Myself and a friend will be arriving in Bangkok in early February, and departing the 3rd week of June. That gives us approximately 4 1/2 months. However, we have our last month and a bit planned between the Phillipines and Bali (from May 7-June 17). We have a few main interests on this trip: scuba diving/snorkelling and wildlife treks (we can plan the drinking/parties easily enough).
My questions are the following: with these interests in mind, in which order would you suggest we travel? We have no diving experience, therefore we need our certification and would like to know the best (with cost in mind) spot to attain this; and with the certification being a prerequisite for any future diving, what diving/snorkelling spots will be the best to visit? ie. If it's very expensive to become certified in Thailand, we can forego the diving spots in that country (or can dive/snorkel in Thailand last), but would like to know what options would be recommended from that point on.
And then, if you were to suggest the top 2 treks between these 4 countries what would they be? We're looking for treks no shorter than 2 days, but no longer than 5. I've been to Chiang Mai, and I'm not really interested in the treks that see 100ppl go through the same villages day after day. I want something more authentic, and we're willing to do some tough travel.
We haven't started planning our full-blown itinerary yet, as these aspects are important in how we go about it. Perhaps once we get some suggestions on these matters I'll come back for some help on the finer details :)
#1 cdnexplorer has been a member since 19/8/2009. Posts: 28
I should have been more specific: we're going to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. We'd like to spend less time in Thailand, probably 2 weeks - arriving Feb 1st that gives us nearly 3 months between the other 3 countries.
#2 cdnexplorer has been a member since 19/8/2009. Posts: 28
As far as trekking is concerned, do you want guided or self guided?
If guided, I'm thinking the northern Laos area - a venture into the Luang Nam Tha National Protected Area from Vieng Phouka is probably about the best there is in the northern SE Asian region. Assuming natural vegetation, some interaction with indigenous communities, and minimal western traffic.
There are also good treks from Nong Khiaw (near Luang Prabang) in nthn Laos.
For self guided, probably Taman Negara in Malaysia. There it is really 'primitive' but accessible. As an aside, I encountered some Orang Asli still living as hunter-gatherer. There are also similarly good jungle trekking opportunities in Borneo (Kalimantan).
First off let me say that you're very generous with your time and advice, Bruce. I'm sure everyone on these forums appreciate it greatly - I've browsed the last 3 days to help with my itinerary, and you provide extremely helpful and extensive replies.
Unfortunately it doesn't appear that we will have much time in Malaysia this time around, so I was hoping for 2 trekking spots within Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. I've heard great things about Taman Negara, and will definitely consider it if time permits. We would want a guide for peace of mind, as we've never been in these areas before.
The Luang Namtha trek looks like something right up our alley. Now that I have your recommendation for this spot, I'll do the follow-up and decide what's best for our plans. I had a hunch that Laos would be the best spot, as it seems generally less-travelled compared to the other countries. If you have any suggestions between the other 3 countries, it'd be appreciated. Just looking for feedback on personal experiences.
As for the scuba, I didn't realize there was an entire section devoted to the subject :x
Thanks again Bruce.
#4 cdnexplorer has been a member since 19/8/2009. Posts: 28
Bruce--I hope you're not using the term, 'local mob' as in a 'local mafia' ;~))
Otherwise the Lao are going to have to sanction a hit on you.
I've used the Nam Ha Ecotourism group and they were assisted in the set-up by a generous grant from the New Zealand government as well as a Kiwi who served locally as a consultant. The Nam Ha has won some prestigious international ecotourism awards. We did a boat-trip into the Nam Ha and that river is stunningly clean in contrast to the Namtha or many other rivers in Laos.
Canadianexp--if you're wanting to do some great diving trip in Thailand, then I'd recommend the Similans; the best diving I've done in there.
#6 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136
"Bruce--I hope you're not using the term, 'local mob' as in a 'local mafia' ;~))
Otherwise the Lao are going to have to sanction a hit on you..
No, definitely not 'local mafia'. I found them very friendly and helpful. I was merely attempting to contrast the Laos mob from the GreenDiscovery mob.
Anyway, regarding 'local mafia', would they be worse than what's lurking here :) :) hehehehe
Good one; there are mobs and then there are MOBS.
BTW, I'm not sure if Green Discovery is not now 100% Lao owned or if some Australians still hold interest in the company. The first time I visited Laos in 2001, The Wildside was the dominant adventure travel company and within a matter of just a couple years, everything changed and Green Discovery had taken over all of the Wildside's offices. Rumour has it, and again, I don't know the back story, that the Lao partners were able to squeeze out some foreign partners.
#8 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136