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Vietnam, Malaysia or Thailand ? (with 2 teens)

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Nov 22nd, 2011, 11:45 AM
  #1
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Vietnam, Malaysia or Thailand ? (with 2 teens)

I am very excited to be planning our first trip to Asia for December 2012. We are a family of 4 - mom (me), dad and 2 boys age 15 & 16. We have 14-16 days total to be away and are hoping to use mileage for at least 2 of our airline tickets. We are torn between Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. Thailand sounds like it's gettineg more touristy and expensive, so we are kind of narrowing it down to Malaysia/Vietnam, but are open to any suggestions. it also looks like you can squeeze Singapore in with Malaysia since it's so small.
We've traveled with the boys to Europe and Mexico many times and they are good travelers/eaters. We like beaches (surfing/scuba/snorkling), but we want culture and real life stuff- villages, temples, etc. No resorts or fancy hotels. We can drive ourselves, take trains, buses, etc.... We are somewhat adventurous but I'm not really the "rugged" type; light hiking-ok, Kayaking-ok; mountain climbing? NO!
Can we do Vietnam and Malaysia in 2 weeks without feeling too rushed?
I would love hotel recs, "must go" recommendations and any warnings about things we may not anticipate.
I hope this isn't too detailed, but I know being too vague doesn't get me much information. Thanks for any advice!
Leslie
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Nov 22nd, 2011, 02:01 PM
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www.kohtao.com

lotus resort best for me safe cheap natural...
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Nov 22nd, 2011, 03:56 PM
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I've not been to Malaysia (other than the airport) so I can't comment on that. You could easily spend 14-16 days just in Vietnam. We spent 12 and didn't go to the hill country or the Mekong Delta. Are all 14-16 days "on the ground", or does that include travel days to and from home?
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Nov 22nd, 2011, 05:55 PM
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We loved Malaysia and Vietnam. both very different from each other. We loved the multicultural aspect of Malaysia and variety of cultures there. Both would be very suitable for travel with your teens. We loved Penang for the historical sites and the food. We didnt get to snorkel but I believe it is available there.
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Nov 22nd, 2011, 08:20 PM
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In terms of modern development Malaysia is ahead of Vietnam by perhaps 30 years. Here in Oz, everybody seems to be heading to Vietnam for a holiday. It's much cheaper than Malaysia.
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Nov 22nd, 2011, 08:39 PM
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Malaysia has very interesting places to go..
You can spare 1 week in vietnam and 1 week in malaysia..
If you choose some northern malaysia like penang,kedah..there are quite far from singapore.. if you want to squeeze it with singapore maybe you can choose melaka,johor(danga bay),you can visit Sepang F1 near with KLIA.. then go to singapore..
If you want some borneo part.. sabah or sarawak is really interesting..
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Nov 22nd, 2011, 11:50 PM
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Fly into Malaysia (KLIA airport) spend 9 days and 3D/2N in Singapore. Skip Thailand(Bangkok)... flooding now and has been for the last 3 months! Vietnam is great but needs more time to travel.

Value for money - Vietnam (but only historical sites, otherwise things are pretty basic. Food - interesting and adventurous!)

West Malaysia - Penang,Kuala Lumpur & Melaka (3 cities), will give you a full flavour 'Truly Asia' If you have more time go to East Malaysia... Very colorful !!

Singapore - its like little Switzerland... pricy... or 'Hospital City!!' Ha2 very sanitized. Its an eye opener what a dictatorial state is.... very efficient government (lots of countries can learn from them)

Both Malaysia & Singapore is a safe country. Bangkok & Vietnam gives one a feeling of sleaze... be careful when visiting bars.

Have fun and remember its raining season now...!!
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 12:44 AM
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"We like beaches (surfing/scuba/snorkling), but we want culture and real life stuff- villages, temples, etc. No resorts or fancy hotels. We can drive ourselves, take trains, buses, etc.... We are somewhat adventurous but I'm not really the "rugged" type; light hiking-ok, Kayaking-ok;" - Thailand would fit the bill perfectly for all of these activities although, as you already suspect it is far more "touristy" than the other destination and is undoubtedly getting more expensive (but still excellent value!). It is easy to travel around by public transport and by rental car (excepting Bangkok). With 2 weeks I would split between the beaches of the Andaman coast and renting a car to drive around the mountains in the north this website could help http://www.travelfish.org/country/thailand

You should also spend a few days in Bangkok - loads to see and do.

Vietnam is much cheaper and, arguably, has food as good, if not better than Thailand. The tourist infrasstructure is developing fast but is not as advanced as Thailand. As a consequence there are fewer tourists and it is easier to get off the beaten track. My favourite places include Hanoi, Mai Chau, Ba Be lakes, HCM City Hue and Sapa. Nha Trang is good for SCUBA and beaches but it is probably the wrong time of year weatherwise in Dec.

I love Malayasia for its multi-culturalism, its extremely varied food and some of the best beaches in SEA. The west coast has the best weather in December - Penang and melak are both worth a couple of days apiece. Kuala Lumpur is a great city but for me the best place to visit is Borneo which has adventure options aplenty and great beaches/diving etc. rather than peninsula Malaysia.

I can take or leave Singapore - ok for a day or two but would not be high on my list for a first time visit to Asia.

Not trying to add to the complexity, but have you thought about Laos and Cambodia? Both have a tremendous amount to offer.
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Nov 24th, 2011, 11:56 AM
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We had a fantastic time in Thailand/Cambodia in December five years ago with our then-young teen boys. We did not go to a beach - just BKK/Angkor/Golden Triangle (elephant camp and day trip into the border area of Burma)and a weekend in Tokyo. I'm now sorry we missed the beach, so we will need to head back. Check out my trip report - click on my name and then "Boy Falls off Elephant."
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Nov 25th, 2011, 02:14 AM
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Driving yourself is not an option in Vietnam!! Trust me. Which ever country you decide to go to you'll have a ball. Personally I'd lean towards Vietnam. However Sabah and/or Sarawak are also worth looking at as another (but related option)


I'd also suggest visiting your local library and borrowing travel guides for all the countries to get a 'feel' for what's involved.
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Nov 27th, 2011, 12:32 PM
  #11
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Well this is all such great information that I can see I have some homework to do. We are pretty much set on Vietnam and now need to figure out how we can fly there without bankrupting ourselves.
I have a few books-lonley planet and frommers (sorry fodor-my book store was out) and lots of websites and blogs to read- thanks lifemelody and thanks crellston for the fav spots to check. we probably won't drive- thanks silverwool.
Thanks to all for the great input....I just love planning to visit a new place!!
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Nov 28th, 2011, 01:48 AM
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Aside from not driving, I'd like to mention that the hardest part about Vietnam was learning to walk across the street. Just wait until there is a gap for about 6 feet and start walking at a steady pace. The motor bikes will usually just go around you. As long as you don't do anything unusual, like changing direction suddenly, you should be quite safe. The first couple of times I waited until there were some locals crossing the street and tagged along. They usually thought it was a great joke.

However, Vietnam is a great country and you should enjoy it. Personally I think 2 weeks will go very quickly in Vietnam without trying to fit in another country. Also I preferred the north to the south but opinions differ.
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Nov 28th, 2011, 03:05 AM
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daffy, Vietnam is a good choice but the weather will be cool and rainy in the Central and Northern areas in December. Good for urban environments but less so for the beaches and countryside.

I'd consider a combination of Thailand and Cambodia.

Also, have you thought about Bali, maybe combined with Java? December is high season everywhere in Asia, but Indonesia seems to offer a lot of the activities on your wishlist.
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Dec 2nd, 2011, 05:02 PM
  #14
jgg
 
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We leave two weeks from today for a two week trip to Vietnam with our 19 yo daughter, 16 yo son as well as a good family friend. We will be spending 4 nights in Saigon plus and overnight trip to the Mekong Delta, 4 nights in Hoi An (incl. Christmas), and 4 nights in Hanoi plus an overnight to Halong Bay. While in Hoi An I have booked a cooking class, bike ride through the countryside and a "street food" tour. I'll be writing a full trip report when we get back. We also did Thailand and Cambodia a few years ago in March. A very similar trip to Crosscheck's (minus the stop in Tokyo). Here is a link to that trip report if you're still considering going there: http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...les-and-to.cfm
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Dec 2nd, 2011, 05:16 PM
  #15
jgg
 
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One other thing. I am a big fan of fodors and always come here first, however, for planning this trip to Vietnam I did find the TripAdvisor forum a bit more complete with more questions and several locals who are very informative.
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Dec 3rd, 2011, 06:15 PM
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Hi jgg,
Vietnam - So envious!
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Dec 11th, 2011, 03:47 AM
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Vietnam. Start in HCMC and travel north. Nha Tran, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, Halong Bay. Plenty to see and do. Snorkel in Nha Tran, Cooking, bike riding in Hoi An, History in Hue and Hanoi. See one the world's must dos- Halong Bay before it is totally overrun by tourists and loses it's charm- definitely overnight on a boat. Food is easy to live with- not too spicy (but you can make it with the condiments offered) and some of the freshest tastes you will ever experience and cheap as ????? I think it's a great first time spot for visitors to Asia. Two/three nights in each place would be very comfortable. Maybe head inland to Dalat for a couple of days or head down to the Mekong Delta for a homestay.
Expect a day travelling the short distances to places and take side trips to waterfalls and temples. We thought that a 200km distance on the open road would take us 3 hours like it does in Australia. Wrong... double the time you think it will take and add an hour or two. Buses are Ok but don't stop. We did a small group tour which was great.Don't drive and definitely don't ride a motor bike!! Like all Asian countries, you won't have a clue about the road rules, even the locals don't, and if you have an accident it is your fault...afterall if you weren't there the accident wouldn't have happened. Too big a risk for mine.
I've been to Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore as well. I think Vietnam and Laos are the best for moving about in but Vietnam is easiest by far without joining a tour group.
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Dec 20th, 2011, 11:50 AM
  #18
 
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The first step, if you travel Asia, is to have a look at the rainfall averages for your travel month. For Peninsular Malaysia aka West Malaysia, the December is OK for the west coast (e.g. Langkawi, Penang, Malacca), but the east coast (e.g. Tioman Island) turns into a lee-shore (with high waves, flooding, rains).
Our recommendation for your trip:
Fly to Siem Reap in Cambodia where you can see one of Southeast Asia’s wonders (…and can compare them with your previous travels to Mexico), the Angkor Temples:
http://konniandmatt.blogspot.com/201...-jun-2010.html
Do a river trip from Phnom Penh to Vietnam and proceed to Saigon:
http://konniandmatt.blogspot.com/201...-jun-2010.html
Explore Saigon and the Mekong Delta with its floating markets:
http://konniandmatt.blogspot.com/200...-mar-2009.html
Fly from Saigon to Kuala Lumpur and/or Singapore and explore Singapore, Malacca and Penang:
http://konniandmatt.blogspot.com/200...-apr-2009.html
http://konniandmatt.blogspot.com/200...-jan-2009.html
http://konniandmatt.blogspot.com/200...-may-2009.html
Happy travels, Matt.
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Jan 4th, 2012, 07:57 AM
  #19
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I have so much information to take in!!
we've decided on Vietnam, so I feel like I can focus better. Now I have to get our flights with mileage....wish me luck
Thanks to everyone and I will be checking back with some of you for more info and advice.
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