Photo: Street food Phetchaburi Soi 10, Bangkok.

Southeast Asia forum

Newbie Backpacker's

Posted by toniandste2012 on 25/6/2012 at 16:59

hello fellow travellers:)

Me and my boyfriend are days away from booking our tickets to arrive in SEA (Bangkok) in October 2012. we are planning on staying in SEA for around 5/6 months, working our way around what appears to be the most popular backpackers destination. Our plan is to start in Bangkok, Thailand then onto... Vietnam, Laos,Cambodia... heading to Singapore then to Bali. We are newbie's to travelling this length of time, but we are trying to prepare ourselves. I personally feel a little bit overwhelmed with the information i'v read so far, but Ste appears a little bit more easy going!! ???? Is there anyone else going in October??? any tips and help for newbie travelers would be great....or must see places...things to do ..etc??
Nice to meet you all and look forward to reading your chat : )

#1 toniandste2012 has been a member since 25/6/2012. Posts: 5

Posted by MADMAC on 25/6/2012 at 23:00

Well, it's tough to give good advice if you don't go into your likes, dislikes, why you are going in the first place, that sort of thing. You say you intend to head to "the most popular backpacker destinations" and that's OK, but why do you want to stay on the tourist trail (and there may be good reasons for that - obviously they are popular destinations for a reason). But without more detail, it's hard to give quality feedback.

#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by Captain_Bob on 26/6/2012 at 01:43

Is it just me or have independent travellers lost the spirit of adventure? Every day another "I'm going to SE Asia for X days/months, please tell me what to do, where to go, etc." type of post.

Save up some money, get whatever visas and flights arranged, pack a small bag with bare essentials, and go for it. Flying into Bangkok with an open plan you'll probably want to get a Thai tourist visa in advance, same for Vietnam, but Cambodia and Laos it's just visa on arrival. As for where to go, anyone can write up an exhaustive list of what is already in any guidebook. Do some homework and try to ask specific questions. Taking the initiative and figuring it out along the way is part of the liberating adventure. Anyway you'll meet tons of like-minded people doing the same things as you go and share stories, change plans, stay/move on impulse. You're probably just excited to get going which can lead to over-planning. Try to wing it more, it's more exciting. My 2 cents, hope it's a great experience!

#3 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,950

Posted by MADMAC on 26/6/2012 at 04:51

Bob, most people like things planned and organized. Just grabbing a bag and wandering off like Kanein Kung ** isn't working. I mean it works for me (except I ride a motorcycle), but not for most.

#4 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by chinarocks on 26/6/2012 at 05:10

Having done the backpacking thing for a year through South America and Asia I would wholeheartedly second Bob's words. Sure have a rough plan in mind and by all means make sure you see Luang Prabang, Halong Bay, Angkor etc. But to go with a set list of x days, flight to y and z days here etc entirely defeats the purpose of travelling. Such detail may be required (although not always) when going on holiday (vacation guys). It is most definitely very liberating and relaxing to rock up somewhere where you've pencilled in 3 nights but because you like the local food, or are getting a good deal on accomodation or you want to explore a certain neighbourhood more thoroughly you end up spending three times as long as you've planned.

That's my tuppence. Good luck either way!

#5 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738

Posted by toniandste2012 on 26/6/2012 at 10:26

Hi its Ste here, cheers for the feedback!! im quite laid back and that's how i want the trip to be i suppose. im sure our knowledge will grow as we are travelling! Im not really one for detailed organisation so i think it will suit me just to go with the flow!! because we are newbie's can i just ask....what 3 items would say are essential to take with us?? obviously were all different but...??? cheers guys!!

#6 toniandste2012 has been a member since 25/6/2012. Posts: 5

Posted by MADMAC on 26/6/2012 at 11:30

Money is an essential item. Take as much as you can.

Language is the rough one here. The more countries you go to, the harder it is to communicate with indigenous persons. This is why a lot of backpackers tend to seek out other backpackers to hang out with and also why they don't tend to get off the beaten path (where you might not be able to communicate at all in since in some places no one at all has command of English).

A route I recommend to the adventurous is to take the train to Ubon Ratchathani and then head to Khong Chiam where the Mekong and Mun rivers come together. There is a pricey but very cool resort there. Worth a day or two for chilling.

Then head to Khemmerat. An old town, somewhat small but pleasant sitting on the Mekong. Spend a night or two kicking around there then head up to Chanuman. Chanuman and Don Tan are close together. Don Tan is, in my opinion, somewhat nicer, but these are very small districts and vey slow places. You'll probably be ready to move on the next day.

Mukdahan is next on the list. This is where I live, so if you come out here look me up. I've entertained a few travelfishers in my time here. This is a great little city with plenty to do and see. Guide books describe it as "sleepy", which it was 20 years ago. Lonely Planet is still way behind the power curve on this place.

From here you can head up to That Phanom. One of the oldest Temples in Thailand, a beautiful, well maintained, large temple with a ton of history. One of the most important temples in the country and probably the most important in Issan.

From there head on up to NKP. Great little city with fun nightlife. Ho Chi Minh (the bastard) used to live here, and his little house is now a museum. Air America flew out of here too, and the airfield just outside of town is now a commercial field.

After that it's a pretty long bus ride along the river to Bung Kun, which is a small provincial capital that used to be part of Nong Khai. Worth a night though. More if you end up liking it's pace.

From there over to Nong Khai, which has a lot going for it and is a popular backpackers destination for those crossing into Laos (you can also cross into Laos at Mukdahan and NKP as well as down south by Paxse). I would recommend pressing on to Loei if you like nature. My son was there and raved about it, and the photos looked impressive. Clean water you can actually enter without leaving a muddy slime on you!

My thoughts for what they're worth. I love Issan, which is where I chose to retire to. BUT, work on your Thai, because if you only speak English, out here sometimes that won't cut it.

#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by MADMAC on 26/6/2012 at 12:44

Also, given that you are coming for a long time, if money is going to be an issue, consider staying on one place for three months or so. If you do that, you can rent an apartment for about 3-5 thousand baht a month, which saves you a ton on accomodation costs. It will also give you the time necessary to actually make real friends among the indigenous population and really absorb some culture, vice just touching on the superficials.

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by chinarocks on 26/6/2012 at 16:15

"consider staying on one place for three months or so"

nice idea MAC but i suspect these guys don't want to spend half of their allocated time in a rural thai village, i'm not saying it wouldn't be worthwhile or the like, just that when people are set on travelling then 3 months in one location will not cut it. by all means stay a week or ten days somewhere but any more is probably not what they're after.

#9 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738

Posted by MADMAC on 26/6/2012 at 21:27

Just depends on what you are looking for out of your trip. Of course, I would not recommend a rural village - they're really boring (although cheap - very cheap. Could get a room for 1,500 easy). I was thining a city like Chiang Mai or Khon Kaen. If you want to really get to understand the culture that means getting to know people and learning the language, and that means spending time in one place. Beyond that it is much cheaper if you stay in one place. You save money on transport costs and on hotels. When you got six months you've got the time to do it.

I do agree that most people who say they want to "soak up culture" don't really mean that. They really mean they want to get at the superficials, but don't want to take the time to understand culturally how a place really works because they want to check off as many blocks as possible and get as many cool pictures as possible. And there's nothing wrong with that. But there is an upside to staying in one place for a while.

#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by Captain_Bob on 27/6/2012 at 01:11

"what 3 items would say are essential to take with us??"


Oh and make sure you understand the visa situation for each country. Seriously, once you have your visa and money covered you're all good. In most cases you'll get a 30-day entry so try to make most use of that time.

Some places I recommend (because I live in north Thailand) are Chiang Mai (of course) Mae Hong Son, Mae Sariang, Mae Sot, Pang Mapha (Soppong), Pai, Chiang Dao, Doi Angkhang, Thaton, Mae Salong, Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong, Phayao, Nan, Chiang Khan, Loei, Dan Sai, Nong Khai. Also in Isaan Nakhon Phanom, That Phanom, Mukdahan, Kong Chiam, basically anywhere along the Mekong.

More questions?

#11 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,950

Posted by toniandste2012 on 18/7/2012 at 17:34

Thanks for all the feedback! Our tickets have arrived and we are leaving on 8th October Yippee!! we will land in Bangkok!! is it worth staying in Bangkok for a while? where do you think is a good place in Bangkok to stay for a few days until we get out bearings and head up to north Thailand...i.e. Chang Mai?? we are not looking for luxury just something budget....also anybody know about Homestay?? Cheers Folks!!

#12 toniandste2012 has been a member since 25/6/2012. Posts: 5

Posted by toniandste2012 on 30/7/2012 at 07:17

good afternoon all. we booked out place to stay in Bangkok which is a start for us 2, as we seem to be in slow motion. Although, I think I think I have some sort of plan in my head...yeah not yet mapped out. Definitely, thinking of doing a home stay in Chaing Mai, to get to known and understand Thailand better and learn the language a bit...basic's.
whats people's thoughts on following the Mekong River, starting Laos into Cambodia and then Vietnam i think this is how it works? I'm still trying to figure our board crossings but if anyone can advise on which areas may be better than other's along the way would be appreciated?
I'd like to do voluntary work in Cambodia, whats people's experiences of accessing charity groups when in the area of should I be applying before hand? I been looking at workaway.

I more question anyone recommend taking an iphone OR an Ipad (or something similar) on our travels, to support our journey, talk to peeps, internet access etc?????????? thanksssssssssssssss

#13 toniandste2012 has been a member since 25/6/2012. Posts: 5

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