Author Topic: Backpacking SE Asia  (Read 3875 times)

use2betrix

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1698
Backpacking SE Asia
« on: November 04, 2016, 02:42:52 PM »
It's looking like I will finally be in a good position to backpack SE Asia with my wife. I'm 28 and her 23. I have been doing contract work the last 6 years and working a ton the last 8 years. No unemployment and never more than 2 weeks off. By my last day in a week or so I will have worked 2730 hrs this year. Take that divided by the weeks and that's 59 hrs every week. Factor in a few 4 day weekends for weddings and holidays, and it's even more 70+ hrs weeks. We have a few trips like this planned before we have kids.

So the question is: has anyone done this or been there? Any suggestions? We have one way tickets to Thailand at the end of this month. We'll be there anywhere from 4-12 weeks depending how we enjoy it. I've never really got to just "relax" for a while since I've been working since I was 14, so I'm not sure if I can handle it well or if I'll get stir crazy/worried about being unemployed. I never seem to have too much of an issue finding work.

Beyond the sightseeing/adventure I hope to have some self realizations with my path of life. All the hrs I work, the industry, and often contract jobs in locations I don't like (namely the hot south) I make good money so it's hard to turn down. I'm hoping I will A. Decide to keep it up 6-8 years and retire saving everything B. Decide I just want to do contract work the rest of my life, not get ahead, but only work 3-4 months a year or C. Take a major paycut (50%-70%) and move somewhere I love working regular hours and putting off retirement.

Any input all around would be appreciated. Either on SE Asia or a future career goal. I'm hoping with the time off I can appreciate it enough that I might not need as much $$ to retire as I think if I can enjoy much cheaper things and find the freedom to be that much more worth it.

JoJo

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1365
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2016, 05:27:37 PM »
There are load of blogs from people doing this. 

A couple things I do before I go on shorter trips is to peruse the tours available at gadventures or intrepidtravel.  This gives you a good idea of things that can be done at a relatively fast pace through the countries.  Then I plan everything on my own and travel at 50-75% off their tour rates, and spend a little more time in the places that are interesting.

The library is a great resource, check out some tour books and see what you want to see.

Thailand has really made their tourist visa rules strict so you'll have to venture into other countries.  Any of them are good.


use2betrix

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1698
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2016, 05:47:22 PM »
That's a good idea, will check those sites out.

I've heard similar about visas. We're just planning to not spend more than 30 days in each country. May double back to Thailand though.

An agent told us to get a visa upon arrival we need to show a flight out within 30 days. Kind of sucks when we really wanted have a loose itinerary. Had no major desire to stay there more than 39 days but also didn't want to plan too much ahead either or lock ourselves into plans.

socalteacher

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 93
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2016, 05:49:24 PM »
I can't help you on the career goal but I have been to SEA 4x for trips from 2 weeks up to 8 weeks at a time. My wife and I spent most of our time in Thailand but have spent a few weeks in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia as well.

One HUGE benefit to SEA is the access you have to Air Asia. If you plan in advance you can get smoking deals on airfare. We flew from Malaysia to Bali for under $200 total round trip for both of us!


meandmyfamily

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 228
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2016, 08:06:53 PM »
We spent 25 days in Thailand and we could have stayed much longer and we went with 4 kids under 9 and grandma.  Beautiful country, beautiful people!  Enjoy!

I would probably start in Chiang Mai and work south all the way down to Kao Tao and maybe Phuket.  At least that is my plan for our next trip.  We won't be backpacking with 4 kids but that sounds like a blast!

wanderin1

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 61
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2016, 05:54:41 PM »
Just spent three+ years travelling, mostly in Asia, after working a schedule a lot like yours. A couple of thoughts:

1. It may take you several weeks to even begin “downshifting” enough to get the perspective you’re looking for. So, if possible, commit to travelling for at least month, even if you sometimes feel uncomfortable about it.

2. Second the recommendation to read some of the many blogs about SEA travel. Tons of great info about itinerary and activities.

3. Want the option to stay in Thailand for up to 3 months rather than just one month? Simply apply for a tourist visa before you go. All it takes is sending your passport, $40,  plus some paperwork to a Thai embassy in the US before you go. Google to get details. NO need to use a visa service for this.

4. Yes, you need to show a ticket out of Thailand before you enter. But you can just buy a cheap (less than $50!!) Air Asia ticket from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). Use it or don’t.

5. For me, hands down the most amazing sight in all of SEA was Angkor Wat, in Cambodia. Highly, highly recommend.

6. If you really want new perspectives, consider doing a meditation retreat. They're very popular and you'll find them in many places in SEA.

Have fun!

electriceagle

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 474
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2016, 09:49:01 PM »
I can't help you on the career goal but I have been to SEA 4x for trips from 2 weeks up to 8 weeks at a time. My wife and I spent most of our time in Thailand but have spent a few weeks in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia as well.

One HUGE benefit to SEA is the access you have to Air Asia. If you plan in advance you can get smoking deals on airfare. We flew from Malaysia to Bali for under $200 total round trip for both of us!

Air Asia sells a multi-ticket pass that you can use to travel very cheap. You will have to plan your flights far ahead though, as there is limited seat availability.

http://www.airasia.com/vn/en/book-with-us/asean-pass/overview.page

limeandpepper

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4482
  • Location: Australasia
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2016, 10:33:57 PM »
Hi, I travelled for 4.5 months through Asia (Southeast Asia - Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, and East Asia - Taiwan) with my partner, and it was amazing. I kind of didn't really want to go back to full-time work afterwards, and these days I'm working part-time. My partner is a freelancer, so similar to your situation I guess, he just stopped accepting more work while we were on our trip, and started accepting them again afterwards. We're planning to do something like this again, so I guess we're going for the "mini-retirement every few years" kind of lifestyle.

We used Air Asia for the flights, they have sales every now and then so if you want to travel outside of Thailand that's something you can look out for. During our big trip, for the Thailand portion we only explored the north, which is more mountains and lakes, though a few years back we spent a few days on the west coast (Ao Nang) on a beach holiday, and that was fun, too. You can read about the 4.5-month trip from the middle of page 7 to the end of page 10 in my forum journal, and I also posted about it in my blog under the 2014 Asia Trip tag (I'm so lazy I still haven't put up the Taiwan posts two years on, but... they're coming... eventually. The others are done.). Feel free to ask me questions. Also, look into getting travel insurance and vaccinations if you haven't already.

arebelspy

  • Administrator
  • Senior Mustachian
  • *****
  • Posts: 27906
  • Age: -999
  • Location: Traveling the World
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2016, 11:50:58 PM »
We're in SE Asia right now (Chiang Mai).  Looks like you arrive in Thailand end of the month, right after we leave (we're off on the 26th), but LMK your itinerary and maybe we can meet up somewhere--we should roughly be in the area for the next 6 month or so.  :)

This may be useful for you:
http://lifehacker.com/this-index-helps-you-plan-a-backpacking-trip-through-as-1771834327
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, and now travel the world full time with two kids.
If you want to know more about me, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

use2betrix

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1698
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2016, 12:55:10 PM »
Thanks everyone for all the input! Definitely some tips I will keep in mind. It's looking like my current project may end up a week or two longer than currently planned but we'll see. We did pay $145 for the freedom to change flight dates if needed. For each additional week of work I can stay about 5-6 weeks longer in Asia so it is hard to turn down. That being said, I've worked many contract jobs and this is the most poorly run/stressful job I have ever encountered, and the part of me that wants to giver them a big F U when they tell me they want me to stay longer is running pretty strong lol.

A rebelspy - I'll hit you up when we get there/gets closer. Chiang Mai is on our list of places, granted you'll probably be out by then. We plan to stay in Bangkok a couple weeks just to unwind from all my work and do a bit of exploring.

Here's our current list of places we'd like to go and a few notes my wife has made. Have no interest in trying to stuff A TON of travel in. Just want to relax and enjoy ourselves along the way. No real timelines.


COUNTRIES OF INTEREST:
Thailand
* Bangkok - Wat Po (Home of the reclining Buddha.), Chatuchak Market aka JJ Market (Easily the largest market in Thailand), Phallic Sheine (Penis Shrine) behind Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel
* Chiang Mai - Tiger Kingdom $15-$50, Grand Canyon aka Hang Dong Canyon,
* Phuket - Bang Tao Beach, Patong Beach (famous for parties but very touristy), Paradise beach, Nai Harn beach,
Laos
* Luang Prabang - Kuang Si Waterfalls $2.50, Royal Palace, climb Mount Phousi (355 steps to panoramic view of city)
* Vang Vieng - Blue Lagoon, kayaking & caving (in tubes)$10
* Vientiane - Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)
Cambodia
* Siem Reap - Angkor Wat (Largest religious monument in the world), Silhaoukville beach, yoga at Peace Cafe $6, Blue Pumpkin Bakery (pasteries, ice cream)

JoJo

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1365
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2016, 04:54:08 PM »
A few more things I'd recommend:

Chaing Mai - cooking class, take a tuk tuk tour of all of the fancy shops that are all on one road  (shops for loads of local made goods - jewels, paper, wooden things, etc), night market

Cambodia - my favorite thing of all was the riverboat ride from Battambang to Siem Riep.  About 95% locals and 5% tourists - first you travel the river, then the reeds & floating villages, and then finally the big lake.  Someone described Battambang as the "airpit of Cambodia" but it was my favorite city and way less touristy.  I did the Bamboo train - not sure if they still do that.
My second favorite thing was spending a night in one of the fishing villages on the islands outside of Sihaoukville, aka "the time I slept while wearing a life jacket".  Didn't like Sihaoukville much.

limeandpepper

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4482
  • Location: Australasia
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2016, 03:26:47 AM »
* Chiang Mai - Tiger Kingdom $15-$50

If I may, I'd like to ask you to read not just the positive reviews on TripAdvisor, but also the neutral and negative ones and reconsider this visit - I read many, many reviews when I was wondering whether to go to this place, and gradually built up a sense of unease about the situation there - as a result I decided not to go, and I think it was the right choice.

deborah

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8629
  • Location: Australia or another awesome area
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2016, 03:34:58 AM »
Myanmar Bagan. Amazing place.

Johnny Aloha

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 315
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2016, 04:55:43 AM »
Blue Pumpkin Bakery (pasteries, ice cream)

+10

I've traveled extensively thought SE Asia and glad to see someone else found this place to be amazing!

Enjoy the trip.  The people in all of those countries are incredible.  My wife and I were on a long bike ride in rural Cambodia and got caught in a torrential downpour.  We stopped under someone's thatch hut "garage" for a while.  We couldn't communicate well but they were offering us food and wanted to hang out.  It was really cool! 

use2betrix

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1698
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2016, 05:22:00 AM »
* Chiang Mai - Tiger Kingdom $15-$50

If I may, I'd like to ask you to read not just the positive reviews on TripAdvisor, but also the neutral and negative ones and reconsider this visit - I read many, many reviews when I was wondering whether to go to this place, and gradually built up a sense of unease about the situation there - as a result I decided not to go, and I think it was the right choice.

Thank you for the input. I will definitely do such. I decided against the elephant tour things for similar reasons but haven't had a chance to dig into the tiger kingdom info.

limeandpepper

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4482
  • Location: Australasia
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #15 on: November 08, 2016, 05:35:39 AM »
Thank you for the input. I will definitely do such. I decided against the elephant tour things for similar reasons but haven't had a chance to dig into the tiger kingdom info.

I haven't had any interactions with elephants yet myself, but if I go to Thailand again I might research some of the places mentioned here, they sound like they might actually be decent, so it may not be completely out of the question: http://www.greenthailand.co.uk/green-tourism/ethical-elephant-experiences-thailand/

arebelspy

  • Administrator
  • Senior Mustachian
  • *****
  • Posts: 27906
  • Age: -999
  • Location: Traveling the World
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #16 on: November 08, 2016, 05:55:30 AM »
* Chiang Mai - Tiger Kingdom $15-$50

If I may, I'd like to ask you to read not just the positive reviews on TripAdvisor, but also the neutral and negative ones and reconsider this visit - I read many, many reviews when I was wondering whether to go to this place, and gradually built up a sense of unease about the situation there - as a result I decided not to go, and I think it was the right choice.

Thank you for the input. I will definitely do such. I decided against the elephant tour things for similar reasons but haven't had a chance to dig into the tiger kingdom info.

There are Elephant Sanctuaries where they take care of the Elephants.

Avoid the ones where you ride them, and go to the ones where you don't, but still can spend time around them, bathe them, etc.

That's what we decided at least after researching into multiple, at least.

Going on Thursday, super excited.  :)
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, and now travel the world full time with two kids.
If you want to know more about me, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

limeandpepper

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4482
  • Location: Australasia
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #17 on: November 08, 2016, 08:00:44 AM »
Myanmar Bagan. Amazing place.

+2200

I don't even care much about temples in general, but the sheer number of temples in Bagan just blow the mind. Rent an electric bike and go explore. I will never forget the first day we went out to check out the sights and we were whizzing by a temple every few seconds. It was magical.

FLBiker

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 972
  • Age: 43
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #18 on: November 08, 2016, 10:58:26 AM »
I've spent about 4 weeks on Koh Tao (two trips in the early 2000s).  The second time I went, the island had a very Euro gap year vibe (which is fine if that's what you're into).  Drum and bass, redbull and vodka, etc.  That said, the diving was AWESOME.  Whale sharks, Christmas tree worms, etc.  Very, very cool.  Also, (due in no small part to the tourists) the restaurants are fantastic and quite varied.  That's basically the only place I went in Thailand, but I've also heard great things about Chiang Mai.

Johnny Aloha

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 315
Re: Backpacking SE Asia
« Reply #19 on: November 08, 2016, 11:58:06 AM »
There are Elephant Sanctuaries where they take care of the Elephants.

We did one of these.  I don't remember the name but it was easy to find online.  It was actually set up as a elephant recovery sanctuary, and only about 10% of their elephants were available per day - the others are on their rest routine.  It was amazing.