Travel ideas for East-Asia vacation?
November 28, 2007 9:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning 3 weeks this summer to travel with some friends (just out of college) to East Asia. Ideally, we'd like to fly from NY to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok (in the cheapest possible order/arrangement). Any suggestions on attractions/lodgings/things-you-have-to-see at each destination (for the budget-conscious?) Spending approximately 4-5 days at each destination, hopefully spending a little time in the city and a little time exploring outside (i.e. I heard the beaches in Puket, near Bangkok, are very beautiful, so thats definitely planned).
posted by superwillis to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Phuket does indeed have amazing beaches. The sand is so clean that it squeaks under your feet. However, I didn't like the inflated prices, and hassle of staying in such an intense tourist area. There are tons of other amazing beaches in that area and it might be worth some research.

I did take a few great side trips from Phuket for not much money. With one we got to visit an isolated stilt village at low tide. It was amusing to watch the mudskippers flop around and quite revealing to see how the community was set up.
posted by Alison at 9:52 AM on November 28, 2007

I also got a ton of great advice from this thread about visiting Thailand.
posted by Alison at 9:56 AM on November 28, 2007

Three weeks for these 3 major hubs would be a bit rushed, unless you want to do mostly urban travel and a few days at the beach. (Nothing wrong with that).

I lived next door to Hong Kong for more than 3 years, it's a great place to live, but not an amazing place to visit, in my opinion. Also, it's very expensive.

If I were you, I'd try to go up from Singapore through Malaysia, through Phuket or another southern beach in Thailand, up to Bangkok, into northern Thailand (Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai for starters), maybe into Laos, if not into Cambodia, then Vietnam if you have time.

Highlights: Angkor Watt in Siemreap, Cambodia. Worth the detour. Beaches in Malaysia, food in Thailand, and Vietnam, the whole damn country.

Phuket can be kinda rainy in the summer. Not saying it's not worth a trip, just check things out before you go.

Don't try to see everything in SE Asia in 3 weeks. Assume you'll be back someday and leave some things for a different trip. I'd really try to maximize my time spent outside of the hub cities you mentioned. They're great cities, but the difference between major international cities is shrinking every year.
posted by bluejayk at 10:03 AM on November 28, 2007

Bangkok - must see the Chatuchuk Market. The Suan Lum Night Market is fun too - great place for souvenirs.
posted by kdern at 10:23 AM on November 28, 2007

I would skip Phuket entirely and go instead to the much more picturesque and interesting beaches and rainforest at Koh Chiang, a 2-hr van ride from any Bangkok hotel. You'll then take a 40 minute ferry from trat to Koh Chiang - the last rainforest preserve in all of southeast Asia, I was told, although I find it hard to believe - with the most unspoiled beaches and beautiful waterfalls I've ever seen in my life. You can take a songtaew to the back of the island and stay where I did - Sea View Resort, which is a bit fancier now than it was then; the bougainvillea-encrusted bungalows on the cliff over the beach are VERY nice, some of the nicest quarters I had in all of Thailand, and were about $35 a night offseason.

The food in their restaurant was unbelievably good.

Bangkok I found a sweaty nightmare. Certainly Chatuchak market is worth a visit, and if you get up early enough the various floating markets are interesting, and there are 100 wats on various islands along the river to see ... but personally if you want to experience a Thai city, I think Chiang Mai is much more interesting, but you probably won't have time for that.

Personally, if I had 3 weeks, I'd spent half the time in Thailand and half in Laos, which is by far the friendliest, cheapest, most interesting & accessible place in SE Asia, but that's just me. I wouldn't try to rush it, especially if you haven't been there before. 10 days in Thailand would be enough to see the island, Bangkok, Chiang Mai (DO NOT take the 1st class train there - it's unpleasant and sealed-off - the 2nd class sleeper is VERY nice and the food is far better), Chiang Rai, and the rural areas - a 3 day trek out of Chiang Mai will include all the elephant riding, rafting, mountain biking, hanging out with tribal groups and hiking you can handle.

feel free to email me...
posted by luriete at 11:30 AM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have to second Ankgor Wat. I spent a week and a half in Cambodia last summer, only 2 days at Angkor Wat. Could easily have spent more time there. It is the neatest thing I have ever seen.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:50 PM on November 28, 2007

If your on a budget, stay away from Hong Kong and Singapore, and hit Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.

I found Singapore to be sterile, material, and expensive. Although the night zoo was pretty cool.

I thought Hong Kong was awesome. The contrast in culture is something to behold. It is very expensive though. Try and find a hostel and then just hit the streets. Lan-Kwai-Fong has some great restaurants and bars. And you have to go up Victoria Peak.

Bangkok is um, interesting. Don't be afraid to get a foot massage for 5 bucks in a hole-in-the-wall massage parlor. It's a great experience. And for grins and giggles take a stroll through Pat Pong or Soi Cowboy.
posted by jasondigitized at 2:25 PM on November 28, 2007

Thailand: Seconding all those people who said to skip Phuket for something closer, cheaper, and less over-run. Bangkok's funny, because some people love it and some people really don't. I loved it, spent 7 days there, and still was not out of things to do. I've posted some long long comments about places to go and eat in Bangkok, but don't have links at the moment.

(If you choose one guidebook for the city though, I was really happy with the Lonely Planet Best of Bangkok. It's not the full-size Bangkok, which I also had, and is not as good, especially in the map area.)
posted by whatzit at 2:38 PM on November 28, 2007

Hong Kong is expensive compared to SE Asia but it's not too bad in my experience. 4-5 days should be plenty. The Peak is worth seeing on a clear day, Lantau is worth a trip for the monastery and the big buddha.

If time allows, go to Macau for a day. It's awesome, and extremely weird.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 2:46 PM on November 28, 2007

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