I'm in the process of planning my RTW and keep getting stuck when it comes to how much time to spend in Asia. I know for sure I wanna see Thailand, and have had Burma highly recommended to me. Also, while I know its an expensive destination, I'd like to spend a short time in Japan as I studied Japanese in high school. The possibilites/combinations of places are obviously endless - Cambodia, Laos, India etc etc. What I'd like to know is how much time previous RTWers have spent on the Asian leg of their trip. I'm an active kind of traveller who likes to take part in sporty kinda things - hiking, cycling, kayaking, white water rafting etc - and I love wildlife. Any help is greatly appreciated
I allocated about 2 months and found it enough to get a taster of a lot of places, but if you want to see many of the countries in detail then you'll require 3-4months.
You should aim to spend 2 weeks in Japan. You are correct that it is very expensive, but it is worth spending that extra money to see such a nice country a bit better than you can in like a 4 or 5 day visit. You should definitely aim to get the 14 Day JR pass if you do set aside enough for teo weeks there (has to be purchased prior to going ot Japan). When you phone up to get the price on the pass it sounds very expensive, but it will save you a lot of money if you plan to see more than two cities. If it isn't going to muck your whole itinerary around too much, you should try and aim to be in Japan in late March early April when the cherry blossoms are on. That is such a nice time to be there and is very beautiful.
A bit over a week in Cambodia is enough unless you want to lay on the beach at Sihanoukville for a while where a bungalow about 20 metres from the beach cost as little as $5US a night (early 2006). If you are just wishing to get a taster 3 weeks in India can allow you to see quite a lot if you use your time efficiently, but 4 weeks would allow even more but it is the culture shock of all culture shocks so try to prepare yourself at least a little by going to all the other countries in Asia first.
3 weeks in Vietnam to see from North to South is a short time so you should try to allocate the full 30 days of the visa if you plan on doing the North to South route (or vice versa). When in Vietnam, you should make sure that you get a 3 day Mekong Delta tour from Ho Chi Minh City - Phnom Penh/Cambodia. These tours were dirt cheap and available in any one of the dozens of tourist shops in the city. A good option is getting a cheap Air Asia flight from Bangkok-Hanoi and then working your way down south and then do that tour I've mentioned to head across to Cambodia.
Unless things have recently changed, you are going to need to get a flight in to and out of Myanmar/Burma as last time I heard they had no land border crossings that foreigners were allowed to use and it was a legal requirement which was required to be allowed a visa. Maybe someone who has recently been there might be able to tell you different, but going by what I hear in the news about Myanmar/Burma and the terrible government that runs the country, I doubt this situation is likely to have changed.
I spent 2 weeks in Japan and managed to see Tokyo, Kyoto, Fukouka, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It's an amazing country so I would say 2 weeks would be a minimum. as aharrold said make sure you get a Japan rail pass before you enter Japan, as this will save you loads of money. it seems a lot to spend at the time but i reckon i would have spent double had i not bought the pass. it is an expensive country but you can find cheap noodle bars/sushi to eat in, and sometimes hostels include dinner and breakfast.
In South east Asia I spent 3 months and visited Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar, but time was tight and I could definitely have done with more. In Laos there are opportunities for kayaking and in Thailand there are some excellent trekking options in the north. I haven't been to India so I can't help with that one.
myanmar is fantastic - i believe that tourists should visit, but it's best to read up on the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision, and if you do decide to go its important to minimise the money that goes to the government - lonely planet guidebooks only list privately run enterprises anyway. I spent 10 days there but again could have done with more time.