Travel opinion and advice
If it's true that the journey is more important than the destination, it's even truer when it comes to river-boat travel. Often slow, uncomfortable and unreliable, boat trips can nevertheless deliver on magnificent scenery and insights into local customs and ways of life. Thanks to rapidly improving road networks and also due to the proliferation of dams in Laos, options for boat travel in Southeast Asia are slowly fading away, but some fabulous trips worth trying do remain. Below we cover some of our favourites, along with a handful no longer really possible to do easily.
A simple question, with rarely a simple answer. Where is the best beach/party/temple/breakfast in Southeast Asia? Below we tackle ten typical queries and take a (highly personalised) stab at why I reckon somewhere in particular is the best in Southeast Asia. One proviso -- the Philippines and Brunei are not included in the mix as we're yet to head to either -- maybe this year...
We've told the story many a time: Travelfish was conceptualised over a couple of lazy afternoons on a Ko Maak beach in eastern Thailand. We had a couple of false starts, but when the site finally "officially" launched on July 12, 2004 it was primarily a collection of our favourite places in the region. As is the case now, it was a bit of an eclectic mix, from backpacker stalwarts like Khao San Road and Ko Phi Phi through to more off the beaten track destinations like Phrae, Phayao and Salavan.
Despite most of Southeast Asia not being predominantly Christian, Christmas is often seen as just another excuse for a party -- or an expensive gala dinner. Western New Year's Eve too is wildly celebrated across the region, and you can join in the festivities whether you're on a budget or looking to splurge. If you'll be parked somewhere in Southeast Asia this Christmas or New Year's, here are our correspondents' suggestions for what to do.
Time was when the longest bus journey aimed at backpackers that we can recall was offered by Khao San guesthouses and was the Bangkok to Penang visa run. Though roads were good and border formalities straightforward on that route, it was long enough. But in more recent times, with an increase in visitors to regional destinations and an upgrading of roads across Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, we've seen a proliferation of absurd bus routes on offer in backpacker hot spots across Southeast Asia, including Thailand's Pai and Ko Pha Ngan, Laos' Vang Vieng and Don Dhet, and Cambodia's Siem Reap.
We're often asked about our picks for where to go when travellers have a certain amount of time up their sleeve, or what the best time of year is for going to this island or those mountains. With weather in mind, and pretending for a moment that we could travel right through 2013, here's where we'd go in Southeast Asia over the next year based on where we've already been and what we've read about when it comes to where we want to go.
In late July of this year, a Dutch woman, on the way home from celebrating her 19th birthday at a bar in Ao Nang Krabi, was allegedly beaten and raped by a Thai tour guide. When she later arrived at hospital, the medical team treating her assumed she had been in a motorcycle accident because of the severity of her injuries. The assailant, whom she identified and who initially confessed to the crime when arrested -- a month later -- is now out on bail, and denying guilt.
So we have another year of A-level results and another year of feverish travel planning as another year's worth of British students decide to take a gap year before hitting university. You'd be mad not to be fitting in a Southeast Asia sojourn as a part of your journey, so here's some advice to get the most out of your time here.
I'm writing this story on a laptop that isn't connected to the internet. It's not connected to the internet even though the hotel has WiFi access. It's not connected via the WiFi access because although I am staying in what I believe is the most expensive room on the property (US$120++), the access isn't free. I'm not happy and when a guest isn't happy, the hotel loses.
Last week I discussed 10 reasons why you should do an organised adventure tour to Southeast Asia. As promised, here is the flipside of the coin: 10 reasons why Southeast Asia is best explored by travelling independently. While the following is focussed on Southeast Asia, we believe the advice holds for anywhere -- so go on, get out there and travel!
Independent travel isn't for everyone, and for some, doing an "adventure tour" to Southeast Asia can be the perfect blend of adventure and convenience with a not totally unreasonable price. So read on to find out ten key points that we believe can work in favour of doing an adventure tour. Next week I'll follow up with the flipside of the coin -- ten reasons to travel independently.
USA Today ran a story recently lamenting the state of affairs in some of the region's better known "must sees". The story picks out Luang Prabang, Pai and Siem Reap as cases in point, but there are many others to choose from -- Vang Vieng, Hoi An, Sapa or just about any island in Thailand. Unfortunately the author couldn't get much past his own treasured memories of Luang Prabang back in '74, but one doesn't need to have been travelling back then to have noticed huge changes in Asian backpacking destinations -- why?
If you had all the time in the world to spend travelling in Southeast Asia, where, and how would you spend it? Here's our short list of ten trips we'd love to fit into 2008. Starting in Hanoi, this route takes us through northern Vietnam to Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam then back to Cambodia, another peak into Laos before finally returning to Vietnam -- now all we need is an extra six months in the year to fit them all in -- and an extra passport for all those pesky visas!
In November 2007 we celebrated our 10-year anniversary of living and travelling in Southeast Asia. In that time we've had the good fortune to live in three of Southeast Asia's most interesting countries (Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand) and to travel extensively throughout the region. We arrived from Sydney, Australia back in 1997 with just the two backpacks, and by the time we moved from Phnom Penh to Jakarta in 2005, the two rucksacks had bred -- giving birth to a 20-foot container. In the past decade, aside from accumulating enough flotsam to fill a very big metal box, we've collected the following 15 pieces of advice that we hope will help you get the most out of your trip.
Everyone knows about Pai, Muang Sing, Siem Reap and Sapa but what about if you're looking for somewhere a little bit more off-the-beaten-track when it comes to exploring Southeast Asia's great interior. Not surprisingly there's loads and loads of places that you'll read precious little about in your guidebook, that could be just the spot you're looking for. Here's a few of our favourites across the countryside.
You've been burning the midnight oil over the last month or so, and the boss is well-impressed. Hunched in your cubicle, your computer screen deftly angled to deny prying eyes, you've plotted and planned almost every step of your upcoming six week sojourn through Southeast Asia. While next year's marketing budget is gathering dust in the bottom of your in-tray, you've cut and polished your trip so comprehensively, you feel like you've already on holiday. But now you're stumped -- you've heard horror stories of places being chock-full and you didn't do all this planning to end up on the restaurant floor. Do you really need to reserve your accommodation in advance?
You're heading to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam and you need a cheap flight. To get a good, cheap airfare to Asia, you'll need to spend time researching cheap air ticket websites like Adioso.com or telephoning travel agents. The best time and place for this research is during office hours at a desktop where nobody can see the screen.
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- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Five days in Khao Lak, Thailand
- Great Thai food blogs
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Ko Chang's east coast
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- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
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- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
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- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
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- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Great river trips in Southeast Asia
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- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
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