Thailand Travel Pros: Bangkok, Samui, PhiPhi. Is Angkor too much?
September 17, 2013 1:36 PM   Subscribe

Traveling with an international travel Angkor Wat too much to add to a Thailand itinerary that already includes Bangkok, Samui, and Phuket / PhiPhi? Timeframe: 2 weeks. Also...think more hot-stone massages and less hostels this time around...

My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Thailand in late January. We will have exactly 2 weeks for holiday and are planning to stick to the southern beachy destinations of Thailand. The sketched out itinerary includes flying into Bangkok, then down to Koh Samui with a side trip to Phuket->Phi Phi. I am interested in a possible side trip to Cambodia for 2 days or so to visit Angkor Wat...but I am wondering if this might be too much for a two week visit so I'd like input from those of you who might have done something similar.

I visited Thailand in 2004 with my roomate for 2 weeks and spent time in Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Chang Mai, Khao Yai NP, Krabi, Koh Samui, Koh Samet and Phuket. It was a blast, it was a whirlwind and I had a great time...but my girlfriend is more sensitive then I am to whirlwind trips and so we are looking to keep it more with her guidance we narrowed it down.

Given that you all think that a side trip to Angkor Wat / Siem Reap will add too much stress? My suggestion for this option is a flight into Bangkok...stay there for a day or so, then fly to Siem Reap for two days or so to visit Angkor, then back to Bangkok and down to Samui for a 4 days or so of laziness before a two day side trip to Phi Phi then back to Bangkok via Phuket and out.

She is game for Angkor Wat...but it is hard for me to objectively gauge just how "stressy" this might be for her. I am a fairly seasoned international traveler by comparison and I live for this while I get energized by these sorts of can sap her. I know the itinerary of my previous trip would have been overload for her...

So what do you all think? Angkor Wat...or not? Consider that this might be the last time either of us visit the our 'next trip' plans are more vanilla Europe sorts of things, and trips to less developed / less infrastructure countries are usually solo affairs for me or with buddies. I still kick myself for not visiting Angkor the first time i'd like to visit this time if it isn't overly complicated.

Oh, also keep in mind that, in the interest of stress management, we are looking into flying over buses, trains, etc.. and understand the attendant cost increases. I know a bus to Poipet / cab to Siem Reap is cost effective to get to Angkor...but it might be in our best interest time-wise to fly? Discovery Pass?
posted by jnnla to Travel & Transportation around Thailand (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Given that she doesn't seem as travel adventurous as you you might have to skip Angkor Wat. If you are travelling to Phuket you might want to try your hand at being a flight volunteer for this great organization.
posted by ladoo at 1:43 PM on September 17, 2013

I thought Angkor Wat was an AMAZING cultural & historical site and I wouldn't skip it lightly, particularly if you doubt you'll be back to that part of the world for many years (if ever). That said, I also disagree with the guidebooks that say you need 3 days to "really" appreciate it; I think you could do it in 2, and even fly out on that second night if you're pressed for time, so don't let that aspect hold you back, if it was.

The logistics might be a bit difficult, however, because the convention is to go from the hotels / town area out to the temples and ruins butt-early in the morning and come back around dusk, since obviously there is very little artificial lighting. So you will probably have to fly into Siem Reap the night before to get a good start on your "first" day; you probably can't fly in in the morning and do a half day at the temples. Or you could, but it would barely be worth it.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 1:54 PM on September 17, 2013

It's been many years since I visited Angkor so things may have changed, but when I went you had to have a licensed guide take you into the national park (pretty much all of the Angkor sites). It should be easy to arrange once you're there, and the guy who took me was all solicitude and quiet patience, but do be aware that you can't just stroll through the jungle to Pra Tomh.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 2:27 PM on September 17, 2013

We didn't have a guide in 2004 and rode bikes to get there from Siem Reip. We bought a three day pass and spent the third day riding to outlying temples. Two days could do it. It is amazing and well worth the side trip.
posted by Kerasia at 3:17 PM on September 17, 2013

Angkor is definitely doable from Thailand and well worth it. I would plan to spend 2 full days at the park and fly in as late as possible the day before the 2 days start. You could then either fly out after the 2nd day at Angkor or the following day. I went in 2003 and just rode around on a rented bicycle - it really isn't that far from town.

The bus is definitely cost-effective, but it uses up a day which could be spent either at Angkor or at one of the destinations in Thailand.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:38 PM on September 17, 2013

I went to Angkor Wat 3 months ago and it was simply incredible - more memorable than anything I saw in Thailand. I stayed for 3 whole days (+ day either side for the bus) which I was glad I did, as my favourite temples (Beng Maelea / Banteay Srei) were a few hours out of the centre. If you're mostly just interested in the big sites though, I'd say 2 full days would be enough, and I would strongly recommend you go.

You do not need a guide to enter the complex at all - you just need a pass. You'd also need a mode of transportation (and hence driver), usually a car or a tuktuk, but some brave souls were cycling too.

Regarding the bus from Poipet - if you are going from Bangkok, there is now a new run-through thai government bus that does not require you to change vehicles at the border. I'm so glad I took this bus as Poipet is a pretty sketchy city and I would've found it stressful haggling for a taxi. The journey took about 7-8 hours (due to inefficiency and scamming at the border) and cost $27 iirc. I would recommend it if you had time > money as the Bangkok-Siem Reap route is a Bangkok Air monopoly and really expensive.
posted by pikeandshield at 3:47 PM on September 17, 2013

I think Angkor is doable in your itinerary. It was remarkable and IMO worth the hassle of tacking on a side-trip, but I also agree with Joey Buttafoucault's comment that the full 3 days at Angkor isn't necessary - I spent that long there, but I would have been fine with even just one full day (dawn to dusk.) I'm a fairly seasoned international traveler as well, but I got stressed out by Bangkok and it was my least favorite part of the trip - cutting down on your time there might help your girlfriend.
posted by horizons at 4:09 PM on September 17, 2013

Wait, January? Won't it be raining on one side or the other (Samui/Phi Phi)?

And Air Asia flies from Don Muang to Siem Reap. Do not take the bus since your time is so short.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:43 PM on September 17, 2013

I would include Angkor Wat and then pick either the Andaman (Phuket, Phi Phi, Krabi) or the Gulf side (Koh Samui), rather than doing both if you don't want to be running around like crazy. If it helps, the Gulf side is rainy at that time of year, and the Andaman side is not rainy. And while there are differences, in some senses, beaches and islands are beaches and islands.

You can certainly see a good selection of Ankor Wat in a day or two.
posted by AnnaRat at 5:34 PM on September 17, 2013

I spent two weeks in Thailand last December, and yes, that's too much to try to fit into two weeks. My girlfriend is also stressed by travel, and keeping it to a week in the south and a week in Bangkok both helped us avoid much of the worst part of traveling (transit angst) and also gives you time to really get into the places you're visiting. I doubt we would have found half the crazy places in Bangkok that gave it so much character if we'd been rushing through it.
posted by klangklangston at 6:06 PM on September 17, 2013

I've been to Bangkok, Samui and Angkor Wat in 2013, albeit on different trips.

You can absolutely achieve what you're looking to do in two weeks.

I really wasn't enamoured with Siem Reap as a destination outside of the temple touring, and as hot as it can get during the days there, I was only good for touring from about 8A-1P before I had to call it a day.

Still, I felt like two mornings worth of guided tour was plenty for me. That's just me, and there were more things I could have done, more temples I could have seen, but I chose not to. As a result, three nights in SR is probably your bare minimum, but seven is probably way, way too many. Somewhere between nine and twelve nights in Thailand "isn't enough" by many people's standards, but for a newbie maybe keeping a tight, focused and fun (I count relaxing as fun, in this case) trip may be a good option.
posted by GamblingBlues at 9:15 PM on September 17, 2013

Response by poster: This is all great information to think about. Thanks so much and if you have any more insight, do keep it coming!
posted by jnnla at 9:30 AM on September 18, 2013

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