Southeast Asia forum

Best Cities to Visit on Short Trip

  • marsh354

    Joined Travelfish
    18th March, 2011
    Posts: 4

    My boyfriend and I have two weeks to visit a few places in SE Asia this fall. I know two weeks isn't a lot of time, but we aren't trying to see it all (we will most likely be back for more!). We want to focus on one country or one area, but since there are so many options, I'm getting a little overwhelmed! We love big cities, and are planning on flying within SE Asia to reach our destinations.

    I am thinking our plan should include 3 larger cities, and maybe a day trip or two (I know we'll be exhausted -- but we've done this sort of thing before and are prepared).

    I oringally wanted to go to Vietnam, but it seems difficult to get around and there is so much to see there in two weeks. Then I started leaning more towards going to Bangkok, Singapore and Bali, but after reading so many of these posts, I overwhelmed. If anyone has any suggestions for me, I would greatly appreciate it! Thank you in advance!

    #1 Posted: 18/3/2011 - 02:24

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  • busylizzy

    Joined Travelfish
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    You say you like cities - does that mean you are looking for shopping opportunities? Or temple/museum/galleries?

    You could manage Vietnam if you wanted... fly into Hanoi, then fly to Hue and/or Danang (which gets you to Hoi An 20 mins away), then fly to HCMC. (Or in the reverse order, of course) You could easily spend 4-5 days in each, have time to explore, and do a couple of day trips out of the area.
    - From Hanoi, spend 2-3 days in Halong Bay or Sapa
    - From Hoi An, you can do day trips to the beach, back up to Danang/China Beach/Marble Mountain, etc
    - From HCMC, you can do a day trip to the tunnels, or possibly spend 2-3 days around the Mekong Delta area.

    Vietnam is surprisingly easy to get around (at least much easier than I expected) so don't let that put you off. If you've got the dollars to fly, then that will cut out some of the long bus rides.

    #2 Posted: 18/3/2011 - 04:58

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location China
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    I agree - if you want to see big cities then Vietnam is a great option as lizzy mentioned above.

    I didn't really think HCMC was a 'big city' when I was there (living and traveling China's eastern coast), if you want a mega-city then Singapore and KL are probably better options. Also in Malaysia - Malacca and Georgetown are supposed to be very nice to visit, though I haven't been there myself. But you could hop around those places for two weeks easily.

    #3 Posted: 18/3/2011 - 06:47

  • goonistik

    Joined Travelfish
    7th January, 2010
    Posts: 516

    Since you will be flying between destinations and you want to see only cities, you can fly between several countries to get a degustation of South-East Asia. :-)

    I'd recommend Bangkok.
    I am ambivalent about Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (KL).

    Another option is Cebu-it is very Latin from the Spanish influence so it is different from the rest of Asia.

    So a possible mix would be Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Cebu. Than you can decide where to take a day trip depending on your interests.

    #4 Posted: 18/3/2011 - 08:35

  • marsh354

    Joined Travelfish
    18th March, 2011
    Posts: 4

    Thanks for your feedback!

    We like cities because of the shopping and cultural & historical things to see and do, and also just being surrounded by people (seeing the different cultural norms, different life stories, etc).

    We aren't big beach people (we sort of feel like we are wasting our time sitting on a beach when we could be doing other things) but would maybe want to spend a day relaxing at one.

    Another question, are certain places in SE Asia way cheaper/more expensive than others (as far as cities)?

    #5 Posted: 18/3/2011 - 21:01

  • busylizzy

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    Just to clarify, the Vietnam option I mentioned above wasn't a list of 'big city' options, but instead was just pointing out that you didn't need to rule out Vietnam if you're still interested.

    As far as big cities go, then I agree with the posters above (although I'm really not a 'big city' girl though! Having said that, Bangkok would be my first choice definitely. Singapore is good for shopping (I've been told!), and there is a wide range of things to see/do. It's probably the most westernised in one sense, but you also get interesting areas like Chinatown, Little India and Bugis. It can also be a bit plastic-y in terms of it's attractions (Sentosa, The Night Safari, etc). The Quay area has good nightlight if you're into that.

    KL I didn't have a particularly great time so don't tend to recommend it. But I might have just had an 'off' day.

    Hanoi is not a big city - but it's fascinating and full of life. And very different to any other big city you have probably been in. I only briefly passed through HCMC so can't really comment.

    Personally, if you have an interest in Vietnam, I would stick to my suggested plan above. You will get a mix of cities (although not necessarily the 'blinding neon lights' experience - but culturally fascinating), and you will get to see more of the smaller town side of life. Places like Hoi An aren't not thriving cities, but again are full of culture, smells, shops, people, etc. And there's enough busy-ness there to keep you entertained.

    #6 Posted: 19/3/2011 - 03:21

  • marsh354

    Joined Travelfish
    18th March, 2011
    Posts: 4

    Thanks for your suggestions!

    Even though I know we will be back to SE Asia, this decision has been much harder than I ever anticipated! There seems to be way too many cool places that I need to explore!

    I think we would enjoy amost any trip we decide upon, it is just a matter of what is the best place to go now and the price differences (if there really are any).

    I also need to convince myself to keep it to 3 (maybe 4) places and not try and cram in more.

    #7 Posted: 19/3/2011 - 03:40

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
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    From what I recall Vietnam is much cheaper than Malaysia and/or Singapore. Someone else may have to help me on this - but I think Thailand is more expensive than Vietnam.

    If you don't want to see only one country, then I'd say you could hit Vietnam and BKK in Thailand - though an international flight is going to cost a lot more than internal flights within Vietnam. I think Lizzy's suggestion is the best as you'll get a lot of cultural experience in both Hanoi and HCMC (and a variety between north and south) while still having the option to either check out central Vietnam, Hoi An, or look at one or two smaller cities in the Mekong Delta.

    Most of the shops and markets you find in Hanoi you'll find in HCMC, Bangkok, KL, even smaller towns all seems to sell basically the same stuff. I've always found more genuinely local products in the smaller markets outside of major cities.

    All that said, both Singapore and KL are very modern, and though there is a lot to see and do I think you'd have more of a cultural experience if you stuck to Vietnam.

    #8 Posted: 19/3/2011 - 06:56

  • Thomas922

    Joined Travelfish
    1st July, 2007
    Location Global Village
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    I like Lizzy's Vietnam option. Or do Vietnam stuff and save 3-4 days for Bangkok. You will get good value for your money. I love Singapore but stick to the better priced stuff for this 2 week whirlwind.

    #9 Posted: 19/3/2011 - 10:06

  • Rasheeed

    Click here to learn more about Rasheeed
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Cambodia
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    I love me my Hanoi, Hue as well.

    'sheeed

    #10 Posted: 31/3/2011 - 23:09

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  • busylizzy

    Joined Travelfish
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    Casey, yes you are right. Vietnam is much cheaper then the other countries. My daily expenses in Vietnam were about 2/3 of what they were in Thailand and Cambodia (excluding a Easy Rider tour which then skewed expenses a bit).

    Singapore is probably the most expensive. And it's the most westernised so, in my view, the least culturally rewarding.

    #11 Posted: 1/4/2011 - 02:09

  • marsh354

    Joined Travelfish
    18th March, 2011
    Posts: 4

    We decided to go to Vietnam! After reading more about the culture and the things to see and do, we are so happy with our decision! So thanks for all the suggestions!

    We have started a list of things we want to do/see, but if anyone has any recommendations of "cannot miss" things -- feel free to share!!

    #12 Posted: 1/4/2011 - 02:23

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location China
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    We loved our one night in Can Tho - a trip through the canals on a junk, wandering into the markets to the west of the river promenade (Cho An Cu Market). So if you're going to try and do a home-stay in the delta it's a good place to stop for a night, or if you don't have enough time to go deep into the delta its a good place to dip your feet in.

    #13 Posted: 1/4/2011 - 07:33

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