HELP! Where to go? Borneo / Myanmar / North Thailand&Surin

Travel Forums Asia HELP! Where to go? Borneo / Myanmar / North Thailand&Surin

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1. Posted by Lumaia (Budding Member 5 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

Hello friends,

my boyfriend and me are flying to Phuket 7.2.19 until 10.3.19 and we just can't decide where to go. We would love to visit Malaysian Borneo (Mulu Caves, Kinabalu national Park, maybe Sabah) and Myanmar (Bagan, Hpa'an, maybe the trekking from Hsipaw to inle lake) and north Thailand (Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Huay Mae Khamin waterfall, maybe khao yai national park) and south thailand the surin islands for snorkeling.. But we know that 3 Countries are maybe too much for that time and just can't decide where to go. We are on a really tight budget and always travel as cheap as possible so a comparison of the (low budget travel) prices between those 3 countries would be great! We love nature and animals but also old temples, off-the-path-travel and not-so-crowded places. We had the fear, that in Myanmar there is great nature but as a tourist you are not allowed to enter those zones and we heard many different opinions. Some say "Go there now before it is too late" thers say "its already too late".. So maybe Borneo would be better?
Looking forward to your opinion !
Thanks in advance :)

2. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 2370 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

"..We are on a really tight budget and always travel as cheap as possible so a comparison of the (low budget travel) prices between those 3 countries would be great!"


Well if you stay for less time you have more money for day to day expenses. Assuming you have a set amount of money you are drawing from. You usually can't legally work during this vacation so the money you begin with is what you live on.

Just to be sure - do you mean July 2 through to October 3, 2019? Or, February 7 to March 10, 2019? (You should fill out your profile page. What country are you starting from?)

Sometimes flying long distance using one way flights with major airlines is close to what round trip costs. Do the math. It might make sense to fly round trip to a major city and use discount airlines to other places from there. Do the math!

Each country you visit will have their own visa requirements. Depending on the month you are in a particular country you have the prevailing weather available for that time.

There are some great distances involved where including flights in your budget might be wise.

Find the countries you have an interest in on a map and investigate the distances.

How much per day do you think you can afford for hotels and other spending?

Regular stuff you should work out is how to have access to spending money. Do not rely on a single debit card. (You could lose it or it is stolen.) Have a couple credit cards for emergencies that may come up and for purchasing flights. Some countries you intend to fly to may require a flight out within a set amount of time. (Proof of onward travel.)

  • For Thailand, Bangkok, in my opinion, is worth a visit. There are temples in Bangkok too. And Bangkok like Chiang Mai can be cheaper than some good beach locations too. Phuket for instance is more expensive than Bangkok.

(Big single opening paragraph that is hard to read!)

Come on back.

[ Edit: Edited on 25-Jan-2019, at 05:56 by karazyal ]

3. Posted by Andrew Mack (Travel Guru 1037 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

I get the impression (just the grammar) that the OP is from the UK, so I'd guess 7th Feb to 10th March. I'd also take it that the OP has done a bit of travelling in the area previously, so they understand that they would have to leave and re-enter Thailand unless they've already got a visa for more than 30 days. Although that does beg the question of why they'd go to expensive Phuket on a tight budget.

Although I'd love to visit Burma/Myanmar, it's difficult to plan it because the political situation there is rather unstable. Whilst Aung San Suu Kyi is figuratively the head of the country, the Burman controlled Military is really still the main 'driver' in it's day to day existence, and they seem to be very unstable. So another Rohingya 'issue' could arise at any time. Unless I'm visiting Thailand long term and could pop over to Burma on the spur of the moment, I'd leave it a bit longer in the hope it sorts its self out soon.

So I'd probably go to Borneo (It's very high on my list of next journeys).
Sarawak and Sabah both seem like fascinating places with areas of outstanding natural beauty.

[ Edit: Edited on 25-Jan-2019, at 08:51 by Andrew Mack ]

4. Posted by Lumaia (Budding Member 5 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

Hello :) thanks for the fast answers! We live in Germany and we found some really cheap flights (324€ with return) from Amsterdam to Phuket, that's why our trip starts and ends there. We don't need to pay for Visa in Thailand (until 28 days) and Malaysian Borneo, for Myanmar we'd have to pay 50 Dollars. But on the other side to Myanmar we could take the bus and travel over land, while we would have to take the plane to Borneo. We thought of maybe buying the Air Aesan Pass, because we could spend the 10 Credits for 109 Dollars for flights to Kuala lumpur, on Borneo and from Kuala Lumpur to Myanmar (we would only have to pay the flights from kuala lumpur to borneo, which seem to be very cheap. I heard that it is safe in Myanmar and at the moment there are not so many tourists and the kyat is weak, so maybe it is not as expensive as many think (accomodation is maybe the same as in thailand but everything else is cheaper). I don't know much about prices in Borneo, from my researches i think accomodation is slightly cheaper than thailand but you have to pay national park entrances and fees etc (but they also seem to be very cheap, according to my research).
Would you think in 31 days (7. February until 10. March) this route would be doable:
Phuket - Kuala Lumpur - Sarawak (Mulu)- Sabah (Kinabalu & Orang utan sanctuary)- Kuala Lumpur - Yangon - Bagan - Hpa'an - huey mae khamin - chiang rai - surin - phuket
-> we don't want to stay in phuket or kuala lumpur or yangon and would only use it for the transfer.

Thank you for your help :)

5. Posted by Andrew Mack (Travel Guru 1037 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

Quoting Lumaia

We don't need to pay for Visa in Thailand (until 28 days)

Actually you don't need a visa for 30 days, and if you leave and return then the visa restarts,

As for Burma/Myanmar, yes it's quiet at the moment and you can provisionally plan to visit there, but It would not be wise to make firm plans because it's still an unstable country and problems could arise between you booking/paying for any visit and the actual time of the visit.
But if you are prepared to wait until you are actually in Thailand and to see what the situation is in Burma then, then it could be good.
However there are large areas of the country that you will not be allowed to visit (have you checked the Myanmar Embassy website).

Yes Borneo will need flights... but it's set up much better for nature tourism between the Turtle egg beaches and the Orangutan sanctuaries etc etc...

If I had to make a firm decision right now between Burma or Borneo, I'd pick Borneo because although there is a chance of problems for both places, it's a much higher chance of problems for Burma. If you can wait then you can review the situation at the time.

Obviously you'll be exhausted when you get to Phuket, so you will stay there at least 1 night.
The taxis are very expensive (by Thailand standards) like a mafia/cartel, so this is a useful alternative from the airport ;

I don't know much about Surin, but I would expect it to be similar to many other places in provincial Thailand.

It's difficult to follow the timeline of your plan, but don't try to squeeze too much into your time.
The heat in Thailand in February and March is stiflingly hot which is completely exhausting.
Also the north suffers from the burning season when farms in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand burn the harvested field stubble (and sometimes jungle to enlarge their farm land) which can cause breathing and eye problems across norther Thailand.

6. Posted by UliS (Travel Guru 133 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

It will be hard work to do all this in 31 days.
Avoid the weekend for Ko Surin, to many local people on limited accommodation. The Huey Mae Know waterfall might not have much water as it is dry season and this year very little rain.
Booking plane tickets might be a problem as Chinese New Year is 4./5. February (this affects ticket prices for more then 14 day's, haven't used the AirAsia pass but it will also be difficult to get the date you want).

7. Posted by Borisborough (Moderator 1416 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

As well as Mulu, Bako NP near Kuching is worth a visit for virtually guaranteed sightings of Langar's (silver leaf) monkeys and proboscis monkeys.

As for Myanmar, we did the three day, two night trek from Kalaw to Lake Inle about six years ago and we were disappointed with the lack of wildlife. The countryside there is all arable land so it's not quite as exciting as it might seem.

8. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1255 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

You'd be rushing it trying to visit three countries in about a month. Suggest you concentrate on two. If you're on a tight budget you probably will be traveling more like locals. That means using low-cost surface transportation that likely will take more time. Often the cheapest accommodations aren't bookable in advance. You just have to look after you arrive; and that, too, will take time.

Thailand and Myanmar will be more accommodating than Malaysia on a tight budget. If you decide on Thailand and Myanmar, suggest looking at AirAsia to fly from DMK to MDL; and from RGN to HKT.

If you decide on Borneo, know that you'll have multiple flights, unless you have more time using surface transportation. There are no roads to Gunung Mulu National Park. You'll either have to fly (MYY-MZV) or take a boat. I once flew from KUL to KCH and made my way to BKI after visiting Mulu.

It would be a shame not to visit some of the big cities on your itinerary. Yangon, for example, is fascinating (I've been there multiple times).

I often see others advising travelers not to visit places because of the potential for trouble. Do your own research and assess your tolerance for risk. The U.S. State Department currently lists Myanmar as Level 2 (Exercise Increased Caution). That's the same rating for countries in Europe such as Spain, France and Germany. Thailand and Malaysia are rated Level 1 (Exercise Normal Precautions). Check out your own country's travel advisories for the destinations you plan to visit.