First trip to Asia

Old Jul 12th, 2018, 12:24 PM
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First trip to Asia

I am planning my first trip to Asia. My husband and I want to go in July of next year. We want to start planning in advance to be able to fly with miles. We have to decide where we want to go. Someone suggested Japan and China or Southeast Asia (Thailand and Indonesia). We have two weeks. What would you recommend for a first timer based on your travels? We are experienced travellers, but have a hard time tackling Asia...Thanks!
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 01:17 PM
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Do some reading, look at photos see what parts of Asia "speak" to you.

Asia is best seen at a slow place, you want enough time to get a sense of these places and that will be harder than going to Europe. With two weeks I'd suggest you choose either Chins or Japan or a country or two in SE Asia. China and Japan both in two weeks would be no fun and you'd come home with no sense of these places. You might also want to consider weather. Any of the weather sites will give you average maximum and minimum temperatures for each month and rainfall. Personally, While I loved Japan, I wouldn't go there in July - it will be hot and humid. But I have a friend who goes there in the summer as she is accustomed to even hotter weather.

You are welcome to view our photos - mostly of places in Asia at

Choosing where to go can be fun - give yourselves permission to take your time to decide.
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 05:31 PM
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Claudina: As for going to Asia and trying to figure it out, it really isn't difficult if you narrow down your interests and also narrow down the regions/countries and not over plan.

If you end up doing Japan, then spend the entire 2 weeks there. I'll be back off to Japan in about a week and a half from now and will spend three weeks there. Last summer, I spent 2 weeks there. And as Kathie stated, it will be hot in Japan in July, but heat doesn't bother me as I'm used to it both here at home in Los Angeles and also in Southeast Asia. It's sizzling here at home right now and the humidity is up.

I spend most of my time in Southeast Asia where I've been vacationing regularly for nineteen years. Kathie has been vacationing there even longer, so we and others on this forum can help you out a lot along with other areas of Asia. One Fodorite lives on Bali if you have questions about Indonesia.

My main focus is spending time in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. I have also been to Indonesia (Bali), but only once back in the 1990s, but have thrown Indonesia back on my itinerary for the Winter 2018/2019 trip although it will only be 4 nights in Jakarta (Java). When on my winter, Southeast Asia vacation, I'm away for 6 weeks straight.

I send most of my time in Bangkok as I give Bangkok 3 weeks straight and then the remaining 3 weeks are negotiable. But, I fly into (from L.A.) and out of Singapore (back to L.A.) as it's so easy and then I get other flights within Southeast Asia. Plus, I use Singapore to transfer in and out of while going to other countries within Asia.

I usually try to use some of my frequent flyer miles to fly within Asia as it takes fewer miles than trying to use them to fly from the U.S. to S.E. Asia. When I went to Taiwan, on this last winter trip, I cashed in Singapore Air miles to fly to Taiwan, from Singapore and back to Singapore. So, I didn't have to pay for the airfare. When I go to Jakarta, this coming winter, I have already cashed in some Singapore Air frequent flyer miles for that airfare, from and back to Singapore. I have also cashed in miles between Thailand and Malaysia and also between Malaysia to Singapore on different trips.

As for China, that destination will take your whole two weeks. I haven't been to Mainland China, but have been to Hong Kong and on this past winter, 6-week trip, threw in Taipei, Taiwan for 6 days/5 nights and absolutely loved Taiwan. Hong Kong and I didn't click at all, a couple of winters ago, but we all have different interests. On that trip, I flew from Singapore to Hong Kong and back to Singapore and used my frequent flyer miles for an Economy Class ticket and then decided, while in Singapore, that I wanted to fly in Business Class, so walked to the Singapore Air office, near my hotel, and paid the difference in airfare and off I went to Hong Kong for 5 nights/6 days. I give new destinations 4-5 nights in case I don't like the place.

Taiwan might be a good place for you to consider as a newbie to Asia instead of starting out with Mainland China. It was really easy in Taiwan and there were some small day tours around the island country. I was on one really nice tour and we were only 4 people in a mini van that seated 6 people. There were the 4 of us plus driver and guide. I wasn't even staying in the hotel, where I booked the tour, but just walked over to the 5-star hotel, less than a 10-minute walk away from where I was staying and asked what tours were offered. I was given an extensive brochure and picked one and paid for it and was told to just meet in the hotel lobby the next day. I mentioned that I wasn't staying at the hotel, but the concierge said that it wasn't a problem. There were plenty of available half-day and whole-day tours to take from different companies. Also, Taiwan is known for its food and the people are really friendly there. I can't wait to go back one day.

One of our Fodorites, who has spent a lot of time in Japan, reported that Taiwan has become her favorite country now, over Japan, which she also really likes. Maybe that person will post.

As for Asia in general, I slow it down and don't look at it as somewhere I go to just tick off a lot of places to quickly see. Plus, in a lot of places, if one wants to do some organized tours, there are plenty of companies where one can book half-day and whole-day tours aside from also exploring on one's own. So, I just go with the flow.

So, my suggestions would be to decide if you want to do Southeast Asia (my personal first preference), Japan, or China or maybe consider Taiwan, combined with something else. Then start reading and taking notes. Also check on airfares from wherever you are from to your possible destinations.

Personally with 14 nights, I would fly into Singapore and stay for 3 nights, then go to Penang, Malaysia for 3 nights, then go to Thailand for 8 nights with 4 nights in Bangkok and 4 nights somewhere else in Thailand. Then, fly home from Bangkok or do it vice-versa and fly home from Singapore. Or you could also do Singapore and Bali.

When I first went to Southeast Asia, in the 90s, I had around 2 weeks or a few days more, and did Singapore, Bali, Chiangmai (Thailand), and Bangkok. I had planned to stay on Bali longer than I did, but left early as although I'm glad that I went, it didn't have the effect on me that it had on my best friend who had gone there some years prior. She went to Bali the first time and went back regularly for some years. But, then she started spending most of her time in Thailand.

If I were to do Japan, I'd do 5 nights in Kyoto and 5 nights in Tokyo and then maybe pick 4 nights somewhere else or put 7 nights in Kyoto and 7 nights in Tokyo and take day trips from each place and then you would only have to stay in 2, different hotels and not move luggage. Although in Japan, one can send luggage from one hotel to the next and one city to the next.

When, I was in Kyoto, I went to the reception desk at my hotel, and filled out a short form and had the receptionist send my suitcase on to Tokyo to my next hotel. My suitcase arrived before I arrived as when I arrived to my hotel, in Tokyo, I was informed that my suitcase had arrived early that morning and had been sent to my room. The cost of all of this service was about the equivalent of U.S. $15.00. So, when I arrived to the hotel, I only arrived with a small, carry-on suitcase. So, also keep this in mind.

If you're going to do China, then that will take some serious research and there are plenty folks here who can help you out with China as this is a very well-traveled group of posters.

If you come back to this forum and need more information, it's important that you state your price-range for accommodations along with your likes and dislikes as to cut down on posters taking a lot of time to post information and then possibly find out that it's not something that you are interested in.

Happy Travels!

Last edited by Guenmai; Jul 12th, 2018 at 05:37 PM.
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 06:49 PM
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If you're locked into July, definitely read about the monsoon situation where you're considering travel. With all of the focus on the Thai "Wild Boars" the news about flooding in Japan has been overlooked a little.
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 07:53 PM
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IME, planning a trip to the Asia can seem daunting, but really, it's just like planning a trip to any other destination -- figure out what you most want to see, do some research to see how to do that, and then do some more research to actually plan a final itinerary.

With 2 weeks, I am among those who would not recommend combining countries -- in fact, I would recommend focusing on just a part of one country; YMMV.

Let us know when you have more focused questions!
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 08:23 PM
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you can choose Bali if you are new in SouthEast Asia, there's so many historical temples, yoga class, or traditional local experience you will be get here. You can enjoy sunbathing in Bali, so many beautiful beaches or you can enjoy snorkeling in East Bali. Bali is friendly place for new traveler, Have a great trip dear!
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 08:51 PM
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On a first trip to a region it's all new so consider using practical considerations as much as any to make your decision. Weather, to be sure, also food...what Asian do you like best. If you aren't sure, do some research before you decide. Two week of food that you don't love can be tedious to say the least.

My favorites are Chinese & Thai. So that means Thailand, obviously, and countries in Asia with large Chinese communities. So besides China/Hong Kong, Malaysia (Penang in particular) and Singapore. I'm less fond of Lao & Indonesian, though I liked the food in Bali. You get the drift. Guidebooks with chapters on food will help narrow down that aspect. And as mentioned, go slow, you won't regret it.
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 11:08 PM
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As for food, I'm one who always needs to maneuver around food a bit as I have three, major food allergies and by choice haven't eaten meat/poultry for 42 years as I was quite young when I stopped eating it. I've had major food allergies, off and on, since a very small child. But, I still am able to eat quite well wherever I am although for me Taiwan was more difficult as there were food items that I wasn't sure of if they might have contained one or more of my food allergens. The first place that I headed to, on my first day out, was a sushi bar with the sushi conveyer belt. LOL!

I still made out fine in the end and although eating was more tedious, I would go back to Taiwan in a heartbeat. It was kind of good to not be eating so much as I went to Taiwan in my 6th week of my trip and having eaten myself into euphoria, for 5 weeks prior, in Bangkok. Penang, and Singapore it kind of worked out fine in Taiwan. Plus, everywhere that I've traveled to I've been able to find food outside of the traditional food of that particular country if needed, even in the middle of nowhere in Ghana, West Africa. As long as I can find something to eat, I'm a happy camper.

Happy Travels!
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Old Jul 13th, 2018, 12:21 AM
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Many visitors highly appreciate the culture, cuisine, friendly people, and daily life experience in Vietnam. Street food of Vietnam like pho (noodles), nem ran (spring rolls), and banh mi has become famous worldwide. Vietnam also has many beautiful, untouched beaches ranked top of the world. There's a lot of things to explore in Vietnam!
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Old Jul 16th, 2018, 06:36 AM
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"Local experts" are unnecessary for a trip to Asia, especially for SEA. Looks like we have yet-another-travel-agent masquerading as a traveler.

Definitely learn about the weather and consider rescheduling - I have not visited east Asia in July but I remember it being very hot in Beijing in late August and I would not want to deal with the humidity in Japan.

Unlike many posters here, I am not a huge fan of Thailand, I prefer Vietnam. However, for a first visit I would suggest either Japan or Taiwan. There is no reason to spend all your time in Taiwan in Taipei, there is a good train system plus I wanted (and enjoyed) two full days (three nights) for Taroko Gorge, not a day trip from Taipei.
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Old Jul 16th, 2018, 08:40 AM
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I think getting advice from locals has merit especially considering its their first time to this region of the world.

Yes July will be warm in the places you have mentioned. Can you go later like in the fall? It will be much nicer to travel about then.

If not and you have two weeks I suggest Thailand and either Vietnam or Cambodia or all three. We would not run around too much but thats us. You could and many do.

Alternatively consider incorporating Singapore and Kuala Lumpur which are rather close, maybe 4 hrs, by bus and also consider Melaka which is in Malaysia and in between the two.

How much running around are you willing to do?
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Old Jul 16th, 2018, 08:49 AM
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Depends on the locals. What we typically see here from, for example, Vietnamese travel agencies is terrible.
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Old Jul 16th, 2018, 09:40 AM
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If decent weather is important to you then, in July much of Indonesia will be good, notably Bali and Java. Central Vietnam also, but less so the north and the south where it will definitely be very hot and likely wet too. Borneo (East Malaysia) Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo is also good at that time of year with loads to see and do.

The main factor to consider is what interests you. Beach, wildlife, jungle culture, food etc. ( although to be frank, the food in Asia is excellent wherever you go!)

With a little research, it is easy to plan and organise a trip to any of these places. I agree with Thursdaysd’s comments re local operators. Unless you want specialist trips or want to get really off the well trodden tourist paths, hey tend to add little but additional cost and have a penchant for creating overly busy itineraries which are more about ticking boxes than actually seeing places at a reasonable pace.

At that time of year, for a first timer, I would go with maybe a week or ten days exploring the highlights of Java and finish up with a few days in Bali relaxing.
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Old Jul 16th, 2018, 11:12 AM
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If you choose to go to Nam and do want a guide we had a great experience with one in HCMC. He is local and used to teach English there so there is no language barrier and his fees are very reasonable.
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Old Jul 16th, 2018, 07:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Claudina View Post
I am planning my first trip to Asia. My husband and I want to go in July of next year. We want to start planning in advance to be able to fly with miles. We have to decide where we want to go. Someone suggested Japan and China or Southeast Asia (Thailand and Indonesia). We have two weeks. What would you recommend for a first timer based on your travels? We are experienced travellers, but have a hard time tackling Asia...Thanks!
I would suggest pick a country based on your interests.

What are they?
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Old Jul 17th, 2018, 04:54 AM
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It would be a good trip no matter how many times you been here. I lived in all three of these countries at one time or another and I can insure you will find what your looking for. Three days at Angkor what is enough but there are so many other ruins in Cambodia it could take a month itself to explore.

Laos is similar to Cambodia, with many old cities, again I would recommend you travel by bus to get to see the country side also along the Mekong River.

From Laos enter Thailand and travel through Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai stop at Sukhothai and of course the many temples in Bangkok. and Ayutthaya
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