Alrighty folks, I'm excited to say that I've finally buckled down and started planning my first solo trip for November of this year. I have tons of questions, but will try to keep this post as simple as possible (seriously, I tried). Thank you for putting up with and/or playing along with my giddiness.
Things you should know:
- I'm a photographer, so getting pictures of just about dang near everything is important. People, landscapes, food, street life, animals, everything.
- I adore animals. The more I can see and safely interact with, the better.
- I'm adventurous, but not looking to kill myself. Just a teensy bit of wildness.
- I'm a thinker, so do also want a little bit of quiet alone time if possible.
- I'm okay with putting a lot of destinations/plans into this trip, because I don't want to just 'be' somewhere, but actually do and see things I couldn't elsewhere.
...in other words, this is not a 'spend a month in one village to soak up the culture' trip. I LOVE that concept, that's just not what this trip is for.
1) Below is my itinerary as planned, just want to see if it seems plausible. I have bolded the few things that I REALLY want to experience or accomplish for the trip, otherwise I'm flexible and open for suggestions.
Day 1-2 - Fly from US to Phnom Penh
Day 3 - Rest day, maybe wander around a bit, eat some tarantulas
Day 4 - Killing Fields and more wandering
Day 5 - Bus to Siem Reap
Day 6-12 - Siem Reap (temples, photography, etc)
Day 13 - Fly to Ha Noi
Day 14 - Le Mat to be an idiot tourist and swallow a live viper heart (I know, I know), more wandering, making sure I don't die
Day 15-17 - Ha Long Bay (2 night trip)
Day 18-19 - Wandering in Hanoi (ideally do some motorcycle riding away from city)
Day 20 - Fly to BKK
Day 21 - Wander BKK for touristy stuff (temples, Buddhas, markets)
Day 22-26 - Various wandering, but definitely the Tiger Temple, Elephant Village, and some spots off the beaten path in BKK
Day 27 - Fly to Krabi
Day 28-32 - Rock climbing, basic Scuba, cliff jumping, relaxing, Koh Phi Phi
Day 33 - Fly back to US
Based on what I've seen, I feel fairly comfortable with that. Phnom Penh is more out of necessity than desire, so I don't feel like staying there for a ton longer. Hanoi is my only concern, as it seems a bit cramped, especially since Vietnam is apparently a bit difficult.
Below is my budget so far. I want to stay in either nice hostels or 'decent' private rooms, and am trying to be a little generous so as not to be surprised by anything.
United States>PP (flight): $750
PP>Siem Reap (bus): $25
Siem Reap to Hanoi (flight): $350
Hanoi>Halong Cruise (car, junk): $250
Hanoi to BKK (flight): $150
BKK to Krabi (flight): $75
Krabi to United States (flight): 1500
+ $1750 for food, water, and board (food/water = $12/day, room = $40/night)
+ $1000 for activities (temples, tiger temple, scuba, etc), transport (tuk tuk), gifts
+ $1000 (small tripod, small netbook, a few camera accessories, etc)
+ $500 for miscellaneous supplies (good backpack, shoes, adapters, etc)
+ $1500 for immunizations (Hep A/B, Typhoid, Tetanus)
I know that seems high, but a lot of it is due to immunizations and gear that I'll be buying once, since this is my first go at this.
1) Does my schedule seem pretty doable?
2) Does my budget seem large enough (particularly food/water/board, activities, and immunizations)
3) I'm bringing good camera equipment. Kinda don't want anyone else to have it. Is getting a private room necessary, or could I do with Hostels if I'm careful? What does 'careful' look like? (I will say that I am buying a Pacsafe Wire Net for my bag)
4) What are the best preparations I should make now? I have no idea what I should try to book ahead of time (Ha Long cruise, any tours of BKK, scuba trips, etc) and what I should just walk into.
5) I plan on taking cash for most purchases, a check card/debit card to use at ATM's for more cash every week or two, and a Visa credit card as a backup/emergency. That seem alright?
6) On the Le Mat/Snake Village/Heart Swallowing thing...I know it's frowned upon and I know people just do it to brag about it. But I like the challenge, and definitely do think it sounds awesome. For those that have done it and/or are knowledgeable about it - just how dangerous is it? I do not plan on drinking the bile shots, just the blood+vodka+heart. And of course if I think I may have an ulcer or open cuts in my mouth I won't do the venom in the shot either. I'd do it through the trip from Hanoi Backpacker's Hostel.
7) I've heard I can get Visas for each of the countries in the airports upon arrival EXCEPT Vietnam. What's the best way of getting around that?
8) Should I even bother trying to learn the languages on a conversational level before going? As an english speaker with no experience in tonal languages, I find Khmer, Vietnamese, and Thai to be ludicrously difficult.
9) I kinda don't want to get food poisoning. I've heard that street food is generally always safe if the locals go there and you can watch them cook it. Should I just stick to street food? I feel safe in Bangkok and probably Hanoi, not sure about Cambodia...
10) I expect to need to keep track of lots of information...addresses, phone numbers for contacts in the countries in case of emergencies, guidebooks, etc. I was HOPING to get all of this on my iphone. Good idea? Bad idea?
Many many thanks for any and all advice. I apologize for the novel.