3 Month SE Asia and Korea Trip

Old Dec 4th, 2023, 08:15 AM
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3 Month SE Asia and Korea Trip

Hey everyone new to the forum. So I will finally be able to go on my dream trip and have been able to take a sabbatical from work to go solo backpacking through SE Asia. I have around 3 months to travel as I need to be back starting April. The original plan was just to do SE Asia, but I found really cheap flights to Seoul and thought it would be a cool idea to add Korea to the trip.

Round trip tickets to Seoul arriving on December 29th and leaving the night of March 27. I have exactly 90 days (thank you 2024 for the extra leap year day in February!!).

I generally have planned out already Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as those were the first places I wanted to go. As for South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia (which are the other countries I'd like to visit) I have nothing planned.

In Vietnam I'll be spending around 22 days

Hanoi (2/3 nights) - Ha Long Bay (2/3) - Sapa (2/3) - Ninh Binh (2) - Hue (1/2) - Hoi An (3) - Da Lat (2/3) - Mui Ne (1/2) - Ho Chi Minh (2/3) - Can Tho (1). I have Phong Nha Caves, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Chau Doc and Phu Quoc Island as secondary options that didn't make the final cut as well and I'm not fully convinced on going to Sapa as it's a pretty big detour.

In Cambodia around 7 days

Phnom Penh (2) - Battambang (1/2) - Siem Reap (3). I have Kampot/Kep and Kou Rong as secondary options as well that didn´t make the cut. I'd have to choose between Kou Rong in Cambodia or Phu Quoc in Vietnam, or most likely neither as I don't think I'll have the time, but definitely not both. I know Sihanoukville is a pretty popular destination in Cambodia as well, but I´ve read a few blogs and videos and it doesn´t seem like a great place to visit anymore.

Around 7 in Laos as well

Slow boat from Thailand to Luang Prabang (with 1 night in Pak Beng) - Luang Prabang (2/3) - Vang Vieng (2) - Vientiane (2). In this case Nong Khiaw was a secondary option that didn't make the cut as well as the Kong Lor Caves. Another option was to fly down to Pakse from Vientiane spend a day or two there, go to Wat Phou and then Don Det/4k Islands, but this would probably require at least an additional 4 days.

As for South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia I have left over a total of aproximately 54 days. I was thinking of distributing around 14 to Korea (probably split up into 2 separate weeks, one on arrival and the other before my flight back), 19 to Indonesia (just Bali and Java) and 21 to Thailand.

Anybody have any recomendations for itineraries, places to visit or things to do in South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia? Any opinions on the distribution? Should I take away any days from other destinations and maybe try going to Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines or Burma?

I'd love any feedback as well on my plans for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia!! Maybe I'm being a bit to ambitious?

Just to give you guys (and gals obviously!) some context on myself, I'm a 24 year old geography major. I am quite a bit overweight, but I am very active as well (I do intensive physical training 4/5 times a week) and love outdoor activities. I love cultural and historical tourism and my focus on travelling is mainly around absorbing local culture. A few days of beach is ok, but I get bored easily. As for hiking, I really love it, but being from Colorado I feel that spending too many days hiking is kind of a waste of travel time. I'd rather spend more time on adventure activities like jungle trekking or rafting and scuba diving. Also, this won't be my first semi long trip and I have backpacked through the majority of Latin America. Not really a fancy person, I usually choose to go to cheaper hostels, eat street food and don't mind a night bus/train or having to travel a lot as long as it's worth it.

Also any recomendations on any travel apps or translators? I don't speak any asian language and am a bit nervious on travelling solo to countries without knowing the languages at all.
bichokapo3611 is offline  
Old Dec 4th, 2023, 02:01 PM
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I want to suggest a few things for Vietnam:
  • When you arrive in Hanoi, keep the 2nd day for Hanoi exploration and then leave the city for Ninh Binh / Halong Bay.
  • 1-day cruise in Halong Bay is more than enough. For your reference:
  • Add more days for Ninh Binh as 2 days are not enough to see everything in detail. Keep 3-4 days for Ninh Binh, you are gonna love this countryside of Vietnam.
  • Skip Da Nang as this city for Digital Nomads OR for Chinese tourists who like to escape their country.
  • You can skip Phu Quoc as well as now its just over-hyped Island. Every 2nd Island in Thailand is just like Phu Quoc.
Let me know if you need any other assistance for Vietnam or Thailand (I am Thai).

Last edited by Buppah; Dec 4th, 2023 at 02:03 PM. Reason: Forgot to add few things
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Old Dec 4th, 2023, 05:37 PM
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It has been many many decades since my backpacking days so do not have many thoughts as we did not have cell phones or internet and no real set itinerary just an outline of a journey to go on. Would say winter in Korea can be brutal so I would leave your time for Korea towards the end.
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Old Dec 4th, 2023, 11:40 PM
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Danang is close to Hoian so you can take a day trip while staying in Hoian.
Beach time in both Hoian and Mui Ne so leave out Phu Quoc island.
Stay 1 night in Chau Doc in Mekong Delta (Can Tho bus/ private transfer to Chau Doc) for a morning speed boat to Phnom Penh.
It is your plan!
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Old Dec 5th, 2023, 12:59 AM
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My wife and I have done many long trips around Asia covering all of the places you mention. The first thing I would say is that 3 months sounds like a long time but with that number of locations , it really isn't. I would sit down with google maps and rome2rio and work out how long and how to get around these place. Second thing is to check out the weather in all of these places . If you start in SK, it will be cold! You need to also avoid the burning season in Northern Thailand and Lao (usually feb-may)

Cheap flights notwithstanding, in the context of your overall trip, 14 days in SK is a lot. Don't get me wrong , we enjoyed it there but it is a long way from SEA (though we did it on cheap Air Asia flights form Bangkok (or KL?)

I hesitate to suggest specific places as I dont know your interests but here isa link to our blog of our travels which may provide some inspiration. https://accidentalnomads.com just click on the destination tab for the relevant country.

Having trodden that route many times my first inclination would be to start in Bangkok head north to Chiang Rai and then get the boat down river to Luang Prabang (or if feeling dventiurosu , go overland via places like Muang Sing, Luang Namtha, Phongsali. From LP head south to Si Phan Don and cross the border to Cambodia (Kratie) and continue on to Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh.

From PP get the boat to Chau Doc in the Mekong delta and then on through the delta to Saigon. head north by train stopping off anywhere that appeals to Hanoi.

Quite frankly that would be more than enough to fill 3 months. Malaysia and Indonesia are great and you could easily spend a month in each. Philippines I wouldn't bother with and Burma is clearly a no go given the political and human rights situation there.

If it were my thrip (and I know its not!) I would want to spend a month in Vietnam plus two weeks apiece in Laos and Cambodia. Thailand , to me is necessary rather than desirable so I would use that to spend a few days in Bangkok , train to the north - Chiang Mai/Rai and then to Laos.

Anyway those are my initial thoughts, the options and variations are virtually unlimited. Good luck planning . I you need any help , do please ask.
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Old Dec 5th, 2023, 01:22 AM
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A further thought re languages. I really would worry about it in SE Asia. Most places there will be someone who speaks English. I speak reasonably ok Thai (I took a couple of years of evening class just for fun!) but most times I would I was speaking in Thai and getting answers back in English. I also speak a bit of Vietnamese which is helpful but not essential. Always nice to learn a few words of the language even if only please and thank you, hello/goodbye, I have a beer please. google translate is your friend these days.
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Old Dec 6th, 2023, 06:37 PM
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Central Java (volcanic mountains, temples, archaeological sites) and East Java (Bromo, Ijen) would be I think the best of for Java. Trains are available from central to east, but I would recommend commuter flights which are cheap and generally efficient. Ramadan, the fasting month, will begin February 10 and continue through mid-April. Not the best time to travel in Java.

From East Java you could take a ferry to North Bali and wend your way down through Ubud to the southern beaches and airport. I would note that January to March is the rainy season in Java and Bali which will mean fewer travelers and lower prices, but also some soggy days.

You should be aware that many Asian cultures will celebrate Lunar New Year culminating around February 10. It won’t be a big issue in Java or Bali, but might complicate travel in Vietnam, Thailand and to a lesser extent, Cambodia,

In Bali there will be two back to back major holidays in early March: Galungan and Nyepi. These are festive events and a good time to visit.

Depending on your interests I would also look at Sulawesi—central for the fascinating Toraja culture and north for world class diving.
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Old Dec 8th, 2023, 09:49 AM
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A few questions

1. How is travelling to Vietnam during Tet? Is this recomendable?
2. Which beaches/islands or generally places would you recomend for South Thailand? There are so many I've seen, don't know which one to choose. Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Krabi, Khao Sok, Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Lipe, Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Chang. It's a lot.
3. How is Malaysia during Ramadan? Would it be worth visiting?
4. Is March okay to visit Bali? I've read that it's rainy season and not the best time to visit. How about Java in February?

I'm thinking on maybe leaving Indonesia for another trip in the future because of rainy season and Ramadan. I'll give some more time to Thailand and maybe a 10/12 days in Malaysia.

Last edited by bichokapo3611; Dec 8th, 2023 at 10:01 AM. Reason: Add a question
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Old Dec 8th, 2023, 11:18 AM
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A few answers:
  1. Travelling in Vietnam during Tet is a lot easier than it once was. Accommodation and transport will be more expensive and can get booked up way in advance. Some places may close. That said, it is still possible and many people get on just fine. If these issues concern you then pick another time.
  2. Which beach destination to choose will clearly depend upon what sot of experience you are seeking. Phi Phi, Koh Samui , Phuket are mostly party/package tour type islands . Personally , I would avoid. Lanta and Krabi are more "refined" . Ko Tao is great for diving but beaches not so much. Phan Nang is mostly about full moon parties but with a few upscale resorts thrown in. For an up to date description of all Thai beaches, travel fish is the place to look.
  3. Malaysia is fine to visit during Ramadan. It is an ethnically diverse country so you may not even notice that much except on the east coast which has a predominantly muslim population and the observance of Islam is more pronounced. Worth visiting? Absolutely, it is an incredibly diverse and rewarding country to visit.
  4. March in Bali is hot, humid and wet. Too much for me. I can cope with most things but the humidity really got to me there around that time. Pretty much the same in Java.
I agree that it would be better to leave Indonesia for another trip. Partly because of the weather but also because we found Ramadan really did cause a few issues with travelling around Java at that time. Bali s a different matter of course as it is Hindu. As I may have alluded to earlier, IMO you are already spreading your time pretty thinly and I certainly would add more countries to the mix. If you were to add time to both Lao and Cambodia, I doubt you would regret it - but its your trip..
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Old Dec 8th, 2023, 01:37 PM
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Sorry I miswrote: Ramadan will begin around March 10 and continue for a month, followed by the Islamic holidays in April. So February in Java would be free from major holiday celebrations. But it’s still the rainy season.

In both Java and Bali March is the transitional month from wet to dry and conditions vary from year to year. This year Bali is in semi-drought, still hot and dry into December. Both islands are right on the equator so you can count on hot and humid all year. Higher altitudes are cooler.

In Bali it’s unusual for Galungan and Nyepi to overlap. These are major Balinese Hindu events with many temple ceremonies, processions and an overall festive atmosphere. The day of Nyepi ( which I believe will be March 11 or 12) is the day of silence. The night before there are lively all night processions with gigantic effigies. On Nyepi day everyone must stay home, no cars no motorcycles no airplanes no noise. And at night total darkness and a million stars. It’s a wonderful experience.
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