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Asia newbie looking for assistance/ideas for November trip

Asia newbie looking for assistance/ideas for November trip

Old Feb 5th, 2012, 03:05 PM
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Asia newbie looking for assistance/ideas for November trip

Greetings,
My husband and I have decided that Asia (a bit broad, I know) will be our next big trip. We are are experienced travelers to Europe and have also been to Peru, Central America, and South Africa. DH was stationed in Okinawa in the early 80's so has visited some Asian cities briefly. I've never been and am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the choices - I am interested in everything. We thought we had a trip to China worked out (small group through business opportunity - may have another chance in the future), but that has fallen through for now so my ideas are all over the place right now.

Ideally we'd like to use miles which seems most possible for us going into BKK, NRT or PEK (but I am leaning towards "saving" China for now). So, either Japan OR some SE Asia option, most likely. We will have 10 nights on the ground in early-mid November so seasonality will play a factor although it is a little tricky sorting the weather patterns.I prefer warm to cold, but am ok with "fall" type weather - just don't want to be freezing or soaking wet if I can help it. Will Tokyo/Kyoto be too chilly? Vietnam is of interest but it does not look as if our flight options are ideal and mid-south may be too wet?? Also interested in Luang Prabang, Northern Thailand, Siem Reap/Angkor Wat and even Burma (although, again, maybe better on a 2nd or 3rd trip). Even Bali/Indonesia in play although not as likely for this trip. As you can see, I need to FOCUS!

We love history, architecture, good food, and a mix of city/country. We enjoy experiencing new cultures, hiking, and love scenic beauty. A little shopping goes a long way for us and we generally choose 1 or 2 museums on a trip, but that is rarely our focus. Recent trips have combined Istanbul with Cappadocia and Ephesus/Sirince, and trekking the Inca Trail to M.P. with time in Cusco and the Amazon Basin outside of Puerto Maldonado in Peru. I hope that helps give a feel.

Any suggestions for an amazing first trip to Asia in November for 2 active mid 40's- mid 50's folks? With 10 nights on ground we likely focus on 3 locations (we want some diversity of experience and are willing to schlep a bit if going that far, but don't want to hop around constantly). I am having trouble narrowing my thoughts ...Tokyo/Kyoto with one other stop? Bangkok (mostly for hub but I'd be interested in visiting) with Siem Reap and Luang Prabang, OR Chaing Rai, OR Hanoi or ???? Just Vietnam north to south and don't worry about the miles? BKK with Burma??

I would welcome any thoughts or suggestions. Thanks!!
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Old Feb 5th, 2012, 03:24 PM
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With a mere 10 days on the ground, choose one area to focus on that will allow some diversity of experience but no long flights needed once you get there. The first option that comes to mind as a great intro for first-time Asia travelers in a Thailand/Cambodia itinerary. Combine Bangkok with Siem Reap (for Angkor) and one other location in Thailand - either a beach or a northern Thailand destination. I wouldn't recommend three countries in the 10 days, as much as I loved both Siem Reap and Luang Prabang (and Bangkok is my favorite city in the world). I think you are wise to save Burma for a second trip, as it has some oddities in the travel situation that can trip up even experienced travelers. And 10 days is probably the minimum for a trip to Burma, and you'd need transit time through Bangkok, so a minimum of 12 days to get 10 in Burma.

If you aren't interested in a beach, the Golden Triangle area of Thailand is delightful, with the beautiful Anantara at the Golden Triangle as your base to explore.

Any chance you can add a couple more days? Three nights somewhere is a mere two days.
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Old Feb 5th, 2012, 03:44 PM
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We have visited some of the places you mention. The Japan scenario seems like a good one to me. The trees are changing color in mid-November which is an unforgettable site. We saw Tokyo-Miyajima Island-Hiroshima-Kyoto in one week and we only had an overnight in Tokyo which deserves much more. Temperatures were cool but pleasant and we had only a little rain.

We were also in Vietnam in November. We were on a bike trip, but did Hanoi-Hue-DaNang-Hoi An-Saigon in 10 days (with two air transfers (Hanoi-Hue and DaNang-Saigon). Weather was fine except for some flooding in Hue and extreme heat/humidity in the Mekong Delta. I would limit your trip to the Northern part of Vietnam if you choose this fascinating country.
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Old Feb 5th, 2012, 05:29 PM
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For 10 days my top combination plates would be: Singapore/Bali, Bangkok/Thai beach, Bangkok/Angkor. All fulfill your wishlist.
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Old Feb 6th, 2012, 06:17 AM
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Thanks for the great input so far.
As much as I love the beach, DH is not so keen on it. Plus, I think with such limited time, I'd rather not use it for the beach this trip.

I think you are right, Kathie...even if just 3 locations perhaps 2 countries better than 3. And I love the Anantara option (friend stayed there a few years ago so was on list of consideration). Are there any nonstop flights from Siem Reap to Chiang Rai? Kayak didn't show any, but perhaps a reputable local airline that isn't showing up?

Vietnam and Burma of great interest, but I think each will be a trip unto themselves.

Right now thinking either BKK, Anantara or similar, and Siem Reap OR Japan. Flights easier by far to NRT - NONstop from IAD.

Unfortunately, time is a bit tight. We can leave on Nov. 3rd (or an evening depart on the 2nd) and must be back by the 15th. So, it will be 10 or 11 nights on the groud depending on flight choice. It looks like we would arrive late on the 4th and could take an early am flight out on the 15th that gets us home the same day. So maybe 3n BKK, 4n Angkor (want to visit the school/kids I read about), 3n Anantara and 1n back in BKK before flight? Is that at all workable/reasonable?

I still have to play with Japan logistics but those seem a bit clearer to me, especially with the nonstop flights. Tokyo and Kyoto would be musts, but not sure whether to go all the down to Hiroshima/Miyajima or better to do something in the mountain/Hakone area? Or other? Again, need to play with logistics and 3rd area options/interests.
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Old Feb 6th, 2012, 07:25 AM
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No, there are no direct flights from Chiang Rai to Siem Reap. You would have to change planes in Bangkok. I think your idea of 3 nights Bangkok, 4 nights Siem Reap, 3 nights Anantara and a last night in Bangkok would work perfectly. Flights to/from Siem Reap would be on Bangkok Air. Unfortunately, they don't fly to Chiang Rai. You would probably fly Thai to/from Chiang Rai.

I also agree that either VN or Burma should be a trip unto themselves.
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Old Feb 6th, 2012, 07:47 AM
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You'll have enough time for a fantastic trip - We did:

3 nights BKK
3 nights Siem Reap (temples plus school visits)
4 nights Anantara
2 night Tokyo (because of award ticket)

We usually spend a 7 days + in one place, but didn't feel rushed. The Siem Reap-BKK-Chiang Rai connection was easy, even though we used two different airlines. An Anantara driver picked us up in Chiang Rai where we visited the market before heading north to the the hotel. We also went into Burma with a guide from the Anantara...just the border area, but it was fascinating and included visits with two hill tribes. The Anantara was also offering a full day visit into Laos to a festival. I'm still a little sorry we didn't get to Luang Prabang or beach, but we'll just have to go back.
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Old Feb 6th, 2012, 09:13 AM
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November is an excellent time to visit Japan. The trip to Hiroshima/Miyajima is not very long from Kyoto and some people have visited there as a day trip, though I would recommend an overnight stay. Hakone would be a good choice.

So would Nikko, I think, right Mara?

[I wrote the following paragraph and then realized that I decided not to go Takayama last November in the second half of November last year because it might be cold and bare trees. But, my main interest was going on to Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route and that would have been too cold. I think Shirakawgo would be good anytime, even in 6 ft of snow]

But my first thought was to visit Takayama and Shirakawago. See if Kamikochi interests you. Then maybe go from Tokyo to Matsumoto by JR then bus to Kamikochi, maybe Hirayu Onsen, then to Takayama and from there to Shirakawago. This is in the mountains, so check on the weather.

So you are using Star Alliance (probably United) miles: you mentioned the IAD-NRT nonstops.

You could fly Asiana Airlines via Seoul to Siem Reap with your miles and should be able to make a stopover in Japan. Or, from SR you could buy a ticket to BKK and then return from there.

One more thing: Tokyo does not have to be your Japan flight destination or return city. You can connect there to other Japan cities.

For example, you could fly ANA nonstop to Tokyo and connect 2 hrs later to Hiroshima. Visit there then Kyoto and Tokyo.

Or go to Tokyo (or skip Tokyo and just fly on to Osaka and go to Kyoto) then Kyoto, train to Hiroshima and then Fukuoka to see the grand sumo tournament. Fly FUK-NRT-IAD home.
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Old Feb 6th, 2012, 03:49 PM
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Thanks! Great stuff. As it turns out, I got word today that China is on, and I was able to hold business/first miles seats into Beijing and out of HKG so it is an "offer I cannot refuse."

Kathie, super helpful info. And mrwurnfl - terrific ideas for Japan PLUS you helped with some routing that I used in working through my FF options today for China- yes, United.

I feel as if I may have just caught the Asia "bug" so I will keep all this info and am sure I will use it going forward.

(@crosscheck - I cannot believe we haven't "crossed" paths more...as we often travel with boys about the same age(almost 18 and 21 - hs senior and college jr), and we both overlap with jgg and laurie (don't remember her screen name). I've loved your trip reports in the past - fun and helpful).

Thanks again to all and happy travels!
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Old Feb 6th, 2012, 04:01 PM
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Ah, once you've been bitten by the Asia bug, you'll be back.

Have a great time in China!
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Old Feb 6th, 2012, 11:14 PM
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Yes, our boys are exactly the same ages, and indeed, I have had real life encounters with both jgg and laurie - I will check out your trip reports...trying to get in one big trip before son #2 heads to college, and then maybe India with Mr. C. Is this your first big empty nester trip?
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Old Feb 7th, 2012, 01:13 AM
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Asia's great. Lots of good advice above and I probably don't have much to add but here is a good blog to check out for visuals and commentary about many of the destinations you are contemplating:

http://cokesmithphototravel.com/Asia.html

Cheers and BON VOYAGE!
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 03:25 PM
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Hi - many of the options above are perfect

My only change would be to do 3 nights Lunag Prabang in combo with 3 nights Bangkok and 4 nights Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai. Flights are easy and cheap.

Luang Prabang is extraordinary and being a very seasoned traveller (and also doing it for a living) it is the first place in a long time that has made me catch my breath. Orient Express and several other 5* operators have beautiful properties there that offer a great experience for a lot less than you would pay in other countries for the same thing. Same applies with BKK and Chiang Mai etc. You can get very adventurous during the day and soak in a great tub at night!

The other option which I really love is Singapore & Bali. Again if you love food, culture and some wonderful contrasts in the the countryside then Bali is fantastic. Beautiful people, great villas to stay in and again some amazing options to take part in. Love it and travel there every year.

Happy travels.
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Old Feb 11th, 2012, 03:08 PM
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Thanks again, all. I do love the sound of Singapore/Bali at some point as well.

@crosscheck - I've met both personally as well. What are you thinking for a big family trip before DS2 leaves?
Yes, I suppose China will be our first big trip as official empty nesters, but we have been able to travel just the two of us about once a year (my Dad comes to stay)for a while now.

I have been negligent about writing trip reports the past few years - just really busy and some of the travel is work/pleasure combo which makes it a bit tricky/not as much flow.

I also realize that my older trip reports do not seem to be tagged as reports - written before the "new" Fodor's site.If you are interested (NO obligation) I have written reports for Switzerland/Northern Italy (7/6/06 first post); Lot, Dordogne, Paris, Normandy (8/1/07); Portland/Columbia River Gorge (11/3/06); London (1/3/06); Greece (7/19/08); Slovenia & Croatia (11/13/07) and maybe one or two more.

More recent trips have been Peru, Turkey, Spain, Canadian Rockies, Netherlands/Belgium, Mexico, and South Africa...in some combo of family, couple, single. I do try to answer questions from time to time, but haven't done full reports often - just not on Fodor's as much as I used to be, but still find it an amazing resource and a the "go to place" when planning a trip.
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