Starting in November, I’m going to be taking a year-long journey throughout SE Asia - I'm looking into Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indo, Cambodia, Laos, and just maaaybe the Philippines. I’m very open to nixing countries from my list as this will allow me a more enriching experience if I move slowly (Definitely want to see Thailand/Vietnam). I’ve done some initial research, but I also was thinking to myself that these forums are an incredible place where people can make suggestions based off of their own personal experiences (I know I love talking about my travel experiences). So, I was hoping to get some feedback based off of things about myself that might resonate with other people and their travels.
With that being said, here's a little bit about me:
-I’m a 22 year old, fresh out of college, looking for a little bit of everything.
-I’m a huge foodie. Love to cook. Would love to learn how to cook a particular food from the region (Vietnamese and Thai are favorites)
-Animal lover (would love to volunteer)
-Partying is by no means a huge priority, but I would definitely like to experience it
-Huge interest in learning how to surf (Batu Karas, Indo?)
-Beach, beach, more beach (Ko Surin, Ko Kut?)
-Interested in getting off of the beaten path
I do plan on going with whatever I feel like once I’m there...but I would like to have a few destinations in mind that I’ve thought through. Where are some places that you guys just can’t imagine your trip to have been complete without? I’ve included a few places below that I’m looking into visiting…not in this order though. Thanks in advance – Cheers!
Batu Karas, Indo
Berastagi, Indo to visit the volcanoes -(anyone have a suggestion for other places I can see volcanoes?)
1 year in SEA is a lot, the amount of time I think is comfortable for the countries I was in would be the following.
Thailand: 6-8 weeks
Laos: 3-4 weeks
Cambodia: 3-4 weeks
Vietnam: 5-6 weeks
So that is 17-24 weeks(4-6 months) for those countries.
Malaysia from the little I know about it would probably be 3-4 weeks. Maybe up to 6 weeks if you are going to check out Borneo.
Indonesia again from the little I know probably 4-8 weeks depending on how much you want to see.
That still only has you 6-9 months of your trip. Could easily fit in more countries like Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, China or India I would think.
The most important thing will be to try and plan your trip in such a way to avoid most rainy seasons. I did my trip starting in November which was good and ending in early March(Thailand-Laos-Cambodia-Vietnam) and had looked into going to Malaysia after that then Indonesia and then Philippines which seemed to work out reasonable climate wise but if you are going early or later you will want to make your itinerary so that you aren't chasing rainy seasons.
For myself, that kind of overkill would just be too much. I think I would prefer to learn one culture at a time. The problem that I see (remember that I'm 70 yrs old) is that you're still somewhat immature, and there is a real danger that you might go overboard (drugs, sex, drinking, etc.) since your horizons seem to be almost unlimited. I would be especially cautious if this is your first major solo trip.
I think I would restrict myself to a much shorter 2 month trip and learn the cultures of Indochina. I would also restrict my finances considerably and bank the remainder of that 10K.
You have a long life ahead of you - what's the rush?
@Geer1 - Appreciate the response. I'll need to start doing some research into the climates of the region. From what I understand of Thailand, it'll be fairly dry on the Andaman coast starting in November. I am wanting to travel around a bit, however, I'm also super intrigued by the idea of settling down somewhere in a bungalow for 30 days and exploring. Your itinerary of Thailand-Laos-Cambodia-Vietnam certainly sounds attractive.
@daawgon - Thanks for the words of wisdom. While quite a different experience, I've travelled solo throughout Europe, and I felt I gained a lot out of it. I do realize that ~1 year is a hefty chunk of time, my reasoning behind this is that I want to spend some of the prime years of my youth doing something I truly enjoy. In my opinion, at 22, the perspectives and insight I'll gain from this type of travel will be far more impacting and life-changing than they will be later on in my life.
I'm shooting for 8 months, but I'm really trying to leave the door open to stay for a year if something works out. Right now, I'm just shooting to fly into Bangkok and semi-wing it from there...I just want to have some destinations in mind...
Best time to travel Thailand, Cambodia and Laos is Nov till Feb. The rest of the countries are a little different and can try to fit them in what works best and makes most sense for travel reasons.
I never even noticed the 10k till now. Does that include flights and other pre trip costs like vaccinations, insurance, back pack, camera etc?
I travel pretty cheap and my 4 month trip after everything cost me $6100. During my actual travelling I was doing $30 a day which I would say is the minimum amount I would recommend aiming for and at that only if you are tight with your money. $40 would be much more comfortable.
Travelling longer is cheaper since the flights etc are more spread out but still as Leonard said 8 months would be pushing it with only 10k overall. If 10k for just travel costs once over there then 8 months is doable just have to watch how much you are spending and make sure you are sticking to a budget.
I'll have my flight, vaccinations, etc purchased before the 10k. That's just for traveling expenses once I touch down. I had a buddy who said he was living and traveling (not a ton) off of $600 a month, that's where I came up with that rough assumption that I might be able to do a year. I do plan on volunteering (wwoof, helpx)...that will also help keep costs down I'm thinking?
Wwoof and Helpx might help a little bit but might be hard to find places since most people are looking for longer term positions. Might be able to provide a month or two of next to free accommodation.
$600 a month is possible if you spend a lot of days not travelling or sight seeing. You also will have to eat the cheapest meals which get quite repetitive and stay in the cheapest places which means cold water, no air conditioning, poor beds/sheets.
When travelling the cheapest rooms will be around $5, average closer to $10 and in some places might have to pay up to $15. That is half your allowance right there if aiming for $600 a month.
Cheap breakfast will be $1-2. Cheap lunch $2-3. Cheap Supper $2-3. That is $5-8. Add in water and other drinks or snacks and you are cheapest $5 a day for food and closer to $10 once you get sick of eating the cheap types of food over and over.
If you are aiming to see sights, travel between locations every 3 or 5 days then $20 a day won't be enough. Even $30 isn't enough to fit in some nice tours, scuba diving, Angkor temples etc.
Just keep this all in mind when you go on your trip. Should be able to make it 8 months but more then that will likely be pushing it. Can start out aiming for $20 a day but I doubt you will be able to achieve it and will likely have to increase that to at least $30. Cheap travellers usually aim for $30 and most are usually $40-50 for example.
cbg - you say you just finished your university degree and you have ten grand to play with. I would consider taking a teaching job out here somewhere. Young, idealistic kids often make good teachers and pick up local language quickly. When you finish your year, you'll have been able to save yet more money to kick around, perhaps buy a motorcycle, or maybe you'll decide you like it and stick around a while longer. We have a number of young kids doing that where I live and they find it rewarding and interesting. If you taught in someplace like Nong Khai, you would be well positioned to learn Thai, for example, and travel to Northern Laos on long weekends. School breaks you could go to Vietnam. Then when the year is up you could take your motorcycle and drive all over Thailand and Cambodia. At some point sell the bike, and keep moving. Just food for thought as it would make your ten grand go further - you could earn money while here learning about the place.
I tend to agree with Geer1 and LeonardCohen1 on what would be a realistic budget for you. This really is a trip of a lifetime, and it would be a shame to spoil it because you had to worry about where every bit of money went and because you had to take a pass on opportunities that came up (snorkeling, drinking with those two cute swedish girls, etc.) because it didn't fit the budget. As they say, you could have a bare-bones budget trip for a year, or you could have a much more enriched trip for 8 or 9 months.
Living at that bare bones level can really take a toll on you physically too. Thin mattresses. No air-con. Uncomfortable buses. Even the food can get a bit monotonous if you can't afford a splurge now and then. You can definitely save money and make that budget go farther by staying off the beaten path and out of heavily touristed areas. But the down side of that is places tend to be heavily touristed for a reason, and you won't have as many chances to interact with other travellers if you like that kind of thing.
Are you interested in teaching English? I thought MADMAC had a really interesting suggestion.
No matter what you decide, I hope you'll post lots while you are on the road and let us know how the trip goes and what you learn. Cheers.
"...drinking with those two cute swedish girls..."
Swedish girls? I was thinking of something more on the indigenous side myself. Why Swedish girls? Is there some place that has an abundance of Swedish girls I am unaware of?
Thanks a lot for the feedback everyone, all of it has been very helpful and eye-opening. I have thought of teaching English - my only hesitation being that I'll start to feel a little stir crazy. It really does have an appeal though as I'd be able to fully immerse myself. Does anyone know about figuring that all out once I'm already in Thailand? Anyone have experience with administering private English lessons?
I'm definitely leaning more towards 8 months now so I can enjoy more of an enriching trip. Another question - do most people stay in hostels even if they plan on staying somewhere for an extended period of time? I'd love to stay in a shared bungalow for a month or so, but staying in a hostel for that long sounds pretty difficult.
One more question: What's a destination you just can't have imagined your trips to have been the same without?
Thanks again for the input, cheers.
Call me crazy but I wouldn't necessarily let the weather dictate where and when you go. Weather is just unpredictable. Even when the sun is meant to shine, it rains. And evening in rainy season, it's still nice.
I am currently in the South of Sri Lanka - which is meant to be a no no in terms of the weather (monsoon season). However, for the past 2 weeks the weather has been anything but bad. In fact, perfect. Plus, accommodation is much cheaper because it is not high season here. And, there is less people around, quieter.
Anyway, just something to think about..
You can ususually find hotels that will give you a monthly rate.
IF you are willing to stay in one geograghic area for two months or so, then you could find a one room apartment for anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 baht (depending on how much luxury you want).
If you are going to teach though, you really should get your TEFL certificate and plan to stay in one place a year to be fair to your students.
As for feeling stir crazy - depends on your personality type. Some people move into a new environment and focus on how things are not a good as back home. Others move into the same environment and focus on how things are better than back home. It's what you make of it.
@Madmac, I have no doubt that I would be able to settle in and truly enjoy my experience. By stir crazy, I mean that as a 22 year old male I do have some level of anxiety about my career/future in general. Part of this trip for me is learning how to be fully comfortable in the moment and try and learn how to deal with/let go of the societal pressures that I feel as a recent graduate to go out and find something lucrative to do in the "real world". Not to get off topic too much, but I get the vibe that the community here probably understands this!
My advice would be "Carpe Diem". You know, you're only going to be 22 once. Enjoy it. Real life will come looking for you soon enough. Don't worry about things you can't control.
A year teaching somewhere (and learning a new language to boot if you put your mind to it) in a different environment will open your world up considerably. At least I think so.
I know exactly what you are talking about cbg. I am 25 and had worked my butt off all through high school and then university just to go get a job for a couple of years and felt confined. I did my 4 months travelling and since have taken a further 8 months off just taking things easy and helping family out. Honestly still haven't answered any of my questions but at least I have been enjoying myself instead of just working in the "real world".
Right now I am in the process of having to decide what to do next. Go find a job, decide if I want to go back to school, go travel some more. Good luck on finding what works best for you. Imo the "real world" isn't all it is cracked up to be but is often people's only chances when they have family commitments and house payments, debt etc.
"Beach, beach, more beach (Ko Surin, Ko Kut?)
-Interested in getting off of the beaten path"
Kut, Chang, Krabi and the Trang islands would be good for you. You could start in southern Thailand around Trang and make your way north slowly via Krabi. Prachuap is another great off the beaten path place on the way to Bangkok. From there do a detour via kanchanaburi then head east out to Chang and Kut. From there find a way north thru Issan to Ubon and up to Nong Khai then across to Chiang Mai. From CM you can fly to other countries.
Onc you have a family, the worm turns. Believe me I know. Any responsible person is going to take care of his spouse and his off spring - and that means money, which means you have to go earn it. There is a return. I get more love from my little girl than I can imagine. And the satsfaction I get from my children is incomparable to anything else in life. So it's not a bad thing, but it does tie you down pretty hard. So enjoy this phase now, because it will end sooner rather than latter and you won't really revisit it until your children are grown and on their on.
@Madmac and @Geer1 - exactly what I'm thinking. Thanks for the encouragement.
@Leonard...those all look like incredible places to see. Koh Kradan in the Trang islands looks like heaven, as does Krabi.
I plan on flying into Bangkok November 13th and staying there with some fam for a few days, then I'd like to make my way out to the coast. From Bangkok, would it make sense to make my way beach hopping south along the east coast, then head west and travel back up north along the Andaman coast? I was thinking of perhaps making a pit-stop in Malaysia to renew my visa if need be as well (assuming I take nearly 30 days heading down the east). Seems like if I really want to explore the coast this might be a great way to do it. What are your guys' thoughts?
You want to know an awesome way to backpack through Asia, save money, meet locals, and have one of the most amazing experiences of your life. Do what I just got doing for the first time and couch surf! I just got back from a two week trip through Java, Indonesia and couch surfed almost the entire time and it was one of the most rewarding experiences. I stayed with locals, in villages, families welcomed me into their home and they went out of there way to show me a side of their way of lives I would have never seen.
By the way if you're headed to Indonesia and want to check out an amazing volcano, Kawah Ijen just blew my mind. Acid lake in the crater and Not to mention the sulphur miners who carry 70-90 kg of sulphur on their backs in bamboo baskets twice a day 2 hours down the volcano for the equivalent of US $10, pretty extraordinary.
Pretty awesome stuff, just a suggestion.
#26 Arigato9 has been a member since 26/5/2011. Posts: 29
Thanks @Madmac...will do if I'm up that way.
@arigato Ijen looks incredible...I recognize it from the BBC Human Planet show. Did you stay overnight at Banyuwangi to get up there or what? I'm definitely adding couchsurfing to my list of accomadation possibilities.
Anyone have experience beach hopping from Bangkok down south along the east coast then looping west and heading north up along the Andaman? (after stopping in Malaysia to renew my visa)
Yes, Ijen crater definitely rocks!
I stayed in Banyuwangi for a couple of nights, couchsurfing too. Awesome time, and awesome people.
If you do go to Java, get a train to Malang (about 10 hours, $1.50) and then check out Mt Bromo. Again, amazing.
Awesome. Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I'm definitely adding couchsurfing into the mix after hearing of so many people on here doing it. Sounds like a great way to stretch out the budget too.
I was in a similar position a couple of years ago. 10k is plenty for a year in SE Asia and in 12 months you can certainly see a little bit of all things on your list
I'd reccommend this page: http://www.myfunkytravel.com/southeastasia.html
Certainly worth checking out the backpacking route but I wouldn't plan too far ahead as twelve months is a long time so you won't be a rushed and can pretty much go with the flow!
Go to the website www.couchsurfing.com and create a profile. I stayed with an awesome guy named Fauzab, and yes I stayed in Banyuwangi which is on the Bali strait and you can take a ferry over to Bali if you're keen. I went up to Kawah Ijen on a motobike with Fauzan and it was awesome stopping and taking in all the beautiful country side. Check out my blog at sabaijaiyen.wordpress.com if you want some further detail.
#33 Arigato9 has been a member since 26/5/2011. Posts: 29
Peeped your blog @Arigato...looks awesome. I was tryin to find a way to contact you via email or private message, would you be able to pm me? Have just a couple questions..and might have a couple more in the future starting in December and would love to get your advice on a few things.
Yea no problem just go to my Facebook page at Brien Silver and PM me.
#35 Arigato9 has been a member since 26/5/2011. Posts: 29
Right on. Great idea, and have the time of your life. I started traveling at 19, and when I graduated from uni, I moved abroad and have been traveling ever since. Don't let people criticize your idea. Go for it. You'll figure out more of the trip as you're here. You can easily travel all over SEA without making prior plans. I've been in Bangkok for a year now and love it, but have also traveled all over SEA. You can get a job teaching English if you want here, no problem.
You'll also never want to go home after traveling for 8 months here. It is a blast, you'll love it. $10k is enough, but take it by the month and see. You can find opportunities to make money on the side, and if you budget right, you can stretch $10k for 12 months for sure. You have to negotiate prices of everything though, as the tourist business always tries to make a buck off white people.
When you come to BKK, shoot me a message a week in advance and lets meetup if I'm around.
Greetings again everyone! Just sent in my two month Thai tourist visa a few days ago. I figure I'll try to spend those two months (and a possible third?) traveling Thailand, and will move onto somewhere else when the time comes. Now compiling a list of things I'll be bringing with me. I've got an 85L Osprey frontloading pack, and I don't have much to bring: minimal clothing, a gopro, a small point and shoot camera, toiletries, and a kindle. Now, I'm considering bringing my laptop, as I'll want to upload, edit and publish photos and videos, do some research on destinations, and even work remotely for various oddjobs. I've read that some people feel bringing a laptop is quite the burden (also have read people claiming it was great to have it on their trip)...however I was thinking of getting a PacSafe bag lock (http://pacsafe.com/pacsafe-85l-backpack-protector) to lock my bag in guesthouses and a laptop sized drybag for times when I'm packed up walking and feel the rain might come. What are people's thoughts on bringing laptops these days through SE Asia? I'll be settled into most destinations for at least 1 week, and for some 4-6 weeks. Cheers and thanks for all your insight!
I wouldn't bother with a pacsafe. Almost everyone that buys them ends up not using them if not throwing them away. Just too much of a hassle and all it really does is draw attention to the bag by saying there is something valuable in me. The chances of your bag being stolen while on a bus etc probably increase significantly is you were to use a pacsafe for this reason.
Depending on your pack you might be able to lock it or at least parts of it with little padlocks, this is what I would do/did. Still won't stop a person if they really want to get it but will at least keep the wandering eyes and hands out of your bag.
I kept all my valuables in the day pack part of my backpack and this was always with me and even at that when not in use I had a small lock on it.
Carrying a laptop could be a hassle especially depending on the model. The weight and room it takes up would be a pain. I took a smart phone with me for wifi but ended up breaking the screen and then buying a cheap little tablet. Honestly a decent quality tablet would definitely be the way to go on a trip, they take up little space and can do pretty much anything a laptop can do. The cheap ones are a pain though since they are slow and have crappy wifi and things like that.
If you are set on taking your kindle as well you might want to consider just selling it and upgrading to the kindle fire so you can use web/email etc and then you kill 2 birds with 1 stone.
Thanks @Geer1 - I was considering purchasing a Surface RT or some type of other tablet - but I'm worried that this tablet won't have nearly the capability I'm looking for (transferring photos/videos, not capable of much photo/video editing - Final Cut Pro X). My laptop is a 2009 Macbook Pro (13" - 4.5lbs), so not a huge laptop, but by no means a featherweight in my pack. I'll have a daypack - but I definitely won't want to carry my laptop with me everywhere when I leave my big pack wherever I'm staying, so I'll be leaving my laptop behind in my big pack. Yikes, I'm torn here. Seems worth it to me to bring my laptop...any success stories on people bringing their laptop on a trip like this?
I took my laptop last time and I hardly used it. It also takes up room in a daypack and a hassle to cart around. If you have a laptop bag, a daypack and a big backpack it just become too much to cart around from place to place. I'd just buy a tablet or get a Samsung Note.
My last trip (Thailand) I travelled with a MacBook Pro and an iPad (I was working as much as just travelling) -- I just left them in the room when I went out. Touch wood nothing went missing.
But of all the stories I've heard of laptops being nicked, invariably the person has been staying in a dorm and the suspected thief was some other traveller. So I wouldn't leave ANYTHING of value in a dorm room (though I almost never stay in a dorm anymore anyway), but in my experience leaving stuff in a guesthouse room is fine. If you're really concerned you can ask to leave it with the frontdesk staff (they'll probably just stick it in the bottom drawer).
Lots of reasons to take this kind of gear with you on your travels, far fewer for lugging it around with you day by day.
#42 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,798
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I would think a tablet would be good enough for uploading pictures, internet speed will likely be the thing that slows you down. Video on the other hand could be more of an issue due to its size, uploading something that size probably won't be very quick either as internet speeds aren't always that great. Editing videos might also be a pain if even possible.
It really comes down to your own personal preference. Only you would have an idea about how much video editing etc you are going to do while travelling(heck I didn't even upload anything until I got back from my trip and had gone through all the pictures and videos). Just remember that is another 5 lbs you need to carry around with you lots of the time and constantly be worrying about. If it is worth it to you then go for it but like I say only you will know.
One thing to know is that there are many high speed internet shops if you want to upload a bunch of pictures etc. They might even have some sort of video editing programs although I am not sure of this. You see them in all sorts of the major cities usually full of teens playing their favourite online games.
Haha, the sneaky Swedes - thanks everyone. I'm going to need to put some more thought into whether I'll bring my laptop or not. Because of the nature of my trip (long (6-9 months), staying in each place for at least a week and not constantly hopping around), I think that I'll probably opt for bringing it with me.
@Somtam - could you clarify "guesthouse" for me? I'm assuming by guesthouse, you mean like a single room at a hostel...?
Additionally...for my type of traveling, would you all recommend staying in dorm-style hostels as my cheapest option? If my stay is 1 week or less, I would assume so. However, if I'd like to settle down in a city for 2-4 weeks...is it possible to rent a shared bungalow or something for cheaper?
Guesthouses are like cheap hotels. They usually only have individual rooms compared to hostels with will have dormitory options.
Where you stay will be entirely up to you. Many places a guesthouse will be as cheap as a dormitory so if you want the privacy a guesthouse is the way to go but if you want to meet people a dormitory might be your best bet. In larger cities dormitories might be cheaper as well as in Vietnam since there is little low end accommodation there compared to many of the other countries.
Some guesthouses and bungalows etc will give you a deal if renting for a week or month. Never hurts to ask if you know you are going to be there for a while.
As an idea on my trip I stayed in dorms in Phuket, Chiang Mai , Ho Chi Minh, Nha Trang, Hue, Dong Hoi, Hanoi, Cat Ba Island. Nowhere in Laos or Cambodia did I stay in a dorm although Vientiane might have been worthwhile except I was fighting Dengue fever so wanted my own room. Chiang Mai it wasn't even needed but for $3 a night I figured why not.
@cbg0927 - Geer1 pretty much nailed it -- Dorms are often not the cheapest - especially in Bangkok where flash newish hostels sell dormbeds for more than what you can get a simple hotel room for.
Longer stays you'll often be able to nego a discount upfront.
#48 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,798
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Just thought I'd check in and let everyone know how things are going, as I'm sure there are plenty of ~22 year olds browsing around with the same questions I've had. So funny how trivial some of these things I've asked seem now that I've been here! Been in Thailand for 5 weeks and quite simply, I've fallen in love with this country. I spent my first two weeks in Koh Lipe. Planned for 5 nights and stayed for 14 - needless to say, I loved it. Great snorkeling, turquoise waters, nice people, and a completely chilled out island vibe. Paid 500-600 baht per night for a dorm bed and bungalow respectively. From there made my way north for New Years towards the madhouse they call Phi Phi. Two nights here was all I needed. Since then I've made my way to Tonsai, Railay (incredible hiking, climbing and exploring, 500 baht/night bungalow), Khao Sok National Park (also incredible hiking, but thought it was a bit underwhelming, paid 450 baht/night), Krabi Town (great for a break from the islands, cheap and delicious food, 250 baht/night room), Koh Tao [great parties, tons of young people, lots of good food, and @MADMAC - THIS is where the abundance of Swedish girls is that both you and I were unaware of (see post #13^)]. Now in Chumphon, which is also a cool little town that doesn't feel overrun by tourism. Paying 250 baht/night to stay on the main street right next to the night market.
To address a few of my other questions that I had initially.
-Brought a 50L backpack with me, opted against bringing a Pacsafe.
-Ended up buying a used 11" Macbook air and bringing it with me. I love having it with me over here to peep my pictures, do travel research, upload/edit videos.
-If you want to try and earn a little money over here to mitigate your expenses, try talking to the hostel or guesthouse you're staying at. Chances are they might have an odd job for you to do in exchange for discounted/free accommodation. On Lipe, I went to the walking street and sold people bungalow rooms and hostel beds and earned a commission for each night a person stayed. Can't hurt to at least ask around!
-So far, over these past 5 weeks, I've spent about $1200 USD. I haven't splurged, but I also haven't been a cheap ass. Purchased a cheap guitar last night (best 2500 baht I've ever spent), rented motorbikes on Koh Tao for 5 days, and haven't refrained too much in terms of eating what I want to. I definitely could have done these past 5 weeks on about $800 USD if I wanted to, but my trip just wouldn't have been as enjoyable.
I hope that someone finds this little update useful!