The Countries of Asia !

 

Check out a short description of each country :

 

Cambodia  The Treasure Country !

Description ? A charming relaxed country, wounded by its recent past, with an archaeologist treasure : Angkor Wat

Why go there ? Get high by admiring the power and beauty of the old Khmer Civilization / Get low by learning about the power and horror of the recent Khmer Rouge Regime /  Help rebuilt the country by spending your dollars there / Go where few travelers have been as some areas are just getting re-opened  

Drawback ? The scars of the war : the wounded, the beggars, the horror stories,... / The safety issues : the firearms, the land mines, the robberies,...  / The prostitution challenge / The (un)state of some "roads"

Cultural Highlights ? The Angkor Complex puts shadow to all the other temples of the country / The Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh / The horrible testimonies of the Pol Pot Regime (S21, killing fields,...)

Natural Highlights ? The Mekong scenery / The dolphins at Kratie / The Forest Reserves around Kampot / The remote areas of the North

How long ? One week minimum for Angkor and Phnom Penh. Another two-three weeks for the rest of the country.

Budget ? Count on US$8-10 per day for a room if you eat at food stalls. Then add the entrance fees to Angkor : US$40 for three days !

Visa ? Required. Can get a one month visa at the borders or airport : US$20 or (more likely) 1000 Bahts. Bangkok or Saigon are good place to get a visa as well. 

When to go ? The best weather bringing too much tourists (December to February), you may prefer the hotter (March to May) or more humid (May to November) months. Avoid summer.  

 


 China  The other Planet...

Description ? An impressive country with a unique culture to match and the most diverse scenery of Asia

Why go there ? Submerge yourself in a different world and relativate your own culture / Graduate as an Asian backpacker / Keep busy for a couple of months / Eventually make your own opinion about all the media fuss / Visit before the crowd / Test all the cheap local beers / 

Drawback ? The language barrier / The relative higher cost / The size of the place and time it takes to visit thoroughly / The apparent ruddiness of the Chinese people / The lack of good cheap beaches / 

Cultural Highlights ? Great Wall & Forbidden City (Beijing) / Buddhist Caves (Datong) / Terracotta warriors (Xian) / Minorities villages & traditions (Lijiang, Langmusi,...) / 

Natural Highlights ? Karsts Peaks (Yangshuo) / Rice Terraces (Guangxi & Yunnan) / Tiger Leaping Gorge (Yunnan Province) / Sacred Mountains / Sand dunes (Dunhuang) / 

How long ? You would need 5 months to see it all but a good tour can also be done in 2 months. 

Budget ? $20 per day (room) if traveling all around. But as low as $5 per day if retiring in a minority village...

Visa ? Required. 3 months tourist visa for about US$16 in Hong Kong. 

When to go ? Any time as it is big enough to find suitable weather in one part. Temperatures dip well below zero during winter in the north.  Very hot during summer. Best season = Autumn

 

 

Hong Kong  The City of Life !

Description ? A modern dynamic city full of contrasts plus lots of greenery just outside

Why go there ? Acclimate yourself with the Chinese world / Get a visa for China / Buy the latest electronic gadgets / Start a business / Visit some of the most colorful & active Chinese temples / Have fun at night / 

Drawback ? The cost / The busyness of the locals making business / The ruddiness of the shopkeepers, a few of them also dishonest / The pollution / The cold air cond / The contrast between the rich & the poor

Cultural Highlights ? The flashy city and its great buildings / Po Lin Monastery (Lantau) / A few temples & museums in town / Any market

Natural Highlights ? The 100km of the MacLehose Trail (New Territories) / HK Park / Zoological Garden / Kowloon Park / Any Island

How long ? 3 days would give you an idea of the place. 5 days are recommended.  

Budget ? $30 per day (tiny room) or $20 (dorm) excluding shopping or great food.

Visa ? No need. 90 days on arrival for most westerners.

When to go ? The best time is from October to February. Not too hot and not too humid. Summer is the worst season with averages of 33C and 95% humidity from mid-May to mid-September. Typhoons are likely to occur from July to early October. 

 

 

Laos  Adventure in the wild...

Description ? The less developed country in Asia means lots of exploration opportunities among minorities villages and untouched nature.

Why go there ? Try to escape the crowd of Thailand (bad excuse nowadays) / Follow the flow of backpackers (good excuse nowadays) / Spend some time among minorities, if possible in remote and untouristy villages / Trek around / Become an opium addict (hope not) / Complete Passplanet with more remote localities (hope so) / Relax on tropical islands and watch the Mekong flow / 

Drawback ? Visiting too late : the crowd is there already ! / The drug business / The worst roads and transports of Asia, making any trip time consuming / The lack of real cultural attractions / The look (or rather lack of look) of some locals who have been confronted with mass tourism too  fast / The costs increase / 

Cultural Highlights ? Luang Prabang's or Vientiane's temples and colonial charms / The ruins of Wat Phu near Champasak

Natural Highlights ? The North mountainous area / Kuang Si Falls near Luang Prabang / The scenic  Mekong area of Si Phon Don

How long ? Two weeks to stay on the track . At least one month to go further away and discover Laos without the crowd but the smiles.

Budget ? Around US$7 per day for a basic room. More if you drink a lot...

Visa ? Required. 15 days visa available at the Friendship Bridge or the International Airports for US$30. Best to get a 30 days visa in Bangkok.

When to go ? Avoid the rainy season from July to October when some roads are turned into mug swimming pools. 

 

 

Macau  The Mediterranean break...

Description ? A laid back Mediterranean atmosphere one hour away  from Hong Kong

Why go there ? Complete your HK visit / Relax / Go to church / Bet in casinos / Enjoy a bottle of Mateus with a Portuguses meal / 

Drawback ? The cost / The lack of real attractions / The ugly casinos / 

Cultural Highlights ? The ruins of St Paul's & the Fort / The numerous other churches / The few temples / The colonial buildings

Natural Highlights ? The islands' beaches / The gardens 

How long ? 1 day is basically enough. 2 days would let you visit the islands and experience the night life.

Budget ? $30 per day (OK room) or $20 (tiny basic room).

Visa ? No need. 20 days on arrival for most westerners.

When to go ? Same weather as in HK but more refreshing atmosphere. Avoid WE.

 

 

Malaysia  The Colorful Meeting Pot...

Description ? A multi-cultural country with charming colonial cities, tropical islands, jungles walks and English speaking people

Why go there ? Discover all Asia in one place / Taste all Asia in one kitchen / Compare all the religions under one sky / Share discussions with the local people / Explore jungles, tea plantations or the underwater toward wild animals, tea pickers or colorful fishes / Cultivate yourself in some of the best museum of Asia  / Research all the records of Malaysia for the Guinness Book of Records

Drawback ? The conduct of some Malay toward western girls / The cost and availability of beer in Muslim Malaysia / The lack of big attractions / The dirtiness / The local tourism development turning forests into concrete jungles 

Cultural Highlights ? All the museums are interesting but those of KL, Melaka or Kota Bharu are the best / All the temples are holly but those of Penang are the most charming / All the Chinese districts are colorful but those of Melaka or Penang are the most active / All the Mosque are impressive but those of Kuala Kangsar and Shah Alam are the most striking / All the religious caves are intriguing but those near KL or Ipoh are the most filled /  

Natural Highlights ? The underwater of the Perhentian Islands / Spotting a turtle on the East coast / Any jungle walk / The tea plantations panorama at Cameron Highlands / The lake gardens of Taiping or KL / 

How long ? A good tour can be done in three to four weeks. 

Budget ? Around US$8 per day on the Peninsula. More on the islands. Much more if you drink a lot...

Visa ? Not necessary. Up to 3 months given at the border for most foreigners (sometimes on request).

When to go ? All year round is fine but March to early May are the best months for the popular islands of the East coast : after the monsoon and before the crowd...

 

 

Myanmar  The Golden Land...

Description ? Also called the Land of the Million Temples, Myanmar is fast becoming a backpacker's favorite, thanks to its friendly people and great culture. 

Why go there ? Count the number of temples and turn Buddhist / Exchange ideas with the interesting locals / Spend some money on the people / Chek by yourself the living standard of the population / Meditate / Isolate yourself from the tourist crowd / Breath authenticity / Relax / Enter a partnership with the government to grow opium in the South /   

Drawback ? The military regime and its full scale propaganda / The internet ban / The restricted  areas : you are not allowed to see it all... / The tourists who spend money straight on the government / The bureaucracy / The entrance fees in big dollars / The need to fly to visit / 

Cultural Highlights ?  The great ruins of Bagan or Mrauk U / The ancient cities of Mandalay / Any discussion with any local / The colonial architecture 

Natural Highlights ? Inle Lake / The beach of Ngapali / The wilderness around Pyin U Lwin / Probably the areas off access : mountains in the North, exotic beaches in the South...

How long ? One month is enough for a good circuit of the open area. More would not hurt...

Budget ? Count on US$7-10 per day for a correct room if you eat at food stalls. Then add the cost of the flight (from US$120 return from Bangkok). 

Visa ? Required. Bangkok's Burmese Embassy is the best place to get the basic 28 days visa : B800 (US$20), ready in the afternoon.

When to go ? To avoid the crowd between December and February, I would recommend the hot season from March to May (most of the GH have air conditioning) or just after the rainy season from October.

 

 

Nepal   The Original Shangri-La...   (by David Woollan)

Description ? A small, land-locked country to the north and west of India and south of China. Home to several of the world's highest mountain peaks but also steamy, tropical jungle. The world's only Hindu kingdom.

Why go there ? To trek in some of the world's most beautiful high-altitude scenery / To visit remote villages where cars and electricity are distant possibilities / To visit a wide range of ethnic and linguistic communities in a pocket-sized country.

Drawback ? A five year old Maoist insurgency is causing troubling times for the nation, especially in the wake of the massacre of the Royal family / Frequent electricity cuts / Incredibly bad roads that are made worse by landslides.

Cultural Highlights ? The city of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu valley / The various Buddhist or Hindu temples and stupas / Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha / The women singing together as they weed the rice paddy.

Natural Highlights ? Mountain scenery, tropical jungle, raging rivers and waterfalls - more potential for hydro electric power than any other nation, friendly people, a birdwatcher's paradise, amazing variety of butterflies.

How long ? A month or more if you have the time. But at least four days for the Kathmandu valley, three days in Chitwan, a week or ten days for a trek followed by the ease of three days in Pokhara. And allow three days to travel between those places and an extra day to get to the airport.

Budget ? During the low season a room can be had for three dollars and you could probably eat for less than that each day, if you had to. The popular tea house treks can be done on the cheap as well. Generally, US$10 for those who can live on the cheap, US$15 for a better room and a beer or two at night. 

Visa ? Yes for most nations. Available at the airport or border on arrival for US$30 for single entry visa, valid for 60 days. Then US$50 for each extra 30 days.

When to go ? 

 

 

Singapore  The Easy City...

Description ? : A modern relaxed city full of greenery and quality attractions

Why go there ? Relax from your trip / Indulge yourself with western luxury / Traffic chewing gum / Meet animals at various theme parks /  Spot some world's records / Shop happily / Converse in English / It is on your way !

Drawback ? The cost / The clinical look / The rules / The basic guesthouses

Cultural Highlights ? The museums / The Cultural corners : little India, Chinatown, Malay Village & Kampong Glam / Some corlorful Temples / See how Singaporean have fun on Sentosa Island

Natural Highlights ? The zoo & night safari / The jungle of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve / Ubin Island

How long ? 3 days would give you an idea of the place. One week would let you do most of the attractions plus some shopping

Budget ? US$17 per day (tiny room) or US$12 (dorm) excluding shopping, great food, beers or entrance fees. Add US$7 per day on average for the attractions.

Visa ? No need. 2 weeks on arrival for most westerners.

When to go ? At any time : the weather is constant and the shops never close ! 

 

 

 Thailand  The backpackers' favorite...

Description ? A taste of paradise stretching from the sand of the South to the jungle of the North along smiling faces.

Why go there ? Start your own backpacking experience / Dip in the clear ocean toward colorful fishes / Trek jungles / Visit minorities villages / Party all night & sleep all day / Fall in love with Asia / 

Drawback ? The crowd / The look of some travelers / The consequent opinion of some local people toward backpackers and the potential breach of violence if at the wrong place / The sex industry with very professional ladies / 

Cultural Highlights ? Grand Palace (Bangkok) / The ruins of the former capitals (Sukhothai & Ayuthaya) / Thai & Khmer Temples / The Thai Boxing ceremonial / Minorities villages & traditions (The North) / The Thai architecture and teak houses / The spicy food / 

Natural Highlights ? The clear water around the exotic islands / The karts peaks around Krabi / The waterfalls & caves around Kanchanaburi / Any National Park (79 to choose from) / The jungle in the north / The Mekong riverside / 

How long ? From a couple of days to relax on the sand to the rest of your life... Three months would be good enough for a complete circuit. 

Budget ? Around US$8 per day for a basic room in the North & North-East. The islands are slightly more expensive : count on US$10 per day for a basic bungalow. Less if dormitory.

Visa ? Not necessary. 30 days on arrival for most westerners.

When to go ? Any time is suitable but the cooler weather is from November to February. Those are consequently the crowded months. Spring is therefore a good option. The east-coast monsoon occurs from November to January. The west-coast monsoon blast from June to September and most of the untouristy islands shut down.