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Indochina by Numbers

A great trip is the sum of its parts. But picking the best parts and then figuring out how to piece them together, well, that can be a challenge.

Perhaps more than anywhere I can think of, planning a silky smooth trip to Indochina usually boils down to a mathematical equation (not to be confused with a formula).

Although it’s not a tremendously vast region, Indochina (by which I mean the countries of Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam) is invariably a finicky place to plan a trip. It’s takes some time to get there, there’s too much to see, and connecting the dots generally requires at least a half dozen regional flights. Am I making this sound like fun or what? Don’t despair. Even if your math skills plateaued in grade five, there’s no reason you can’t conquer this brainteaser. You just have to take it step by step. And I promise, once you get everything to add up, Indochina will reward you with a gold star. Here’s what to do:

Step 1: Pick your dates 

This is easy. Figure out the maximum amount of time you can be away (trust me, you’ll want all you can get), the earliest day and time you can depart your home city, and the latest you can return. Nailing this big variable first is essential.

Step 2: Choose your flights 

You will likely want to fly direct to/from Hong Kong (most options) or Bangkok (fewer direct options). Assuming you live in North America or Europe, you will arrive the day after you depart. So, subtract one day from the total trip time in Indochina. The good news is that at the end of the trip, you can usually depart Asia and be home on the same day. The reality of international flight arrival/departure times means that you will probably have to spend a night in Hong Kong and/or Bangkok at the beginning or end of your trip. So save one to two days for one or both those cities (again, it depends on your international flight times). Unless you have two and a half weeks or more of total trip time, I’d suggest you minimize your time in Hong Kong and Bangkok. There are a lot of other pieces to fit into the equation.

Step 3: Pick your places 

Read a bit (but not too much at this stage, or you’ll get overwhelmed) about the various destination highlights of Indochina. Pick the three places you’re most drawn to and figure out how many days you’d ideally spend in each. For example, if temples are really important, allow at least three days for Siem Reap (and the temples of Angkor). If beach time is critical, factor in enough time for that. Then, add the numbers of days you want for the Top Three and add to the number of days you need for the gateway city (or cities). See what’s left and add days in other places you’d like to visit. Don’t get too fussed about regional flights just yet.

Step 4: Consider the pacing 

Take a deep breath and see how your equation is looking. If it’s a series of one and two night stays then you may want to go back a step. This is a vacation, so don’t set yourself up for a race. At the same time, be realistic about the fact that you may not be back there for a while, so see as much as you reasonably can.

Step 5: Tweak, tweak, tweak 

It’s time to mesh your trip ideal with the reality of regional flight schedules. If, for example, you allotted two nights in Nha Trang so you could have a couple of days on the beach, but the flights arrive late in the day and leave early in the morning, then you’ll need to add a night. Often, when you adjust one element of your near-perfect formula the rest of it crumbles—you have to keep reverting to Steps 3 and 4. Be patient, and sooner or later, it’ll all add up.

Charlie is the quantum physicist of Asian trip planning. If this article gave you a headache then you should not try planning trips at home. Call Trufflepig or contact Charlie via email, and let us do the math for you.



Even if your math skills plateaued in grade five, there’s no reason you can’t conquer this brainteaser.

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