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4 months in SEA

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Posted by funmonkeys on 27/8/2009 at 04:15

Hi all,

my wife and I are planning a 4 month trip round SEA between november and February 2009/10 and have a few questions we'd love some pointers on from people who have 'been there' and 'seen it'.

we plan on following a similar route as found on this site, N. through Thailand, down the Mekong through Laos to Cambodia ten up the Vietnamese coast, flying back to Bangkok before heading South taking in some islands and departing from Kuala Lumpur. (Although had thought of visiting Ko Chang area first for a week or two)

Basically, is this a realistic timescale to travel this region extensively and be in no rush to get to the next stop?

What is a realistic weekly budget in this region (have read the lonely planet guide but am aware from previous travels they can grossly over/under estimate. We are backpacking and although we will stay pretty much anywhere we'd insist on a private room and bathroom wherever possible. We'd also likely eat in a decent restaurant at least once a week.

Where would be a good place to try and spend Christmas and New Year? Ideally a beach resort, def not the full moon parties. Although I'm not against such events at 35 I'm just unable to recover from the hangovers anymore! Would be willing to pay for somewhere decent for a few days over this period and don't mind which country.

And finally the big question, what is the one thing we must not miss whilst on this trip?

Thanks if you take the time to read and reply and safe travels to you all.


#1 funmonkeys has been a member since 27/8/2009. Posts: 4

Posted by BruceMoon on 27/8/2009 at 05:27


I'll reply out of sequence...

You wrote:

And finally the big question, what is the one thing we must not miss whilst on this trip?

To me, the answer is good planning. If you read up on where you're (possibly) going and what 'interests' and 'attractions' are there, you'll soon realise what is worth the effort.

Budget. Cities and the cost of travel are (relatively) expensive. On this subject go read what I wrote. First, look at this post (see my post at #3), then look at what I added later here at this post (post #2).

New Year, etc. ... Personally, I'd focus on your travel. Then, by about mid-end December roughly work out where you'll possibly be and seek ideas about then. As others on Travelfish have suggested, where ever there are westerners, there'll be a party.

Your route is what has been referred to as the Banana Pancake Trail. That means it's a route well worn with western travellers. On the 'Banana Pancake Trail' (and tips to avoid getting hooked into commercialisation), go read this article .

When you plan more deeply into your journey, and start focussing on the route, you'll see that (possibly) because the Banana Pancake Trail is well worn, many travellers have sought out differing journeys along that route to add variety / spice / whatever.

For example. The Banana Pancake Trail has ppl travelling down the Mekong from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. There are several long and detailed discussions here on Travelfish (use the Search Travelfish box up above to explore. You'll see that some talk about the fun of doing the Gibbon Experience (near Huay Xai), then traveeling overland to Luang Nam Tha, before continuing the journey down to Luang Prabang: either directly, or to pak Beng and then a 1 day boat ride to Luang Prabang. There are other options in this region, just as there are along the entire route of the Banana Pancake Trail.

From another 'angle', it's also important not to rush through the landscape. there is no 'correct' time in any place - merely what you think is OK. For example, many travellers plan to visit Siem Reap for the temples. And, with little background reading, can mis-plan the time needed there. On this read this post . So, it's not only about going to places, it's also about planning what you want to do, and how long it will take to do what you plan for.

At the end of the day, the journey isn't about what I, or others, suggest; it's about what YOU want to do. And, YOU will (probably) get a more enjoyable journey by planning details before you depart. On planning, also read what i wrote at this post .

Hope this helps.


#2 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

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Posted by funmonkeys on 2/9/2009 at 05:57


thanks for your incredibly detailed and informative reply. It has certainly given plenty food for thought (though not banana pancakes!)

I wonder, are we approaching this trip with the wrong attitude? Basically trying to get in as much as possible in the few months we have or is it worth while following this route (or pehaps a similar one) in order to see as much of the region as possible? I guess that is something we will not know until we have returned. Although given the option my wife would spend the whole time travelling beach to beach in search of the perfect hammock!

I'm sure our itinery will change numerous times before we depart, and inevitably again on the road. I will be sure to use this site/forum to sense check and share expeiences though.

Thanks again!

PS if you know the location of the perfect hammock by sharing that info you have the opportunity of helping me make my wife a very happy lady indeed.

#3 funmonkeys has been a member since 27/8/2009. Posts: 4

Posted by BruceMoon on 2/9/2009 at 07:44


Stuart, who is somtam2000 in admin, seems to indicate he's found the perfect hammock place in Bali.

As for your journey, only you can be the judge. If you want to race around the place to be able to say you've been there - and are happy to put up with the equivalent of land based jetlag all day most days, then sobeit.

It's plain where my perspectives lie.

I'm assuming you are (relatively) young, so I suggest you adopt the approach of if we don't see it all, so what, we'll just plan another journey.

Also, what looks good on paper may not turn out to be to your liking.

I'd suggest you give yourself a rough plan. Research how to get around, about the scams, etc., and put that in your backpack. Take it out only if...

Start your journey, plan to go at the speed that is comfortable. If you don't get past one or two or whatever countries before your time is up, at least you can say you enjoyed yourself. Like Antarctica, those other places will still be there for another journey.


#4 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by Nokka on 2/9/2009 at 16:02

Hi, funmonkeys

My wife and I are also taking 4 months for SEA starting late Nov and finishing late March. We have researched and booked some of the first month of travel, but after that will take things as they come.

We are to go down to Ko Chang first for a few days to get over the inevitable last minute rush before leaving; then up to North Thailand for a week, fly to Luang Prabang and stay in Northern Laos for 2 weeks; then fly to Saigon and on to Phu Quoc for Christmas. After that, we plan to go into the Delta, Cambodia and back up through Vietnam for possibly another month. Then Hong Kong for a week or so (my wife was schooled there) and then maybe Philippines, Borneo and back to B'kok. All that last stuff is flexible and may or may not happen. We may stay longer in, say, Vietnam than originally planned, if so we'll drop somewhere else (probably Philippines).

We have booked some of the first part as we will be travelling that part in December, which we thought may be busy. (Who knows this year). Flights or preferred hotels/guesthouses could fill up. (Certainly this was true for the place we will stay on Phu Quoc for Christmas. We booked about April and by June it seems all the better places were taken).

Anyway, after that early part of the trip we will go where we wish. I suggest you do the same; you've got 4 months !

Looking at your planned itinerary, I don't think it looks too much at all and I'm sure you'll have a great time. (By the way, the Mekong trip is only from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, not all the way to Cambodia. That 2 day trip was pencilled in for us right at the start as a must -do - until I read about it. Crammed in with loads of other backpackers just didn't appeal, plus from Chiang Mai it basically took 3 precious days of almost non-stop travelling. In the end we decided to fly).

#5 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259
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Posted by funmonkeys on 2/9/2009 at 22:02

Thanks Nokka,
I did have concerns about the river trip particularly after reading about the overcrowding issues etc.

I think your advice regading Christmas bookings is particularly sound and have started looking for accommodation at this time. Don't want to find no room at the inn!

Hope you have a great trip :)

#6 funmonkeys has been a member since 27/8/2009. Posts: 4

Posted by funmonkeys on 2/9/2009 at 22:04

thanks again for some good advice.
The message from you and others seems to be coming back loud and clear, plan, plan, plan......
I'm sure it will pay dividends and inevitably lead to further questions on here.

Thanks again.

#7 funmonkeys has been a member since 27/8/2009. Posts: 4

Posted by BruceMoon on 3/9/2009 at 05:22


Yes, IMHO you are right - but only to a point.

Planning IS the key, but don't plan to follow a plan.

Sounds odd? It's not.

What I mean is do all your homework before you depart regarding a possible/probable route (including possible side trips, deviations, etc.).

Check out the travel options, eg. types of options (bus/boat/fly/etc.), the prices, the regularity, etc.

Also have an idea of accommodations, etc.

I say this one frequently - when you decide to stay in a place/region/city/etc, plan for about a week. And, go check out what is available to interest you for that week (or so). For example, if you decided to spend a 'base' week at Chiang Mai , you might give yourself the option of doing up to (say) 5 day trips from Chiang Mai, but when there you choose to do only (say) 2 because you also gave yourself the 'plan possibility' to zip over to Pai for a couple of days. So, what I'm essentially saying is have like a little diary with pages of opportunities for the Chiang Mai region - and you choose any of those options when you get there and sus it all out.

Sure, there will be times when you are covering much distance and may choose to spend a day or two along the route. But, that you will know and have planned for. For example, you might say - we want to visit Sukhothai, but only for a full day (2 nights), so we'll plan to take a bus to Phits... visit Sukhothai, and continue to Chiang Mai by bus.

The point I was making about 'don't' follow a plan is to give yourself the knowledge to make choices about what length of time you actually choose to spend in a place when you get there, or actually visiting a city, etc., when you are in-country (as against having a formulated plan that you follow word for word for your trip).

Hope this helps.


#8 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by apriljune on 4/6/2010 at 15:35

well, it help a lot,
thank you for sharing this information
it helps a lot.

#9 apriljune has been a member since 1/6/2010. Posts: 13

Posted by jackdsilva12 on 20/1/2011 at 13:33

OMG, it is so cool trip ....Good Luck

#10 jackdsilva12 has been a member since 18/1/2011. Posts: 31

Posted by MADMAC on 4/7/2012 at 06:27

How did this post get resurrected? They took their trip more than two years ago.

#11 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by john48 on 27/9/2012 at 22:40

Aoa, I enjoyed 3 weeks stay on lovely Rawa with some friends. The good stuff... Location is beautiful. For a get away place where all you want is beach and sea and beach activities..just great. Food is excellent with good choice...I enjoyed kite surfing over there...

#12 john48 has been a member since 26/9/2012. Posts: 12

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