I'm currently obsessing about a trip to Asia next year end of Aug. Where shall we go - Bali, Vietnam, Laos? Or someplace else? Most important factors are: scenery, food, travel time (this is going to be a 10/11-day trip traveling from NYC). Who wants to weight in?
Posted on Dec 08, 2010
Some things to think about are your travel style and how off the beaten track you want to go. And how adventurous you are. Vietnam is a great place to take off on a motorbike. There is really varied scenery (sand dunes and beaches in the south, rice paddies and choked cities in the north), the food is good, and it is probably pretty doable in 11 days (though you will have to be picky about where you go and/or move very quickly). If you choose Vietnam, all I say is spend more time in Ho Chi Minh than Hanoi (so crazy and crowded, I found after a day there I was ready to get out!) and overall people tend to enjoy the south more than the north, from what I've heard (I only did the north so I can't comment).
As for Bali, that's more relaxed, a totally different atmosphere and culture. Depending on where you go, it could be very touristy. It's also very cheap (especially outside the tourist spots, i.e. in the north) and you could very easily and cheaply rent a van and driver to take you around wherever you want to go. The beaches are so-so but there's good snorkeling and marine life (lots of dolphins around Lovina), some of the most friendly people you'll ever meet, and a very chilled atmosphere. Again, great scenery with rice paddies, waterfalls, temples, etc. With that much time, you could also hop over to Java and do Mt. Bromo which is spectacular (bring warm clothes for the early morning though). Or you could go over to Lombok or Gili Islands, which are supposed to be out of this world.
Finally, Laos. If you go here, you can easily get way off the beaten track as long as you *STAY AWAY* from Vientiane. It is just filled with white people, it is ridiculous. And it's expensive, especially for Laos. It's terrible. Vang Vieng is surrounded by lovely scenery, but it's pretty much just filled with backpackers who spend all day floating down the river getting drunk then go to the restaurants and eat and drink more while watching 10 episodes of Friends in a row.
Luang Prabang is a better bet. Scenic but not as touristy. The further you get from Thailand the better, I'd say. But I'm not sure how easy transport is once you get off the beaten path. People rave about it though. Again, the people are some of the friendliest around, the food is great, etc.
One other place I would recommend would be Cambodia. You've got the fantastic must-sees like Angkor Wat, plenty of lesser known but just as amazing ruins of cities and temples (there's a jungle temple somewhere up north that's supposed to be awesome). You've got beaches and river dolphins in the south, and you've got some of the best food and friendliest people. You've got jungle and remote villages that you can only get to on motorbikes...everything. And it's not too big of a country so easy to get around.
All these places are great. It comes down to probably your preferences on culture and friendliness of people, preferred method of transport/adventurousness level, and what variety of scenery you're after. I personally enjoyed Indonesia and Cambodia most, but there are so many factors to consider. If you need further info about a particular place/country, I would be happy to help.
Wherever you choose to go, SE Asia is really an incredible place and you will probably find yourself already planning another trip back to go to the places you weren't able to get to this time! You will have an amazing time, meet incredible people, and see some spectacular places wherever you choose to go Enjoy!
Posted Dec 08, 2010Add a comment
I can't believe you think Hanoi is more crowded, crazy and congested than Ho Chi Minh City! Hmmm.... interesting.
Posted on Dec 09, 2010
I disagree completely about Thailand. The country is magnificent. I've been there so many times and each time is a new adventure. I always go off the beaten path and gravitate to the north in places like Chiang Mai the most. If you like islands but want to avoid the touristy places, go to Koh Samet or Koh Chang - both are wonderful. Koh Samet is an easy trip from BKK by bus, and then a quick boat trip. Koh Chang is farther away but worth the drive.
Bali was surprisingly not my favorite place. It is way too touristy. But I did enjoy the trip nonetheless. Laos is spectacular in Luang Prabang. A good trip would be to go to Chiang Mai Thailand and explore that area, then Luang Prabang Laos, and then onto Vietnam or Cambodia if you have the time.
Posted on Dec 27, 2010
Heidi, just to clear up I didn't mean anything negative about Thailand. I meant *in Laos* the further you get from Thailand (the border), i.e. the further north, you get the better. I LOVE Thailand, I lived there for five months and it holds a special place in my heart (and I have spent time in all the places you mentioned), I just didn't talk about Thailand because Bernhard didn't ask about Thailand, so I wanted to focus on the locations he did specifically ask about :)
And Craig, as I mentioned I never made it to the south of Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh included), but I was told by other people that they much preferred Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi.
Posted on Aug 29, 2011
You can cross the street in HCM by walking across the helmets of the scooter commuters in the rush hour(all day).
Posted on Dec 06, 2012
I just spent a month and a half in SE Asia (thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore) and now I'm heading down to Indonesia and Bali. I think it depends on what you're into. If you like the tourist destinations I would recommend thailand, which is very backpacker friendly, but in my opinion too westernized. Never been to Cambodia or Vietnam, but Laos is about 10 years behind Thailand in terms if development. I loved it. If you like adventure check out The Gibbon Experience. You'll be hiking in the jungle and ziplining from treehouse to treehouse. Malaysia is nice as well, wealthier than Thailand and not as touristy. And Singapore is just amazing (but expensive!). Feel free to email me any questions! I know quite a few places to stay and where to eat!
Posted Dec 18, 2010Add a comment
Lived in Singapore for many years and used to go to Bali a few times a year - love it, easy to get to from Singapore, great food (esp in Seminyak), yoga, cool bars - it has gotten crowded and touristy and i would recommend splitting time in Seminyak and Ubud if in Bali, but also hop over to Lombok for a day or two which is much more remote and beautiful and popular with surfers. I also like Bangkok and Chiang Mai, both very different cities. Phuket is nice but I prefer Bali to it. Langkawi in Malaysia has some nice beaches and a very different, less developed vibe. Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh is so interesting for the history and cuchi tunnels and Hanoi is so charming - but yeah, pick the right time of year to go to avoid overwhelming heat or monsoons. The other place I really enjoyed which is more off beaten track still is Myanmar - Bagan was beautiful and i thought more spectacular than Angkor Wat in some ways and much more quiet. Lastly - Singapore can be a great stopover point, its obviously way more westernized/cosmopolitan but a very interesting contrast to the rest of Southeast Asia and also has some amazing food. Ditto for my homeland Malaysia - Penang, Langkawi, Malacca all very charming. Hard to go wrong really!
Posted Oct 26, 2012Add a comment
bali, phuket, bangkok, are all worth seeing. a full range of all you are looking for. i did 13 days and covered the above, plus hong kong. bali and phuket are amazing and still rustic.
try the maya ubud hotel and if you can have breakfast or lunch in town -- the street carts are super cheap and very good. try to have afternoon tea at the four seasons jimbaran bay -- its worth seeing.
in phuket, take cigar boats to standing rocks (where james bond dr. no was filmed), check out thai kick boxing and fresh fish right out of the water grilled on the beach. and WAY too many shopping appeals. be careful... :)
Posted Dec 09, 2010Add a comment
What do you like to do when you travel? We just came back from 7 weeks, approximately 2 weeks each in Laos, Camodia, and Bali. I agree with Rachael Taft - Luang Prabang is wonderful, and the points farther north would be really interesting to see, too. And Angkor Wat was incredible in Siem Reap, Cambodia. But our heart was won in Bali.
One thing to think about is that Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam will be hot and rainy. It was really hot and humid even in October -- it would have been even worse during the "hot" season. And I live in Texas!
Let me know what you choose -- I can help with recommendations of places to stay and things to do in these places.
Posted Dec 09, 2010Add a comment
To get to Asia from NY you will swallow up two days each way. That being said, I love Bali for culture and exploration of the island.......and I like Thailand for food, beach and culture. Bangkok is a crazy great city and the beaches are beautiful. If you want more information on either country, let me know. I can give a bit more detail.
Posted Dec 10, 2010Add a comment
I just got back from a trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. Vietnam was by far my favorite. The people are warm and helpful, the food is delicious, everything is so alive, and the scenery is beautiful. I highly the cities of Hanoi and Hoi An. Ha Long Bay was drastic and stunning. We spent three days on a boat there, kayaking and spelunking. I never made it to the south of Vietnam but I hear that the islands of Phu Quac and Con Dao (not sure I'm spelling those right) are pretty great.
I have never been to Bali or Laos, but I have heard about both. Bali would seem to be the place to go to relax, where as Laos would be place to explore. I have heard from multiple people that Laos should not be missed.
I hope this was helpful. Have fun planning your trip!!!
Posted Dec 11, 2010Add a comment
Bernhard, Just took a look at your profile and you are anything but a novice at traveling! By using the word "obsessing", I first thought you might be a first time traveler, but your not. You've got enough miles under your shoes to know better than to obsess about anything.
I agree most with Rachael, Rachel & Margaret above in that Bali should be high on your list. But, beings you've only got 10/11 days, I'd stick to one location. Bali would offer all you could ask for in a relatively small area. With long flights over and back, you don't want to be wasting more time in the airports and flight between locations. Changing places can eat up a whole day or more.
Luang Prabang, Laos and Siem Reap, Cambodia are both great places but good for only 4 days each unless you really get into the areas and do day trips. Vietnam would require (in my opinion) a much longer stay than 10 days.
You've got lots of time to "Google" all these places. I've been to Bali a couple times and it's still on my very short list of favorite places anywhere. Good luck, happy planning & have a fun trip.
Posted Dec 12, 2010Add a comment
As everyone has already said, it's all a question of style/taste.
Bali has always been THE place for us. We've been fortunate to travel to world and stay in some nice places. But Bali was truly special for us. The culture, the genuine hospitality of the people (which you would also experience in the other locations), and the hotel (we stayed at the Sheraton Laguna Nusa Dua where the bottom floor rooms have balconies with ladders that go straight down in to swim-able lagoons that circle the property).
We hired a guide recommended to us who took us all over the island. One day of his service, his car, gas, etc....$28! Yes, it's a little touristy (nothing like Phuket, etc). It's a long flight...but we really cherish that trip as one that we've not been able to top yet! Thailand is the only other one that comes close.
Posted Dec 12, 2010Add a comment
Have been several times to Vietnam and it is a favorite. I have also been a couple of times to Cambodia which is also amazing, though the poverty and historu can be very sobering. I have not been to Laos, which I regret. I would recommend you go if you have a chance as it is still realively unspoiled by mass tourism. The first time I went to Cambodia there were not a ton of tourists and Siem Reap was still a sleepy little town. In just a few years it has boomed with luxury hotels, condos, etc and the masses of tour buses and tourists at Angkor Wat is a bit of a turn off. I would love to experience Laos before that happens there.
Posted Dec 13, 2010Add a comment
I am a travel agent specializing in South East Asia among other destinations.
I have worked in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore, and lived in Hanoi, Saigon and Bangkok. I don't think there is a bad option in SE Asia. It all comes down to what you are interested in seeing, or more importantly what you want to get out of your experience.
Vietnam is one of my favorite places in the world so it a must, Malaysia offers the most diversity of culture, history, scenery and food and Thailand is Thailand (in a great way). The problem is you can only do so much in 11 days so you will need to be very selective.
If you need help planning anything let me know and I am happy to assist.
Posted Dec 14, 2010Add a comment
Been to Bali 3x and Vietnam once. Bali is wonderful if you avoid the resort areas that are so Westernized (sanitized). Agung Beach Bungalows near Tanah Lot is a wonderful place to stay. The owners are super, the surrounding area very peaceful, and you get the chance to meet the locals. Ubud is nice, but getting overrun with high-priced resorts, spas, etc. Puri Saraswati Guest House is lovely and at a great location in Ubud.
Vietnam is excellent. You may need to get a Visa depending on your passport's issuing country. Indonesia now requires a Visa, but you can buy it on arrival.
Have a great trip!
Posted Dec 20, 2010Add a comment
I went a few years ago and spent 4 days in Bangkok, 4 days in/around Siem Reap and then 6 days traveling through Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi and Ha Long Bay Vietnam. I LOVED all of it. Cambodia was such an awesome surprise and really touched me. It is just somewhere you have to see to believe. Bangkok was an attack on your senses: noisy, hot, loud, bright, fast, smelly, busy.....like NYC times 10. Having the temples in the city though was such an experience, as once you walked into them it was like the city just disappeared for a bit. Amazing. Vietnam was just awesome. Hoi An is like a place stuck in time and it is just beautiful (who would have thought.....the beaches are great). Hue was like a living history lesson. Hanoi was in a word CRAZY. I have never seen so much traffic but, it all worked. Really excited blend of old and new. I spent a night on a junk boat in Ha Long Bay which was an unforgettable experience and an education on what is happening to this Heritage site with garbage and over-tourism. My next trip to Asia will be of the Sapa area (North Vietnam) and Laos. I used a company called Journeys Within that customized a trip for my friend and I. Would use them again in a heartbeat.
Posted Dec 20, 2010Add a comment
Vietnam would be my choice, but I don't recommend going in August. Too hot. Best times are Nov., Dec., Jan. and Feb. Great country, wonderful food and easy to navigate on your own.Ten days won't be enough. Start in Hanoi. Get a good guide book, and if you have not other choice than Aug., then go for it.
Posted Dec 22, 2010Add a comment
We just got back from 3 months in SE Asia, and it was a great experience. Taking your factors individually;
Scenery - Laos was one of the most stunningly gorgeous places we've ever been. Bali had the potential for beautiful scenery, had we gotten off the tourist track of Kuta-Ubud.
Food - Consistently the widest variety of tasty food we had in the area was in Thailand.
Travel time - Here's the rub. From NYC, you're looking at at least 20 hours of travel time to and from the region. Longer if you have connections, say to Bali. Likewise, you can't fly directly into Laos, you need to get there through regional hubs such as Bangkok or Hanoi.
Posted Dec 26, 2010Add a comment
Vietnam and Laos
Fly into Hanoi -- spend 3-4 days
Train to Sapa -- spend 2-3 days
Train back to Hanoi
Fly out of Hanoi into Luang Prabang, Laos
Spend 3-4 days
Fly back home
Fly into Jakarta - 2 days
Fly into Bali 9 days
(Dont forget to visit Ubud)
Posted Dec 27, 2010Add a comment
I haven't been to these 3 (but they're high on the list), but thought I'd offer up a recent observation that might be worth thinking about. Friends of mine are currently on such a trip, though theirs is extended (4 months). They started in Bali, are now in Vietnam, then are going to Thailand. The thing about Bali is that it's a bunch of little islands (you know this). As such, it's harder there to base in one spot & take day trips to various places. They switched hotels something like 20 times in 8 weeks! That would just burn me out, & it would be much harder on a shorter trip. That said, it appears to be a heartwrenchingly beautiful place. So I'd say go, but don't try to do to much!
Posted Dec 28, 2010Add a comment
Thailand for 7 days with a side trip to Siem Reap (Cambodia) for 3 days to visit Angkor Wat and a couple other temples. In Thailand, I would visit Chiang Mai (3 days), Chiang Rai (2 days) and not stay too long in Bangkok (2 days). I'm a travel consultant, so contact me if you need more help.
Posted Aug 13, 2012Add a comment
Not much time for so far away. I love Luang Prabang in the north of Laos. It's a small town with over 30 Buddhist temples, great food, wonderful jungle mountains, waterfalls, the Mekong River, and affordable...an hour massage for $5. A few days in Bangkok on your way will give you a taste on the wonderful Thai culture (and cuisine). As others mentioned, avoid Vientiane Laos...get to Luang Prabang. We will return for a month someday.
Posted Dec 07, 2012Add a comment