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Help with South East Asia Itinerary

For anyone who has traveled to Thailand: We're in our early 70s and are planning a 21 day trip to Thailand and Cambodia, flying into and out of Bangkok. We have never been to South East Asia have some questions about the logistics and whether our plan even makes sense. We plan to go in mid January, 2017. Our itinerary is as follows: Siem Reap, 4 nights; Krabi, 5 nights; Chiang Mai, 4 nights; Sukhothai, 4 nights; Bangkok, 4 nights. We think we should fly between Bangkok and Siem Reap; Siem Reap and Krabi; and Krabi and Chiang Mai due to the distances, then bus between Chiang Mai and Sukhothai and on to Bangkok. Is our transportation plan sensible? Are the locations too far apart? Is this a good overall plan to experience Thailand & Angkor Wat? Is this even doable?

Any suggestions &/or advice would be appreciated.

Posted by
15060 posts

I haven't been to Sukhothai - it never popped up on my radar. I skipped the south, days on the beach aren't what I wanted to visit Thailand for.

Assuming you gt to Siem Reap jetlagged, 4 nights is fine. You'll have plenty of time to see all the sights with a private guide with a car in 3 full days.

I never took a bus or train in Thailand. The trains are unreliable. I have no idea what the buses are like.

I flew from Bangkok to Chiang Rai (3 nights). I hired a private guide with a car (who was terrific) and spent 2 days touring the northern border areas with him. On the 3rd day, he drove me to Chiang Mai and we made several sightseeing stops along the way. Then I had 4 nights in Chiang Mai and loved it. I happend to be there for the annual flower festival which was amazing, spent a day at an elephant reserve, took a 1/2 day cooking class and had a wonderful time. The north has beautiful scenery and better climate (less humid and it cools off at night, so the mornings are deliciously brisk).

There's a lot to see and do in Bangkok, I'd spend more than 4 nights there.

Posted by
2526 posts

Bangkok has many worthy attractions and public transportation worked well for us along with tuk tuks. Touring from Chiang Mai was a wonderful experience for us and easily reached by air service from Bangkok. We hired a guide/vehicle and had an itinerary, but had the flexibility to change as we wished. Highly recommended and very affordable. Send me a private message if you desire the name of the firm and guide. I've not yet been to Siem Reap and the beaches don't hold as much appeal as beaches elsewhere. Have a marvelous trip.

Posted by
1309 posts

Thanks for your responses. We've found airfare on Cathay Pacific which flies SFO to Siem Reap and BKK to SFO which suits our itinerary and saves time and hassle. As for Krabi - we're not so much into sitting on the beach as to seeing the nearby island scenery. Thinking of taking one day from Krabi and adding it to Chiang Mai. Thanks again for your help.

Posted by
3336 posts

Hi Carol -
We spent 5 weeks in Thailand a few years ago and I can offer some insight on a few things you are inquiring about.
I think your itinerary looks fine...the only thing I would consider changing are your 5 nights in Krabi - it's not a big place and unless you plan to just relax on the beach there isn't a lot to do there.
You should absolutely fly between Bangkok and Siem Reap - you can do it by land but the roads can be quite awful and you have to switch drivers at the border.
The long distance bus system in Thailand is quite reliable but I personally have not used it.
We did take trains within Thailand and it was a very interesting experience! We went from Bangkok up to Angkor Wat for the day and then returned back to Bangkok at night. During the day the trains were teaming with students and families. No AC so it was quite hot (you are going during the dry, hot season). We made a mistake of taking the train back to Bangkok at night...beggars came on and we were aggressively harassed for a good part of the journey. We didn't make that mistake again.
The distances between Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, and Bangkok are quite far. I would take an overnight trip down to Sukhothai from Chiang Mai by taxi or take a tour, go back to Chiang Mai, and then fly from Chiang Mai down to Bangkok. It's about a 7 hour bus ride from CM to Suk and another 7 hours from Suk to Bangkok. I can't imagine that it would be a very comfortable trip and it would eat up a lot of time from your trip.
Thailand is one of my favorite destinations that I have visited but it is not an easy place to travel. I would highly suggest that you make it as easy on yourself as you can and fly whenever possible.
Use taxis but make sure that there is a meter right when you get in. If there isn't one get out and find another one without apology...they will rip you off. If you take a tuk-tuk make sure you have CLEARLY negotiated the entire price before getting in, especially at historic sights. Do it in writing.

Posted by
1309 posts

Anita - thanks for your input. We have taken one night from Krabi and added it to Chiang Mai. Will look into your transportation suggestions. Thanks again.

Posted by
45 posts

I lived in Thailand for a year, very close to Sukhothai. I would highly recommend it. I usually took buses (often at night with super high AC on), but I was very economical (cheap). There is a train from BKK to Chiang Mai, which may stop in Sukhothai. I love CM-I think it's a highlight. Other ideas: Kanchanburi (especially if you are fans of the Bridge on the River Kwai), many people like Chiang Rai. January will be a great time to travel.

Posted by
3118 posts

I also love Chiang Mai and have spent nearly a month there total on two separate trips. For a more relaxed trip, I think that you could easily delete Krabi for more time in other places (Chiang Mai and Bangkok). We flew Air Asia between Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

Check Rome2Rio for ideas about transportation between destinations. The Trip Advisor forum is also a good place to get itinerary advice.

It's great that you're going to Siem Reap--for us, it always seemed complicated to add to an itinerary for Thailand.

You'll have a great time!

Posted by
1309 posts

Wow! We didn't expect so many suggestions! As an update - we've found multi-city flights (not yet purchased) on Cathay Pacific so we can fly into Sien Reap and out of Bangkok for about the same price as separate flights. We've changed Krabi to 4 nights. I think Mr. will need a break from temples and being inland and the scenery of the islands is something we want to see. We plan to fly from Krabi to Chiang Mai and I'll check into transportation from there to Sukhothai and on to Bangkok.

Cynthia: We had planned to visit Kanchanaburi but the transportation seems too complicated. Remember, we're in our early 70s, and although we have traveled a lot and Mr. has driven in many different countries, we tend to tire more easily than we did 20 years ago so getting between those towns without a car seems a bit daunting.
Sharon: AirAsia is the lowest cost so we're planning to fly with them. When we make our reservations with Cathay we'll also reserve the regional flights to ensure we can get to where we want. Have also checked on TA and have received similar advice.

Even with all the great input and encouragement, we're still a bit anxious about this trip but it seems to be now or never and from all we've read and the pictures we've seen it could turn out to be some place we will want to re-visit!

Posted by
3118 posts

Great work Carol! You will love Thailand. It's really a great place to slow down and relax. The people are wonderful, the food is great, and the markets are lots of fun. January is the perfect time to be there.

For Chiang Mai, if you like cooking classes, I really enjoyed Baan Thai Cooking School. They will pick you up at your hotel. We also enjoyed a day trip to the Elephant Nature Park about one hour from Chiang Mai. And in any Thai city, there is always a foot massage available after a busy day of walking.

Thinking about our past travels to Thailand is making me want to go too!

Posted by
15060 posts

Sharon, that's the elephant park I went to. What a great day it was. And like you, remembering the wonders makes me want to go back . . . maybe this winter . . . we'll see.

I took a cooking class at the Taste of Heaven vegetarian restaurant in the town center. We spent 2-3 hours learning about the ingredients and preparing 9 courses. I was paired with someone else who was solo (his wife was sick in bed), there was one other couple (they signed up first and got to choose the menu). We did all the cooking and a little of the vegetable prep - most of it was done in advance. When we'd finished, they brought all our dishes (each pair's were separate) and heaps of rice down to the restaurant and we had a huge lunch, with enough leftovers for the couple's dinner and my partner's wife. We also got booklets with lists of ingredients and the recipes for everything we cooked.

Posted by
3118 posts

Chani, starting to think about a trip to Thailand this winter as well!

Posted by
15060 posts

You think I'm not - I spent 3 hours last night looking at flights and hotels and trying to figure out if I can afford it! I'm going to start my own thread, methinks.