So, my husband & I are planning a trip to parts of SE Asia in February of 2024. We have 19 nights in total. We like cities, but we also like ruins/temples & beautiful scenery. We love taking photos. We're not into nightlife.
Originally, my idea was to go to Cambodia (especially Siem Reap) & Vietnam.
However, in booking flights, we ended up with flights to & from Taipei in Premium Economy, so we'll use that as our layover point. (There are no flights less than 2 stops from where we live to anywhere in SE Asia. Also, DH has been to Taipei 5 times on business & we've hosted people from Taipei several times, so we have friends there.) Other flight routes were too pricey, except in economy, and we don't want to fly economy on the long leg of the trip.
Anyhow, I'm now leaning toward leaving out Cambodia in favour of Bangkok, because the main thing we want to see in Cambodia is Angkor Wat, but there are no direct flights between Siem Reap & Taipei or to places we want to go in Vietnam at that time of year, whereas Bangkok has many good flight connections. It seems like it will take a full day of travel to get to Angkor Wat, plus a full day of travel to get from there to our next destination. Also, everything I read says that Angkor Wat is incredibly crowded. Crowds & heat wear me out, so I would need to do a lot of careful planning & zigzagging to minimize these. However, the chances of us going back to SE Asia & seeing Angkor Wat are slim. Is it a mistake to skip Angkor Wat? I know it is spectacular & huge, but we plan on visiting either Ayutthaya or Lopburi (comments as to which?) in Thailand & My Son in Vietnam.
Also, in Vietnam, we are thinking of skipping Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) & the Mekong Delta. We are more interested in Hoi An, Hue, Ninh Binh, & Hanoi. We are not especially interested in war history. There are direct flights from Bangkok to Danang, whereas from Siem Reap, we'd need to fly to Ho Chi MInh City.
Finally, I have been reading that Bai Tu Long Bay is quieter & nicer than the typical part of Halong Bay where most cruises go, but the karsts are a little less dense & less high here. There are also fewer grottoes/caves. If anyone has done both, what do you think? I'm leaning toward Bai Tu Long, as I think I would enjoy a quieter experience, but would we be missing out on spectacular views if we skip the main Halong Bay sights?