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tell me about your se asia trips

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Spent a week and a half in Indonesia, one day in Singapore. Recommend Singapore. In Indonesia I was in Jakarta working, had a great guide and saw some great markets but not sure if I'd be all I to returning.

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I've been all over SE Asia between 1974 and 1989. Unfortunately, 1989 is a lifetime in the past compared to what it is now and I probably can't provide any information that is accurate to today's Far East.


Jakarta was fun, Singapore was a blast as is Thailand. Hong Kong back in the 70's was one of my favorite places to visit. When poo started getting serious in the Middle East around 1978-1979, it became more difficult for the Navy to make many port calls in the Far East, opting to bypass to get to the North Arabian Sea quicker.



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god dammit philly get in here and lets bond about the lengths we've gone to avoid responsibility.


motherfuger i just cleared my palate of responsibilities and distractions and sat down to type up five thousand words due in two days and you bait my ass with a southeast asia effort post request

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probably just want to stick to Thailand mostly. No interest in Malaysia, Philippines, etc, unless there's just something there that can't be missed. 


Will definitely be doing ankgor wat, and I'd love to travel north to see ha long bay as well, but don't know if it's worth it. maybe just a trip into HCMC.

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Cool enjoy Ohio or wherever you go

I live in Colorado. If this place had an ocean it would be perfect. My days at work i spend arguing with myself about what I'm going to do. Kayaking, rock climbing, mountaineering, ice climbing, gold mining, or taking up a new local brewery. Just to name a few. Want to see pics of my clothing optional hot springs trip?

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gold mining lol what are you 7?


I think I had a birthday party at Reeds Gold Mine once. 

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Well I go through huge piles leftover from old gold mines that didn't have the capability to find this gold. A bad day I come home with half an ounce best day was 9 ounces. Not to mention the silver and platinum I find.

The guy who taught me took his two week vacation and pulled out 17 lbs. He's a little more serious than I am

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ok i got 5000 words here we go.


SEA is split into two sections, mainland and insular. i've not been to indonesia (that should change this summer if all my plans come to fruition) and my experience in malaysia is limited to a tiny ass section of kuala lumpur, so i can't really give info on the insular part. except the philippines, but when i went there i had just lost all my poo in thailand and was broke for the majority of the trip, so outside of a typhoon-fuged stay in southern luzon i spent the majority of my three weeks in the country wandering the slums of manila. it was pretty eye-opening tho so i don't regret it. but yeah if you're gonna do the philippines fly to manila and then quickly get out and go to palawan or maybe cebu like stirs said (anything in the subuyan or viscayan sea are going to be awesome.)


but you seem interested in mainland so let's stick with that. that basically leaves you with thailand, laos, cambodia, and vietnam (burma too, but that's not worth much more than a visa run for what you're trying to do.) i have spent varying amounts of time in all five, all on the backpacking circuit. i assume you will be flying into bangkok since it's the largest regional hub (air asia or something should be able to get you in and out for under $300 (edit: 374 through air india, 579 through malaysian airlines. just don't disappear into the goddamn ocean or something) so it's reasonable to expect you'll start there. i'm going to run a basic SEA tour covering all four major countries to different degrees with fun or maybe boring highlights from the poo i did and poo i didn't do but want to. you'll get the general idea and you can make logistic plans as you like.


to start with




i think you said you've been to bangkok before right? during the demonstrations? when was this? i was in chiang rai in 2009 during the gigantic red shirts vs. yellow shirts political thing where shinawatra got ousted. i had just escaped the brunt of it in bangkok but one day i heard all this ruckus and beebopped around the corner to see what all the excitement was about and found myself in the middle of this gigantic yellow-shirted rally headed by this guy with a blaring bullhorn surrounded by chanting demonstrators and then they all just fuging stop and turn collectively and stare and me and goddammit if i'm not wearing the brightest solid crimson red shirt in the entire fuging world. so that was fuged.


anyway if you've been to bangkok you don't need to do much there. silom st if you're into a good massage (lol) and lumphini park at the end of the street and the temples and poo like this one, wat arun, probably the most famous one in the country




also if you have time to kill before a flight or something check out the red cross snake farm just north of silom on the other side of whatever hospital is right there (it should be in any guidebook you have.) edit: here


from bangkok your big decision is whether to go north or south. if you head south you've got all the beaches. some of them are quite beautiful. however they are just beaches, and at the end of the day there's nothing really breathtaking besides ko phi phi and some of the awesome ass islands that dot the andaman sea. if you're into it you could catch a bus or a flight (i'm not sure how much money is an issue here) or even a train if it's not monsoon season when you go down to phuket, which is party fuging central, filled with backpacker slums and full moon party and half moon party advertisements, a never-ending clubbing affair with drugs and cheap drinks and all the hedonism you'd hope for. worth a stop, maybe. don't stay though. it's also good if you're headed on to peninsular malaysia. but you're not. so basically the only thing worth doing down that end is the island in the gulf of thailand. koh samui, koh phagnan, and koh tao are three islands of decreasing size in that order that are fun as fug. samui has gotten commercialized but it's still fun. phagnan is like samui was thirty years ago, but even then developers are adding poo every year. tao is tiny and everyone goes there to dive. if you wanna bum it on a southeast asian beach this is as good a place as any for the gulf of thailand side of things. to get there catch a bus from bkk down to surat thani (prob 20 bucks) and then ferry hop from one to another. consider renting motos while you're there, they're the best way to explore the island. six bucks a day, gas is cheap, they'll hold onto your passport. try riding across phagnan on one, the road disintegrates to a dirt track halfway across. they were widening it in 2010 and i skidding my moto across this giant fuging patch of mud and almost broke my goddamn leg and got stuck, but that's what i get for going in monsoon season.


if you decide to skip that, go straight north. don't bother with pattaya unless you want to get laid. don't bother with any of the far-flung eastern poo unless you're really interested in archaeology and medieval thai history and the khmer wars. if you take a bus, stop at ayutthaya first. it's about twenty minutes north of bangkok and is thailand's old capital. it's fuging spectacular. tons of ruins dating from the 14th century that travelers contemporary with it said it made dutch cities look like tinker toys. i don't have pictures because my camera broke and i was reduced to snapping pictures with shitty disposable cameras that turned out to be infested by ants but you can see some here


if you decide to skip that catch a night train to chiang mai. they're 12 hours and thirty bucks and you get to sleep on a comfy ass train bed with huge novelty value (and you save yourself a night's hostel money, which is useful.) don't buy fruit juice from the kid on the train pretending they're complimentary. i'm sure you've encountered this sort of thing in india, i was still naive back then.


chiang mai is the gateway to the north. it's ten degrees cooler than bangkok and a thousand times more charming. you're nestled up against the mountainous highlands. a wall surrounds chiang mai's old city, which is worth a stroll. catch a songatew there from the train station for a few bucks (haggle, tho you won't have much luck early in the morning.) stay in town for a few days, it'll be one of the highlights of your trip. check out spicy thai hostel on the west end of town and ask for noom. he's a cool motherfuger, he'll organize paintball trips and barbecue parties and other poo if you ask, easily my best hostel experience ever. he also runs one in luang prabang, but we'll get to that. chiang mai itself is limited in activity but you can jump off and do plenty of other stuff. the northern highlands are begging to be explored. grab a moto and do. pai is a hippie commune that blipped on the backpacker radar a few years ago but might still be relatively untouched. take a bus (or your bike) up to chiang saen and explore ancient temples and prangs dotting the shoreline of the mekong river. catch a five dollar taxi ride (they'll let you ride on top of the songatew if you ask, which is fun, just don't do it during songkran, fug) up to the golden triangle, where the borders of laos, thailand, and burma meet. there's cool drug museums and cracked-out heroine addicts begging for change, and some giant reclining buddhas. worth a look. up the road a ways is mae sai, bordering with its burmese counterpart, tachilek. if you have fifteen bucks to drop on a visa, walk over the border, get your passport stamped (the burmese authorities will keep it there til you return) and meander the town's markets for a few hours. get a bottle of burmese rum, no one else you know will ever have one. actually go back to the thai side and see if the stall standing next to the 7/11 on the main road into immigration is still selling the humungous buddhist sutra written in burmese. i think it's like 500 bucks. argue them down to 300 and i'll buy it off of you and give you extra for the trouble, i lusted after that thing in 2011 but i didn't have the cash back then




onto laos. drop the "s" as only americans call it that, it's lao to everyone else. we added the s to pluralize the people and it stuck. lao is the best part of southeast asia IMO, mainly because it's so frontier-like and undiscovered. i'll assume you only want to spend a few of your days on this though, so we'll hit the highlights, which really are just the mekong river and luang prabang. lao's biggest draw, far and away, activity-wise, is the slow boat to luang prabang and the flying gibbon experience too, i guess, but you can do the same thing at kersey valley for a tenth of the price, so skip that, you probably won't see a gibbon anyway. take a bus from thailand to chiang khong and cross the mekong on a skiff for a couple bucks and land in huay xai in laos and get your passport stamped (your visa will be thirty bucks, it's hefty.) hike to the main road and grab a cheap room at sabaydee guesthouse or something (if you go there check out the restaurant next door and see if these guys are still hanging out)




get down to the docks first thing in the morning and buy your boat ticket. it should run you 25-30 bucks. you'll get a seat on a longboat. you'll be on it for two long days, so bring books. it'll be filled up with international backpackers though, so you'll have heaps of company. periodically enterprising villagers along the way will row out to the boat with kids selling you overpriced beer lao lagers (which are tasty when there's nothing else to be had.) they're charming, you'll buy from them. oh and if you get bored fug you because the scenery is gorgeous. you're winding through mist-laced hills the plunge from the riverbanks and tower skyward over your boat. it's spectacular, the entire way through. you'll spend the night in a shitty little dive town called pak beng. it's full of heroin addicts. they're fun. you'll be greeted at landing by a dumb poo who calls himself "mister money" and tries to sell you his restaurant and guesthouse package. you have no other choice, there's nothing else in pak beng, so go with it and have fun. beer is cheap enough, and everything on the menu comes with two options: regular and "happy." don't eat the happy pancakes, they'll fug you up. next day you'll ride the mekong all day and get to luang prabang in the evening. ignore all the fliers you get at the dock and walk down the street to the spicy lao, it's noom's lao extension of the thai hostel. four bucks a night last time i was there, and free snake whiskey!




it tastes like poo.


luang prabang


not much to tell you here. like everything in laos it's sleepy and slow. there's a joke that LPDR (Lao People's Democratic Republic) actually means "laos - please don't rush." nobody gives a poo here, just nobody. it's worse than south america. that's the charm though, you'll get sucked in. lots of temples to be seen here, plenty of exploring, including a fuging awesome cave just north of town filled with thousands of abandoned buddhas. the markets are cool. if you buy one of the machetes, exporting it wrapped in clothes won't be a problem because no one at the lao airport gives a poo. just don't import it into singapore… they will descend upon you with a fury you have yet to know. but i don't think you're going there. anyway the french colonized lao back in the day and there's a bunch of cultural holdovers, architecturally as well as in the cuisine, so luang prabang is a pleasant surprise because you'll be browsing the food stalls and its like oh here's some rice… more rice… some veggies… fish ew… rice… MOTHER OF GOD ITS JIMMY JOHNS!!!!!! but it's just stacks of fresh french bread with chicken and mayo and lettuce and onions and mustard that the locals eat along with everything else. can't beat it. buy some paintings in the market, they're cheap in LP.


from there you have two options. if you're short on time go straight to vientiane, the capital. if you have time, catch a bus south to vang vieng. it's a backpackers village, functionally, perched in the laotian highlands, the country's adventuring capital. get drunk and ride inner tubes down the river, everyone does it. 15 cent shots of whiskey at each stop. go mountaineering on the incredible karst topography. i didn't do any of this cause i didn't have time, but i rented a fuging shitty ass moto bike and rode it 150km from vientiane to VV and




a flight to vientiane is 80 bucks, which is almost worth it to skip the hellacious bus ride. if you're there it's just as sleepy as luang prabang, just city-er. tons of nice restaurants though, and exploring by bike like i did is always fun. as usual people are the best part about a place, so go meet people.




we've intentionally worked our way towards siem reap. now you are a quick hop away from angkor. of course you still have the ass end of thailand sitting in your way, so you could either take a two-day national bus ride across laos, or an overnight bus ride across the ass of thailand, or an hour-long hundred-dollar flight from vietniane to siem reap. your choice. either way whenever you land your ass is going to get absolutely molested by tour guides. this is mainly because assloads of rich tourists from japan and china descend upon this place. all the guys offering the cheapest rides into town are also tour guides, so when you jump on the back of a motorbike for a dollar they guy is going to (1) try to take you to a hotel that he gets a commission on and (2) be your personal tour guide to angkor wat once you've checked in. honestly, these guys are awesome - they speak incredible english and they're fun. but if you're an independent travel (i personally fuging despise the whole guided tour thing everywhere i go, i'd rather set off on my own and explore) you'll want to do things your own way. be polite but firm, they'll get the message.


angkor wat is massive. popular wisdom is you need three days to do it justice. that's true. you can pull it off in one, however. the two highlights are the main temple complex itself and the faces of the bayon temple just to the north. make those your two highlights and you'll be content. get there early. busloads of obnoxious japanese tourists will arrive by 10am and systematically ruin every picture you try to take. get there at dawn if possible and get pictures of the sun rising over the east gate, it's mind boggling. entry is 20 bucks, not cheap but worth it. you can walk or catch cheap pedaled cart rides. walk if you're not a pussy or an old lady, it's more fun anyway. but yeah angkor is badass




walk north to bayon. the way there is shady and green and pretty. the temple gate is badass too. inside you'll find a bunch of these faces carved into stone, along with a bunch of incredibly intricate reliefs on the crumbling walls




i've heard you can catch a balloon ride for fifty bucks at dawn at the southewest corner of the temple complex, but that's unconfirmed. awesome way to watch the sunrise i'm sure (though it'd maybe make for less spectacular photographs because of the angle.) oh yeah and leave angkor from the west end instead of coming back the way you came, there's a temple off to the side that's old and green and crawling in rhesus monkeys. they'll hang out with you, just get there before the japanese tourists freak out and yammer about monkeys and line up to get their pictures with them and scare them off. assholes




siem reap


not a lot to see here. eat some food, check out bookstores, get bothered by kids selling gum by reciting all the u.s. presidents. catch the bus to phnom penh, should be a couple bucks and four hours if the road construction from 2011 has stopped.


phnom penh


lots of cool stuff to see here. a marked departure from the last capital you were in it's all glass and steel and the pace of a boom town. cambodia's market is opening up and the city reflects it. you'll want to stay a day or two, mainly because of the khmer rouge remnants that are so fascinating and grim reminders of the nation's recent history. catch a bus down to the killing fields at cheoung ek. it's one of the most sobering experiences you'll ever encounter. that poo was only 35 years ago so when you walk through the park there are still bones leaching up out of the ground. you'll trip on unearthed femurs, catch teeth in the soles of your shoes. the centerpiece of the memorial is a nine-story tower outlined in glass and filled to the brim with victims' skulls. it's surreal. the museum is fantastic as well. pol pot was a douche. i haven't been but the prisons at tuol sleng (s21) are supposed to be fascinating as well.


i don't know about this either but there's a weaponry place in town where you can fire ridiculous weaponry left over by the russians. 25 bucks to fire off a clip in a kalashnakov, a dollar per bullet in a .45, stuff like that. rumors are you can shoot a rocket launcher at a cow chained in the field but idk if that's true. check out the russian market on the south side of town, it's one of the best in the city. find the city's art district in the downtown area and look for some paintings, there are many of them and they are fantastic, and very well priced. if you get hungry for mexican food check out king tacos, my buddies own it, it's down the street from the russian market. any tuk-tuk driver should be able to take you there.




if you've skipped samui and phagnan in thailand and you want a beach, head south to shihanoukville. i've never been but i've heard cambodian beaches are fuging legit. everyone smokes weed on the beach and generally kicks back and has a great time. it's illegal so be careful, but everyone does it, so just don't get stung and you're fine.




that was cambodia's highlights. if you're headed to vietnam the most logical thing to do is go straight to HCMC (just call it saigon as i will from here on out, outside of official publications and your passport everyone will refer to it as such.) oh yeah important note: you have to get a full page visa issued for vietnam BEFORE you go. no visa on arrival. so if you get to phnom penh and spend a few days, go to a tourist agency first thing and pay 65 bucks to have it submitted. you'll get it back in two or three days, tops. then catch a bus to saigon, it's a few hours, or you can actually take a boat there too, which is cool.




bangkok is insane traffic-wise, and somehow saigon manages to be even worse. volume's about the same, driving's about the same, but there's about 200% more motorcycles, so basically no one gives a poo about laws. the only time i have ever been terrified in a foreign country was while riding on the back of a moto taxi to the war remnants museum. then i rented my own motorcycle and explored the countryside down into the mekong delta as far as my tho, which was really nice, and i highly recommend it (just not during monsoon season, again. that fuged me, i got dumped on and lost as fug in saigon with no map, jesus that was such a bad day). in saigon just hang out with vietnamese people, go shopping, see some temples, and for gods sakes GO TO THE WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM. this is actually one of the defining experiences of my life because it absolutely flipped the national self-other dichotomy, which is very hard to do so when you find a device that can it's pretty damn special. seriously intense.


the rest of vietnam


i didn't do much in vietnam, i was almost broke and still had to survive through singapore and kiribati. two years prior to that i'd been in hanoi for a short period of time (but that was en route to the philippines, still broke, so i didn't do anything then either.) you'll have to do your own research on that. but in general i can tell you that buying one-way stop-and-drop train tickets is popular. you start south and head north and you can get off anywhere you like for as long as you like and then just jump back on with your pass as long as you're still headed north. check out da nang and hue and nha trang if you're looking for history and beaches respectively. ha long bay is supposed to be the poo, obviously, i really wanna go.


the northern hills are legit, everyone there says to go to the snake house, which is the restaurant that carves up snakes into seven-course meals for you. guest of honor drinks the heart blood. top rated, good poo. a lot of people who like bikes also do one-way rentals and ride shitty russian bikes from hanoi to saigon for vice-versa.


from here...


you've probably spent three weeks by now and you're ready to go back to india to the shitty people (or maybe they're not shitty and you're just an ethnocentric american douche in their country who knows) but you're in fuging hanoi. i'll have to do my research but i'm guessing the cheapest way is going to be to catch a very cheap flight from hanoi to either singapore or kuala lumpur, malaysia and then catch a flight to hyderabad. maybe you'll have some time to dick around in those places, but doubtful.




that's all tip of the iceberg. get your hands on a copy of lonely planet's southeast asia travel guide, it should be abundant where you are. get an up to date one, it will be your best friend. if you can't find one have someone send one to you, stat. you may be able to download them on kindles too. worst case scenario i can airmail you mine if your friends are shitty and won't help you out. but then you'll owe me an autographed copy of the virgins


any further questions hmu. good luck

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1) learn a little local language, the smallest effort will yield you great results

2) bottled water is your friend

3) when you go to chiang mai order sticky rice with grilled chicken at street vendors, "kao nee-o gai yahng." great poo, seriously

4) don't take pictures of hookers, the thai mafia will get up your ass about it

5) if you run into trouble anywhere in cambodia, seriously, PM me, i have a massive network of friends over there that will drop everything and help out

6) singapore is boring

7) take a few riverboat rides on the chao phraya in bangkok, it's something else

8) buy me that goddamn sutra

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I'm going on July 9. PhillyB has all the knowledge.


wicked! have you settled on an itinerary? if i do end up in indonesia this summer there's a small chance i will be routing through SEA proper to get to borneo, around that time, if our paths somehow cross i will buy you a beer or four. there's nothing quite as awesome as running into someone from back home when you're trekking a foreign land.

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