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Old 02-18-2010, 11:36 AM
Location: Hollywood, CA
258 posts, read 1,410,986 times
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I am planning a backpacking trip to Asia in a year. I plan on going for 4 - 6 months, however this could vary. I am currently working a 9 - 5 office job doing marketing. I plan to work for a year and pay off all debt and save money for the trip. Going to Asia is something I've wanted to do for a while now and I can't take much more living in a cubicle. There are so many countries in Asia that I want to visit but I don't know if I'll have time. The main countries I definitely want to see are: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, and Taiwan. The countries I would like to see but are down the line are: India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Myanmar, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Phillipines. Has anyone been to Asia on a trip of this length? If so can you recommend your must see countries and tell me about the trip you went on?
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Old 02-18-2010, 04:10 PM
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4 - 6 months backpacking - That's hard core! I salute you. Any advice I can give you would only scratch the surface, I'm not going to even try. Out of scope for this forum I think.
I would start your inquiry in the below referenced forum then stock up on Lonely Planet books then spend a few hours every night doing research - you will find the research part is fun as well.

Thorn Tree travel forum - Lonely Planet
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Old 02-20-2010, 01:48 PM
Location: Bike to Surf!
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My spouse and I recently finished 4 months in Europe and 8 months in Asia. We visited India, The Maldives, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan.

SE asia is quite cheap, especially if you learn how to bargain. If you really want to rough it, you can travel on literally dollars a day (like 2). Planning for $15-25 dollars a day will give you a nice level of comfort (A/C rooms with individual bathroom, A/C busses, Resturant food and a couple of 40oz beers every day. A real nice vacation.

China gets more expensive, maybe 1.5 to double the price and not as much luxury. Taiwan and HK cost a bit more, but it's like *POOF* now you're in the 1st world. Japan is very expensive, but quite neat and orderly, much more so than the United States. It's a bit like a high-tech Switzerland.

Suggest you hit (6 months should give you enough time for all) in this order:

Nepal - If you don't go now, you never will. It's a good starting point and will give you a taste of Tibet.

India - Dehli, Jaipur (don't miss this!!), Agra (Taj Mahal), Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore. India is tough for many travellers to handle, I would only plan on spending 2-3 weeks there. Trains will get you from place to place in fair comfort. Take lots of immodium along. The Curry is awesome, but it goes straight through you and burns going in and out. Indians do not use toilet paper, but you should. Carry a few extra rolls in your pack. If you're having trouble dealing with everything, a few beers in the morning might help.

Maldives - Treat yourself to a vacation after India. Spend a week or so on a resort island. Cheap-ish flights from Bangalore - Male, and then out from Male - Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia - Visit a stable and diverse Muslim society. Kuala Lumpur is a small and neat metropolis. Go see the Petronas twin towers. Recommend finding a hotel just outside Chinatown and visiting the night market there for cheap LV and Gucci knockoffs to send home. The jungle at Taman Negara is worth a visit. The perhentian islands in NE Malaysia are not to be missed. Relax on white sandy beachs, snorkle with sharks, barracuda, and turtles. Really awesome snorkle and Scuba.

Thailand - Party party party! Hat Yi has a great night market. Spend a night there after making the border crossing. Puket is fun, recommend the nightlife in Patong and skipping the islands since they're the same as the perhentians only more developed and expensive. Bangkok is awesome. Recommend 8-10 days in the city. Bargain hard for a roach motel downtown for half your stay visit the mega-mall downtown, catch an IMAX film cheap, take the metro to the city market and other interesting places, then bargain hard again on Khao-sung road for a room in the backpacker "ghetto". Party in the evening and enjoy street food, walk to the amazing temples and take a fastboat ride through the canals. I hear the hills in the north are great, but didn't go myself.

Cambodia - Siem Rep (Angkor Wat) is not to be missed. Ask if you want advice on making the border crossing with your wallet and pride intact. 3 days in Angkor Wat is enough. Phnom Penh and the killing fields are worth a respectful visit. Can't advise on anything else. Cambodians are great hardworking friendly people. This is the only country where I advise going with touts (except at border crossings).

Vietnam - Travel by tourist bus. You won't find a better deal and the busses are immaculate! Locals are starting to use them in lieu of the diminished tourist trade. HCMC should be visited. Beaches, dunes, fishing, and watersports along the southern coast are worth a day or two. I've heard the Mekong delta is an interesting visit. Hoi Ann is a fun tourist trap. Nha Trang is a cheap place to scuba and get your PADI cert if you want. Hanoi old town is worth a look, but not more than a day or two. Ha-Long bay is totally worth the price of the tour. Jump off the boat and swim! Hope you run into a party of Vietnamese who invite you to drinks and spiny snails with them. Fun!

China - Massive. A month will give you a taste. Major cities and tourist sights are the worst of all ripoffs you will encounter in Asia. If you don't speak Chinese, well, just be prepared to be taken advantage of, but you might not notice. Try to hit: Shangri-La, Jiuzhaigou is a must-see, Guilin, Chengdu is a relief from tourist traps, Xi'an if it's on your way somewhere, Beijing SMOG! and the Great Wall are required, Shanghai should be visited, take a hydrofoil up the Yangtze through what's left of the 3 Gorges, Chongqing is another nice break from tourist traps and a fun town. If you have time, try to get out to Kashgar and go up the highway toward Pakistan. Incredible scenery. Maybe the most impressive in the world! Avoid Tibet until the government re-opens it to independent tourists. Going to Kashi will cost 1/2 as much and you'll have 2X the fun. Take a train out and back if you aren't too road weary by this point. Overall, be aware that most of the "cultural tours" are really staged recreations of cultures and ways of life destroyed by The Party and the Cultural Revolution. Concentrate on the scenery. Be careful not to criticize the government or any local officials. Notice that China is the only country where there is no international news in the broadcast media--only government controlled outlets are allowed.

Hong Kong - Worth a quick visit to "come down" from the constant arguing and irritation that can be China. Be sure to catch the waterfront night light show.

Taiwan - A beautiful garden island where Chinese culture has been preserved by the Nationalists when they retreated from the mainland. Chinese and Hakka ("native" Taiwan) culture coexist peacefully. Taipei is an amazing and convenient 24-hour metropolis. It's a lot like Japan only much cheaper. I would call it a mix of Japan, Thailand, and Malaysia. Taiwanese are much more polite than mainland Chinese. You can let your anti-tout guard down in Taiwan as they are very friendly toward foreigners and will not try to rip you off. Night makets in Taipei are a must. Go up in the Taipei 101 tower for great views. Tea shops and farms in the misty hills north of town are a great way to while away an afternoon, especially if the metro gondola has been repaired (typhoon damage) by the time you arrive. The East Cost is beautiful, like the Hawaiian island of Kauai, with great fish at every resturant! A combination of trains and tour busses can get you out there.

Japan - An expensive but amazing place to visit. Tokyo is worth a week or two. If you can spare USD 200, it is worth taking the "Romance Express" out to the Mt. Fuji area to enjoy a relaxing night at a fancy Onsen (hotspring resort). Go midweek away from holidays and you could have the place to yourself! Recommend visiting Tokyo-Kyoto and Takayama (in the middle) at a minimum. You can do that short trip in 2 weeks. Stay longer and see more if you can afford it.

Indonesia - I only went to surf, so I can't give much advice. Sumatra and Java seem great. Bali sounds like a good place to party.

Anyway, that's my advice. Good luck and have fun.
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Old 02-21-2010, 10:22 PM
Location: Brisbane
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I did this 4 years ago, flew into singapore (Form Australia) went ot Singpore, Thiland, Vietnman, Laos, Camodia, China and Myanmar (Burma). On that trip, and have visted the Phillipines, South Korea and Japan since

I could write for hours, so i suggest you have a look at lonely planet's thorn tree or some other comprehesive travel foroum for some answers. Some Comments below

- Singpapore, I started hear a very easy intro to asia, its expensive but certainly worth a 4 or 5 day visit.

- Thiland, more time hear than anywhere else, personally i had no desire to and did not go to phuket, but attended two full moon parties (their addictive) If you male? watch out for the "Ladys" that frequently try and pick you up, some of them arent laddies, and its very difficult to tell the difference after a few "****inggoodbuckets" Koh toa and Koh Sumi are excellent islands to relax a bit on and learn some diving. The north of the country is excellent, Chang Mai was easily my favourite Thai city.

- Laos, dont underestimate it, its proberly the least know of the countries, but also was the best in my opinion. I loved it simply because as a tourist destination it had not really taken off like its neighbours. Has a very rural and isolated feel to it.

- Cambodia, Go to Angkor and get the three day pass as well, its expensive and very touristy, but its one of thoes thing you must see regardless of the price. The beaches of southern Cambodia should also not be discouted, I spent almost 2 weeks in Schnockiville and would have to say my time their was on par with the time i spent in koh Phangan, and the beach side accomidation i was staying in was free as well! Make sure you have a good read about touts who operate at the borders.

China - I came into china via North vietnam and exitied via Myanmar, if you come into china from the vietnamees border via sapa, ignore anybody who walks up to you and introduces themselves as a tourist guide, tourist helper etc. Back then it was a real challenge, (even after being in vietnam) shocking roads, people ignoring you, trouble getting money, and the most disqusting toilets you will ever see etc. Still a month will fly buy, the natural beaty of western china is underleivable! I visited pretty well all the places sponger 42 recomended. (but could not get to Kashga unfortunatly). I did not go anywhere near the large costal cities, although I went to shanghi at a latter date and hated it (I remember paying almost $20 for a beer their once to - nightmares). Seoul and tokyo are way better in my own opinion.

Myamar- Getting hear was a real experience, i arrived their overland via china which might not be possible these days, had to pay for a military guide and it was extrodinarly expensive to get all the right permits etc. If you want a truly unique experience however you could try something like that.

For a first time DIY travller I would not recommend arriving in India, its can be a massive shock even to the most experienced of people, take some food or drink that has not being cooked correctly and you could spend the next 6 months in hospital. With Nepal while I have never being their,the people i know who have being their all say its excellent.

Most of all Have Fun (and you will)!

Last edited by danielsa1775; 02-21-2010 at 11:51 PM..
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Old 02-22-2010, 05:49 AM
Location: Texas
14,078 posts, read 17,654,955 times
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While I salute your intrepidity, and would probably join you in such a sojourn if I weren't 60 years old, the idea of going as a tourist to the places in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos where we literally fought and died 40 years ago would be difficult, to say the least.

For instance, one poster mentioned Hoi An, just south of Danang, as a must see place now (I'm sure it is), but that ground is soaked in American and Vietnamese blood. Nearby are the Que Son Mountains where I sacrificed my youth on the altar of national service. You and I could go there together and come away with radically different impressions, but that's just the march of time, I guess.

By the way, should you want to spend a day or two exploring the Que Son's, it's a marvelous place riddled with caves and natural lakes. It's really quite rocky and, though there is some true, triple-canopy jungle in places, most of it is more like West Texas than you might imagine. Also, there are (or, were back then), Tigers in the area, so be careful.

One word of un-solicited advice: Study the monsoon patterns before you decide on dates for your trips. They vary widely. For instance, in southern Vietnam, the monsoons come early in the year, but in the central and northern regions, they begin in the late fall and carry on through the winter. During monsoon season, you'll be wet all the time (which means dealing with "jungle rot," on both you and your gear) and most of the views will be obscured by low clouds and rain. During the dry season, the views might be magnificent, but you'll have to take extra care to stay hydrated. When it's dry, it's REALLY dry and you'll find that to be true in any monsoon evironment. Most of southeast or southern Asia are affected by monsoon seasons and horrendous tropical storms, so be aware and be advised that your journey could actually include some serious, life-threatening weather. As the Boy Scouts say, "Be Prepared."
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Old 02-22-2010, 11:00 AM
Location: Hollywood, CA
258 posts, read 1,410,986 times
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Thanks for all of the help and info so far. I will check out Lonely Planets Thorn Tree Forum. danielsa1775 you are the second person that has told me Laos was their favorite country in Asia. I will definitely be hitting up all of Laos.
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Old 05-14-2011, 10:36 PM
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I've to been to a lot of places in Asia. So far I was amused by the beauty, culture and food of Singapore, Macau and Philippines. Oh, by the way I'll be traveling again by next month and my next destination is Bali, Indonesia. I've heard good talks about the place so i'm there to witness that and hopefully the trip would be a lot better.
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Old 05-15-2011, 12:54 PM
Location: City of Angels
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did you ever go on your trip siddharta?

ive been on trips of that length and longer. i don't believe in recommendations for these sorts of things however since everyone has their own individual preferences. most ppl just list stuff they see in guide books. they can be a good base but i would recommend doing your own research online and stuff

someone recommended buses in countries w crappy roads like VN. my advice: take a train if possible, esp for long distance/overnight travel. buses are awful in a lot of places. doesn't matter if the interior of the bus is nice and it's only half full, a train is still more comfortable. asia also has good coverage for budget airlines, so those are an alternative as well, but i prefer train to see the countryside.

one last note: taiwan is the least exciting place on your list. a lot of the countries on your secondary list are far more interesting and offer much more to the backpacker. it's also out of the way from the other countries you listed. unless you really want to go there for whatever reason, i dont see much point in going there.
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Old 05-15-2011, 06:56 PM
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I liked Laos, it has a pretty well established tourism industry along the backpacker routes, and is probably the only country left that I could still swim in the Mekong without worrying as much about catching the ick.
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Old 05-18-2011, 02:54 PM
Location: Bike to Surf!
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The Vietnamese Reunion Express? Are you kidding me? That might very well be the worst train in all of SE asia, and that includes the grueling 20-hour Chinese K-train from Guilin to Kunming. Avoid it unless service has drastically improved.

Chinese trains are awful, by the way. Z, and D-class high-speed rail is okay if you're willing to pay out the nose, and you don't get scammed (rare), but anything less than that is pure misery. Avoid anything longer than a 2-hour hop on a K-train. Somehow the Chinese have managed to take an Indian-style 8-person sleeper compartment, subtract two bunks, and add a whole lotta misery. Indian trains are okay, but nowhere near as good as European trains. Very slow. AC-2 class is sufficient. I was not brave enough to spend 10+ hours in the hard seats and 40C heat of 3rd class.

The roads in Vietnam are much better than those in, say, Cambodia and parts of India, and the tourist busses are as-or-more comfortable than even the long-range European counterparts. They're better than Chinese or Indian busses, for sure.

Taiwan is only boring in some areas outside of Taipei or if you don't go exploring. In the city there's weeks worth of diversions.
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