So, in the spirit of offering travel tips and information, I thought I'd post my pre-traveled thoughts on what the tentative itinerary for SE Asia is. My travel partner-in-crime and I made this a pretty quick trip (20 days) through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam because
1) we've been out of our homeland for over a year and want to go home sooner than later,
and 2) have commitments at home that made for a time restraint.
If you wanted, you could spend several months traveling through this region of Asia, simply because it's seriously beautiful, cheap, AND transportation can take up quite a chunk of time!
However, if you are looking to visit Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in 3 weeks or less, feel free to keep checking this blog for more travel tips on what to do and not to do.
A couple notes:
We are leaving from South Korea, which gives us a little extra time and also will not account for jet lag that those from the Western world might feel upon arrival. If you will be on a serious international flight (which I consider to be 9 or more hours), give yourself 1 day to rest when you arrive to your final destination, especially if you are a first-time traveler. This does not mean to sleep that entire day. You should try to adjust to your new time zone as best as possible. However, take it easy. Don't sign up for a rock-climbing excursion on Day 1 or anything.
Some of our stops along the way are simply to save money in terms of flying. SE Asia can be incredibly cheap to get around if you have the time to do so. Especially in SE Asia, there is no high-speed train (unlike South Korea, China, and Japan), so if you want to avoid flying, just be aware that this will take a lot more time, but is by far the more cost-effective option. You can check travel forums to ask about specific bus rides and fares to see approximate times and prices, but just know you will have to have an overall more flexible schedule.
If you do want to fly, make sure to price check, and often! Kayak.com is a great source for cheap airline tickets, as is Airasia.com. In our case, we booked a few flights to save time, and although we had to get a little creative (by arriving in nearby cities and then bussing to our final destination) we came out with some really good deals while still saving time. It's all a balancing act.
The rough itinerary of our 20 days is as follows:
DAY 1-10 IN THAILAND
Day 1: Fly Seoul to Phuket
Day 2: Bus Phuket to Sura Thani, boat Sura Thani to Koh Samui
Day 3/4: Koh Samui, overnight boat back to Sura Thani
Day 5: Sura Thani to Chiang Mai
Day 5-10: Chiang Mai (including a tour to the Elephant Nature Park for a little volunteering and elephant-playing)
DAY 11-20 IN CAMBODIA AND VIETNAM
Day 11: Fly Chiang Mai to Siem Reap
Day 12/13: Siem Reap and Ankor Wat
After this, we kind of left things unplanned. The overall idea is to bus down to the west coast of Cambodia (Sihanoukville), eventually get visas into Vietnam and then bus and boat into Vietnam (in that order). We will fly out of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and back to Seattle as an end to this crazy journey.
I'll be posting as often as possible during this trip to keep friends and family updated, but if you're reading just for fun don't worry-- lots of anecdotes and travel advice surely await.