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Hong Kong and Asia - family hoiliday for a month

Hong Kong and Asia - family hoiliday for a month

Old Feb 22nd, 2007, 10:00 AM
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Hong Kong and Asia - family hoiliday for a month

gosh - where to start - this is such a big question:

We live in Cape Town, South Africa and plan to fly to Hong Kong (using up airmiles) around 10th December. We are 2 adults, plus 12 year old boy, 16 year old girl and very active grandma. We plan to fly back to Cape town from Hong Kong around 12th January - this gives us a month to work with.

We would like to spend some ime in HK - maybe 5 days? then perhaps fly to Viet Nam - where to and for how long? Then perhaps on to Thailand (where to and how long?) before returning to HK and home.
We like to see lots of different things - we are very active, but children do get fed up with too much sight seeing so we will need to fit a resort in somewhere (eg they loved a cruise we did in the Caribbean this December). We are not big on lying on beaches and tanning but we do like snorkelling
We are really open to any ideas - what about China?
Sorry to open with such a big vague question, but I do not know Asia at all and i am really not sure where to start. Once we have bones of the trip I can focus down on the details from there

I really appreciate any help you can give us
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Old Feb 22nd, 2007, 10:38 AM
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wow...lets see...

you will all love hong kong....you could easily spend a week there without getting bored...i prefer to stay on the kowloon side...there are tons of restaurants and shopping there as well as good hotels...check out the salisbury YMCA for your hotel...it is similar to a holiday inn...it has a fabulous location...

i am more familiar with thailand....you will want to spend some time in bangkok, maybe a little time at a beach or an island too....i can suggest both koh samui (peace resort there would be good for you) and hua hin (can drive there from bkk (i love the hyatt hua hin there), but also the marriott and the sofitel are good as well....
chiang mai is another possibility...slightly smaller city in the north of thailand...an easy inexpensive 1 hour flight from bkk...

a laid back place is luang prabang laos...check it out too..

much of china would be quite cold at that time of year...beijing, etc...

there is also angkor wat in cambodia which is worth 4-5 days....the kids might be bored however...its all ruins...i.e. sightseeing...

i suggest that you buy or borrow an asian guide book which can give you an overview: fodors, formmers or the like...this will give you good grounding...

come back here for specific questions, we love to help!!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2007, 06:40 PM
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While this site is a wealth of information, if you have not already done so you should do some basic research about each country you are considering and what it can offer. Weather info would also be helpful. You can get guidebooks out of the library; old books are fine, as being out of date does not change the basic info in books on sights, culture and weather. The net is a great source of info as well. As a start, read the destination guides on this site and on Frommers.com. Historical weather information can be found at weatherbase.com and worldclimate.com When you hare some ideas of what you want to see and do, then buy the newest editions for restaurant and hotel recs and the latest travel tips for that country.

The first thing to bear in mind if you want to include China in this trip is that the weather will be quite different in the PRC than it will be in Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam. It will be winter and quite cold in most parts of the PRC, but it will be very hot in Thailand, and warm to hot in most part of Vietnam (mountain areas and some parts of north Vietnam will be cooler). It will be “winter” in Hong Kong, but that generally means temps in the 15-22 C range. Take a look at weatherbase.com for temperature ranges. This may mean bringing more clothes than you want for a month-long trip, and may also mean much colder temps and/or snow than you are used to in South Africa, or were expecting or would want. Winter and snow could be a great fun experience for your family, but if you don’t want to bring (or buy), winter coats, gloves, hats, sweaters, boots, long pants, etc, you might want to reconsider including places like Beijing on this trip.

Asia is huge, as is China itself, but if you already have Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand on your list, IMO you have 3 weeks right there, and so adding a week in “China” may really only mean Beijing and possibly one other city, which is fine; but you could also spend more time in the 3 places already on your list or do some add-on trips from there to more close-in places (see below). I think Hong Kong is a good start (I live here so am prejudiced) and it is certainly lovely weather and a lot of fun in December as the skyscrapers are all decorated for Christmas, and there are many things to do and see here. If you want some beach time from Hong Kong, there is Hainan Island, which is only an hour by plane and has some lovely beaches, albeit temps could be a little on the cooler side in Dec and Jan.

Thailand is another good choice. Bangkok is always interesting, and there are northern hill areas that have a lot to offer, in addition to the beach areas just south of Bangkok or the more famous areas like Phuket. Note that Dec and Jan are about the highest season there, so hotels in beach places like Phuket will be more expensive and more importantly will get booked up early, so fixing that and plane reservations to and from those areas should be done early if possible. A very logical add-on to Thailand is a trip to Ankor Wat in Cambodia and/or to Luang Prabang in Laos for 2-3 days. (You can also do some non-stop flights from Hong Kong so, can do these on the way to Thailand as well.)

Singapore is another very logical choice, a good way to break up a long flight from SA and there is a lot to see and do there as well, including an excellent zoo (which seems ridiculous to mention to someone from SA...). Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand (esp Bangkok) are good places for a first “introduction” to Asia, IMO, as they are modern cities that are accommodating to visitors and Singapore and Hong Kong esp have no language issues (none really in Bangkok either), and all have excellent public transport systems. Bali would be quite rainy, otherwise I would put it on the list. It does tend to be a bit rainy in Singapore then too, but that is not as much of an outdoor destination as Bali is, so that does not interfere as much IMO.
Remember that you will need a visa for the PRC which must be obtained a head of time and takes a few weeks to organize. I don’t know the regulations for SA citizens regarding visas for the other countries, you would need to look into this.

The last thing I would add on the PRC is that they are holding the Olympics next year, and so coming back in 2008 for that might be a great second trip to Asia and a chance to see the PRC at its best (after they have spruced up all the monuments, put in the new public transport, and at a time when they will not be allowing any air pollution, which is a huge problem at the moment.)
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Old Feb 22nd, 2007, 09:16 PM
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You guys are the best. Here are some comments as i read through your replies.
To start with, I spoke to my mother last night (age 70 lives UK) she said: "Can we go to China - I'd like to see the 'Mr Terracottas' and the great wall) The husband also wants to include China

Guide books: have bought Fodors Hong Kong - very helpful and confirms I'd love to go. I do lots of research before a big trip like this - its such a financial and time investment you can't really afford not to.5 weeks just spent in Florida was largely advised by Fodors books and forum input - so grateful

Hong Kong: Kowloon was also what I thought.
Thailand - will buy the book today as it confuses me right now
China: cold a non issue - shall just wear more clothes
Ruins: kids were mused for 10 mins with the Mayan ruins and I could net get them our of Xel ha lagoon witht the snorkelling later that day so ruins will have to wait or whenever my husband and I might travel alone

Please excuse my immense ignorance at this point, but if we wanted to see some wall and the terracottas where do we go to - I will buy/ borrow books this weekend I promise

How about: 5 days Hong Kong, 4-5 days China (keep it tight) 7 days Viet Nam, 14 days Thailand - Bangkok for a few days then a resort for 8-10 days

Also to consider: where would we spend Christmas day - we would possibly be in Viet nam but wouldn't have to be. We would possibly be in Thailand for New year

Where would you go for snorkelling - will keep the husband happy all day?

Again I apolgise for the vagueness of my posting - trust me we will get better
Thanks again for your input
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Old Feb 22nd, 2007, 10:38 PM
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The terra cotta warriors are in Xian in southwest China. The Great Wall is generally accessed from Beijing in the central/east portion of the PRC, the closest parts are about 45-60 minutes from Beijing, although it stretches for hundreds of miles, in reality you have to do this from Beijing. There may be flights from Xian to Bangkok, so it may be possible to go from Beijing-Xian-Bangkok or vice versa.

Snorkeling is good from the areas around the island of Phuket (Thailand), by this I also mean a mainland area called Krabi and further offshore islands like Phi Phi. With that much time you could certainly stay at all three of these areas or at least two to get the flavour of each. You have to go out on boats to deserted islands and reefs rather than going directly from shoreline hotels really to get the best snorkeling, but this is easy to do. I believe it is somewhat easier to do direct shoreline snorkeling from Krabi hotels, others may have better views on this. Phuket/Krabi are on the west coast of Thailand. The east coast/Gulf of Thailand has some excellent areas of well like Koh Samui, however, December is just coming out of the rainy season and it may not be as optimal then, and given that the monsoons will have churned the water for the past several months, IMO water clarity is not has good (more of an issue for divers, but can also affect snorkeling). However, Koh Samui, Koh Lanta and areas like that are certainly possible. The beaches directly south of Bangkok like Hua Hin have little if any snorkeling to the best of my knowledge.

I don’t know much about beaches in Vietnam and snorkeling options, but I believe there would be several.

You do need to read some guidebooks to understand the areas. For example, Kowloon is a section of Hong Kong....
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Old Feb 23rd, 2007, 12:19 AM
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Thanks Cicerone
Like the idea of flying Hong Kong, Beijing, Xian then Bangkok. Friend of mine here has just been to China and he went to Shang hai then overnight train to Xian then flew to Beijing - Do u think I need to do all three!!?? or just 2 of these - travelling with 5 people is quite a job.

I am getting quite familiar with Hong Kong now (good Fodors book!) and know where most areas are - Kowloon does seem the most sensible place to be based

Will now post a seperate Viet Nam question and see where it takes me. I have a Lonely Planet book on Vietnam and we are going away for the weekend so i shall spend lots of time reading it

Will also read up onyour very valid points about water clarity etc in Thailand
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Old Feb 23rd, 2007, 12:51 AM
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With the limited amount of time you have budgeted for China, and with your desire to see the Great Wall and the terracotta warriors, I would not recco that you include Shanghai. If you want to include it, then IMO you would need to adjust your itineary vis a vis other places.

Just do some reading on all the places and think about what you want to do and see on this trip. I am sure your plans will change daily/weekly as different things attract you from time to time.

As a resident, I have a different view on Kowloon being the "place to be", IMO unless you have a harbour view room, there isn't any reason to stay there, as everything else you want to see or do (and almost everyplace you want to eat) is on the Hong Kong side...I shall have to re-read my Fodors to see why they give the impression of Kowloon being the preferred side for anything other than the stupendous view, and unless you can see it from your hotel window, you have to walk, ferry, taxi, bus or subway to get to the view, so it kind of loses the point for me...
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Old Feb 23rd, 2007, 01:10 AM
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Cicerone: thanks for help - which part of Hong Kong would you recommend we stay as a hotel base - Hong Kong Island?
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Old Mar 20th, 2007, 05:49 PM
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Singapore is good as a break from the more hectic parts of Asia since it is clean and orderly. The Night Safari at the zoo is great fun, the kids should love it. You don't need more than about a day and half here.

JetStar Asia flies directly from Singapore to Hong Kong and it is the best low-cost carrier I've been on. Hong Kong is terrific and 4-5 days should be enough to see a lot of it. Don't stay in Kowloon, Hong Kong side is much better. The Metropark Hotel in Causeway Bay (www.metroparkhotel.com) was really good. It's located directly across from Victoria Park which has a swimming pool, tennis courts, and plenty of room to run around or sit on a bench. The Metropark is also right across from Tin Hau MTR station. Roof-top pool if it's warm enough. Book a room on a higher floor with a view of Victoria Harbour, it's worth it.

There is great dim sum on Sunday at Cuisine Cuisine in the IFC tower, just a few MTR stops from the Metropark, on the Hong Kong side. If you want to see things in Kowloon, take the Star Ferry across, a classic HK thing to do.

Viet Nam is great, if a little more challenging since English is still not widely spoken. That said, the people there are really nice and try to help. Da Nang has gorgeous beaches and it's a 45-min drive from Hoi An, a UNESCO world heritage site. You can get 24-hour tailoring done here and it is the place to get inexpensive silk purses and scarves. Scuba diving and snorkelling are options out of Hoi An as well.
Hanoi would be my pick over HMC but if flights work better, there are some important historical sites to see in HMC. The spa at the Park Hyatt Saigon is worth the small splurge.

Hope this helps!
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