Photo: Street food Phetchaburi Soi 10, Bangkok.

Southeast Asia forum

First Backpacking Adventure in ASIA

Posted by BabyRubes on 11/3/2010 at 02:31

My friend and I are planning a 2 month trip, backpacking Asia beginning with the Philippines.

Trying to figure out where to start planning is beginning to be far more difficult that I thought.

How much I should leave Toronto with? Do I need to figure out where I'm going and get my visas done ahead of time?

And I would like to know about ANY hidden places you guys know about too. We are trying to stay away from huge cities with a few exceptions. I think Malaysia,
Myramar, bangkok, Nepal, Singapore , Thailand, and possibly somewhere in South Korea are on the list.

HELP would be much appreciated for a brand new backpacking traveller:)

#1 BabyRubes has been a member since 11/3/2010. Posts: 3

Posted by busylizzy on 11/3/2010 at 06:58

Hi BabyRubes - and welcome to TF!

I would suggest that the first thing is to decide what type of trip or experience to you want? What interests you - are you wanting a cultural experience, visiting lots of temples? Or you wanting to visit hilltribe areas, or spending some time blobbing on the beach?

My biggest suggestion would be to avoid trying to squeeze in too many places otherwise you spend far too much time travelling which can get very tiring, and expensive. For a 2-month period, focus on one or two countries (maybe three) and you'll get a far better experience. It's not about collecting as many visa stamps as possible in your passport!

Personally, I would tend to give Malaysia and Singapore a miss. I think Vietnam and Cambodia are far more interesting and Thailand is, well, it's Thailand! Great food, great beaches, great shopping, great cultural things - if any of these are your thing. (I can't comment on Myanmar, Nepal, Phillipines or South Korea as I haven't been there). Those are just my views, and I'm sure others will have alternate ones. Therefore, it really does depend on what type of holiday you want!

What are you looking for?

#2 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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Posted by MADMAC on 11/3/2010 at 16:10

I would say to begin with it would help for you to say what you ARE interested in, as well as what you're not. Otherwise we're just shooting in the blind here.

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Posted by BabyRubes on 11/3/2010 at 22:06

I'd like to spend little time on the beach, I think that would be more of an end of day to relax, or maybe a pit stop. We want to do a lot of hiking and exploring, so probably more of a cultural experience. Trying to stay away from the most tourist-y areas and looking to explore hidden temples and such.

#4 BabyRubes has been a member since 11/3/2010. Posts: 3

Posted by francesstella on 12/3/2010 at 17:22

Hi BabyRubes,

I left for my first backpacking trip this time last year with a pretty vague plan of where I wanted to go. In 3 months I visited Bangkok & Northern Thailand, Northern Laos, Vietnam North to South and Phnom Pend & Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I would recommend drastically cutting back on your itinerary - by half at least! - because the more you try to fit in, the less you will enjoy what you're actually doing. I spent the last month of the trip doing a Tai Chi course in Northern Thailand and it was by far the most memorable & fun part of the experience.

I arranged all my accommodation when I got to the place I was staying at (searched recommendations first here on Travelfish). We arranged all buses & trains max. a day in advance, flights a week or more in advance. We got most visas on arrival except for Vietnam: always check in advance what the requirements are. I'm glad we travelled like this because it gaves us maximum flexibility to enjoy the trip to its fullest - if we liked a place, we stayed a week or more; if we didn't, we left the next day.

From your list, I'm guessing Nepal and Northern Thailand or Laos are probably the best places for hiking and exploring, whereas you'll be starting out in the Philippines and I'm sure there's no shortage of beaches there.

Have a great time!

#5 francesstella has been a member since 16/2/2009. Location: Italy. Posts: 95
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Posted by francesstella on 12/3/2010 at 17:30

Regarding your question of how much you should take with you, I'd say that if in doubt - leave it behind. I had a 50L backpack + a 20L rucksack which was more than enough for 3 months. I had to ship a bunch of stuff home / give stuff away because I'd taken too much (there are some really good threads you can read through here on Travelfish to get more tips). Look into weather conditions where you're heading. If you find you've forgotten something, you can just buy when you're there: selection in most cities is not far off what you'd find at home.


#6 francesstella has been a member since 16/2/2009. Location: Italy. Posts: 95
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Posted by BabyRubes on 12/3/2010 at 21:42

We've cut our trip down to 4 main countries and have decided to stay about 2 weeks in each. would that be sufficient enough - or try to cut it down to 3?

Packing isn't an issue - I can survive on very few things, and its true i can probably find things I need wherever I am. I'm worried about about not having enough money. Trying to do as much research on activities in various places. Like how much it would cost us to zipline, or join a group with a tour guide.

We are planning on saving about 6 grand which includes our flight to the Phillippines and back home. We are only going to buy a one way ticket and see how long the rest of our money lasts us. Because we're afraid that we'll buy our ticket home and run out of money way before we are due to leave. Should 6g be enough to last us through the two months? are excursions relatively expensive? I know food and hostels should be fairly cheap and there are cheaper ways of getting around other than planes.

Francesstella how much did you save when you left for 3 months?

#7 BabyRubes has been a member since 11/3/2010. Posts: 3

Posted by francesstella on 13/3/2010 at 01:33

Hi BabyRubes,

Sorry, I completely misinterpreted your question the first time round. I set myself a day-to-day budget of €20, so about $28 Canadian. This amply covered accommodation, meals, transport, small purchases & things such as museum entrances. On top of this you have to add tours, internal flights, big expenses (a guitar!), various courses... The more you do the more you spend.

I'd say I spent about €1000 a month + return flights home.

You mentioned ziplining - the Gibbon Experience in Laos is the thing I most regret not doing in SEA (think ziplining for kilometres through lush canopy and sleeping in tree houses) but it comes with a price tag of about €180 ($250) for 3 nights if memory serves. It's all-inclusive, so really not bad at all.

Other stuff to give you an idea of costs: We did an all-inclusive 2 night trip in Halong Bay, stayed one night on a junk ship and one in an awesome hotel + canoing, caving, bike riding, trekking & evening entertainment (best tour guide ever, he was from your neck of the woods) - US$80. Overnight tour through the Mekong Delta with food & cultural events: US$50. 2 night jungle trek in Northern Thailand with hilltribe visit: don't remember, but it was extremely reasonable.

Unless you splash out on luxury cruises, I think after 2 months will go gome with change to spare from your $6K.

Regarding the number of countries you visit, it's been a year since my trip and the fondest memories I have are of the places where I stopped and settled down for a week or more. The places where I crammed all the sights in 2 days - I barely remember them. I guess if you set out without return flights or set bookings you'll be able to play it by ear, it's good you're starting off from a rough plan tho.

Take care! :)

#8 francesstella has been a member since 16/2/2009. Location: Italy. Posts: 95
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Posted by MADMAC on 14/3/2010 at 19:47

Based on what you've stated here, I think I would start in BKK and spend about three or four days there. Lots to see, and a major party hub. Given your age and inclinations, I would say you will probably want to stay somewhere in the KSR road area.

From there I would go to Kanchanaburi. A piece of history that shouldn't be missed and reminds us of the debt we owe the few remaining veterans of that war. Two or three days there, and I would go to Chiang Mai .

Exploring some of the history of Chiang Mai during the day, perhaps checking out the gibbon exerience they have near there, as well as absorbing some Chiang Mai nightlife outght to make this a nice stop.

From Chiang Mai I would then head off to Vientiane, crossing at the Freedom Bridge. Relatively sleepy for a capital city. This city is certainly worth a couple of days.

From here, given your age and stated interests, I would probably go to VV. This is a debated destination so you can read for yourself whether it would interest you.

I would say that Laung Prabang is then a must see and worth at least two to three days. The place is a cultural icon and I have a friend who swears by it.

From there I would make my way south (taking some time, long trip, so make a stop or two along the way) to Savankhet. This is a backpacker way station. A day or two lounging here is OK, but it's essentially a backwater. A day trip to Tha Khek and checking out the caves would be on my priority list of things to do.

If it were me, I would then bite the visa bullet and cross back into Thailand to go to three destinations that are close by:

That Phanom
Nhakon Phanom

Mukdahan has some good, Issan nightlife. You will probably not run into many tourists, or even any, on a night on the town here. It has some excellent folk bands (Noree is my favorite place to listen to music), and some good dining along the river.

That Phanom has the oldest Chedi in Thailand - the temple is hisoric, beautifully maintained, and active. It is a major Thai tourist destination, but few western tourists come here. Also has some great little riverside restaraunts.

Nakhon Phanom is an old city, largely populated by Vietnamese, with a great vibe.

Each of these places is worth two full days and nights in my opinion.

After about a week along the Thai side of the Mekong, you can cross back into Laos and head off to Hue... There's lots here written about Vietnam, so a little research and you ought to be able to figure out what you want to do there. Good beaches... so that should help you on the beach side of things.

This is food for thought, but here on travelfish there's plenty of information to be had following a map and looking at places that might be interesting to you. But in my opinion, when making an itinerary, use it as a rough plan, not a hard and fast guide. You might want to stay longer in some places, less in others, as you arrive and determine they are more or less interesting than you think they are.

#9 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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