6 week trip to East Asia

Feb 17th, 2013, 02:25 PM
  #1  
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6 week trip to East Asia

My husband and I are living in New Zealand for a year and we have 6 weeks between July and August to travel as we return to the U.S. We're starting to plan the trip and I'm interested in anyone's favorite destinations that they would consider "not to be missed." We have a few places that are definites for us based on our interests (more info or specific recommendations about any of these places are welcome!). We're interested primarily in cultural attractions, beautiful and diverse landscapes, and food!

-Japan (I know that's broad; we'll probably spend at least 10 days)
-China: Shanghai to visit a friend, Bejing
-Hong Kong
-Indonesia, probably for scuba and some relaxation. Bali
-Vietnam
-Cambodia (primarily Ankor Wat)
AlisaAAM is offline  
Feb 17th, 2013, 03:03 PM
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You probably already have too many destinations for your 6 weeks.

Some ideas: For Indonesia, visit central Java as well as Bali. Borobubur and Prambanan (plus the Ramayana ballet at Prambanan) are not to be missed. See my recent trip report: fodors.com/community/asia/kathies-return-to-jogja.cfm photos are at www.marlandc.com Java has some of the most beautiful landscapes of any place I've been.

If you had the time, I'd recommend Burma, but it would take 10 days for a "starter" trip.

Personally, I prefer Thailand to VN. And we loved Luang Prabang, Laos. But of course, you don't have time for everything. In fact you need to do some cutting from your wish-list already. This part of the world is best savored slowly.

To prepare for Angkor, get a copy of Dawn Rooney's Book, Angkor: A Guide to Cambodia's Wondrous Temples. You will want a minimum of three full days (four nights) just to see the major temples. We spent a week and would have enjoyed even more time there.
Kathie is offline  
Feb 17th, 2013, 05:29 PM
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Agree, you'll need to cut out one or two stops. My preference out of your list for scope and balance would be Indonesia, Cambodia and Japan. Since you have a friend in Shanghai, you'll want to go there too.

This means eliminating Hong Kong and Vietnam. I really like Hong Kong but think that you can cover big cities in China and Japan. I'm less enthusiastic about Vietnam than other parts of SEAsia, though you sure can't beat the food.

Scuba is available in Bali, but there are a lot of better sites for diving in Indonesia. By definition the most unspoiled reefs are difficult to get to. North Sulawesi-- Bunaken, Bitung -- would be a top choice.

Central Java -- Yogyakarta and Borobudur -- would be memorable. Be aware, however, that Ramadan (the fasting month) begins on July 9 followed by the big Islamic holidays, August 7-10. Not the best time to visit Java.
marmot is offline  
Feb 17th, 2013, 08:04 PM
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bali for sure... bangkok too... japan is very expensive...

singapore
rhkkmk is offline  
Feb 18th, 2013, 10:15 AM
  #5  
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Thanks for the thoughts, all. One of our problems is that we have many personal connections in this part of the world; my parents lived in both Tokyo and Hong Kong, we have friends in Hong Kong and Singapore, and my husband teaches at a school with a very large Vietnamese immigrant population (plus we're huge fans of Vietnamese food!). In many ways, we've envisioned this trip as a "If it's Tuesday, this must be Rome" type of trip to see some major sights and then come back to explore countries that particularly grab us in the future, but certainly will need some days built in to relax and do nothing (and not spend those days in expensive places like Japan!).
AlisaAAM is offline  
Feb 18th, 2013, 01:58 PM
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As the husband and traveling companion of the original poster, I am mostly following along. Thanks to everyone who has replied already. This will be our first time in this part of the world, and we're trying to strike the right balance between seeing a lot and not just checking things off a list as we sprint past. As you mentioned, Kathie, SE Asia is best savored slowly—though I've found that to be true also of many parts of the world! Why would you suggest Thailand over Vietnam?

Have you dived in North Sulawesi, marmot? Any dive operators to recommend? Thanks for the heads up on Ramadan. I'm guessing that means it's probably best to avoid many parts of Indonesia.
FreedR is offline  
Feb 18th, 2013, 02:53 PM
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It's just a matter of personal preference. I prefer Thai food to VN food. Thailand has better tourism infrastructure and a more service-oriented culture. I love visiting Buddhist wats, and there is an endless supply to visit in Thailand.

Traveling during Ramadan can be a bit inconvenient, but you can travel to Bali during that time, as it is Hindu rather than Muslim.
Kathie is offline  
Feb 18th, 2013, 03:23 PM
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Among Java, Bali and Sulawesi, only Java is directly affected by Ramadan. There are two phases -- the actual fasting month and the celebratory period following which in Indonesia is called Lebaran or Idul Fitri.

You can travel in Java during the fasting month. Hotels and resorts are fully operational and sites are open. The atmosphere, however, is subdued. People are tired, and dance and music performances are curtailed. I would avoid the Lebaran holiday anywhere in Indonesia. Millions of people are travelling and transportation is overloaded.

I like Kungkungan Bay in North Sulawesi. It's about an hour from Manado airport. Bunaken on the other side of Sulawesi also has many wonderful dive spots and resorts. There are actually spectacular reefs all over Indonesia. Bali is good and convenient, especially Menjangan island in North Bali.

I would also mention that Central Sulawesi -- Tanah Toraja -- is a terrific adventure spot. It's not so easy to get to (a 2-3 hour drive from Makassar) but it's worth the trouble for fascinating culture and profoundly beautiful nature.

I don't think it's a matter of choosing between Thailand and Vietnam, but if I were to list all the countries in Asia, Thailand would be near the top of the must see list and Vietnam about in the middle. I haven't been to Hanoi or the north though so my opinion may be skewed by Saigon which I don't like at all.

I know what you mean about the comprehensive, little of this, little of that trip. The first time I traveled with my husband in Asia I think we visited 8 places in 15 days. Airport formalities and delays can really slow you down these days, though, so you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time in transit. Weather related issues and just plain heat and humidity also argue against over scheduling. Be sure to plan some quiet time and days off.
marmot is offline  
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