I have 2 weeks off work for Christmas/New Years Eve and I'm planning to backpack/budget travel in S. E. Asia. I am considering either Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam. Since I only have a short two weeks, I plan to cover not more than 2 countries in order to really experience the culture and people of the country(s) I visit.
Not really considering Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia because I want to try someplace I haven't been to.
Please help provide some recommendations! I will be traveling alone and hopefully cheap. If you guys can point to places where I can meet new people (other budget travelers) and have a lot of fun that would be much appreciated. This will be my first time traveling completely alone, so places and activities suited for a novice female solo traveler is best.
I'm living in Malaysia, so getting there won't be too much of a problem.
Many thanks in advance!
With 14 days to spend on your holiday, I have 3 suggestions.
1. Fly Air Asia: KUL-HAN. The HaNoi area has 2 weeks worth of sightseeing by itself. Be sure to use Hanoikids for your city tour. Free and you get to meet young adults that are proud to show you their city. If interested in hill tribes, a trip up to SaPa might be worth some of your days. As will a few days over on HaLong Bay. There are also short day trips out of HaNoi that might interest you. Craft villages, Perfume Pagoda, other options as well. Do Not book anything until you are in HaNoi. You can get 3 different quotes in less than an hour once in HAN. I suggest you stay in the Old Quarter as it is the hub for the backpack set. Plenty of hotels, hostels, GHs & restaurants, travel shops, etc. You do have the option of heading down to Hue, Hoi An via overnight bus or sleeper train. This option will save you a night's accommodation costs and you arrive early am, perfect time to find a room. Hue is worth 2 days IMO, 2-3 for Hoi An. Then overnight bus/train back to HAN, fly home. You will have to decide if you want to spend 5-6 of your days outside of the HaNoi area.
2. Fly KUL-SGN. HCMC area is worth 4-5 days IMO, tunnels, delta tour. Overnight bus to Nha Trang. Some beach time, sightseeing, overnight bus or train up to Hoi An. 2-3 days there, overnight bus back to NT. Now you can choose between more beach at Mui Ne or head up to cool, green DaLat. 3-4 days there, bus back to SGN, home. My blog covers my last time in DaLat, Mui Ne, NT. My photo gallery has heaps of VN, Cambodia photos that may help with your decision.
3. Fly KUL-REP. 4 days touring Angkor Wat, bus down to Phnom Penh, 3 days sightseeing, some beach time at Sihanoukville. Fly home from PP.
I will let the fans of Laos offer their opinions of 2 weeks there. Good luck with your planning.
[ Edit: Edited on 03-Oct-2012, at 10:11 by vegasmike6 ]
The trouble is that it's Christmas - meaning, I doubt that you'll get "budget" airfare. As much as I love Vietnam, for a first timer, 2 weeks doesn't really cut it at all (just too big and complex to consider in my opinion). I would go to Cambodia and Laos - far easier to travel in than Vietnam, and small enough for about a week each. Come back for Vietnam when you have at least 3.5 weeks (N. Vietnam will also be fairly cool/cold at Xmas time).
Cambodia and especially Laos are far more laid back than Vietnam (where you really have to be on your toes every minute to avoid the many scams). Luang Prabang is one of my favorite places in Asia and an extremely relaxing place to vacation.