Figure out the best place to stay on Khao San Road in Bangkok and where to escape when you've had enough of the mayhem. From Singapore Slings to the changes in Bejing after the 2008 Olympics, gab about it all here.

Asia Recommendations and Raves

Amanda Smith

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  • Added on: October 7th, 2008
quote:
Originally posted by artntravelgirl:
INDIA:

I would like to recommend hiring a driver to see India. The first time I went to India, I went with a tour group in a bus, which was overall a decent experience of India, but the second time I went to India, a travel-savvy friend gave me the name of a driver who I hired and I am now convinced that this is the best way to travel in India. I travelled with a friend, and the the two of us spent almost a month touring North India in a private car with a driver for a very reasonable price and we had a fantastic time. I would not travel any other way now, and plan to do this again in the future. You can hire a driver through a tourism company (not the best way), through a hotel (this is better), or you can find one by word-of-mouth (this is best, but get a few references!) Finding a driver who works independently and is not affiliated with a tour company or hotel is a little more difficult. If you ask enough people, eventually you will find someone who has the name of a driver they used in India. It is much more cost efficient to hire an independent driver because you are dealing directly with the driver and there is no middleman taking a cut. Just be sure you can get references from the driver for people who have hired him in the past.

10+ Reasons to Hire a Driver:

1) you get the experience of traveling with a local person who knows the culture, history, best places to eat
2) you won't endure the wait or hassle involved with buses or trains
3) you can travel by yourself or with a friend or group of your choosing, rather than with a group of strangers
4) you come and go on your own schedule
5) the car is always there when you want it
6) if you make purchases along the way, you can just leave them in the trunk, or store some of your belongings in the car instead of carrying them with you all the time
7) you can design your own itinerary, change your plans along the way, go to off-the-beaten-track places more easily
8) driving in India is dangerous and scary - hiring a local person to drive you is much safer than renting a car
9) in a car, you "blend in" to the local traffic more than if you are on a huge tour bus - and it is much easier to navigate around the streets and you get there faster
10) it is a very stress-free way to travel, but still feel independent about making your own decisions
11) it is very inexpensive - most drivers can arrange a day rate which includes all the gas, tolls, driver fee AND cost of the hotel if you want. It is usually about $40/day/per person if you choose this option. You can't beat that.

If my friend had not recommended hiring a driver, I don't think I would have known about this option. Hopefully this will help someone in their trip planning.


I would say for the third trip you should get down with the culture and see what it is like to travel with the masses. I know it isn't as comfortable as the car, but sometimes traveling by trains and government buses can have a significant impact on the way you view the world. It is not easy to travel this way if you are use to Western accommodation, but once you get settled into the groove than you begin to understand the real culture and community that is India. I've traveled just about every way possible in India, and although it is always very relaxing and easy to travel by car or tourist bus, the real experience is in the public and governmental transportation facilities. In psychology they have a term "flooding" which means that you but someone with a phobia right in the middle of their fear until it is extinguished. You can do the same by traveling by train for a few days in India; once you've been flooded with new information and experiences you can really see the heart of Indian culture with less reservations.

best of luck!

Karin AK

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  • Added on: December 8th, 2008
Trekking in Thailand
it has been a few years since I have done this but if you are into 'real' trekking forget about Chang Mai. Try Mae Sot and no.4 Guesthouse owner Mr. Oom. He has been trekking for 22 years + and you travel down the river on the Burmese border and see the biggest waterfalls in thailand. The 4 days I trekked, I saw 2 other tourists from Denmark. I loved staying in the Karen village and got up at 4 am to thresh the rice to feed to the pigs.

Here is the web http://www.geocities.com/no4guesthouse/
I was there in April 2002 and if you want to do any name dropping; tell Mr. Oom that Karin [from Alaska who crashed a local funeral] recommends him.
Karin, an Alaskan living in Barrio Hollywood, Tucson, AZ

~ There is more to life than increasing its speed ~ Ghandi

cezz

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  • Added on: February 10th, 2009
Hmm.. sounds new to me, Mae Sot. I've only heard about Changmai I have a friend who live in Thailand and he said Changmai is a nice place to go in Thailand.. By the way thanks for sharing it and the website I've enjoyed looking those pictures..
Yellowstone camping is the best thing I've ever experienced last vacation.

Shannon080

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  • Added on: February 18th, 2009
I had a fantastic 6 weeks in Southeast Asia - I am traveling around the world for a year and these were my favorites in this region:

1) Tops on the list was the Gibbon Experience in northern Laos - a three day zip-lining adventure in the Borkeo Nature Reserve where you get to live in a tree house and possibly spot the endangered Gibbon monkeys in the wild!
I have pics and a blog up: http://alittleadrift.com/2009/02/laos-jungle1/
And the company's site: http://www.gibbonx.org/

2) Also, my second favorite experience and totally recommended was a week volunteering at the FLOW orphanage in Cambodia - the kids were amazing warm and loving, they are learning English so they are VERY receptive to having Westerners visit, and it was simply amazing.
My blog on my time at the orphanage: http://alittleadrift.com/2009/02/valentines-day/
The orphanage's Web site: http://www.futurelight-worldmate.org/

3) Also in Laos was the small town of Hongsa - if you are going to take the 2 day slow boat ride down the Mekong, this town is a great three-day stopover at the half-way point between Houayxai and Luang Prabang (the LP has info on getting there and the such). If you choose to do some elephant riding you get a very laid-back experience and something you can feel good about through the Jumbo Guesthouse in Hongsa - the day trek to small villages was also amazing and completely recommended for those mostly hitting bigger cities and looking for a more rural and untouched Laos.

Lots of other stories on the blog as well about Vang Vieng (a classic on the backpacker route) rock climbing, Angkor Wat and more.

http://www.alittleadrift.com

been2china

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  • Added on: February 22nd, 2009
Simon Lewis, co-author of Rough Guide to China, said it all in this article recently in the UK's Observer/Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2009/feb/01/dali-china

... I was there Jan 08. The climate here is particularly comfortable for Westerners: no aircon needed or supplied in accommodation... and in January, weather was sunny, a nice 17-20 deg (almost shirtsleeves weather). Dali is a charming water town and is off the main beaten tourism track due to being a bit remote, plus the town itself warrants only a couple of days stay unless you are settling in to learn Chinese!

tsftd

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  • Added on: February 26th, 2009
Two places in Japan that I recommend to stay are:

Osaka: J-Hoppers -- one of the cheaper places in Osaka and also one of the nicest hostels i've stayed at, and free wireless and showers. Within 5 minute walk of the Osaka Loop Line.

Tokyo: Asakusa Smile -- supercheap (2000y/n for 6-person dorm), free wireless AND provided computers, free shower, even free bike rentals. Even has a bar on the bottom floor that, while it closes at midnight, has among the cheapest drinks in Tokyo (350y per or 3 for 1000y; if you order the Asakusa Special, you get 3 shots in a drink). within a 5-minute walk from the Ginza and Asakusa lines, providing easy access to most of the places you want to go. Also 2 blocks from a 100y convinie for cheap food.

Christopher Merritt

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  • Added on: April 17th, 2009
NORTHERN INDIA - HIRE A DRIVER

I would recommend Balvinder Rayat for a driver for trips in Northern India. He is honest, dependable, speaks English well and knows the area well. He knows comfortable and affordable places to stay and is not afraid to bring you to very local eating places, if that is your wish. A friend I met in Delhi and I hired him for an 11-day trip and it was the best experience I had in India.

Another member posted these reasons for hiring a driver and I would agree 100%:

10+ Reasons to Hire a Driver:

1) you get the experience of traveling with a local person who knows the culture, history, best places to eat
2) you won't endure the wait or hassle involved with buses or trains
3) you can travel by yourself or with a friend or group of your choosing, rather than with a group of strangers
4) you come and go on your own schedule
5) the car is always there when you want it
6) if you make purchases along the way, you can just leave them in the trunk, or store some of your belongings in the car instead of carrying them with you all the time
7) you can design your own itinerary, change your plans along the way, go to off-the-beaten-track places more easily
8) driving in India is dangerous and scary - hiring a local person to drive you is much safer than renting a car
9) in a car, you "blend in" to the local traffic more than if you are on a huge tour bus - and it is much easier to navigate around the streets and you get there faster
10) it is a very stress-free way to travel, but still feel independent about making your own decisions
11) it is very inexpensive - most drivers can arrange a day rate which includes all the gas, tolls, driver fee AND cost of the hotel if you want. It is usually about $40-$50/day/per person if you choose this option. You can't beat that.

His contact information is below:

Balvinder Rayat
Please contact him by Email at: balvinder_rayat@yahoo.co.in

or contact him by:
c/o Dream India Holidays
oo91-9212175805
0091-9350145805

Valto

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  • Added on: July 1st, 2009
I would recommend Balvinder Rayat for a driver for trips in Northern India too. He is a very nice father of five children who really takes care of his customers. India is a much different place than Europe or USA, a reliable guide is worth acquiring! You can found photos from golden triangle trip, Delhi-Agra-Jaipur from my homepage.

georgemorris

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  • Added on: October 9th, 2009
i was trying to plan my trip to thailand (limited time, had to take a tour) and needed an idea of what was out there.

This page allowed me to compare thailand tours, many different ones. of course they're all the big western ones, but limited time was the name of the game, and i couldn't muck about with some of the local agencies. i'm sure it would be fantastic, but i couldn't afford that level of uncertainty, since it was imperative that i return on time. anyway, they had colorful pictures and decent info. and i'm a sucker for shiny things that glitter.

that's about all, it was a helpful resource in planning my trip, just wanted to throw it out there.

LindsatBackpackerDaily

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Location: Atlanta, GA

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  • Added on: October 11th, 2009
Thailand

Don't forget to go to Koh Tao...even if you aren't a diver! This was by far the BEST place that I have been to in Thailand. I've gone to Phuket and Koh Phi Phi, but the west coast seems to be too crowded. Had Sai Rei beach is my ideal budget travel paradise. We paid $8 per night for a bungalow on the sand. The nightlife is great, the food was great, (even though the food is great everywhere in Thailand) and the water was absolutely perfect. We stayed at the Had Sai Rei Cottages, which has a really nice restaraunt right on the water as well.

My only complaint is that our stay in Koh Tao ate up most of the time we had in Thailand. We thought we were only going to stay two to three days...but we ended up staying about three weeks.

It was absolute bliss.

Jennifer Laos

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Location: Brighton

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  • Added on: February 2nd, 2010
Laos:

Luang Prabang - Do a Cooking course! Tum Tum Cheng was awesome and Tamarind also offer great courses too.

Vang Vieng - Take a Kayaking trip. Green Discovery were fantastic - a full day of kayaking down the river and exploring caves. Wandering through with just a candle for light was just brilliant!

Phonsovan - Some people seem to be pretty unimpressed by the Plain of Jars, I thought they were wonderful. All 4 sites are visited were so peaceful and it was great to get out of the cities and into the nearby villages.

Sam Neaua to Hanoi - Travelling overland from Sam Neau to Hanoi was possibly the best part of my Laos trip. The caves at Vieng Xai (along the way) were fascinating and the scenery was the best in Laos.

Devin of TWL

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  • Added on: February 20th, 2010
UnspecifiedGender wrote:Japan:~Yokoso! Do yourself a favor in this very non-English speaking country and learn some basic Japanese.~Buy the Japan Rail Pass and you must do so before you leave your own country...you have to have 'temporary visitor' status on your passport to use it. So, you cannot be a resident or citizen of Japan. Buy the Ordinary pass; don't spend the extra yen for the Green pass. You can use all JR subways and express Shinkansen trains (Hikari & Kodama with the exception of the Nozomi). Choose the Hikari over the Kodama whenever possible because the Kodama stops at nearly every local station and adds time onto your ride. Activate the Rail Pass when you get to NRT because the train ride into Tokyo on the Narita Express (an hour long) is included and will save you $30USD right off the bat. Save the Railway Timetable that they give you at the airport! It's in English and is infinitely valuable.~The cheapest hostel/guesthouse at 2000 yen (about $20USD)/night is currently the Khaosan. They have two locations...one in Asakusa, for which they advertise and one in Ueno, which they do not use unless they overbook the one in Asakusa. If you can, go to the one in Ueno because if you're using the Rail Pass you don't have to pay the extra yen required if you stay further out in Asakusa; and it's generally a better value.~Or if you prefer a Japanese style inn...Ryokan~Have an adequate amount of yen on you since credit cards are not widely utilized. Exchange as much as you can at the airport because the ATMs can be a challenge.~Shop at the 100 Yen store (dollar store) for whatever you can to offset the higher costs of Japan.~Get your maps at the visitor's center in the airport.~Imperial Palace~Mt. Fuji~Hiroshima~Shibuya: crazier than any intersection in NYC.~Harajuku: Japan's most flamboyant area.~Tsukiji Fish Market~Sumo (seasonal)~Temples~General Information~Have fun and don't get run over by the millions of bicycles!


These are all great locations, but one of my favorites is outside of Tokyo in Kanagawa at Kamakura. Great relaxed pace, good food, history, sacred shines and temples. with a small town feel. Here are a few photos, http://travelwritelive.com/?p=844. The woman at the top is the current Miss Kamakura.

KathrynD

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  • Added on: April 10th, 2010
I highly recommend Jiuzhaigou National Park in the Sichuan province of China. It's got amazing natural beauty. Up there with Yosemite and other parks with natural wonders. The travertine and karst formations make for breathtakingly turquoise lakes and cascading waterfalls. Check it out! Once you get inside the park, the buses will take you everywhere plus there are walking trails throughout.

Bedhead

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Location: Beijing, China

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  • Added on: April 11th, 2010
If you're in Northern India, and anywhere near Chandigarh, I highly recommend Nek Chand's rock garden: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_Garden

In some ways, I found it more amazing than the Taj Mahal, because this is one man's creative vision -- and he make most of it happen all by himself. It's astonishing.
If you're going to visit Beijing, get some tips from an expat on where to stay, where to eat, and where to have fun.

somagupta

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  • Added on: April 27th, 2010
Hi All,

I am new to this forum and just thought of sharing some places that worth seeing while travelling to India:
Beaches of India - Visit some exotic beaches in Goa, Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
Most of them are family beaches.

World heritage sites of India - Visit some of the best heritage sites of the world. I liked Taj Mahal, Khajuraho, Red Fort, Churches Of Goa, Monuments of Hampi and Pattadekal.

Thanks,
Soma


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