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Newlyweds traveling to Thailand or Japan during winter break :)

Hello Travelers!

My husband and I recently got married and traveled to Europe for 25 days and loved our experience! We are ready for our next adventure and cannot decide between Thailand or Japan. We are 27 years old and are big foodies and love shopping/ sightseeing. We plan to travel between Dec 10- January. Staying for at least 2 weeks or 2.5 weeks. Can anyone offer any insight on the weather in either location?

I heard Japan is extremely cold and I am concern that it will limit sightseeing for us. But then again I see some lovely photos in Japan with buildings covered in snow so it seems like a wonderful experience.

Thailand seems to have great weather during November and December. I also thought about making a small trip to Cambodia or some other South East Asia area. We were thinking of staying in Phuket and Bangkok.

We would love some traveler advice on where to spend our winter break. My husband will be going back to school for his MBA soon and we have to follow a tight school schedule meaning only winter break, 1 week for spring break, and summer break for traveling :(. We definitely want to enjoy as much of the world as we can.


Posted by
415 posts

I lived in Japan and have traveled to Thailand in December. Yes, Japan is cold in December. At least the Honshu region which includes Tokyo and Osaka. And cold does not equal snow. The weather in Thailand is great in December and the beaches in Phuket are incredible.

Posted by
15060 posts

December-January are high season in Thailand, because although it's hot, it generally doesn't rain. (think summer monsoon)

I haven't been to Japan, but I have been led to believe that it is very expensive. Thailand isn't. Plan on flying between Phuket and Bangkok. Also consider spending a few days in Chiang Mai (also by plane) - visit an elephant sanctuary, temples, umbrella factory (interesting). It's much less humid in the north and deliciously cool in the mornings. Take a cooking class too.

If you want another destination, consider Vietnam (cheaper) or Hong Kong (more expensive). You can fly open-jaw and get cheap flights between cities.

I went to Siem Reap to see the Angkor Wat. The temple remains are very interesting, but Siem Reap was all about tourists, tons of restaurants, bars and culture shows, all for the throngs of tourists. Also, every time I got out of the car at a sight, I was immediately surrounded by women and children aggressively peddling souvenirs for "wun dollah, wun, dollah" It was unpleasant and my guide ignored my plight. This was the only place in Southeast Asia that I encountered it - nowhere in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore or China. It was worth going to see the temples, if that's a priority for you.

Posted by
161 posts

I am now leaning more towards Thailand and thinking about spending roughly 2weeks or 17 days in SE Asia.

I did heavily consider Cambodia for the temples but now I am wondering if it will be too touristy. Also besides the temples there may not be much else to do in Cambodia?

Are there any other parts of Thailand that are must sees?

are there any specific locations to book my Airbnb or hotel near so I can be where the action is?

Getting really excited about Thailand :)

Posted by
11292 posts

"I haven't been to Japan, but I have been led to believe that it is very expensive. "

Don't believe every travel rumor you hear. While Japan is hardly "cheap," it's not extortionate either. And a lot depends on the exchange rate. As in every place, there are ways to spend money and ways to save money. My father and I, coming from Philadelphia and New York respectively, did not find prices surprising compared to what we were used to (at least in 1997 with the exchange rate about 120 yen to the US dollar).

"The French are all rude and hate Americans," "Israel isn't safe to visit," "Japan is insanely expensive" - you get the idea.

Posted by
2526 posts

Love Bangkok and the Chiang Mai/region and look forward to going again. A custom tour focusing on nature and culture was assembled by a Thai travel agency. We had a wonderful guide and vehicle and thoroughly enjoyed a very unique time...very affordable.

Posted by
3336 posts

These are very different just depends on what kind of vacation you want to have!
Japan will be quite cold...Thailand will be dry and hot.
Japan will be pricier...Thailand can be VERY cheap.
As I haven't been to Japan I'll give my insight into Thailand.
We spent a week in Bangkok and 3 weeks on Phuket.
LOVED both places.
Bangkok is one of those big, southeast Asian cities that is chaotic and noisy but incredibly interesting with its temples, food, and alleyways. Tuk tuks are the best way of getting around - negotiate a price with the driver BEFORE getting in. The open markets are fascinating and worth your time. Don't talk to people who seem friendly and full of information...they'll try to get you to come to their brother's/uncle's tailor shop to have clothes made. :) Don't take trains (city to city) after dark...beggars make it pretty miserable for tourists. Trains during the day are great though! Go up to Ayutthuya for the day...amazing. Fork over the money for a nice hotel - you'll be glad you did at the end of the day.
It's easy to fly from Bangkok over to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, see the temple complex, spend the night, and then fly back to Bangkok.
Phuket is also pretty wonderful but it is a very well-developed island. Lots of condos and housing developments but beautiful beaches, great food, and lots to do and see. Some of the thatched restaurants at the end of dirt roads have the best food and ocean views to die for. You'll never eat for cheaper anywhere else! Take the time to visit some of the more remote temples. Take the ferry out to Kho Phi Phi or up to Phang Nga. There are some offshore reefs out of Kho Phi Phi that you can get to if you hire a longtail boat...snorkeling in the middle of the Andaman Sea with no land nearby is quite an experience. Some of the tiny islands out in that area are completely undisturbed and not frequented by tourists...get a local longtail owner to take you, not a tourist boat. Best beaches you'll ever walk on.

Posted by
161 posts


I think we are definitely going to do Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai. :) I will make a new topic to get information on best locations to stay! I am very excited for this adventure :). Thinking about possibly going to Hong Kong or Vietnam for a few days instead of Cambodia even. Thank you guys for your input! We will try to do Japan for our next trip!! Maybe a week for spring break!

Posted by
71 posts

I realize you've already decided to not go to Japan, but I still want to make a few comments. I lived in Japan for several years and still visit there so I have some observations to share.

Saying "Japan is cold in winter" is not necessarily accurate. Hokkaido will be cold in December and January, but it's not really all that cold in the places where most tourists would go in December (Tokyo, the Osaka/Kyoto area, and Kyushu). You are going to find sunny, dry weather in these places in the winter. December and January are the driest months of the year in Tokyo. It was always a shock for me to go from the mild weather there (Osaka and Tokyo, where I was wearing sweaters but no coat) to Seattle in December! It's the summer that's hot, muggy, and wet, and there are typhoons and thunderstorms. Avoid.

Also, for anyone traveling to Japan in late December, keep in mind that New Year's is the biggest celebration of the year. Many places will be closed, anywhere from three days to two weeks. This also means that things are much more expensive, from airline tickets to accommodation.

The best times to visit Japan are in May, after Golden Week, or in the autumn, especially October and November. By then the typhoon season has usually passed, the weather is sunny and mild, and the leaves begin to turn and are really beautiful especially in the Kyoto region (but generally true in most of Japan as well).

Posted by
161 posts

thank you k2! your response was insightful. Makes me have second thoughts!!

We were just thinking that we spent a good amount staying in Europe for a month so it would be nice to go to Thailand where things are cheaper. Maybe my rough calculations are wrong but I figured the cost of food/ shopping/ living expenses in Japan would be higher so we would end up spending more there.

I did read that New Years was a big deal in Japan so if we did visit we would have gone between Dec 10- Dec 27 or Dec 28 time frame, stay for Christmas and head back before New Years. I think we would not enjoy everything being closed so staying during New Years wouldn't suit us.

Posted by
15060 posts

Just as a comparison, I looked at hotels in Japan and Bangkok, December 19-24, on the Accorhotels website (Mercure, Ibis). Here are the nightly rates:

Tokyo, Mercure (Ginza) $173, Ibis (Shinjuku) $155
Kyoto, Ibis Styles $107
Bangkok (center - Siam Square) , Novotel $113, Mercure $93, Ibis $58

Novotel = 4 stars
Mercure = 3 stars
Ibis Styles = 2-2.5 starts
Ibis = 2 stars

I used Accorhotels as a start because they are a well-known, reliable chain, so it seemed a good choice for comparison shopping. Their hotels in Chiang Mai are even cheaper - but not so close to the city center. I've been looking at hotels for January/February for myself in Thailand and Chiang Mai seems to be about the same price as Bangkok.

I'm not saying Japan will be more expensive, but if your budget is tight, I do recommend looking hotel prices in the places you're planning to visit before you buy your flights. If you end up in Thailand, do take an empty suitcase for your shopping and plan on one day in Bangkok just for that - great bargains on textiles. I'm leery about buying electronics, but I picked up an excellent world-wide travel adapter (been using it for 5-6 years in the UK and Europe) for about $5. I haven't seen them sold anywhere else for less than $20. The guy in the store tested it in front of me before selling it. Get yourself a pure silk kimono (bought a reversible one as a gift for about $20). YMMV. That was several years ago, prices may have gone up a little.

Posted by
161 posts

hi all!

Do you think the best places/ most popular to visit in Thailand would be

Chiang Mai

Anyone have any input on places to skip or include?


Posted by
5630 posts

I was in Japan last October and loved the country. The people are wonderful. There is a lot to see and the country is like Switzerland, very clean and tidy. Also, everything functions very efficiently. The food is different that you get in Japanese restaurants in the USA. It is better in Japan.

Japan is no more expensive than Europe. We had a great hotel in Tokyo for $175 per night.

Kyoto is fantastic, plan on visiting.

I was in Thailand in 1981 and enjoyed the country. Compared to Japan, it is like going to Mexico vs. the USA. Bangkok is very crowded, with some of the worst traffic ever. It is one of the most polluted cities in the World, from what I read perhaps worse than China's cities (that is saying something).

Still. the people are nice and there is a lot to see.

Both are excellent places to visit, but I would put my money on Japan.

Posted by
71 posts

The food is different that you get in Japanese restaurants in the USA.
It is better in Japan.

Yes, Japanese food is better in Japan. Kinda goes without saying....

Posted by
161 posts

would it be too silly to go to both thailand and japan? as the flights are not too expensive. I just was not sure if we had enough time to explore.