Found this website a few days ago, what a great resource!
So, I'll be in Hong Kong for a conference in December and I'm planning to spend 10-15 days traveling around SE asia afterward, on my own.
I'm interested in seeing "authentic" places which have not (yet) been completely overrun by tourism. I'm not especially interested in beaches, unless the scenery is stunning. I'm into hiking/cycling. I don't mind roughing it out a bit but would prefer a minimal level of comfort. Given I don't have much time, I'd rather focus on a smallish area.
My biggest quandary is that in the really off-the-beaten-track places, communication and infrastructure might be an issue, but maybe not really?
From the travelfish itineraries, looks like a good possibility could be Southern Laos (http://www.travelfish.org/trip_planner/southern-laos-holiday), perhaps ending in Cambodia (with a visit to Angkor Wat). Does this sound like a good idea? any other recommendations?
By the way, my trip would be around Christmas/new year, I guess this is very much peak season? could there be issues with accommodation?
Thanks in advance!
#1 galois has been a member since 29/4/2012. Posts: 2
If you decide to go with the planned trip in the itinerary you posted then you still have a time consumption going to Vientiane from BKK . . . unless you can drop the cash for a HK to Vientiane direct flight, that'd save you some troubles. Having been to Savannakhet I don't think you need to stop there with such a short trip - especially if you want to get into see Angkor Wat in Cambodia. However, there is a quietness and non-tourist vibe to the city that you may enjoy. If you go through Vientiane I think the issue is that you should probably stop around Tha Khaek (but I can't speak from experience on any of that). At that point you'd probably have to scoot pretty fast through Pakse and Champasak if you want to get in Angkor Wat and down to PP as I imagine you'd need to fly out of there.
If you want to do the motorbiking side trip to get out of the beaten bath completely then most likely way is to fly into BKK first - take an overnight train to Ubon Ratchathani (or fly to save time) - then a bus to Pakse if you want to do the Bolaven Plateau portion ( Tad Lo & Paksong only should still be 3 nights minimum - it is nice to relax in Tad Lo a few nights). From there you can use the same bike to scoot down to Champasak for two nights, but then you'll have to bring it back up to Pakse before taking the bus down to Siem Reap. Probably skip 4,000 islands if you don't want to be around a bunch of fellow travelers.
I've actually seen some issues with accommodation in 'out of the way' Pakse and Tad Lo during February, with travelers looking for hostel style accommodations in Pakse having to settle for more hotel like stays (but still finding a room) and in Tad Lo people ending up in the lower end spots or a bit out of the village on the main road because they got in late in the afternoon. That said, just to get a bed you don't have to call ahead . . . and in Tad Lo I don't think you can.
You've probably already found exactly what you're looking for and casey seems to have filled you in pretty thoroughly on the missing info as well, but here's a plug for Myanmar (which isn't in the TF itineraries yet) because i think it might be right up your street as well.
Because Myanmar has been cut off from the outside world for so many years, the traditional way of life there hasn't been affected by western culture as much as it has in most other places. Things are changing fast now and the number of tourists has been increasing very rapidly in the last few years but it's still (for the time being anyway) one of the most "authentic" countries imaginable and not yet a mass tourist destination. Like you say it's peak season when you're going so Angkhor Wat will be heaving with tourists. Bagan is amazing too and you can wander around the temples in peace there without having busloads of tourists obscuring all the views. Bicycles are readily available for hire in Bagan... tourists who don't opt for the traditional horse and cart transport use them to wander about exploring the temples there. Horse and cart is worth doing at least once too though because the drivers know places you'd probably otherwise miss (as I found out the second time I went there). You can even use a horse and cart as your transport to and from Bagan airport... off the top of my head I can't think of any other country in SE Asia where this is even an option but using animals to get about is still common practice in Myanmar... you'll doubtless see people riding buffaloes and in Pyin U Lwin there are so many horse drawn stage coaches about that it feels like you somehow got transported to Wells Fargo circa 1850. (All ground transport in Myanmar tends to be rather slow in fact, so with just two weeks it would be a good idea to use some internal flights to save time if you can afford it.)
Inle Lake is also beautiful and relatively quiet in spite of being firmly on the main tourist trail, well worth seeing. You can rent bicycles to get about there too or trek there from Kalaw if you want.
Loads of other places worth seeing too and although TF doesn't have a dedicated travel guide to Myanmar a search should bring up a lot of useful stuff, particularly from a regular poster called Tilapia on the Burma section of the forum. There are also a few TF blog entries.
Main issues with accommodation are in the capital, Yangon, because it's just not geared to tourism yet and practically every tourist has to pass through there at least twice when they enter and leave the country. There's a distinct lack of decent but affordable places to stay in Yangon so the cheaper places aren't great value for money compared to what is available for the same price elsewhere and booking ahead is absolutely essential nowadays (particularly as you'd be there in peak season). For the rest of the country I usually just phone ahead from the guesthouse I'm staying in. I didn't go to the main tourists hubs of Inle and Bagan last December but I was in both places the previous December and had no problem finding somewhere to decent to stay even when I showed up unannounced. This said, increasing numbers of tourists=more pressure on accommodation so best to phone ahead to make sure there's a room available, especially if where you're going only has a few places to stay listed in LP.
Many thanks for the replies!
Myanmar is a tempting option, they also seem to be trying to make it easier for tourists i.e. with the launch of evisa. I've been researching a little into Bagan and it looks great indeed.
I have a lot of miles that can be used on Thai Airlines so I can travel into Yangon or Vientiane to start the trip (and back from either or Bangkok etc) and I could afford a couple of internal flights, within reason.
I'll keep thiking about it/researching and let you know what I decide.
#4 galois has been a member since 29/4/2012. Posts: 2
Two suggestions. Go slow. Anywhere can be "authentic" if you are there long enough. Usually if you wander just a couple blocks from tourists (or just open your eyes), you will find local people.
You might want to try a homestay. It's a great opportunity to meet local people. Here's a list of places (mostly in Cambodia) that my mate put together.