hi all....i am flying to thialand(bangkok) on the 17th of june i intend to then head up to chaing mai then over the boarder into laos,i also want to visit vietnam and cambodia,then down to puket,krabi,samui and ko tao and anywhere else round there anyone can recommend,i am then heading down through malaysia to singapore,flying out from there on sept 17th.so in all i will have 3 months....is this a realistic time scale ? Anyone know any "must see" place you can recommend and generally any advice would be great.I want to see some culture but i am generally going to meet new people and have fun.i am looking to do my "paddy" can anyone recommend the best place for this ? how long should i stay in each country for ?...wow so many questions lol,thanx for your time sarah xxx
OK, wow, 3 months to bum around and enjoy, where do I sign up?
Yeah, 3 months you can do easy, just takes a bit of planning and I understand that is difficult to do if you have not been there. In my opinion, one of the biggest things you will have t deal with is the MONSOON season. You are there for most or all of the peak. It can be really cool but it can also hinder travel as well as plans to see things leaving you stuck inside. Take a good book.
For your travel. If you are going by bus there are chances that you could be delayed due to roads flooded, washed out break downs due to the amount of water getting into the engine,etc...delays such as this may not be for more than a day but when you are planning it can be frustrating. Any travel over water, seas and rivers can be too rough for transpo. In Thailand, you really shouldn't have that much trouble and it's not like it rains constantly. It's just that when it does rain in the peak season, rain doesn't even describe it, it's why they call it MONSOON! It's thunderous. Cambodias and Laos could be different especially if you are traveling in the country where the infastructre is not as good. Have back up plans. Are you traveling by air? OK, enough about the rain, don't mean to discourage you but you should just be aware that these things could happen, but you have plenty of time.
While you are in Bangkok I would make sure that you visit the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kao. Chinatown can be fun for good food and to walk the side streets. Wat Pho is another place not too far from the Grand Palace to see and get a good massage as well as see the reclining buddha.
Ayutthaya is an old capital of Thailand a couple of hours outside of Bangkok where you can see some neat architecture. I would suggest some of the Thail National Parks in Thailand that I have been to. They are really great, but again it'll be muddy this time of year, rivers and waterfalls high and/or flooded. However, it is a great time of the year to also see wildlife that most do not see in the dry season. If you can stay dry with good rain gear and footgear, it may be a good adventure!
As far as other travel around Thailand, I'm not really sure what you are interested in other tha getting Padi Quald. I am sure that you will find someone but it wont be too busy. Diving again this time of year if they can get you out will usually have poor visibilty. Some operators shut down altogether this time of the year.
How long should you stay in each? I think that depends on what you really want to do and see in each one and how much time it'll take ya to do it. There are lots of good web sites out there to give you plenty of ideas but if you have any specific question write back and I'll do my best.
Good luck and have Fun!
My Phen Rai Krup!
David has generally summarized the answers to your questions though. Nevertheless, this general weather report may indicate on which islands you should hope in.
1) Mid-May to September - rainy, warm and cloudy southwest monsoon.
2) November to Mid-March - dry, cool northeast monsoon
Since you have 3 months, planning to go to Laos (Luang Prabang) from Chiangmai, you will have to take a 4 hrs bus ride (aircond or non) to Chiangrai, because it shares a common border with Laos and Myanmar. While you are passing through, do a Responsible travel where most travelers have not done - learn in depth of the Thai culture. [promo removed]
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After you have crossed the border at Chiang Khong in Northern thailand I would recommend doing the 2 day slowboat down to Luang Prabang. This can all be oragnised before you leave thailand and the packages normally include visa, one night's guest house accommodation in Chiang Khong (the border town), breakfast and a packed lunch on the first day on the boat. after 7 -8 hours on the boat you will stop at a tiny little place called Huay xai overnight and carry on the rest of the journey to Luang Prabang the next day. You can buy snacks on the boat, as at several points children came on to the boat selling crisps, beers etc. it's a fun and interesting way to get to Luang Prabang. allow a few days for Luang Prabang, and get the bus from there to Vang Vieng as the drive is stunning.
not sure of your exact route but the bus journey between hanoi and vientiane is supposed to be a nightmare - we flew with vietnam airways for around US$120.
in vietnam i would recommend:
hanoi - great city. hire a cyclo to get around - always agree a price before hand , we got into an argument with some guy who tried to rip us off - common in vietnam. there are loads of hotels all around the same standard for $10 in hanoi and they can arrange tours etc . there are also 'sinh cafes' everywhere which will arrange tours. we stayed in the old quarter which is the most interesting part of town. the motorbikes are crazy - you just have to step out and they will go around you.
halong bay - lovely, do a 2 night/3 day tour if you can
Hue - ancient city and former capital
get the sleeper train between hue and hanoi as there is not much to see on this stretch
Hoi an - get your clothes tailored here and its a cute little town. we hired bikes here which was nice.
nha trang - good for snorkelling and boat trips
ho chi minh - not as nice as hanoi, and not as much to do, but don't miss the cu chi tunnels which were built by the Vietcong in the war - day trip from HCMC. we stayed in the backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao on 'mini hotel alley'. our place was called Titi's and had the tiniest rooms for $8.
dalat and sapa are supposed to be good too but we didn't have time.
the standard of accommodation is also the best you will find in SEA- nice ensuite rooms for $10 with mini bar and satellite
- arab street
- raffles hotel
-orchard road for shopping
- night safari (and possibly zoo)
-botanic gardens if you like this sort of thing - good way to get out of the heat and bustle of the city.
-boat quay/clarke quay.
I think the best place to do your padi would be Ko Tao in Thailand. 3 months will be tight - if you are going to do thailand, laos, vietnam, cambodia and singapore you will probably not have much time for Malaysia at the end.
My comment is on the Vietnamese hotel/hostel prices quoted by Bex - I found them slightly higher in March. I'd paid $16. (Kangaroo Hotel) would be more like the current standard in Hanoi. I did pay $13. (Anh Dao Hotel) in Sapa. I paid as little as $9. in Can Tho - don't recall the hotel's name, sorry. No doubt about it, the Anh Dao was the best bargain/nice hotel too. If you find yourself with mucho cash, I'd suggest the following:
Saigon - the Bich Duyen - my comment "probably the best run guesthouse in Indochina). I paid $25."
Hanoi - the Gia Thinh - my comment "just plain awesome, but then again I paid $35."