my favorite of the 3, and I believe it to be the cheapest and friendliest of the countries. You should do a little research over on Travelfish - the experts for SE Asia.
Road travel is cheap, but also dangerous (esp. in Vietnam and Laos). Train travel is very limited (mainly along the coast in Vietnam), but air travel quite good domestically (expensive when you cross borders).
A great way to really get to know the area and the locals, is to volunteer through a website called Help X. ( http://www.helpx.net/ ) You can volunteer your services, and in return you are provided shelter, food, and a way to experinece the life and culture of the country you are visting. I had a friend use this while travelling SE Asia last year, and found it to be a unique and fun way to travel.