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Southeast Asia, Bangkok, Cambodia, Myanmar, Siem Reap, Chiang Mai

Suggestions for trip to Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma?

So me and the wife are planning on a 18 day trip to southeast asia. we will be flying into Bangkok and I only have two must do things on the trip.

1. Angkor Wat

2. secluded beach and town, preferably limestone cliffs. i want basics of civilization (a bar and a store) it doesn't have to be an island either.

any thing else is up in the air so give me your suggestions and itineraries for making this work.

many of you know me by now and know my travel style so obviously don't waste your time if you are recommending Phuket lol. of course i have an itinerary planned but would love to get some insight from those of you who are familiar with the area. also am i missing something on travel between Bangkok and Siem Reap, i thought small airlines in this part of the world would be cheaper than european ones?  and is Chang Mai a must or will the siem reap are give me what I'm looking for?

8 Answers

top answer by
Lawrence from New Hampshire

Great trip idea, not dissimilar to the one I took last February. (I left off Cambodia in favor of more time in Myanmar.)

Here are my notes for Myanmar: In Yangon, the highlight of the city is the Shwedagon Pagoda complex. It is beautiful at any time of the day but stands out best in the hours before and after sunset.

In the middle of the city's financial district, standing awkwardly in the center of a traffic circle, you will find the smaller but more historically significant Sule Pagoda. This area is where Yangon's citizens have protested against their government's abuses, which often has triggered even greater crackdowns.

The best shopping can be found in the massive Bogyoke Market. And for a great dinner experience, try one of the clustered barbecue restaurants on 19th Street.

I enjoyed Mandalay, where the hike down the holy site Mandalay Hill drops you near Kuthodaw Pagoda, where you can see the world's largest book. Mandalay also gives you a unique opportunity to travel to Old Bagan by boat. The trip was delightful, but you must arrive at the docks before dawn. And the arrival timetable is often delayed by a couple of hours.

Bagan was the standout thrill of the trip. Consider hiring a horse cart to take you between the temples. These business men are quite humble and flexible in meeting your needs, and you can rest assured that your payments will help feed a family. Bicycle rentals are also available.

A fabulous side trip from Bagan to Mt Popa. The local area allows you to both see a near-unique geologic phenomenon and also become more acquainted with the worship of local spirits, called Nats. Also, it's a chance to interact with the local population of monkeys.

Inle Lake offers a unique experience and a glimpse into Burmese culture. I found Indein Market and the nearby crumbling small temple ruins particularly intriguing. (From the village, cross the bridge and go up the hill to find the pagoda complex.)

Getting a visa to Myanmar is not easy, and you have to prepare for a cash economy based on brand new, crisp US$100.00 bills. You cannot expect your cell phone to work, ready access to an ATM, or hotels that take credit cards. But be prepared to be blown away by a wonderful culture.

Enjoy the trip!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Yangon (city)
  2. Shwedagon Pagoda (attraction)
  3. Sule Pagoda (attraction)
  4. Bogyoke Market (attraction)
  5. Mandalay (attraction)
  6. Kuthodaw Pagoda (attraction)
  7. Old Bagan (attraction)
  8. Mt Popa (attraction)
  9. Inle Lake (attraction)
  10. Indein Market (attraction)
4 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Marie-France from Toronto

Railey Beach is now really crowded and overdeveloped. In Thailand I'd recommend Ko Muk if you're looking for a quiet beach like Railey was 20 years ago. It's an easy mini-van + boat trip from Trang near the Andaman coast.

As for airlines, Air Asia is very affordable especially if you book a few weeks in advance, and flies all over the region (with hubs in Bangkok and KL). 

Enjoy your trip!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ko Muk (attraction)
  2. Trang (attraction)
3 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Zach from West Bloomfield Township, Michigan

Chiang Mai is nothing like Siem Reap.  I made the mistake of falling in love with Siem Reap for its simplicity and charm and then expecting the same out of Chang Mai.  In chang mai everyone seems to own a house and a car.  Its just like an American small town.  Its cool, but touristy and built up.  You have to drive 1 hour to the mountains to get to cool stuff like Flight of the Gibbon and Elephant Nature Park (ENP).  The night market in Chang Mai is cool but doesn't have the character of Siem Reap.  

ENP is AMAZING AND HIGHLY RECOMMEND.  It is reason enough to visit Chang Mai.  DONT RIDE ELEPHANTS OR GO ANYWHERE THAT LETS YOU.  ENP is more fun, more fulfilling as you pet, bathe, feed and talk with elephants that were rescued from elephant tourism.  

As for the other places you want to see I would talk to people who know about lots of smaller Thai islands... not people who recommend Phuket and Koh Phi Phi.  I would highly recommend Railey Beach for the isolated fell with tall cliffs.  Its a really really amazing place.  No one in or out past 6pm by boat only.  Huge cliffs with lots of rock climbers.  Lots of rastafarian Thai people...lots of reggae... real chill and stunningly beautiful.  Just don't tell a million people about it. :)

Koh Phi Phi is also cool to see but very crowded and backpackery...By boat there are lots of cool nearby islands such as Nui Bay that will let you escape the madness during the day....or you can sleep on the Long Beach side of Phi Phi to escape it by night as well.  

Hope this helps.  You are definitely on the right track IMO.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Chiang Mai (city)
  2. Siem Reap (city)
  3. Flight of the Gibbon (attraction)
  4. Elephant Nature Park (attraction)
  5. Phuket (city)
  6. Koh Phi Phi (city)
  7. Railey Beach (attraction)
2 thankscomments (3)

answered first by
Breanna from Los Angeles

Hi Ross! I'm about to embark on a 15 day Thailand trip. Chiang Mai is on my itinerary for a few reasons. 1. The Elephant Nature Park. The lady who runs it rescues elephants from terrible conditions and brings them to the park to live the rest of their days roaming freely and without abuse. She has won several awards for her work. When you visit the park you spend the day with the elephants feeding and bathing them - a very personal experience in humane conditions. 2. The food in Northern Thailand varies from what you'll find in Bangkok. As a gastronome I'm excited for this. This is where I'd like to take a cooking class and of course make my way to the night market to try all the goodies. Hope that helps!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Chiang Mai (city)
  2. Elephant Nature Park (attraction)
  3. Bangkok (city)
2 thanks

answered by
Marina from Riga, Latvia

I've traveled a year through SEA and have published all my stories/recommendations here:

Secluded beach in Cambodia and Thailand - I'm not sure it's even possible, depending on what you call secluded of course. In terms of secluded for me (no/few people, mostly wild white sand beach, local culture) - I could only find it in Philippines (Palawan) and Indonesia (for example Sumatra's coastline islands)

In Cambodia - you could try going to Sihanoukville/Otres and visit more remote islands from there. Most are pretty secluded and mainly because there are very few facilities and generator based electricity. I absolutely loved hanging out in Otres Beach as well - very local feel.

Hope it helps!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cambodia (attraction)
  2. Philippines (attraction)
  3. Palawan (attraction)
  4. Sumatra (attraction)
  5. Sihanoukville (city)
  6. Otres Beach (attraction)
1 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Zach from West Bloomfield Township, Michigan

Chiang Mai is cool, but very developed.  I would suggest if you go there to 100% go to Elephant Nature Park.  They are one of 2 places I know of that actually treat the elephants well and don't allow riding etc...

Railay Beach is great!!  Not overdeveloped at all.  Definitely go there.

Angkor Wat and Siem Reap are great.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Chiang Mai (city)
  2. Elephant Nature Park (attraction)
  3. Railay Beach (attraction)
  4. Angkor Wat (attraction)
  5. Siem Reap (city)

answered by
Dan from Hobart, Tasmania

Krabi will fit the bill for Limestone cliffs, it's not going to be perfectly quiet but good luck finding that.

Siem Reap can be nice, there really isn't anything wrong with the place but you would have to leave the city a little to get the Chiang Maifeeling, I would imagine.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Krabi (city)
  2. Chiang Mai (city)

answered by

I would recommend you to look in to places like Battambang Kratié and Kampot when in Cambodia. They are not as heavily touristed as some of the more famous places, but all of them have a real nice vibe if you ask me and are places that are great to just chill in.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Battambang (city)
  2. Kratié (attraction)
  3. Kampot (city)

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