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Traveling to SE Asia

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Feb 4th, 2016, 09:36 AM
  #1
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Traveling to SE Asia

I am in the planning stage of a 6-8 weeks journey, starting from Canada (YUL) to Thailand (BKK), Myanmar, back to Thailand (northern) then Vietnam and Cambodia. I am wondering: 1) if there is a better / more logical way to set up this itinerary to maximize flights time and costs and also, which itinerary and arrival city airport is the best (and cheapest) from Canada? (I even considered flying through Taipei.) I am also searching for traditional markets, amazing artisans, local artists and craftman and woman making quality creations of any utensils or product related to food making or consuming and the art of the table. Thank you all very much for any suggestions and contacts you wish to share.
Roamingtiger is offline  
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Feb 4th, 2016, 11:26 AM
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When are you going?

Bangkok is typically the least expensive gateway to SE Asia, but you might fly through Narita, Taipei or Hong Kong to get there. You have 4 countries listed for 6-8 weeks. In that time, you can visit all four countries, but you'll have to pick and choose where to go. That's actually a lot of territory, and all of these places are best visited slowly. Be aware that you will need a visa before entering Myanmar and VN, you can get a visa on arrival for Cambodia.

Myanmar is the least developed and the one changing most rapidly, so I would highly recommend ta least two full weeks there. You'll need to do your research on this fascinating country and may even need to book lodging ahead for a portion of the trip, depending on when/where you are going. It will be the most expensive of the 4 countries.

Flights are quick, and no doubt you'll want to use some flights as well as traveling overland at times. Air Asia is very cheap, but doesn't go everywhere. Also look at Bangkok Air's Discovery Pass - it might be worthwhile for you.
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Feb 4th, 2016, 10:15 PM
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I would follow the geography and go Burma-Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam. There are a few reasons for this. First, Burma is the most annoying for visas-you have to get it in advance, and you will know the exact arrival date now, whereas you may change your itinerary for the other countries as you go along. Next, you still do need to take some fresh, unfolded US dollars to Burma, so you need a flat case to store them, and later you can ditch the case and wad them up. Vietnam is a good end point, since you can easily leave from Hanoi.

I am not familiar with routes from Canada, but I suggest starting with the website "kayak.com" to familiarize yourself with possible carriers--I have been using it for years. However, once you find a suitable carrier, then you go to that website and book directly.

I'm not much of a shopper, but try to get to Mandalay in Burma and see the street where the marble artisans work. They make jewelry alongside giant buddhas. We watched a completed marble buddha being lifted by crane onto a truck--it was swinging around, and I wondered if it was getting a headache. Siem Reap is famous for pottery, but I never visited the shops.
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Feb 5th, 2016, 09:22 AM
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Cali, note that for Burma, there is now an easily-obtained e-visa, actually less hassle than VN (for which you must also pre-arrange a visa) because there is no stamping fee upon arrival. Do make sure you use the official government site for your e-visa, not a travel agency site.

But if you do opt for the e-visas for Burma and VN note that you have to fly in - no overland entry.
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Feb 5th, 2016, 09:34 PM
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Oh goodness, Kathie, you are absolutely right! I should have checked before posting.

Anyway, the Burma-Thailand-Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam route will still make sense in terms of geography, and getting rid of cash first in Burma.

Thank you again for catching me--I thought I was perfect, LOL.
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Feb 5th, 2016, 10:36 PM
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Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai has really neat night markets set up. Note that they vary and are more abundant with vendors of both food and crafts on certain days.

As for flights, check out an app called Hopper - it lets you enter your destination and provides predictions on flight prices. I flew with Etihad via Abu Dhabi from Toronto, which was the cheapest flight I could find at the time.

Regarding Cambodia/Thailand border crossing. If crossing by land at Poipet, get ready to spend a whole day in transit and beware of all the scammers approaching you trying to sell visas or get you across the border. You don't need them. You can get a visa at the border, but the process is very chaotic and the border officials charge "extra". For me, it was 300 baht extra which was written on the chalk board beside the office. The government official yelled "if you don't want to pay, don't come in". I wish I had a pre-arranged e-visa when I was crossing, as the chaos at the border caused a great deal of stress. For visa information, in general, check out an app called Sherpa Travel. It provides visa details and deciphers legal jargon found on government websites. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sher...1430?ls=1&mt=8
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Feb 6th, 2016, 02:05 AM
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Something to keep in mind as far as the markets go. While I love Chiang Mai, I was there again last May (not a good time to go as Kathie had a good time ribbing me about, it's a bough 46 C and very humid) and the big street market that everyone talks about is largely ruled by cheap Chinese tourist junk these days. Very disappointing. However for the very very patient and with a good eye for the authentic you can find good artisans and the real thing. Chiang Rai is now the destination for those weary of Chiang Mai, and that I leave up to the above experts.

I had excellent luck with flights in and around Vietnam. However in all ways possible DO NOT BOOK WITH CAMBODIA ANGKOR AIR domestically. I learned the very hard way (I am still in country now) got burned for more than $500, they bump you repeatedly while you are trapped in a heated room, without access to any employees or information by phone, by computer or any other manner, then bow and scrape and put you on the plane six hours later without having given you food. This happend to me two days in a row and the airport told me that is happens every single day without fail. When I tried to cancel all future flights -no answer, response, nothing. I"m going after them. Don't give these creatures your money or trust. The same thing happened in Laos with Lao Skyways, in case you get there as well. Please be warned.
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Feb 6th, 2016, 02:11 AM
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I found beautiful lacquer in shops in Bagan, Myanmar. Kindly note: a jewelry box costing perhaps $7 a few years back now sells for $150. Kathie is dead on right, it's very expensive, go NOW. It's only getting worse. I didn't go to Mandalay, but I did find a driver and explore the markets in Yangon. With local knowledge, especially if you use the same driver for a few days ( I did) I ended up being shown back alleys and shops where I found wonderful things off the main drag.

Laos is know for its silk weavings. Here in Phnom Penh I see many of the same kinds of place mats and sometimes horn implements for the table. The silks here in the city are lovely. However there is an American price for nealry all of it as much of it is attached to some kind of developmental project. You don't save any money, but you do get a feel good from knowing you dollars are going to a good cause.

I just came back today from the big Russian Market- and I honestly didn't see anything that you mentioned on your wish list. Many shops abound both in Laos and in Cambodia's cities - and I recall in Thailand- which would carry what you want.
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