I am really excited about my first trip to SE Asia later this year but can't decide whether I should visit Thailand and Laos or Cambodia and Laos. I have done a lot of reading on Trip Advisor and Travelfish about both options but can't seem to make up my mind. I know that everyone has very subjective opinions about the "best" places to visit but am just really divided about whether to choose Thailand which is more touristy but an easier place to get around or Cambodia which I expect is a bit more challenging but possibly more rewarding.
I have a total of about 3 weeks to travel in December and will be traveling by myself for the first half and with my father (in his late 60s but super-healthy) for the second half of the trip. Both my father and I are experienced low to mid-range travelers who have traveled a lot in Central and South America but this will be our first trip to SE Asia. We want to see as much as we can without being exhausted by traveling from place to place, want to get a bit off the main tourist track, and see both urban and rural areas. I definitely plan to take other future trips to SE Asia but this may be my father's only visit to the region.
We are flying home from Luang Prabang and are planning to spend our last 4-5 days of the trip there (we are going to be using frequent flyer miles and this is the only city I can get return tickets from). Based on my research so far (and where we can fly into using our miles), here are two very rough itineraries I have developed:
1. Fly into Krabi and visit 1-3 surrounding islands, fly to Chiang Mai and explore surrounding areas for 3-5 days, meet my father in Chiang Mai and spend 3-4 days, visit Chiang Rai for 1-2 days, bus to Laos border and take slow boat to Luang Prabang, last 4-5 days in Luang Prabang.
2. Fly into Phnom Phen and take taxi to Kampot, 2-3 days in Kampot/Kep, 1-3 days on an island off of Sihanoukville, bus to Phnom Phen and stay 1-2 days, bus or boat to Battangbang and stay for 1-2 days, meet my father in Siem Reap and stay for 3-4 days, plane to Luang Prabang, and last 4-5 days in Luang Prabang.
I would greatly appreciate any thoughts/suggestions and am totally open to other possible itineraries. Thank you so much!!!