I did the Bkk, Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam-Laos, back to Thailand (via Chaing Mai) route last year.
We bussed to Cambodia from Bkk, got Visas at the border (paid $25 US to get it in minutes instead of 3 hours for paying $20), found a couple of other travelers and split a cab to Seim Reap, which works out to be the same price as the bus if you get 4 people in the cab and the cad is abou 2 hours faster (scary, but faster). We got our Vietnam visas in Bkk at the Vietnam Embasy, but met people in Phnom Penh who got their visas in Phnom Penh, same day service, for less than we spent. But, I'm not sure I'd want to risk it.
Only went to Seim Reap & PP in Cambodia, would of liked to explored more.
Vietnam, Hoi An is a must as is Sapa & Holong Bay.
I would try to add Laos to your itinerary. It is not going to last as it is now. There are huge infrastructure projects going on that will make travel easier and will certainly change the pleasant laid back country into a major tourist stop. So never mind, DON"T GO TO LAOS!!!!
Have a great time!
does any one know where the closest border crossing to laos is from hanoi or sapa? also is it better to carry dollars or the local currency in cambodia? thanks
Lao Bao and Cau Treo are the two border crossings mentioned in the Lonely Planet between Vitenam and Laos. The Cau Treo crossing point is the most northerly of the two options, but still quite a way south from Hanoi. It does also mention that the Tay Trang border which is near Dien Bien Phu might be opening up to foreigners, so maybe between the date the Lonely Planet SEA that I've got was printed and now that might be open and if it is, then it might be closer to Hanoi or Sapa.
For the currency, it is a good idea to carry a mixture of both currencies, but most the time $US is the prefered thing. I wouldn't carry large US notes, because depending on where you go you may find that you get a lot of Cambodian change or you may also find that they don't have enough change to give you. At least if you carried a supply of $20, $10, $5, and $1 notes, then you are covering yourself not to get in to that situation where you'll be left with a load of useless money. If you were to just buy a bottle of water then Cambodian currency would be prefered, but if you were to pay for your accommodation $US would be preferred. Like the bottle of water was only the equivalent of 12.5centsUS for 1 litre so giving it in $US would just be stupid, but when the sign is listed in $US then you will pay in $US.
[ Edit: Edited on Apr 22, 2007, at 1:16 AM by aharrold45 ]
I just got back from Thailand & Viet Nam a few days ago (see cultureshocktherapy.travellerspoint.com).
Everybody has different experiences and ideas, but this is what I learned. Malaria does not exist in Thailand and it does bad things to your liver. Malaria meds are very expensive (I paid about 8 dollars a pill for Malarone) so maybe only incountry Viet Nam and/or Cambodia it is needed. I'm no doctor - but this is what I've been told upon reaching Thailand) Also, it is very easy to get your visa to Vietnam in BKK. My friend and I had our hotel arrange it for about 2800 baht. It toook a few days but we didn't have to go wait hours in line at the Vietnamese embassy. That was a plus. It depends where you say of course, not every hotel offers services. We used ATMs quite a bit but on return home, I see a lot of fees I have no idea what for. I'd suggest coverting your money at exchanges (they are everywhere in BKK - airport is a good place) and making sure you have mostly small bills. In Viet Nam, no one could break 100,000 dong (about $6 US) which was very frustrating. But, that's what things cost - little amounts.
If you are into forensics or the slightly quirky side of Bangkok, I suggest taking the ferry up to Siriraj hospital and check on the Forensics Museum. You'll see things you could never see in the US (like the shirt and dildo of a person stabbed with said dildo. crazy).
If you can find a place to stay close to the Skytain or subway, you'll be able to get just about anywhere. I hated Khao San rd for it's non-Thai atmosphere. But whatever.
Flying is super cheap in both Thailand and Viet Nam ($60 from Da Nang to HCMC vs. $47 for the overnight train), but you do miss a lot of the countryside. If you are a good rough it type person - overland travel? - you'll be fine.
If you are on a budget or if you have flexible/open itinerary, in Thailand, and from BKK to Cambodia and VN, you can travel overland.
As someone already mentioned, part of the journey in Cambodia may be rough but it's not that tough like in the past years. From BKK to Siem Reap, it may take just 7 hours. From Siem Reap, you can continue to Phnom Penh by bus with good roads. Forget about the plane and speedboat as the fares are so killing! Use Phnom Penh as a base to explore other parts of Cambodia - Ratanakiri in the northeastern jungle (www.rattanakiri.net), SihanoukVille in the southern beach and more. From Phnom Penh you can travel by direct bus to Saigon. And from Saigon all the way to Hanoi you have choices of open ticket bus or the unification train to explore VN. If you want to rush back from Hanoi to BKK, you can fly cheaply with AirAsai (www.airasia.com) but should book online well before to get the good price.
[ Edit: Edited on Apr 29, 2007, at 1:21 AM by suwannaphu ]