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Southeast Asia forum

3 Weeks, 2/3 Countries - Recommendations for a first-timer?

Posted by cspeck on 24/4/2013 at 19:57

Hey all,

I plan on taking a trip to Southeast Asia this June with 2 friends. None of us have ever been in the area before.

So far we don't really have any definite plans or preferences of places to visit. We are 22 year old males, interested in a mix of sight-seeing, exploring nature, and partying (Thailand Full Moon Festival?).

Realistically, we're considering visiting maybe 2 or 3 countries so we won't have to rush around too much.

With that in mind do you guys have an suggestions? (I understand this is a pretty open-ended & subjective question)

Thanks in advance!

#1 cspeck has been a member since 24/4/2013. Posts: 4

Posted by caseyprich on 24/4/2013 at 20:31

Well - 3 weeks and I usually just go to one country. Cuts down on transportation costs, visas and travel hassle (each day of travel is a day not relaxing, sight seeing or partying). I know when people visit Europe they'll often think about seeing 3 countries because the spend a couple days in Paris, a few days in Rome and maybe go hiking in Switzerland -- or something like that. However, if you really want to see the sights, get to know the food and soak up some local culture it is better to stay in one country, better yet, just one region of a country. I bet you want to relax on the beach, and bouncing from island to island is not nearly as relaxing as finding a good spot to settle into and spending several nights there getting to know the people who work in the area and really settling in.

Probably the cheapest city to buy a return ticket to is BKK, and Thailand offers the best balance of what you are looking for. If you want some sightseeing and nature I might recommend spending a few days sight-seeing and partying around BKK and then catching a train or bus up to Chiang Mai to do a couple night hike. If you like, even go further afield to Pai, which is supposed to be very pretty and have a nice party scene. At this point, you're already bursting the seams on your first week . . . so if you really want to see THE location in SE Asia you may like to fly over to Siem Reap from Chiang Mai . . . as otherwise it'll probably take you two full days to get there from Chiang Mai. You could spend 3/4 nights there and then head over to Phnom Penh for 2/3 nights . . . that gives you sights and then partying (and some dark history if you choose in PP). From PP you could try and fly back to BKK or catch a connector flight over to Ko Samui , which has the best beach weather in June.

That's my recommendation if you really want to do more than one country. If you stick to just Thailand then on the way back from Chiang Mai you could see some ancient temples in Sukhothai and stop by Kanchanaburi for some history and partying. Then you could try a nice overland excursion down to Ko Samui which could be more rewarding than just flying there . . though you'll probably want to fly back to BKK to catch the flight home.

#2 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281
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Posted by cspeck on 25/4/2013 at 01:27

Thanks for the great response, casey. I'll do some research on those destinations you described and get back to you if I have any questions.

In the meantime, if anyone else has any recommendations whatsoever please chime in!

#3 cspeck has been a member since 24/4/2013. Posts: 4

Posted by MADMAC on 25/4/2013 at 10:14

"Realistically, we're considering visiting maybe 2 or 3 countries so we won't have to rush around too much."

That would be rushing around. Casey is right, one country.

Now that that is clear, you didn't mention beach (although you did mention full moon party). If beach isn't important to you... lot of options. I would personally hit Chaiyapum. I love the place. Highway 225. Lots of cool resorts to check out. No party scene though.

Khon Kaen is a great city - a smattering of expats, almost no tourist - huge university which means university girls. I was young once.

I'm an Issan guy, so my focus is there. Outside of Bangkok and Pattaya, I've never been anywhere in Thailand other than Issan. Tourists don't go to Issan, so if off the beaten path interests you, I can help. If not... you need someone else.

#4 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by JaiYen88 on 25/4/2013 at 13:55

I definitely agree with Caseyprich's advice on taking more time to see fewer places. Moving around every 2 or 3 days means that you will actually spend a substantial amount of time bored stiff on buses, trains and boats, along with being drained and grumpy after 10 - 12 hour journeys for at least half a day after each one.

3 weeks really only gives you enough time to see 4 or 5 places if you want your experience to be anything more than superficial. I would recommend a few days each in Bangkok, one island (Koh Pha-Ngan for the full moon party and best weather in June), Siem Reap and maybe Phnom Penh. You could add Chiang Mai or another spot in Thailand that is near enough to Bangkok, but I wouldn't try to fit in much more than that.

Cambodia is easy to get to from Bangkok and IMO Siem Reap is one of the nicest places in the region - super-touristy but a party atmosphere if you want it, some very chilled bars if you want to get away, great food, and oh yeah, a little thing called... Angkor Wat ;)

#5 JaiYen88 has been a member since 25/4/2012. Posts: 110
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