My South East Asia Trip
This is a trip report from other parts of South East Asia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. I have been to Thailand 7 or 8 times previously but not for 3 years. I have posted before but am blowed if I can remember my handle.
Reading Stick lately I can see he is going the way of many expats, that is disillusioned which is a shame. I think I have read every one of his weekly columns. It sort of keeps me in touch. I have to say I myself started to become a little jaded on the last couple of trips. It is a long way to fly from North America to spend first world prices for third world service. The golf and hotels used to be so cheap. Now a round of golf at a decent course in Pattaya costs the same as in Phoenix… Anyway, hopefully I can give Stick et al a new perspective on “Indochina”.
This trip was with the wife so there is no real comment on the "fun" side of things except to say that if that is what you want I suspect Saigon is the place to go. OK, I will start with Saigon. It is like Bangkok but much cheaper and the central area is much easier to walk around. The shopping is the cheapest I have seen. The food is good. There was no shortage of offers from what looked like very accommodating young ladies within half a block of a large well known 5 star hotel. There is even nightlife there…unlike the other parts I will mention. The only downside is I suspect golf is expensive and hard to get to.
As for the rest of Vietnam, the scenery and beaches are better than Thailand.
Na Trang is how Pattaya and Jomtien should have been done. The beach promenade is immaculate. The beach and sea at Hoi An are spectacular, as is China Beach near Da Nang. Hue is a very run down old capital which was at the heart of the conflict in the war. I would skip it. If you do there is a bar called DMZ… not bad in itself… like many bars in Bangkok but shuts down by 10:30. I suspect some of the local clientele is there for more than just a nightcap, but I will never know. Do not take one of the cowboy motorbike taxis. They are bandits.
Halong Bay is truly amazing, a bit like Phuket and the islands but I haven’t been there yet (and may not go if the stories of the taxi mafia are true, and I am sure they are. What a shame). Don’t stay on the mainland. Stay overnight on one of the ‘Junks’.
Hanoi is pretty interesting. Actually more attractive than Saigon but little nightlife I think. the old market is worth several hours. Massage parlours are ubiquitous and usually come with a puzzled ‘why you bring wife?’ Draw your own conclusions.
If you want a weekend away from it all and to recharge the batteries I would recommend Luang Prabang in Laos… Cooler mountain air and stunning views of the Mekhong. Seems to shut down by 10 PM but good restaurants and night market.
Only had one night in Vientiane but it had a real Thai feel about it, not too surprisingly as we could see Thailand across the river. Seemed less busy. Would go back to check it out though.
Cambodia I suspect is like Thailand was thirty years ago, especially as a tourist. Phnom Penh had a buzz. Much cheaper than Thailand and a better attitude. I know there is a nightlife area but funnily enough wasn’t allowed to check it out. Next time maybe. I felt pretty safe, not much sign of a golf course though.
Finally. Siem Riep is a sleepy hollow with a street of huge western hotels for tourists visiting Angkor Wat… If you haven’t done it do it soon before the prices go up and it gets stupidly busy. Again there is inexpensive massage I suspect with extras.
Food there is different but good.
For anyone in or around Bangkok some of these places are within easy reach by plane for a weekend or more. There is no excuse. I suspect having been there a few would begin to question staying in Thailand if for no other reason than cost. A beer is a dollar, so is a hat and a decent t shirt is two. A meal can be had for three or four. I always got the feeling I was welcome and generally felt as safe as in Thailand. The little or no golf thing may be more problematic.
Hope I haven’t bored you. I didn’t include pics. . just Google the places. Worth seeing.
What you say about nearby places being much less expensive is very true. But that said, Bangkok is the capital city of one of the most developed countries in the region and comparing it with the likes of Luang Prabang or Siem Reap for value for money is not really a fair comparison.