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Old 03-15-2007, 09:34 AM   #1
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Default 3 Weeks of Leave and Nowhere to Go...

I'm going to be taking some leave when I come back from deployment. I'm going home for my R&R in June so when I come back from deployment I am not going home, I'm going to travel, finally, now that I finally will have the time and the money, and I want to do it right.

I've been all over the US and Canada and Mexico, been to Hungary for a brief visit, and of course...Kuwait and Afghanistan.

There are so many places in the world I plan to go in life, I'm just not sure where I want to get started. This is going to be my first HUGE trip, alone, on my own.

I was thinking I really want to see England, Ireland, Spain, Greece and a few other various parts of Europe, and I know 3 weeks (maybe more, depending on how much leave I end up taking... 3 weeks minimum I will be taking) is a good amount of time to do multiple countries.

Then another part of me wants to see Thailand and Laos, another part of me wants to go to India, and then I want to see some parts of Africa...

You see my problem with a decision?

My guess is, for my first big trip, to get my fet wet I'd probably want to start somewhere easy to navigate and well traveled like Europe before I jump into somewhere a little more difficult like India...

So any input would be much appreciated!

-Nicole
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Old 03-15-2007, 10:15 AM   #2
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Do you have any particular budget in mind?

For me, the less-travelled areas appeal more, but I can understand wanting to start somewhere "safe". I did Borneo for my first solo trip and it was amazing. As you've mentioned, you're leaning towards Europe and most people head to Western Europe to start out. I just don't like being conventional (and it's too expensive for me!), but I'm sure it would be a lot of fun regardless.

South-East Asia is actually full of backpackers and is really quite easy to navigate, if you want to go for that option. I love SEA - I love to travel around my own home region! Plus it's a helluvalot cheaper, except that your flights will put you back a bit, so you might want to wait until you have more time than three weeks to spend there.

Good luck trying to figure it out! If all else fails, tape a world map to a dartboard and go for it.
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Old 03-15-2007, 10:32 AM   #3
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Then another part of me wants to see Thailand and Laos, another part of me wants to go to India, and then I want to see some parts of Africa...

You see my problem with a decision?

My guess is, for my first big trip, to get my fet wet I'd probably want to start somewhere easy to navigate and well traveled like Europe before I jump into somewhere a little more difficult like India...

So any input would be much appreciated!

-Nicole
Congratulations and wow! My only advice is - who is to say that Europe is a place to get your feet wet? If you want to go to SE Asia, it's plenty navigable, and there are definitely a handful of African countries that you would have no trouble with - just as the people here. I would steer clear of Central Africa or Guyana or something, if you want some previously-blazed paths to follow or explore, but there are some really fantastic and exotic places that are a cinch once you lose the mental discomfort of being out of your zone. I'm guessing, though, that as a member of the military, you're not going to have the same trouble as someone like my mom, who thinks if it's not to London or Paris, you're booking a ticket to certain doom and dismemberment by "aboriginals." (My mom has never said "aboriginals" when she lists the ways I can die overseas, it just completes the caricature in my mind...)

ALSO, there are plenty of less-traveled places in Europe, where you can be adventurous and stay in a more comfortable environment. Just because it's more mainstream, doesn't mean there aren't off-the-beaten path places to go. Or ways to do things that EVERYBODY has already done that mark the experiences as your own. Zero in on something (anything) you're obsessed with seeing/doing, and build a trip around it. It's what I've done and it's never failed me!
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Old 03-15-2007, 12:02 PM   #4
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I came to the same problem as you the first time I traveled alone, and know how you feel. Also military. I lived in Japan for a while so that got me started. I suggest not going to Europe only because you will not get a real travel experience out of it. (from what Ive heard from friends) Or maybe thats just them. I would suggest India. Just research the hell out of it and plan your trip out way ahead of time, it nevers goes according to plan for me but at least it starts me on the right path. Right now Im actually in Iraq, not in the military anymore but I work as a DOD firefighter. Im still not a travel pro or anything even close. I just say fuck it go somewhere crazy your first time and see what comes out of it. Im heading to Ibiza in July, not really a travel trip I just want to party my ass off..... and what a great place to do it.

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Old 03-19-2007, 02:40 AM   #5
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Good point twoguns... I've wanted to do Thailand/Laos forever, and I think I might just do it. Hell, why not?
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Old 03-19-2007, 02:45 AM   #6
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As for my budget, deployment money rocks so I'll have some money just not looking to blow it all... 3 weeks in Thailand/Laos I don't want to spend more than 3 grand (not including airfare). I want to treat myself for the hard work I've done over here and let myself live it up, but I also don't want to go and blow all my deployment money either.

Is this a reasonable budget for those expectations?
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Old 03-19-2007, 07:16 AM   #7
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You should have no problems staying within that budget. When I was there a couple of years ago, you could always find decent hotels in the city for less than $20/night. Depending on where you go and if you want to stay in hostels, you could spend just $5-10. Everything is so (relatively) cheap there, your money will go a long way.
Have fun and enjoy your well-deserved leave!
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Old 03-19-2007, 10:19 AM   #8
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Oh hell, 3 grand will let you live it up hardcore in SEA. I traveled Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand (staying in hostels) for about US 20/day.

Do it!! It'll be awesome.
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Old 03-19-2007, 10:35 AM   #9
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You can have it pretty easy in Laos for $15 a day, or even less if you must. The most I spent for a room was $7, but I was on a tight budget. There are also hostels for about $3 a night, and $1 bamboo houses on the Mekong, at the border with Cambodia. That is exotic !

The view from a bamboo house, and the "taxis" to get there:



Laos is amazing ! If you'd like, you could read tips in this thread.
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Old 03-19-2007, 11:05 AM   #10
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Wow, I didn't realize how many military members there are on Tpunk. Congratulations on your leave!

When are you off? If you're having trouble deciding, it might be worth looking into festivals and such going on in the world during your leave, and basing your decision off that.
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Old 03-19-2007, 01:28 PM   #11
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good luck on deciding where to go!

I think we may be long lost best friends....Buckeyes and Buffett are my favorite things ever!
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Old 03-20-2007, 08:53 AM   #12
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yes I think we are long lost friends! are you from ohio originally? I've lived there my whole life until the military. good shit.

and I think it's settled... thailand & laos it is. I am super excited about Laos after reading the thread. tell me more about the bamboo houses!

how easy is it to get around those countries, especially Laos?
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Old 03-20-2007, 06:57 PM   #13
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yup im from akron living in columbus....but only until august..then im tampa bound and not planning to return for anything except holidays!
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Old 03-21-2007, 09:32 AM   #14
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I feel ya there. Ohio is a freaking drain on life sometimes. But when you've been away for awhile, it's good to go back. I had a good friend in college (Ohio Northern alum!) who was from Akron.
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Old 03-21-2007, 11:14 AM   #15
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and I think it's settled... thailand & laos it is. I am super excited about Laos after reading the thread. tell me more about the bamboo houses!

how easy is it to get around those countries, especially Laos?
I'm so happy I increased your interest in Laos ! It is a wonderful place !

You need a visa to enter the country, which is given at the border, either at the airport or the ground border, for US$30 cash, exact amount + one or two pictures (I don't remember). It allows you to stay up to 30 days.

The most interesting part is the north and center, Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Vang Vien, Muang Sing and Luang Namtha, with sightseeings, trecking, rides on river. However, the bamboo houses are in the far south, a 12 hour bus ride from Vientiane, + one night spent in Savanaket, then the morning by tuk-tuk and boat to get to the islands. They are called Si Phan Don (4000 Islands in lao), and the two main islands are Don Khon and Don Det.

Don Khon is the largest one, with hotels at around 10$ a night. The best thing to do there, and it is worthwhile, is to rent a bike for the day and visit the place. You'll see villages where the local culture is intact, you'll say 50 "sabaidee" hello in lao to the charming children. We ended our ride by playing soccer with local children.

The bamboo houses are located on Don Det. There is no electricity, no hot water. The cost is $1 per house, that consists in a room with two double beds. Each group of houses have a restaurant attached to it, the food is good and the service warm and welcoming ! Our host was Papa Foo, and with his wife and daughter, we had a lovely time. There are short trecks to do in the area, the highlight being the highest water falls in SEA. Gorgeous! But just lazing out is fan-tas-tic !

We had planned on staying two days only, but ended up spending 5 days.

How easy is it to go around ? Transport is always an issue in SEA. They go crazy fast and despite that, it's so ineffective that a short ride kilometer wise lasts forever. And tuk-tuks must often be used to complete a travel and they leave only when they are full. There is no way to know how long you'll have to wait, 30 minutes, 3 hours ? The drivers say nothing. Although it is part of the experience, it sometimes get on the nerves and sure make the travel longer !

You'll experience the same in Thailand or any country there. So if you plan on splitting your three weeks between Thailand and Laos, you will have to choose only one area of each countries. In my sense, to not feel rushed, the best is to spend your time in only one country.
You could spend your whole 3 weeks there and not be bored. I only stayed 10 days, and it wasn't enough, I was able to see Vientiane, Savanaket (soso) and Si Phan Don, not the north, that's all.

Also, do read about security in Laos. There are roads to avoid because of bandits, and I believe the north east because of the presence of mines ! Laos holds the sad title of "most bombed country in the world", during the Vietnam war, and there's an area where thousands of bombs await a foot...

Any more tips ? :D





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Old 03-22-2007, 12:44 PM   #16
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I have had this huge interest in Laos forever. I have a really good friend who adopted a little Lao girl who is just beautiful and I've wanted to visit Laos ever since.

I am looking into a teaching English program out there maybe for when I get out of the military, I really want to get a feel for SEA.

I am thinking actually of spending a few days in Thailand and then the rest of the time in Laos.

I think I may order some books online about Laos -- any recommendations?
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