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New member planning first time backpacking trip.

Posted by BuzzmFrog84 on 1/12/2014 at 08:30

Hi everyone. I'm Tim and I'm looking to take a trip to Southeast Asia. While I'm sure most of what I need to know I can find on this website, I have a few general questions.

If everything worked out perfectly, I would be going to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam, hopefully a little time in Singapore and if I'm lucky Indonesia.

I'd say I'm looking to go for about 2 months. I have $5000 to spend before gear, flights or anything else is spent. How realistic is the time with the money I have and how leisurely can I spend both? Thanks a lot in advance.

#1 BuzzmFrog84 has been a member since 1/12/2014. Location: United States. Posts: 99

Posted by MADMAC on 1/12/2014 at 08:57

Way too much ground. Less is more. Everyone who first thinks of coming here thinks the same way. Want to see it all, think 2 months is a long time.

1. SEA isn't about seeing things. There are things to see to be sure, but it's more about the pace of the life. Moving slow is therefore a good thing, because the pace of life is chilled if you're not in Bangkok.

2. It's bigger than it looks and the transportation infrastructure isn't as robust as the western world. Getting from A to B occupies more time than you think, and it's mostly wasted time. Think a day moving is mostly a wasted day, between checking out of the hotel, going to the bus or train station (or airport) and then getting your transportation, transit, finding a place to stay upon arrival. Lots of eaten time.

If it were me (and I definitely believe in slow travel, so I am biased) I would think two countries. Three at most. Something like Thai, Laos and Cambodia. You will easily eat all of your time and still not see or do even close to everything there is to do in these places. If you rush more, it will become a blur. You'll be looking at pictures a few years from now and not even be sure what country they were taken in.

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

Posted by BuzzmFrog84 on 1/12/2014 at 09:09

Thanks for the reply.

I would most certainly like to see at least one of the countries you mentioned. Malaysia and Singapore I would at least want to see because I've met some friends there. I know Singapore isn't cheap. I just lost my job and am trying to take the opportunity to turn it into something positive so I really want to know how far the money I have can take me.

#3 BuzzmFrog84 has been a member since 1/12/2014. Location: United States. Posts: 99

Posted by MADMAC on 1/12/2014 at 10:48

Cambodia is probably the cheapest... Thailand is close. Laos is a touch more, or less, depending on what you do.

You can get by, not counting expenditures like bus fare, visa fees, air fair and extras on 20 bucks a day. It ain't high living though. Little or no booze, cheap food (street food), no woman. So for any of the above, add in money based on what you're doing. Obviously, the longer you stay somewhere, the cheaper is it - since you avoid travel costs.

Since you have lost your job, you might look at teaching English over here. Gives you an income and you can have a base from which you can explore from. The only caveat, I would urge if you are going to do it, do it right. We have teachers come here and do it half assed because they just want to be here. So they do the minimum. Please don't be one of those people.

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

Posted by boxee on 1/12/2014 at 20:58

buzzmfrog , if you really want your money to last , just pass on singapore , i know its expensive i live here , and it will eat through your budget , i had some friends doing some backpacking and they only stayed in singapore for one day once they found out that i was not joking about how expensive it is here
i would agree with madmac , thailand laos and cambodia will be where you will get your best value for money and maybe extend your stay in asia , leave singapore and malaysia for another trip :)

#5 boxee has been a member since 26/3/2008. Location: Singapore. Posts: 131

Posted by daawgon on 2/12/2014 at 11:09

I totally agree with MADMAC! Slash and burn those plans and think smaller. I like the 3 countries of Indochina best - mainly because it's so friendly and struggling to move up in the world. Save the developed part of SE Asia for a second trip. My favorite country in Indochina has always been Vietnam, but we're all different!

#6 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 1,159

Posted by BuzzmFrog84 on 2/12/2014 at 12:15

Thanks for the tips. I'm really considering doing what all of you say and keeping with a couple of countries, thinking Thailand and Cambodia at the moment.

Do any of you think $4000 (let's just say that's how much I'll have to spend) would be enough to be somewhat carefree for two months? Would it be better to do the two countries in one month?

#7 BuzzmFrog84 has been a member since 1/12/2014. Location: United States. Posts: 99

Posted by BuzzmFrog84 on 2/12/2014 at 12:16

I've only been to Bangkok for a day and never to Cambodia so I have a lot of learning to do but any advice or destination recommendations would also be greatly appreciated.

#8 BuzzmFrog84 has been a member since 1/12/2014. Location: United States. Posts: 99

Posted by MADMAC on 2/12/2014 at 12:56

You won't be living fat on 4 grand, but you'll be alright. Certainly enough to be comfortable with mid-range hotel and decent food.

What to do? That depends on your preferences. We are all different, so it's hard to tell you what to do. What I would recommend it doubtless not what would interest you. It would really help if you listed likes and dislikes, major interests, etc.

For example, I do not like the ocean or the beach. Most people do. I have ZERO interest in the Islands.

I do not like tourist locations much - to include "traveler scenes". I like native environments. But a lot of people enjoy tourist locations and traveler scenes.

So it would help if we knew your preferences and what you hope to get out of the trip. Then people can steer you accordingly.

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

Posted by BuzzmFrog84 on 2/12/2014 at 13:52

Food is huge for me. I'm very much interested in seeing temples, palaces, amazing spots of nature and so on. At the same time, I don't want to be stuck in a tourist rut the whole time. Native environments are something I would be very interested as well.

I was having a talk with a friend who traveled to Southeast Asia with the military and was telling me about his experiences. From his point of view he thought it would be my best bet, since I haven't been to these places and don't know anyone there, to do something more on the side of a tourist or see a travel agent. I'm really just trying to look at every option.

#10 BuzzmFrog84 has been a member since 1/12/2014. Location: United States. Posts: 99

Posted by MADMAC on 2/12/2014 at 23:44

Well, if your sense of adventure is high, then you might consider travelling along the Thai side of the Mekong from Khemmerat to Nong Khai . Khemmerat is small, old, pleasant. Slow. Issan, Thai, Lao and Vietnamese cuisine.

From Khemmerat you could head up through Channuman and on to Don Tan. Don Tan is smaller than Khemmerat, even slower. Nothing really special to see in these places, but the scenery is pleasant.

The river road from Don Tan to Mukdahan is great, if you can find a Song Tow to take you along that route (most go up the highway) to Muk the scenery there is impressive.

Mukdahan, where I live, is a busy little city. Full range of food now, from Thai, Vietnamese, Lao and Issan to fusion with western food. There are some excellent restaurants here.

From Muk you can head to That Phanom . Wat That Phanom is one of the oldest temples in Thailand, and That Phanom is a nice little town on the river. Good for a day and a night.

NKP would be the next logical stop. Old Air America location, Ho Chi Minh also lived there for a few years. His old little wooden house is a museum there now.

I like Tha Uthen, cool feel to it. Again, another slow town.

I would skip Bun Kan and head to Phom Phisai. Like Tha Uthen cool town with a cool feel to it.

From there I'd head to Nong Khai and the storied Mut Mee guesthouse (Which I like, even though it is on the traveler scene stop list).

Word of caution, bring translations written down. English doesn't cut it here. From ordering food to getting a bus ticket, you got to do it in Thai most of the time.

You might not see a single western tourist until you get to Nong Khai. You will definitely be off the tourist trail. But this area is less about fantastic sights and more about slow pace of rural Thailand and the people, who are remarkably friendly. If you come through Muk, look me up.

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

Posted by BuzzmFrog84 on 3/12/2014 at 17:38

Wow man, I can't thank you enough for the awesome source of information.

The more I think about it the more practical I'm trying to be. I'm thinking one country, Thailand on the mind right now, for a month. A good amount of time in one place to make my money go a little further.

Everything you mentioned sounds awesome. I really like the sound of staying away from the typical tourist path for the most part. I do however have some interest in seeing some awesome beaches and locations along the lines of that. Not my number one goal but I'd like to see some of it. Temples, like the one you mentioned are a priority too. The idea of being around rural Thailand and meeting the people is something that really intrigues me as well.

One thing that sticks on my mind is the issue of safety. I'm pretty ignorant on this area of the world and a bit neurotic. Thinking about someone slipping drugs into my bag and Thai prison is something I'd obviously want to avoid. Scams and trying not to get ripped off are also areas I'm going to have to research more. This is going a bit more into detail but having samples of my medication (since I can't afford the prescriptions) from my doctor going into the area is something that makes me nervous.

I would like to thank you again because after every post of yours I try to think more practically.

#12 BuzzmFrog84 has been a member since 1/12/2014. Location: United States. Posts: 99

Posted by BuzzmFrog84 on 3/12/2014 at 20:43

Also music is huge for me, should have mentioned that first. I was looking at your path and I really like what I see so far. As I've mentioned, fantastic sights are certainly an interest of mine as well and I'm looking (as I'm learning) to get a mix of that and the more rural locations.

#13 BuzzmFrog84 has been a member since 1/12/2014. Location: United States. Posts: 99

Posted by MADMAC on 4/12/2014 at 06:59

No one is going to slip drugs in your bag. Relax. Get that out of your head. Almost everyone who goes to prison here is into some ****. Very, very few poor innocent slobs. Millions come through here with no problem. Odds are with you by a big margin.

As for music, every provincial city in Thailand has a live music scene. Every one of them. You poke around, you'll find it. You come through Muk and I'll take you to the best one (hard to get to unfortunately - used to be by the tower, but they moved into the sticks).

Just let me know if you want to come by this way. If you want to skip Khemmerat and Don Tan you can just catch the night bus out of Mo Chit straight to Muk. The bus sucks, I'll be the first to admit. Ten hours, gets in at about 7 in the morning. I sleep like **** on it. But... it's cheap and easy. Or you can fly to Ubon or NKP. Air Asia has a lot of super cheap flights right now. Anyway, you come out, I'll be happy to show you around and get your feet on the ground. I've done it with five other travelfishers as well. I'm retired so it's no inconvenient.

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

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