Travel tips for the big cities of SE Asia

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of Singapore  ,
Sunday, March 25, 2007

We Said:

A marathon day of flying brought us from Yap back to Singapore for two days of R&R. Tonight we board a flight to Saigon (which is now called Ho Chi Minh City) to start a journey the full length of Vietnam into southern China. We don't have too much of interest to report from our two days of walking, shopping and relaxing here but we do have a few tips for traveling in Malaysia, Singapore, and Bangkok:

The big cities of the Malay Peninsula are strikingly modern, logistically easy, and amazingly rewarding places to get your first taste of Asian culture.

These cities are all quite safe, with low crime rates that any American city would be proud to have. As with any large city though, the usual common-sense precautions should be taken, day or night.

English is spoken and understood by a surprising number of people. You will seldom be able to not communicate with any person you'd deal with in the course of normal daily interactions. Most signs, leaflets, and public information are printed in English as well.

Being ultra developed big cities, these places can be pricey if you have really high standards, but the price level is still far below that of most US cities. Food is generally very inexpensive and hotels can run the gamut from $10 to $1000 per night.

Making your own arrangements as an independent traveler in this region is very easy since most hotels, cities and transport providers have English websites and on-line booking capabilities.

Malaysia, Bangkok, and Singapore are very low hassle; you only occasionally be given sales pitches, there are few beggars, and locals are friendly and eager to help.

Singapore is about the easiest place to travel on the entire planet, followed closely by Kuala Lumpur, with Bangkok not far behind. The smooth public transport, well-posted signage, incredibly organized tourist information offices, low crime, swish airports, friendly and helpful locals, and abundance of English make seeing these places easier than getting around most American cities.

Coming to SE Asia from the US will involve a 10-15 hour transpacific flight, but there are a surprising number of nonstop flights to this region from many US cities. Once you get here, there are a huge number of safe budget airlines (Air Asia, Tiger, JetStar, Cebu Pacific, etc) that fly around the region for absurdly cheap fares and all have online booking capability.

Although the big cities of this region have a wide appeal, they are a great place to start and end an Asian trip. To get a real taste for SE Asia, make sure your itinerary includes some of the multitude of idyllic islands and charming villages in Malaysia and Thailand as well. The islands in particular offer stunning beaches and great value for the money.
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