miércoles, 20 de octubre de 2010

Southeast Asia's Tips

Last summer I spent 2 months with my wife in the amazing Southeast Asia.
In this post I won't narrate the trip or tell funny stories, I'll try to include all the tips and must do's that we encountered, some strange, some uniques. One thing, I love maps, so there will be plenty of them.
I hope this will be helpful for those lucky guys that are headed that way.

We went with the "Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a shoestring", so this means, with a low budget.
We follow some places, but we didn't plan anything. We just arrived to Bangkok and then our two months started.
I'll give tips in the order of our trip (see map):

Thailand (2 week)
Cambodia (1 week)
Vietnam (3 weeks)
Laos (1 week)
Thailand (1 week)


- Rent motorbikes every time you can. It's the best way to reach all the places.
- Go to the markets.
- Carry something to cover yourself in the buses, with the aircon is really cold inside.
- Most of the buses don't have toilets, but they stop every 4 hours more or less, so be prepared with toilet paper and comfortable pants for the ladies.
- Look at the rooms before paying.
- Try all the fruits that you can, especially Rambutan and Thai Mango

Ver SEA en un mapa más grande



- We stayed in Rambuttri street. I was afraid that staying in "tourist territory" I would feel like I'm not immersed in the culture, etc. but actually everyone can give you really nice tips.
- Kao San street at night. You get a nice mix between market, tshirts and food.
- Don't trust the fake TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand). They try to sell you packages when you only want a chewing gum. The real TAT don't sell, they are there just to give information, free information.

Ao Nang

- I would have stayed here forever! small beach town, but you have a lot of possibilities to go to the rest of the most impressive beaches only reachable by long boat: Railey, Tonsai, and the most amazing one, Phranang. You can also rent a long boat and go go climbing (deep water solo) in the near islands (Poda).

- Get a massage in the beach huts and the day after stay in front of the ame hut where you got the massage. they will give you pineapples and floating things to play in the sea.
- Eat just in front of the McDonalds (not inside) in the food stalls every evening. Cheap, really good.


- Don't Phuket. nothing to see in this island. Best, go to KO SAMUI (later)

Ko Phi Phi

- There are several tours that go there either from Ao Nang or from Phuket island. Great place, but toooooo many tourists.
- The best snorkeling. The boat leaves you in a coral reef where you can dive between 2-6 meters deep. Amazing spot!

Ko Samui

-This is the place to be. I just loved this island. Less people and amazing beaches. You can have everything, from small local beaches to really exciting and party beaches.
- We stayed in Mae Nam beach, in the north of the island in some simple, very cute bungalows 15 meters from the sand (Shangri La bungalows - from 400Baht). For us was the best beach. There was no one in here, 2 other couples and that was it! we had the place for ourselves.

- The 80 meters waterfall we don't recommend that. Is more like a 10 meters one. But if you really want to go, go before is dark :P

Ko Phangan

- Go to the Full Moon Party (last days of every month). It's really fun! you don't even have to drink and you are having a blast. Nice music, nice people, nice weather, fire shows (try the ring of fire).
You can either stay in this island days before it starts or come from Ko Samui in speed boats.

Thailand-Cambodia border

- We went from Bangkok to Aranya Prathet. We slept there cause it was to late to cross (Aran Garden Hotel 2). Nice place, zero tourist, we loved that. We ate in a street food stand next to the hotel. Pretty nice, no English translation. just in case I'll give you the place in a map. (is not really a tip, but it was fun)

- Next morning we took a taxi to the border. Cross it by foot. And on the other side we took a bus to Siem Reap. For Visa, try to arrange the Visa in your home country or in arrival in the Cambodian side. It's cheaper than in Thailand.
- Be awake. Not really hard to do all the steps, but be careful, don't trust right away in the first guy. There are almost no tourist in this crossing, so is not that straightforward. In the Cambodian side don't stay in Poipet, go directly to Siem Reap (unless you have relatives).
- After the border we had to go by minivan to the tourist terminal. Nice place, clean, quite, BUT too quite! there are no tourists so you have to wait for more people to come so you can pay a taxi or minivan to go to Siem Reap.
- Have some money with you, there are no banks in this bus terminal.


Siem Reap

- Shadow of Angkor II. Excellent hotel, maybe too much. Swimming pool, bar, etc..Really luxurious for 20 USD.
- Temple Bar. Good food, nice place. AND between 7-9pm there is Apsara dance. For free you go to the 2nd floor and have this 50 minutes of excellent show and you have your beer with you...Excellent experience.

Angkor Temples

- If you want to see temples. Angkor is the only place that you need to visit, with Siem Reap as your base camp.
- Go early to Angkor Wat. Around 5:00am so you can see the lights and the sun coming behind the temple. Really amazing and is not that hot. You can arrange a tuk-tuk the night before.
- Explore

- Know the culture, study a bit of history and be patient with the people. They are really poor, they have lived really difficult times, but you will see that they are really wise and extremely affective and cute.


HCMC Ho Chi Minh City

- Stay in Madame Cuc's Hotels. They have 3 i think. Really warm people. The hotel is cheap and nice, and it comes ALSO with breakfast (baguette, coffee/tea and fuits) and every evening you can have a simple but large dinner with them. Noodles, spring rolls, lemon juice, fruit.
- The Lunch Lady is a lady that prepares the most spectacular dishes (follow this link). But we can only guess because we didn't find her. We thought she was in one place, but we couldn't see her. But instead we found a lot of food stalls with excellent food and ridiculous prices. There are no tourists, people that sell lottery tickets or newspapers don't approach, it's great.
Our lunch was a small soup, generous rice with beef/sea food, beer/coke for 24000 dong = 1,2 USD each.

- Open Bus Ticket: Buy this bus to travel through Vietnam. For more or less 40 USD (sleeping bus) you can go from HCMC to Hanoi stoping in every big city. You can choose which ones. You can grab the bus whenever you want, you only have to say the night before that you are travelling and the next morning it pick you up in the hotel.
The cities are HCMC-Mui Ne-Dalat- Nha Trang-Hoi An-Hue-Hanoi


- Cool place. Literally, nice stop to cool down and escape de heat.
- Easy riders. Go behind your driver in a motorbike through the forests and mountains around Dalat, you can get a lot of nice info from them. Or just buy a good map and rent a motorbike.

Hoi An

- Hoi An is a gem. Spectacular historical little town. You can walk everywhere.
- Stay in the Thanh Van hotel. With breakfast, super clean spacious rooms and a very welcomed swimming pool. Reserve in advanced.
- 5km from the best beach in Vietnam. You can go my bike, motorbike or just ask someone to take you there for a few dongs.
- Nice food, nice bars and I think what makes Hoi An especial are the Tailor Shops. Hundreds of stores where you can make anything you want. Shoes, coats, shirts, pants... you just look at the magazines or search in the internet and they will make it in 24 hours. Go with a budget and extra luggage space for this. Especially if you go with your female couple (...for what I've seen)


- I really enjoyed the Citadel. Fortified ancient city. Nice to just walk around take pictures and get a bit lost.

Halong Bay

-There is not much to do, here you come to see and get immersed between the towers.


- Fresh mountain town. One of my favorites places. The possibility to see the different tribes in the town, with their different garments. This is a real recommendation.
- Rent a motorbike and discover the valleys. (see map)
- Go to any tribe's small town either by motorbike or walking. They will sell you everything, but it's a good experience. I prefer by motorbike cause you reach all the places faster and you can discover a lot of places!


- Laos is my favorite country together with Thailand. Is so welcoming, you feel like home. People are so relaxed, no one is stressing you out in order to buy something, nobody honks their horns.
- Amazing food and lanscapes.
- A lot of possibilities to do different activities.
- Beer Lao, super cheap and I think is the best one. Also it comes almost always in big bottles 640ml = 1€.
- Be prepared for the worst "highways" and bus trips. And don't be surprised if the bus breaks down. It has to happend. Don't worry and be patient.


- Everyone said there is not much to do in here, so I was waiting for a small, unorganized town. But instead I arrived to a town like capital, with big avenues, really well preserved and quite charming! I was surprised. Many high quality temples to visit.
- Riverside Food Stalls. Please go there. Excellent food. And If you can help me and get the recipe for the Beef Salad Lao Style I will be really grateful! I attach a map so you can get there.

Vang Vieng

- If you follow the "Riding the Tubing" T-shirts' path you will arrive to Vang Vieng. A mini town full of action.
- Beautiful landscapes.
- You can climb, do kayak, caving, and tubing. Yes it's crazy and everything, but it's a lot of fun. Drink in some bars, swing, relax in hamacs, BUT please, keep the noise and naked girls in there. If you enter the town wear clothes, don't scream or go crazy. Respect the people and their culture (see poster).
- Sandwiches stalls. One big sandwich for 1€
- Waterproof camera would be nice.

Luang Prabang

- Tribes' Fashion show at The Hives bar (tuesday to saturday)
- Utopia bar
- Night Market: fruit shakes (10.000kip=0.7€)
- Elephants. Riding elephants is a unique experience. They teach you how to say: go forward, stop, left, etc... You can bathe them in the river... unique.
- Collection of Souls: wake up early, 5am, to see the monks touring the city. Again, keep your distance, wear long sleeves, stay lower than them, etc. in summary, be respectful.


Chiang Mai

- Biggest Market, from 5pm. Food, souvenirs, t-shirts, everything you want and more.

I'm only giving you tips. You'll have to discover the rest. If you need some advise or anything else, just leave a comment.
Hope this info can be useful.


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