Looking for suggestions for solo travel in SE Asia in February
December 4, 2017 11:38 AM   Subscribe

I'm a woman in my mid-30s from the US and I will be in Vietnam for about a week in February, with friends. I'd like to extend my trip for another few days to a week but if I do, it will likely be solo. I have limited solo traveling experience, so I'm looking for suggestions as to fun and safe places in the region to add to the trip.

I've been to Vietnam (Hanoi and Halong Bay only), Thailand (Bangkok and some of the eastern beaches/islands), and Cambodia (Angkor Wat only) previously. I'm not opposed to going back to one of those countries, especially if there are suggestions for new parts of those counties. I'm also interested in other destinations. I'd prefer not to pack for two separate climates, so I'm looking to stay in warm areas. Therefore, I think China/Taiwan/Korea/Japan are out, though please correct me if I'm missing somewhere I should consider.

I most enjoy beaches/swimming, wandering around cities and towns and some hiking or other outdoor recreation. I'm looking for a place where some/all of that is available and is generally safe for a woman, by herself, who doesn't speak the language (I'm an English speaker with very limited Spanish) and who appears to be a tourist. I acknowledge that nowhere is perfectly safe, and I'm fairly comfortable in cities generally. I'm less likely to indulge in nightlife when I'm by myself, though I would likely have a drink or two with dinner on occasion. I'm not a picky eater, though my spicy tolerance is low for Thailand (which wasn't a problem in my previous trip there, but perhaps could be in other countries or cities). I'm also content with basic accommodations and will be traveling light. Also, heat and humidity are not a deterrent for me.

I have some flexibility as to when in February I'll be on my own, so if there is something really cool going on at a particular time, that would be good to know. Cost for accommodations/food/transit matters, but I have some flexibility there. Transportation access and transportation ease also matters a bit, including access to an airport with flights back to the US (LA or NY ideally).

My impression is that group tour packages are not for me, but I'm happy to hear about really good ones in that vein as well. If not, I'm equally open to making casual friends organically or spending a few days mostly on my own wandering, laying on a beach or reading. The already planned Vietnam portion of the trip will include Hanoi, Halong Bay and Ho Chi Minh City, so if the suggestions are to stay in Vietnam, I'd love to hear about other parts of the country to explore.
posted by Caz721 to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I travel a lot in Asia for work, and Laos and Indonesia (especially Bali- just avoid from the Kuta beach area which is basically spring break for Australians) immediately spring to mind. I love Vietnam, and Hoi An is my favorite spot. Sapa is pretty amazing too.
posted by emd3737 at 1:50 PM on December 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed my time in Malaysia. Penang has some really neat spots (the Georgetown bits are part of the World Heritage Sites) and some of the best food, hands down! People think Singapore has great food? Pfft. Penang has it out of the water! It's cheaper and tastier.

You can easily catch a train from Penang to Kuala Lumpur to round out your week. KL has some pretty neat sites, mosques, and once again, street food! Not really beachy, but very food-centric.
posted by astapasta24 at 2:38 PM on December 4, 2017

I'm just popping in to say that the Lunar New Year holiday is Feb 15-17th this year. That's something to consider.
posted by FakePalindrome at 4:02 PM on December 4, 2017

Hong Kong ticks a lot of your boxes, is quite adjacent in terms of climate, and probably the most English-friendly place you could visit other than Singapore.
posted by mdonley at 5:39 PM on December 4, 2017

Chiang Mai is a wonderful city and good for solo travellers!
posted by désoeuvrée at 5:44 PM on December 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Coming to suggest CM as well but are you sure you don't want to just stay in Vietnam if it's only for a few days? And if it's around Chinese New Year, all bets are off. It's the equivalent of traveling during Thanksgiving. Gridlock, seriously and hotels booked out.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:55 PM on December 4, 2017

Luang Prubang in Laos is very pretty, has plenty of 'culture' given its size (it's a Unesco World Heritage city) and.... I think it is near a bunch of swimming friendly waterfalls... But I went a long time ago. It's much smaller than somewhere like Hong Kong.... It was very safe when I was there and Laos is a very easy, welcoming place to travel, though it is poor. There are no beaches. There are a range of nature based activities in the area- conservation type stuff with elephants and caving and swimming, though that stuff is generally a little more remote.
posted by jojobobo at 9:39 PM on December 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I haven't been to the north of Vietnam but when I was working in Ho Chi Minh City I enjoyed trips to Mekong Delta, Da Nang, Hoi An, and most remarkably the Phong Na cave area. There are spectacular options for the caves in Phong Na from taking a boat and doing an easy walk through some all the way to proper jungle treks complete with leeches and bats in the less accessible ones.
posted by perrouno at 12:28 PM on December 5, 2017

I'm seconding visiting the Phong Nha area, which I found to be calm and safe for me (female) when I travelled on my own in my early thirties. I went on a four-day cave trek with oxalis adventures and I loved it. I ended up in a group of five tourists altogether, very chilled vibes and gorgeous treks and amazing caves all to ourselves. I was there for a week in total and cycled on my own around the area and explored some of the more touristy caves which were also lovely.

Also, if you have the time, consider taking a train. I followed the coastline by train and the views were spectacular. This was around Tet but I booked all my tickets in advance in Ho Chi Minh. I just ended up with whatever seats were available which I was happy with, but there were actually plenty of nicer seats available with the tourist-focussed travel agencies, for higher prices.

Hoi An is also super easy and great for a short trip, shopping and getting tailor made clothes. Over 2008-2014, I visited Vietnam a few times as I used to live in the region. I've travelled there by myself a few times, mostly independently, and never felt unsafe. Still one of my favourite places in the world and will gladly visit again when the stars align. Usual caveats on common sense and safety apply, of course.
posted by mkdirusername at 11:38 AM on November 26, 2018

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