Greetings! A month long trip to South-East Asia sounds absolutely fantastic! Here, I have given you a tentative plan on how best to go about exploring the very best of the region. Included are the best flight deals, route, a flexible itinerary and insights on what to expect in the destinations. Read on!
While there are a number of routes possible, with an equal number of permutations and combinations, I have figured out the one that will cost you the least and which will be the most feasible considering your multi-destination trip.
The beast thing to do would be to fly from Dubai to Singapore. This the least expensive destination as far as flight charges go. Ideally, I would recommend making Singapore the base to explore the rest of the region; that is Thailand and Malaysia. And returning to Singapore at the end of it.
From then on, the Singapore - Philippines also turns out to be the best choice among the options.
I have distributed a week each to Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines, and three days to Singapore, keeping the rest for travel.
Note that this is only a tentative itinerary. If you approve of it, I can create a more concrete version, increasing or decreasing the number of days at each place, according to your preferences.
The beast deal for this multi-city itinerary comes from a combination of Jet Airways, Philippine Airlines and China Southern Airlines.
The rates are at $1022 per person. Best price comes from Vamaya.com
The itinerary - Dubai --> Singapore --> Manila -->Dubai
Here are the details:
Thailand is a plethora of exotic temples and ethereal beach-front beauties. There is plenty for both the offbeat and regular traveler alike. Cut into half by the South China Sea, Malaysia is a top tourist destination and known for its blend of Indian, Malai and Chinese cultures.
Walking up the steps of Wat Arun while approaching sunset is a once in a life time sight. Designed with floral personification, the divine reflections of the hues of the setting sun is a vista beyond words.
Wat Phra Kaew is a symbol of tranquility and a riot of colors; showcasing Thailand's most revered icon - the Emerald Buddha. Deep legend lives here:
The earliest legend narrated to the ionic emerald image of the Buddha is that of Nagasena, a saint in India who with the help of Hindu god, Vishnu and demigod Indra got the Emerald Buddha image made, 500 years after Buddha attained Nirvana, from the precious stone of Emerald. Nagasena had, with his psychic powers predicted then that:
The image of the Buddha is assuredly going to give to religion the most brilliant importance in five lands, that is in Lankadvipa (Sri Lanka), Ramalakka, Dvaravati, Chieng Mai and Lan Chang (Laos).
The dazzling monument of the Grand Palace is Bangkok's most popular and important landmark. Built in 1782 it was the seat of the Thai Kingdom for 150 years which was also the Royal court. The architecture is very intricate and looks even more magnificent at night. It's one of those "must-see" destinations of Bangkok.
For some pure gastronomical delights, it is important go beyond fine-dining. Often, the taste tends toward culinary depravity when infused with the city's intoxicating lights, sounds and scenes. Best get down to the streets and the markets.
It is by far no easy task to list down Thailand's best local food joints (or limbs). However, I can safely say, for this, the best place, without doubt is Bangkok. However, lets face it, the depths of Bangkok are certainly taking their time to surface on the world directory. Here is traditional travel - no websites, a few misplaced telephone calls and a lot of travel-thirst.
Victory Monument (Anusawari Chai Samoraphum)
There’s a pun intended here - it is said that even though one may be victorious, one has to surrender. At the Victory Monument, you surrender to food. A round-a-bout that is so stocked with street food it is hard to imagine if not seen with one's own eyes.
There is the boat noodle alley (a definite must), the seemingly endless lines of food pushcarts, and of course, look for a legend by the name of “Pumpkin Lady,”. Not far is Phahon Yothin Soi 1 (à¸žà¸«à¸¥à¹‚à¸¢à¸˜à¸´à¸™ à¸‹à¸à¸¢.1) for yet anther magnificent food location.
Note: The food scene here runs from morning to night - hence, you might want to get the other things ticked off your list for the day before coming here.
Yaowarat (Bangkok Chinatown)
Ah yes, the Chinatown. I often wonder, is there any major city that does not have one? Known here as the Yaowarat, it offers a curious cuisine - not entirely Thai and not anywhere close to authentic Chinese. But yes, the balance is godly. While here, just follow your nose; the streets are parallel, you won't get lost.
Certainly try the kuay jap noodle soup or the amazing road-side buffet! If it's an indoor experience you are looking for, there is the Jaow Restaurant.
Note: Best time to visit is in the evening to late night.
Located about one hour north of Krabi is Koh Hong or "Room Island". A towering limestone facade into the sea surrounded by aquamarine water, mesmerizing school of colourful fishes, and the pristine white sands of the Pelay Beach...one look and poetry suddenly seems so much more interesting.
The Krabi Province in Southern Thailand is this almost elvish archipelago out of which only the Ko Phi Phi Don is inhabited. If you are looking for some serenity amidst Nature's master work, go there. The sands are white, the crowd minimal, the breeze soulful.
There are noteworthy attractions within this small island. The view point stands 186 meters above and offers a bird's eye view of the island. Talking of birds, the island is also an ornithologist's haven. Don't miss out on the ethnic fire show in the evenings. There are a number of beaches here - the Yao, Lanti, the Ton Sai Bay and the Laem Tong. Then there is also a Tsunami Memorial. It is a tiny island and all the attractions can easily be covered by a lazy stroll through the day.
Here's some handy information from Wiki Travel:
Ferries leave from Phuket and Krabi daily (from Krabi two ferries a day 9:00 am and 14:30PM and from Phuket at 9:00 am, 11:00, and 14:30pm several times a day ( 11:00 during high season only). Tickets can be purchased online at PhiphiFerry.com or on the dock, from tourist offices, most local guesthouses and hotels.
* 600 baht one-way/1000 baht round trip when bought at the Phuket pier (as of 2009/09/15). Possible to get 300-350 baht one-way tickets as part of a deal with a guest house stay.
Ko Phi Phi (Source: Wikitravel)
Khao Yai National Park is a UNESCO World-Heritage site has but few peers. Boasting of an abundant growth of flora and fauna, this is Thailand's oldest and most popular national reserve. The wooden bridges and carefully hidden paths blend in beautifully with the surroundings and man and nature seem to lay in perfect harmony. The Khao Yai is nestled in Sankambeng Mountain Range sprawling over 2,168 square kilometers of evergreen forests and grasslands.
The Little Yoga Room (Ao Chalong Pier Road Chalong | Tel.: 0066 844 424 634) teaches the Ashtanga Primary Sequence in small and intimate groups. Courses are structured to meet the needs of both experienced yoga enthusiasts as well as beginners.
The Abbysan Yoga & Wellness Center (Abbysan Yoga & Wellness Center Co., Ltd., 27/13-14 Moo 4 W. Chao Fa Rd. A.Muang | Tel.: 076 304 277) is a relatively new yoga center in Phuket offering competent yoga classes and packages to visitors. They also specialize in Pilates. Please check their website for schedules and rates.
The Karuna Yoga Center (Akatani Village, 6/30 Moo 6, Kamala, Kathu, Phuket | Tel.: 087 885 8622) has been catering to the yoga and meditation needs of one and all. Set amidst a serene and peaceful environment, qualified yoga instructors and teachers offer many holistic healing packages.
A Thai massage is an integral part of the country's experience. While Bangkok has a few five-star options and many that claim to be so with, well, questionable standards, Phuket has a vast number of options.
Some recommended ones are:
Malaysia offers a mix of modern-world amenities and natural wonders. With an economy which was highly dependent on technology industries and its moderate oil wealth, Malaysia started investing in tourism and we see the result now in the adage "Truly Asia" that has become synonymous with the country.
In Malaysia you will find smiling faces, ultra modern cities, luxury resorts and spas. But if looked beyond, the nation has far more to offer. Not just sun kissed virgin beaches, but adventurous escapes too.
For some pristine sand, shore, aquamarine water and unparalleled reefs, go to Sipadan Island. It is said to have the world's best diving sites. And along with the world class diving, it also has some of the best beaches in Malaysia. Its attractions, however, does not end here. You'll also find some breath-taking mountains, lush jungles, beautiful islands and a rich flora and fauna. Not to mention the ethnic cultures of its cosmopolitan inhabitants.
More of an off-beat locale. It is much lesser known, the beaches however are quite enchanting. It is about 300 km north from Sabah, in the Malaysian Borneo and is a part of the Spratly Islands, which has been the bone of contention for long between China, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. It is also called the Swallow Reef. It is also largely popular for exotic kite flying.
13 Kms off Kuala Lampur is this amazing limestone mountain with a series of picturesque caverns. The Sungai Batu or the Batu river flows by it and the reflections are beautiful. Worth a visit.
It also has a Hindu Temple, embedded and carved right out of the mammoth mountain. For the culture enthusiast in you, this is a must visit. The vibrant and colourful atmosphere cannot be missed.
Once the tallest buildings in the world before being taken over by the Teipei and then by the Burj, Dubai, the Petronas Twin Towers, (Malay: Menara Berkembar Petronas) still hold the title of being the world's tallest twin buildings. The sight of the Twin Towers is mesmerizing especially at night.
The Malaysian Culture Evening is a wonderful way to observe the cultural diversity of Malaysia. The evening starts with a visit to Sri Maha Mariamman Temple which is Malaysia's oldest temple. Dancers present a selection of Malaysia's rich cultural heritage depicting the different race, creed and religion.
Here is some more info
Participants are picked up from their hotel, and taken to visit the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, the oldest and richest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur. The tour then proceeds to the bazaar at China Town, and participants can stroll through this busy night market, and shop for some bargains as well. Finally, the visitors will be taken to a Malay Restaurant for a buffet dinner where a variety of local cuisine is served, while a colourful cultural show is staged. Participants are dropped off at their hotel at the end of the tour.
Timings: 18:00 to 22:00 Hr
Tour fee: US$44
Note: Pick up from hotel is available.
Click here for more information.
Singapore is one of it's kind city-states in Asia. This sparkling city is in itself a prosperous country the likes of which can perhaps be compared to only The Vatican. Since it's independence from the British in 1965, the country has grown by leaps and bounds. It now presents itself as a booming economy and a top travel destination.
Singapore is a medley of ultra-modern steel and glass towers, natural vistas and curious mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay cultures. It is a charming city which can provide a very wholesome traveling experience.
With over 200 stalls selling a variety of stuff, the Chinatown Night Market (Pagoda, Trengganu, Sago and Smith streets) is a shopper's delight. Not only will you find clothing, jewelry, bags and shoes but also unusual collectibles like dragon candles, masks and traditional clothing.
Singaporeans are foodies if there were any! Among the many places where that once harboured these gastronomical delights, most have preished owing to the urbanisation. However, one great place still holds ground - at the port.
Try out the Peranakan cuisine. The cuisine essentially hails from the creations of Chinese traders and local Malay women, and the combination reflects off the taste. Check out the family-run Spice Peranakan (20 Biopolis Way, 15 minutes from cruise piers); they whip up local favorites like the Ayam Buah Keluak (minced pork and prawns).
Head to the Bras Basah region north of the famous Singapore River for a collection of museums and historical buildings. The Singapore River is another lovely sight. Stroll along it for an enchanting and romantic experience.
Symbolism : The crossover between a fish and a lion has become Singapore's icon. The Merilon Park which is in Marina Bay houses this unique mascot. It is a very popular tourist attraction and no trip to Singapore can be said to be complete without paying it a visit.
Being the second largest archipelago in the whole world, with more than 7000 islands, Philippines promises a huge plethora of attractions. And here's what to expect here:
Located only 1.22 miles (1.96Km) from Pasay city center is the magnificent and renowned Oceanarium. Being the first themed park in the Philippines, Manila Ocean Park dedicates itself to spreading the message of conservation and the preservation of Philippine marine life.
There's the Marine Life Show where you get to meet with the lovable, and new members of the Manila Ocean Park family, the sea lions. There are the Jellies - dancing Jelly fish exhibit. I would recommend seeing the Marine Life show first and then the oceanarium.
The cover charge for the Oceanarium is PHP400 (approximately US$17), the cover charge for the Marine Life Show is PHP150 (approximately US$3.55).
The Ruins in Talisay City, is a recent attraction. It is the house of a Spanish sugar plantation owner, Don Lacson that was burnt down by the American forces to prevent Japanese occupation. The skeleton of the proud building still stands and it's Italianate architecture with neo-Romanesque columns provide a perfect backdrop for a nice evening. The great grandchildren of the Don have opened an restaurant here which serves tapas, beef, lamb and other delicacies. Cold beer and wine are also on offer. The place is open till eight in the evening.
Boracay Island is one of the most beautiful islands in Philippines and is located about two hours from Manila. The biggest attractions of this spectacular island is its award winning beaches.
Bulabog Beach and White Beach are the most famous among all the other beaches in Boracay. The powdery white sands with lush green palms and blue ocean on both sides make it a beautiful heaven for ocean sports and activities.
The other beaches you can check out here in Boracay are Puka Beach, Baling Hai Beach, The Bat Cave etc. There are many nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, and bars here.
Getting There: You can take a bus from Manila to Caticlan and from Caticlan you can either take a plane or a ferry to reach this beautiful Island.
La Mesa Eco Park (about 10 kms from Mariki City) is a pleasant surprise in the urban metropolis of Quezon. Made up of 700 hectares of water reservoir and 2000 hectares of forest area. It is a green haven for those looking for some beauty and serenity. It offers a number of activities like biking, trekking, swimming, fishing,etc.
Mt Tapyas stands at 210m above sea level and offers a panoramic view of the whole town of Coron and adjoining islands of Calamines. There are 718 steps leading to the summit and gives an out-of-the-world feeling when you reach the summit.
It is advisable to carry some snacks and water as the hike can be a little tiring. Best time to start the hike is at the set of dawn and the whole trip might take around 4-5 hours depending on individual capacity to climb.
Hope this helps. If you'd like to know about anything else, feel free to write back. What about a detailed itinerary, accommodation options or the best eats?
Have a great trip!