Roll up roll up! It’s time for another week of tantalising travel advice from our trusty STA Travel Experts. And boy have they got a challenge this week…
Wannabe traveller Sophie has her sights set on a trip around Asia and needs some tips on where to start her planning.
I’m travelling for 6-8 weeks next summer. I’m flying in to, and out of, Bangkok and would like to go to the Thai islands, full moon party, Laos, Vietnam and China. How much money will I need? Where would you recommend I visit in each country? How should I get between countries for the least money? What route would you take? I will also be going on my own as a 21 year old girl, what’s the safest way? Please help! Thanks, Sophie Deradour
Our experts have really been tested this week with this mammoth question, but I have faith in them! Let’s see what they’ve got…
Amy Pearson from STA Travel says…
This is one of my favourite parts of the world to travel, and it was one of the first big trips that I ever did. Southeast Asia is captivating, easy to travel and really good fun!
I’d recommend that you do our Indochina Discovery tour, which will take you on a 30-day action packed journey through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Starting and finishing in Bangkok, this is a great way to travel if you are a lone traveller especially as a female, and you will see so much more than you would trying to do it independently as it’s a lot more time efficient.
A junk boat trip around Halong Bay is a must
The trip includes an over night stay on a junk boat in Halong bay, north of Vietnam, and then follows the coast line of Vietnam, famously named the ‘Ho Chi Minh Trail’ by the American soldiers. Ho Chi Minh City, formerly named Saigon is my favourite city in the whole world. You get to crawl through the ‘Chu Chi’ tunnels in the Vietnamese jungle, where the Vietcong used to live, take a boat ride on the Mekong delta, and generally just party in all the best bars that make this city really famous. The country has amazing food and even more interesting history, with some great beaches spotted up and down the coastline.
In Cambodia you cannot miss ‘Angkor Wat’ just outside of Siem Reap, one of the biggest temples in the world, it really is breath taking, try and catch a sunrise or a sunset. Also Sihanoukville is a really cool hippie beach town just in the south, which is really great place for a bit of down time.
Prepare to be astounded by Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Laos is also home to the enchanting Luang Prabang, right up in the North, it is difficult to get to but once you have braved the winding mountainous roads, you are met with a beautiful peaceful city. This is where the monks go to train and as it was formerly owned by the French, you have amazing food and brilliant architecture, a sort of Asian and European fusion.
Whether you decide to do this trip or do it independently all these places are worth a visit. If you can, try and work the full moon party in Koh Phangan around island hopping in southern Thailand. If your up for a bit diving then Koh Tao is the island to head to and really accessible from Kho Phangan, so a great way to get over your hangover.
Getting between the countries is really simple, backpacker and local buses run every day and in Vietnam and Thailand there is also overnight trains. Money wise I would recommend taking about £2000, it is really cheap and your money can go really far.
If you would like to include China as well then I would definitely recommend that you do an organised tour, as it isn’t as easy to travel with regards to the Chinese visa and the language barrier. Wild China is an amazing trip, which includes a visit to the great wall and a once in a lifetime experience to see ‘The giant Panda’s’.
Claire Whittington from STA Travel says…
I’d recommend flying to Beijing from Bangkok and joining our brilliant 18 day China on a Shoestring trip which takes in all the highlights of China and finishes in vibrant Hong Kong. It is a small group adventure so you will travel with your local guide and up to 13 new found friends but don’t worry you will have plenty of free time if you want to have a bit of “me-time” whether that is wandering around Shanghai or enjoying the countryside in Yangshuo.
The Terracotta warriors are a massive highlight when travelling through China
The trip takes you to see the Great Wall, the Terracotta warriors in Xian and includes an amazing 2-day boat journey along the mighty Yangtze River travelling through the Three Gorges. After a night out to same bye to everyone you have met you could have a few days in Hong Kong before flying to Hanoi to travel on the brilliant Holy Monk Ways hop-on hop-off Bamba bus pass through Laos into Northern Thailand before finishing in Bangkok.
This bus gives you complete flexibility but has loads of great inclusions meaning you don’t miss a thing! You start of on a brilliant 3 day/2 night Halong Bay sailing trip, where you spend two days chilling out onboard a junk boat taking in the breathtaking scenery and bartering for fruit with the ladies in the tiny boats who sail along side you, you can also kayak around the beaches and caves of Halong Bay if you are feeling a bit more energetic.
Wander the streets alongside the Monks of Luang Prabang, Laos
You also have some fantastic day trips included which take you to an elephant camp and rafting in Thailand, tubing in Vang Vieng and off the beaten track to explore the waterfalls and caves in Laos. This bus is a great way to get about as you get complete freedom to go where you want when you want but at the same time know you will be meeting loads of lovely other travellers along the way and have guides on hand in case you need anything.
From Bangkok you could then take a bus and ferry over to Koh Phangan in time for the full moon party. Make sure you book your accommodation at Haad Rin (the beach where the party is) early otherwise you can get stuck on the other side of the island miles away from the all the action!
With regards to spending money since all the “must do” things are included on the overland adventure trip and hop on/hop off bus you really won’t need that much. It depends a lot on whether you want to stay in 5 star luxury or don’t mind more basic facilities so you have more money to spend on “buckets” at the Full Moon Party, testing out all the amazing food these countries has to offer or some awesome gifts to bring home for everyone.