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Where to take my boyfriend for his first SE Asian experience?

  • gingergirl

    Joined Travelfish
    16th May, 2013
    Location Australia
    Posts: 5

    Ok so I am taking my new partner to SE Asia for the first time. He has never even been out of Sydney , let alone the country. , on the other hand , have been to Se Asia 5 times, so I am fairly familiar with what to expect. The problem being I am not sure where would be a good introduction to travelling in SE Asia for a city boy. I would love to go to Cambodia again, but I am worried it will be too much of a culture shock for him. I am thinking Thailand or Vietnam might be a better destination for a first timer like him. The infrastructure is better and the culture shock ,not as extreme.

    We are planning on travelling in the 2nd half of September too. So weather I guess is a big factor too as its right in the middle of the wet in most places then too.


    What do the wise denizens of Travelfish have to say ?

    #1 Posted: 17/5/2013 - 01:49

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6349
    Total reviews: 10

    PP is not a culture shock at all. It's a cosmopolitan city at this point. I was very pleasantly surprised when I went there.

    Now, the rest of Cambodia... might want to do PP and Siem Reap and Sihanoukville where western food is available.

    #2 Posted: 17/5/2013 - 02:37

  • gingergirl

    Joined Travelfish
    16th May, 2013
    Location Australia
    Posts: 5

    Thanks for the advice :)

    I really liked both PP and Siem Reap. And you are right they are quite comparable to any other large SE Asian city. I have not been to Sihanoukville, but I did get down to Kep and Kampot, which I also loved but my travel companion hated because it was in his words "too third world".

    I worry if I take him to Cambodia first it might scare him off lol and if I shouldn't take him too Vietnam or Thailand first as a gentle introduction . Or if I should just throw him in the deep end. It concerns me because he thinks Newcastle, where I come from is the country! Its a city of 500,000 plus people, lol, hardly a small place :/

    #3 Posted: 17/5/2013 - 02:44

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd March, 2010
    Location China
    Posts: 1234
    Total reviews: 53
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    Well - I live in China and as much as I love Vietnam I find Hanoi and HCMC a bit too bustling for me when I want to go on vacation. The traffic rules there are more chaotic than anything you'll find in Cambodia. Mind you, the food in Vietnam (coffee especially - if he is a coffee drinker than Vietnam for sure) is probably my favorite in the region, but I really find the place not as laid back until you get to areas like Danang. When I go on holiday from Shanghai though, I want to be in Kampot or Pakse or somewhere like that.

    Probably the best bet for overall convenience and travel scene is going to be Thailand. I'm not sure how much time you have and what you want to show him - but a dash up to Chiang Mai with a night or two out doing a hike will give him a cultural and natural experience, and then get him hooked with the party scenes of Bangkok and the islands - along with the hangover cures of the beaches.

    I really think that Cambodia may be 'a little third world' so to speak, and shocking in the poverty that is bustled nicely into hidden corners in much of Thailand and Vietnam. Vietnam as I say, is actually really hectic and the scams/taxi drivers can really get on your nerves if you aren't prepared for that. Thailand I say . . .

    and not clear exactly how much time you have, but if you are in Thailand you could always bounce over to Siem Reap or Battambang if it seems he's getting into things.

    #4 Posted: 17/5/2013 - 06:25

  • gingergirl

    Joined Travelfish
    16th May, 2013
    Location Australia
    Posts: 5

    Well we will only have a little over 2 weeks in total and at the end of September ( wet season , I know), so it is very limiting in terms of how many places we can go. I learnt the hard way about trying to cram to much into too short of a time period.

    I was thinking of hanging around the Krabi area ( Krabi Town, Ko Lanta or Ko Phangan) and possibly either doing a trip up to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai or Kanchanaburi for a bit of contrast and a different kind of seen.

    Would the weather affect getting too and from Ko Lanta ? I haven't been there in the wet season before. And is it true the weather can strand you on Samui and Phangan at that time of year too ?

    #5 Posted: 17/5/2013 - 06:36

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
    17th June, 2011
    Posts: 684

    In two and a bit weeks how about Northern Vietnam or Northern Laos?

    (i) Hanoi, Sapa, HB and maybe a day trip out to Ninh Binh. If you are fast travellers you might want to include Hoi An here as well.

    or

    (ii) Luang Nam Tha, Luang Prabang and Vientiane (Vang Vieng also if you must).

    There is a good mix there of towns/cities, trekking and natural beauty.

    For accessibility Vietnam might suit better. Don't try any more than either of the above in two weeks though. Like some of the crazy itineraries one sees here.

    This is of course weather permitting.

    #6 Posted: 17/5/2013 - 07:32

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6349
    Total reviews: 10

    Trekking? China, the guy thinks Newcastle is the country, and he doesn't mean it in a good way and you want to send him trekking? Northern Laos? Are you kidding me? VV OK I would get when it was wet and wild. Reporting indicates it's pretty tame now. No trekking no nature unless you get here and he seems up for that. That invites culinary challenges. She wants to avoid the all in, not gravitate to it.

    #7 Posted: 17/5/2013 - 08:32

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
    17th June, 2011
    Posts: 684

    Yes MM, but as a taster to SE Asia then surely trekking of some sort is a must.

    From my first trip to the region (and I'm hardly the world's most adventurous person) I remember mainly food, trekking and, maybe, the beaches to a lesser extent.

    It's pointless coming here unless you are willing to embrace the things that make the region special, notwithstanding this guy's aversion to travel. I mean trekking can be as easy or challenging as you make it. We're not talking Kinabalu or Kilmanjaro here.

    #8 Posted: 17/5/2013 - 08:49

  • gingergirl

    Joined Travelfish
    16th May, 2013
    Location Australia
    Posts: 5

    Haha , Madmac has the right idea about my fella. He is not the outdoors type. I can't imagine him going on a trek back here in Australia, let alone in Vietnam or Laos. He is a night club manager and computer geek. He likes computer games, Dungeons and Dragons and other suitable indoors things lol. And I am also pretty sure the food will be enough of a challenge in the tourist spots. He thinks toned down Aussie style Thai food is hot ! I forsee alot of Pad thai and pad sie eew in his dining future.....

    He does seem to like the idea of day trips into nature, as long as they end back at the hotel with a cold one in his hand . Seemed pretty keen on getting to see monkeys, so that may entice him to a national park or two.

    #9 Posted: 17/5/2013 - 08:51

  • gingergirl

    Joined Travelfish
    16th May, 2013
    Location Australia
    Posts: 5

    And its not so much that he has an aversion to travel, its just he has never done it before. He is really keen on getting to see another culture thats very different to ours. Its just he is a real city kid.
    I took him to stay on a friends farm in Northern New South Wales. A cow mooing freaked him out. He'd never actually heard one before. But we were also staying in a tin shed with a pit toilet and cold shower, sleeping on a foam mattress on a concrete floor,which he handled ok. So maybe I am not giving him credit where its due lol

    #10 Posted: 17/5/2013 - 08:56

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6349
    Total reviews: 10

    Oh man, we have a ton of Monkeys in Mukdahan. Wat Ba is full of the little bastards.

    I think if you like Cambodia, then I'd go that way. Siem Reap is special - ought to make an impression. Snookyvillle should be OK with him. PP is cool. He'll like it for sure.

    China - I've lived here for 6 years and NEVER been on a "trek". I climbed a mountain once, done a little hiking out in the sticks around the village. All over-rated. What makes this place cool is the people and the attitude. Cities are where it's at.

    #11 Posted: 17/5/2013 - 09:03

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
    17th June, 2011
    Posts: 684

    SEA cities are definitely brilliant places to visit, particularly Hanoi and Penang (food and chilled out vibe). However, IMO trips out to countryside are equally rewarding, although in a different way.

    Variety is the spice of life and all that jazz...

    #12 Posted: 20/5/2013 - 03:17

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6349
    Total reviews: 10

    The countryside is OK. Villages are good as long as they have power, water, preferably internet access and a Lotus Express not too far away. Don't need any trekking though. Days out in the jungle, not showering properly, being eaten by bugs - thanks, no thanks. I've been there, don't that and got several t-shirts for it. Like I said, it's overrated.

    #13 Posted: 20/5/2013 - 07:53

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
    17th June, 2011
    Posts: 684

    "preferably internet access and a Lotus Express not too far away...Days out in the jungle, not showering properly"

    I thought you were harder than that.

    I think your average tourist to SEA doing the standard 2/3 month backpacking thing would find it almost impossible to live on a diet of just cities and big towns.

    #14 Posted: 20/5/2013 - 07:59

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6349
    Total reviews: 10

    "I thought you were harder than that."

    No point in training to be miserable. I lived like an animal for a couple of years in East Africa. And I mean like an animal. Could i do it again? Yeah. Would I do it of my own volition for vacation? Not unless I was using some serious drugs.

    "I think your average tourist to SEA doing the standard 2/3 month backpacking thing would find it almost impossible to live on a diet of just cities and big towns."

    I've always been an outlier.

    #15 Posted: 20/5/2013 - 08:20

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd March, 2010
    Location China
    Posts: 1234
    Total reviews: 53
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    At least 48

    Your average tourist also does a wide loop that skirts passed Mac's home by at least a river's width.

    I personally like two nights out in the jungle - especially when I return to cold beer and a hot shower.

    #16 Posted: 20/5/2013 - 08:26

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
    17th June, 2011
    Posts: 684

    "I lived like an animal for a couple of years in East Africa."

    I don't think a few nights out in the hills of Sapa or Chiang Mai with ready access to great food and a reasonably comfortable mattress on the floor qualifies as living like an animal.

    Anyway, each to their own. My advice to a first timer (travelling anywhere in the world) would always be to get some time away from the big cities - and that includes the OP and her fella.

    #17 Posted: 20/5/2013 - 09:00

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6349
    Total reviews: 10

    "I don't think a few nights out in the hills of Sapa or Chiang Mai with ready access to great food and a reasonably comfortable mattress on the floor qualifies as living like an animal."

    Well, when I think "trekking" I think everything you are eating and drinking and wearing you are carrying and the trails you are working are unimproved and nights are spent in the sticks. I'm not up for that. Actually, because I'm not much of a nature guy, I just don't see a reason to go out there unless there's something specific I want to see and do. To date, I haven't had that compulsion. I much prefer riding my mortorcycle from destination to destination. There's not place like Thailand to be a steal horse cowboy. But I agree, to each his own. Backpackers do a lot of things that don't interest me and I'm sure the inverse is true also.

    #18 Posted: 20/5/2013 - 10:25

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
    14th September, 2012
    Posts: 540
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    Just had to lol at the too third world comment about Kampot and Kep. Some very nice restaurants and guest houses etc. Should try going to somewhere truly third world.

    #19 Posted: 20/5/2013 - 10:42

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6349
    Total reviews: 10

    "Should try going to somewhere truly third world."

    K'bri Dehar, Ethiopia. Electricity 6 hours from 6 PM to midnight. No running water. Local "Hotel" has well water brought up by hand and put into a cistern that gravity feeds the shower. No internet. You have to fly in via Bush plane. Runway is uneven and hilly. True adventure.

    #20 Posted: 20/5/2013 - 11:16

  • James_

    Joined Travelfish
    14th February, 2013
    Posts: 5

    "I was thinking of hanging around the Krabi area ( Krabi Town, Ko Lanta or Ko Phangan) and possibly either doing a trip up to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai or Kanchanaburi for a bit of contrast and a different kind of seen."




    Krabi et al is good for a holiday, not for an adventure or an introduction to SEA. If he's a real Aussie, Kanchanaburi is a must - well, at least travel through and visit the Hellfire Museum. Trekking is so terribly overrated it depresses me. If you want to go trekking, do it in Oz. Countless trails that are unreported there which are all awesome but people talk about Thailand because 'omg its thailand!'.


    Kep/Kampot is 'too third world'? Hell, is that the reason you have a new 'travelling companion' this time around? Nice place to visit for an easy couple of days. With only a little luck you can go up to the old hotel by the new casino on the mountain and see the clouds racing up the cliff like a gravity-defying waterfall. Difficult to get into the normal Khmer village life without knowing someone - but most people that do know people there don't want backpacker bums coming in to stare and talk about their friends like its a zoo. PP is probably your best bet.

    #21 Posted: 25/5/2013 - 06:51

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