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1 Month til Thailand Solo! Backpack? General Advice?

1 Month til Thailand Solo! Backpack? General Advice?

Dec 2nd, 2014, 08:46 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 36
1 Month til Thailand Solo! Backpack? General Advice?


I'm finally just over a month away from my 10 week trip to Thailand and Southeast Asia.

I'm really excited about my trip to Southeast Asia but also completely overwhelmed with all the preparation. Major decision fatigue and nerves are setting in!

Do you think that as a 24 year old weakling with no plans for hiking, with the below itinerary and staying in hostels/guesthouses, I would be significantly better off with a backpack versus a traditional wheeling suitcase? I've only traveled in Europe before and with friends for short vacations, so it is hard for me to imagine the luggage I'll need on this trip!

My very loose itinerary:

Flying in and out of Hong Kong from NYC. Flight booked 1-way to Chiang Mai
3 weeks volunteering Chiang Mai (all set)
Slow Boat to Laos
1 week MAYBE volunteering in Laos (need to contact NGO, will hopefully be able to decide if I'm up for it once in Chiang Mai)
1-2 weeks in Laos - Hopefully seeing elephant festival and doing lots of weaving/dying workshops (already found a few) - Definitely Luang Prabang, potentially Vang Vieng and Vientiane, but then flights are harder to get to Siem Reap
1 week yoga retreat near Siem Reap (picked out but not yet contacted)
1 week Angkor Wat and Siem Reap and area
1 week Phnom Penh and other cities/towns around Cambodia (I have a list from guidebooks)
1 week Thai beaches
1 week Bangkok

Fly Home!

In addition to the overwhelming backpack decision (and if I should use a backpack, which??? I may have already ordered three options...), are there any common prep things that I'm forgetting? How important are conservative long sleeve tops and pants vs tees and shorts?
I have purchased World Nomads insurance, have gotten (overpriced) malaria and typhoid prescriptions to be picked up this week, and know I need to get passport photos taken for Visas on arrival. Anything else???

I never knew I could be this neurotic

travelmiss is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2014, 01:42 AM
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 1,918
A robust suitcase [we use soft skinned ones) on two-wheels will be fine providing you don't have to drag it around too far, or have to wade out to get on and off any boats.

Travel light, no need to impress, you can buy most things you're likely to need as you travel.

You'll need a day-pack, preferably waterproofed.
LancasterLad is online now  
Dec 3rd, 2014, 03:01 AM
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 451
Everything you will ever need is for sale here. And most likely much cheaper than NYC. Go lite; more fun, less headache.
jobin is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2014, 03:12 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 1,489
We prefer Rollie's...

What about shots?? Hep a and b.. Polio... All the reg. things too...

Seems like you should have already booked places for activities so as not to be closed out??
kmkrnn is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2014, 07:00 AM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,076
long sleeves and trousers are pretty important.
firstly they are protection against mosquitoes
Secondly if you are going to be in Laos in December, you will want a sweater and some warmer clothing.....depending on where you stay you may even find your hotel uncomfortably cold at night and having something warm to wear will make all the difference.

if this is your first trip, check out the thread on things to remember......

khunwilko is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2014, 07:02 AM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,076
PS - loose itineraries are by far the best!
khunwilko is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2014, 01:43 PM
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 8,672
That doesn't look like a loose itinerary to me. And as khunwilko says, loose is best. Keep this one in mind as you go but you certainly don't need to follow a list in that part of the world. I suggest you actually not book anything following your first volunteer experience. The rest will fall into place as it comes and as people you'll meet tell you about places that are better than the ones you've already heard about.
MmePerdu is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2014, 03:19 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,687
Do you have the correct visa for volunteering? And how much do you know about the organization for which you are volunteering? There are lots of for-profit companies that offer "volunteer" opportunities (for which you pay) that are only profit-making opportunities for the company. If it is a bona fide NGO, they should help you get the appropriate visa.
Kathie is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2014, 03:42 PM
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 244
Hi, where are u planning to volunteer Chang Mai ?

As for insects buy a PUMP spray bottle of Ultrathon insect repellant for your clothes.last up to 6 weeks for your clothes. You can find this at sporting good stores like REI.Great for your netting when u sleep too!
You can only take pump bottle on plane now in your suit case.

You for sure need Tynelol pm, and reg haven't seen it here! Sun screen most sun screens have lots of whiteners in them here to lighten your skin.Buy,a sm bottle of Iodine good to have,Imodium sm box,

Everything Else can be found at a Boots store if u r going to chsng Mai or Bangkok..Im in Bangkok as we speak.
zoso is offline  
Dec 4th, 2014, 08:28 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 36
Don't need a visa since it's only 3 weeks, and thoroughly researched the NGO. GREAT list for first timers to Thailand. Got my vaccines. Ultrathon is a great tip as well!

Should I bring a Mosquito Net or do most hostels that need it provide? Or should I buy one over there?
travelmiss is offline  
Dec 5th, 2014, 07:07 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,687
Do be aware that even if you are only staying three weeks, if you are volunteering you need a different kind of visa for that, not the visa-waiver stamp you will get upon arrival.

Generally, guesthouses provide mosquito nets, but if you are volunteering, say, in a refuge camp, you will need to bring your own net.
Kathie is offline  
Dec 5th, 2014, 04:12 PM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 443
You cannot work, and volunteering is work, without a work visa. A number of people have recently been arrested and deported from Lao for this.
Vientianeboy is offline  
Dec 9th, 2014, 02:40 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,296
A few thoughts on your trip.

1. Travel light! Lay out what you think you will need to take and put half back in the wardrobe. a couple of sets, each of underwear, shorts. Pants T shirts etc plus meds, camera, phones etc. Most important are good footwear, sandals trekking shoes etc.
2. . A backpack is far easier to carry around. Limit it to 40 litres and airline carry on size. That way you can take it on board flight and not Hav to worry about it getting lost. Make sure you lock it at ALL times
3. ATM cards are by far the easiest way to get cash ( safer to get two that you can top up online in case one is stolen. Check out providers to ensure a good deal on charges and take a smal amount of cash for emergencies. Keep it separate fro your cards in case one is stolen
4. Your itinerary seems abit busy to me but we all have our own travel styles. As alluded to above, many, including me, prefer a flexible travel style.
5. Notwithstanding point 4 above. The mor planning you do in advance the better the trio will be. You will save money but not travelling rom place to place unnecessarily and will end up seeing much more. You will find out about some great places from people you meet that are just not in the guidebooks.
6. I find one of the better source for your type of travel is www.travelish.org
7. I am not an expert in employment/ visa law in any of the countries you mention so can't really comment about the legality or otherwise of "volunteering" but I do know that thousands do do it without having any problems.
8. the vast majority of volunteer projects you will have access to in SE Asia wil actually do very little to help the people they purport to help. If fact many will do a lot of harm by taking employment away from the local population. So please think carefully before committing to a project. You really need to volunteer for months or years and have a qualified skill to really make a positive impact. Far better to spend your money supporting the local economy by eating and staying in local restaurants and guesthouses rather than the corporate type place.
Above all enjoy your trip. I am sure you will have agreat time. Make sure you come back and tell us all about it.
crellston is offline  
Dec 10th, 2014, 09:06 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 36
Thank you so so much for the extremely useful replies! I have been hearing alot of mixed information about visas and will be going to the thai embassy in new York to follow up, since I have not been able to get a clear answer on the phone with the embassy or online. Believe me that I did everything in my power to research and find beneficial and ethical organizations. I'm really appreciating hearing all your advice!
travelmiss is offline  
Dec 10th, 2014, 09:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,687
Good luck to you. Do let us know the answer you get from the Thai Embassy.
Kathie is offline  
Dec 10th, 2014, 09:02 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,444
I did a weaving workshop at Ock Top Pop in Luang Prabang. Loved it. I really want to go back and take one of their multi day workshops. Their guesthouse on site is really nice too.
lcuy is offline  
Dec 10th, 2014, 09:55 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 36
So glad to hear it about Ock Pok Top! Im extremely excited about it! How far in advance did you need to book a guest room there?

I have another question as a newbie traveler:

I need to buy a tablet and I'd love to buy a more expensive Samsung tablet and bring it on the trip instead of my laptop, but out of fears that it could be stolen I'm considering a generic $100 tablet instead. Do you think that theft is common enough to suffer with a crappier tablet that won't be such a loss if stolen, or so long as I am reasonably careful with locking it up I should be OK with the one I really want?

Following that train of thought, how cautious do I need to be about using my (cracked screen) galaxy s4 smart phone to take photos in tourist areas and help me navigate? I have free international data and would like to take advantage!
travelmiss is offline  
Dec 10th, 2014, 11:22 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,296
It has often been said that you shouldn't travel with stuff you would hate to lose. That said, I have never found theft to be an issue in SE Asia but have always been careful to lock stuff away carefully etc. We are currently travelling in Vietnam etc. and most of the locals have better cameras and phones than we do! I would be lost without my iPad and cheaper generic tablet would probably not do all I would want he reality is that you are probably as safe, if not safer in Most SE Asian cities than you are at home.

A lot depends upon the type of place you are staying. If staying in hostels, take your own padlock as many will have lockers. If staying in hotels use the in room safe for valuables.

I would be careful about using phones on the street - no way for a thief to tell whether it is cracked or not! Plenty of people do though.

This site has some useful tips on how to travel safely

crellston is offline  
Dec 13th, 2014, 02:48 AM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 443
Don't buy a crappy tablet. You will regret it in the long run.

Also don't listen to bad advice from those who should know better - ?thousands dont do it without having any problems.? Thousands don't do it. Hundreds do and many end up in strife.
Vientianeboy is offline  

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