Help me pick an Asian country to holiday in

The wife and I are in the very early stages of planning our vaction next year. I am kind of thinking of one of the Asian countries.

We would probably be gone for about 2 weeks.

I haven’t ruled any out yet, but I am kind of thinking of the following:

Vietnam (?)

I probably wouldn’t want to go to anymore than 2 just for the simple reason that we don’t have a lot of time… and maybe only stick in 1.

A few things are important to us:

Price - How far is our “mighty” [sub]cough[/sub] Canadian Dollar going to stretch?

Safety - Are we going to constantly be looking over our shoulder?

Location - I would like to be somewhere near a nice beach (resort?) for at least a few of the days, but I wouldn’t be against going to the big city for several days.

Hotels - Probably goes hand in hand with price. I don’t want to pay $200 a night for a “nice” room if I can avoid it… although of course I am flexible for a nice resort for a few days.

Culture/society - What is just the neatest country to go to and be in?

Any advice/insights would be appreciated!

I’d recommend Thailand- people are frendly, and you can get whatever sort of experience you like- Bangkok is wild, and crowded, and the shopping is great, and the coastal islands are beautiful, each in its own way. Koh Samui is a wild island, while Koh Phangan is tranquil. Basically, if you don’t like the island, you change islands.

Also, you can see some amazing stuff- like Kanchanaburi (sp?) and the Erelan (sp?) park- jungle and waterfalls, and visit the actual location of the Bridge over the River Kwai.

Also recommend Viet Nam- people are surprisingly friendly, and Saigon is cool- South Vietnam is reportedly friendlier than North Vietnam- I never made it up north.

If you’re feeling really frisky, I recommend Cambodia- sure, it’s a little dangerous, but it’s really a nice place.


Beyond beach and hotel, what are you looking for?

Do you want to drink and go out dancing to all hours? (this is currently banned to a large extent in Thailand) Relax in solitude? Charter boats? Rent a car or bike? Do you want to try and stay in home with a family to see how they live? Just stay on the beaten tourist path? Travel about the country or just see a couple of places thoroughly? Scuba dive, raft, trek, sail, visit spas, get massage, etc? In short, what’s your idea of a good time?

Fair question Shibboleth, but I suppose it will vary on what in particular the country has to offer.

I personally like to have a few days to kick back in the sun and relax, but I also like sightseeing. Probably be more on the beaten path than off, for the simple reason that we are more or less novices with hiking. Probably be more interested in whatever the typical “touristy” things are for the particular area. Not sooo much into the dancing/clubbing scene but it would be nice as an option.

IE - If we went to Egypt we’d probably go see the Pyramids and the Valley of the Kings… not go on a 4 day trip down the nile in a fishing boat with the locals.

First, here’s a list of the current exchange between Canadian Dollars and currencies for the places you mentioned:


Well, I haven't been to everyplace in Asia, but I have some experience with Thailand.  Hotels in Thailand can be very cheap or very expensive.  I'd expect to spend about $30-40 (USD) for a nice 3-4 star hotel.Here's a list of things to do if you go there:
In Bangkok:

Hi Bernse as you can see from the previous post I am having some trouble with my computer. I’ll come back and correct this later (it wasn’t at all what was in my browser window, actually) and give some free advice, which is, as always, worth what you pay for it. :wink:

You didn’t mention this, but Bali is a really nice place. The weather is great. It is a tropical resort island. The exchange rate is rather good. Beaches and shopping abound (you have to bargain like crazy!). Also, there are wonderful things to see: the beaches, the temples, the monkey forest, the crafts market.

As blanx said, Thailand is good, too. Lots to do and see and you can be in the big city of Bangkok or go out to a resort area, like Pattaya. There is also Chaing Mai–beautiful place.

Japan is a really cool place! There is lots to see and the culture fascinates me endlessly. However, it is quite expensive, so I wouldn’t really recommend it if you are on a budget.

China is cool–but it depends on where you want to go. Shanghai is an inexpensive major city with lots to do. The coutryside is okay, too remote and somewhat isolated for me. Had trouble with the language barrier, though. (We had to hire an interpretor.) Unlike Bali and Thailand–many parts of China don’t get tourists.

Have only been to Seoul in South Korea, it was alright, but we didn’t get a chance to do much besides shop and play at the casino.

Haven’t been to the Philippines in years. Manila is a madhouse, but there are resort ares outside that are nice. I am not sure if Bagio (sp?), a beautiful resort town is still open. Last I had heard it was trashed in an earthquake, but I could be wrong.

Haven’t been to Vietnam, so I can’t help you there :slight_smile:

Good luck with the planning and happy holiday!

If it is your first experience of Asia, it depends whether you want to be thrown in at the deep end (eg. Vietnam, Cambodia), or whether you’d like to go somewhere “easier” (Thailand, Hong Kong).

My first trip to Asia dumped me right in the miggle of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. If you enjoy culture shock (which I found I do), then this would be for you. We landed just before midnight, and got to the place I was staying at about 1am, so the city was quiet. I woke up the next morning, and it was still quiet because the house was in a back alley. Then I walked down the cool, shaded alley, around the corner, and my mind quietly blew. I was standing on the edge of a large city square with an incredibly huge crowd of people, motorbikes, vendors, chickens, dust, noise, old DeSoto busses belching smoke, “Cyclos” (bicycle trishaw thingies). It was like one of those lavish crowd scenes in “Ghandi” or something. Amazing stuff. But if you do choose Vietnam, remember that it’s not geared for tourists. English speakers can be hard to find, you stand a good chance of being ripped off if you’re not careful (most Vietnamese are honest, but it’s a very poor country, and they have to eat). It may be worth joining a tour. Both times I’ve been to VN, I’ve been there with locals, but I’d be wary of going alone -though many do. You’ll be confronted by terrible poverty, begging, filth, and you may get sick. You’ll also be in one of the most beautiful (if you leave Saigon) and friendly places in the world. Have some shots before you go if you don’t want to get ill.

Thailand is a good choice if you like your travel to be somewhat easier. Most foreign nationals don’t need a visa for short visits, English is widely spoken, there are Tourist Police if you get ripped off, the exchange rate is good, and it’s got the Asian experience, with a chance to have a western meal, spend some time in a department store, or go to an “Irish” pub if you start to get overwhelmed.
In most of these countries, take a little care and you’ll have a great holiday. If you get in any sort of trouble, keep your cool. People in these places, especially Thailand, almost never lose their tempers. Lots of smiles, respect for the local people and customs -though you will be forgiven innocent mistakes (and the occasional little tip) will get you a long way.

I agree 100% with TheLoadedDog about Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. (I took 17 rolls of 36 film in three days in Cambodia :))

Japan is expensive and, unlike the other countries mentioned above, not too easy to get around in if you don’t speak some of the language.

The Philippines is a stunning country, but if you’re not into getting off the beaten track, you’ll be looking at a day or two in Manila (YUK) and then hanging on a resort… If that’s your thing, their resorts are great, and the scenery stunning, but you may as well go to resort closer to home as far as any feeling that you are in asia goes. (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the Philippines, it’s my 2nd favourite asian country, but you have to get off the beaten track to appreciate it, or dive the whole time you’re there)

If you are after an easy intro to asia, I’d suggest going to Thailand. In two weeks and keeping in mind you’d like to do some beach relaxation, I’d spend three days in Bangkok, one to settle in, one to “do” the temples, and another for anything else that takes your fancy. Perhaps a day trip to Kanchanaburi (bridge on the river kwai) or Ayuthaya (older capital city now in ruins) from Bangkok. Then head down south, stopping at Ko Samet, Ko Tao, Ko Samui, whatever Ko takes your fancy :). Unless you like the full-on, in your face, over-touristed and hectic places, I’d avoid Phuket and Pattaya (JMHO)

Thailand is a nice, safe, easy intro to asia. Unless you’re very unlucky, or have zero common sense, there’s absolutely no need to worry about your safety in Thailand.

Have fun ! Let us know where you decide on, because lots of Dopers have experience in this part of the world.

If you had to choose just one country, I would recommend a place people normally don’t think of - Malaysia. The reason is that it has a mixed population of Malays, Chinese and Indians, and thus a wide range of cultures - temples and food. You’ll experience “more” of Asia there than anywhere else.

English is most people’s second language, and it’s cheap - but it’s fairly civilized - distinctly less 3rd World than Thailand.

Places to go would be Penang (beaches and a fine old colonial town called Georgetown), Malacca (an old Portuguese settlement), Kuala Lumpur (wander around Chinese street markets in the evening) and - if you’ve got the time - Kota Kinabalu (North Borneo - jungle). Travel by bus between cities is easy. Not much in the way of scenery on much of the peninsula.

Otherwise, I’d go with the consensus and say Thailand - Bangkok, Chiang Mai, etc. As with Malaysia (and Vietnam) - great food.

Your other choices:

Japan - why go to another clean, rich country? Actually, it’s a weird place, but it superficially feels rather like the west, except they still have telephone wires strung up everywhere.

China - too huge to see and not especially user-friendly to a newbie in Asia unless you take a tour and do all the corny sites

S.Korea - see Japan

Philippines - Interesting, in fact I quite like it. But maybe a bit too much like Mexico to qualify as fully Asian. Malaysia is more Asian, cleaner and safer.

Vietnam - not especially user friendly, like China. But stunningly beautiful scenery. Still a bit of a French feel in the towns. (baguettes and coffee everywhere). Very poor - expect to be surrounded by kids trying to sell stuff all the time.

I’m basing this advice on affordability, ease to travel from Canada, ease of travel once you’re in country, safety, ease of getting around without speaking the local language.

If you want a relaxing 1-2 weeks near a beach. Thailand is probably the easiest, cheapest and user friendly place to go in Asia. Great food. Nice people. Extremely exotic without being too difficult for someone first time out.

Malaysia is also an option, but it’s a bit further away, and wouldn’t be my first choice.

China is not very relaxing, especially if you don’t speak the language. Beaches can be okay if you live here, but are certainly not worth making a trip for.

[hijack] Goo where’d you go in Cambodia? I spent 3 months there when I was in school- one of my favorite places on Earth.

I miss watching the sun rise over Phnom Bakheng near Angkor Wat… [/hijack]

Ok, now since people are covering other countries pretty well, I’ll give you some scoop on Thailand.

Thailand is said to be shaped like an elephant’s head, which is appropriate since the elephant is the symbol of Thailand and Thai royalty. Bangkok would be at the eye of the elephant and the trunk is the peninsula which extends down to Malaysia and separates the Andaman and South China seas.

Best time to visit: late November thru early February. This is when the weather is best and there are a lot of outdoor things to do, still warm to hot but not too humid during the day, cool evenings (in most places). It can be a bit cooler in the north (the country is about 1000 miles/ 1600 kilometers long). Unfortunately this is also when hotel rates are higher and everything is a bit more crowded.

You can fly into Bangkok or Phuket Airport. As someone else mentioned, Phuket can be a bit touristy, particularly Patong Beach, but there are nice, quiet spots on or near the Island. (Koh, is the Thai word for Island, which is why you will see names like Koh Samui, Koh Chang, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Phi Le, etc). Phuket is a very big island, almost more like a peninsula. You can reach the beautiful Phi Phi islands by a fast, large ferry boat in a couple of hours from here. You can also visit Phang Nga bay, which has some beautiful limestone islands/outcroppings. An alternative might be Krabi, which is a town on a different part of Phang Nga bay. Krabi is not as touristy yet, but it’s also a bit harder to reach. These are all in the Andaman Sea. If you have a lot of time, and the time of the year is right, then you might be interested to visit the Similan Islands, where whale sharks and manta rays are common.

If you want to go a bit more off the beaten track then try the area around Surat Thani. Surat Thani is how Thai people get to Koh Samui (they take the ferry, most tourists fly direct into Samui), which is in the South China Seas. Koh Samui is another lovely island, which is famous for it’s Full Moon parties, which are all night raves on the beach. I’ve not been there but it’s also a decent sized island so there are probably places you can go on this island which are not overrun with young stoned Europeans.

If you don’t fly through Phuket, then you’ll come in via Bangkok, which is not a bad thing. There’s a decent amount of interesting stuff to do near Bangkok and environs, and it’s a good jumping off point for Kanchanburi which is noted by tourist as the spot for Bridge Over the River Kwai and by Thais for it’s beautiful park and the Erawan waterfall. Here’s some other suggestions of things to do there.

North of Bangkok, but not too far, is Ayutthaya which was once the capital of Thailand. But after centuries of sacking and wars back and forth between the Thais and the Burmese King Thaksin moved the capital down to Bangkok. There are a ton of temples, some modern but many ancient, in this area. This is also where parts of the film Mortal Kombat were filmed. The current summer palace, at Bang Pa-in, is also in this area, and is open to the public.

Bangkok itself has several things to see and do, as you would imagine with a city of possibly over 10 million (no one knows for sure because of the Thai way of registering residency in their historical home village). Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn), Wat Po (home of Thai massage) and the Grand Palace are all popular spots. Some people will opt for a dinner cruise in a converted rice barge along the Chao Praya river. I like to recommend a visit to Muang Boran, the ancient city, which is not an ancient city but a park which contains replicas of the most famous of Thailands architecture. Nearby is the Crocodile Farm where you can feed chicken carcasses to hungry 5 meter long crocodiles or watch a croc or snake show. Maybe nicer is eating a seafood dinner at one of the outdoor restaurants near Muang Boran if the evening is cool.

If you go during the cool season, there are a lot of beergardens set up near the World Trade Center with free bands and food stalls. The food is tasty if somewhat unfamiliar to westerners, not all of it is spicy, and it’s not touristy, mostly Thai folks out for a good time. When you get away from the touristy spots and around normal Thais is when you are most likely to meet and have fun with locals.

Well, I can see this is getting stupidly long already, so I’ll take a break for now and tell you about the north and the east later.