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I'm escaping to Asia!

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1. Posted by FatDog (Budding Member, 6 posts) 4 Jun '11 12:12

Hello hello,

I'll try to be as concise as possible so as not to waste your time - I really hope someone can help me! I'm 21, male, from England, and recently I've been thinking about leaving my job and going travelling for somewhere between 6 and 12 months. The main reason I'm thinking about this is because I'm tired; parts of my life have become monotonous and I feel I should be doing more with my life than I am currently, and I think it must be just incredible to be out in an unfamiliar place for a long period of time, waking up each day not knowing what's going to happen! (Although I realize I probably don't need to travel thousands of miles for this). Apart from going to Spain numerous times on family holidays, the only other time I've been abroad was when I went to Japan in May last year for 2 weeks - most of which was part of a Gap Adventures tour - so I am not sure if I have enough experience to do something like this... but anyway, the places I'm thinking about travelling to/through are as follows:

India
Myanmar
China
Laos
Vietnam
Cambodia
Thailand
Malaysia
Singapore
Indonesia
Australia
New Zealand

The thing is... I'm not particularly interested in seeing or doing certain things in these countries; I want to walk, see beautiful places, expose myself to different cultures and most of all meet new people (hopefully the locals can speak a bit of English? Though I will make the effort to learn a bit of each language like I did in Japan). The main things I wish to find out are:

How much time to spend in each of those countries?
What month/time of year is best to visit those countries?
What places are best for the things I want to do out there? (as mentioned above)
How much roughly would it all cost? (I want to rough it - for a better experience - but preferably not put myself in too much danger!)

Oh, and in case it isn't clear, I would like to go solo as I hear it makes for a better experience!

I realize there's a ton of information on the internet, and I have a few Lonely Planet guides myself (like the Yellow Bible), but I thought that maybe some of the experts here could lend me their advice.

Many thanks! :)

2. Posted by Marusk (First Time Poster, 1 posts) 4 Jun '11 13:55

What a brilliant decision - it will be the experience of your lifetime - but be careful and humble out there! Maybe you can use some of my advice regarding the destinations...

I have been to several of these places solo and from reading what you are seeking I can recommend Western China towards Tibet, Northern India as far as Ladakh and New Zealand. New Zealand has fantastic preserved nature but there will be no challenges culture wise and it will seem more lonely than the other places - strange but true.

Travelling to NZ will be at least 3 times as expensive as China and India - so keep that in mind. Eastern China is cheap, but travelling there is challenging cause its not a route that a lot of people take and they don't really speak English - at least 1 month is required - I would do 2 months if possible not to rush yourself. In Northern India its amazing and you will have companionship of other backpackers without it being crowded - minimum 1½ month for this. The landscapes and people are amazing and India is breathtaking once you get used to the harsh living conditions. These locations are the cheapest without comparison and the most challenging.

Another popular route is Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand which is easily accessible from southern China and can be travelled by land or cheap air flights. This is a route all the novice or less experienced young backpackers take and it is still cheap compared to Europe but more expensive in the long run so if you are on a budget - this is the route I woul rush through and forget about NZ.

Good luck and remember you don't make the travels - the travels make you ;)

3. Posted by FatDog (Budding Member, 6 posts) 4 Jun '11 14:20

Thank you so much for your reply Marusk! It helps. ;)

As for my budget, I got a pleasant surprise when I looked at my savings the other day because I almost have £7000 put away. But I'm guessing that's still not quite enough if I want to go away for more than half a year! Also, I need to see if I can manage this while paying a mortgage...

One thing I forgot to mention is that I would prefer not to work at all while I'm out there, but I would like to do some volunteering.

4. Posted by LLQ (Budding Member, 35 posts) 8 Jun '11 00:30

hello!

I'm from Malaysia, I'd say you can easily survive with £7000 in Southeast Asia countries. But not sure how much you would need to budget aside for your mortgage.

Marusk is right, traveling in NZ & Aussie is costly. It's like 3 times more expensive than to spend in a SEA country.

I wish I have enough savings to go on a RTW trip:( anyhow, i do try to travel every 6 months.

Best of luck

5. Posted by madpoet (Respected Member, 409 posts) 12 Jun '11 22:14

If you come to China, you should plan to spend at least a month. 2 or 3 would be better. It's a big country- about the same area as the U.S., so just getting around takes time. If you like nature, the western half of China would probably interest you more; but for culture, history, and both old and modern China, I'd suggest going to eastern China.

The best time to visit China is the spring or fall. In the summer, most of China (even the north) is like an oven. In the winter, northern China and Tibet are very cold. Even in the south, it can get chilly, and many cheap hotels in the south don't have very good heating (or any heating). Spring and fall are also the best seasons for visiting Korea and Japan.

In Southeast Asia avoid the rainy, monsoon seasons, which vary from country to country.

6. Posted by Nan Da (Inactive, 7 posts) 13 Jun '11 21:45

Welcome to Myanmar (Burma). You will have wonderful time if would visit to Myanmar.

7. Posted by FatDog (Budding Member, 6 posts) 14 Jun '11 05:45

Thanks very much for your replies LLQ, madpoet and Nan Da. ;)

Firstly, I am so sorry for the long post - this is all I have been able to think about lately! I've been thinking about it at work, at home and in bed! I just cannot get the idea of an adventure out of my head!

I have sort of decided on late August 2012 as my "starting out" point, mainly because I have tickets for the London 2012 Olympics (Table Tennis - and I am an avid Table Tennis player) and there is no way I am missing that. If it wasn't for the Olympics I would probably leave early 2012... but waiting until August also gives me time to save more money. August 2012 seems like a long way off at the moment - is it too early to start planning? I'm guessing it's too early to book my flights!

I have looked into the money side of things (with a sheet of paper and pen) and have worked out that I will have £11000 saved by July 2012, and that takes into account my payments for the mortgage and the fact I will not be earning anything while travelling, so the £11000 will be solely for my travels: flights, visas, insurance, vaccines, daily expenses and an emergency back-up fund. Am I missing anything? I already have a rucksack, walking shoes, first aid kit etc. I have read that approximate daily expenses (accommodation, food/drink and occasional travel/tours) if you rough it are about £5-20 for India/China/Southeast Asia and £15-30 for Australia/New Zealand, and I always think it's better to overestimate if you can so if I say £30 per day then that's £9000 for 10 months so I should be able to handle that by next August!

After looking at my finances I realized how tight it would be if I was to actually restrict myself to 6-12 months travelling while paying a mortgage, so I have started to think about it a bit differently now. Now I am thinking that I will just book a one-way ticket for August 2012 and then just go with the flow wherever the wind takes me; if I get fed up or find I'm not handling travelling very well after a couple of months then I will just come home, or if I find that I'm loving it then I will just keep going and going until my money runs out. Does that sound like a good plan?

Ok, I'm adding the Philippines and Nepal to the list of countries I MIGHT go to so now it's:

India
Nepal
Myanmar
China
Laos
Vietnam
Cambodia
Thailand
Malaysia
Singapore
Philippines
Indonesia
Australia
New Zealand

As a first-time, solo traveller are there any places that are best avoided?

Any places best to start in so that I don't get put off right at the beginning?

What countries/places in particular will I find it easiest to meet like-minded people?

What countries have the biggest language barriers (I only speak English) and are most rewarding if you can interact with locals? Because I will put more effort into learning some of the language for those countries.

Do you think it's better to just pick a few of the above countries and stay/live in each one for 2-3 months, rather than trying visit every country? I don't want to make the mistake of rushing everything just so I can say "I've been there", I would much rather come away with a cultural experience having learned something.

I am more of a grassy woodlands person than a sandy beach person. More into beautiful landscapes/sights than architecture/temples/historical buildings. More into walking/wandering than extreme activities. I am not usually very outgoing/adventurous but am determined to be open-minded and try new things when I'm out there so it isn't all a waste of time/money. With all that info, if anyone can recommend some places for me to visit that would be fantastic!

Once again, so sorry for the long post, but if you have read this far and have some advice to give me for any of my questions above then you are just awesome.

P.S. Another thought I had... maybe taking the Trans-Mongolian Railway instead of flying, but I'm not sure if that is really the thing for me.

8. Posted by dev.d (Budding Member, 3 posts) 14 Jun '11 11:53

Hi FatDog,

Just read your post. I think you might enjoy India. Might suggest the lower Himalayan regions ( Himachal pradesh, Uttarakhand ) people are simple and friendly. The views are a bit like the Scottish highlands , only there are a lot higher. But what makes it unique are the people . If you want to really enjoy the trip though, might i suggest riding it out on a Royal Enfield motorcycle. Its perhaps pushing it given the conditions of the Indian roads but hey :) . Central India also has some forested stretches . Take cognizance of the local security situation before going there though. Most people in India understand bits and bobs of the English language. As a foreign person , they will try and help you out, try and find you someone who understands you better. India is a land of over 3,000 languages. There are over 22 scheduled official languages, so English serves as the de-facto 'link' language.

The experience is actually much better in Indian villages - people aren't as materialistic . Finding English speakers is a bit difficult there tho. If you have a camera , ask permission and take pictures. If fact taking pictures is a fantastic way to break the ice! But easy on the girls tho ;). Sometimes - if you are adventurous enough you might end up in places where there aren't any hotels/ hostels. If you get invited to stay at someone's place as a guest - it is customary to take some token gift along. some fruits or some local sweets would suffice . Unless asked for do not try and give money directly, its a bit offensive in such situations. Not trying to contrive hypothetical situations - these are drawn from personal experiences. If you are fair skinned ( pardon the expression) be ready to be stared at - in time you'll learn its not hostile , people are just inquisitive. You'll get used to it and if you're clever use it to you advantage.

Currently i have a couple of European friends who are living and traveling around in India for months independently. Its possible to actually travel very cheap in India using buses and trains . I'd recommend it even, better way to see the country if you can stand it. For example the distance between New Delhi and Jaipur ( look it put if u must) , just shy of 300 kms may be covered in as little as £2 for a basic bus or £5 if you fancy an A/C Volvo bus. A regular backpackers hostel room in New Delhi might cost u about £7 a night or there abouts . Food is cheap - u'll get the stomach upset once or twice (welcome to India! ) and you'll get used to it . If you're a foodie - India is a great place to be. Indian food is very different in India than in Britain - and its not ALL spicy. Try Goan or Malayali food, it is divine. Clothes are cheap here - but about the price you'll find in Primark. Most of that is made here anyway !

Anyways , i hope some of this information proves useful to you. Hope you come to India and enjoy your stay here.

-Dev

[ Edit: Edited on 14-Jun-2011, at 12:00 by dev.d ]

9. Posted by CaptainRon (Budding Member, 11 posts) 14 Jun '11 11:53

I am from India and most educated Indians speak at least some English so you shall mostly be good here. Some exposure to the Indian accent would be a plus

A word about India, its a very diverse country. As a traveler you obviously are exposed only to certain sections of it. India is a country of the poorest, as well as of some of the richest. You will find slums as well as the worlds costliest residence (Antila) right next to each other.

I gather you like the mountains and the wilderness. The entire northern Himalayan India is for you. Dont miss the wild life sanctuaries and tiger safaris. Kerala is also a don't-miss.

Cheers
Ron

10. Posted by LLQ (Budding Member, 35 posts) 14 Jun '11 19:31

Quoting dev.d

Hi FatDog,

Just read your post. I think you might enjoy India. Might suggest the lower Himalayan regions ( Himachal pradesh, Uttarakhand ) people are simple and friendly. The views are a bit like the Scottish highlands , only there are a lot higher. But what makes it unique are the people . If you want to really enjoy the trip though, might i suggest riding it out on a Royal Enfield motorcycle. Its perhaps pushing it given the conditions of the Indian roads but hey :) . Central India also has some forested stretches . Take cognizance of the local security situation before going there though. Most people in India understand bits and bobs of the English language. As a foreign person , they will try and help you out, try and find you someone who understands you better. India is a land of over 3,000 languages. There are over 22 scheduled official languages, so English serves as the de-facto 'link' language.

The experience is actually much better in Indian villages - people aren't as materialistic . Finding English speakers is a bit difficult there tho. If you have a camera , ask permission and take pictures. If fact taking pictures is a fantastic way to break the ice! But easy on the girls tho ;). Sometimes - if you are adventurous enough you might end up in places where there aren't any hotels/ hostels. If you get invited to stay at someone's place as a guest - it is customary to take some token gift along. some fruits or some local sweets would suffice . Unless asked for do not try and give money directly, its a bit offensive in such situations. Not trying to contrive hypothetical situations - these are drawn from personal experiences. If you are fair skinned ( pardon the expression) be ready to be stared at - in time you'll learn its not hostile , people are just inquisitive. You'll get used to it and if you're clever use it to you advantage.

Currently i have a couple of European friends who are living and traveling around in India for months independently. Its possible to actually travel very cheap in India using buses and trains . I'd recommend it even, better way to see the country if you can stand it. For example the distance between New Delhi and Jaipur ( look it put if u must) , just shy of 300 kms may be covered in as little as £2 for a basic bus or £5 if you fancy an A/C Volvo bus. A regular backpackers hostel room in New Delhi might cost u about £7 a night or there abouts . Food is cheap - u'll get the stomach upset once or twice (welcome to India! ) and you'll get used to it . If you're a foodie - India is a great place to be. Indian food is very different in India than in Britain - and its not ALL spicy. Try Goan or Malayali food, it is divine. Clothes are cheap here - but about the price you'll find in Primark. Most of that is made here anyway !

Anyways , i hope some of this information proves useful to you. Hope you come to India and enjoy your stay here.

-Dev

Hey Dev,

very very insightful post! ;)

I would want to visit Nepal one day