The system in Asia is not like that in USA/CA where most service industry workers are paid a very basic wage and have to depend on tips to survive. Wherever they work in Asia, they are normally paid the expected wages for their position and are not expected to make it up from tips.
FYI tipping is not 'normal' in e.g. MY and is actually frowned upon in JP (according to this JP gentleman I renquired from upon arriving at NRT last year). It's been a long time since I've been to BKK (26 years to be precise! LOL!) and, I think, 6 years since I've travelled to Phuket, where I had my last Thai massages on the beach in front of the Club Med for MYR20 (~200 Baht!).
And in MY 100 Baht (~MYR10) will buy you a decent meal e.g. I had a vegetarian Tali set at an Indian restaurant in my neighbourhood for MYR8.90 last night (no tipping required!) and have acupressure point massages at a Chinese Massage place in my area for MYR63 (no tipping required either!) but costs are still much less in Thailand, I suspect? Correct me if I'm wrong @cgf!
So, imho there is no need to compare what is normal practice in e.g. CA/USA or the price of a meal there compared to this part of the world where I can have a decent lunch (mixed rice on the plate) for CAD1.50 (with meat and vege!) or a decent dinner for CAD3.00! ;-)
Favorite thing: These are airport lounges available to the public for a fee! You can use them to shower and rest during the time you have free during transit at several airports. Towels and refreshments are provided.
Imho if you want to tour 'some parts of Asia' and not have a comprehensive tour in mind, it is perfectly doable (at least the 'Asian' way! LOL!).
Whilst I wonder why anyone wants to go to SG (a city is a city is a city imho!) or do ghastly Genting (unless you are Asian - my MY tour guide friend says it is popular with Asians, not Europeans) since SIN is a major hub for international airline carriers, it is perfectly understandable why someone wants to fly into SIN and go through MY and fly out of BKK after doing the Indo China bit..
And there's more to MY than the Twin Towers (and God forbid, ghastly Genting!), there are two UNESCO World Heritage Cities in MY: Melaka (a fifteenth century port of call with a Malay/Baba-Nyonya/Portuegese heritage and one of the few places in the world Kristang is still spoken) and Penang: Sir Francis Light's Pearl of the Orient, with its multicultural heritage and some of the best hawker food in MY!
And Malaysia is truly a microcosm of Asia - there is more to the jingle used recently by Tourism Malaysia than the tune: I made this claim 33 years ago! They were just wee to slow to catch on it! You will find all the cultures and religions of Asia is Malaysia. And all the mosques and temples (Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist,Siames) and churches in one country! And the glorius foods! ;-)
And there are dozens of beautiful islands but given the time of year, Langkawi would be the best bet, or Pangkor Laut for a bit of luxury! And then there is the Taman Negara and, if you are pressed for time, FRIM on the outskirts of KL, for a rainforest experience!
You can even take the Eastern Orient Express from SG to Bangkok and stop enroute in several locations in MY and Thailand!
From BKK fly AirAsia to Siem Reap (for Angkor) and Hanoi etc. Make it your hub for Indo China and fly back from BKK to wherever you are coming from.. That's my suggestion! ;-)
Favorite thing: Ok I can answer this question. If you like your wine and we DO!! what we did is wrap 2 bottles each in the bubble wrap and packed it in our hand luggage. There is plenty of beer and spirits available but we found wine not so much...the only place where we were able to get a reasonable glass of wine was in the Sedona hotel in Mandalay. Perhaps the same applies to the Sedona in Yangon which we did not stay in. Maybe Sandra can answer this one. Would strongly recommend you also go to the Strand on a Friday night..see my tips. Hopefully, they still have Happy Hour on a Friday night.
Remember that the week before your proposed visit to Siem Reap, is the tail end of the Chinese New Year Holidays and there MAY be difficulties with flights but it is the tail end.
If you wish to travel to Vietnam before going on to Cambodia, you can fly into HoChiMinh city on United. then spend the week traveling in Vietnam before going to Cambodia.
My own favourites in the region are Malaysia and Myanmar.
You can fly directly into KL from JFK either on SQ via Singapour or with MH from LAX direct flight. MH tends to have good fares from the west coast.
The best prices for intra-asia travel is on Air Asia which has flights out of KL to Siem Reap. In Malaysia you are introduced to three different cultures: Malay Indian and Chinese.
I got all my visa's for South East Asia countries in Bangkok and is easily done.
Backpackers like myself get our visa's through travel agencies on the Khaosan rd area or other places that are popular with tourist and most of them are reliable. It only takes a 2-3 days to process but the best thing about it we can continue with your sightseeing and not have the hassle of going to the embassy and sorting it out. The travel agents takes care of all that for a small fee which is well worth the money.
There are many young girls in their late teens & early twenty's who are travelling solo around the world to various countries these days and all these places have some kind of danger, but at the end of the day commom sense will keep you out of trouble.
When I am travelling I often see many young girls travelling together in 2s or 3s for saftey.
Southeast Asia, Australia & new Zealand are very popular places for backpackers wherever you start your trip you will proberly stay in an area where there are many backpackers hanging out and before you know it you will find some people who will be travelling in your directing for a while. Hang with them until you feel confident you want to travel by yourself.
There is Roppongi to party in, as far as your age, I know people who are 50 that party like teenagers, so it is all relative. Yeah there are a lot of areas and clubs that only cater to the Japanese clientelle. You may not be able to afford them anyway. Speaking of which, it will be expensive, have you researched that?? Lodging, food and the bars are all very expensive, even more so with the decline of the $$. Being alone should not be all that much of a problem, although some of the places can be clicky, welcome to Tokyo! Personally, it would not be my first choice to go to on spring break, especially if I were traveling overseas to asia. Your dollar will go a LOT further in Bangkok or Bali, even KL.
Good luck and have fun, wherever you end up.
Your travel agent is giving you good advice. With only 5 weeks, it's better to focus mainly on the Southeast Asia mainland countries of Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia and even then you'll barely have enough time to touch the main destinations.
If you can, and if the costs works, you could open jaw your flights in and out such that you fly into Hanoi and out of Bangkok to return home. You'll pay a little more for an open jaw flight versus, for example, a roundtrip flight to Bangkok, but then you won't need that extra flight to return to the hub city you flew into which saves time and money. Much depends upon the cost of the open jaw vs. the roundtrip flight and if it's within U$100, then it's worth it.
Otherwise, Bangkok is generally the less expensive hub to fly into/out of for roundtripping. And you can get flights on budget carrier Air Asia to Hanoi but you'll have to book these well in advance on their internet website. Air Asia is only one of the budget carriers in SEA and you still should double check it's competitor's prices because from time to time, they'll undercut each other.
If you're able to open jaw, then you can fly into Hanoi and work your way south to Saigon but you'll still need to move fairly quick because Vietnam is about the length of California with many interesting destinations in between. I'd recommend spending more time in the north for Hanoi, Halong Bay, and the northwest hilltribe areas before heading south to Hue, Hoi-An, and then flying from nearby Danang to Saigon. This alone will already take up half of your 5 week trip.
Then cross overland from Saigon to Phnom Penh by one of those 'organized' VIP buses that includes the border formalities. A couple days in PP should be enough before taking another VIP bus (~5 hours) to Siem Reap for Angkor and I'd highly recommend a minimum of 3-4 days for Angkor since it's such a huge complex. Then you could fly to Bangkok (flight is not cheap and runs U$175 or so on Bangkok Airways which still holds a monopoly on the BKK-Siem Reap flights),
OR travel overland to BKK which takes the better part of a day (approx. 7-8 hours), but you've got to avoid the border scams.
This will leave you only about 1.5 weeks total for visiting Thailand and there are tons of things to do/see but the big 3 are Bangkok, Chiang Mai/northern Thailand, and southern beach/islands.
So, as you can see, those 5 weeks go very quickly.
Oh, with regards to safety, Cambodia is much safer than it used to be. The main concerns are that in Phnom Penh and Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, that you have your day bags straps looped over both shoulders (as if you're hiking) because there are guys on motorbikes that go around scoping out potential victims
and swoop by yanking loose bags/purses from stupified victims. Even locals get stolen from so they are equal opportunity thieves/muggers but of course, the chance of hitting a good pay day is better with unsuspecting tourists. And use a money belt or chest pouch to hold your money, credit cards, passport, and airline ticket/s. It's easy after a while to let your guard down but you've got to me more vigilant in the big cities.
Anyways, hope this helps and happy planning.
Favorite thing: If budget is a consideration, then I recommend staying in Yangshuo over Guilin. IMO, Yangshuo is also nicer than the big city of Guilin and there are many orgaized 'tours' that you can sign up for when there but you could also easily rent a bike to explore on your own. And if time permits, highly recommend a visit up north of Yangshuo and Guilin to the Longsheng/Longji Dragaon's Back terraced rice fields. Stunningly beautiful. Be prepared for cold weather just in case because when I visited at the end of November, it got really cold, especially catching the local open bus onward to Sanjiang Bridge closer to Guizhou from Longsheng.
Just heard recently on www.thaivisa.com that they are considering cancelling the full moon parties due to too much trouble. I would agree, often times a lot more trouble than fun, unfortunately. They seem to attract both farang and local bad elements that are there to prey on the drunk and stupid, and of course the innocent. Good move in my opinion. Anyway, check to make sure they are still up and going or if they've cancelled them already.
good luck and have fun
While traveling via an 'organized guided tour' is convenient you'll save tons of money if you do-it-urself and perhaps enjoy it more since you'll be doing things in everyday life. And it's really not that difficult if you're willing to do the research. Might want to start first by going to a library or new/used bookstore and looking at the itineraries offered by such guidebooks such as Lonely Planet, Footprints, Moon, Rough Guides, etc. LP even has a guidebook specifically for former Indochina (Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia). And on-line travel websites/forums are great sources for up to date info.
As you listed, the loop--Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia is one route which is easily reversed. However, it's such a large geographic area that you'll have to do quite a bit of planning to do all 4 countries some justice.
One possible framework is:
Thailand--minimum of 2 weeks,
Laos--2 weeks (but focus mainly on the north to central, or central to south unless budget allows for flying multiple destinations)
Vietnam--3 weeks to travel the length of the country
Cambodia--1-2 weeks with one enough to catch the main destinations of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap/Angkor (but I would highly recommend setting aside 3-4 days for Angkor).
Overall, safety is no major problem because SEA is far safer to travel than my own country, USA where there are areas at night that's relatively more 'no-go'. Guidebooks and travel websites usually have sections on 'safety, security, or scams so it's best to read up on those since there are quite a number of scams to avoid. And I think you'll discover in your travels that you'll meet lots of solo independent travelers who'll say that they haven't encountered major safety issues.
Anyways, happy planning and have fun and don't hesitate to return to ask more specific Qs.
Asia is huge --- and a lot of questions on the forums have to do with how the weather is going to be like when they visit. Well, the most common answer is that it is very unpredictable - especially now with the El Nino/Nina effects and the global warming issues..
It's truly hard to predict weather nowadays in Asia or any other place for that matter (global warming?), but you can see how it has been like for the past few years at
Just click on tripplanner:
and put in your city and then put in the dates u want to visit...see temperatures and chance of rainfall, snow, etcetera...
There are several other weather websites but I have relied on this one whenever I travel and book plane trips to faraway lands.
Favorite thing: I was planning to go on a vacation to Singapore and while surfing over the internet found this site travel.worldmapsinfo.com. This site is very helpful in saving your money and time.The site is very user friendly, just click the country then most popular cities based on the months.(Like if you wish to travel in the month of 'MAY' then you can select the options from most popular cities to visit in 'MAY') because sometimes the destinations we opt for our trip are good but due to weather conditions in that time, our trip may get worst. So, this site have very options to select the paces to visit not only in Asia but all around world. So check it once, definitely you will get the best deals in respect to money and comfort.
Thailand is a great country wih great people. But like any country and any big city like Bangkok or beach resorts, you can be at risk. It really depends on you. How well you travel, the companions that you keep, the places you frequent such as bars, whether you know how to watch and look for people watching you, assessing you. People love to go to Thailand to party but they forget themselves and where they are. "They" usually get into some trouble.
Havinf said that I will say that for the most part I would say you shouldn't have any trouble. You did not do a profile so I have no idea where yo are from or if you have any experience traveling. Makes a difference. If you have not traveled well then you may be more at risk. Signing on with a tour company to take tours is not going to help you that much. You can do almost everything they can do on-line and much cheaper. I'm on holiday so I hate someone telling me when I have to be somewhere. I research my own trip and just go, at my own pace in my own time. Lots of lone females travel throughout Thailand every year with no problems. Generally speaking, the Thai's are very friendly, accomodating and helpful in almost all situations, probably more so than other asian countries. Have a great time. There are some great web sites out there to plan your trip, great beaches and great food!
Let me know if you need some web sites.
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