What’s the best route around SE Asia?

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What’s the best route around SE Asia?

Avatar for Gavinio
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I was thinking of landing in Laos (Vientiane) and travelling around South East Asia clockwise making my way to Vietnam (Hanoi) taking in all the sights heading south eventually entering Cambodia via Phom Penh and then through to Thailand (Bangkok).

Once I hit Bankgkok I have it all sorted but I’m a bit lost regarding Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. What’s the typical backpackers route?

Suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers.

 

     
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I was thinking of landing in Laos (Vientiane) and travelling around South East Asia clockwise making my way to Vietnam (Hanoi) taking in all the sights heading south eventually entering Cambodia via Phom Penh and then through to Thailand (Bangkok).

Once I hit Bankgkok I have it all sorted but I’m a bit lost regarding Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. What’s the typical backpackers route?

Suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers.

Hi mate.

Not that many backpackers fly to Vientiane for a start. You can only get there from a select few airports in the immediate region, and the airlines that serve it aren’t particularly cheap. Not sure on where you were planning on flying from, but you certainly can’t fly there directly from Europe. Flying into Bangkok is probably your best option, then taking a bus or train east to Vientiane. Doesn’t take long and it’d be a good ‘break in’ for you.

A popular backpacker route might look something like this…

From Bangkok, maybe head up to Chiang Mai (possibly take in Sukhothai or Ayuttayah on the way), and then do a hill trek or summat once in Chiang Mai and chill for a few days.

From there, maybe have a sniff round Pai and Chiang Rai and then head up to the border town of Chiang Khong. Cross the river to Laos and arrive in Huay Xai. Take the infamous slowboat down the Mekhong River to Luanphrabang and soak up the atmosphere there for a few days, beause it’s lovely. Go see the waterfalls and explore the surrounds. There’s a strong French influence here. Very nice looking place.

Take the bus south for 8ish hours and hop off at Vang Vien - the fun capital of Asia. Go tubing in the river, have a swim, take a motorbike out to see the various caves and surrounding villages, and generally take in the amazing scenery.

From there, take another bus to the capital Vientiane. You could spend a day or two there. It’s probably the smallest capital city you’ll ever go to. Nice, but maybe not as nice as other towns you’ll come across in Laos.

From there, you have a few choices. I’d be tempted to say go down to Si Phan Don (also known as ‘4000 Islands’wink, via Pakse (bus or plane… bus is lots cheaper). Again, gorgeous place. Basically loads of islands in the river. Tubing again, and also loads of other river based activities to do. From there, you’d either need to head back to Pakse or Vientiane for onward travel (again, overland or flights) to Hanoi.

Another choice would be to take a bus or plane to Hanoi from Vietiane (the bus is a proper trek, but really worth it - old skool backpacking!) and then make your way down through Vietnam.

Basically, you’ve got lots of options for getting out of Laos and over to Hanoi. Most will involve some backtracking, especially if you want to see southern Laos.

Anyways, from Hanoi it’s a well-trodden route south, taking in places like Hue, Hoi An and Nha Trang along the way, eventually arriving in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). Generally speaking, most people are split on Vietnam. Some prefer the north, some prefer the south. I’m easy. From Ho Chi Minh, I seriously recommend heading further west and south a bit, and going over to the island of Phu Quoc. Paradise.

From Ho Chi Minh, head for the land border crossings with Cambodia. Head for Phnom Penh, although have a serious think about taking in Sihanoukville down on the coast too. Beautiful. Anyways, whatever you do you’ll probably head to Phnom Penh at some point. In Phnom Penh, have a look at the Killing Fields museum, but make a point of also going to the S-21 prison museum. Proper lump in the throat stuff.

Then you could go north on a bus from Phnom Penh bound for Siem Reap. This is the town you stay in when touring the nearby temples at Angkor. Take a few days doing the Angkor temples (there are lots and they’re awesome), and make sure you go early one morning for a sunrise - beautiful.

After that, jump on the boat to Battambang - Cambodia’s second city. The boat takes all day, and if the weather’s good, it’s an awesome experience. Just spread out on the roof of the boat in the sunshine and make some friends.

Once in Battmabang, head for the Royal Hotel (it’s just a guest house, but a really good one at that) and hook up with a moto driver (motorbike taxi tour guide) and get them to take you on a tour of the neighbouring countryside.

Ask them to take you to the Bamboo Train as part of your day tour. Most of them speak very good English and will know exactly what you mean. They’re really informative guys and will only set you back between $7 and $10 for the whole day. If you want some super-hot tips on specific guides, then you can’t go wrong with Tony, Dave, Rich, Shoon, Pumpkin, Tarlay or Buffalo.

Of those, Tony, Dave and Buffalo are the best. They’re all locals and they’re some of the nicest folks you could ever wish to meet. Try and rustle up a group of mates, so as you can all go out together as a gang.

From Battambang, take a taxi or a bus to the Thai border at Poipet, and then continue on to Bangkok. It’d be a good idea to head down to the islands from there for the remainder of your trip, but if you’ve got a decent bit of time left, then I strongly recommend a trip out west to Kanchanaburi. You can do a couple of days there and then get back to Bangkok for a trip down to the islands. Kanchanaburi’s only 5 or 6 hours west of Bangkok by bus or train. It’s the site of the Bridge on the River Kwai, and it’s also got some of the region’s finest weterfalls close by, in Erawan National Park. Brilliant place. I love it there.

Once back in Bangkok, you could then maybe head down to some islands. Pick the coast that’s the least wet for the time of year you’re there (the monsoons seasons hit the east and west coasts at different times of year), or do both if you’re not too fussy about getting wet. Monsoon rains are really nice, but they can piss you off on the islands when all you want to do is sit on a beach and chill.

Thought about doing Malaysia too? It’d be a good option for after your stint on the Thai islands, seeing as you’ll be in the neighbourhood?

 

     
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Tommarvelle, you’re a fookin legend! Many thanks for your response.

I’m heading off at the end of May and will be in SE Asia for 2 months. I had actually seen a flight to Vientiane flying from Manchester with Lufthansa on 30 May for circa £400 on this website.

However, your itinery looks a safe bet and it includes northern Thailand which I was previously and reluctantly going to give a miss but not anymore!

How many visas will I need for this route - Thailand 90 day and a standard visa for Vietnam (I’ll get this in Bangkok)?

I had already planned to hit the islands in Southern Thailand. I’ve been to Thailand twice already and have a basic knowledge of the country. I understand that in June the east coast has the best weather.

I’d also planned to get to Malaysia. I’ll be flying to Cairns from here where I’ll start my 12 months in Oz. Is a flight from KL the best bet price wise?

Again, many thanks for your help. 

     
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Tommarvelle, you’re a fookin legend! Many thanks for your response.

I’m heading off at the end of May and will be in SE Asia for 2 months. I had actually seen a flight to Vientiane flying from Manchester with Lufthansa on 30 May for circa £400 on this website.

However, your itinery looks a safe bet and it includes northern Thailand which I was previously and reluctantly going to give a miss but not anymore!

How many visas will I need for this route - Thailand 90 day and a standard visa for Vietnam (I’ll get this in Bangkok)?

I had already planned to hit the islands in Southern Thailand. I’ve been to Thailand twice already and have a basic knowledge of the country. I understand that in June the east coast has the best weather.

I’d also planned to get to Malaysia. I’ll be flying to Cairns from here where I’ll start my 12 months in Oz. Is a flight from KL the best bet price wise?

Again, many thanks for your help. 

To keep things simple and avoid any potential grief, just get yourself a single entry visa for Thailand. It’s valid for 60 days. Organise it online through the Thai Consulate in Hull, or just pop in if you live nearby. Remember to check their opening times, though, beause they’re a bit weird.

http://www.thaiconsul-uk.com/pdfs/Ab Visa Application Pack.pdf

Get the Laos visa on the border. They now issue 30 day visas at most borders, which is loads more convenient than the 15 days they used to issue. Your Vietnam visa will take a bit of pre-planning, but it’s nothing you can’t organise at practically any travel agent worth their weight in the SE Asia region. Shouldn’t cost more than £35 and takes a couple of days tops to arrange. You can pay more for an express service if you want.

The cheapest way to get a visa for Vietnam would be to pop into a Vietnamese embassy, so yeah, Bangkok would a good place to do that when you first arrive. Get the Cambodian visa at the border, but you can also organise it up-front at travel agents/embassies if you’re bothered about being ripped off (some borders are more notorious than others).

Your flight into Vientiane will be from Bangkok with Thai Airways, after initially flying into Bangkok with Lufthanasa. Lufthansa and Thai Airways are part of the Star Alliance, and so share the duties on different routes. Thai are the only Star Alliance airline that flies into Laos. They’re one of only a very few airlines that fly into Laos at all.

A good alternative for flying to Bangkok would be with Qatar Airways. They generally do a fare from London to Bangkok for about £315, although it might be a bit late in the day now to get that fare for late May. Check on their website - don’t use an agent. If you do go with them, you’ll enjoy it because they’re a 5 star rated airline. Very nice, and I can vouch for them personally.

http://www.qatarairways.com/global/en/homepage.html

Re-enter Thailand over a land border to completely avoid the slight chance that you’ll be asked to produce aother visa, which can sometimes happen if you re-enter by air. At any Thai land border, you’ll get a free 15 day visa exemption stamp. Return to Thailand by air, and you’ll get a free 30 day visa exemption stamp, but you run the slightly increased risk of being asked to provide proof that you’re leaving within those 30 days before they grant you entry. Proof of departure would be an air ticket (not a bus or train ticket) out of Thailand (not a neighbouring country) within 30 days.

At Malaysia, you’ll get 90 days on entry and you can leave and re-enter as many times as you want - there are still some advantages to being a Commonwealth citizen!

For the very best air fares to east coast Australia from SE Asia, then KL’s the place to go. Air Asia X only run one route at present, but conveniently for you it’s from KL to the Gold Coast, which obviously isn’t a million miles away from Cairns in relative terms. One way fares can be consistenly found for as low as about £130, including all taxes and fees. Look for the promo fares when booking - there’s plenty of promo seats on each flight, and they fly the route daily.

Book directly on the Air Asia X website for the best fares. Don’t use an agent.

http://www.airasiax.com

If you’ve got your heart set on flying straight to Cairns from SE Asia (not a particularly cheap route in the scheme of things), then a good bet would be with Jetstar, but you’re into peak season in the tropical regions of Oz between May and September, so fares won’t be particularly cheap, even with the low cost carriers. Give yourself about 10 days flexibility, and you should find Singapore to Cairns flights with Jetstar for about £220, all in.

http://www.jetstar.com

Also look into flying from Singapore to Oz with super-cheap Tiger Airways. You won’t get to Cairns with them just yet (coming soon), but they will take you to Darwin, Perth, Melbourne or, perhaps best for you, Gold Coast. To get to Gold Coast with Tiger, you’re probably gonna have to book one flight from Singapore to Darwin and then another from Darwin to Gold Coast, but you’ll be surprised at just how cheap that can be with Tiger.

http://www.tigerairways.com/home/index.php

Another flight alternative would be to fly with Qantas/BA from London to Bangkok, and then from Singapore to Sydney, Melbourne or Perth. This can be sold as one single ticket, so speak to Trailfinders (other agents do the same ticket, but Trailfinders seem to be cheapest), and see how much they quote you for it. Should be around the £530 mark, all in. There’s some flexibility with it too, in that you can push back the date of the outward Singapore flight for free the first time, and then about AUD$50 for each time after that, if you wish.

There are loads of different cheap flight combinations you can take to get between the UK, Asia and Oz. Once you’ve settled on a rough itinerary, feel free to PM me and I’ll give you your cheapest options.

And yep - east is best for Thailand and Malaysia in June. West is in monsoon from April ‘til late Oct. Can’t recommend the Perhentians in Malaysia enough. The Tiomans are nice too, as is Redang.

Enjoy, and feel free to ask more questions.

     
deleted-user

Good info on the trip around SE Asia; I am looking at a similar route starting in Bangkok then into Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia then back into Thailand to work down to Singapore. In terms of duration how long would you block out for the route indicated Tommarvelle?  Im thinking it should take 8 week-ish including making way to singapore.

In terms of cost for flights etc we are going onto Perth from Singapore moving onto NZ then onto Tokyo before hitting back from either Beijing or Hong Kong which is going to be roughly £1000 with a RTW ticket inc tax and fuel departing in Oct 09.  Thats from Manchester which I think it a massive saving on individual tickets but does limit changes.

The part Im seriously stuck on is the best thai islands to hit; I want to do a week training muay thai (since its dirt cheap and authentic) but want a laid back area.

Cheers

     
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Im going to tag this as its absolute gem! Thanks!

x

     
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me too, haven’t got the energy to read it now, but tomorrow i will take it all in!!

     
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Loads of brillant information. Thinking about doing a similar route if/when i can travel this year. Though i was planning on leaving out vietnam. Is it is to go from Laos straight to cambodia?

Thanks rhys

     
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I agree, this is awesome! x

     
deleted-user

Been trying to find some costing on the boat down the river with no joy; does anybody have a guessimate on the cost.  Had a look at a few sights on the way through and anyone thinking of the root it looks amazing.

Those interested in fitness/sport I’ve check out some of the muay thai camps up northern thailand cheap, authentic and killer sessions what else could you want.

As I will want to keep up the kickboxing/muay thai etc I am wondering if anyone knows of any training centres in Lao and/or cambodia?

Also has anyone set a budget for their trip around SE Asia? If so please share cost and duration.

     
deleted-user

^ Well for cost I’m budgeting on £600/month now. Last year I got by on £500, but I’ve got friends out there now who said prices have risen, so I’ve added some. You could get by on less, but I drink an expensively large amount. Im thinking that should be enough per month to get me through Thailand, Vietnam and Laos over 3 months in the summer.

     
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Great info.

Thanks :D

     
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Brilliant Tommarvelle :razz:

im going to favourite this thread :-D and steal some parts of that journey wooo

     
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The thread’s a year old, so I’ll just add a few brief updates…

* You only get a 15 day visa exemption stamp if you enter Thailand overland these days. You’ll still get 30 days if you fly into Thailand, subject to the usual rarely enforced onward flight requirements.

* Cheapest flights to SE Asia are now with Air Asia X. London to KL for as little as £69 one way if you catch the best promo fares.

* 60 day Thai tourist visas are free until June 4th. They’ll then revert back to £28 in the UK, and around £20 if obtained in other countries in SE Asia.

     
Avatar for Chopsuzy
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I’ve done that a couple of times now ha ha oops.

Is the route still similar though, because i dont even know where to start once we leave bangkok, im kind of in frame of mind of see what happens but I like a slight plan to which direction to head, we have to end up in singapore by mid december but until then how many days in each place would you recommend?

Bangkok
Cambodia
Laos
Vietnam
Thailand
KL
Singapore

     
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Sorry, just tagging this post for use later on in my travels as that’s pretty much the route I’d planned on doing. Cheers!