Duration: 10 weeks. Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia; clockwise.
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- Flew into Bangkok, Thailand
- Sleeper train to Krabi
- West coast island of Ko Lanta
- Ko Phi Phi
- Ferry, Bus, Train combo back to Bangkok
- Sleeper train north to Chiang Mai
- Minibus and short boat ride across border to Huay Xai, Laos
- Gibbon Experience
- Bus to Luang Nam Tha
- Minibus to Luang Prabang
- Flight to Hanoi, Vietnam
- Bus, Ferry combo to Cat Ba Island near Halong Bay
- Bus, Ferry, Sleeper Bus to Hue
- Motorcycle across Hoi An Pass to Hoi An
- Flight from Danang to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon)
- Organised tour into Mekong Delta
- Bus then ferry south-west to Phu Quoc Island
- Ferry, Bus to Cambodian Border, on to Kep
- Bus to Siem Reap
- Taxi to Thai Border
- Taxi (again!) to Bangkok
- Fly out
This information is not designed to form a budget recommendation, merely guidance. I’m being cagey on this because I read a car crash of a discussion thread on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum about budgeting for SE Asia which made me acutely aware that (a) budgets are sensitive topics and (b) the internet is full of some real arseholes.
- A money belt, one which loops around your waist and buckles (i.e. a normal belt), with a small hidden zip on the inside is great for carrying small wads of notes and a photocopy of your passport.
- This is opposed to the pouches that are designed to be worn on your belly, under clothing, also known as money belts. These, in my opinion, are daft as they often bulge out from under clothing and are like a flashing beacon to nefarious types. Ones that have a steel band embedded in the strap to deter a slash and grab job are even dafter – if your assailant has a knife do you really want him thwarted? Better to lose your stuff than your life.
- For extreme security (and we only did this a couple of times in Africa) tubigrip bandages worn on your thigh, under shorts or trousers, are a good method for storing wads of cash, provided it is wrapped in plastic first.
- Something brilliant that Helen thought of was to get security pockets sewn into the inside of our shorts/skirts. These passport shaped cloth pouches have a zip and sit next to the groin. Not easy to access during the day, but that’s the point. We had a tailor sew these in when we were in Johanessburg.
- I have a fondness for zips. A zipped pocket will thwart all but the most skilful of pickpockets. Similarly, shirts that have buttoned breast pockets are great for storing easy-to-access (for you) cash.
Update, 1 December 2011, Peru: I re-read the above recently and concluded that it sounds insufferably smug. Like I actually have any idea what I'm doing when it comes to changing money. The advice, I think, is still sound, but it seems only right, in the interests of full disclosure, that I'm honest about how I've completely failed to follow my own advice. I've changed money at borders twice, and been ripped off twice - once in Africa and once in South America. Both my fault. I didn't lose a huge amount in either transaction, so it's no great shakes, and it can be put down to a simple inability to calculate figures in my head and negotiate at the same time. So, that's it. I'm not that cool, urbane, unruffled international traveler figure that delights in doling out smug advice. I'm mostly just a naive fool, as fallible as the next man. Anyway, update over, as you were...
You can also do the Bangkok leg by train or bus. We didn't, so can't comment.