Greetings fellow travellers!
Questions first, background second:
- Where do you reccomend as a secondary destination from Hong Kong for appx 4-5 days in the last week of October/first week of November?
- Do you reccomend using tours such as Intrepid/GAP/Imaginitive Traveller or planning a trip on your own?
- What are the best websites for information about travel in China and Southeast Asia?
My mom, an airline employee, was fortunate enough to come by some free stand-by tickets on Cathay Pacific. We are last-minute planning a trip to Asia, originating in Hong Kong. I've been backpacking in Europe before, and Mama has been to Asia, but not since she was a flight attendant in the late 60s (groovy!). Being inexperienced in Asia travels and having comparatively little time to plan, I was wondering for some general advice on how we can get the most out of our 2 weeks there.
We are planning on going the last week in October and the first week in November. We plan to stay with a friend in Hong Kong for a few nights, but then want to branch out from there. Mama was considering some sort of South Pacific beach destination (she's had a tough year -- cancer -- and deserves a bit of exotic R&R). Thailand, it seems, is out due to the political situation. We were considering various locations in Malaysia, including Langkawi.
I guess, to begin, I'm looking for some general advice on where would be a good secondary destination for us at that time of the year. I understand that it is not the high season (possibly rainy season?) and that some SP destinations may not be advisable. I was also looking into some tours (Intrepid, GAP, Imaginitve Traveller) to make travelling to multiple desintations easier for us newbies. Would you reccomend using one of these carriers or planning independently? Good/bad experience with these groups in Asia?
I would also be interested in some advice/good sites for travel in mainland China.
We are two adventurous, yet budget-conscious, gals (20-something and 60-something) who are looking for a fun experience without too much roughing it. We don't need 5 star hotels and pampering, but I can't imagine Mama sleeping in a tent either. We're interested in cultrual sites, FOOD and nature -- not so much shopping and nightlife. Any and all advice welcome! Thank you so much (in advance)!
I really think you'd enjoy Northern Vietnam, and with such a short time period of 5 days, I suggest the Hanoi area. No need for any organized tour - Vietnam's tourist industry is well developed and doing it yourself is super easy. I like the website - travelfish.org for general and specific info about this region. I was there myself at the same time in 2009, and can tell you that the weather was quite good (this year I'll be there at the end of Nov). Hanoi has often been called the Paris of SE Asia - probably because of the French influence and the great food. I go there (4th time coming up) because of the people - just plain super. You should contact Hanoikids - the student group that give free city tours - at least 30 days in advance. I pay between $25. and $35. for a really nice small hotel/guesthouse room in Hanoi. I've booked the Emerald Hotel this time @ $34./deluxe.
If you choose Vietnam, a visa is necessary, and can be obtained online quite easily by using the VOA Approval Letter.
[ Edit: Edited on 09-Sep-2010, at 10:50 by Daawgon ]
With only 4-5 days to work with, you need something close by or a direct flight. I agree with Johnny on HaNoi area. Thats is if you can get a decent airfare. I took a quick look and could not find an acceptable airfare. Air Asia flies to Phuket and Penang. Both of these options gets you to a beach fairly quickly. You will have to decide if it is worth the time/money to get to either location. SIN is another option if you fly JetStar. Singapore has plenty to see/do for 3-4 days. The Marina Bay Sands just opened and is a 'must see' if you choose SIN. There is a beach option over on Sentosa.
You might look at Macau. Not very far from HK, but great spot to shop, eat, gamble. Good luck with your planning.
Hey Daawgon and vegasmike6,
Thanks so much for your helpful suggestions! We're currently looking in to a stop off in Hanoi for 4-5 days. It seems like a perfect fit for us. As for the flight situation, we may be able to get some stand-by tickets at a fraction of the cost -- working for an airline has its benefits!
I've already perused travelfish and it's great! I've been doing research on a Halong bay cruise -- have either of you ever done this? It seems like Ocean Tours has a reliable reputation and provides what we would want for a 2 night trip at a reasonable price: http://oceantours.com.vn/Tours/TourDetail.aspx?TourId=109&CategoryId=12 If you have done a Halong bay cruise was it worth it? Any advice on carriers?
Mama and I have a lot of planning to do this week. Many thanks, again, for your helpful advice.
I looked at your profile but could find another name, so 'meeep' it is. My photo gallery has HaLong Bay shots. It is worth 1-2 days IMO. Let the weather be your guide. If it is raining, 1 day is enough. Great weather, go for 2 days. I would NOT book anything until I was in HAN. The prices on the Internet are much higher than when you are standing at the tour counter. Your hotel will have a tour desk and every street in the Old Quarter seems to have a travel shop. Get at least 3 quotes for your planned 1-2 HaLong Bay tour before deciding. Your hotel will probably be the highest price if they think you do not know what the 'real' price is. I would get my 3 quotes at travel shops BEFORE even telling my hotel I planned on a bay tour. One couple on our tour paid double what I paid for the same boat. I checked around, they paid at their hotel tour desk.
I would also consider a day outside of HaNoi. perhaps the handi-craft villages. Silk, ceramics, snakes!. Same tour desk that offers bay tours will have a handicraft tour. I went to the Perfume Pagoda with my VN GF. Nice day out of HAN. Small boats getting there is the best part, very scenic. Take the cable car up and back. Pagoda is special for VN people, not for us. Nice day out however.
I suggest you stay in the Old Quarter. Many things to do/see within walking distance. Send me a PM if you have questions or help with where to stay, transport, etc.
[ Edit: Edited on 13-Sep-2010, at 10:17 by vegasmike6 ]