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Safety concerns for solo female traveler in SE Asia and itinerary feedback

Safety concerns for solo female traveler in SE Asia and itinerary feedback

Old Jun 27th, 2017, 10:40 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Safety concerns for solo female traveler in SE Asia and itinerary feedback

SE Asia has been on my bucket list since hearing tales told at the Boston get-togethers. I recently retired and decided this is the year. Planning on a one month trip starting in October; dates are flexible. Since announcing my plans (and inviting others to join me), I'm getting feedback from family and friends that it is not safe and that as a single woman I would be most vulnerable. Would appreciate your opinions on safety for a 65-year old solo female traveler. I'm now a bit on the fence, but lean toward going.

I've read several trip reports and queries on Fodors and Trip Advisor and came up with a draft itinerary (order of itinerary is uncertain):

Raleigh NC to Bangkok or Yangoon

Burma-10 day tour organized by Santa Maria tours to Yangoon, Inle Lake, Bagan, Mandalay.

Fly to Luang Prabang- 4-5 days or
8 day cruise with Mekong Cruises (Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai) or
3 day cruise with Luang Say (LP to CR)

Chiang Rai/Chiang Mai, Pai- number of days depend on cruise decision

Fly to Siem Reap 4-5 days

Fly to Bangkok 3-4 days

Phuket area beaches???--not a beach person, but have been told beaches are beautiful and as long as I'm here, I should see them.

I intend to prearrange all hotels and book tours through hotels.

A couple other questions—1) does anyone have any experience or opinion on either of the 2 cruises or cruise vs fly option (Chiang Rai/Luang Prabang)? (I looked up the Padaw cruise, but it is much more expensive.) 2) Are the beaches a must see? If so, what city would you trade-off? 3) Opinion on safety?

I appreciate all feedback.
Jackie is offline  
Old Jun 27th, 2017, 11:27 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Just go! Ignore the nay sayers as much as possible.

I am now late sixties but have traveled several times in SEA both on my own and on a couple of tours since I retired in my mid fifties. Absolutely no worries about safety (maybe they are thinking about other parts of Asia???) provided you take reasonable precautions.

If you live near RDU, I live in Cary, and would be happy to meet to discuss safety etc. Feel free to email me at mytimetotravel [at] gmail.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Jun 27th, 2017, 11:42 AM
  #3  
 
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SE Asia is considered the safest part of the world in which to travel.

Beaches are lovely, but aren't really cultural destinations, as I'm sure you know. October is not a good month for beaches in SE Asia. If you are intent on visiting a beach, schedule it for the latter part of your trip, mid-November to mid-December would get you good weather and the prices will be reasonable.

We have considered the Luang Say cruise - personally, I wouldn't be interested in the 8 day cruise, covering the same area. Whether to take a boat or fly is up to you.

SE Asia is my favorite part of the world. You have the "bones" of a wonderful trip!
Kathie is offline  
Old Jun 27th, 2017, 12:14 PM
  #4  
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Thursday--I'm in Wilmington, so not that close. Appreciate hearing of your fearless solo travels. Have you determined an optimum route from RDU to Bangkok?

Kathie--thanks for the feedback on the beaches. It makes it easier for me to leave them off my list, especially since I live in a beach community. I like the idea of the Luang Say 3 day-cruise to see more of the area, but wasn't sure about the quality of the trip. I only read the bad reviews, should go back and read the good reviews.

I think I'm closer to purchasing my tickets. Thank you both.
Jackie is offline  
Old Jun 27th, 2017, 12:16 PM
  #5  
 
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Oh, do go! I retired at 59 and have made a number of trips to Asia & SE Asia. Now in my 70s I have no intention of stopping. I'm going to Egypt in November but then hope to return to Asia on my non-European trips. I used to spend 2-3 months at a time in Asia and loved it more each time.

I have done the Luang Say trip from Huay Xia to Luang Prabang (I suspect that's the same one they're calling Chiang Rai, not far on the other side of the river) and also a freight boat trip the first time. Needless to say Luang Say was more comfortable, if a bit boring after the other wilder one. But I'd vote for comfort and do recommend it.

Only one more point for now, never listen to inexperienced people who tell you not to do something. People stopped giving me advice decades ago and I live to tell all the tales.
MmePerdu is offline  
Old Jun 27th, 2017, 12:24 PM
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@Jackie - since I'm retired I take it slow, and Bangkok (far from my favorite place) is usually in the middle of a longer trip. That said, my preferred route to Asia is RDU-New York (Jet Blue to JFK if not using AA FF miles), stop off for a few days, JFK-Vancouver, stop off for a few days, Vancouver to ??? in Asia. For BKK or a quicker trip it might work better to go via Dallas. Last trip I came back Tokyo-Dallas-RDU.

Do you have any FF miles? I use them to do the Pacific leg in business class, which makes a huge difference.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Jun 27th, 2017, 12:41 PM
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Go and enjoy this beautiful part of the world. I've travelled solo in Myanmar and felt safer than in many other places. The worst aspect of solo travel for me was not having someone to talk with, easily overcome by striking up a conversation with other travelers. I liked the Luang Say cruise, and there will be other guests to talk to.
I agree with others on the beach, not necessary if you aren't a dedicated beachie.
Try to spend some time in Chiang Rai, it's a charming small city with lots of options for excursions.
sartoric is offline  
Old Jun 27th, 2017, 02:30 PM
  #8  
 
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OK. As for safety, it's all relative the way that I look at things. I've been traveling the world, solo, and female since I was 17. I'm now early 60s. I've been going to S.E. Asia for 19 years and was going 1-3 times a year, depending on frequent flyer miles. Now, I spend 6 weeks straight there on vacation as I retired in my mid-50s and only kept one of my jobs after retirement. So, as far as S.E. Asia, I plan to keep going, and solo, until I keel over as it's my favorite part of the world although I"m back in Europe at the moment. Smiles.

Happy Travels!
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Old Jun 27th, 2017, 06:44 PM
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The US culture is such that people go to Las Vegas or Hawaii, but when they travel abroad, the majority of people take tours. That, coupled with the fact that you are headed to SEA, and, alone? Oh my, that's enough to freak out most people. How silly of them! When I travel, I mostly see Aussies and Europeans on their own, but rarely Americans. People often ask me, "Are you with a tour?" to which I reply, "I hate tours!"

I am a lady of a certain age, and I have taken four trips alone in the last five years, and three of them have been to Asia. My husband announced early on that he won't be travelling anywhere that requires drinking bottled water, so when I asked him if he minded my travelling alone, he replied, "Can you leave tomorrow?"

Seriously, you should have a great time. The SEA men are really mellow, and have the ultimate respect for women. I have found that I prefer to arrange transportation to and from the airport via my hotel so I don't get scammed, with the exception being Bangkok where you queue up and get a ticket stating the fare. Also, you mentioned that you were going to take tours arranged via your hotels--I have done that, and it's a big mistake. You have to schlep around the city picking up other people, and you spend time in gift shops. Hire a driver for the day via your hotel--it will not be expensive.

Personally, I would not visit four different countries in only four weeks. I would start in Burma, and spend as much time there as you can, before the place becomes totally westernized. You need to see more than the "big four." Also, I totally disliked Luang Prabang, as it was full of tourists, and seem non-authentic. I would suggest instead seeing the countryside in Cambodia, then heading to Siem Reap, and then leaving from Bangkok.

Regarding flights, I agree with thursdays that it's best to fly business class if you can. If you have AA miles, then you can leave from your home, fly to LAX, and then to HKG, and then to Yangon. Cathay Pacific is amazing. On the return, you will leave from Bangkok, and then fly directly to HKG, LAX, and then back home.
CaliforniaLady is offline  
Old Jun 27th, 2017, 07:15 PM
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WRT Luang Prabang. I have been there three times - 2002, 2004 and 2011. It is true that after the third time I said I wouldn't go back, it had become too touristy. But I think that for someone who wasn't lucky enough to visit before it was really discovered, it is still worth seeing. Stay in the middle of town, and wander the back streets.

BTW, I notice that you mention inviting others to join you. Not necessarily a good idea. Traveling can be stressful and one of things it stresses is relationships. Plus, traveling solo is freeing - you go where you want, when you want, no arguments or recriminations and nothing between you and what you have come to see.

Are you using guidebooks or relying on the internet? I still find guidebooks useful - they will answer questions you didn't know to ask.
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Old Jun 27th, 2017, 10:28 PM
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Can highly recommend flying ATL to ICN then to Chiang Mai Thailand all on Korea Air. Very easy, good food, great airport at ICN, faster immigration passage at CM...all told better than BKK.

And CM a good place to get started on your trip as the city is much more convenient, for the novice, than Bangkok.

From CM can fly direct to Luang Prabang, Phuket, Pattaya, etc.
jobin is offline  
Old Jun 28th, 2017, 07:08 AM
  #12  
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Thank you all for sharing your positive experiences. I feel much better about going ahead with booking. I've been checking flights this morning. Cathay Pacific premium economy is looking promising at $2,100.

No frequent flyer mile for me, unfortunately. I have two old travel guides from the local Library--the only two books they had. The Frommers SE Asia book declined to include any info on Myanmar because of political strive. Will need to check new editions on Amazon. I did order the Dawn Rooney book. Any recommendations on the best travel guides.
Jackie is offline  
Old Jun 28th, 2017, 07:19 AM
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Though no guides are without flaws or lags in updated information due to publishing schedules, I use Lonely Planet guides. They have plenty of the nuts & bolts information I like. I don't need pictures, can get those online so, even if I end up with some others, I always order the LP first.
MmePerdu is offline  
Old Jun 28th, 2017, 08:48 AM
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For deciding where to go I use the glossy guides like DK Eyewitness and Insight. For logistics I use Lonely Planet and/or Rough Guide. I sometimes use Footprints or Odyssey or Cadogan, and I occasionally check Fodors and Frommers for accommodation and food. The library should be able to get you some books on interlibrary loan. When I'm researching I usually go hang out in my neighborhood Barnes and Noble and read their books before buying the books I need on the trip. Note that Lonely Planet currently has a sale on ebooks.

For flights are you checking kayak and skyscanner and itasoftware? I occasionally buy from colsolidators like onetravel although I prefer to deal directly with the airlines. If you plan to do much travel now you are retired, you should get a travel rewards card. I accumulate my FF miles using a Citibank AA affinity card.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Jun 28th, 2017, 06:40 PM
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I've never traveled to SE Asia alone but I think it's relatively safe. I don't think you need that much time in Luang Prabang (2-3 days is enough). Myanmar deserves the longest time (I've never been but look forward to going there some day). Siem Reap - we spent one full day at Angkor Wat with a guide and the second day biking around ($1/day bike rental!). I don't think we ventured much beyond the immediate city. I'd spend more time in Bangkok than Siem Reap - you've got so much in the city to see and eat. You can venture to Ayutthaya to see the ancient ruins. It's about a 1.5 hour bus ride from Bangkok. I'm not a beach person at all so I can't comment. I went to Phuket and stayed at the Twin Palms near Surin Beach which was nice but took a tuk-tuk into town. Chiang Mai is a nice escape from the city and it's about a 4 hour bus ride from the ruins of Sukhothai. You can also visit Elephant Nature Park, an elephant sanctuary.

We booked our tours ourselves (not through hotels) since we thought it would save a little money.

Here's a trip report I wrote about Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Luang Prabang (includes pictures, our itinerary, recommendations):
http://fanofblank.blogspot.com/2015/...hiang-mai.html

Enjoy trip planning and your solo trip!
lindygirl is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2017, 08:02 AM
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For Siem Reap, do get a copy of Dawn Rooney's book, Angkor: A Guide to Cambodia's Wondrous Temples. Dawn Rooney figures it takes three full days just to see the major temples at Angkor. If you are really interested, you'll want more time. We spent a week and would have enjoyed even more time. Some people aren't all that interested in the temples and can do with a day or two, but I figure if you are going to spend the time and money to go to Angkor, it's worth spending some time there. There are many dozens of accessible temples.

I wouldn't go to Ayutthaya while in Bangkok, as it pales in comparison to Angkor.

Also, we spent a week in Luang Prabang, as we loved the atmosphere of the sleepy town and enjoyed visiting the various temples and chatting with monks and novices. I know LP is busier now, but I still thin it is worth more than a couple of days.

Have a wonderful trip!
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Old Jun 29th, 2017, 04:00 PM
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I so appreciate all the advice. Some updates: thanks for the suggestion of interlibrary loan. I picked up 4 books from library today (1 was the pick from my next book club group). I will use them to map out month-long visit. After scanning the guides, Luang Prabang went up a few notches. I'm comfortable with it being touristy. It sounds like an area I will really like.

I used the guides and trip reports to check out hotels. I was surprised to see that many recommended hotels have already sold out for Oct. And, I have ordered the Dawn Rooney book.

On the plane ticket, I checked out matrix ita and sky scanner. That led me to Google flights where I was able to plug in Wilmington as my starting point and got a flight for a few dollars more. Yeah! Cathay Pacific has a special that ends tmw, so will likely book flight then. I usually spend weeks agonizing over ticket prices, but the cut-off date is driving me to book tmw. Any opinion on $2,100 being a reasonable price for Wilmington-Charlotte-Hong Kong-Bangkok for a premium economy seat (round trip with SFO on return). Basic economy is about $980 (much less than what I've paid on recent Europe trips).

I appreciate all your comments; they are really helpful in my planning. Thank you.
Jackie is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2017, 04:16 PM
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That seems an awfully big markup for premium economy. On the other hand, basic economy looks quite low. I like Cathay Pacific, so a good airline.

BTW, I agree that one day for Angkor Wat is cutting it too short. I think I had two and a half (maybe three and a half) days the first time, and had to go back because that wasn't long enough for me.
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Old Jun 29th, 2017, 06:12 PM
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Cathay premium is basically coach on steroids. All you're getting is a slightly bigger seat, and an amenities kit. The seats don't lie flat for sleeping. I have flown basic coach on Cathay from LAX to HKG, about ten years ago, and it's better than most airlines. The passengers are pretty quiet, the food is good, and the flight attendants are nice. Is basic economy really only $980? If so, that's a smokin' deal.
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Old Jun 29th, 2017, 06:29 PM
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$980ish is what I saw on CP website out of Raleigh; also saw it on a couple other websites. It did seem too good to be true. Maybe the premium seat is not worth it? In country flights are about $500 (Yangoon, Chiang Mia, Luang Parang, Siem Reap, Bangkok).
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