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Answering Questions About SE Asia Trip

Swimming In Waterfalls, Luang Prubang
Swimming in the clear waters of the Kouang Si waterfall in Luang Prabang, Laos

Q. I’m going to be in China and Korea for a school consulting project in May, but have about 12 days to travel on the back end and want to go to SE Asia for a bit. I just wanted your thoughts on how to best spend my relatively short amount of time and money.

I’m thinking either Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam or Laos just because they’re the closest to Shanghai and relatively cheap. Cambodia is looking good because I really want to go to Angkor and then go see the killing fields in the capital, but that would only take like 5 days. Any thoughts on what else I could do with my remaining 6 days or so in that region? I don’t want to take another flight…so basically is there anything via bus (a 6-8 hour bus ride is all good) that I should go see from phnom pen/siem reap that is a reasonable distance? If everything else worth seeing requires a flight or really long bus then I might just skip Cambodia and fly straight to phuket (not stay there, though) from China and hop around the islands for 12 days. Thoughts? I don’t know shit about Vietnam, though heard Ha Noi is cool..but don’t know what else to do there that is relatively close by. Your thoughts would be MUCH appreciated.

SE Asia huh, you’ll like it there. My initial thought was if you haven’t been to Thailand, spend your whole time there. But… if you have Cambodia on your mind, you could do Cambodia and Laos with your time. Angkor Wat is amazing. In Laos, there is a little hippy town where all the backpackers go, its all based around a river, and they’ve built a bunch of bars and stuff all along it. You rent a tube, they drop you at the river, and everyone cruises down stopping at all the bars. All the bars have rope swings, zip lines, etc. It’s a recipe for disaster, and accidents do happen, but its sooooo fun. Its called Van Vieng, think they have some caves too. The other place we went is called Luang Prubang, some really cool waterfalls as well as some temples.

Kouang Si Waterfalls, Laos
The Kouang Si waterfall from below

Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng Photos

Luang Prubang

Luang Prubang Photos

So, I think it comes down to this, do you want more beach time and crazy parties, or do you want to see more unique/impressive lesser travelled stuff? Really you need to see it all, everywhere is amazing, so there is no wrong choice. Vietnam is really cool too, but if you have more of an interest in Cambodia, go there, Vietnam would be more like a 12 day trip than a leftover time after Cambodia, although I suppose you could just do the north (Hanoi and Halong Bay (Halong Bay Photos)).

Kouang Si Waterfalls From The Top, Luang Prabang
Looking down from the top of the Kouang Si Waterfall

Q. So my Asia plans are coming together – im going to thailand. I fly into bangkok on the evening of may 22nd and fly out of Phuket on the night of June 3rd. I basically want you thoughts on what i should do with my time. my original plan was to fly from bangkok to samui on the 23rd, then go straigt to phangan and tao for like 5 days. Then, head over to krabi and railay beach for a few days, then phi phi, and fly home home out of phuket. i’m not planning on spending much time in phuket, just using it to fly out of since it was cheapest. does that sound like a good plan? i know may is a bit rainy, and the gulf islands on the east have better weather, so i figured that was a safer bet than staying only in the andaman sea islands (lanta, phi phi, and all the stuff off the north west of phuket. My BIG question – am i making a huge mistake by not going to chiang mai? it’s definitely possible for me to bangkok > chiang mai > phuket (and then just take ferries to phi phi, railay, lanta, etc) and skip phangan and tao all together. Doing bangkok > chiang mai > samui > phuket ia possible, but more epxensive since flights ar ekinda steep out of samui. Any thoughts on my itinerary are much appreciated. PLEASE HELP

That sounds like a great plan, but maybe a bit much for the allotted time. Keep in mind you’re going to lose a lot of time in transport, the more places you go, the more time you waste figuring out how to get where you’re going, finding proper airports, docks, buses, booking tickets, finding and getting checked in and out of hostels, etc. I wasn’t able to give Phuket a proper chance, but my impression in the 24 hours I spent there was that I didn’t mind missing out in favor of the other islands. Phi Phi was my favorite, with Koh Tao next, and Koh Phangan not far behind, didn’t do Lanta or Railay, Samui was cool but different, more touristy / family oriented. I didn’t do Chiang Mai, although it was on my list, we just decided we wanted to spend our time on the islands instead. I don’t regret it at all, we had an AMAZING time in Thailand. If you do choose to go to Chiang Mai, (which I think is just a personal decision based on what you want, because you’re missing out on something no matter what), I’ve heard there is also a cool little hippy / backpacker town called Pai close to Chiang Mai, but don’t know much about it. I’d probably say skip Chiang Mai on this trip and maximize your time on the Islands. I can’t remember if you’ve been to Bangkok, I didn’t find it amazing, but as long as you’re already there you should still see it, and there are some cool day trips like the Tiger Temple, Crocodile Shows, Snake Shows, etc.

You won’t be able to hit a full moon party, but you should be able to catch a half moon party In Koh Phangan if you plan right, keep that in mind also.

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