Hi, my earlier post appears to have disappeared, luckily I kept a copy for myself...
I have used this site before going to destinations such as North Africa and Eastern Europe and I could really use some help. Everyone on this site is very helpful and amazing. My partner and I are planning on traveling to Southeast Asia in mid-April. We are flying into Bangkok from Hong Kong (after visiting a friend in Taiwan for a week) and we need some advice about where to go and what to see. We are excited about heading east towards Siem Reap (and all those amazing temples) and take the river down to Phnom Penh. We then plan on heading over to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. We have been told to that it's totally worth it to take the train up the coast and visit Danang, Hue and I believe it is Hoi An. We then plan on going west into Laos, particularly Luang Prabang. I was wondering what everyone thinks is the quickest or best route to take to get to Luang Prabang from Vietnam (from Hanoi or Ky Son). We don't know what other places we want to visit in Laos besides Vientang (any suggestions). Also, we were wondering if there are any places that are highly recommended in Northern Thailand, as we make our way down once again to Bangkok. We are thinking about taking a night train from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia (what else might you recommend?). We then plan on heading down to Singapore to catch a flight home (with a stop off in Japan, just to spoil ourselves further). From what I've mentioned, we have about 6 weeks to do everything (excluding Japan and Taiwan). Is that enough time?? We plan on focusing on Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Our last destinations of Malaysia and Singapore are just the icing on top. I would really appreciate any feedback. Please feel free to critique our initial plan (time is running out, and we need help) Also, I attached a map of what things will look like more or less, but we're flexible. Thanks for your time.
Those are all very good questions, and I would also like to know the answers!!
You can get an overnight bus from various large towns in Vietnam across the border to Laos. You will need to check an up to date guidebook or ask recent travellers which borders are open. When I did this run in Dec 06, the buses from Vietnam went to either Vientiane or Savannakhet (south Laos) and nowhere else. The borders in the north were closed due to security issues - they had been closed for a while. I went from Hanoi to Vientiane by bus and it took 21 hrs. The bus also stopped at Hue which is many hours south of Hanoi, so it might be best to travel from Hue. Luang Pra Bang is, if I remember rightly, about 4 hrs on a bus from Vientiane. I don't remember there being any other way. You could fly from Hanoi to Vientiane I guess but it depends whether you are environmentally conscious whether you would see this as a viable option!
Next question....Vientiane is very dry (as in there is very little to do!), so I wouldn't recommend spending more than a night there. Vang Vieng is also pretty special in terms of scenery. You may have heard of it already - it's where the infamous tubing takes place! Other than the scenery across the river, it is rather devoid of any culture (it's been set up for travellers, bascially), so 2 days here is probably sufficient. Luang Prabang is amazing - beautiful town, great market, fantastic scenery, a gorgeous waterfall about 15kms or so away which is well worth a visit. I spent several days here. These are the only places I went, so cannot comment further.
From Laos, you can get the boat up to Chiang Rai in Thailand. Chiang Rai is great for trekking and a bit more laid back that Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is great though - loads to do, friendly people, beautiful city. From Chiang Mai, it's really easy to jump on the night train back to Bangkok. Yeah, train from Bangkok to KL is probably best - it would be a mission on a bus. I would also recommend the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia - great to take time out for a few days and kick back. Melacca (on way to Singapore from KL) is also worth a visit, if only for it's China Town night market!
Six weeks should be enough - but you won't be hanging around!! 4 days in Cambodia, 1.5-2 weeks Vietnam, 5-6 days Laos, 1.5-2 weeks Thailand and 5-6 days in Malaysia. If you need more specific help with itinerary, let me know!
Suggest activities in
1) BKK a) visiting the Palaces & Wats in BKK b) China Town & Chachuchak Mkt c) Shopping in Sumkuvit Rd
2) Outside BKK a) Day trips to a) Ayuthalla(Ancient Capital) b) Kenchana Puri( River Kiwi & National Parks)
3) Beaches a) Hua Hin/Chaam ( ~ 100km south of BKK ) PS:- Phuket/Kao Samui/Phattaya (Too commercialize)
B) BKK to Siem Reap(Angkor Wat)
1) Fly from BKK via Air Asia or By Bus/coach from BKK.
2) Looking at the temple complexes ( HUGE ) & surrounding area
C) Siem Reap to Phenom Phen
1) By Bus/Coach to P.Phen as the river boat/trip is rather risky ( Water level ,etc )
2) A couple of days in P.Phen sightseeing
D) Phenon Phen to Ho Chin Min
1) Coach/Bus to HCM city.
2) Couple days in JCM sight seeing
E) P.Phen upwards to Hanoi.
1) Should consider stopping over night for a few days in places like Hue, Danang, etc.
2) travel by Coach/bus which is more frequent & reliable.
F) Hanoi to Vientiane
1) Roads to LAOS ( L. Prabang or Vientiane ) is terrible and can take much longer than expected. So suggest flying using AirAsia from Hanoi to Vientiane. Check out their web site. ( www.airasia.com)
2) A couple of days in Vientiane sight seeing ( Try out their French loaf, pastries & local coffee )
3) Overland to L.Prabang (UNESCO hertitage city) for a few days of sightseeing there.
4) Then back to Vientaine overland.
G) Vientaine to Chaing Mai (Thailand)
1) Suggest you cross over from Vientaine(Laos) to Nong Khai ( Thailand ) via bus.
2) A day or two in Nong Khai before bus/coach to C.Mai. ( Nice scenic view traveling thru farm lands and Mountains before reaching C.Mai )
3) C.Mai sight seeing and day trips to surrounding area like C.Rai , Golden Triangle, National Parks, etc. ( 1 to 2 weeks)
F) C.Mai to Kuala Lumpur
1) Pls consider that if by bus/train from C.Mai - BKK - Butterworth - Kuala Lumpur would take you abt 3 days but flight 3 hrs ! So do consider this. Flight by Airasia is about US$ 100/- one way .( C.Mai to K.Lumpur )
2) Sight seeing in K.Lumpur ( People, Culture and Food )
3) Beaches in the East Coast , Malaysia ( Visit Prehentian Islands and Redang Islands )
4) National Park like Taman Negara ( Real Rain forest / Virgin Jungle )
G) K.Lumpur to Singapore
1) Bus/coach to Singapore is more frequent, cheaper and faster. Your choice if by train or air. ');
a) You probably be spending lots of time travelling trying to cover so many countries by Coach/Bus. Have to be careful here and be street wise. Use only approved/recommended transport. Ask the Guest Houses you stay or fellow travelers .
b) In Places like P.Phen, Siem Reap, Vientiane, L.Prabang, C.Mai, N.Kai, etc check out renting a motor cycle or bicycle to see the town/city properly. ');
Have an enjoyable and safe trip.
Wow, thanks for all the input! I will definitely look into taking a bus from Hue to Laos (just to avoid a 21 hour bus ride, as my girlfriend tends to get motion sickness on long bus rides). Also, thanks for the tip on Vientiane, we were thinking about spending a day there anyways. I have heard about Vang Vieng, and I believe we are going to avoid it, as it just doesn't sound appealing, apart from the scenery. Your praise for Chang Rai/Mai has convinced me and my lady to check it out. I've read about the mountain treks and I'm excited. Do you remember how long the boat ride is from Laos to Thailand via the river?? I'm just curious. You've tickled my interest with the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, sadly I don't know if we'll be able to fit it in, but we'll definitely try our best. I'm interested to know what you recommend seeing in Kuala Lumpur??
Thanks so much. My girlfriend and I were discussing the possibility of visiting Ayuthalla as a day trip and renting bicycles. Also, we were thinking about visiting a National Park, which do you recommend?? We're thinking of visiting Khao Yai or Lang San (preferably something close to Bangkok). Also, what are some of the highlights when visiting the National Parks besides the hikes?? I keep finding it's difficult and time consuming to get into Laos from Vietnam, but I'll take your advice into consideration. I will definitely try their french loaf, pastries coffee in the capitol. Also, thanks for bringing up the option to fly from Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur, that will save us a lot of time and potential bus/train sickness. I'll look into it, Air Asia seems to be a safe and cheap choice, as far as I can tell.
Anyways, thanks to you both, feel free to add anymore details or advice. Keep it coming. Thanks again!!
Kuala Lumpur - spent quite a lot of time there (got stuck there waiting for a visa!!). I stayed in China Town which is a good place to be based as near one of the main bus stations, lots of great food, good market... The Petronas Towers look amazing at night, so definitely go for a walk around there. A walk along the river near the Central market is lovely at sunset as the skyline is terrific. The KL Tower has a 360degree viewing room and the views are pretty amazing. There is also a revolving restaurant which I was recommended (but never tried!). Times Square is the place to shop - there is an indoor roller coaster there! Central Market (about 15 mins walk from China Town) is great for local handicrafts. The Orchid Farm is beautiful - there is a butterfly farm nearby also. Don't bother with the Planetarium. KL is ok...but you only need one day, two max there really. I didn't find anything unmissable (the best bit was probably the Petronas Towers at night) - if you've got the time, skimp on KL and go to Cameron Highlands Good place to stay in KL is www.backpackerskl.com - right near China Town, bus station, professionally run, has a roof top bar which is also open for breakfast. Does get booked up, so book a day or two ahead - if it is full, the Blue Dragon (or is it the Red Dragon..??) a few doors down is also pretty good.
Oooh, forgot....Batu Caves near KL are meant to be very good.
Also, the boat...you can take a slow one or a fast one...my brother is an expert on this, so let me ask him and I'll get back to you!
[ Edit: Edited on 17-Mar-2009, at 03:36 by claireh ]
Sorry for delay.
Just got back from Siem Reap ( Angkor Wat )..Worth the time spend there. About 3 to 4 days is sufficient to taste and enjoy the historical sites and town/night life.
Getting back to your question about visiting Ayuthalla . From BKK there are day tours to that place. The interesting sites are in town so no point to hire a bicycle.
Another interesting place is Kanchanapuri where the famous River Kwai movie is about . There you can combine the train ride, elephant ride and water rafting in a full day trip from BKK. At the same time scenic view of it's national park without the hiking !!!
If you love jungle trekking, suggest you check out in Chaing Mai when you get there. But if you want good jungle trekking , try the Malaysia -Taman Negara ( Worth the time and effort )
As for beaches near BKK, the nearest is Chaam / Hua Hin. Up and coming beach resort with mid/high end beach status. But Guest houses are readily availiable. Abt 150km south of BKK.
The two places of Khao Yai or Lang San , they are pretty far from BKK.
Agree with claireh about the iternary in K.Lumpur.
There is also a Tower bridge in the Petronas Twin tower which is FREE access on weekdays. Check it out then you are here.
As for the Revolving Restaurant in the KL Tower, it is not really worth the price paid for lunch or dinner and at the same time getting a view of K.Lumpur.
If you like white water rafting, then check out day trips from K.L. Nearest is in Kuala Kubu Bahru which is pretty good and worth the effort. Else Google "White water Rafting - Malaysia"
Hope this helps.'')