Monday, 16 March 2015

Thailand and Cambodia in two weeks!

I work for a gap year travel and volunteering company, and was very lucky a few months ago to win a chance to visit some of our projects in Thailand! It was a week long trip, travelling around the country, and as I had some annual leave to use up, I decided to pop over to Cambodia for a week as well!

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Mac Bay Koh Phangan

Most people would have thought it impossible to fit two huge countries into such a short period of time, and would have resigned themselves to one or another, but I like a challenge!

I did wonder if I was being a bit mad, but with some careful planning, I was amazed at how much I managed to fit into the trip. My itinerary was:

Monday 23rd February:
Arrive in Bangkok at 15.45

Tuesday 24th Feb:
Head to Surin (on the Cambodian border around a 6 hour drive) to see some of our projects there, including our Elephant and Community project.

Wednesday 25th Feb:
Still in Surin - visit childcare, teaching and medical projects. Head back to Bangkok at lunchtime, arriving around 6pm.         

Thursday 26th Feb:
Leave around 7am to Sangkhlaburi on the Burmese border. Another 5-6 hour drive. Visit our building project there, and the Three Pagodas Pass on the border.         

Friday 27th Feb:
Up early, visiting trekking and a few of the childcare villages (stunning locations and fun just getting there).         
Head back to Bangkok around lunchtime and arrive early evening. 

Saturday 28th Feb:
Travel to Koh Phangan (plane, bus, ferry) - all day (where lots of our tours go)

Sunday 1st March:
Explore and relax on Koh Phangan

Monday 2nd March:
Head back to Bangkok (bus 8.30am – 8.30pm)

Tuesday 3rd March:
Fly to Phnom Penh, arrive 3.20pm

Wednesday 4th March:
S21 and Killing Fields

Thursday 5th March:
Free day in PP – Wats, river, shopping etc.
Overnight bus to Siem Reap (arrive around 5am)

Friday 6th March:
Arrive Siem Reap early morning – spend the day wandering around local area

Saturday 7th March:
Angkor Wat

Sunday 8th March:
Fly back to Bangkok – arrive 12.45pm – spend the afternoon seeing Bangkok! (Last minute shopping!)

Monday 9th March:
Flight home 13:10 

      As you can see, it's a jam packed itinerary. I only had three days where I wasn't travelling for at least 6 hours, but it was worth it! I didn't feel massively rushed at any point, and while I'd have obviously loved to spend longer in each place, I definitely managed to get a feel of it. 

Sunset Koh Phangan

Me Koh Phangan

      The only things I missed out on were a boat cruise in Phnom Penh (and that was only because I almost gave myself heatstroke by being stubborn and walking rather than getting a tuk-tuk) and visiting Ton Le Sap Lake in Siem Reap, which I just didn't have time for. 

       As a two week trip however, I did everything I planned and much more! I had slightly more of a budget as it was a short trip, which meant that I was able to fly between Bangkok, Phnom Penh, then Siem Reap and Bangkok, which saved me some time. I did get an overnight bus between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap however, as it was easy and saved me a nights' accommodation!

      So what's the secret to a jam packed two week trip? Organisation! I planned my accommodation and transport before I went (the only thing I didn't book was one night in Bangkok), and I had an idea of what I was going to do on each day and how to do it. I did my research, and used the knowledge of the locals while I was there to cram as much in as possible, and I concentrated on sight-seeing rather than partying, as I knew a hangover would ruin even the best laid plans!

Elephant Surin

Me at Burma/Myanmar border

       Of course I would do it in a longer period if I could get that off work, but lots of people are in a similar situation, and I'd definitely recommend it! I wouldn't say it's a relaxing holiday, if that's what you're after, but it's certainly an amazing, fascinating, whirlwind trip of a lifetime, and I don't feel I missed out at all! 

      Stay tuned for more in-depth info about my trip!

Monks at Angkor Wat

      Top Tips:

  • Research! Make sure you know what you want to see, prioritise each activity, and plan an itinerary so you have as much time as possible in each place
  • Book in advance. Knowing where you'll be staying each night and how you're getting from one place to the next puts your mind at rest on a short trip, and means you'll spend less time in the evening faffing around on the internet, and more time taking in the local area
  • Don't be disappointed if something doesn't go to plan. You can't control everything, so if you have to drop something from the itinerary that's ok - move onto the next!
  •  Pack light - you can get laundry done in most hostels, so you don't need to carry two weeks' of clothes with you
  • Splash out for flights if you can - less time travelling means more time in each location!

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