I'm going to be travelling to Oz/NZ between Jan-Feb 2012, and was wondering if I should make a 6ish week stop over to travel through SE Asia before (so mid-Nov-Dec 2011).
I'm a 23yo guy and will be travelling solo for the first time, and so am a bit nervous about travelling to somewhere like SEA where there seems to be a lot more to see than to do (which seems like the opposite to Oz/NZ).
Basically, I'm looking for a bit of inspiration to convince myself to take the extra plunge and do SEA as well. What kind of experiences, broadly speaking, would I expect to come across in SEA, for example?
I was also hoping someone could suggest a basic itinerary as well - I've done some research but there seems to be so much information out there that I'm a bit overwhelmed! And I don't really know anyone who's done SEA before, so a bit lost...!
Thanks in advance to everyone
#1 travelman8898 has been a member since 28/3/2011. Posts: 3
Well, I think for anyone to help you out, you have to start with what your interests are. Are you a nightlife guy or maybe you are interested in architecture. Perhaps you're really more of a beach bum kind of guy. Maybe your interested in natural beauty... I mean, it's hard to advise someone if you don't know what they like and what they don't like.
#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Sorry, madmac, you're right!
Well, I'm very interested in all kinds of activities and adventure travel. I like my nightlife as much as anyone else, and natural beauty makes my heart smile! I'm open to anything. Basically, I'd love to do everything and anything that I can't do back home in London, whatever that may be.
I guess that's what I meant when I asked earlier what kinds of experiences I would be likely to come across when backpacking through SEA. By way of example, going to Oz/NZ I expect to experience the best of adventure travel, great weather, great parties, and beautiful beaches. I know what I'd be looking for there. I can't come up with similar concise descriptions for SEA, and that's part of the help I'm asking for.
Tbh, I'm also quite excited about experiencing the culture in SEA, but my main concern is that the slow pace of it may exacerbate any feelings of loneliness travelling alone.
#3 travelman8898 has been a member since 28/3/2011. Posts: 3
"but my main concern is that the slow pace of it may exacerbate any feelings of loneliness travelling alone."
Do it! The pace can be as fast and racy as you want it! Stick to the traditional popular areas and you will never be alone, you will easily meet people to hang out and travel with. And if you want peace and quiet - you can find a hammock on remote beach somewhere. Nov-Dec will be a good time to do it too -just before the peak season. (But there will still be enough people around so that you won't feel alone).
In 6 weeks you could comfortably explore Thailand (northern Chiang Mai area, down through to Kanchanaburi, etc), pop over to Cambodia (Siem Reap and Phnom Penh) for 1-2 weeks, then back into Thailand to wrap up in the south in Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, for example.
"...am a bit nervous about travelling to somewhere like SEA where there seems to be a lot more to see than to do (which seems like the opposite to Oz/NZ"
Don't count on that!! There is plenty to do in NZ and OZ, don't you worry!
Let me start with some general observations, and then I'll go into some specifics.
A lot of people seem to think that to find interesting company they have to be with other backpackers or westerners. I've never understood this mentality. Come halfway across the world to hang out with more westerners? Why not hang out with indigenous people? Sure, language is a chllenge, but you just work through it. If it were me, I would look for places where I am unlikely to find a single western tourist.
Having said that:
Given your age and incinlinations, VV Laos would seem to ba a place that you would enjouyy. Check it out here on travelfish. It's a love it or hate it placed from what I've heard. My money is you'd be on the love side.
There's the obvious Angkor Wat / Siem Reap. Too touristy for me, but of obvious architectural and histroical interest.
Then there's Bangkok - with the exception of natural beauty, this placer has it all.
If you want to do the girlie bar thing, Pattaya is the place to go. If Thailand is the Mecca of Whoring, Pattaya is the Kaba.
The beaches on the Malay peninsula are the place to go for the beach bum, and for someone interested in meeting other tourists then probably the full moon party on Koh Samui would be the thing to check out.
Lots of info on these subjects and more here on travelfish, so just poke around.
#5 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
If trolling around this site or flipping through a guidebook in the library isn't enough to inspire you, I don't know what I can say here to convince you that Southeast Asia is worth the trip. I'd say that pretty much everything you can do in SE Asia is different than the experience you're used to in London.
It seems that feeling lonesome is the biggest concern you have, understandably so - I've traveled for a few weeks at a time alone and there are moments when you wish someone else was there to share either good or bad times with you.
That said, most of my "alone" travel has been punctuated with finding other people to travel around with, hanging on with a group of some folks for a night or even a few days. This last February my buddy and I picked up a German guy for over a week as we all decided to bike around the Bolaven, and ran into many folks who were bobbing-and-weaving out of shared adventures.
I'd say that the 'tourist trail' is endemic at this point - you aren't going to find too many places where you won't have somebody to grab a drink with if you're only traveling for a few weeks and hitting major destinations. Since you'll be going to OZ/NZ you'll have a lot of beaches and maybe you don't want to make that a priority on this trip to SE Asia then - give yourself more time to see other sorts of natural beauty and adventure.
Taking that as a starting point - I have two options I'd offer up:
1) I agree with Lizzy that Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai/Pai) could easily eat up a week, include time in BKK on arrival and you've set up 2 weeks. If you like, fly form there to Luang Prabang to spend a night or two in Lao culture, then head down to Vang Vieng like MADMAC says. If you like the Lao scene at this point you can meet a lot of fun people by going down to Pakse and doing 4,000 Islands before you head into Cambodia to see Siem Reap (Angkor Wat). I imagine that'd eat up 6 weeks in total (especially if you sideline from Pakse to go to Tad Lo), and if you have any time left you can always re-enter Thailand for a little beach time. This excludes Vietnam, but I always think Laos should figure heavy in the itinerary - perhaps as a first time to SE Asia it'd be good to instead try to figure Hanoi/Ha Long Bay or HCMC the Mekong Delta into things, I leave that for others to discuss.
2) Go to BKK - have a must see place or two in your pocket that is traveler friendly - Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Siem Reap. From there, meet people and go along with them. Very little schedule and just an idea that you'd rather be having fun with other people than going to see anything in particular. Problem with going to the beaches is you meet a lot of people who are there to linger on the islands for some time at the end or the start of a trip.
Thanks all for your input, you've definitely helped to focus my ideas a lot. Now to look into the places you've mentioned and work out some kind of itinerary..!
#7 travelman8898 has been a member since 28/3/2011. Posts: 3
No problemo. You come by Mukdahan, look me up.
#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
As far as itinerary writing goes, don't get too detailed. If you like it somewhere, stay longer, if not, leave. You might talk to other travelers here and change your itinerary all together. That flexibility is the best part of traveling alone. That and a much increased chance of interacting with local people...
If you dont want to hang out with other travellers don't bother with Vang Vieng in Laos,although tubing is great fun, it is essentially a probably beautiful little mountain town that has been ravaged and had its soul destroyed by twats who would be better suited to an all inclusive booze cruise in Magaluf, if you get what I'm saying.
#10 carly3615 has been a member since 3/4/2011. Posts: 2
I've met a lot of people doing the FullMoon Trail through Thailand/Laos/Cambodia over the years and the spots off island seem to roll from PP to shoot a rocket launcher, Siem Reap, Si Phon Don, (Tad Lo may be turning into a pit stop for the more adventurous), up to Vang Vieng, then trying to score opium near Luang Nam Tha or partying in Muang Ngoi . . . over to Chiang Mai and Pai . . . and so on.
I'm not sure if it's just that I've spent more time in Laos, but it seems that many people are intent on making it the cheap alternative to getting wasted on the islands.