So, I've never been to SE Asia and who knows if I'll get to go back. I have 4 weeks in june/july and I want to pack a lot in. I'm leaving my options open until I get there but I have some plans. I know the theme around here is to take it slow and not do too much, but I still want to hear what everyone thinks...
Is it possible to do everything I have planned and still have a good time? If not, how do you recommend that I simplify my plans?
1. Singapore for about 2 days. Wife wants to see the zoo and we want to use it as our introduction to SE Asia since its an English speaking country.
2. Kuala Lumpur for 1 day. I would just like to see the Petronas Towers and maybe go to Batu Caves. Its not a highlight of our trip, but its close to Singapore.
3. Penang for 1 day. It's just a stopping point on our way to Thailand. My goal is not to travel for too many hours over the course of one day, since we will be hopping between a lot of cities. I figure this is a logical stopping place.
4. Krabi (Ko Phi Phi) or Surat Thani (Koh Phangan) for about 3 days of beach time and partying. Any suggestions of which one is better?
5. Chiang Mai for about 3 days. Jungle trekking, elephant farm and partying.
Overnight train south to...
6. Bangkok for about 4 days. Temples, Muy Thai Arena, Bars and anything else the city brings to us.
Overnight train north to...
7. Vientiane for 1 day. This is kind of like Penang, no major plans here but just a logical stopping point instead of trying to travel further.
8. Vang Vieng for about 2 days. Tubing! This really sounds fun. Its one of the things I definitely want to do.
9. Luang Prabang for about a day. Temples, see monks, check out the city.
10. Siem Reap for about 3 days. See Angkor Wat...another must for our trip.
11. Phenom Penh for about 3 days. I hear its a neat place. From what I read, everyone seems to like it a lot. Maybe we will go to the shooting range.
12. Saigon for about 3 days. This is where our flight leaves out from.
#1 minerman has been a member since 2/3/2012. Posts: 6
Ahhhhh, OK. You're all over the map here. Hope you brought plenty of money for all the travel expenses. This is definitely not a cheap way to go. Visa fees and airplane tickets out the ying yang. The flights will be short, but remmember even with flying, every day you move is pretty much a shot day. You'll still have the night to do something, but days will be pretty much eaten most of the time. I would NEVER even consider doing something like this. But I'm not you.
#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I'd fly from Singapore to Phuket (onward to Phi Phi) or Koh Phangan, skip Malaysia since you're mostly traveling through and it is costly, plus you'll get pretty tired of lugging bags around for just one day in each spot. This should allow you to spend more time in Luang Prabang as the area deserves to have more time. If you haven't booked flights already I always find round-trip is cheaper, so maybe change to a round-trip to Singapore and you can fly from PP to Singapore for your departure.
Maybe you can get your wife to log on. Why would she want to go to Singapore? Going south (a long way) and then doubling back north, given the limited amount of time you have makes no sense at all. I can't think of anything you can do in Singapore that you can't do in Bangkok.
#4 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Yeah, I know its definitely not going to be cheap. Maybe I need to research costs of visa fees. I could skip Malaysia and live with myself.
edit: I am from the States. It looks like I will only need visas for the last three countries, laos, cambodia, vietnam.
We actually already got our flight to/from SE Asia booked. We fly into Bangkok and leave from Saigon. The flight ended up being almost the same price as a round trip to Bangkok. At the time it seemed like a great idea. We are planning on just taking the next flight to Singapore once we land in Bangkok. I don't think I can skip Singapore unfortunately. That was a big selling point to my wife on booking the whole trip.
#5 minerman has been a member since 2/3/2012. Posts: 6
Ouch. That trip to Singapore will be a sting on time. I'd maybe just do Cambodia and Southern Vietnam then, and skip out on Laos for this trip. That way you can spend more time exploring other parts of Cambodia and Southern Vietnam - even working your way overland from PP to HCMC via the Mekong Delta with a few stops to soak up the more rural life.
Good news. I talked my wife into skipping the first three destinations. We will probably start in bangkok, head south to the beaches and continue with the plan above minus the first 3 destinations. I would much rather go to Laos than the first three destinations based on all the reviews I've read online.
I think I'd like to take the days we were going to spend south and use them for extra beach time. Maybe another day in Luang Prabang.
The only thing I wish I could add is Hanoi, but then I'll end up having the same problem that I just solved. It seems way out of the way. Ha long bay looks amazing though.
#7 minerman has been a member since 2/3/2012. Posts: 6
Good news indeed. I enjoy Laos very much and glad you'll get a chance to visit - highly recommend you add 1 or even 2 days to Luang Prabang and sacrifice a little bit of that beach time. You'll want a full day to relax and explore the 'city' and it is easy to arrange a nice day trip to some waterfalls, villages, or boat up the Mekong to a depository cave for old Buddha statues.
Your wife will be happy she made that choice too. Once you get here, try not to attach timelines to your movement. Go someplace and stay until you are ready to move on. The thing that makes SEA special is not the food or the architecture - it's the pace of life. Food in the US, given you can get just about everything there that you can get here plus a whole bunch more - is probably better than here. Architecture, while not all that special in the US, sure beats here. But for laid back, pressure off, chillin' this place can't be beat.
#9 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Personally I disagree with MM regarding the food, I think it is amazing. But hey, that's just my opinion.
Definitely try and add on some more time to Luang Prabang if you can. Not a place to be rushed. 4 days minimum would be my suggestion.
#10 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 740
China, when I lived in Ulm Germany with my Thai wife, there were three Thai restaraunts in town. We went all the time (big surprise right?). Same food as here - actually slightly better as the low end crap wasn't on the menu. Of course it was much more expensive than here (but I made a lot more money then too) but in terms of quality even my wife said Thai food in Germany was at least as good as in Thailand. That's because all the cooks were Thai, the ingredients were imported from Thailand... The German food I get at "Bei Otto" in Bangkok is just as good as in Germany. That's the world we live in today. Unforunately, outside the large Thai cities, the whole cosmopolitan thing hasn't completely caught on - especially with food. So where I live we have Thai/Issan/Vietnamese food, a KFC, a pizza place, one place that serves excellent fusion food, and a hotel with bad western fare. And that's it. In Boston, where I grew up, there was EVERYTHING (Mexican, German, Italian, Greek, Indian, Thai, Polynesian, Russian, Chinese, etc. etc) you could think of, and then some. Right down the street from where I grew up we had an outstanding Thai place. Better than anything in Mukdahan. The thing about food here is it's very cheap. That's a big plus I'll grant you. But food in the US is WAY better. It's not even close.
#11 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I'm not really sure what the point of this is. Yeah, it's possible to get some elements of Asian food in other countries but certainly not all of it and certainly not some country's cuisines either. For example, I live in Ireland and I do not believe there is a Vietnamese restaurant anywhere. Same for Cambodia - for example, where could you get a fresh crab curry (as in Kep) for $5. For cheapness, authenticity and originality I believe it's hard to beat having it in the country of origin.
#12 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 740
Yeah, we are definitely not going to have any timelines. I'm just coming up with a rough plan, making no reservations and doing whatever when we get there.
I know that it will be monsoon season, so I will probably be paying close attention to the weather. So, the forecast might determine if we leave or stay in a city a day early/late.
As for the food, I know exactly what you are saying mac. I just got back from Mexico City a few weeks ago. I honestly did not find anything down there that was even close to as good as what I can get from the small Mexican restaurant down the street from my home. Everything tasted very bland and the meats were not of very good quality. I also am a big fan of spicy food and was disappointed to learn that there is not that much spice down there.
With that said, I do have hopes that I discover some delicious and spicy food in SE Asia. I'm sure I'll experience the good and the bad. No worries though. I booked the trip looking for some adventure, not because of the food. [img]smileys/smile.gif[/img]
#13 minerman has been a member since 2/3/2012. Posts: 6
I'll admit you've got a point on Cambodia. I've never seen a Cambodian restaraunt even in Thailand (although they must exist somewhere). We definitely had Vietnamese in Germany and the US though. Can't speak for Ireland of course. Maybe your Vietnamese expat community is small?
At any rate, the beauty of globilization is that most of these foods have come to you, you don't have to go to them anymore. Unfortunately that beauty hasn't made it's impact fully felt in Mukdahan. But that's another story.
OP - sorry, didn't mean to get off track here.
#15 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Correct MAC, we have an almost non-existant Vietnamese community as I understand it. This is a pity as there are those mornings when I would just love a bowl of steaming hot pho instead of boring old breakfast cereal.
#16 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 740
I have heard Ireland is not a very multicultural place compared to other western countries. It has always bugged me that in the UK they sell hot chips as an alternative to fried rice at chinese restaurants. Each to their own I guess, but it doesn't seem like a good mix.
Here in Australia we have plenty of Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese restaurants. Cambodian and the like are catered for but to a lesser extent. I would say the quality of the food here is just as good as Thai but sometimes in the West we make it a bit too rich. The beauty of some Thai food is that it is made using cheap ingredients but relies on freshness and a PERFECT balance of flavours. I admire that about a lot of Asian cuisine.
The main problem with restaurants here is the variety and the price....try finding larb at a Thai restuarant here. You'll only get the very common dishes and if you have a favourite from Thailand you won't always find it.
Having said that, I find the Thai normally do a terrible job of Western food (be it burgers, pasta, pizza, steak etc.) and I know that's a generalisation but that's been my personal experience.
Chinarocks, come to Australia, I work 5 minutes from...off the top of my head...3 decent Pho joints that I frequent.
To the OP, I would start the trip in Bangkok, reconsider the islands and go from Vientiane to Hanoi instead, then go Saigon and continue on. You could save the islands for the next trip, and believe me with the short amount of time you have, there WILL be a next trip because you will love it and feel like you didn't see enough!
#17 lucasdg has been a member since 29/7/2011. Posts: 20
Once of the things that I love about living in New Zealand is the ethnic variety we have in our people, and as a result, in the foods that we have available. Not far from both where I work and where I live, I have good options for Indonesian, Malay, Laos, Vietnamese and of course, Thai. Haven't come across a Cambodian one yet though.
With respect to Larb, I have only just started to notice it at a couple of Thai restaurants. But I also just started making it at home - yum! You just need access to all the right ingredients - and lucky for us, all our immigrants import and grow all the ingredients that we need!
"This is a pity as there are those mornings when I would just love a bowl of steaming hot pho instead of boring old breakfast cereal."
China, you and I are definitely very different people. You couldn't pay me to eat "a bowl of steaming, hot pho" first thing in the morning. My neighbors, who are Vietnamese, are always eating that crap and always trying to get me to eat it. Five years on and every morning it's the same thing. Every day I tell them I just want a cup of coffee when I wake up. I guess they are being polite - cause they know there is no way in hell I will be saying yes. Well, they are persistent, gotta to give them that. And I like them. But not their food.
#19 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
MM - go on, give it a shot...what's to lose?
#20 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 740
Been there, done that. Some things you don't need to try twice. I actually really dislike Laos and Vietnamese food. Not all of it, of course, but a lot. I live right on the Laos border with a large Vietnamese expat community, so we have a lot of food from those regions. Doesn't work for me. I prefer Thai food from central Thailand, but that too has it's limits. The reason is because so much of the food is stir fried, and that means if they put one thing in it you don't like... So I'm not a huge fan. I prefer Somali food - tough to get in these parts though.
#21 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
There is a fantastic Afghani and Ethiopian place just out of the city and I love both. Never tried Somali though.
#22 lucasdg has been a member since 29/7/2011. Posts: 20
Whoa - just outside of what city??? I love Ethiopian food. I love their women, their climate... Ethiopia is great. Where is this place?
#23 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I fear I may disappoint you Madmac, with my vague 'city' comment. In fact I'm based in Adelaide, South Australia, although only for another fortnight before I head to Asia for 2 months and then NZ for 6. Probably a little far to travel for you
Anyway if you're ever down here the Ethiopian restaurant is called The Abyssinian. It's run by an Ethiopian family (you have to walk through their lounge to get to the bathroom.) You pay per head and they just bring you out a bunch of dishes - no browsing the menu required. Plenty of injera served with it and cold beer which they import themselves from South Africa/Ethiopia.
#24 lucasdg has been a member since 29/7/2011. Posts: 20
Damnit - I knew it was too good to be true.
#25 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957