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Ringo R
Dec 25, 2005

ช่วยแม่เฮ็ดนาแหน่เดัอ

Southeast Asia Megathread



Goon Meet Spreadsheet


The popular backpacker thread here is over five years old and very, very long. The OP seems to not be active anymore so it's not very organized. Here's an attempt to create a new southeast Asia megathread with up to date information. We'll start with some very general information and then go on to individual countries. Please don't take the information here too seriously. I/we are not travel writers, just doing this for fun.

NEW Official song for this thread:
Johnny Olsen - Lum Sing Hip Hop http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pB_qEYNY3zk (Thanks Fiskenbob!)
Open in a new tab, click play and read this thread.


Before arrival

Why go there? I don't even know where it is!
You'll see some amazing scenery, meet cool locals, sweat like a pig and eat delicious food all for very little money. Live on $30 (or less) a day! Research says about 99% loved it and can't wait to go back. The remaining 1% were disappointed because it was too hot, dirty and the locals didn't understand AMERICAN.

What, they don't speak AMERICAN?
Depends on what country but generally basic English is widely spoken. If you get off the beaten track and end up in some village without electricity, then English is not likely to be spoken. So what? Just point at what you want and throw them some money! Keep it simple. "Dear sir, may I please have the meat in my fried rice medium rare" won't work. "Fried rice pork" will. Or even better, learn to say it in their language! Most languages in SE Asia are tonal, which means one word will mean something else if you pronounce it slightly differently. Let's take the word glai in Thai for example. Pronounced with a high tone, it means near. Pronounce it with a medium/normal tone and it means far. Have fun

What are them ay-see-uns like? Do I need to bring... protection?
People are generally pretty friendly and laid back. If you want things done quickly and efficiently, you've gone to the wrong place. Violence towards tourists is unlikely unless provoked. Get into a fight with a local and they will all gang up on you, but why would you do that in the first place.

My mom tells me the food isn't safe to eat!
Your mom is right! Asians don't eat food, that's why they're so small and skinny. Yes, you're likely to get diarrhea and in worst case have to spend a day next to a toilet while your stomach is adjusting to the local bacteria. It sucks but that's just how it is. Don't think that sticking to places with plenty of patrons will save you. I once ate at a restaurant full of people and still got explosive vomit & diarrhea.

Is it really that cheap? I'm unemployed and live with my parents so I don't have much money.
If you're willing to eat the local food and sleep in cheap, but still decent hotels, yes! Let me give you an example. In Thailand, a decent hotel room with air conditioning would cost about 500 baht. One meal costs 30-40 baht. Let's say you eat three times a day and a few snacks inbetween, so that's 200 baht. Let's add another 300 baht for getting around (taxis, buses, motorbikes) and some small shopping (one t-shirt or so). That's 1000 baht total. 1000 baht is rougly $30.

When should I go? I'm dating my third internet girlfriend and she gets really jealous whenever I leave my house.
November-February has the best weather and that's when most people go. It'll be crowded with tourists and hotels will be a bit more expensive. The rest of the year sees fewer tourist especially when the monsoon rain arrives around May or something like that. Hotel prices drops.

Ok, you have convinced me. I'll trim my neckbeard, leave my parents' basement and go! What do I need to bring?
You're not going to some rainforest tribe where they've never seen a white guy. Most people bring too much poo poo and end up with hilariously big backpacks. They got one thing right though, the backpack. Don't travel with a suitcase. It's going be hot so bring light clothes that dries quickly. You might also want to bring one set of "nice" clothes though for that romantic dinner with a stunning local girl you just met (who is really a ladyboy and the waiter is giggling behind your back). But really, anything you forget to bring can probably be found in a convenience store.

The country I want to go to requires a Visa. Won't my Mastercard work?
Visa regulations varies from country to country. Just Google it and make sure you have your visa ready before going, otherwise you might not even be allowed to board your flight. Some visas you get on arrival, other takes days to get ready. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_requirements_for_United_States_citizens - or replace "United_States" with your own lame, backwards, freedom hatin' country.

I've never been on an airplane before. How do I get on it? I'm assuming there is enough space for me to set up my laptop and continue my WoW raids.
Bring your passport and luggage and get to the airport EARLY, at least two hours before departure for international flights. Don't think people will wait for you. If you're late, you WILL miss your flight and that's it. If you're booking everything yourself and need to transfer/change flights on the way, make sure to leave plenty of time (at least two hours) between flights.

Ok, I'm all set to go but how much money should I bring and where can I exchange money?
Well, personally I've never brought any local currency with me and have relied on ATMs. This is however probably not a very good idea. I'd recommend bringing enough local currency for the first couple of nights. Never exchange money at the airports because they give you the worst rates. Don't keep all your money and cards in your wallet. Have a secret emergency stash somewhere that you can get to if you happen to lose your wallet or whatever. Try to learn the currency beforehand. Don't stand there like an idiot, flashing months of wages to the taxi driver while trying to figure out how many of this and that banknotes he should get.

Wait, what? I need to get shots too? No way, I'm afraid of needles!
Sheep-Goats explains: http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...9#post371853945


After arrival

OMG GUYZ I'm actually here! I made it! The first thing I did after checking into my hotel was go on the internets! Who wants to meet up?


lol I went to the bathroom but someone had stolen the toilet and there was just a hole in the gound so I walked out and shat my pants
That was the toilet! Squat toilets are common, especially in rural areas. You might also notice that there is only a water bucket to clean yourself with. If you are not confident in fingering your poophole, bring toilet paper at all times.

I want to ride a motorcycle and look badass, but I don't know how to ride.
Pompous Rhombus wants to tell you all about losing his virginity motorcycling in Southeast Asia.

I want to buy a SUIT because it's cheap and I get to look important.
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntr...hreadID=1207953

~I'm~ keeping a ~*blog*~ and I want ~everybody~ to read about ~*my*~ fabulous adventures with the ~orientals~
Uhh... ok.

KingAsmo - http://siamesetwinge.blogspot.com/
Thailand, Laos and China

dwoloz - http://www.bikemandan.com/blog/cate...-2009?order=asc
Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia on a bicycle(!)

RangerScum - http://tomolson.blogspot.com/
Thailand

macado - http://blog.macado.org/
Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam (3.5 years ago, might be a little outdated)


- - -

Everybody, feel free to contribute! Want to add something to the OP? Write it yourself, keep it short and if it doesn't look completely retarded, I'll add it.

Ringo R fucked around with this message at Nov 23, 2013 around 16:00

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Ringo R
Dec 25, 2005

ช่วยแม่เฮ็ดนาแหน่เดัอ

Countries

This is where we tell you a bit about each country in SE Asia. We'll keep it fairly short and just cover the basics because there's already tons of information on the 'net. If you want to know even more, check out these websites:

http://www.wikitravel.org
http://www.talesofasia.com
http://www.travelfish.org
http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com
http://www.xe.com/ucc/ (for currencies)

Can't get enough? Naughty Steve. will satisfy your link fetish: LIIINKS, MORE, HARDER, DEEPER, LINKS

Lonely Planet makes hugely popular guidebooks and you'll see people walking around with them like a holy bible, able to save them from any situation. If someone came up to them with a gun, they would probably say "a moment please" while frantically looking for the muggings chapter. Yeah, they make good books but you can survive without one by using the internet or just explore on your own. You might miss out on a thing or two, but at least you had your own adventure. Asking fellow travellers for advise also works but should be taken with a grain of salt.


* * *


Thailand



Thailand is hugely popular and a common place to start out for people travelling in southeast Asia. It's a developing country that is rather developed but still quite cheap. Thais has understood the money tourism can bring in so getting where/what you want isn't too hard. Transportation is good, you can easily fly or take a bus almost anywhere, and booking it is equally easy as you can do this right from your hotel. You can divide Thailand into four parts:

North
Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pai etc. Mountains and nature stuff, far away from any beaches. Good if you like trekking. Avoid long neck village tours, they're just human zoos. It can get really cold here, so be prepared if you're coming from the island with just t-shirts and shorts.

Northeast (Isaan)
Nakorn Ratchasima, Ubon Ratchatani, Udon Thani, Khon Kaen etc. Where the poor people doing the lovely jobs in Bangkok come from. Few tourists go there as there are not so many attractions. There are however a few "hidden" gems though. Go here if you are set on seeing a different side of Thailand.

Central
Bangkok, Ayuttaya, Lopburi etc. Bangkok is insane. It's noisy, dirty, smelly, constant traffic jams. Shop all day, go to temples, get wasted in night clubs. It's not a green city, it's not a beautiful city, yet some people love it.

South
Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Chang, Koh whatever, etc. Beaches and islands with some places looking just like those postcards with crystal clear water. Live next to the beach in a bungalow. Get wasted with young people/hippies on full moon parties. Hot and humid.

Thailand is also famous for sex tourism. While you will see a few old geezers with women half their age, it probably won't ruin your holiday. You won't see old pedos with kids walking around. You should also be aware of that in 99% of all cases, nobody forces the women into this. They are the exact equivalent of a redneck teenager who has two kids by 16 and is too lazy to get a real job. Prostitutes can make more money in one night than what the average Thai does in one month.


Recommended minimum budget per day
1000 baht (about $30). 500B for a decent hotel room, 200B for food/water, 300B for transportation, some shopping, etc. You can certainly live on less but then you're a smelly hippie and not having any fun.

Recommended food
One great thing about Thailand is the many street stalls serving fantastic food/snacks for little money. Go crazy, try everything. If you don't like it, you've just wasted very little money. Have some of that bbq chicken and fresh pinapple or watermelon.

Useful phrases

English: I can tell by your adam's apple that you're not a girl, although you certainly look like one, especially now that I have consumed three large bottles of beer.
Thai: Pom raak ter

English: Sorry, but I only like women. I have never slept with a man before and don't intend to do so. Perhaps you have an attractive sister you could introduce me to?
Thai: Ter raak pom mai

Sheep-Goats did not find my phrases useful enough and wrote his own:
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...9#post371787402

Drinking and smoking
Alcohol and cigarettes are available in most convenience stores. Consuming alcohol in public is not illegal, or at least I've never seen anyone get busted for it. Drugs are illegal however and should be used discreetly. Penalties for getting caught with it are harsh. On some "important" days, sale of alcohol will be prohibited, which means bars and nightclubs will be closed. One example would be an election day where the government wants the people to go vote instead of getting shitfaced. However, they forgot that tourists cannot vote and so on...

Beware of
Taxi, tuk-tuk and gem scams. These are well known scams, just Google them. If someone offers you something and it seems too good to be true, it's a scam. Some places charge more for foreigners than locals, such as national parks or the Grand Palace in Bangkok. This is an unavoidable scam. If you're asian and look somewhat Thai, it is possible to avoid this by simply pretending to be Thai. Since this forum is full of males, it's very likely that you'll want to go on a "ping pong show". I've heard about scams where they charge insane prices for drinks and block the exit, forcing you to pay. Simply avoid this by not going. Ignore all the touts offering "ping pong show, sexy show, loving show".

Trip report and pics
RangerScum's photo trip report: http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...hreadid=3264732
joedevola's trip report: http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...5#post373037333
Sheep-Goats' Silom (Bangkok) Guide: http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...2#post393768744
Sheep-Goats' where-to-live map: http://i53.tinypic.com/fd4zu0.jpg


* * *


Laos



Laos is rather undeveloped and quite laid back. People go to bed early so don't expect amazing nightlife like in Thailand. Laos is also landlocked, so don't expect any beaches. Laos sees mostly younger tourists who rents a dirt cheap bungalow and smoke weed all day, because they're cooooool. Yeah, let's just sit around here and smoke weed all day, maaaaaan. You can get around with buses but they're often old and donated from another country. This means your trip will take a very long time (8+ hours) and be very boring. Flying is also an option. There are a few sights to see but honestly not that many. Go to Laos if you want a slow and relaxed holiday. When you read about Laos you'll see the local beer, Beerlao, mentioned a lot. That's because it's the only god drat beer in the country. Fortunately, it's not bad. If you're coming from Thailand and you've learnt a few Thai words, chances are that you can use them in Laos as well. The languages are quite similar.

North
Luang Prabang etc. Everybody loves this little town with old French buildings. It's a nice town but I don't quite get what it is that people like. Maybe it's because I'm from Yurop (Europe) and have seen plenty of old European buildings before.

Central
Vientiane. Spend one day in the capital and get out, get out fast. It is the most boring capital city I've ever been to. You can see all the sights in one day.

South
Savannakhet, Pakse, Si Phan Don etc. Best explored with a motorcycle. Do a loop around the Bolaven Plateau, visit the temple ruins at Champasak, relax with hippies in a bungalow on Si Phan Don (4000 Islands).


Recommended minimum budget per day
200000 kip (a bit over $20). 60000 kip for your room. 80000 kip for food and drinks. 60000 kip to spend like a king... no wait, that's too much. Actually, forget this. This is too hard. It depends on where in Laos you are. On Si Phan Don, I could live on 80000 kip a day. Luang Prabang cost me almost twice as much I think.

Recommended food
The bad thing about Laos is probably the food. I think poor commodities are to blame, while Sheep-Goats would like to blame it on lovely cooks. The best meal I had in Laos was decent at best. Another problem is the lack of restaurants serving locals. There are a few but they're hidden away from tourists. Tourists get the expensive tourist food such as pizza and hamburgers and it all tastes bland and boring. Yup, the food in Laos is both expensive and bland.

Useful phrases
See above for useful Thai phrases. Works in Laos as well.

Drinking and smoking
Beerlao is available everywhere. I don't smoke or do drugs but it seems to be easy to get hold of as every other backpacker is constantly smoking.

Beware of
I don't know anything particular you should be aware of. The Laoitians have not taken scamming to the level of the Thais. I never had any issues nor heard about anything.

Trip report and pics
Ringo R's photo trip report: http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...hreadid=3248304


* * *


Vietnam: - (Written by Cheesemaster200)



Vietnam is newer to the travel and backpacking scene in southeast Asia, but as the country is essentially one giant beach, it is quickly gaining popularity. When most people think of Vietnam, the first thing that comes to mind is the war back in the 60s and 70s, or the American war as it is known there. Vietnam has been a country which has been in conflict ever since the fall of the last imperial dynasty to the French, and only in recent decades have they been able to find a sense of national identity. Tourism has also been one of the most up and coming industries, and with good reason. Vietnam has many natural wonders, beautiful beaches, and a sense of history which spans not just Asian cultures, but western as well. As it is fairly new to the scene, travel in Vietnam now has the benefits of going to Laos and Cambodia (less people) with the benefits of the tourist backbone of Thailand. You can truly get a good cultural experience, without most of the headaches.

What to do
Vietnam is essentially split into three regions, the north, central and south. All three have three distinct cultures, foods, customs and nightlife. These are a few of the "must do" activities if you want to follow the tourist trail:

North:
The north of the country is generally centered around the city of Hanoi, the capital. The city of Hanoi is worth at least a few days. Sites to see include Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Hỏa Lò Prison (Hanoi Hilton), the Temple of Literature, and getting lost in the old quarter. For a backpacker just off the plane, the place to be is in the Old Quarter where you will find a ton of infrastructure catering to everything from a cheap hostel to the actual Hilton Hotel. Outside of the city, the north of Vietnam is renowned for its awesome landscapes. The town of Sapa up by the Chinese border will show you some cooler temperatures and local hill tribes. Down towards the coast, a boat trip into the magnificent Ha Long Bay with a stopover at Cat Ba Island are well worth your time.

Central:
Central Vietnam is generally based around the string of cities of Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An. Hue was the former imperial capital of the country before the French arrived. If you are a fan of Chinese architecture, archaeology sites and touring of temples, the city of Hue will give you lots to do. Sites to not be missed include the Citadel, the tomb of Tu Doc, and the Thien Mu Pagoda. For someone just off the plane (or bus), look to Pham Ngu Lao Street for a variety of very nice hotels, hostels, and bars which cater to the tourist crown. It was at a bar called "Apocalypse Now", drinking some bears in the open air night while listening to "Paint it Black" by the Rolling Stones where I was once taken back by the whole history of the place.
A little bit south past Hue, you get to Da Nang which is a rather boring city by itself (unless you are riding through it), aside from its fantastic beaches. China Beach, as the American's named it during the war is a ribbon of near perfection which is slowly giving way to upscale beach resorts between the city of Da Nang and Hoi An. If you are in the area, a visit to the marble mountain is also a good place to visit.
Finally, Hoi An is the definitive tourist destination in Vietnam and probably has the biggest backpacker infrastructure outside of Saigon or Hanoi. You can roll into the downtown here and immediately find a nice hotel or guesthouse. The same thing goes for shopping and bars. Like Da Nang, the beaches here are beautiful, and if you have some cash to spend, you can stay at a 5 star beach front resort for no more than $100 a night. Hoi An also has a very strong cultural aspect with its Ancient Town. The premier tourist destination in the region, the ancient town blends the modern comforts of nice restaurants with local artisans and makes a great walk at night. Beware though, it can get kind of touristy and crowded, especially when they do the lamp lighting on the river.

South:
The infamous South Vietnam, now integrated with North Vietnam, is almost a country on itself. Much of this is due to the cultural split which was a result of the many wars, specificly the American war. You will find that the prices are higher, the hotels and guesthouses are a bit older and run down, and the nightlife is just that much more wild. South Vietnam centers around the city of Saigon, which is now known as Ho Chi Minh City. While the latter is the official name according to the government, it is a bit bulky and most people just know it as Saigon. Within the city, there are many famous places to visit. The reunification palace is worth at least a picture. St. Josephs Cathedral and the post office is worth a look. For a good time, hit up the rooftop bar on the famous Rex hotel. Its a bit pricey, but the atmosphere is hard to beat. I also hear the Saigon zoo is quite worth it. For someone just off the plan, Pham Ngu Lao is the place to be if you want the comforts of the backpacker crown. Keep in mind though, that unlike other cities in the north and central region, the backpacker area here is more equated with Khao San Road of Bangkok in that it is part central and full of obnoxious hippies. Either way, you will be able to find what you need there.
Other parts of South Vietnam include Nha Trang, which is a very popular beach town. Here you will find again that there are higher prices and more tourists than the more northerly beaches though. Worth a visit though if you have time. The greater Mekong also has many small villages, rivers, and floating crap which can an experience, if not a bit more primitive. The Cu Chi tunnels, outside of Saigon are also usually on the to do list.


Recommended Budgets:
The Vietnamese Dong is the most inflated currency in the world. Last I checked, it was 17,000VND to the USD. A meal at a decent restaurant will go for 30,000-60,000VND. For street food, you can find a bowl of pho for as little as 5,000VND or less if you have a good eye and veer out of the tourist area. Western style hotels are usually around $30-$60, and that will get you A/C, HBO, a free breakfast, and peace of mind if you are worried about being in a strange country. Guesthouses can go down to $5 a night if you look hard enough, though prices are getting higher as more people visit the country. As a general rule of thumb, the more touristy the area, the more expensive it will be. Saigon and the south is generally a lot more expensive than the north. Dollars are used in all major cities, though ATMs are so plentiful, you will eventually just switch to the Dong. Negotiation is expected for all street vendors, some hotels, but not at food establishments. 9/10 times you can probably negotiate a cheaper room at a quiet hotel by just pretending to walk out.

Recommended Food:
I could go on with this forever, the food is epic in Vietnam, though might take some getting used to if you are not used to exotic cuisine. The rule is that the Vietnamese eat everything. If it moves, and they can kill it, they eat it. I would definitely try some snake, (if not just to say you tried it), prawns and at least one whole squid on the beach. The french/Vietnamese cuisine was my favorite. Try the braised orange duck, the caramelized shrimp, and at least one type of whole fish. If you are in Hue, sample the stir-fry. It is hot as gently caress, but extremely delicious. When Hue was the capital, all the emperors had cooks make a ton of different types of food. It shows. As with all southeast Asian countries, if its on a stick, it is an orgasmic culinary experience. Fish sauce is... fish sauce..
The one thing which everyone must try when going to Vietnam is the classic dish called Pho. It is essentially a noodle soup with various greens and either chicken or beef in it. It is the staple food of the country and is eaten at all times of the day. It is available everywhere.

Drinking and Smoking:
Unlike Laos, Vietnam has many localized beers which are usually named for the city you are in. They are always cheap, and always plentiful. I would suggest trying Tiger and Hue, as they were my favorites. All major cities have a nice backpacker zone for comfort bars, but if you want to get in with the locals, try a beer garden or Bia Hoi where you can drinking draft beer over ice for pennies. I never went with the whole ice thing to avoid a stomach issue, but once you are in country for a bit I am sure you will be fine.

Beware of:
Pompous Rhombus on his motorcycle. Actually, just watch out for all motorcycles, they are everywhere. On the scam front, it is the same old poo poo as any SE Asian country. Hanoi airport has had a lot of problems with the taxi mafia taking tourists to their paid off hotel. Make sure to tell the taxi driver at the airport where you are going and make sure to use the word "reservation". If you are approached by anyone on the street, they are selling you something and do not accept or do anything with them unless you want a confrontation. In Hanoi there are these women wearing conical hats with pineapple carrying things on their shoulders. They like to go up to tourists and put the carrying things on your shoulder, and put the conical hat on your shoulder. If you take a picture with them, they want a ridiculous amount of money for it. It helps if you are 6'-3" as they cant get to your shoulder . The police are more or less useless, so if you lose $1500 worth of poo poo while motorbiking from Hue to Hoi An, don't even bother trying to get a police report. Touts and merchants on the side of the road will leave you along if you tell them no or go away (in general).

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Do they hate the Americans since we bombed the poo poo out of them in the 60s?
A: I went as an American, and I can say there was very little anti-American sentiment in Vietnam. The only place I got a little negativity was in the north where you would say you were American to a cab driver and the conversation would go silent, and it might have only been because it was an awkward conversation to begin with. In general, the Vietnamese have moved on from their troubled past and are happy to see the western world give an interest in their mostly poverty stricken country. In the south, the echos of American culture still ring strong, and most people there love Americans. Also note that the vast majority of the populaton was born after the end of the war, so if you are under the age of 30, they hold the same feeling towards Americans as you would them.

Q: Am I going to step on a landmine?
A: While mines and unexploded ordinance are still in Vietnam, they are mostly in the jungle and rural areas and off the beaten path. There has been extensive work to remove leftover ordinance and as long as you aren't bushwhacking in the DMZ you will be fine.

Q: I saw the Top Gear Vietnam Special and want to do that, where do I start!
A: If you have never ridden a motorcycle in Asia or been to Vietnam before, I wouldn't suggest it. AS a TV crew, you have a support crew and it makes doing something that epic a lot easier. That being said, I would still do some motorbiking in the country if you are an experienced rider. When I was in Vietnam I did a guided tour from Hue to Hoi An over the Hai Van pass (much like the Top Gear special). Not only did I get to see the awesome road which goes over the pass, but our local guide brought us to some very out of the way places. One of these places was a deserted beach with straw/bamboo umbrellas where we had a fresh squid and prawns. It was the highlight of my trip. I also rented scooters on Cat Ba Island, based off of Cat Ba Town. If you are doing Ha Long Bay, I would recommend doing the island motorbike tour. There are literally no cars, busses or trucks on the place and you can do some really fun motorbiking through deserted hills and rural fishing villages.

Q: Do I need a Visa before going to Vietnam?
A: Your country might be different, but for a US citizen the current answer is yes. You must pre-arrange some sort of visa in advance. There is a visa on arrival program, but again it requires that you apply for it in advance. Do not show up to Vietnam without a visa, it won't end well with you.

Q: DO I need anti-malerials?
A: If you are only going to be in the cities and tourist areas, I would say no. If you are going to go into the Mekong Delta or into the inland jungle more, I would say yes. Most of Vietnam is considered safe.


* * *


Brunei (Written by hbf)



Recommended minimum budget per day
I can't really put a number on it. It's definitely not as cheap as Thailand or anything. I think I took out about 100BND for my 2 day stay and had some left over.

Recommended food
I am not sure if there are any certain Brunein food. Since it is completely surrounded by Malaysia the food is pretty much Malay and Indonesian. There is also some Chinese and Indian influence as there is a fairly significant number of immigrants from those countries.

Useful phrases
-

Drinking and smoking
Brunei is a Sharia country. Alcohol is banned outright from being sold. Foreigners can bring in a small amount. I actually brought in way more than the limit (had like 4 bottles of Sangsom) but they didn't really care, I just told them I was confused by the metric system because I'm American... You are allowed to drink, just not in public. If you're in Brunei and need a drink, what most expats/tourists do is drive out to the border of Malaysia. I guess right over the border there is usually a shanty selling beer and sometimes a basic bar. I heard from a few Brits I ran into they can turn into quite a party some nights.

Just about everyone smokes tobacco however, and pretty heavily. Any kind of drugs are probably unheard of there.

Beware of
Not following etiquette while visit any Muslim site like a Mosque. Don't poke around the place on your own and always ask if it's ok to do anything. You can't take pictures inside Mosques and you also can't walk on the floor directly. They will put down carpets so you can walk around however, but you can't step off. I also had to wear a burka type thing to go inside the Mosques. Not a full one that covered my face, but it was a big black gown with a high collar that comes up your neck. Yes, I am a man.

Trip report
hbf - http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...9#post371772543


* * *


Malaysia



Beasticly would like to share his satisfying sessions with the young gay culture of Malaysia
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...0#post371810978

Hantu has a lot to add because he's a real Malay and pissed off
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...2#post371922660

lemonadesweetheart likes Malay food
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...1#post425826248


* * *


Philippines



ReindeerF's favorite city in the world is Manila so he wrote about this love for it
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...3#post372503943


* * *


Burma/Myanmar (Written by Cheesemaster200)



Burma
Unlike the other countries in Southeast Asia, Burma can definitely be considered the backpacker frontier. Unlike its neighbors, you will not find backpacker ghettos, a western party scene or widely availible tourist infrastructure. While sometimes annoying, this fact definitely makes the country extremely appealing for anyone looking to get away from the rampant commercialization and faux Asian culture to the east. The country has a very prominenty Indian influence, and can best be described as a "Buddhist India or Bangladesh". That being said though, the country is not nearly as hectic or aggressive as its Hindu neighbors.

What to do:
Most tourism in Burma is generally centered around the "big four attractons of Rangoon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake. This is mainly due to the fact that the Burmese government makes it extremely difficult to roam freely around much of the country. In addition, attractions and towns not near these areas are very hard to get to, much less get by in.

Rangoon:
The colonial captial of Burma, Rangoon boasts some of the country's biggest attractions as well as the base for most of it's tourist infrastructure. Subsequently, it is also practically the only port of entry and exit from the country. While in Rangoon, make sure to hit up the Swedagon Paya, the Sule Paya and some of the old colonial architecture half in ruins throughout the city. For food, make sure to try out the quasi-Indian quarter around Sule Paya. You can get some delicios cheap eats there for around 500 kyat. If you are looking for accomodation, I would recommend the Okinama guesthouse located on a alley street adjacent to Sule Paya. As you can tell, the Sule Paya is a nice little place to base yourself out of. To get around town (and from the airport), you will need to use an un-metered taxi. Don't worry, there are no meters anywhere so don't feel too bad when the taxi cartel at the airport scams you for a flat $10 transfer to downtown. If you are looking for a day trip, hit up Bago outside the city a bit.

Mandalay:
Up along the Irriwaddy river in the North of Burma, Mandalay drums up visions of the quintiscential ancient Asian city in the middle of the jungle. In reality though, it is neither ancient, in the jungle or representative of a southeast asian city. However, this doesn' mean that it isn't worth a visit. Mandalay can be a very nice city to just explore. Its location up north makes it a good break from the monsoon if you just spent 3 days getting soaked in Rangoon, trust me. Key highlights are walking up Mandalay Hill (don't loving cheat), and visiting the various monestaries and payas littered throughout the city. Mandalay is also a base point should you want to get adventerous in the far north of the Burma. I stayed at the Royal Guesthouse when I was there, and it had decent and cheap accomodation. However, they did fleece me on my boat ticket down to Bagan. Don't hit up the palace if the fact that it was made with forced labor bothers you.

Bagan:
The jewel of Burma, Bagan is the equivalent to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but with less tourists and more structures to explore. You can base yourself out of three towns in the area; Old Bagan, New Bagan or Nyang U. I would recommend Nyang U as it has less government owned property and more backpacker infrastructure than the other towns. Once again, be ready to deal with taxi mafias and extortionary flat rates to/from the ferry pier or the airport. To get around the temples you can either hire a horse cart and driver (prices based on demand) or rent a bike for 1500 kyat. I recommend the later since you have a lot more freedom, just be wary of flat tires though and drink lots of water. It isn't too hot here, but its still Southeast Asia. You can easilt spend 3-4 days here, depending on what your tolerance for bike riding, painting touting and somewhat generic temple architecture is.

Inle Lake:
Never been to Inle Lake, but I here it is one of the most touristed places in the country. It is also used as a base for trekking for most trekkers in Burma. You can do some nice 3-4 day treks around the countryside here and see some off the beaten track stuff. In addition, you can also go around the late and see the floating villiages, fisherman, etc. etc. Its on the eastern side of the country, so kind of out of the way from Mandalay and Bagan (which is why I didn't go).

Again, these are just the main attractions. If you really want to get away from it all and depart western culture entirely, I would suggest getting a permit for the far north or heading down to Mrauk U in the Southwest of the country. I hear those are both very adventerous places to go.

Recommended Budget:
The US and Euro governments have a financial services embargo on the entire country. Therefore, You will need to bring in the required amount of USD to cover your entire trip. There are no ATM's and most places don't covert Baht or other regional currencies. That being said, you MIGHT be able to get a wire transfer through singapore through some of the upmarket hotels in Rangoon for an astronomical commission (~30%). You probably don't want to do this. Expect accomodation to be $5-10 a night minimum, depending on where you are and how busy it is. This will usually get a private room with shared bathrooms. Look for about $15-20 for bus rides, $2-40 for boat rides (depending on the route and time of year), $70 for flights and $10-50 for trains. Food is extremely cheap, look for a max of 4000 kyat at any Burmese restaurant, though it can get higher at expat and tourist places. Note that the trains, some airlines, some boats, and some hotels are owned by the government. If supporting the military junta is something you wish to avoid, then be wary with what hotels and transportation methods you patronize.

Recommended Food:
Burma doesn't really have the reputation for cuisine as Thailand or Vietnam do, and in fact I found most of the food kind of mediocre. The curries here can best be described as Indian, but chunkier and a little less flavorful. As with any Southeast Asian country, noodle soup is in abundance and you can more than get by on that. What you will find is that the Indian food is extremely good. In Rangoon, Bagan, and Mandalay you will find a large variety of Indian restaurants which serve up cheap and delicious meals. I would strongly recommend trying it out.

Drinking and Smoking
Myanmar Beer is everywhere. You can find Mandalay beer up north a bit, but most of the time you will be drinking out of large recycled bottles of Mandalay. There are a few Tiger Beer drinking stations around the major cities (such as Mandalay), but for the most part their presence is not very big. Smoking isn't that big in Burma, but they do love their betel nut. Thats not blood all over the sidewalk and that guy you just passed is not a zombie. The ubiquous red betel nut is chewed and spit by almost all men. I thought it was disgusting and didn't try it. Feel free to try it I guess...

Beware of:
Burma is a rather isolated country run by an authoritarian military government. That being said, the country is extremely safe for travelers. You should have no trouble walking alone at night by yourseld in Rangoon or Mandalay. That being said, don't be a dumbass and use common sense regardless. The biggest problem you will have are people trying to scam the poo poo out of you. The most obvious of these scams are the taxi mafias which you will more than likely come into contact with. Anyplace where you are sort of stuck away from where you are going with no other transport but taxis will yield you a bunch of taxi drivers offering the same extortionary price with nothing you can do about it. It sucks, but what are you going to do. Also, watch where you walk. The Burmese sewer system is not what I would call very advanced or well maintained. Finally, don't be a dumbass and try to stir up a revolution or something. Keep your politics to yourself and don't do anything stupid. I met some guy in Rangoon during my first night in Burma, and he was planning on "stopping by Aung San Suu Kyi's house to make an appointment and talk with her". I would not recommend such things if you don't feel like being deported or detained.

Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Should I go, and how should I spend my money?
A: The biggest question that seems to go through everyone's head in regards to Burma. From a personal safety perspective, you are perfectly safe. The government will crucify anyone fucks with a tourist so you have nothing to worry about in that regard. However, the dollars that you spend in country will eventually end up in the hands of a rather barbaric military junta with a long history of human righs violations. I have outlined areas where you can limit your exposure to this sort of spending, but ultimately you will not be able to fully isolate yourself from it. Other factors which go into this are your personal schedule and beliefs. If you are tight on time or don't like staying in lovely guesthouses, you might feel the need to possibly put more money in the goverment purse. The choice of whether to go, how much to spend, and where is your choice and your choice alone. Weigh the issues, your situation and make a decision based upon that. I have always felt that Lonely Planet and lots of other publications like to pressure people with guilt trips about traveling in the country. However, I have always found this hypocritical for obvious reasons. Decide on your priorities and make your own choice.
In my opinion, you should go. There are very few places in the world where you can see the level of authentic culture as you can in Burma. It is in many way untouched by the tourist trail which plagues so many other countries, but at the same time has enough infrastructure to not be completely ridiculous. In addition, the Burmese people are the ones who will need to rise up and change their world. They will never do that if they are kept isolated from the rest of the world. If you go, make sure to interact with the locals and try to find and share with the "real Burma". I think that will do much more good than any type of travel boycott.

Q: Why are all the men wearing skirts?
A: It's not a skirt, its a Lungi, or South Asian version of a sarong. Unlike most other SE Asian countries, this traditional dress is still worn by most of the population.

Q: What is the best way to get around?
A: The easiest, but most expensive way to get around is by air. However, note that Burmese airlines don't have the best safety record and a couple of them are owned by the government. However, not ALL of them are owned by the government, so don't rule air travel out entirely. Buying tickets is easy from any travel agency or guesthouse. All airfare must be paid for it dollars, by law. Busses are long and uncomfortable, but ultimately the cheapest and all owned by private companies. Expect at least 12 hours from Rangoon to Mandalay. Boats are a fun and scenic way of seeing the country, though their times are irregular and dependent on water levels and the season. I would recommend the trip from Mandalay to Bagan if you can fit it in your schedule, it was quite nice.

Q: What about visas?
A. You will need a visa from either your home country or from a Burmese consolate abroad. It's comparitively cheap (especially for an American), but they can be picky if you put down an occupation or purpose which is not in line with the government's ideaology. That is, don't put down journalist, freedom fighter, LF poster, etc. as your occupation if you don't want your visa denied.


- - -

More countries will be added! Go ahead and write!

Ringo R fucked around with this message at Feb 18, 2014 around 10:29

KingAsmo
Mar 18, 2009


My friend and I did a blog while on our 3 months in Thailand, Laos, and China. If you want to have some crazy experiences on very little money, give it a look.

http://siamesetwinge.blogspot.com

The Wildcard
May 8, 2003

I fought the Nightman, lived as Dayman; / Now I'm
here
to ask for your hand.

The Lonely Planet guidebooks are awesome, but you're right, don't rely on it too much. I'm borrowing a copy right now to get some basic ideas about Thailand before I go, but I'm not going to buy it until I get there. Apparently you can grab a bootleg copy off the street for pennies on the dollar.

Even then, (and I'm going on what people said in the last thread here,) it's good to have in a pinch, but don't rely on it too much. Be flexible, that's half the fun. And remember that everybody get the LP guidebooks, so the places they recommend might be crowded/full.

I'm personally hoping to go to Thailand from around definitely going next Winter. Maybe both.

Right now I'm thinking I'll fly into Singapore, spend a week there with family friends. Fly to BBK, and from there head down to the islands. Just take it easy and chill. I PMed a few of the goons from the previous thread who'd been there in May/June and got some excellent advice.

Falco posted:

Everyone says that May/June is the hot and rainy season. I really don't think the temperatures change all that much at all from December to June. Yes it did rain while I was there, but it was usually in the afternoon and it would rain for an hour maybe two and stop. It was pretty refreshing when it would rain, and it made for a good excuse to take a break and read for a bit. I think I would much rather deal with a little rain than the mass amounts of people traveling around during December/January. There were still plenty of people there when I went.

Find which is the best deal in terms of flights, and go for it. Don't plan too much out before you get there because I guarantee your plans will change. Pick up a lonely planet guide for Thailand, and start talking to people once you get there. I originally planned on going to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and ended up never making it that way, but went through Loas instead. So leave your schedule open and have a blast.

Another bit about the weather. Yes it will be hot, and very humid. You're just going to have to deal with it. The less time I spent in air conditioning places the better I did. I purposely did not stay in A/C rooms and did much better.

Edit: If anyone has any island/beach stories, which ones are awesome, which ones to avoid, I'd be interested, I'm still trying to decide about that.

Ringo R
Dec 25, 2005

ช่วยแม่เฮ็ดนาแหน่เดัอ

KingAsmo posted:

My friend and I did a blog while on our 3 months in Thailand, Laos, and China. If you want to have some crazy experiences on very little money, give it a look.

http://siamesetwinge.blogspot.com

That is the most well written blog I've ever seen. I'm lost for words. Nice pics too.


The Wildcard posted:

Edit: If anyone has any island/beach stories, which ones are awesome, which ones to avoid, I'd be interested, I'm still trying to decide about that.

Not really a beach person, but I've been to a few of the islands, so here goes:

Phuket - Stay away. Expensive, full of all kinds of tourists, doesn't even feel like you're on an island.

Koh Samui - A bit better than Phuket but full of young obnoxious douchebags on their way to a Full Moon Party.

Koh Larn - A small island half an hour from Pattaya. A few alright beaches but nothing amazing. Best beaches around Pattaya though. Go here if you're in Pattaya and want to go for a swim.

Koh Samet - Probably my favorite island. A small island not too far from Bangkok with some nice beaches. Pretty quiet unless it's a weekend when the Bangkok Thais invade it.

Koh Chang - Good island to go it if you're on your way to Cambodia, because it's right next to the border. It's a rather big island but not crowded at all. Get a motorbike and explore!

For the average person though, Koh Samui or Phuket will probably be fine.

hbf
Jul 26, 2003
No Dice.

Don't really have any input, but it blows my mind that the other thread is 5 years old. I came across that thread in 2006 and a saw a picture someone posted an amazing beach which they said was right outside their 4$ bungalow. I had never even considered going to Thailand and didn't really even know it was a common destination. A few weeks later I found myself landing in Bangkok with little more than a backpack and the names of a few places scratched on a piece of paper. I had the time of my life even though the only planning I did was maybe skimming that thread once or twice.

Here's a shot from outside a bungalow I stayed in:

Click here for the full 1200x900 image.

hbf
Jul 26, 2003
No Dice.

Actually, I'll write a bit about Brunei as I spent 2 days there on my way back

Brunei



Recommended minimum budget per day
I can't really put a number on it. It's definitely not as cheap as Thailand or anything. I think I took out about 100BND for my 2 day stay and had some left over.

Recommended food
I am not sure if there are any certain Brunein food. Since it is completely surrounded by Malaysia the food is pretty much Malay and Indonesian. There is also some Chinese and Indian influence as there is a fairly significant number of immigrants from those countries.

Useful phrases
-

Drinking and smoking
Brunei is a Sharia country. Alcohol is banned outright from being sold. Foreigners can bring in a small amount. I actually brought in way more than the limit (had like 4 bottles of Sangsom) but they didn't really care, I just told them I was confused by the metric system because I'm American... You are allowed to drink, just not in public. If you're in Brunei and need a drink, what most expats/tourists do is drive out to the border of Malaysia. I guess right over the border there is usually a shanty selling beer and sometimes a basic bar. I heard from a few Brits I ran into they can turn into quite a party some nights.

Just about everyone smokes tobacco however, and pretty heavily. Any kind of drugs are probably unheard of there.

Beware of
Not following etiquette while visit any Muslim site like a Mosque. Don't poke around the place on your own and always ask if it's ok to do anything. You can't take pictures inside Mosques and you also can't walk on the floor directly. They will put down carpets so you can walk around however, but you can't step off. I also had to wear a burka type thing to go inside the Mosques. Not a full one that covered my face, but it was a big black gown with a high collar that comes up your neck. Yes, I am a man.


Trip report and pics
Brunei is a strange place. I was coming from Thailand so I was expecting the culture to be much different from what I was used to as an American, however this just isn't the case. Brunei has a lot of money and is fairly small so this enables the government to keep the standard of living very high. Everyone has a job and a decent pension from the government, the streets are well maintained and there are even malls exactly like you would see in any western country. I saw no homeless, no crime, no begging and no touting at all. My first impression was that most Brunei people, while very nice, are quite content to sit inside in their air conditioning and watch TV or surf the internet. Seriously, walking in "downtown" of the capital Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) you might not even run in to any one on the street sometimes. Kind of a creepy "where the hell is everyone?" vibe going on.

As I was there for only 2 full days I was limited to staying in BSB. In my time I visited the 2 main mosques, a water village, and some night markets. To be honest, you can probably do this all in a day. The buses (well, more like vans) are simple and cheap to use. However, just about every time I tried to get a bus, some British or Australian came by and picked me up in their car. It seemed like most westerners there, who were all pretty much British or Aussies were pretty bored with the place and really happy to show you around just for the chance to talk to someone new. Most were on their gap year to teach english or something and it seemed like they didn't really know what they were getting themselves into by going to Brunei. I think they thought they were signing up for an adventure like it would be in Vietnam or Malaysia and then they got to BSB and realized it's a sleepy little town where you can't even drink.

Anyway, the mosques are pretty cool if you are in to that. I had never actually been inside one or really even seen a traditional mosque. Very well made, lots of marble and gold. Just be sure to follow the rules listed above. They also blast the AC inside these things, so it's pretty refreshing when you go in. Really wish I had a picture of myself in that gown type thing they made it me wear.

This is the one downtown:

Click here for the full 1024x768 image.


Click here for the full 1024x775 image.


This is the largest, built by the Sultan, it's just outside the city:

Click here for the full 1024x768 image.


The water village, which is just behind the first mosque above, is how Brunei was settled traditionally. Most of the land is marshy and prone to floods from near by rivers so they built houses on stilts. Kind of a contrast compared to the city which is modern and well maintained. I ate some really good seafood in a small place there, and was also the only tourist I saw. A few people bought me cokes and had a good laugh about it. I think you can take a river tour from here to travel around the main palace of the sultan but I didn't.


Click here for the full 1024x768 image.


That gold dome is the first mosque above. Notice all the satellite dishes? Everyone has a TV and dvd player, even in those shanty type houses.

At night, I went to a market outside the mall, I believe Gadong was the area. Quite small and not a bustling hive of activity like I saw in Thailand. Lots of good cheap food though. Seemed like each family ran a table, and they each had a specialty. Probably the one place where a number of people didn't speak any english, mainly just because they were older. Also, it definitely does not go all night. Around 9 or 10 most people packed up their stuff into an SUV and drove off.

That's pretty much it. Overall, it's not a spot I would recommend unless you happen to be flying through. I was on Royal Brunei airlines, which is amazing btw, which is why I went. I guess there are some really nice nature parks and stuff you can tour, but that's certainly not unique to Brunei, so you'd probably be better off doing that in Malaysia for cheaper. One weird thing I noticed on the way out was in the airport bookstore. They had a number of openly antisemitic books on display, about Zionist conspiracies and such, something I've never seen before.

hbf fucked around with this message at Jan 29, 2010 around 22:00

Sheep-Goats
Jul 28, 2003



I lived in Thailand and taught English there (and in Taiwan and China) for two years, and this thread and Ringo R have my stamp of approval!

(PS you can use my Thai food with a bad cook joke if you want Ringo I don't mind.)

(PPS this is going to be the best thread in Travel and Tourism unironically)

Sheep-Goats fucked around with this message at Jan 30, 2010 around 02:12

Cheesemaster200
Feb 11, 2004

Guard of the Citadel

I call Vietnam writeup! (or at least the start of it, I know a lot of you have seen more of it)

freebooter
Jul 7, 2009


Might want to throw something up in the OP about vaccinations and antimalarials (including whether or not to bother with them). I had a bunch of shots for a RTW trip the other day, and I think most of them were for Africa, but you'd definitely want hepatitis and diptheria/tetanus for SE Asia, if you don't already have them just for living at home (you should). I haven't decided on antimalarials yet, so if anyone wants to discuss experiences with those I'd be interested to hear. Specifically the part about side effects being as bad as the disease itself.

Falco posted:

Everyone says that May/June is the hot and rainy season. I really don't think the temperatures change all that much at all from December to June. Yes it did rain while I was there, but it was usually in the afternoon and it would rain for an hour maybe two and stop. It was pretty refreshing when it would rain, and it made for a good excuse to take a break and read for a bit. I think I would much rather deal with a little rain than the mass amounts of people traveling around during December/January. There were still plenty of people there when I went.

This is good to hear, I'm going to be there from late April to early June and I wasn't looking forward to torrential downpour.

Ret
Sep 17, 2004



Time to comment on the punny thread title.

I lived directly above a coffee shop in the red light district of Singapore. It's been cleaned up a lot. However you can see what it would be like before and was like on some nights. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIfj4KH-DLc

It was pretty funny to be eating dinner at the coffee shop and stare at men my fathers age just sitting there with huge smirks on their face.

Also along the lines of stuff white people like gently caress YOU people who say I will travel with $5K USD and make it stretch. You are cock suckers and I really don't like you. Just because $10,000 Rupiah is $1 USD doesn't mean you have to be a tight wad with money on tipping etc.

Do whatever you want but if I'm travelling and I meet up with you and you turn down cool opportunities that are very affordably priced I will really think you're doing it wrong.

Ask me about Singapore
Living/Working in Jakarta

Also what I think every goon's fantasy is on arrival in Asia, towering over cute tiny asian women.

Ret fucked around with this message at Jan 30, 2010 around 02:32

Shnicker
Feb 15, 2006


The Wildcard posted:

Edit: If anyone has any island/beach stories, which ones are awesome, which ones to avoid, I'd be interested, I'm still trying to decide about that.

I agree with Ringo R and say stay the hell away from Phuket. It's just too big and expensive and crowded. I'd actually say the same thing about Koh Samui too, although it's not quite as horrible.

Koh Phangan was nice if you avoid Haad Rin (where the full moon party is held). Phangan gets a bad rap from the full moon party but it's a big island and plenty of beautiful beaches to visit.

Koh Chang was alright, some decent beaches, but it didn't really blow my mind like some of the quiet beaches on Phangan. I stayed on Lonely Beach for pretty cheap though, like 300 baht ($9US) for a bungalow.

Koh Lanta was pretty nice if you don't mind seeing Swedish families everywhere. I spent New Years there but I didn't get to see much of the island because of the SEVERE FOOD POISONING I got.

Out of all the islands I went to, my absolute FAVORITE by far is Koh Mook. It's a little touristy, but completely empty compared to places like Phuket, Samui, Phangan, etc. The easiest way to get there is to make your way down to Trang (I took a $5 minibus ride from Surat, but you could take the train from Bangkok or maybe even fly). Once in Trang, it's only $8 or $9 to get a minibus to the pier + a long-tail boat ride to the island. There are two main resorts on the island, one on the little eastern peninsula (Sivilai) and the big Charley Beach resort on the western side. They can be really expensive, but we stayed on the eastern side at a little place called Koh Mook Gardens (400 baht a night for a double). They offer free rides to Charley Beach every day, which is a really beautiful beach. I went with my girlfriend and another couple and for a full day boat tour around the island (4 stops, including amazing snorkeling and the famous Emerald Cave) it was only 800 baht total, 200 baht each.

Just imagine those tall limestone cliffs falling into the ocean, and your own little longtail boat just dropping anchor at what seems to be a random place near that cliff just so you can snorkel for as long as you want. There are few boats around. Then you head to the Emerald Cave, which is a cave in the cliff that you have to swim through for 80 meters. I believe we were lucky in that no one was there when we were, but the cave leads to a small beach that's completely surrounded by these giant cliffs. It's beautiful but I believe the cave would get pretty touristy. Then the boat brings you around to other, quiet, beautiful beaches where there's not a soul in sight. THIS is what I wanted to experience in Thailand ever since I got here a year ago. Throw in some delicious seafood and a couple scary motorbike rides and it was the best time I had in Thailand so far.

I only have two months left, but I plan on going to one of Koh Tao or Koh Libong, or maybe both. Or maybe I'll check out one of those islands far south on the Andaman coast. I'll post more later.

Sheep-Goats
Jul 28, 2003



A Thai language primer

First, two sidebar points. Then, some phrases.

Sidebar one: Thai is a tonal language (as are most of the languages of the region). You know how one "Laa!" is different from another "Laa!" in music because they have different sounds? Well, in Thai it's not just L+a+a that matters, the sound matters also, and this quality of sound is referred to as "tone." It's fairly systematic, though. Thai, like Chinese, has five tones, or five different sounds for any given syllable. This post isn't a course on the Thai language, so I'm not going to get into it other than to say you need to say it the way they say it, don't just say what they say. If it sounds like a goofy little song it's not because they're being goofy, it's because if you sing that song another way you're actually saying different words. If you want to hear the words below said, you can try this dictionary site.

Sidebar two: Khap/Kaa. This is called the politening article. You say it at the end of your sentence to indicate that you are speaking in a polite manner. Men say Khap, women say Ka. (Also, you will probably be amused to know, some trannies and butch lesbians use an invented article, Ha.) Also, people who say Khap/Kaa at the end of their sentences are seen as cultured and debonair, or at least cute, while people who don't are harsh country slobs. Because Thai people are almost ceaselessly trying to be polite you may find yourself wondering "Why is everyone saying Crap all the time..." but now you know. Khap/Kaa also often takes the place of the word for "yes" in polite discourse.

Also, while this doesn't really belong, the words for "I" are different if you're a man or woman as well. Men say "Phom" women say "Di chan" or sometimes just "chan." There are overtones of men having a superior status in that, but most Thais don't think about that much and a woman saying "Phom" is more likely to just sound like she doesn't speak Thai rather than sound like she's liberated. They're also circumstantial, though, and it's possible for a woman to refer to herself as Phom if, for example, she was talking to a group of other women at work that she outranked. Thais will frequently refer to themselves in the third person, however, and this may in part be a way to avoid having to find the right status related pronoun before speaking.


=============================================


Phrases One: Pleasantries -- most of these will have Khap/Kaa said right after them, don't forget about it...
hello : sawatdee
thanks : khap kun
how are you : sabai dee mai (lit. "Are you well relaxed?")
it doesn't matter / it's fine / don't be angry / let it go : mai pen rai

No one can explain why "mai pen rai" means what it does, but no one will deny that "mai pen rai" is a Thai cultural cornerstone. You'll hear it all the time. Where do you want to eat? Mai pen rai. Aren't you mad about your sister getting a loan for her sick buffalo that doesn't exist? Mai pen rai. Why did you put meat in my soup, I said I was a vegetarian! Mai pen rai. I just rammed my piece of poo poo motorbike into some dude's BMW so before I peel off into traffic again I'm going to look at him sagely and say "Mai pen rai, khap!"

Trying to get this phrase accurately translated by a Thai person is a hobby of about half of the people who visit Thailand but it's never going to happen. "Mai pen" means "it isn't" so you would expect "rai" to mean "a problem" or whatever but it doesn't, on its own "rai" is the name of a little bedbug like critter. And no, there isn't some deep symbolism about bedbugs in Thai. When you take the phrase apart the component parts don't seem to have much to do with what the phrase means anymore. Thai people assure me that this kind of lexical misbehavior is a fairly regular thing in their language, with many compound words/phrases being made up of what are apparently random (or near random) parts.

Phrases Two: Food
waiter! / waitress! : Nong (lit. "younger sibling." You're yelling out "Little sister!" or, in English, "Miss!")
not spicy : Mai sai prik
a little spicy : pet noi
spicy: pet
very spicy : pet mak
water : nam plao (lit. "nothing water" this is how you ask for bottled water)
beer : beeah
rice : khao
chicken : gai
egg : kai
pork : moo
beef : neua (Many Thai people don't like beef, they think it's stinky.)
fish : plaa
crab : poo
shrimp : goong
it's delicious : aroy (Thai people love to ask you "Aroy mai?" if they eat with you. It's inevitable. The answer is "Aroy.")
smells good : hom
I'm a vegetarian : Phom/Chan ben ahaan-jay

If you say Phom ben ahaan-jay you also mean you don't eat garlic or onions but if you insist on being a vegetard when you're traveling in a country renowned for its cuisine then whatever, you can do without those as well. There's another word for vegetarian but that word also seems to mean to Thai people that you'll eat meat too and just vaguely prefer vegetables.

Phrases Three: Comfort
comfortable : sabai
sick : mai sabai (lit. "not relaxed")
hot : rohn
cold : yen ("Yen!" is a word with generally very positive connotations in Thai. See if you can figure out why.)
hungry : hew
sleepy : norn
bored : boouh
drunk : mao
injury : jep
ouch! : jep!
cockroaches : seb (seb can be used for some other bugs as well, but not all of them)
stinky : men

Thai people are very sensitive about bad smells, especially body odor, and many Thais shower three or four times a day. If you stink they will definitely tell you -- Indian people, for example, are often complained about for being "men". Odor has a huge influence on food in Thailand as well. I already talked about beef above, but also I've yet to meet a Thai person who liked lamb as they hate the way lamb smells, and many Thais also don't like ripe papaya or butter or stinky cheeses because of that kind of rich odor that they all share.

Phrases Four: Emergencies
help : chuay duay
allergy: phaae
peanut : thua
shrimp : goong
shellfish : hoi
hospital : have someone translate for you, it's hard to say, try "Mai sabai! Chauy duay! Doctuh! Doctuh!"

Phrases Five: Leave me the gently caress alone already!
no thanks : mai ow khap/kaa (lit. I don't want anything)
have one already : mee lao khap/kaa
no, really, leave me alone : mai ow!
STOP IT! gently caress! gently caress OFF! : yut! (this is a pretty rude order to "stop," only break it out if the tout really has it coming)

If someone is going to try to sell you something and you don't want to interact just don't. Walk past, don't make eye contact, don't say poo poo. In the touristy areas touts can get pretty aggressive, but almost never to the point of touching you or blocking your way. Don't lay your hands on anyone, obviously, as all the other touts in the area won't hesitate to join in on your rear end and will probably do so with weapons. Thai people are very very tolerant, but once the line has been crossed they go loving apeshit.

Phrases Six: Rude Thai
oaf : kwai (lit. water buffalo -- commonly heard at sporting events when someone screws up)
retard : kwai
pussy : hoi (lit. "clam," say "hoi wan" or sweet clam if you're trying to be cute)
dick : kluay (the sound is very close to the Thai word for banana, but the tone is different)
jerk off : chuck wow (lit. "hang on to a kite string" -- go fly a kite...)
masturbate (female) : dop pbaet (lit. "beat the duck" -- winner, I think, for most hilarious Thai phrase, duck is kinda hard to say correctly though and the phrase is maybe a little antiquated these days)
pig (as in, cop) : hua ping pong (lit. ping pong head after their white helmets)
fag : duut (lit. butt -- though why you would go to Thailand if you had an issue with gay people is loving beyond me)
scumbag : mung (lit. "you", Thai has several ways to say "you" based on status relationships -- saying "khun" is like saying sir, saying "mung" is how you would talk to a dog)
you loving enjoyable human being friend of the family cocksucking piece of poo poo : hia

Hia, which literally means "monitor lizard," is a word so beyond the pall of rudeness that we don't have an equivalently offensive single word in English. Don't say it. Just don't. You may hear groups of Thai friends calling eachother this in jest, but don't you think you can get away with it. Note that to use most of these words as an insult you don't just say the word, but you first call someone a nasty form of "you" (ee or ai depending on gender and how rude you want to be) and then drop the f-bomb. So in Thai you don't usually call someone a "fucker" but you would instead prefer to say "You gently caress!" where the you is laced with an incredibly derisive tone.

Phrases Seven: Bargaining
how much : tao rai khap
expensive! : peng (usually you say "peng na" where "na" is an article like "ka" that instead means "I'm making a gentle suggestion")
numbers : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egxp_Y13NGU

Thais love to bargain and are much better at it than you are. If they assume you're a tourist you should probably start bargaining at about 1/5th the price they quote you. Don't try to go all cutthroat on them, though, as Thai people actually want you to be happy with the situation and want to be happy themselves (unlike, say, Chinese bargainers who only care about the best price and not feelings) and will gladly not sell to you if you're a jerkoff. If you treat it as a learning experience and try to keep a smile on your face and have fun you will usually get a better price than you would by hardassing it anyway. Also do keep in mind that it's not worth giving yourself an stroke over 25 cents back home, paying a little extra can be a knowing act of generosity (in Thai "jai dee" -- lit. good hearted) that Thai people very much recognize and appreciate. In fact, the farang kee nok (cheap rear end foreigner -- the phrase doesn't mean "bird poo poo foreigner" like many assume but rather has connotations of refusing to return the generosity that almost all Thais consider it their obligation to extend to new people) is the most commonly complained about sort of foreigner for Thai people. If you feel a vendor is gouging you just don't buy from him, if a taxi driver refuses to use the meter just get out and get another taxi. Don't go apoplectic, that gets you nowhere in Thailand. Keep it lighthearted, and you'll get a better price. Seriously, Thai people are the very best bargainers in the world (superlative diplomacy is the chief reason that Thailand is the only country in SE Asia to have never been a colony) and you should really look at bargaining in Thailand as an opportunity to learn from the best rather than as an obstacle.

Phrases Eight: Thai of Love
Consult what Ringo wrote in his post on Thailand above. Also:
goodnight : fan dee fan wan
goodmorning : duut jep na

Final Note
Like with the numbers video above, most of these words you can find spoken for you on language primers on Youtube. You'll get the most mileage out of the numbers, so learn those first. After that what you should learn depends on what you plan to do in Thailand. Thailand, by the way, in Thai is "Pratet Thai" and the word Thai itself has connotations mainly of freedom (if it has any at all beyond identification with the nation-state and language itself), making Thailand the other Land of the Free.

Sheep-Goats fucked around with this message at Mar 25, 2010 around 08:57

Sheep-Goats
Jul 28, 2003



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvESuQYzo_E

Thai Country Music

Literally called "The Music of Life" in Thailand, it's what country people who've since moved to the city listen to. That means it'll be playing in your taxicab, that means the little dude who cleans up the beachside will love it over the more modern pop music that the owners of the bungalow listen to. The themes often run close to the ones you hear in western country music. The men sing about not having enough money, which means the girls won't like them. The women sing about the inconstancy of their men. There are songs about the pride people feel in their national character (though expressed very differently, see the second to last paragraph below). There are songs about your only buffalo dying and now you can no longer work your farm.

The above song is sung by what is basically the Thai Elvis -- I uploaded it and put in a rough English translation so people could understand what he was singing about. If you want to hear more just click around in the related links Youtube gives you -- I've tagged it with the singer's name in Thai and his songs and the songs of other people from the genre will all be primary results. If you want to go electric, the band Carabao is probably the most popular single Thai country music act in the nations history.

Of course, part of what's interesting about Thai country music is where it differs from American country music. Because Thai country music became an identifiable unit in the 1960s and 1970s in Thailand it is also the music of political resistance and counter-cultural opinion. In other words, its political themes are often a lot closer to Woody Guthrie than to loving Toby Keith.

Also take note of the few comments the video has gotten from Thai people who watched, notably "the watermelon look delicious."

Sheep-Goats fucked around with this message at Jan 30, 2010 around 05:36

The Wildcard
May 8, 2003

I fought the Nightman, lived as Dayman; / Now I'm
here
to ask for your hand.

What's the current visa situation? I thought I had it down, and then I read that it's changed recently.

Pompous Rhombus
Mar 11, 2007


I'll write up more on Laos, I've been all up in that bitch (twice). Also, a motorbike section is needed!

Weatherproof
Nov 21, 2007

Well, like an understocked herb salesman, we've run out of oregano.. sorry, time!

Just returned from two months in Thailand/Malaysia and while I'm no expert by any means I thought I'd share a few random thoughts on Malaysia that would've helped me before I went as there isn't quite the same wealth of information that there is on Thailand:

Expect to pay anywhere from 15-50MYR for a basic, fan room with a shared bathroom. Dorms are a bit cheaper. I didn't find the prices to be as consistent from place to place as Thailand, in KL I was paying about 40MYR for a lovely little room with no windows but then when I went to Pangkor I was paying about the same for a decked out room with TV, aircon and attached bathroom. Admittedly, I never really shopped around that much but there did seem to be quite a bit of variation.

Food in Malaysia is great, Malaysia is home to Malays, Chinese Malays and Indian Malays so there's always a great selection of food to eat. Roti Canai was one of my favourite starts to a day and would usually only cost under 1MYR. If you're a fan of Indonesian food, Malay food is really similar. I would probably budget 15-25MYR a day for food but you could eat well for much less if you really wanted to.

Malaysia has good infrastructure in terms of highways and roads so everyone seems to travel around in buses which I found to be of really good standard (expect air-con, and pretty nice seats). It's usually as easy as going to a bus station and asking a person selling tickets for a particular company when the next bus is. There are long distance trains available as well but from what I heard from locals they're more expensive and take longer.

As far as language goes, most Malays can speak English really well. In fact I spoke to a few Malay-Malays that were a bit frustrated with the Chinese Malays because their English was far better than their Malay (I think a lot choose to speak English as a first language).

In terms of tourist infrastructure though, Malaysia seemed to have a lot less than Thailand and while 99% of the tourists in Thailand are international, Malaysia has a fair bit of domestic tourism. Where in touristy places in Thailand I'd be chatted up by touts trying to sell me stuff in Malaysia I was left virtually alone. Don't get me wrong though, whenever I asked a Malay person for help they were really helpful but I still found it hard to find out where there are places to stay a few times just because noone really knew - which, in my opinion, is in contrast to Thailand where I always had the comfort of just falling back on the 'banana pancake trail' if I needed to. That said, Malaysia is still really easy to travel around but just expect to do a little research before going somewhere new. I found it a lot easier to wing it in Thailand.

I think a good way to sum up the differences would be to say that Thailand is a lot more in your face - the Thais seem a lot more tourism minded and for example if they find somewhere popular with westerners they'll have multiple places offer tours whereas Malaysia you kinda have to dig around to find stuff. I'm not saying that there aren't hidden treasures in Thailand as well (there are!) but in Malaysia you often have no choice but to look yourself. It can be hard but it's really rewarding.

Will add more later if I think of anything.

Also, maybe a section on packing and what to bring would be good? From advice I got here I went over with about 3 tshirts, 2 pairs of shorts, a few pairs of undies, a pair of shoes and a pair of thongs ('flip flops' you sickos) in a carryon bag and I was fine. In hindsight I probably could've gone without the shoes but oh well. I ended up just buying everything as I needed it, a few times all my shirts stank and I couldn't find somewhere to wash them so I just bought a new shirt. I guess it it cost me a bit more in the end but being able to travel around with a bag that was probably only 3 or 4KG was great, I would really recommend it - don't forget that just about everything avaliable in your home country is avaliable overseas and that laundry services are rife through most of the touristy places in SE Asia. The only thing I regretted not bringing over from home was sunscreen and mosquito repellent - they both seem to be relatively expensive over there as I'm pretty sure it all gets imported just for tourists.

Weatherproof fucked around with this message at Jan 30, 2010 around 22:57

MR18inches
Jan 18, 2010


So if this has been answered I apologize - I'm still new here.

But anyway I was planning a trip to somewhere in Asia, (maybe Korea or Japan as well), and my question is: which place would I go to have the most likelyhood of scoring (prostitution excluded)?. I've heard stories from friends about Japanese girls who go crazy over American guys.

That said I'm reasonably fit, attractive and pretty socially competant so I think I have that in my favor.

Any advice??

Sheep-Goats
Jul 28, 2003



Oh this should be in here as well:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Pn9cEsjv1w

MR18inches posted:

But anyway I was planning a trip to somewhere in Asia, (maybe Korea or Japan as well), and my question is: which place would I go to have the most likelyhood of scoring (prostitution excluded)?. I've heard stories from friends about Japanese girls who go crazy over American guys.

Jesus. I thought Ringo was being ironic with the "choose your own adventure" subtitle.

You seriously only want to go to Asia to gently caress Asian girls? No other interests in a specific country or anything? Because if you're not a loving retard you should be able to get your dick wet on a vacation anywhere other than, say, Saudi Arabia.

quote:

Also, maybe a section on packing and what to bring would be good? From advice I got here I went over with about 3 tshirts, 2 pairs of shorts, a few pairs of undies, a pair of shoes and a pair of thongs ('flip flops' you sickos)

I'm probably a bit odd about this but I actually suggest bringing just one T-shirt for long bus rides and bringing button up collared shirts for your time in SE Asia. Long sleeve or short sleeve you're going to sweat the same, but long sleeves can be rolled up anyway, or rolled down to protect against mosquitoes or the sun, plus if it's really that hot you can at least open a few buttons. Also, most of the people in the region treat you very very differently if you don't look like a backpacker (even if you are one), they really give you a lot more credit as a good or interesting person if you're wearing something other than a T-shirt.

The shorts may be too much to ask, but I also usually wore pants for the same reasons as above. Jeans are a huge loving no-no as they're heavy and will just get soaked with sweat, but any lightweight travel pant (just plain khakis if you can find any in America that aren't made out of cardboard thick cloth, or get those REI things that are made out of lightweight nylon but look like NORMAL pants -- don't get those stupid loving ones that can zip off into shorts) is great.

You should bring shoes. If you rent a motorbike, want to go to a disco in Bangkok or want to go on a mountain trek you'll want them. You can buy better and cheaper flip flops in-country as well (hell, even 7-11 sells them), whereas hitting a shoe store might be out of your way. One final thing I'll say about clothes is that WOOL socks are much much better for hot conditions than cotton socks. Obviously you want lightweight wool. Wool wicks moisture and is naturally antimicrobial which means they're the only socks you could wear two days in a row in SE Asia and not have to cut them off of your feet afterward (though I wouldn't recommend rewearing socks if you don't have to). Cotton socks suck.

Best shirts: http://www.amazon.com/Arrow-Wrinkle...e/dp/B000VZKBB2 (or anything similar -- wrinkle free, pinpoint, buttons on collar is a small bonus)
Best pants: http://www.rei.com/product/784059
Best socks: https://www.smartwool.com/default.c.../Socks/_/_/211/
Best shoe: http://www.shoesforcrews.com/sfc3/i...partnumber=8024
Best pack: [1] [2] [3] (These are all slightly bigger than you should need -- going bigger than this is stupid, if you don't have enough space bring less loving poo poo)

Sheep-Goats fucked around with this message at Jan 31, 2010 around 03:15

freebooter
Jul 7, 2009


The Wildcard posted:

What's the current visa situation? I thought I had it down, and then I read that it's changed recently.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_r...States_citizens
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_r...ritish_citizens
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_r...nadian_citizens
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_r...ralian_citizens

No articles for Irish or Kiwis, so you'll have to do your own research if you're either. Vietnam and Burma are really the only ones that are wary of Westerners, though.

MR18inches posted:

But anyway I was planning a trip to somewhere in Asia, (maybe Korea or Japan as well), and my question is: which place would I go to have the most likelyhood of scoring (prostitution excluded)?. I've heard stories from friends about Japanese girls who go crazy over American guys.

The Wildcard
May 8, 2003

I fought the Nightman, lived as Dayman; / Now I'm
here
to ask for your hand.

freebooter posted:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_r...States_citizens
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_r...ritish_citizens
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_r...nadian_citizens
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_r...ralian_citizens

No articles for Irish or Kiwis, so you'll have to do your own research if you're either. Vietnam and Burma are really the only ones that are wary of Westerners, though.


Thanks, I looked on Wiki, but I apparently didn't look hard enough.

This Visa website I found linked off that Wiki page says this:


. posted:

Passport required.
- Passport and/or passport replacing documents must be valid
for at least 6 months upon arrival.

Visa required, except for A touristic stay of max. 30 days:

- for holders of normal passports, being nationals of the

U.S.A.(except passports issued in the Marshall Islands);
Additional Information:

- All passports must be in good condition.

- Those travelling to Thailand with a visa issued prior to
arrival, are permitted to travel on a one-way ticket.

- All visitors must hold documents required for their next
destination.

- Visitors over 12 years of age must hold sufficient funds to
cover their stay (at least THB 20,000.- or USD 640.- per
person/family). For details, click here
- Applicable to those who do not need a visa:
For details, click here
Warning:
- Non-compliance with visa requirements will result in:
- refusal and immediate deportation of the passenger; and

- fines for the airline of THB 20,000.-; and
- overstay fine for the passenger of THB 500.- per day (but
not exceeding in total THB 20,000.-).

I've done a lot of traveling through the States and Canada, but this would be my first time overseas, I hadn't bothered getting a passport until recently, it won't be six months old by May. That pretty much puts me off until this next Winter, right? I'm assuming it does, but I wasn't sure whether there's a way to get an exemption. Bummer.

DustingDuvet
Dec 12, 2004

I think we are flying in the wrong direction

The Wildcard posted:

Thanks, I looked on Wiki, but I apparently didn't look hard enough.

This Visa website I found linked off that Wiki page says this:


I've done a lot of traveling through the States and Canada, but this would be my first time overseas, I hadn't bothered getting a passport until recently, it won't be six months old by May. That pretty much puts me off until this next Winter, right? I'm assuming it does, but I wasn't sure whether there's a way to get an exemption. Bummer.

No. That refers to passports that expire within 6 months of arriving to the country. You are good to go.

MR18inches
Jan 18, 2010


Sheep-Goats posted:


Jesus. I thought Ringo was being ironic with the "choose your own adventure" subtitle.


That's not the only reason but hey it would be a perk

freebooter posted:



aw comeon brah I gotta have some stories for da boyz back home!

Anyways the main reason I'm traveling is that I finally am by a major international airport and want to take advantage of all the flights. Southeast asia and other sections seem pretty cheap locales to fly to.

What cities in Southeast Asia would you recommend as being the cheapest to fly to? Also for transportation how would one rent a bike/scooter or use public transportation in the above mentioned city? It seems Thailand or Malaysia would be the best bet. Foods not too spicy I hope.

Ringo R
Dec 25, 2005

ช่วยแม่เฮ็ดนาแหน่เดัอ

I will add this to the OP but please read:

Everybody, feel free to contribute! Want to add something to the OP? Write it yourself, keep it short and if it doesn't look completely retarded, I'll add it to the OP. If you want to write about a country, please use my format for consistency. If you think my format is poo poo, suggest a better one.

Do you want everybody to know about your super amazing life-changing trip? Write an endless trip report and I'll link to it in the OP. Once again, please do put some effort into it. I will not have an OP full of "yeah so I went to Thailand, wuz pretty cool, banged some hookas, 'bout 10 bux a night" trip reports

Pompous Rhombus posted:

I'll write up more on Laos, I've been all up in that bitch (twice). Also, a motorbike section is needed!

Pompous Rhombus in da house Everybody listen to him because when you were scratching your neckbeard on Khao San road, Pompous was pulling stand-up wheelies on his GSX-R 1000 through minefields in Cambodia. Go ahead and add/edit/start over what I've written so far.

Beasticly posted:

Also, maybe a section on packing and what to bring would be good?

I have written pretty much what you wrote in the OP, but with fewer words. I honestly feel that there isn't much more to it but can flesh it out if there's more demand. Also, I like what you've written about Malaysia. Would you mind formatting it to look like the "Country" section? If not, that's cool. I'm adding it as a link for now.

MR18inches posted:

That said I'm reasonably fit, attractive and pretty socially competant so I think I have that in my favor.

Please note that your Second Life life does not apply to real life. The answer to your question though is Thailand.

- - -

Edit: Some videos

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbGiqZUtlWw
This is just a dude playing around in northeastern Thailand with his Isaan girl. I think it's very cute for some reason.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IUyH_MHzag
Saw this in related videos in the above link and was like hooooly ffffff-blown away. It's a white guy in Laos singing about his love for dark skinned women. It's funny because it's true. Foreigners love the short, dark skinned women while the locals avoid them like the plague. Also goes to show that any white guy who learns the language will instantly become a superstar.

Ringo R fucked around with this message at Jan 31, 2010 around 07:09

Pompous Rhombus
Mar 11, 2007


MR18inches posted:

So if this has been answered I apologize - I'm still new here.

But anyway I was planning a trip to somewhere in Asia, (maybe Korea or Japan as well), and my question is: which place would I go to have the most likelyhood of scoring (prostitution excluded)?. I've heard stories from friends about Japanese girls who go crazy over American guys.

That said I'm reasonably fit, attractive and pretty socially competant so I think I have that in my favor.

Any advice??

Definitely Laos. They've got this weird old law on the books that you've got to register with your Lao girlfriend (or whatever) at the local police station, but it's just a formality and no big deal as long as you go down there and fill the form out. I think it has something to do with the government's paranoia about seditious Westerners or something

The Wildcard
May 8, 2003

I fought the Nightman, lived as Dayman; / Now I'm
here
to ask for your hand.

DustingDuvet posted:

No. That refers to passports that expire within 6 months of arriving to the country. You are good to go.

Hey, cool. I'm bad at reading. Thanks.

Sheep-Goats
Jul 28, 2003



Ringo R posted:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IUyH_MHzag
Saw this in related videos in the above link and was like hooooly ffffff-blown away. It's a white guy in Laos singing about his love for dark skinned women. It's funny because it's true. Foreigners love the short, dark skinned women while the locals avoid them like the plague. Also goes to show that any white guy who learns the language will instantly become a superstar.

Holy loving poo poo. Showing that to mah Thai buddies here in NYC.

IMO another contributor to seeing farang with the darker ladies is that your typical Issan girl is much more likely to be a go-getter than her whiter Northern or Central cousins, who generally trend toward wallflower. The most significant one though, of course, is the SE Asian love of white skin which often means the darker girls have a lot more luck with non-Thai men.

Sheep-Goats fucked around with this message at Jan 31, 2010 around 09:18

Pompous Rhombus
Mar 11, 2007


Holy poo poo that video owns.

Ringo R posted:

Also goes to show that any white guy who learns the language will instantly become a superstar.

Lol, not exactly Laos is cool in that if you speak Thai/Lao well people accept it without blinking, whereas in Thailand every time you string together more than a couple of words it becomes a celebration of your linguistic prowess and inquiry into its origins.

On languages, Indonesian and Malay are far and away the easiest ones to learn. Same alphabet as English, no tones, pretty straightforward grammar. It's hard to fault a tourist for not picking up much of a crazy tonal language with its own 77 letter alphabet (Thai), but if you're in Indonesia/Malaysia it's actually worth making a real effort to learn the language. The two are closely related (Indonesian was created from Malay as a lingua franca for all the different islands that make up the country) so it pays double dividends if you're visiting both countries. Same with Thai and Lao, for that matter.

Sheep-Goats
Jul 28, 2003



Medical Precautions for SE Asia

Some people don't pay any attention to this and some people get worked up like they're going on mission in the Congo. The right amount of prep is in-between those two extremes, but the right amount for the vast majority of travelers to SE Asia is much closer to the former than the latter.

SUMMARY
  • Meds -- Ibuprofen, claritin, Immodium AD. Any previous prescriptions.
  • Comfort -- Toilet paper, earplugs, eye mask.
  • Shots -- Hep A, HPV, flu.
  • Precautions -- Drive safely, allergy communications, written emergency contacts.

==========================================

Things everyone should get before leaving home

Go to the drugstore. Any old drugstore.

The first thing you want to buy is the smallest bottle they have of Motrin (or a generic ibuprofen, but I recommend Motrin for reasons I'll get into in a second). Then buy a blister of generic loratadine (Claritin -- allergy relief with no drowsyness) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl -- stronger than claritin but will make you drowsy, which isn't really a bad thing as they can double as mild sleeping pills for the bus). Then pick up a package of Immodium AD (generics are rare). When you get home tear open all the little blisters and dump all the pills into your Motrin bottle, then on the bottom of the bottle in magic marker write O-pain W-allergy B-poo. That's orange (you bought Motrin because they're not white), white, blue. For all pills you take one when needed, and can always take two if one doesn't work. Yes, all of this stuff is available in Thailand, but it takes up almost no space in your pack and it's better to have it right off the bat. Don't worry about the pills poisoning eachother or anything, they'll be just fine hanging out with eachother in the little bottle.

Wait, though! Don't leave the store yet. You'll also defintely want to buy some cheapo foam earplugs (like those Hearos ones) and an eye shield. Spending more on those silicone earplugs with the flanges is a total waste, you can reuse the foams ones too (a few times at least), the foam ones are actually easier to clean, and they're much more comfortable to wear and effective at blocking sound. For the eye shield just get one that looks comfy. Also pick up a three pack of condoms whether you're male or female. You'll be able to get more once you're there (and yes they're a slightly smaller size over there but we're talking a 51mm to 53mm difference and condoms do stretch) if need be.

At home write down your emergency contact info on a little card, then copy that over to another card. One card goes in your wallet, the other goes wherever it is you keep your other valuables (in your pack, under your shoe bed, wherever). You info should include your name, the country you're from, your passport number, the phrase "If hurt call:" and the phone number of the person you want called if you get sick or injured, plus their name and probably their relation to you.

By the way, before you leave home you should tell that person that you've got them down in case of emergencies. It's also great if you have someone back at home that can get access to your money for you if need be (create a shared account beforehand and put your travel money in that account) or overnight you their ATM card if yours gets stolen or whatever.

==========================================

Known Medical Needs

Thailand has a very good healthcare system and you'll be able to get stuff that you need when there. Malaysia is also okay. Most of the other countries in the region can be a little rough, though.

The meds you should bring with you is a weird subject. On one hand, you can walk into most pharmacies in Thailand and buy low level opiates (not vicoden, a step down from there) or lorazepam (a cousin to Valium) or a few different antibiotics without anyone asking your for a prescription. On the other hand, if you need prophylactic meds for asthma or some kind of weird anti-arrhythmia pill or maybe you're on dilantin for seizures you should have a full supply of that with you when you come. I'm really hoping I shouldn't have to go over this, but seriously, if you need certain meds to stay alive bring them with you. You should also bring your little prescription note from the doctor in case customs wants to know what it is you've got in those orange bottles.

Another important consideration is allergies. If you have a known severe allergy to any food or medication you should buy allergy cards to bring with you. You should also learn how to say "no peanut at all!" in the local language in a very definite and firm way. You may also want to get an Epi-pen (you'll need a prescription -- an Epi-pen is a one-shot idiot-proof epinephrine auto-injector, if you start going into anaphylactic shock it'll loving save your rear end) and bring it, particularly if a lot of your vacation is going to have you in a SE Asian destination other than Thailand. The stuff I'm talking about in this paragraph is only necessary for people with severe life-threatening allergies. The rest of you will do fine with your Claritin. Also, for the record, I used to have horrible bouts with allergies in the summer when I lived in Portland Oregon but had not trouble at all with allergies in Thailand, so don't take this paragraph to imply that SE Asia is some kind of allergy hell. The last thing I want to say about allergies is that many common allergies in the west (peanuts, wheat) are almost unheard of in Thailand so don't be surprised if you yell at your waitress for an hour about NO loving PEANUTS and it comes out covered in Jiffy -- after all, no one gets killed by a peanut, right ? Thua aroy...

==========================================

Vaccinations and Malaria Pills

Most people go way way way overboard with these. However, most people also got their last round of vaccinations when they were four and should probably get a lot of things updated anyway. I'm going to assume that if you're willing to let your tetanus booster slide in the US you're willing to let it slide in Asia and not go over all the stuff you should have anyway, but rather the stuff that a lot of people probably need to get. (FWIW though if you haven't had a needle in you in two decades you should probably get a MMR and a DTaP -- the doctor will know exactly what those are.) It's important to plan ahead for your vaccinations as some aren't a one-shot-go thing but need a few shots spread over a few months (as described below).

Vaccinations can be kinda pricey. If you live in NYC call 311 and ask for low budget options (I was recently able to get a full course for free on a walk-in!). If you don't live in NYC Google for clinics in your home town -- if you get your shots at a hospital you'll probably pay three times more than you should. Also, if you are going to be in SE Asia for an extended period of time you may want to consider getting the shots in Thailand instead of at home (which puts you at risk of illness at first but saves you a poo poo ton of money). Here's a list of things I think are good to get.

  • Hepatitis A -- On my required list. This is a foodborne illness that fucks up your liver and makes you feel sick as poo poo and bedridden for a couple of weeks. It's not as bad as Hep B because your body will eventually defeat it, but it is resurgent. Once you get it you have it and it pops up and fucks you when it wants to and then goes into hiding again. Hep A requires two shots, the second one five months after the first one. If you can only get one shot that's a lot better than none (75% efficacy or something instead of 95%).
  • HPV -- On my required list for women. For men it's not necessary but isn't a bad idea either. HPV is a virus whose cousins cause warts, but the HPV vaccine basically protects women from catching the virus that causes a pretty large majority of cervical and/or uterine cancers. HPV is extremely prevalent in Asia, and especially in SE Asia. Men might want to get it (even though your doctor will probably look at you a little funny for asking) to help protect the future White Wife from whatever he drudged his dick through in Asia -- HPV is apparently asymptomatic in men.
  • Hepatitis B -- On my suggested list. A bloodborne illness with the same effects as Hep A. This one requires three shots. First one, then wait a month and get the second one, then five months from the first shot get your third. If you were previously vaccinated for Hep B as a child (some kids are these days) be aware that all Hepatitis vaccinations wear out after ten years, so you should go in again (all you may need is a booster, which is just one shot rather than a series, but I'm not sure about this). (BTW there's also Hep C and D which are like B but have no vaccine -- they're also much much rarer than A or B though.) Like Hep A one shot is better than none, and with Hep B you can also do an accelerated schedule (three shots two weeks apart each, I think) which doesn't get you to full efficacy but is the next best thing.
  • Flu -- Suggested, but really, get a flu shot. I mean, seriously, you're spending how much loving money on a plane ticket and you don't want to drop 20 bucks on a shot that could give you a whole week of health and well being during one of what will probably be the best times of your life? Why you frontin'.
  • Tuberculosis -- This one is a special case. TB is like having a really really horrible cold -- unending coughing (and probably with blood), tiredness, etc. You probably can't even get a TB vaccine in the US as doctors prefer to diagnose it and then bomb it with antibiotics rather than vaccinate for it for some reason. TB is somewhat common in Asia (especially Southern China) though, so if you plan to live in Asia for a long time or to travel there frequently stop by a hospital in Thailand and get a TB shot. This will make your future physicals slightly inconvenient in the US though as if they test you for TB and you've been vaccinated the most common test will test positive and then you'll need a chest x-ray for them to clear you of TB (which is a very common procedure and no one is going to think you're a leper nor will there be any delays with getting to work because of it). People usually have to get these kinds of physicals done when they get hired on at a new job, so you probably shouldn't get a TB shot if you're just going to Laos for a few weeks and that's it for Asia for you.

There's absolutely no reason you can't go in and just get all of these shots at once -- on my last round I got a total of six shots at once, three in each arm, and literally the only side effect was soreness in the ol' delts for a day and a half. The cost will vary a lot based on what the clinic has purchased and how common the vaccinations are. Flu might be 10. Hep A might be 70 a shot, it might be packaged with Hep B and only be 50 a shot. Use your finger to push buttons on your phone, use your voice to ask "How much is it?" and if you have the numbers of three convenient clinics call all three.

Now, a note about malaria pills. Don't get loving malaria pills unless you're literally going to be living in the jungle for a month straight (or, say, at least a week). They are totally unnecessary for casual travelers in the region who will spend most of their time in busses, on beaches, and in the cities. Now, if you are going to be literally living in the jungle for a month, do get malaria pills. They've got new ones now with much lesser side effects than the old pieces of poo poo that your parents maybe know about. They'll be able to hook you up with a prescription at the clinic you get your shots at (or possibly the pills themselves). Malaria is a resurgent illness like Hepatitis with nasty flu-like symptoms -- you'll probably be bedridden for at least a few days every time it pops up. Malaria is a strange disease -- there's no vaccine for it, but if you take your malaria pill every day and you get bitten by a malarial mosquito you probably won't (but there's no guarantee) catch it, whereas if you catch it the pills don't fight it off at all (though there are medications that make the symptoms much more bearable while your body fights the good fight).

Japanese encephalitis is a scary disease because it makes your brain blow up. Another mosquito disease, however the vaccines are super expensive (two shots at like 350 each even at a clinic) and the chances of getting it even if you're working in rice paddy for six months straight are minuscule and it's an outbreak disease too so if you read a little news you can just avoid it. I'd skip it. The same thing goes for rabies vaccines which your paranoid doctor will want to ram you with but hey, just don't play with the loving soi dogs (soi = alley) and you'll be fine there, plus you can always go get rabies shots in Thailand if you do get bit, they got those there.

==========================================

One final word about the biggest single non medical threat to your health in SE Asia: renting a motorbike. I knew a very level headed responsible 50 or so year old guy in Thailand that had ridden bikes his entire life, I mean from the day he turned six. He was one of those guys who rode his bike into work every day, rain or snow, for pretty much every day that he ever worked. He died in Bangkok when he got hit while riding his bike through the city -- and he'd been living there and riding in the city for years already, and he always wore armor and a Shoei helmet.

On one full moon party that I attended (I went to two in the two years I lived there -- one was enough) the girl I'd gone down to the island with splashed her bike out and debarked her whole right side while going maybe 20 mph around the little town near Haad Rin. Her family had never owned a car and driving a motorcycle was how she'd gotten around since she was 14.

When I was in Thailand I rented a bike frequently and enjoyed the poo poo out of it. But it has to be said that when I was driving it around in the mountains near Mae Hong Son I was having trouble staying in my lane and other super basic issues with not-dying-on-a-motorcycle and it's basically a dice roll that I didn't die playing around on it.

My verdict: Rent a bike! But never in a major city, never when you're partying, and drive it like a loving Vietnamese grandma 100% of the time. Educate yourself on what it means to ride safe on a motorcycle (find Pompus Rhombus's post on his bike trip around the region, there's a link to it in the OP I think) -- sand isn't a problem for cars but it's a big issue for bikes, even a little moisture is a big issue for bikes while cars don't care, etc. Also, one highly suggested activity for any tourist in Bangkok is to take a motorcycle taxi at least once -- I suggest taking one from your hotel to MBK (a big mall known for its cellphones, there's also a cool Thai foodcourt and lot of souvenir shops on the top floor though, plus your pirated software and DVD guys sprinkled about) to do a little shopping on your last day in the city (then probably taking the skytrain from MBK up to Jatujak if the Jatujak Market is open that day -- then a taxi for the long rear end ride back to your hotel with your loot).

Sheep-Goats fucked around with this message at Aug 2, 2010 around 02:15

Cheesemaster200
Feb 11, 2004

Guard of the Citadel

Ringo, what is that font you are using for the images?

Cheesemaster200
Feb 11, 2004

Guard of the Citadel

I like cheese!

(Writeup moved to OP)

Cheesemaster200 fucked around with this message at Feb 1, 2010 around 02:50

Ringo R
Dec 25, 2005

ช่วยแม่เฮ็ดนาแหน่เดัอ

Sheep-Goats posted:

jerk off : chuck wow (lit. "hang onto a kit string" -- go fly a kite...)



I made this tshirt design a long time ago, before I even had a basic understanding of the Thai language. It says roughly "jerking off/flying a kite is cheap" (I hope). Should still have one left in XL size I think. If I/someone can come up with a fun competition in this thread, I will give it to the winner.

Ringo R fucked around with this message at Feb 1, 2010 around 09:09

freebooter
Jul 7, 2009


Sheep-Goats posted:

Now, a note about malaria pills. Don't get loving malaria pills unless you're literally going to be living in the jungle for a month straight. They are totally unnecessary for casual travelers in the region who will spend most of their time in busses, on beaches, and in the cities.

I wouldn't take them in Thailand, but what about Laos, and southern China?

I mean, I'm going to end up taking them anyway because I'm more inclined to listen to my doctor than people on the Internet, but basically I wish malaria didn't exist.

Ringo R
Dec 25, 2005

ช่วยแม่เฮ็ดนาแหน่เดัอ

Getting out of Bangkok Airport

Did you enjoy your 34 hour flight sitting between two very fat men who forgot to shower for two months? Since you're a member of this forum, chances are you were exactly like them, so you guys probably got along well. Anyway, now you're off that plane, your virgin passport has got its first stamp and you have grabbed your luggage full of useless medicines that your mom packed for you. Your adventure has begun and you scratch your neckbeard trying to figure out how to get out from the Souüüvarn Ssssouwanna Soowannaboohoo Bangkok airport. The airport taxi scammers have spotted you and offer you a ride to your hotel for just 4000 baht.

Here are your options, from cheap to expensive:

Local bus/minivan
Recommended for: Locals and smelly hippie backpackers
I think this is intended for the airport staff. It's cramped, it's slow, there's nowhere to put your luggage but it's dirt cheap. Go to the ground floor, exit 7 or 8 (can't remember). Find the sign that says Airport shuttle bus and wait. It's a free service taking you to the airport bus station. From there you can catch buses going pretty much everywhere in Bangkok. Signs are in Thai and English. You pay for your ticket on the bus.
Cost: Buses should be at most 20 baht, minivans 40 baht or so.

Tourist bus
Recommended for: Experienced solo travellers on a tight budget
This is a big nice bus intended for tourists stopping at popular tourist destinations, including Khao San rd. Located on the ground floor, exit 7 or 8 (can't remember). There's a map at the ticket booth showing the route, all in English. If there are three or more people in your group, getting a taxi will be cheaper. Mr smackfu says if it's your first time in Bangkok, just get a taxi, which I agree with.
Cost: 150 baht.

Meter Taxi
Recommended for: Everyone
Probably the most common way to get out of the airport. The official taxi is on the first floor, not ground floor. For some stupid reason they charge a 50 baht fee on top of the taxi fee. A brain-dead person at the booth will ask you "where you go?", scribble something on a ticket and hand it to you. You then hand this ticket to a taxi driver waiting for you. Taxi driver will ignore whatever is written on the ticket and ask you "where you go?". If you want to avoid this stupidity, go to the top floor, where the departures are. This is where taxis drop people off. Wait for their passenger to get off then quickly jump into the taxi.
Cost: Depends on where/how far you're going of course but about 350 baht at most or so. You will have to pay for tollways too.

Airport limo, unofficial taxi, scammers, the rest
Recommended for: Someone you don't like
The airport is full of overpriced transportation options. Want to get to your 250 baht/night lovely hotel in a Mercedes XLKSLKSD? Use the Airport limo service. Want someone to charge you a high, fixed price for going to your hotel? Just wait for one of the illegal taxi mafia guys to approach you. Dressed in plain clothes, they are waiting for new travellers like hungry wolves. "Taxi sir? Where you go?" they will bark at you. Keep in mind that they will ALWAYS be more expensive than an official taxi. They will also use a private car, which isn't a taxi car at all and doesn't have a taxi meter. It doesn't stop there though. Once in the car, they will ask you if you want drugs, women or just a bj (which the driver himself will perform after pulling into a gas station). The bj was actually alright but still way too expensive.
Cost: Your entire travel budget.

Skytrain
Recommended for: Nobody
In a very distant future, there will be a Skytrain connection from the airport all the way to the city. However, money intended for this brilliant project seems to disappear and reappear as luxury cars and condos with spectacular views. Progress on the project will resume as soon as the guys in charge has sent all their spoiled children to universities overseas and bought another five houses for their mistresses. Maybe.
Cost: Frustration

Ringo R fucked around with this message at Feb 2, 2010 around 02:26

Pompous Rhombus
Mar 11, 2007


Motorcycle post is getting kinda long, splitting it into general and longer-term touring sections. Better than posting the same stuff over and over though!

freebooter posted:

I wouldn't take them in Thailand, but what about Laos, and southern China?

I mean, I'm going to end up taking them anyway because I'm more inclined to listen to my doctor than people on the Internet, but basically I wish malaria didn't exist.

Incidence is low outside of really rural areas, and the side effects can be uncomfortable. I normally tan pretty well but was lobster red after 10 minutes of direct sunlight on a boat, so I quit taking doxicyclone or whatever in Cambodia the first time I was there. It was the cool/dry season and I only saw/heard one or two mosquitoes the whole time. In the wet season they are more prevalent, but in most of the areas where malaria is a possibility mosquito nets are usually provided. You can't get immunized against other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever (which I've had, it sucks) so it pays to just take good mosquito precautions all-around. Wear long sleeves/pants when you can, use repellent, and turn the fan on high in your room and sleep under the sheets; mosquitoes are lovely fliers and hate wind.

I'm not saying never take anti-malarials (eventually some goon will get it and blame me), but be aware that they do cause inconvenience, are a precaution for something that likely won't happen anyways, and still won't protect you from other illnesses, whereas taking good anti-mosquito precautions will help against all of those.

Sheep-Goats
Jul 28, 2003



freebooter posted:

I wouldn't take them in Thailand, but what about Laos, and southern China?

I mean, I'm going to end up taking them anyway because I'm more inclined to listen to my doctor than people on the Internet, but basically I wish malaria didn't exist.

Your doctor will always steer you toward the most cautious thing that he thinks he can make seem reasonable. This is for liability reasons, but also because as a doctor if you give the best advice for 70% of your patients to all of your patients you will eventually kill someone and feel bad about it, so you start giving the best advice for 90% of your patients to all of your patients instead. Usually this advice is quite a bit more extreme or at least inconvenient than the 70% advice. You should ask your doctor if he's ever been to SE Asia himself, not to show him up, but just to get an idea of how much they're guessing. Doctors constantly have to guess, they very rarely know anything for sure, and knowing his background will allow you to weigh what he's saying vs. what you're hearing here a bit better. It's also a good habit to get into to ask your doctor a lot of questions -- most people are far too passive when they go in for a checkup when what you should be doing is asking everything you can think of.

I'm not trying to tell you "don't listen to doctor HE LIAR" but I lived in Thailand for two years, never took a malaria pill, and was fine. None of the many foreigners I knew (or knew well enough to comfortably guess fairly about their medical regimens anyway) who lived there took them. Of course, I lived in Bangkok, but I did my share of traveling and didn't worry about it then either. I'm sure you can guess how many Thai people take anti-malarials regularly.

Even the new pills have side effects (though they're a lot better than the old ones whose side effects were pretty much as bad as a mild case of malaria itself). If you take malarials all the time while you're in SE Asia there's still a chance you'll get malaria and there's a certainty that you'll have to put up with mildly irritating side effects from time to time.

There are places in Thailand where you should take malaria pills. It's not a country by country thing, it's more of an urban vs. rural kind of thing. If you're going to be in a really rural area for an extended period of time then you should start thinking about malaria pills. So the question is: what are you going to be doing in Laos -- smoking bowls full of weed next to some lake with a hundred other farang or camping on some misty mountain peak with Hmong refugees?

It's your pair of dice to roll, but in my opinion most of the people who actually know the risks and have had experience with the region don't take malaria pills unless they plan to go on lengthy jungle excursion in Borneo or hike around in the barely populated parts of Nepal or something similar to that.

One final piece of advice about malaria: SE Asian mosquitoes (aka the Thai Airforce) behave differently from North American ones. The North American ones are almost perfectly silent, quick, and sneaky and will bite you anywhere at any time. The ones in SE Asia are big, fairly loud, and loving lazy. They very rarely put in the effort to fly more than knee height off the ground, and this means a pair of pants and shoes with socks at sunset is the best single thing you can probably do to keep from getting malaria. I remember waking up one day in my rickety beach bungalow having forgotten to close my mosquito net on Ko Chang and was predictably covered with mosquito bites -- less predictably, though, was that every loving one was from the knee down. The little assholes are foot lovers.

Long pants might seem a little impractical for the beach, maybe, but keep it in mind. Loved my long sleeve shirts. Sleeve rolled up during the day, sleeve down for sunset (and sunrise when applicable). Didn't need gallons of sunblock to snorkel, just wore my shirt while I paddled around in the sea. Didn't look like a loving Israeli backpacker. Etc.

Sheep-Goats fucked around with this message at Feb 1, 2010 around 04:11

Pompous Rhombus
Mar 11, 2007


Motorbikes and You: A Primer on Riding in Southeast Asia



As soon as you step on to the street in any of these countries, you'll notice everybody is riding around on little motorbikes. Generally ranging from 100-125cc and produced by a variety of manufacturers (Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and nowadays some Chinese ones), they're ubiquitous and widely available for rent in most places that see foreign tourists, costing anything from $5-10/day.


To boldly go, where no scooter should go at all.

Why ride when you can tuk-tuk?

It's dangerous, often more expensive, and more difficult. On the other hand, it gives you a huge amount of freedom to explore, it's fun, and gets you away from the touts. Is it for everyone? Definitely not, but if you're the least bit curious, at least consider it. It is also an instant cool-point multiplier with locals.

The Basics

In most countries, you will need to leave your passport as collateral when renting a motorbike. Obviously, this creates some problems if you want to cross a border. More on that later.

Right handlebar: throttle, right lever: front brake. Grabbing too much of the front brake will lock the front wheel and you will go down. A lot of tourists get it into their head you should never use the front brake, which is incorrect and will probably lead to you plowing into something because you couldn't brake as fast as you should be able to. There's a lever by your right foot that controls the rear brake, a safer albeit less abrupt option. Some scooters are available with an automatic transmission, generally a little more expensive than their manual counterparts. On a manual step-through scooter, the gears go N-1-2-3-4 (a real motorcycle has N as a "half-click" between 1st and 2nd, 1-N-2-3-4). On both, you shift with a lever near your left foot, tapping down shifts up, tapping up shifts down. This is the opposite of a real motorcycle, and led to a Lao girl taunting me about not being able to drive her Honda Dream one time after I got too used to the other way. Don't let this happen to you! If you're on a motorcycle with a clutch, the left lever operates that. It is *much* easier to learn than a manual car.

125cc? Really? Where are all the big bikes?
In general, high import duties/tarrifs and a general lack of demand for larger displacement engines. An unloaded 125cc tops out around 100kph (or about 60mph) on level ground, less if you're fat, riding 2 up, or have a decent chunk of luggage with you. Any faster than that and you're unlikely to be able to avoid all the wandering livestock that bumble into the road, patches of dirt/gravel, potholes, etc. You're probably not wearing proper protection anyways, so don't push your luck, you crazy sonuvabitch. I can count on one hand the times I've wanted to go faster than my bike could take me, mostly being stuck behind buses in the mountains. Just be patient.

If you really need to compensate for having a tiny penis a bigger displacement bike, there are bike shops in some of the bigger tourist towns that rent larger bikes. Unfortunately in Thailand a lot of them seem to skew towards cruisers (perfect for hauling your dusky bargirl around on, not so good offroad) rather than something practical, like a nice dual sport. Probably the most commonly available dual sport in the region is a Honda XR250/Baja 250. You pay a pretty hefty premium for them over a scooter, so not really worth it unless you're planning on offroading or a longer trip. In Vietnam there is the 125cc Minsk, a 2-stroke Russian dirtbike/dual sport of Belorussian origin which rents for $6-8/day, more on those later.

Do I have to wear a helmet?

Yes, even if you don't have to.

What about other protective gear?

You will almost never see locals wearing anything other than a helmet, unless you count windbreakers to keep the sun off. Many ride with flipflops :facepalm: Stuff like riding jackets, pants, boots, etc are only going to be found for rent at a shop that caters to foreigners, and even then it's not very likely. Personally I prefer gearing up whenever I ride, but if you're just renting a scooter a few times for daytrips it's really kind of gratuitous to pack all that poo poo. I do recommend a pair of long pants, something long sleeved like a light jacket (also good for cold VIP buses), and a pair of gloves, if only to keep the sun off (longer rides) and provide a tiny bit of protection in the event of a low speed crash. If you are planning an extended trip, it is definitely worthwhile to bring your own stuff from home. Bangkok probably has a better selection, but in Hanoi I spent 2 days looking (with the help of a motorbike shop specializing in tours for foreigners) and the best I could come up with was a mesh jacket two sizes too small, a mediocre pair of pants, and no riding boots. Full face helmets aren't impossible to find, but you're probably better off bringing yours from home if you can fit it.


Do you really want to be wearing cargo shorts and flip-flops in situations involving this sort of thing?

Do I need a motorcycle license or can I just wing it?

In theory, legally you do need one, in practice you don't (shops don't give a hoot, cops may). I think most countries have an arrangement with whatever your home country is as far as recognizing your existing license, whether this means you'll need a separate endorsement for a motorbike will depend on local laws and more importantly, the whim of whomever you're dealing with. If you plan on riding and can spare the $250 or so I STRONGLY RECOMMEND TAKING A LOCAL MOTORCYCLE SAFETY FOUNDATION COURSE BEFORE YOU LEAVE. You'll learn a lot about handling a bike and it could save you some skin (or an inflated repair bill) later. Also, I think some health insurance providers refuse to pay out if you were injured riding a bike with no license. If for whatever reason you can't/choose not to take a proper introductory rider's course, at least pick up a copy of the excellent Proficient Motorcycling, a long and insanely useful analysis/how-to of two-wheeled traveling.

What are road conditions like?

They range from dirt tracks to highways. At best, a "highway" will generally be a two lane, paved road in reasonably good repair. It may randomly degenerate into dirt/gravel without warning, and people build their houses right along the main roads, which leads to lots more random livestock and human being wandering into your path of travel. Cambodia has the worst roads (well technically Burma does), followed by Laos, which is generally not bad between major cities. Thailand and Vietnam are generally well paved until you get off the beaten track, or there is construction.


Multiply this by about 60 miles to get an idea of the road between the Vietnamese border at Dien Bien Phu and the nearest Lao town of Muang Khua in the wet season. On days like these, start early.


Whoops, bridge's out! No warning or detour signs, just a nice 12 foot drop into a pit at the end of the road. Anything can happen, always expect the worst.

Speaking of the police, as a vanillaface I'm going to get pulled over and shaken down for everything I'm worth on a daily basis, aren't I?

No. Contrary to movies, stories from your uncle, and yarns spun by hippies busted for drug possession/trafficking, the cops are generally not out to "get you". Most speak little to no English (if they could, they'd get a higher-paying job) and do not want to make trouble for tourists, who are a huge part of Thailand's economy (and of growing importance in other countries) and likely have more means to make trouble for the cop than an average local would. I'm not saying there are no bad apples, but you're much more likely to make trouble for yourself than have the police make it for you. Speaking personally, I've logged thousands of km's and not once have been stopped or hassled by a cop. (Heck, the entire time in Laos I was riding a bike with half of a Vietnamese license plate and never got a second glance.) My luck so far could be related to always riding with "the white" covered up and not like a hellion, could not. If you are stopped, be extremely polite and deferential. Acting pleasant, contrite, and confused will probably get you off the hook in most minor situations.


Don't pull me over I'm just a tall gangly Vietnamese person.

What if I hit something/someone?

Don't! If you must hit something, however, be aware you're probably going to have to pay compensation to the owner of the property that was damaged/whoever was injured. If you wipe out on your own, you may want to take the scooter to a repair shop first before turning it in, as a number of rental shops will charge outrageously inflated fees for repairs to their bikes. I have firsthand experience with this ($25 for a mirror, which happened in front of the owner because of the bike's faulty kickstand) and have heard enough stories from others to think it's fairly common. Replacing a whole scooter will probably run you $500-1000+, depending on whether you have to buy it new or used.

------------------------------------------
What about traveling longer term?
------------------------------------------



Motorcycle touring gives you a ton of freedom. There's no like passing a bus full of sunburned hippies on your own two wheels, stopping wherever you fancy, and generally having the kind of freedom to explore you might have in your own country. It also creates a whole new set of complications: how much time do you need to go from A to B, border crossings, fueling, maintenance, theft prevention, getting rid of the bike at the end of the trip, etc.

What bike to take?
Do you want to spend 1-2 months on a Honda Dream? If the answer to that question is yes, go ahead and stop reading because I can't help you, moron. They're perfectly serviceable for urban commuting and day trips on decent roads, but terrible offroad: thin tires, rock hard suspension, etc. For a longer trip, I recommend getting a bike better-suited to touring in local conditions. Cambodia is kind of an anything goes Wild West sort of place and has a decent selection of imported bikes. Because it's so dodgy, a bike with Cambodian plates may get hassled or turned away at border crossing, the Customs people thinking you're trying to smuggle it in to their country and sell it there. With a bike, Vietnam is the biggest rear end in a top hat as far as border crossings (unless you count China, who requires a pricey government guide with you, and Burma, who doesn't let anything through). More on Vietnam and border crossings later.

Short of it (assuming you are on a budget):
Vietnam - Minsk (baller option: XR250 or above)
Cambodia - XR250 or Honda Degree
Laos - XR250, Minsk (if bringing in from Vietnam)
Thailand - XR250 or whatever you can find.
Other countries: ?

If you're doing Thailand/Laos/Cambodia, an XR250 with Thai plates is probably the best option (Thailand having the strictest borders). Vietnam/Laos a Vietnamese Minsk is a good idea, as it's cheap, parts are plentiful in Vietnam and somewhat available in Laos (sometimes you might have to wait). Cambodia/Laos best bet is an XR250.

Buy or rent?
This depends on how long you have. Generally, under 3 weeks you're almost always better off renting, beyond that buying becomes more attractive although there's really no hard and fast answer. Buying takes all the headache out of leaving a deposit (in place of your passport), which often exceeds the actual value of the bike and getting it back to the shop of origin. It adds the headache of having to sell the bike at the end of your trip, something you should probably leave at least a week for, probably more if it's a bigger/more expensive bike. You will generally need to sell it in its country of origin, as getting it plated in another country typically involves import duties and a probably lot of additional bother for the new owner. In Cambodia, a rather grizzled but still running XR250 goes for in the neighborhood of US$1000 last I heard. They're probably more expensive in Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam (definitely so in Vietnam). As far as renting, Vientiane has at least 1 shop with XR250's, and there's a hotel in Pakse (Southern Laos) that rents them out as well, around $15-20 a day in each case. There's also a shop in Luang Phrabang with a garage full of Minsks that runs under the radar, as UNESCO demands no motorbike rentals be allowed there. Check with Andy at Tiger Trails if you're interested. In Cambodia; Phnom Penh, Kampot, and I think Sihanoukville all have XR250's for rent as well. Siam Reap is a big town but has nothing, or if they do it's well-hidden, as motorbike hire by foreigners there is banned. Phnom Penh has the bigger selection but the prices in Kampot were a little cheaper. At any rate, if you're going to be taking the bike for a week or more, see if you can press for a discount from the shop.


The mighty XR250, photo courtesy of The Internet.

Also, a good set of saddlebags is worth buying/renting, rather than just tying your backpack to your bike. For one, you can balance them out better and they have a lower center of gravity. They also make it easier to pick up a passenger without shuffling everything around, and you generally don't need to worry about them coming off*. I lost both a tripod and later my dufflebag full of laundry, toiletries, and spares because of lovely Vietnamese tie-down straps. Saddlebags should be supported by a set of pannier racks, a common enough modification, and preferably tied down with bungee cords of old inner tubes to keep them from sliding around as you accelerate/decelerate. For extra protection against rain, buy a couple empty rice sacks at a market and line the bags with those (these also make a nice inexpensive laundry bag, and cool souvenirs once you get home) Saddlebags own, get some.



*this happened to Cheesemaster2000 with the Minsks' standard ratty saddlebags. I had the bigger ones for a Honda, which loaded up weighed about 40 pounds, something I'd definitely miss if it started to fall off. I don't think the Minsk's saddlebags are waterproof either.

Safety

As far as your person, if you're planning a long trip you really ought to be wearing a proper jacket, trousers, gloves, and probably boots. You are better off bringing these from home, as they are not widespread in the region and you are likely bigger than the average local anyways. When riding, watch your speed, as there are all kinds of sudden and unseen hazards (farm animals in particular, as well as road conditions and crazy drivers) around many corners. On that, if you're in the mountains stay the hell on your side of the line at all times (unless you're passing someone on a straight), as local drivers love to help themselves to a good chunk of your lane on the corners.

I could write a ton more here, but "Proficient Motorcycling" says it far better than I can.


Safety first! Brought to you by your pals at the Vietnamese Department of Highways and Motor Vehicles.

As far as the bike itself, locals have always cautioned me about bike theft, although it's never happened to me or anyone I've met. Most guesthouses will have a safe area where you can keep your bike overnight, as the staff themselves probably ride. A number of places will actually let you park your bike in the lobby overnight, there's often a little cement ramp on the stairs for getting it up there. I've only had to leave the bike on the street a handful of times, and bought a chain and padlock for those occasions. With the Minsk (which had no key, just kick it and go), I'd also pop the seat, unplug the electrical box, and take it up to my room.

Maintenance

Do you need to be a grease-monkey to tour? Not really, although it certainly helps. I knew basically nothing about working on bikes when I started, and I still wouldn't consider myself an even half-way decent wrench-turner now. Local mechanics are very cheap and resourceful, not to mention easy to find, there are tons of little shops on the side of the road that can handle most minor things. When you can get a flat changed for $0.50 to $1, it's kind of easy to sit back and let the other guy do it (although being able to change your own tires is a very good idea for when you get stuck in the middle of nowhere). Worst case scenario, you wait by the side of the road, flag someone down, and come back with a flatbed (or mechanic). I blew a tire in the middle of the jungle in Laos (had lost my spare the week before, and after 5 weeks of no flats, got cocky and didn't replace it) and had to spend the night in a very rudimentary hut before I could make it to the next village in the morning. Things happen sometimes, keep your head and don't freak out.

If you're buying a bike, I recommend paying a bit extra for a good one, or at least having a good mechanic look over whatever you're buying and let him fix *everything* he thinks needs done. I'd much rather spend a little extra in advance and have things go smoothly than deal with a bike making GBS threads the bed on a daily basis. On the same note, don't dog the hell out of your bike, make sure you're running proper levels of fluids, and try not to buy gas from the little oil drum stations in the middle of nowhere if you can help it, as they sometimes dilute it with kerosine and poo poo.


Kaboom! Here's what happens when you use a lovely Chinese chain in your Minsk transmission.

Border Crossings?



No matter what the Lonely Planet or internet says, border crossings are up to the whim of whoever is there that day; always have a Plan B (and C, and probably D) just in case and don't piss anyone off. You will need ownership papers of the bike, which a shop will hand over to you if you leave a hefty deposit. In Laos the temporary import forms were bilingual... Lao and French Luckily the officials fill them out. I paid something like $2.40 and they gave me 7 days on the bike. I asked for the full 30 days of my visa, explaining my travel plan, but they said I needed to get it extended at the provincial finance office. I had to do this three times, each office being totally baffled by my case and making up the rules (and fees) on the spot, although nothing outrageous. Nobody spoke English (also, the Finance Offices weren't always labeled in English either), so you may want to recruit a local from a restaurant or your guesthouse to go with you. I'm not certain what other countries rules are, I can only speak for Laos. Check with GT-Rider for the latest info.

Oh, you have to get off your bike and walk it between borders. Or at least, walk it until you're out of range of the guards, fire it up, and then dismount before you reach the other side. It's like a kilometer or so in most cases, so gently caress pushing your motorcycle that far in the heat. I have not been shot at yet.

Vietam: None Shall Pass (more or less)
The bad news: bringing another motorbike into Vietnam (even 125cc and smaller) can be a huge hassle or even impossible. If you want to include Vietnam on your motorcycle trip itinerary, you will remove a ton of guesswork and potential disappointment if you just start off there with a Vietnamese bike, or switch to a Vietnamese bike instead of trying to cross with a foreign one.

The good: Vietnam is home to Minsks: a bona fide offroad motorcycle brought in by the Soviets back in the day. They are considered hella uncool by Vietnamese people these days and go for only a couple hundred bucks. I paid $450 for a Sport model, which had been owned by a Belgian lawyer, been meticulously maintained at a big shop, and had several nice mods for touring (upgraded Suzuki rear suspension, custom super comfy seat, luggage rack) and came with plenty of spares and a toolkit. You really can't pay any more than that for a Minsk. Regular ones can be had for $250-$350 or so, less if you catch a desperate backpacker at the end of their trip looking to unload it (hint: don't wind up in that situation, also those bikes have probably been flogged to death, buy at your own risk). Minsks are more like proper motorbikes in that they have a clutch, standard gearbox, and a decent suspension/tires. Minsks are not like proper motorbikes in that the kickstart is on the left, the speedometer and ignition have probably been removed, and are held together with spiderwebs and magic. They are also two-stroke, which means that the oil has to be mixed with the gas/petrol, at a ratio of 20:1. Forgetting to put the oil in will cause the engine to seize within about 10 minutes and will totally ruin it. Much is bemoaned about the reliability of Minsks, personally mine didn't give any major problems on a 7 week trip, but that's probably because I bought a good one. It is about as easy a bike to work on as there possibly can be; I can't even change my own oil back home but learned to disassemble a Minsk engine and change the main gasket, among other things. For more info on Minsks (including an English repair manual!), check out The Minsk Club, Vietnam. They talk up Cuong but I went by his shop and he did nothing but poo poo-talk the bikes, so I went elsewhere for my Minsking needs. I can heartily recommend talking to Mr Hung at Flamingo Travel in Hanoi. Very honest guy, nice, passionate about riding, and really knows the region. They've got bigger, more expensive bikes if Minsks don't tickle your fancy.

As far as taking a Minsk to other countries, you can find some parts in Laos (more so in the north) as there are a few on the road, and Tiger Trails in Luang Prabang has a garage with spares and Lao mechanic who specializes in Minsks. Parts and repair rates are extremely reasonable, although their Minsks rent for $15/day, more than double what they cost in Vietnam (worth it though). Other places in Laos you might need to wait for the mechanic's "guy" in another city to put the part on a bus and send it there, but you can probably get it repaired if you're patient. In other countries you may be out of luck if something specific and irreplaceable breaks. Local mechanics are ingenious when it comes to rigging stuff up, but bring spares, at least one electrical box, a generator coil, and plenty of sparkplugs.


Dead Minsk at a podunk down in northern Laos

What if I get tired of riding?

Blasphemy, my child. But sometimes road conditions, changing travel plans, or a desire for quick and easy transport between two places will have you looking for a quicker way to move your bike.



I only had a couple days left on my Lao visa, and was looking at 650kms of flooding + flat, boring roads to get down to Pakse from Vientiane. For $20, I got my Minsk manhandled atop a local bus by 3 dudes and sent down there with me. It saved me at least a day or two (not to mention gas), but they damaged the bike a little when unloading it (flat tire and I suspect they worsened a problem with the bearings). Not a terrible option, but be aware. If you want to take a VIP bus you'll have to ride separately, as they're smooth up top with no room to tie your bike down.

Vietnam also owns because of the train system: it's pretty straightforward and economical to ship a bike, and it's well protected in a custom wooden crate. Great if you want to do a one-way trip on a rental: go north to south (or vice versa) and then put it on the train back to where you rented it from. I paid $18 to go from Danang to Hanoi, which is about half the country. They drain all the fuel out of the bike, so don't roll up there with a full tank.


Vietnamese train station dudes gift-wrapping my Minsk for the trip back to Hanoi

Thailand also has an extensive rail system but I don't know how difficult/expensive it is to ship a bike.

Other options: probably the slow boats in Laos, although a bus would likely be faster. Sometimes a swollen river requires a short canoe trip.



More?
I'm definitely leaving some stuff out, but this is long enough for now.

Links
http://advrider.com/ - General motorcycle adventure touring site, very good.
http://www.gt-rider.com/ - Southeast Asia specific riding forum, lots of great info and advice. Probably the best place to check for current information (border crossings and the like).
Tiger Trails - Tour company in Luang Prabang, Laos that also has the hookup on Minsks. Run by a very chill German named Andy.
Flamingo Travel - Excellent tour and bike rental shop in Hanoi. Minsks and other bikes available. Ask for Mr Hung.

ziebarf
Jul 6, 2008


freebooter posted:

I wouldn't take them in Thailand, but what about Laos, and southern China?

I mean, I'm going to end up taking them anyway because I'm more inclined to listen to my doctor than people on the Internet, but basically I wish malaria didn't exist.

I was pretty freaked out about this issue before I left. After two weeks on doxy, which made me incredibly ill and lobster-face, I decided to stop. So far I have been to many remote locations in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam and have been A-Ok. Many times I even forgot to wear my insect repelent. But anyways, you should be fine if you take even the smallest precautions.

Pompous, thanks for the advice about the minsk. Never got a hold of the guy so I wasn't able to put it to use. Taking the busses around like a sucker.

Sheep-Goats
Jul 28, 2003



Ringo R posted:



I made this tshirt design a long time ago, before I even had a basic understanding of the Thai language. It says roughly "jerking off/flying a kite of is cheap" (I hope). Should still have one left in XL size I think. If I/someone can come up with a fun competition in this thread, I will give it to the winner.

Just had it spot checked for you by a Thai and the language is correct and carries the meaning you meant it to.

Also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbQplLOm59M

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freebooter
Jul 7, 2009


Sheep-Goats posted:

Doctors constantly have to guess, they very rarely know anything for sure, and knowing his background will allow you to weigh what he's saying vs. what you're hearing here a bit better.

This isn't my regular GP, it's a specialist travel doctor I had to go see because his clinic is the only one in my city that can do yellow fever vaccinations (which is for the African leg of my trip, not the Asian one, before anyone pegs me as a hypochondriac).

Come to think of it I can't remember if he was absolutely reccomending anti-malarials for SE Asia, or just for Africa and South America. I have some more shots again on Friday so I'll doublecheck. Although I wouldn't mind trying them out to see how my body handles it in Asia before I get to Africa.

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