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Southeast Asia forum

3 months in SE Asia - suggestions please!

Posted by PandaHands on 7/8/2013 at 10:24

Hello all,

I am planning to visit South East Asia with my partner for 3 months (13 weeks), leaving at the end of Jan 2014 and would like some advice and suggestions please.

We are flying from London to Bangkok and plan to head north before going to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia and back to the South of Thailand to visit the Andaman coast. I would also love to visit some Indonesian islands - maybe Bali and Lombok, but I appreciate that this might be logistically difficult and I don't want to feel like I'm constantly on the move so would be open to other options. After this we will be continuing on to New Zealand to continue travelling and work for a few months so ideally our final destination would be where we fly to New Zealand from.

We have a loose plan of 3 weeks in Central and Northern Thailand, 2 weeks in Laos, 3 weeks in Vietnam, 2 weeks in Cambodia, 2 weeks in the Andaman coast (due to re-entry restrictions) and then 1 week in Bali/Lombok.

I don't think Air Asia fly direct from Phuket to Bali, there is a stop off in KL - can anyone confirm if this is correct, and if so is it expensive? Or are there other options? Also would we need to travel back to KL or Bangkok to fly to New Zealand?

We have an idea of the places that we would like to visit but I was hoping for some suggestions and tips on what to do - we're both in our mid twenties - I have an environmental background, so educational trips to nature reserves would be great (but no cliched elephant rides please), my partner is really interested in history, so he is most looking forward to Vietnam. We both drink, but not to excess (most of the time), so the occasional vibrant city would be good but mostly we just want to relax and take it all in! We love beaches and I'm a keen swimmer so suggestions there would be welcomed. Want to avoid overly touristy places but we're not pretentious and wouldn't turn down visiting somewhere amazing just because others are doing it.

Ideally would like to travel overland with the occasional flight - we're both used to very long train journeys and I've been on some pretty shocking bus rides in Uganda! However if it's going to really eat into our time I wouldn't mind paying a bit extra to fly. Want to do this as cheap as possible, I have a budget of £2,500 - is this reasonable?

Would be great to get some route suggestions and tips on what to do when we get there.

Thank you!


#1 PandaHands has been a member since 7/8/2013. Posts: 5

Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 7/8/2013 at 10:41

Look at the Air Asia website and it will tell you.

"Would be great to get some route suggestions and tips on what to do when we get there."

Check into a hotel, have a shower, go to toilet, have a drink and eat food. I don't know it's your holiday so you can do what you want to do.

Why don't you plan your own trip around your own interests rather than following people around like sheep.

You must have chosen these countries for a reason.

If you like kayaking google kayaking... (country) or if you like caves ... (country) then work out where to go and how to get there. Half the fun of travelling is planning.

"Also would we need to travel back to KL or Bangkok to fly to New Zealand?"

Why would you fly back all the way back to Bangkok? Google Bali to NZ flights and you will find out which airlines cover these spots.

#2 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by PandaHands on 7/8/2013 at 10:41

Thanks for the suggestion but I've already done that and it doesn't give that route as an option. Was wondering if anybody knew of alternative airlines or routes.

No need to patronise - I am perfectly capable of researching on the internet but I thought the purpose of this forum was to enable people to discuss and share their experiences. If that's not what you're here to do then don't bother wasting your time and posting anything at all.

#3 PandaHands has been a member since 7/8/2013. Posts: 5

Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 7/8/2013 at 10:53

You need to ask more specific questions and it is your holiday. You can't expect people to do all the work for you. If you bothered to read the forum you would have seen people in recent days ask the same sorts of questions re beaches and get answers.

I'm one of the few people who take time to answer people's questions but the same questions get asked over and over every week because people can't be bothered reading the forum first.

I could ignore your post and not answer but this forum is fairly quiet and some people don't get any answers for days.

Happy to help people but you need to put some effort in yourself first.

#4 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by PandaHands on 7/8/2013 at 11:20

I've actually spent the last few weeks trawling through this forum, researching on the internet and speaking with friends and travel agents so please don't make presumptions about me.

I have some great ideas from reading posts in recent days but I thought I could get some more if I posted about my specific interests to see if anyone had any suggestions based on their experiences, something that requires no work at all. It probably just feels like work to you because you spend all your time picking faults. I would rather you just didn't respond if the alternative is an attempt to patronise, saves us both the effort!

#5 PandaHands has been a member since 7/8/2013. Posts: 5

Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 7/8/2013 at 11:34

What are your specific questions then? Other than flights.

#6 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by PandaHands on 7/8/2013 at 11:57

- Recommended places to learn about the history, particularly in Vietnam. I've read about the killing fields and cu chi tunnels for example, but was hoping for some suggestions.
- Would like to know if anyone has visited any nature parks that they really enjoyed, I prefer them to be educational - more of a focus on the ecosystem rather than one particular species. So the elephant park in Chiang Mai, for instance, might be something I wouldn't enjoy as much.
- Recommended beaches, particularly on the Andaman coast, prefer something not too touristy.
- Insight into whether my budget is reasonable for three months.
- Opinions regarding whether a flight to Bali would be worth it or whether I should leave that out and spend more time in other places.

#7 PandaHands has been a member since 7/8/2013. Posts: 5

Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 7/8/2013 at 12:24

Budget -I usually find you need at least $60 a day but things like diving can add a lot to that.

beaches - depends whether you want to lay around or do things like snorkel. Lanta has Kantiang Bay which is nice to lay about or there's Phra Nang, Krabi. But if you want snorkelling do a tour to Ko Hong, phi phi or visit Trang and do one from there to Muk and co.

Bali/vietnam - others may help. I prefer Thailand.

History - can't help with Viet but Bangkok has a good museum in the National Museum. Also Phimai museum is good and that town has old ruins which are good. It's not far from Bangkok.

Parks - Khao Yai has wild elephants but hard to see unless you're lucky. It's not far from Phimai so you could do both. I did both by car so cant help with buses out this way. A lot further east Pha Taem NP is really good. It's the most eastern part of Thailand. The nearby town of Khong Chiam is a great little town on 2 rivers. Really charming place. But again a car is best though you bus it via Ubon.

#8 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by exacto on 7/8/2013 at 17:15

Hi Emma,

Your trip sounds pretty good. You've got a good amount of time set aside for each country. It will allow you to catch the highlights and maybe spend a few extra days at favorite spots, but isn't quite enough time to fully experience each place.

When you say your partner is interested in history, do you mean ancient history or more Vietnam War era stuff?

You might get a good start working your way up north in Thailand stopping off in places like Kanchanaburi or Ayutthaya or Sukhothai . Kanchanaburi is an outdoorsy/adventure kind of place, with some good fun thrown in. It also has the Bridge Over the River Kwai history from World War II, including several well-done museums, thought-provoking cemeteries, and the Death Railway.

Ayutthaya and Sukhothai are old Thai history stops, including UNESCO World Heritage Sites for their ancient cities and ruins. Both also have a good backpacker infrastructure, so you can learn during the day and party at night. Chiang Mai is a world-class vacation city, with a great mix of affordable accommodation, great spas, and international cuisine for a fraction of what you'd pay back home. It is one of my favorite places.

Once you move over to Laos, you'll most likely want to see Luang Prabang. Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars is also worth a look, particularly from a Vietnam War era point of view. Vientiane is a nice city that often gets overlooked with good temples and at least one interesting musuem. I also like southern Laos too, and am a big fan of Pakse and particularly Champasak and Wat Phu. But your two weeks in Laos may not go as far as you'd think, so you may want to just stay up in the northern part and then work your way over to Vietnam from there.

I haven't been to Vietnam, so can't help with that. But I know folks say it is bigger and more involved than you'd think, so don't plan to do too much.

I like Phnom Penh, but Siem Reap and Angkor Wat are the big draws in Cambodia. Folks say good things about the beaches there too, however, and if you want to get off the beaten track, Battambang may be a good choice to at least look into in addition to or instead of those last two weeks on the Andaman Coast.

I like Trang and Krabi along the Andaman Coast, but little Ko Chang and the island farther north near the Burma border get good reviews too.

The one part of your itinerary that seems rushed to me is the one week for Bali and Lombok. You can certainly do it that way - a few days in Ubud and over to the Gilis, for example. But it may be lots of extra expense for just a few days.

Having said that, I'm pretty sure you'll be able to fly from Den Pasar on Bali to New Zealand and certainly wouldn't need to back track to KL.

I tend to spend $50 a day when I travel by myself, and $75 when travelling as a couple. But prices are going up and exchange rates going down as of late, so you may want to have a little extra available in case you need it.

Anyway, that's just a bit to get the conversation started. I hope that helps. Cheers.

#9 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,632
 Where has exacto been? 

Posted by o1o29o on 8/8/2013 at 22:12

...when you guys say $50-60 does this include accommodation?
(planning for a trip late January as well - occasional drinker - can do guest house accom but would prefer private)

#10 o1o29o has been a member since 14/7/2013. Posts: 2

Posted by PandaHands on 9/8/2013 at 07:54

Thanks for your replies, this has been really helpful.

My partners interest is mostly around the Vietnam war-era, but to be honest, we'd love to see a mix of things!

Does anyone have any good suggestions for national parks/conservation areas? I'm interested in learning about how local communities benefit from them, whether there are naturally occurring plant species that are used locally for medicine, what they are doing to conserve the biodiversity etc.

I'd rather avoid a park that focusses on encouraging a bunch of tourists to stomp around in the hope of catching sight of an elephant or monkey. I've read about Phou Khao Khouay National Park in Laos, has anyone been there? Also - does anyone know of any parks that have accommodation available to stay for a few nights?

I'm budgeting myself at $40 per day with a little extra for more expensive activities, but we will be mostly staying in guest houses and travelling overland so I'm hoping this will be doable.

#11 PandaHands has been a member since 7/8/2013. Posts: 5

Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 9/8/2013 at 13:03

Khao Yai has accomodation as does many other parks. Local communities don't get much benefit from parks as the money goes to the Govt. Not sure about medicine. They have all the drugs you would expect in pharmacies. You might be suprised to find out many of the locals don't really care about the environment and you'll see rubbish lying around in many places.

$40pp is fine but not for both of you.

#12 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

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