Hong Kong/Thailand/SE Asia 1st Time Visit

Discussion in 'Traveling Members' started by azdr0710, Mar 3, 2017.

  1. azdr0710

    azdr0710 "Old Timer"

    will probably make my first ever trip to SE Asia this fall of 2017 (late Oct).....

    will be asking buddies who have been there and will be perusing guidebooks, but want to ask here as I know many here know the area well

    will probably first fly direct to HKG from the US west coast....don't need to do the whole business class/first class thing, but any ideas on airlines and whether to go out of LAX or SFO?.....I have no airline miles (on airlines or networks that fly this route) and will probably want to economize the air portion of the trip....prefer leaving and arriving at sane hours of the day

    Hong Kong: just want to see this urban metropolis and the buildings, walk the neighborhoods, hike the hills, see some "wow" views, people-watch, take some ferries....and whatever else "must" be seen...ideas?....I'm NOT a foodie and am not much into art.....if there's a general history museum or must-see local entertainment/live show, I'd be into that.....don't mind public transport and walking.....Kowloon or HK Island??.....is Macau necessary to see?.....three or four days is enough?......all comments welcome.....practical hints, too!

    Thailand: will certainly hit the touristy things in Bangkok (or not needed?), but any out-of-the-way suggestions off the tourist track?.....stay in a certain neighborhood for convenience?.....outside Bangkok, what is must-see?.....can I arrange a guided tour upon arrival for both short day trips and multi-day tours outside the city?.....are the Oriental and the Peninsula hotels and similar worth staying at?.....nice walking neighborhoods?....what stuff should be avoided?.....trains or buses to other parts of the country?....any comments/ideas for Phuket or Pattaya (too overrun?)....I do like beaches and water

    SE Asia: what other nearby countries are mandatory and which are not worth it?......buddies have been to Vietnam and I may try to work it in.....can day trips to Angkor Wat be done out of Bangkok?.....I'm not really a "ruins" kinda guy, but I know A. W. is very significant....is it a zoo of tourists?....is it any more than just excavated walls and walking around outside?! (sorry to be cynical).....

    trains and buses would be nice to take as is practical between major destinations.....but are planes from HKG to BKK frequent?.....advance purchase or anytime for the cheapest fares?.....

    lots of questions, I know.....I will be looking at guidebooks, too.....appreciate all comments!.....
  2. RussJohnson

    RussJohnson Knight

    @azdr0710 You'll have a great time I'm sure.

    Air travel in SE Asia is easy and cheap and very frequent. I would consider air service in Asia to be heads above our domestic service. The airports and airlines are some of my favorite in the world and put the US ones to shame. Air Asia (a Malaysian company) offers exceptionally cheap fares between most cities, but even the more expensive airlines are relatively cheap when traveling in Asia. When flying into Bangkok double check which Airport you are arriving and departing from (there are 2).

    Buses can be hit or miss depending on country. I would go for the nicest option offered (normally called VIP) as you don't really want to end up on the locals bus, but even then it can be quite the adventure, bring something warm to wear on the bus and snacks.

    I've not taken a long train journey but have been told they are some of the most beautiful in the world. Still flying is going to be the easiest and most convenient in most cases, and not that much more expensive. Book in advance for the best fares.

    Download Grab Car. It's basically Uber in Asia (although they have both Uber and Lyft) but the rates are cheaper for taxis.

    Thailand is so easy for tourists, too easy if you ask me. It's definitely worth seeing the major tourists spots, there are really no "bad areas" in the center that I can think of. I have not stayed at any of the hotels mentioned as Airbnbs are very cheap and abundant in Bangkok, normally in nice residential areas. Make sure you are within walking distance of the Metro or BTS Skytrain though. Taxis in Bangkok vary greatly and aren't worth the hassle most of the time. You can take the train to and from BKK and go to the popular places in town on it without dealing with the oppressive Bangkok traffic. Don't bother taking a Tuk Tuk, if they are not a scammer trying to get you to their friends suit/gem/whatever shop they will gouge you on the fee. Visit Pat Pong if you're interested in the infamous Bangkok nightlife, I found it kind of tame actually, a little too commercial. But if you want to sample the wares there are a couple places I can suggest depending on your type. Eat the street food, it is great. Khao San Road was stupid to me, but worth visiting just to see all the drunken revelers. Tours and travel can easily be arranged to other parts of the country like Chiang Mai, Phuket, etc. but check to see what the weather will be like when you are traveling to the beaches. Local travel agent booths are reliable, be more weary of online services but if they have good reviews go for it.

    Other Places - All depends on your interest I wouldn't say any country is "not worth it. Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo, Vietnam, Philippines, all have tons to offer. Myanmar, is also a good place to go if you want to get off the beaten trail and see something a little different.

    Is it possible to pick up some reward points/airmiles before your trip? Some of the Airline CC or Chase cards offer really good rewards bonuses that could cover a significant part of the over the water flights. The airline cards also tend to come with travel perks like lounge access, or priority checkin
    GBoi and azdr0710 like this.
  3. Maxl

    Maxl Apprentice

    I am Chinese from the mainland and had worked in HK for several years. Maybe I can supply some information abouy HK.

    About the air travel, I would recommondate 'Cathy'. This is a HK based company. Its service if of good quality and its lines cover all the major cities in the US, including LA, SF, NY.... and in the Southeast Asia of course.

    For the local interesting places, Victoria Peak/太平山 in HK island, where the view is good especially at night, and the Maclehose trail (there are ten stages, enjoy them), are suggested. Almost every local people could speak English very well. So just ask for further information.

    For the escorts, my experience may not be helpful to you but I just let you know. There are many money boys from mainland China. Usually they stay in HK for one or two weeks and go back to the mainland or go to Singapore. But mostly they can't speak English at all. Some of them told me that they can use some translation apps to communicate. You can use Gayhk.com to look for the guys you like. Many ads use photoshpped pics if not totally fake ones. And to most people from mainland including the boys and myself, Wechat is more popular than Whatsapp. However, I have no idea about local spa and the international travelling escorts in HK.

    About Macau, it is full of casinos. If you don't like them, I think you just need to stay there for one day at most, because it is very small.
  4. mike carey

    mike carey Peer

    'Cathy' is Cathay Pacific. It's a One World airline so that's useful if you are American Airlines frequent flyer.
  5. Maxl

    Maxl Apprentice

    thanks for the correction
  6. mike carey

    mike carey Peer

    I wasn't trying to correct you. I knew what you meant, I was just clarifying it in case it wasn't clear to some readers.
  7. Epigonos

    Epigonos Duke

    Azdr0710 the three gran dame hotels in the area you intend to visit are the:
    Mandarin Oriental Hotel - Bangkok
    Peninsula Hotel - Hong Kong
    Raffles Hotel - Singapore
    All three are gorgeous with incredible service AND are expensive. I've been in all three and can and do highly recommend them. The Peninsula will even send a white Rolls Royce to the airport to pick you up.
    azdr0710 likes this.
  8. g56whiz

    g56whiz Count

    I'd add the Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. It's in the same YTL chain. If you can afford the old section your room comes with valet service. You can eat your weight in lox at the breakfast buffet (but no bacon - Malaysia is a Muslim country). I've even had a cheese quesadilla. And high tea especially in the orchid conservatory is a throw back to an earlier era.

    Malaysia is interesting chiefly since it home to three cultures: Malay, Chinese and Indian. The eating is spectacular with some of the best at outdoor places that get active when the sun goes down. Shopping is the second most popular indoor sport. The beaches on Langkawi are splendid.

    Homosexuality is illegal but a number of spas operate openly and some feature blind masseurs offering decent legit massages at very reasonable rates. RentMen has a number of offerings including a few visiting all stars but many young Asian men seem
    attracted to western "daddies" so your VGL, Hornet or Grindr apps may work over time.

    And once you've toured the Patronas Towers, Singapore is a quick shot to the south.
    Last edited: May 21, 2017
  9. westernsyd

    westernsyd Knight

    Angkor Wat. Cannot be done on a day trip. Cambodia does not allow a visitor visa for less than 24 hrs, into Siem Reap. You must stay overnight. The temples are amazing, from the stories being told on each tile, to the big picture.

    Have you considered Bali.
  10. nynakedtop

    nynakedtop Count

    Hello from Bangkok!

    While the OP and I have been in close contact about travel plans, I am "on the ground" here for at least a month, so if any members are nearby, or planning to be nearby, let me know!

    btw: it's hot.... it's humid... it's rainy.... it's wonderful!
    azdr0710 likes this.
  11. mike carey

    mike carey Peer

    The polar opposite of Canberra and the surrounding region just now!
    azdr0710 and nynakedtop like this.
  12. mike carey

    mike carey Peer

    azdr, have you sorted out you flights and the best deals yet. From what I can see flights from SFO or LAX to Hong Kong or Bangkok are cheap. The challenge is to tie that in with your local travel there.
  13. azdr0710

    azdr0710 "Old Timer"

    Thanks, Mike, for the inquiry. Yes, decided to splurge just a tiny bit and found well-timed flights on Cathay to/from SFO and HKG. Seemed less expensive than LAX, strangely. And found inexpensive flights on Air Asia to/from HKG and Thailand. Housing in BKK all set via Airbnb. Now only need to figure out HKG housing for about five nights up front and one night at the end. Advisers are suggesting Kowloon over HK Island.
    mike carey likes this.
  14. g56whiz

    g56whiz Count

    I'm headed back to KL for my second trip this year from mid-October to mid November. I hope to finally lose my BKK virginity this trip. The muscle boys at Tawan Bar and the Babylon Baths are on my bucket list. Looking forward to a complete (salacious) report upon your return.

    FWIW Grab Taxi, at least in KL, is fantastic.
  15. buckguy

    buckguy Baron

    I used to live in Thailand and worked there over a period of 15 years and made trip last year to see friends and other places in the region. Thailand has reached a point where a tour is real unnecessary and off the beaten path places are more and more difficult to find. Bangkok is a sprawling place and many people find it difficult to like. Many of the best things to do are quite simple--taking the express boat on the Chao Phaya River, visditing the Jim Thompson House & the nearby Suan Pakkad Palace, visiting the old temples in the old center near the river. Walking through Chinatown and enjoying seafood in the street restaurants at night. Standard destination include the old capitals in Ayuthhaya & Sukothai, Chaing Mai--the "capital" of the North, which has a nice old center but otherwise is a bit of sprawlburg. Ayuthhaya can be done as a day trip by train 9with taxi at the town) some people do it as a cruise. Kanchanburi is another nice day trip--in October the Erawhan Falls will be filled with water--that is an additional bus ride from Kanchanaburi. The usual beach resorts are pretty overdeveloped and have lost a lot of their character. Pattaya is probably the last interesting but has a gay strip and is convenient to Bangkok. The Northeast is largely unvisited but has interesting Khmer ruins--Phnom Rung is the best--if you're not visiting Angkor Wat. Ban Chiang is on the way to Laos overland and worth seeing--an archeologic site. The high end hotels in Bangkok line the river but ghat's not necessarily the most central location---the Oriental is very nice--very elegant--the Mandarin is newer and a bit on the flashy side. The Millenium Hilton across the river is quite nice. The Conrad, Swissotel and Athenee are nice higher end hotels that are close to the skytrain and near shopping.

    Angkor Wat is a real treasure. It deserves a couple day sat least. Siem Reap has become a sprawling tourist town which should give you plenty of time to not be there and see the temples at Angkor. Luang Prabang in Laos is another exceptional place filled with interesting temple architecture and a relaxed vibe.

    Late October can be very rainy and there is flooding in places near rivers in Bangkok and Chiang Mai--that's probably the one thing to consider, although unless there is a tropical storm, the rains tend to be monsoons--slate afternoon cloudbursts, although you can get a day or two of continuous rain at times.
    azdr0710 and trav05 like this.
  16. rickinoc

    rickinoc Journeyman

    Having been to Thailand, Cambodia, Bali several times and as recent as a month back - her are some suggestions (I'm assuming you live in the US):

    Bangkok (BKK) - Try staying at a US chain of hotels in BKK - and you wont have any surprises. My favorites are in the Ploenchit and Silom areas - and you can get reasonable prices at Agoda.com. Also consider staying at a service apartment such as the Centerpoint chain - good value for money. I never pay more than US$70-$80/night including breakfast for a 4 or 5 star property. The Thai hotels are cheaper but you can get surprises if you stay in the Nana area or around Soi 4 Patpong. Food is a plenty but stay away from raw food and bottled water is a must.

    Transport by BTS (Skytrain) or the underground is easy to use; and Uber is also becoming popular. If you rent a taxi be sure the driver uses his meter.
    Tourist areas include the Sleeping Buddha, the Wat Pho, the night markets etc - take an unlocked phone and get a prepaid SIM at the MBK market for 300 BHT (approx US$8) you will get free calls and unlimited 4G for 15 days. Calls/text messages to the US are cheaper than domestic calls

    Tours are a plenty but stay away from deals in the Jewelry district or tour /massage/soapy packages from Tuk-Tuk drivers..They usually take you to dives and you will be disappointed. Visit the Royal Palace, the Sleeping Buddha and the night markets. Go to the Lamlukka area (BKK suburb) and get an authentic massage at the temple - cheap and awesome.

    Consider taking an overnight trip to Pattaya Beach - lot of sleaze in Boy's Town.

    Local gay action - check out dreadedneds.com - an excellent resort of what and where to visit for "gay fun" in Bangkok or Pattaya.

    Travel to Cambodia - go through Bangkok or Singapore - 2 days is what you will need in Siem Reap. Be sure to take a bunch of $20 bills - a visa is available on arrival at the airport ($20) and 2 photos Be sure to see the Angkor Wat at daybreak and at dusk. My favorite place to stay is the Raflles hotel . An all day taxi will cost you $45-50.
    Great gay action in downtown Siem Reap too.

    Need more information - PM me

    g56whiz likes this.
  17. nynakedtop

    nynakedtop Count

    I agree with much of what Rick has written.... being someone with very deep roots in Thailand, I still find it a wonderful and fascinating place to visit, stay, live, whatever.

    The only thing I would add is that if you are willing to tolerate a certain element of "surprise", some pretty amazing things can happen... it is not difficult to find a monthly rental for a vacation apartment that is more than nice for less than $1,000 - and if you are, as I am, happy to live on delicious Thai street food, your daily dining allowance can be less than $10.

    as Rick said.... "Need more information - PM me", too!
  18. fedssocr1

    fedssocr1 Baron

    it's my favorite part of the world.

    Saw reference to Uber above. There's been a lot of controversy over it in Bangkok. But Grab is the local/Asian version that works very well. There is Grab Taxi and Grab Car (as well as motorbike taxi if you're interested in that). It worked very well for me in Bangkok and Singapore recently. You can just go with the regular car which can be just about anything (I had Honda Fit and a Nissan pickup truck) or also premium car for a few bucks more. In Singapore I did premium since it wasn't much more expensive and had a very luxurious Toyota van, 5 series BMW and Volvo XC90. Or if you do Grab Taxi you get a regular taxi. But you know the cost upfront.

    Lots of excellent hospitality all over SE Asia.
    nynakedtop likes this.
  19. g56whiz

    g56whiz Count

    Grab Taksie also works well in Kuala Lumpur. Used it daily. Only once did a driver flake as was I was trying to get to a meeting. They were even accommodating during peak rush hour traffic introducing me to routes I hadn’t even thought about.
  20. nynakedtop

    nynakedtop Count

    Grab was particularly helpful on trips to and from the airport - door to door service is particularly welcome when one is carrying luggage in hot, humid, congested Bangkok!
    bigvalboy likes this.