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a VirtualTourist member


5 month expedition in South East Asia

I am struggling to compile a route which starts and ends in Bangkok over a five month period (5th July- December 3rd) which includes the highlights of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and most importantly Vietnam. I am a young 22 year old male from Northern England and have a particular interest in Vietnam and its culture and history. I will be a budget traveller and it is my first trip out of Europe so any other tips are welcomed. Thankyou :)

10 Answers

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Poland

If you want to see real (non-touristic) Vietnam rent a bike or a motorbike and go at least for few one-day trips on your own, not with a guided tours. I made only two such trips - if I had more time, I would choose only this way of visiting Vietnam :)

answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Which is the very reason i'm going for five months to explore SE Asia, so I can visit these countries how I want. It's the route I am struggling on so if anyone could help out I would be massively appreciative :)

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Puerto Princesa

You have picked four wonderful countries to visit but unfortunately it is also the rainy season when you plan to go. There are so many wonderful places to visit in all these countries it is difficult to advise you of a route, so check out all the info in the VT travel guides and get some idea of where you want to go then start planning a route. For me i would certainly spend time in the mountains of Northern Laos, northern Vietnam and the islands in Mekhong near south Laos and Thai border. There are some great villages in the Mekhong Delta, and also in the highlands of Vietnam.
I think if i was you i would consider making the trip on a bicycle, after all you have 5 months. This can be very rewarding and you will get to meet many local people when you find yourself off the beaten track. I have often rented bikes in these countries and taken small roads to remote villages, you will get to see places where most tourists don't go as they stick to well trodden routes of S E Asia going where all the others go.
So start getting a rough idea and come back with more questions later.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Malaysia

As you have 5-month to travel Southeast Asia, you could consider include Malaysia and Singapore in your itinerary. I believe you could find a cheaper air ticket flying either Singapore or Bangkok. And Kuala Lumpur has Airasia, a low-cost airline, that allow you to flight to major Southeast cities, like HCMC, Hanoi, Danang, Phonn Penh, Bangkok, and etc. You can save money and time flying with the Airlines.

Sabah and Sarawak are wonderful especially the beaches, mountains, Mulu cave, and the rainforest.

I love Vietnam as well due to its beautiful landscape and historical landmarks, the people, food, and culture.

Enjoy it !

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from London

I cannot speak about Vietnam as I have not managed to get there for various reasons but I have visited the other places you mention. It is a great region to travel and very well set up for young travellers, many of whom go there with great results every year.

Without knowing what your specific interest are it is difficult to suggest a precise itinerary but I will suggest the following general route as you can then deviate off it as you wish.

From Bangkok go North, possibly Chiang Mai (Golden Traingle etc.), maybe Chiang Rai then over to Chiang Khong and cross into Lao. I realise this excludes the Southern part of Thailand with the islands etc. so if that is your thing, you can either do it before you start this route or tack it on at the end. Take a two day slowboat down the Mekong via Pakbeng to Luang Prabang, and absolute must see. Yo may then wish ti head East to Ban Phonsavan for the Plain of Jars, another remarkable place. Head South again basically following Highway 13 through Lao visiting places like Savannahket and Pakse and get to the 4000 islands in the Middle of the Mekong. They are a great place to visit.

Keep on South, entering Cambodia ad then you must head for the Angkor complex near Siem Reap, one of the most amazing places on Earth. That really is one you shouldn't miss. Heading South again, go through Phnom Penh and if you fany a bit of a seaside break you can head for Sihanoukville with possible sidetrips to Kampot and Kep. Back up to PP then (it is only a few hours by bus) and from there I know you can get either bus or a bus / boat combination into Vietnam.

As I said, my knowledge of Vn is nil so I shall let other more knowledgeable members answer about that country. I would think a South / North itinerary would be the thing with a possible side trip into the mountains if you like that sort of thing. After that (if you decide to do it) back to Hanoi and fly back to BKK. At that point, if you have not gone South in Thailand and want to you can, connections to BKK are good from any of the popular Southern places. That should bring you round full circle.

I realise this is only a very sketchy itinerary but as you plan a bit more come back to us with more specific questions. There are many very knowledgeable members here regarding that region and many good pages. Have a look at some of them and see what ou fancy.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Da Nang

hi [VT member 170fb7]
I believe that Vietnam will be a wonderful destination to you to find out about culture and history. Because Vietnam is a country with many different ethnic groups living together in the territory ( over 54 ethnic groups) and at different regions there will be different cultures.--> Vietnam's culture is very diversiform and abundant. Especially, Vietnam's history is worth finding out about as well. Beside there are many beautiful views in Vietnam . Vietnamese people are very friendly. vietnam's food is great and vietnam's cuisine is very interesting.
I'm Vietnamese. I'm living in Da nang city where has great beach. if you come to Da nang, I'm very willing to guide( FREE) you to wherever around danang and to Hoi an Old quater where is voted the world's the most attractive destination (via
I'm glad to meet you.
Honestly, I'm improving my english skill . Would be great to talk to you.
Good luck.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Brisbane

I think you will have the most amazing time in Viet nam. It is a country that once it gets its hooks into you it is near impossible to forget. Viet nam is full of old world and new world charms, from deep rainforest and jungle in Dalat, to modern cities such as Saigon and Hanoi. It has beautiful beaches such as Vung Tau, Nha Trang and Danang, and beautiful landscapes such as Hue, Ninh Binh. It has world heritage listed sites like Halong Bay and the the city of Hoi An that are just breathtaking.
As for the food, don't be afraid to eat the street food. Common sense will guide you when it comes to choosing what and where to eat. I personally believe that Viet nam has the best street food scene in the world.
If you really want to learn about Viet nams history go to a park and strike up a conversation with some of the older generation. They are a wealth of knowledge and many are happy educate travelers on the struggles of the Vietnamese people. Also If you are in Nha Trang, be sure to pop into the Yersin Museum, its a little gem..
Vietnam is safe, easy to get around and heaps and heaps of fun..
If you want to know anything more in finer detail don't hesitate to contact me,
Good luck and enjoy your adventures.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Vietnamese people are very gracious, polite, and generous and will
make every effort to make guests feel comfortable. These are the experiences that will enrich your visit to Vietnam.


  • Store your cash, credit cards, airline tickets and other valuables in a safe place. Most 4-star hotels have in-room safes; otherwise ask the reception to keep your valuable things in their deposit facility.
  • Always be careful of the belongings you carry with you during your holiday.
  • Take care of all your valuables. Never leave your bags unattended
  • Vietnamese dress conservatively. Despite the heat, it’s best not to show off too much skin. If you do, especially girls, you’ll only draw stares from the locals.
  • Dress discreetly while entering temples and other religious places.
  • If invited into a home, always remove your shoes at the front door when entering.
  • Ask for permission when taking a photograph of someone. If they indicate that they do not want you to, then abide by their wishes. DO NOT offer money or push the issue.
  • Use waterproof sun cream if you plan to spend a good amount of time in the water when you travel to Vietnam.
  • Change money from a recognized moneychanger.
  • Indulge in some haggling while buying goods without price tags whenever you go shopping in Vietnam.
  • Travel with recommend tour agencies. Even if you plan to buy tickets when in country, research your journey a little first on the Internet.


  • Never carry more money than you need when walking around the streets.
  • Do not wear large amounts of jewelry. There are two reasons for not doing this: (1) It is considered impolite to flaunt wealth in public; (2) It is more likely that you may become a victim of a pickpocket or drive-by bag snatcher.
  • When taking a ride by motorbike taxi (xe om) make sure your bag, if any, is not on display or easy to grab. Bag snatches, although still rare, are probably the most likely crime a tourist would encounter, and it raises the probability immensely if you are tailing a camera or a laptop in the wind.
  • Don't wear singlet, shorts, dresses or skirts, or tops with low-neck lines and bare shoulders to Temples and Pagodas. To do this is considered extremely rude and offensive.
  • Avoid giving empty water bottles, sweets and candies or pens to the local people when trekking through ethnic minority villages. You cannot guarantee that the empty bottles will be disposed of in a correct manner, and the people have no access to dental health. If you want to give pens, ask your guide to introduce you to the local teacher and donate them to the whole community.
  • Never sleep or sit with the soles of your feet pointing towards the family altar when in someone’s house.
  • Do not try to take photographs of military installations or anything to do with the military. This can be seen as a breach of national security. Never take video cameras into the ethnic minority villages. They are considered to be too intrusive by the local people.
  • Physical displays of affection between lovers in public are frowned upon. That’s why you may come across couples holding hands but not hugging or kissing.
  • Losing your temper in Vietnam means a loss of face. Keep a cool head and remain polite, you’ll have a greater chance of getting what you want.
  • Remember, this is Vietnam, a developing country, and things don’t quite work as you are maybe used to. Don’t be paranoid about your safety; just be aware of your surroundings.

The above advice is meant to help you have a perfect trip to Vietnam.

Do not be overly paranoid though. Generally, Vietnamese people are very appreciative if they see you trying to abide by their customs, and very forgiving if you get it wrong or forget. If you make the effort, you will be rewarded.

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answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Okay I would just like to thank everyone for their kind answers so far. I have been hard at work planning the rest of the trip. In response to the person who said I would get cheaper tickets flying to BKK, I already am! I am starting in BKK and heading North and into Laos. I will venture south down Laos and into Cambodia and then across to HCMC, Vietnam. The country of Vietnam is the one I really want to encapsulate on my travels. Any ideas on a South-North itinerary. Best places to go. Best things to do. On a budget! Thankyou so much for your help I am very excited.


answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Hanoi I think there are many places for you to explore, especially the traditional culture. this place has a lot of dishes associated with history.
You reference the dishes in Hanoi CNN magazine rated:

Come to Hanoi, you should visit: Guom Lake, Mausoleum, old town
It is the third place I've ever gone

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