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Southeast Asia forum

8+ countries in 2 months?

Posted by thedunnyman on 21/8/2011 at 16:08

Hello all,

Nearing the completion of my 5-year university degree, I plan to go travelling in Asia for 2 to 2.5 months from December this year. (I live in Australia by the way)

I've never been to Asia before and I'm not sure how to plan this. Firstly, I have a friend who did something similar and went to quite a few countries. But reading some threads on this forum, it seems some think that this is not enough time to go to so many places.

I plan just to get a 'feel' for each country and see the main attractions. I'm quite interested in landmarks/temples as well as food/shopping. I also wouldn't mind chilling out a bit every now and then so I don't tire myself.

The places I have in mind so far are (very preliminary plans by the way):
- China (Beijing > Xian > Shanghai) ~10 days?
- Hong Kong ~7 days?
- Singapore ~3-4 days?
- Malaysia ~3-4 days
- Laos ~5 days
- Cambodia ~5 days
- Thailand ~7 days
- Vietnam ~7 days

And then we were thinking maybe Korea/Japan for ~10 days or so? Not sure if this is too expensive or if I should wait for another trip.

Does anyone see anything 'majorly' wrong with this so far? Like weather difficulties? Not enough time to explore?

Also, I want to book my flights ASAP and have no idea how to work out which place to travel to first (from Australia)? Anyone got tips?

Thanks in advance :)

#1 thedunnyman has been a member since 21/8/2011. Posts: 6

Posted by eastwest on 21/8/2011 at 20:14

"I also wouldn't mind chilling out a bit every now and then so I don't tire myself."

With a schedule like that there's not much room for chilling. You will get a lot of comments on your schedule and while I'm usually more sympathetic towards people with a tight schedule, I don't see what you could possibly get out of this trip apart from collecting stamps in your passport and a few snapshots for the photoalbum.

What is the point of your trip? 3-4 days Malaysia for instance. What could you possibly do in that period apart from having a short peek at Kuala Lumpur ? Same goes for Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. Just enough to see the highlights of each country (Luang Prabang, Angkor, Hanoi + Halong, Bangkok + island).

And it will cost you dearly because you will have to fly each leg. Don't even try to think of doing things overland.

If you still insist I'd say to start in Kuala Lumpur because Airasia does cheap flights to KL and from there you can get connecting flights to other destinations.

Happy travels.

#2 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778


Posted by MADMAC on 21/8/2011 at 21:17

Not to be pedantic, but Hong Kong is part of China.

As for getting in Japan and Korea - hell yeah, you can squeeze them in.

This is the vacation from hell. Constantly on the move, constantly paying visa fees, plane tickets, going through customs... Why would you want to do this to yourself?

#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by busylizzy on 22/8/2011 at 03:18

Hang on - you forgot Burma. If you trim back each country by 1/2 day, you could fit that in too!

Seriously, I understand the concept of just wanting to get a taster of everything and limited time, etc but:

- your travelling costs are going to be much higher as a result (flights, buses, visas, taxis)
- you will never get a full appreciation of ANY of the places that you are visiting
- there will be no chill-out time
- each day you move between destinations, you effectively lose 1/2 - 1 day by the time you allow for getting to/from hotels, airports, waiting time (and there is LOTS of that!) and travel time. Knock off those days out of your itinerary and see what you are left with.
- after you are back at home for a month, things will start to be a blur. You will have little recall of the places that you have been; you will look at photos and not actually remember being there.

I would suggest that in a 2-2.5 month period that you limit yourself to 3-4 countries, 5 max if you are allowing a quick stop in Singapore. Slow down and enjoy the trip.

#4 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,155
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Posted by exacto on 22/8/2011 at 05:45

hey dunny,

congratulations on finishing up at university! what degree will you earn?

i pretty much agree with what the others have said too. rushing from country to country is no fun at all and much more expensive than a relaxed journey through just a few places. for example, my last two trips to southeast asia were for two months each. i only visited thailand and laos or thailand/laos/cambodia on each trip and it still didn't seem like enough time to get to all the things i wanted to see.

in any case, it is entirely up to you what you decide, but keep in mind that you are talking about going in the middle of northern hemisphere winter, so most of china, japan, and particularly korea will be cold during that time.

the other thing i noticed about your itinerary is that you've alloted the same number of days for small, city-states-like places such as singapore and hong kong as you have for an entire texas-sized country like thailand.

even if you cut out china (incl hong kong), korea, and japan, i think you'd still have a chore working through the other six places you've mentioned. but if you really like to keep things moving and on the go, then that is what i'd do. good luck!

#5 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,606
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Posted by Rasheeed on 22/8/2011 at 07:59

Add in Mongolia, Indonesia and Australia...

#6 Rasheeed has been a member since 4/11/2010. Location: Cambodia. Posts: 311
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Posted by MADMAC on 22/8/2011 at 11:22

I think the consensus is this isn't a good idea. You could consider the complete inverse. Pick a country that sounds particularly appealing, rent a place by the month (which saves a ton of money) and really get to know THAT PLACE. Study it's language, it's culture, meet people, make real friends... just a thought.

#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by chinarocks on 22/8/2011 at 15:33

Fully agree with all the other posters. China alone probably deserves two months (I spent 5 weeks there and saw alot but not as much as I didn't see). I can understand wanting to see as much as possible but, seriously, your plan is too much.

A sensible 2-month loop where you see a lot but still have time to settle and fully embrace a country would be Vietnam-Cambodia-Laos or Singapore-Malaysia-Thailand-Cambodia etc. The options are endless but I agree with busylizzie - you should not see more than 3 to 4 countries (5 if Singapore is one of those as it can be comfortably done in 3-4 days).

I would leave China and East Asia for this trip and I would never recommend 7 days in HK as part of a trip.

Or you could just do what Rasheeed says!!

#8 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 740

Posted by Rasheeed on 22/8/2011 at 16:20

Or you could just do what Rasheeed says!!


Best advice I've read all day...

#9 Rasheeed has been a member since 4/11/2010. Location: Cambodia. Posts: 311
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Posted by tyler on 23/8/2011 at 00:02

Hey,
With this schedual the only thing you'll get a feel for are airports. Try 3 countries max! Try going from Thailand south to Singapore. Easy travel, great food...a bit of everything. Don't rush. Take your time.
Trust everyone here when they say you are thinking about doing way too much! And if you don't want to...India and Nepal are close by as well! :)

#10 tyler has been a member since 7/12/2010. Location: Canada. Posts: 257
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Posted by swag on 23/8/2011 at 13:00

Lol well that scared the poor bugger off, he's probably slinked away to another chat room to lick his wounds

#11 swag has been a member since 28/3/2007. Location: Australia. Posts: 330

Posted by busylizzy on 23/8/2011 at 15:17

I hope not, swag. Yes, there's been a bit of windup, but there's also some valuable info in there for dunnyman if he's still interested. Dunnyman, you just need to think it through a bit - and come back with some more questions. We're a friendly bunch, really!

#12 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,155
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Posted by MADMAC on 23/8/2011 at 15:37

I'm with Liz - sure there's a little tongue in cheek here, since the plan was nuts. But the OP didn't know it was nuts, so nothing malicious intended by anyone.

#13 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by thedunnyman on 23/8/2011 at 15:44

Hi everyone, the OP is in fact not scared or feeling intimidated :)

In fact, thanks for all your kind advice. Really needed a whole community to tell me this otherwise I may have planned the worst trip of my life.

I've read everything and have taken everything in, and I wasn't planning to post something until I got my flights booked first and then I planned to work things out in between.

Right now I'm looking for some cheap tickets first.

I aim to start my trip in China (maybe Beijing). And then leave either KL or SG back to Australia for the end trip.

I got quoted $13xx from Singapore Airlines for:

Melbourne > Singapore > Beijing (28 November 2011)
KL > Singapore > Melbourne (7 February 2012)

And so far I'm told that's a pretty good deal.

So that will give me a decent 2+ months and I may even look to make it a tad longer as well and maybe get back mid February.

I'm told I should look for about 3 weeks in China so I may start of with that. The slight issue is that we're planning to meet with friends in mid January (I think) and they want to cover Indochina in 1 month. I think so far they want Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos as well as Malaysia/Singapore. Now I'm thinking that may be a bit hard for 1 month (from what you guys are telling me) - so I'm sorta in the process of liaising with them as well to figure that out.

I've also gone to the Travel Agents and picked up some good tour guides booklets and random brochures so I will have a read. I will update everyone when I make my next step.

Quick question though: Are tour guides worth it? Or should I just follow what they do and book along the way?

I'm not sure if this is cheap but a Gecko 25-day China tour costs $2.5k. Not quite sure if that's expensive or not .... anyone care to shed some light?

Thanks everyone :-)


P.S. I think I do want to spend more time in Indochina. But I still probably want to spend quite a bit of time in HK as well because I have quite a few friends there and I'm told shopping is good there (so that explains why I budgeted 7 days or so in HK/Macau).

#14 thedunnyman has been a member since 21/8/2011. Posts: 6

Posted by busylizzy on 23/8/2011 at 17:33

Hey Dunnyman - glad to know we didn't scare you off!

With regards to tour guides, etc - I would say "don't bother". If you had 7 days and were trying to do a whirlwind tour, then I would say that they have their place - they no the ropes, and get you from A to B more efficiently, etc. But you pay through the nose for the service. Honestly, if you budget $50 / day for a flashpacker type experience, the costs would be half of what you are paying on a tour. Actually - I recall making a longish post here somewhere on the pros/cons of tours in the last year or so - maybe you can search for it for some thoughts on this.

Having said all of that, organised 'tours' have their place. I did a Easy Rider motorbike tour through part of Vietnam a week and half and it was one of the best experiences I've had.

I would forget the glossy travel brochures. They focus on the package tours, the buses that shuffle people from A to B - mass produced tourism. Instead, read through the planned itineraries on this site (here: http://www.travelfish.org/trip_planner/) for some initial ideas on how to best fit it all in.
You've got 2+ months - that's a decent time. I would suggest that you sketch out a plan (based on 3-5 countries, not 25!) but don't book any flights other than ones you absolutely need. Then start out on your planned trip - but retain the flexibility to change it as you go.

And don't forget - SEA will always be there. If you don't see it all now, there will be opportunities in the future. If the desire is big enough, you will make it happen.

#15 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,155
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Posted by thedunnyman on 7/9/2011 at 20:16

Hi everyone,

Thought I'd give a little update :)

We managed to finally book our flights for (apparently) a cheap price with Singapore Air.

We travel:

Melbourne > Singapore > Beijing

Singapore > Melbourne

And got it for $1330 :)

Anyway, so now we're leaving 30 November and coming back 13 February which means we now have 2.5 months to travel.

We also had the flight booking lady help us organise our trip. Unfortunately, it has racked up a $11,000 AUD bill because all the tours/accomm/some food have been included. We were definitely not looking to spend that much so I thought maybe we'll just do most of it ourselves.

So far, my plan is: (and please let me know if it sounds reasonable)

28 days --> Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Chengdu, Nanjing and some others I think

7 days --> Hong Kong / Macau (I know this is a bit long but we are visiting a lot of friends)

[Note, we have to do about 35 days in those places because friends are meeting us around 7th January for the 2nd part of the trip)

35 days --> Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia

5 days --> Malaysia (probably fixed amount because visiting relatives)

2 days --> Singapore just before we depart


So does this look more feasible now?

For most places, we probably just plan to do the attractions, go to markets, and eat. We don't really plan to do any country to thoroughly - but just want to seem all the 'main' stuff.

#16 thedunnyman has been a member since 21/8/2011. Posts: 6

Posted by eastwest on 7/9/2011 at 20:30

35 days for Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
You'll still get a lot of comments but if you stick to just the main attractions, whichever they may be for you, and take flights in between you can manage. Fly especially in and out of Laos (Luang Prabang) and big distances in Vietnam

Enjoy the trip

#17 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by thedunnyman on 13/9/2011 at 11:38

Thanks for the tip. Yeah probably will just be main attractions so hopefully I'll be okay.

I've got a few questions that will help me plan this trip a bit better:

MONEY
I've recently just signed up with a 28 Degrees Mastercard which I think has zero transaction/currency conversion fees. As far as I know, I can go to ATMs in all of the countries I'm visiting and withdraw at the spot rate at the time? Does this sound right to anyone? I'm wondering if I also need an additional online foreign currency account for whatever reason? A friend also recommended me to sign up to Travellex and convert HKD now because the rate is good? Not sure if I should wait or not..?

PRE-BOOKING?
After some though, I'm thinking it would be beneficial if we could essentially 'wing' the trip. As in, we'd plot the itinerary and look for places to say - but just not book anything. This way, say if we wanted to spend 1 week less in China because we were bored, then we can just continue on with the trip as nothing has been locked in. I'm just wondering how easy it is for us to find available accommodation as we go along? We plan to stay in the AUD $25-35 hotels for twin shares. The only place I was thinking of booking is maybe HK accommodation since we're going around new years time.

But yeah, would it be okay if I don't book any other accommodation and no flights as well? Or better to book now?

Thanks :)

#18 thedunnyman has been a member since 21/8/2011. Posts: 6

Posted by eastwest on 13/9/2011 at 12:16

Money:

Mastercard is in general a good card to have. There's probably some hidden costs, as with most cards, with that card of yours but Mastercard is not widely known for outrageous fees. That should be ok.
No need for additional forex account but it would be good to have a second card with you. Either for the same account or a different one. Just as a good back-up if a card gets lost or stolen.

HKD. Your currency is aussie dollar isn't it? If it is I wouldn't do conversion now. The aussie dollar will remain strong for some time, bar any huge crisis/disaster. You probably also don't want to carry huge sums of cash money around for safety and changing small amounts of money won't gain you a lot.

Winging it
I can't speak for all countries but in general you can wing it in that price range. Normally I pre-book the night of arrival after a long travel day to save myself some hassle and I usually do this a few days before I leave through internet.
Just do a decent check for the big holidays (chinese new year for sure) in those asian countries. During those days most of the times you want to stay put in one place, either to take in the atmosphere or to avoid the madness. Travelling on those days is normally a bad idea with overcrowded roads and buses.

Enjoy!

#19 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by thedunnyman on 23/9/2011 at 17:40

Thanks for the replies everyone :)

Anyway, I'm about to sit down and do a whole night's worth of research for my whole trip. I will attempt to plan which cities I want to go to and therefore how long I will stay at each place.

However, I do have a question about tour guides.

Initially, I wanted to stay away from them to save money. But after friends mentioned that tour guides can give you a wealth of information, I'm wondering if I should look into it? And if I do, how does one go about it? I hear it is cheaper to book at the place than in advance. But I'm not sure how it works.

For example, we will arrive at Beijing first. And right now, the things I want to do in Beijing are:

Forbidden City
Great Wall
Temple of Heaven
Tiananmen Square
Summer Palace
Lama Temple
Great Wall (Mutianyu)
Hu Tongs / Drum Towers
Wangfujing Street
Ming Tombs
Acrobats Show

I guess it would be good if we had a tour guide for the places where there is history / rich culture. But can you just book tour guides for certain places? Or do you generally have to stick with their plan? I may actually prefer flexibility and just do a lot of research before hand and print out a cheat sheet for places we go to :)

Any thoughts? :)

#20 thedunnyman has been a member since 21/8/2011. Posts: 6

Posted by Nixxypie on 23/9/2011 at 19:41

Hi there...

In regards to the credit card situation, I signed up for a mastercard in the UK which included a perfect exchange rate and no charges on mastercards behalf to use it which I thought was great because I didn't feel safe carrying more than a few days worth of money around... However in Thailand every time I withdrew the ATMs charged a fee of 150baht... Not a huge amount but if you're only taking a little bit out at a time it adds up over the time you're away so that's something to consider. I ended up taking out large amounts to overcome the fee but I was safe carrying it so you'll probably have to problems.

Secondly I did Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in 30 days but I don't think it was enough time. Although I feel like I saw a lot of Thailand, I would have loved to spend more time in Cambodia and Vietnam but I was extremely pushed for time and with my job I will never get another chance to return for a longer period until I quit or retire!

In 30 days I managed Bangkok (6 days spread between travelling), Kanchanaburi (2 days), Chiang Mai (4 days), Siem Reap(1.5 days), Phnom Penh (1 day), Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding areas (6 days), Koh Tao (4 days) and Koh Phangan (3 days). It did involve a lot of travelling and although it wasn't as awful as I'd imagined it being I would have loved to have longer to explore the places. Because of the time limits I spent a lot of time researching exactly what I wanted to do, so I knew that when I got to a place I could find a tour agency or transport and book every activity for however long I was going to be in that place so that I didn't waste a single day. I also travelled by night trains and night buses as this saves on hotel costs and means you're not missing out on a day. If you're planning on doing it all in a month then I recommend planning exactly what you want to see and do in each place and also investigate how long the transport between each place takes and allow extra time for delays (every train we got in Thailand was either delayed arriving or during the journey took at least 1 hour longer than stated).

Good luck and enjoy.

#21 Nixxypie has been a member since 27/4/2011. Posts: 55

Posted by Etlewis on 10/11/2013 at 08:27

Hello! I was wondering if you went on the trip/how it was? I am graduating in May and want to so the same type of trip!
Thanks
Eleanor

#22 Etlewis has been a member since 10/11/2013. Posts: 1

Posted by MADMAC on 10/11/2013 at 12:12

I'm dying to hear how this trip worked out.

Etlewis - this kind of trip is lunacy. It won't be fun. The amount of travel time here, even with flights, is going to be crazy.

#23 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by Geer1 on 10/11/2013 at 15:59

Although a trip like this might not be as horrible as some are making it seem you would miss out on a lot. You would get very little for the "feel" of these countries and would miss out on many of the best locations(Sapa, Paradise Cave, Khao Sok etc) as they are somewhat difficult to fit into a tight itinerary as they don't have direct flights to/from.

A person is far better off sticking to 2-3 maybe 4 countries in this type of time frame and you would actually be able to see much more of them. That is unless checking off airports/countries is the goal of your trip then by all means go waste your time and money(imo).

#24 Geer1 has been a member since 14/9/2012. Posts: 540
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Posted by MADMAC on 10/11/2013 at 20:53

Honestly, I think there are two very good reasons not to do this:

1. As Greer and others pointed out, you just flat out won't have enough time to see or experience anything in any one place. It's all going to be a blur. A year down the road you'll be looking at pictures and saying "Where was this? Was this Thailand or Laos?" Same for cuisine.

2. Your transit time, which is now considerable, is eating into your leisure time. Every time you relocate you are losing a full day here. And that only assumes you are relocating when you go from country to country. If you go to Thailand, for example, you lose most of a day getting there, then if you want to hit a beach, it's the most of another day eaten in transit, and so forth and so on. So unless you plan to stick to the capital cities of wherever you go, you will be losing a tremendous amount of time in transit.

Which brings me to my last point, which I have mentioned before.

SEA is simply not about seeing "amazing things". The tropics eat things here. That's not to say there is nothing to see. But the beauty of the place is the pace of life and the climate. If you want to see a lot of great things, then go to Europe. There it's endless. Come here, take it slow. Pick a country and chill out. Read a book, learn some of the language, make friends with local people... If you rush around you do none of that. There's far more to see in Europe than there is here. Go there is you're into sightseing.

#25 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by thedunnyman on 11/11/2013 at 05:09

Hi, wow can't believe this thread is being resurrected! The trip ended up being 75 days days long. I'm not sure if I changed the itinerary since posting here but I just found the latest one on my computer:

--- CHINA---
Beijing (5 days)
Xian (4 days) - we decided to cut the 3 days of Cheng Du because already sick of the travelling
Li River cruise (4 days)
Transit from Yichang to Wuhan (1 day)
Shanghai (4 days)

--- HK/MACAU----
Macau (3 days)
Hong Kong (6 days)

----VIETNAM----
Saigon (2 days)
Can Tho (1 day)
Saigon (3 days)
Mui Ne (2 days)
Hue (2 days)
Sapa (3-4 days)
Halong Bay (1 day)
Hanoi (3 days)

---CAMBODIA----
Siem Reap (4 days)

----THAILAND
Bangkok (3 days)
Chiang Mai (3 days)
Phuket (4 days)

----MALAYSIA---
Malaysia (4 days)

----SINGAPORE---
Singapore (3 days)

Not sure if that will actually add up right...I only looked at it really roughly. Basically it was a very long trip and probably 10-15 days a bit too long for me but definitely doable. You don't really get to 'explore' because of the limited days in each city, but at least you get to see a bit of everything! If I really liked a place, I'd go back again. To be honest, everything was pretty good but I don't think I 'needed' more time in any of the cities. Sometimes it's a bit of a hassle thinking of the next airplane to take...I think we took 25+ altogether. But then after a while, it just felt so normal and some of them were only a few hours so it wasn't that long.

Good to see a bit of everything. Not so good if you really want to experience the culture/lifestyle of one country...although you still get a bit of that.

My next trip is about 36 days in Japan and I made sure I gave more time in each place...but to be honest, it's still quite fast moving. Depends what you like I guess.

#26 thedunnyman has been a member since 21/8/2011. Posts: 6


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