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Tuesday, 18 September 2001

PLACES OF INTEREST



PLACES OF INTEREST
MALAYSIA
Malaysia is made up of two distinct areas – Peninsular Malaysia, which borders on Thailand in the north and Singapore in the south, as well as Borneo Malaysia which is an island shared by Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.  Borneo is mostly beaches and rainforest – great for relaxing as well as for wildlife adventures.  The orangutan sanctuary in Sandakhan is great, the islands and adventure of Kota Kinabalu(including the ascent up Mt. Kinabalu - or just catching a glimpse of it), and other cities including KuchingMiriBintulu, and Sibu that lead to all kinds of different adventures.
Peninsular Malaysia is the home of Kuala Lumpur (KL), PenangJohor Bahru, andMelacca.  All these cities are worthy of some time, and further exploration can land you on the tropical and beautiful Perhentian Islands near Kota Bahru or the duty free island of Langkawi, Malaysia’s most popular beach destination.  Bus is actually one of the fastest routes (and comfortable) to some of these places (like Melacca, Johor Bahru, and even Singapore).  You can experience jungles, cities, and beaches in a short time at a fairly low cost depending on your preferences!  You can walk in the canopies of the rainforests, see trees light up with fireflies, or visit the most southern point of mainland Asia in the State of Johor.
THAILAND
A short flight to any of BangkokKrabiPhuketKoh Samui, or Chiang Mai.  A 2 hr flight to Bangkok puts you in the heart of one of the most amazing cities in the world, full of temples, canals, shopping, and pad thai.  Krabi and Phuket are on the west side of Thailand, full of white sand beaches to give a break from the norm.  Phuket is full of tourists, and Krabi is the jumping point to the famous beach island of Koh Phi Phi as well as Raleigh Beach.  Koh Samui on the east coast is the largest of a series of 3 islands which includes Koh Phnang and Koh Tao.  All of these islands offer luxury and budget accommodations, relaxing times on the beach, cheap alcohol, and perfect days.  Rent a scooter to explore the island, and enjoy long tail boat rides.  Chiang Mai is the cultural capital of Thailand.  It’s a walled city that has a great night market, Muay Thai boxing, have lunch with tigers, see monkeys, watch a man kiss a cobra at the many snake farms, or stroll through the impressive orchid gardens. Any one place – Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, etc can be seen in 2-3 days.  Fly early in the morning on day one and return back later in the afternoon on the 3rd day and you probably would have seen enough to be happy.  Trying to see a few places together (ie. Bangkok to Chiang Mai) will take a bit more time.
INDONESIA
The biggest attraction for most people is Bali, a beautiful island that is considered by many to be paradise.  The Gili IslandsLombokUbud,  and Seminyak are among the highlights.  But Indonesia has so much more to offer.  Jakarta (despite it’s sometimes bad reputation) is a cultural city, as is Yogyakarta.  Other places offer you the chance to walk with Komodo Dragons, or see some wildlife in nearbySumatra.  Volcanoes are everywhere, allowing for great hiking and scenic views all around the 17,000 islands of the archipelago.
A trip to Bali can last 3 days or more.  Other locations depend on what you’re doing – some cities are very close to KL and can be seen in a couple days typically.
CAMBODIA
While there is a ton to see and do in Cambodia, the temples of Angkor Wat are by far the most important and most impressive.  Spend 2-3 days exploring Angkor Wat’s maze of temples at your own pace with a driver – catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat and the sunset atop a hill looking out over the Cambodian landscape.  Flights to Siem Reap are easy to get and can come very cheap.  Hotels, food (and beer), and transportation are insanely cheap.  The people are friendly and there is more to do other than the temples.  Phnom Phen is a dirty city but has some heritage that is worth seeing for a short time.  Sihanoukville in the south has beaches and cheap accommodations. If you’re only going to see Angkor Wat (like most people), 4 days and 3 nights is more than sufficient.
VIETNAM
While we’ve never been here, we have heard great things from Hanoi (Halong Bay) in the northern part of Vietnam through Hoi An and down into Saigon – now calledHo Chi Minh City (or HCMC as it’s commonly referred to on forums and other literature).  Air Asia flies to both Hanoi and HCMC as well as a new route to Da Nang.  Like most of SE Asia, beaches, jungles, culture and history (killing fields, etc) abound, as well as great local food. Depending on your desires, a few days in each of the main cities is recommended.  To travel top to bottom typically takes people 9-10 days if taking the train.
PHILIPPINES
The Philippines has less than half the amount of islands that Indonesia has – still, over 7,000 of them leave a lot to be explored, and provide great getaways to some of the best beaches and food on the planet.  Most people in the Philippines speak English, so traveling around is not much of a problem.  Sport fishing, snorkeling, etc – anything to do with water is always available to do.  The beach of Boracay is consistently on the top 5 beaches in the world on most lists, while the city of Cebu(and surrounding areas – can be reached by Cebu Air) and Manila are also worth spending some time in. Needs about a week to enjoy fully, more if possible.
SRI LANKA
One of our favourite places we have been is Sri Lanka – the friendliest people and something to suit every taste – from awesome beaches in the southAdam’s Peak,Kandy, the Knuckles Range, and the ancient sites more toward the north.  The city of Colombo is worth a stop for a day or two as well.
A week would be great – but 4 days or so on the beaches in the south would also be money well spent.
SINGAPORE
One of the most expensive places in SE Asia – Singapore is modern (as evidenced by the Marine Bay Sands Hotel and Casino), shiny, and for the wealthy!  It is an island off the tip of the Malaysian Peninsula and is bustling with excitement. Singapore can be done in two days, one night – hotels are expensive, and food is expensive!  There are daily buses that leave from nearby our apartment – the trip takes about 5 hrs, or you can take a flight (initially can be cheaper, but adding the cost of taxis to the airport, etc – it’s about the same in terms of time and a little cheaper to take the bus).
OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST
Air Asia can get you to many places fairly cheap if booked well in advance.  Some places not specifically mentioned include Burma (Myanmar now), Laos, and some longer distance travel including Australia, England, France, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Beijing, Hong Kong, India, and Iran.  We’re more than happy to help find information about any of these places for you if you decide you would like to visit before and/or after the house sitting time (especially Korea and China).
It’s important to look into Visa requirements for each country you plan on visiting.  Vietnam definitely needs a visa arranged beforehand for Canadians and Americans, while Cambodia is a visa on arrival (I think about $25US per person).  Thailand, Malaysia, etc don’t require visas, but you should check as some visas expire in 30 days, meaning simply you’ll need to leave the country for a few days and then come back in if you are planning on staying longer.  Canadians get 90 days in Malaysia.
OTHER OPTIONS
As well as traveling budget with the above airlines, you can try Malaysia Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Royal Thai Air, Cathay Pacific, Emirates (free stopover in Dubai typically) and Etihad Air.
There are some luxury cruise lines that visit different countries in Asia.  We don’t know ANYTHING about these, but some companies include Star CruisesOceania CruisesPrincess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean.  Other cruise lines may offer other itineraries and prices from several ports that are relatively nearby.
Traveling around SE Asia by train and bus are other options.  In Malaysia, the trains are slower than the buses as the highways are very good.  The prices are similar, although an overnight train may be more comfortable than an overnight bus.  You can reach Thailand and Singapore by bus and train.  However, trains and buses in some other SE Asian countries can be a little more difficult to deal with, but also a great way to get closer to local living in many cases.
There are also ferries that can take you to some spots in Indonesia, and some islands in Thailand and Cambodia from Malaysia.  More research may need to be done, and we’ll be happy to help whatever way we can.

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