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The Far East again

"Again" since there have been a few threads recently and again for me, return trip. My dates are flexible, starting around mid-January or later, ending no later than mid-March. Probably 4-5 weeks total.

Shanghai or not? This will almost certainly be my last trip to the area. I know there's a lot of 19th-20th c. Jewish history, but I don't know much more. This would be my last stop - hoping to avoid winter weather. Is there enough to warrant a 4-6 day stay?

Vietnam I visited briefly on a cruise. 1 day tour from Danang (My Son temples, Hoi An village, etc.) and 1 day in Saigon (museums, Chinese market) and a 1 day Mekong Delta (mostly boat) tour. I would like to see more of Saigon and the rest of the country, probably with a small group tour, geared to older, less adventurous travelers. After my short time there, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable on my own for very long, even in the major cities.

Thailand I would like to go back to Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Suggestions for one other area that is easily accessible for 3-5 days (been to Chiang Rai, not interested in beach time)? I'm quite comfortable on my own in Thailand.

Hong Kong/Macau Return visit to see more. Is it worth the hassle and expense for a Chinese visa to visit Guangzhou? I just checked the Chinese Embassy website ($25 on an Israeli passport, $140 on a US passport - wow). Even a 2-entry visa is $40 vs. $140. - so now my question is simply is it a worthy destination if I'm already in HK?

Posted by
3099 posts

Hi Chani,

We've been thinking about a trip to Asia too--right now are thinking about South Korea for the fall.

Here are some random thoughts on the options you're considering:

We spent 9 nights in Vietnam, January 2013. Our itinerary was Hanoi (3 nights); Hoi An (4 nights); Ho Chi Mihn City (2 nights). We flew between Hanoi and Da Nang (to travel to Hoi An) and then between Da Nang and Ho Chi Mihn City. That was a good itinerary to get an overview of Vietnam. Hoi An was our favorite city, Hanoi was fascinating but buzzy and smoggy, and Ho Chi Mihn City (at least the touristed areas) was very modern. We added two weeks at the end to stay in Chiang Mai.

We've also considered Hong Kong but haven't visited yet. We've thought about spending 4-5 days there before traveling to South Korea. I researched Guangzhou and it seemed to me like it's just a big shopping center. I decided that for us, it's probably not worth a visit.

We have not been to China but it's not a priority for us.

You've got lots of great possibilities and January is a great time to visit Vietnam and/or Thailand.

Posted by
14796 posts

Sharon - I saw some photos yesterday of South Korea in fall colors and it looked fabulous.

Could you tell me more about what you did for 2 weeks in Chiang Mai. I was there for about 4 days, 1 just seeing the flower festival (wonderful) and a day trip to an elephant sanctuary. Did you take days trips? Did you have a car? Guide?

What did you do/see in Hoi An? Was it easy to get around on your own in English?

Posted by
2203 posts

Guangzhou wouldn't be on my top 10 list for places to visit in China either - despite it's close proximity to HK.
January weather in Shanghai is cold but not brutal, as opposed to Beijing which can be very cold indeed in January. Sliding your proposed trip into Feb. or Mar. would obviously result in warmer temps the further north you go. I do think Shanghai is worth a few days - it's an ancient city with a fascinating history, and there are day trips into the countryside that would be a nice diversion from the city.
If you've not yet been to Beijing I'd recommend it highly, and if you can brave the chillier temps in the Jan - March low season there will be no crowds to speak of. The air is generally a lot cleaner in the winter too, ie no smog or blowing sand storms that can restrict visibility and degrade summertime air quality both in the city and especially out at the Great Wall, where the views are really spectacular that time of year.
Time permitting, a quick trip across the strait over to Taiwan might be of interest, and if you've not been to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur those are worth a stop too.
Safe travels.

Posted by
3099 posts

Chani,

We can be pretty leisurely travelers--we thought that we'd do day trips from Chiang Mai but we just didn't get around to it.

We also went to the Flower Festival Parade--it's a wonderful time to be there. We've been there for Chinese New Year too and that's fun. I mentioned the cooking class, the Elephant Nature Park, The Chiang Mai National Museum, visited various temples (we went to the Monk Chat at Wat Chedi Luang where monks answer questions about Buddhism and practice their English skills), and Chiang Mai has a nice zoo. We took a songtaew up to the temple Doi Sethep. We always enjoy the night markets--especially the food. The Sakorn Residence has a nice pool and some afternoons we sat by the pool and read. We didn't have a car--riding around town in tuk-tuks is quite an experience. We did not hire a guide either.

In Hoi An we went to the beach for an afternoon and I had some very nice clothes (silk pants, top, casual dress and skirt) made at Yali Couture for a reasonable price. That was actually quite a nice experience, picking out fabric and styles.

We thought that we'd hire a driver to go to Hue from Hoi An but didn't. Many people spoke enough English for us to get by--I don't remember that it was a problem. We did hire a driver to take us from the airport in Da Nang to Hoi An and we arranged that in advance through our hotel.

Enjoy the planning! We're still working on ours!