Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

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A-RockLeFrench
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Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by A-RockLeFrench » Sun Oct 25, 2015 4:25 pm

In lieu of going to The Thing this year, my partner and I will be spending 2 1/2 months traveling through SE Asia starting in December. :D

I spent 3 weeks in Thailand in 2009. This time we will be exploring much more of the region.

We fly into Bangkok and right now we are planning to spend some time in northern Thailand: Chang Mai and Paii. We will spend Christmas on a beach, most likely on the Andaman side... We are planning approx 3 weeks in Myanmar (Burma) and we would like to end up on Borneo.. Nothing is set in stone, we are considering Vietnam and Cambodia but also interested in the more 'rainforesty' Pacific Islands: Malaysia and Indonesia.


So yeah, I kind of wanted to brag a little to you guys :mrgreen: but also see if the voices of eplaya had any tips for traveling in SE Asia and Pacific Islands. Like places to go, places to avoid, burnery things to do and see, burnery things to buy and shit, maybe there's some board members living or traveling over there that would wanna hang out and be burnery in Asia together...




Or whatever.

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by Ratty » Sun Oct 25, 2015 11:20 pm

RockLaFr, You will have a marvelous time. We've spent some time in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Bali. As far a buying stuff your biggest problem is weight. You can take a huge luggage allowance from the states but after that when you fly you may be limited to 35 pounds plus a 15 pound carry on and a small backpack. The fees are substantial. It would be a shame NOT to go into Vietnam and Cambodia. (Ankar Wat in Cambodia is a destination).

I've been to Paii. We flew into My Hong Song and stayed in a beautiful wooden room on a hill. Lovely town. Then on to maybe Sapong by shared van? Anyway there were caves to canoe through on the way. Then Paii which resembles a college town full of locals. Kind of like a beach town without the beach. Lots of fun. We flew to Change Mai instead of van because it was cheap and the van was pure misery. they always overbook. You end up with somebodies carsick kid on your lap.

We always go to Chang Mai last because they have a wonderful fabric selection and the 2nd hand stores get bails of clothes from charities all over the world. If your there on a week-end take a little bus out to the buffalo market. Well worth the trip. It'[s a huge deal for the locals and they do sell water buffaloes there. Good food too. Change Mai is a great city. Easy to get around on a bike but the little taxis are so cheap. You can head out of town, (again on a bus) and go to the umbrella factory. Have one of the people paint a dragon on your hat or backpack.

If you go to Change Rai be sure and go down the river to the giant Buddas and the elephants. All this makes me remember exactly where I crashed my motorcycle in each country. Yes. Every single trip. My husband carries a first aid kit for patching me up. In Change Rai they had my passport and made me give em $100 for no damage. In Cambodia that beautiful new scooter had a broken mirror, badly scratched faring and a peg or peddle was bent. They wanted $7.50.

Cambodia is by far the poorest of the lot. The kids beg for food not money. It must have really been grand. You see the ruins of wealth everywhere. I loved the country and Sien Reap has several things to see as well as Ankar Watt.

In Viet Nam we rode bicycles only. Their museums are so different than ours. Very honest and revealing. The people love you and the food is the best of all the countries.

I could write for hours but instead I'll suggest you go to 'Trip Adviser'. It your travel equivalent of eplaya. It's all there.
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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by gaminwench » Sun Oct 25, 2015 11:33 pm

Burner run backpacker 'resort', Koh Lanta: Chill Out House.

$2-3 a night in a treehouse steps from the beach!

Tell 'em i sent ya 8)
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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by DrYes » Mon Oct 26, 2015 8:57 am

Was just in Malaysian Borneo a few months ago. Was in the Sabah region (the northeastern part of the island). The highlights for me were:
* Spending a few nights in a jungle lodge up the Kinabatangan River and going out at dawn and sunset animal watching up little tributaries on a skiff.
* Hanging out in a local village during a river celebration. My Yes-ness failed me when they asked if I wanted to wrestle one of their tribesman on a log propped up over the river. As I'd recently seen a rather frightening crocodile in the river, I declined. I should have just done it.
* The Orangutan sanctuary at Sepilok. The little ones are totally adorable.
* Diving Sipadan. Dunno if you're a diver, but I did six dives at Sipadan, and collectively it was the best diving I've ever done, anywhere. Stunning.

My favorite places in Thailand have been Chang Mai for the killer northern Thai food, and the island of Koh Lanta, which had my favorite balance of beach plus little villages and few to no full moon party types. (No offense if that's your thing!). I think it's the wrong time of the year, weather-wise, to go to that side of the penninsula though.

Indonesia is so big and diverse (something like 735 languages spoken in the country) it's not possible to "see Indonesia" on a single trip. Most people equate Indonesia with Bali, which is too bad, but Bali is also by far the easiest place to travel in Indo, and its brand of laid back Hinduism makes the locals very friendly. And, things like pork and alcohol are easily available, unlike many parts of Indonesia (which is mostly Muslim). I would completely skip southern Bali (Kuta, etc) unless you're a surfer and want to hit the southern breaks. It is a nightmare of drunken Australians. Think Cancun or Cabo to give you a sense of the atmosphere.

Ubud, in central Bali, is completely different. Dominated by Western tourists, but it's managed to avoid developing into that drunken fratboy-style tourist trap. Lots and lots of yoga, art, etc. If you're on Bali, definitely get out of Ubud and southern Bali and go visit some of the villages. Take a boat over to Lombok, the island to the east of Bali, to get a totally different flavor of Indonesia (it's Muslim, and the culture is quite a bit different than on Bali).

If you want to chill out and do nothing, check out the Gili islands off the coast of Lombok. They're cute, tiny little things that vary from drunken tourist to quiet and laid back in atmosphere. Get yourself a shroom milkshake there, if that's your thing. It's legal (though there are no police on the Gili islands anyway), whereas don't even think of touching weed. You'll see signs advertising them like this:
Image

Skip Jakarta. Dirty, congested shithole imo.

My favorite place in Indonesia (and by no means have I traveled through most of it) was the Raja Ampat area, which is off the nw coast of Papua/Papua New Guinea. Pain in the ass to get to and will almost certainly involve spending a night one way or another in the utter shithole that is the oil port Sorong, but holy crap, the payoff is worth it. Raja Ampat is one of the only areas in the world where the coral is getting healthier rather than dying. The diving and snorkeling were both incredible, and one day we got a local to take us to the interior of some unnamed, unpopulated island where one of the handful of 'jellyfish lakes' existed, and snorkeled with thousands of big orange stinger-less jellyfish. Was the single coolest wildlife experience of my life.

Little video of it:

[media]



Ooh, and go to Luang Prabang in Laos! Great town.
Last edited by DrYes on Mon Oct 26, 2015 9:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by Bless » Mon Oct 26, 2015 8:57 am

For sightseeing, make sure to go to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Borobudur in Indonesia. The beaches in southern Thailand are amazing. For partying, I would recommend Hong Kong, though it can be a bit pricey.
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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by A-RockLeFrench » Mon Oct 26, 2015 6:27 pm

Ratty: Umbrella Factory is a great tip, I spent 3 days in Chang Mai last time. This time I want to spend more time in the north not in Chang Mai. I will look into Sopang and Mai Hong Son! We will most likely take the train from Bangkok to Chang Mai and then fly down south when it's time to hit the beaches. I definitely plan on some shopping, and with 2 1/2 months carrying a backpack I think it's safe to assume I will be mailing some boxes home...


Gaminwench: Koh Lanta has been added to the list. 8)


DrYes: I just got certified 2 months ago! :D I'd be super stoked if you could recommend a dive center or two! I get kind of overwhelmed when I try and research where I want to dive, SEA is a big place with lots of ocean and dive outfitters...

Thats a lot of good info for Indo and Maylasia, I googled Raja Ampat and it looks amazing! Added to the list. Jellyfish lakes look awesome, great video!


Bless: I've heard from a few sources that Angkor Wat is like disneyland of Buddhist temples and we are considering skipping it in favor of Bagan in Myanmar... Borobudur looks enticing however...

Hong Kong eh? It's fairly cheap to add a few day stopover in HK on the fight to BKK... How 'pricey' does it get? Can you have a good time for $100/day or less?




You guys rock! This is just the stuff I was hoping for, keep it coming!

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by DrYes » Mon Oct 26, 2015 10:16 pm

Oh man, you are going to be so happy you got certified before this trip. Sooooo happy.

With all this stuff, as someone said earlier, Tripadvisor is your friend.

In Sipadan, which is off the coast of northeastern Borneo (Malaysia...state of Sabah), the diving is really restricted, and only 8 or 9 operators have permits to take divers there. As a result, those operators, all of whom are attached to a dive resort of some sort, will make you stay for 4 or 5 nights to get one guaranteed day at Sipadan. Google up Sipadan and you'll figure it out. One interesting thing about Sipadan and eastern Sabah in general is that the pirate activity from Islamic pirates coming from the very-nearby southern-most Philippine islands is so high that we had military escorts on the surface while diving and the island of Sipadan (which as previously inhabited but is not now) had a dozen military guys camping on it with machine gun emplacements, etc. That was a first! Pirates had attacked the dive hotel we stayed in, in fact, 9 months before we were there, killing one police officer and kidnapping another. Check out the SMART dive hotel on Mabul (closest island you're allowed to stay on to Sipadan) or, a more upscale option, their sister hotel Mabul Water Bungalows.

Raja Ampat - we were there on our honeymoon and spent more than I suspect you're looking to spend given how long you're travelling for. Misool Eco Resort (which was only kind of eco imo, but was beautiful and totally isolated in the middle of nowhere) is where we stayed/dove from. I recall it was a week minimum or something too, so may not be what you're looking for. Their house reef though - it was better than many diving sites I've been to. Would see baby sharks, for instance, while just randomly snorkeling around.

Koh Lanta - I loved it overland (a lot) but the diving was a pain in the ass. 2 or 2.5 hours each way to the dive sites. Made for really long days.

Diving on Gili Trawangan (one of the islands I mentioned where shrooms are legal and readily sold, in Indonesia, just across the eastern strait from Bali) - Blue Marlin Dive. Had a great experience with them. Just go south of the place on the beach that all the ferries to drop you off of/pick you up from. My wife and I really liked Gili Trawangan for what it's worth. Once you get away from the little area around where the boats pick up/drop off it's more chill, but it's an island with no cars, no police, no paved roads. Lots of tourists, but mixing really comfortably (in my experience at least) with locals, and the types that are willing to get at least a little off the beaten path.

Also, if you've ever been interested in freediving, go get basic certified from Freedive Gili. Mike Board (current record holder for Great Britain for constant weight with fins freediving, at over 300 feet down) is an awesome instructor. In the space of two hours, he had me going from ~30 feet down to ~45 feet down. Those depths are little kid depths in the freediving world, but whatever, it was fun! It's also a little south of the pick-up/drop-off beach area.

Generally, Indo and Philippines probably have the best diving in the region, along with specifically Sipadan in Malaysian Borneo, and Palau east of the Philippines. (Palau has the most famous jellyfish lakes too, but again, pain in the ass to get to.)

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by Ratty » Tue Oct 27, 2015 1:07 am

Hong Kong was interesting but not my thing. We stayed at the ymca. It's a big hotel. Nothings cheap in accommodations. Some places we've stayed there have the tinest rooms I've ever seen. I can't remember the name of the cities in thailand that I would skip altogether. I've blocked them out. I'll get back to you on that. One of them had a bridge to Myanmar. We were going, but they had a bombing that day. I remember we went to some horrible village and stayed one night in a plywood shed. (We had booked in advance.) Good thing we have a sense of humor about travel.
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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by DrYes » Tue Oct 27, 2015 9:26 am

Ratty wrote:Hong Kong was interesting but not my thing. We stayed at the ymca. It's a big hotel. Nothings cheap in accommodations. Some places we've stayed there have the tinest rooms I've ever seen. I can't remember the name of the cities in thailand that I would skip altogether. I've blocked them out. I'll get back to you on that. One of them had a bridge to Myanmar. We were going, but they had a bombing that day. I remember we went to some horrible village and stayed one night in a plywood shed. (We had booked in advance.) Good thing we have a sense of humor about travel.
A plywood shed? We dreamed of having a plywood shed! We had to sleep in a hole in the ground and every night our dad would come home from work and slash into us with a bread knife.

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by Ratty » Tue Oct 27, 2015 9:49 am

Dr yes you made me burst out laughing. The place with the 'Bridge to Burma' is Masai. The only thing I remember from there is getting my toenails painted for 13 cents and the public market had the most amazing electronics. Every lightshow ever made. Lasers, teardrops of light bigger than me, spinning, flashing shit for cars and businesses. Half the town went to a soccer game. The Masai team against the Myanmar team. Totally free and a tailgate party to be remembered. (There were no tailgates. Most people walked there.)

Let's take a look at accomodations.

In Viet Nam a guard sleeps in the lobby to let you in and out in the wee hours. We usually stay in medium priced places, ($20 to $25). In the large cities it's pricy. Always a hot shower. Sometimes a tub. Always a balcony. Pay a couple extra bucks for air conditioning. Sometimes a free continental breakfast. They think we all like sunny side up eggs with a cooked hotdog. Go out for meals.

This thread is killing me. I just sit here daydreaming. Gotta break away.
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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by Doctor VonBacon » Tue Oct 27, 2015 10:03 am

If you make your way to Bali. there is some incredible scuba diving, if that is your thing.

I was in Kuta,which another poster said was overrun with Aussie tourists, that was not my experience, but that was also 15 years ago, and off season. It was lovely.

Hong Kong is very pricy, and is like a cleaner version of every other big city in the western world. I was underwhelmed,

If you are going during the rainy season (varies slightly by country,) prepare accordingly. A good rain jacket can make or break your day.

Have fun.

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getting old. memory failing.

HK was extremely expensive. I got a bunch of custom tailored clothes while in Bangkok, not HK, which was much more affordable. I still have a leather jacket they made for me which has held up extremely well over the years.

let me know if you want the name of the scuba school. He's still in business(as per google), grew up in New York, and was a really funny bastard.
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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by Token » Tue Oct 27, 2015 12:13 pm

I hear prisons in that part of the world suck big-time.

And they have not yet discovered bacon. Something fundamentally wrong with that part of the world.

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by BoyScoutGirl » Tue Oct 27, 2015 10:18 pm

I've done a decent amount of travel, including Malaysia, Viet Nam, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

The temple complexes of Angkor in Cambodia were incredible, and absolutely worth the three-day pass, if not the full week pass. When people ask me my #1 place in the world to visit, this is a contender.

Ha Long Bay is one of the most breath-taking natural formations I've ever visited.

If you're a foodie, Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur is great, night after night. Panang also has a ton of great food.

Apo has great diving in the Philippines. Siquijor is a pretty laid-back island. I didn't like Bohol as much, but that might have been where I stayed. The Chocolate Hills were pretty cool though.

I really would like to get to Borneo - that's one of your better bets for big wildlife (orangs, etc) in all the countries mentioned.

One thing to look out for in Viet Nam: lots of businesses (especially hotels) all have the same or nearly identical name. It doesn't mean they're being run by the same folks, and are often run by the competition trying to leech off a good hotel's reputation. So "Happy Hotel II" could be on the other side of the city from where you wanted to be.
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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by DrYes » Wed Oct 28, 2015 9:26 am

BoyScoutGirl wrote:
One thing to look out for in Viet Nam: lots of businesses (especially hotels) all have the same or nearly identical name. It doesn't mean they're being run by the same folks, and are often run by the competition trying to leech off a good hotel's reputation.
In Beijing one time I came across a video store called "100% Awesome Video". Across the street was another video store called, "Better Than 100% Awesome Video".

It was....awesome.

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by DrYes » Wed Oct 28, 2015 9:33 am

Token wrote:
And they have not yet discovered bacon. Something fundamentally wrong with that part of the world.
Nah, that's really only the case in the Islamic countries (Malaysia and Indonesia-minus-Bali). In many of the Asian business hotels, they will even have a couple types of pork bacon at breakfast - crispy, for those who love bacon, and soggy, for those who are punishing themselves or have the palate of a sea slug.

The "bacon" in Islamic countries is woeful though. They often try to pass off beef bacon as actual bacon. It's so depressing to bite into as it tastes virtually nothing like bacon.

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by A-RockLeFrench » Wed Oct 28, 2015 10:54 am

DrYes wrote:
The "bacon" in Islamic countries is woeful though. They often try to pass off beef bacon as actual bacon. It's so depressing to bite into as it tastes virtually nothing like bacon.
This, and the lack of beer is something I am not looking forward to.


I do love the anamism of SE Asian Buddism though, spirit houses, shrines and all that. It resonates well with my own dirt-worshipping pagan beliefs. I am a little concerned about spending time in countries dominated by an oppressive mono-theistic religion...

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by DrYes » Thu Oct 29, 2015 12:43 am

A-RockLeFrench wrote:
DrYes wrote:
The "bacon" in Islamic countries is woeful though. They often try to pass off beef bacon as actual bacon. It's so depressing to bite into as it tastes virtually nothing like bacon.
This, and the lack of beer is something I am not looking forward to.

I am a little concerned about spending time in countries dominated by an oppressive mono-theistic religion...
Eh, I live in the US, so I'm used to it. ;)

More seriously, I've never had a problem getting alcohol in Muslim countries, from North Africa to the Middle East to SE Asia. Muslims "don't drink" the same way Christians "don't have pre-marital sex". Beyond that though, unless you really go off the traveler path (and I mean way the fuck off it), you're going to be in places that cater at least a little to Westerners, and so they will have beer/booze,though it your choices may be pretty limited.

I was at dinner the one unfortunate night I spent in the aforementioned Sorong, on Papua, and they had this huge drink menu. I asked for 3 or 4 wines/drinks to be told they were out. Then I just asked what they did have. She led me behind the bar and showed me one half-empty bottle of Kahlua and one full bottle of rum, which she said she'd only open if we committed to the whole thing. It was pretty funny. But even there, they had lots of the locally-brewed beer (which I'm sure was horrible, but I'm not a beer guy so didn't try it.)

You'll be fine!

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by Ratty » Thu Oct 29, 2015 8:19 am

Boy Scout Girl, We went to HaLongBay. It was nice. Spent the night on the boat, (2 of us in the tiniest bed made.) The next day everyone kayaked and went through the famous caves.

As far as Angkor Wat is concerned...It's no doubt amazing. BUT, we are more of the mind that a half day city tour should cost more than a full day city tour. (Of any city). My husband biked out there in the morning before they opened. It's magic having it all to yourself. Then we hired a driver and drove around for hours. He lived within the boundaries of the park so we went to his house to chill. I bet he wishes he had a plywood shed.

I've been all over Bali. We went several years in a row then returned in 2012 after a long hiatus. We won't go back. Honestly they put a hwy from Kuta to Denpasar and mowed down most of what I liked. They built a bridge to Turtle Island and that isn't working out for the island dwellers. The shopping for fabric was abysmal and we have many friends there that are in dire straits. The hotels we loved were either closed or 5 times more expensive. I loved Bali but it barely exists. If you must go, then go to ubud. We sometimes stay at the tegal Sari in a rice field. I vote that it's not worth the time and money to go there at all. There is too much to see in this world. Yes, yes, yes. The prisons are dank. Think Bali and Coby. I went to visit her and almost got all the way in. Yuck.
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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by A-RockLeFrench » Tue Nov 03, 2015 2:06 am

Hong Kong is off the list. Too expensive, I'll have my tailoring done in Thailand. We'll most likely be skipping Bali, plenty of other opportunities for great diving...

Still not sure about Cambodia... Thinking we'll be in Vietnam for Christmas. Anyone got recommendations for great beaches in Vietnam?


I got my first Hep A+B shot today, arm is nice and sore (I'm a wimp). Next one right before we leave, we start taking the Typhoid pills tomorrow and we'll get the japanese encephalitis vaccine in Bangkok ($15 vs. $250 stateside.... no brainer).





And just for Token I'll bring you back a cured and smoked and dried giant squid from Chinatown market in Bangkok. Tastes just like bacon. I swear.

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by gaminwench » Tue Nov 03, 2015 2:53 am

mmmmm. bacon.

with a lil hurricane on the side. 8)
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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by BBadger » Tue Nov 03, 2015 7:43 pm

Oh man, that's going to be a great trip. In places like Vietnam, maybe you could hit up the beaches around Hue. Are you going to buy some motorbikes and ride around ?
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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by A-RockLeFrench » Sat Nov 07, 2015 6:06 pm

The old palace and citadel in Hue look pretty badass. We were definitely planning on renting motorbikes in different places but the thought of buying our own hadn't crossed my mind yet...

Right now our main contenders for Christmas is either Cond Dao Islands in VN or Koh Phayam in Thailand... We might not know until we get there...

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by trilobyte » Sat Dec 05, 2015 7:24 am

I'm giving this a nudge over to the Connect With Burners board, since I think that's a better fit. Sounds like a really great trip, I have a couple campmates that are currently wandering and exploring and having a great time. They'll be back pretty soon though, so I'm not sure there's much of a chance for a meetup.

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by Akela » Sun Dec 06, 2015 9:18 am

Aw man, this brings back all sorts of memories for me. I lived in Chiang Mai for about 8 months in 2012-2013, and I miss it a lot.

It seems like you already have a good handle on Thailand, and I second a lot of the advice already given. Here are a few of my thoughts:

--Chiang Mai is great. Sure, it's overrun by tourists, but there's so much to do and see in the area and the vibe is so good if you actually get into it, that it's worth it. Really fantastic trekking, lots of animal-related stuff (this may be controversial, but we visited the tiger sanctuary there and thought it was fine...we did a lot of research first and deduced that the "Tiger Temple" somewhere closer to Bangkok was home to a lot of animal abuse, but the one near Chiang Mai was decent...it's possible that I'm wrong and contributed to an unethical practice, but the animals seemed content and playful and well cared-for. And also goddamn adorable.), outdoorsy things, great food. All of the street food is excellent, and there are a ton of good restaurants. If it's still open, go eat at the Cat House restaurant and say hi to Jacky, though I think she was getting married to a Canadian and moving there. Avoid the "Zoe" complex of bars, they're terrible. They do have fire spinners some nights though, I actually took lessons from a chick that worked there. Check out the "sticky waterfall," that's a fun spot to go with friends and have a picnic with locals.
--Best spot off the beaten path in Chiang Mai is an old red rock quarry full of amazing blue-green water. I can't remember the name, but at least when we were there it was almost only locals that knew about it. South of the city a ways. Cool and refreshing water, great cliffs to jump off of, not many people, another good place to bring food for a picnic. We had a scooter, you could rent one if you're brave enough to handle the highway or try to arrange something with a songthiew or maybe the owners of your hostel. Wish I could remember the name, it might be hard for you to find but way worth it. Google around, it's probably better known by now.
--If you need a scooter or private transport, look up Jeff at Red Ride motorcycles. He's an American expat that has the nicest bikes and very reasonable rates for private cars. We rented from him our entire time there, and did border runs to Burma with him for not much more money than it would take on a bus, in half the time. Very reasonable and dependable guy.
--I'm not sure if it's already happened this year, but look into the Yi Peng festivities (where they do the huge sky lantern release). There's a small, expensive one for tourists, and a huge, free one for locals (go figure). We did the latter and it was truly awe-inspiring. Loi Krathong, during the same holiday, is also fun (people release little floating floral arrangements with coins on them into the river as a form of prayer...little kids swim in the river and steal all the coins).
--In Chiang Rai, check out the black house. There's the white temple, which is interesting and beautiful if extremely inauthentic, and then there's this other creepy-ass spot that everyone misses. It's not a temple, per se, but it has some similar and fascinating architecture, with a ton of wood carvings and really ornate stuff, as well as an endless supply of taxidermied animals. Weird, dark vibe. I think it's just some artist's private home/gallery, I can't remember. Definitely worth a stop.
--It doesn't get much more burnery than Pai, and there are lots of outdoor activities like rafting if you're there in the right season. There's a little music festival called Shambhala that happens there, run by Japanese hippies. It might be around the time you're going, though maybe more like January or February. We took one of the minibuses between Chiang Mai and Pai and didn't think it was that bad, but we have generally low standards for ground transportation.
--Koh Lanta was my favorite island by far. If I recall correctly, the ferry port is on the northern tip of the island, and there are more or less three stretches of beach down the west side with plentiful lodging. The middle one is the most laidback and burnery, with good vibes and cheap lodging and fire spinners on the beach. Lots of "special" shakes on the menu, but please be careful--I had one one day and it was awesome, and had a different one a different day and wound up spending a scary night in the local clinic. Enjoy, but be smart about it and look out for your partner. PM me if you want more info. My lady went scuba diving in Koh Lanta (I'm not certified :( ) and said it was really, really excellent. Also a good island for renting a scooter and just driving around, not a lot of traffic and beautiful views.
--You probably already know this, but avoid Koh Phangan like the plague. There are the full moon parties, and then different "moon" parties about three days out of the week, every week ("new moon" "half moon" "jungle moon" "shiva moon" "no moon" etc.). We went to one of the "other" parties and it was horrifying. We spent about an hour around sunrise cleaning up trash on the beach and got some other people to help, but there was just so much filth it was really saddening. I can't even imagine a full moon party, especially during the holidays, but we had a big group of friends do NYE there and had their room broken into and all of their valuables stolen. Just stay away.


We spent about a week in Burma, I'm jealous that you'll have three weeks there. We flew Bangkok to Mandalay (make sure you're up to date on the visa process, it's probably changed since we went but at that time it was easy to procure in Bangkok in about 24-48 hours, and you could only fly into Burma unless you were just crossing to a border village and coming back to renew your passport stamp). From there we went south by bus to Inle Lake, Bagan, and Yangon.

--Mandalay -- Genuine city, very friendly. Checked out the Mustache Brothers show, which was cute and an interesting piece of modern history. They've been in the news recently, google them if you haven't heard of them. There was a temple on a hill where young Buddhist monks come to practice their English with tourists, we really enjoyed that. Big market (one of our favorite things to do when traveling). Not a ton of attractions, but we were okay with that because people were just so nice.
--Inle Lake -- Take a boat tour, cheaper if you coordinate with other people from your hostel. You'll stop at markets, villages on stilts, unique fishing practices, some "factories" for textiles or hand-rolled cigars. There's supposed to be some really good trekking in the area, but we didn't have time to check it out. Most fun thing we did was rent bikes and ride out to a little Buddhist monastery, where there were little novice monk kids that wanted to play with us.
--Bagan -- Stunning, not to be missed. Definitely catch a sunrise there. I think we maybe rode around on bikes one day and on a donkey cart another day, I can't remember. It was hot as balls at all times though, that made it difficult to enjoy in the middle of the day.
--Yangon -- Decidedly meh, this was our least favorite place but we were also pretty burned out and ready to go home by the end of our time in SE Asia so we might have judged it unfairly. Schwedagon (or Schweddyballs, as I think of it) Pagoda is pretty awesome, but that's it. We sort of hid in our disgusting little overpriced hostel room. One other thing that we didn't care for much in Burma, as long as I'm complaining, was a lot of the food. We love all manner of cuisine, but most of the curries and main dishes in Burma were unpalatable to us--too pickled and fishy and weird. The many different kinds of "salads" were good, just order a bunch of small plates of those rather than hoping for dank Thai-style curry.

Have fun, SE Asia is amazing.

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by A-RockLeFrench » Thu Dec 10, 2015 4:41 am

Akela: Fucking A. Thanks for all the tips! Between you and Ratty my northern Thailand agenda is quite large... Definitely seeking out the black house, dead animals are kind of my thing.

I'm writing this from my bungalow on Koh Lanta right now. :D We stopped by Chill Out House and they were out of private rooms, so we are right down the street. We've been tooling around on a motorbike the last couple days and having a great time. I haven't been able to do any diving yet, we were 'planning' on going yesterday but I've had a sinus infection and don't want to risk the complications :? .. Scuba might not happen until the end of our trip when we head down to Malaysia...

We reserved a swanky condo in Saigon for Christmas though I fear our time in VN will be short, only a week or so and concentrated around HCMC and Mekong Delta..

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by A-RockLeFrench » Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:51 pm

Token wrote: And they have not yet discovered bacon. Something fundamentally wrong with that part of the world.
We've been in Malaysia for almost two weeks and the bacon withdrawals are getting bad. Real bad. Absolutely mind boggling that an entire religion of people have never even tried pork. Our guide at the Kinabatangan River camp was telling us about the time he went to Australia and ate bacon not knowing what animal it was... Said it was the best thing he's ever eaten. Something the poor bastard will likely never get to taste again.

On our way to Mabul right now, looking forward to 3 days of diving! Sipadan was out of the budget (time and $$) though we were assured elsewhere in the archipelago would be almost as magical...

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by Simon of the Playa » Tue Jan 12, 2016 1:31 pm

Frida Be You & Me

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by A-RockLeFrench » Mon Jan 18, 2016 4:37 am

Glad to see those things are getting through customs.

Nice edit BTW, missed it the first time..


Anyone else wants a postcard from som exotic far-off land just pm me a mailing address.

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Re: Traveling in Southeast Asia This Winter

Post by Ka_ren » Sun Apr 24, 2016 9:11 am

A-RockLeFrench wrote:
Token wrote: And they have not yet discovered bacon. Something fundamentally wrong with that part of the world.
We've been in Malaysia for almost two weeks and the bacon withdrawals are getting bad. Real bad. Absolutely mind boggling that an entire religion of people have never even tried pork.
Being Malaysian, this made me LOL. Yup, bacon is available but you need to know which restaurants to go to. If you ever come back to this region, holler. I'll point you.
“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”
- Alan Turing -

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