Author Topic: Overland : Singapore to China  (Read 2806 times)

Offline Skytng

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Overland : Singapore to China
« on: Jan 27, 13, 07:10 AM »
Hi guys,

I'm planning for my grad trip during the upcoming may-june period.

The route is Singapore -> Malaysia -> Thailand -> Cambodia -> Vietnam -> China
Will take a plane back to SG.

The timeline i set for the trip is roughly 21 days and will be travelling in a 3 men group.
The trip is strictly by land and sea, if possible i want to avoid taking plane.
So my questions for the 'lao jiao' here, is the trip feasible and which region has safety concerns.
I read that Southern Thailand, Hat Yai region is prone to hijacking of mini-bus and terrorism, not sure of its current situation.

Has anyone done a similar trip before? If so, please do share your experience!  :icon_bounce:
« Last Edit: Oct 29, 13, 02:30 AM by Karel »

Offline wei

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Re: Singapore to China, overland!
« Reply #1 on: Jan 27, 13, 09:01 AM »
21 days? wow.

Maybe you should take a look at the map to see what kind of distance are you really going to be covering? If you are flying, yes. By land? I think you will probably be on the bus/train every day, with hardly any time for sightseeing.

If you do not know yet, China is BIG. Really BIG. You can travel around for 2 years and still not complete it. When you say China, do you mean you just want to arrive in China, then take a plane back to Singapore right away or do you mean to visit a few places?

What is it that you want to achieve from this trip? What do you want to see? Of course, you can go from Singapore to Hatyai in just 13-14 hours by bus, but is this really what you want? If you want to get a real sense of the countries or see more of every country, I suggest you either plan for a longer trip or you cut down on the destinations. 

I personally don't believe in "hitting as many countries as possible". I believe one can only consider oneself to have visited a country by staying long enough to immerse in the country culture for a bit. So I usually spend 2 weeks in each country. Yes, even in Cambodia or Laos. The longest I spent in China was 5 weeks, but even then, I barely scratched the surface. But to each his own. Some like to rush through everything. Just do your homework a bit and make sure you won't end up being on the bus every day.
 
Safety is relative. I always believe that those who travel with more common sense will be safer than those who don't exercise their common sense. Lots of girls have travled through these places on their own, what's more 3 big guys? Yes, the situation in south Thailand is volatile, but nobody here can tell you when the extremists will hit nor can anybody tell you where the extremists are going to bomb next. You just have to check the newspapers or the internet for the latest news. If you are really not sure or uncomfortable with the situation, just skip the few volatile regions and head to the next one.

Offline Skytng

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Re: Singapore to China, overland!
« Reply #2 on: Jan 27, 13, 06:38 PM »
Hi there, I see that we are not very receptive to newcomer, are we? (:

I think I left out many details in my original post which leaves my intention of the trip in doubt.

Actually the last stop China is just the finishing line, so the stopover will be just a few days to come to terms that the trip has ended. It was never in my intention to explore the whole of China, that place is far too vast and too much heritage. My friend actually suggested extending the journey to Hong Kong, which I now think is not very feasible, time-wise.

I intend to spend no more than 3 days in malaysia as I am only interested in the northern part. So that leaves me with roughly 18 days for thai, cambodia, viet and maybe china. If time does not permit, I might even consider Vietnam as the ending point. Also, the 21 days is just a tentative time frame and is flexible. Recently I went with a tour group to Taiwan for 7 days, was feeling that the trip was dragging for too long on the 5th day, although I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I do agree with the negative sentiment against "hitting as many countries as possible", which is why I want this trip to be strictly overland. I do not want to just fly to a destination and enjoy the tourist hotspots before hopping to the next. I want to experience the countries from the eyes of the locals, to get down and dirty, and not from the eyes of a tourist who is willing to spend whatever is in his budget. I actually garnered heavy criticisms from some of my friends who couldn't understand the adventure that I am seeking. This is possibly my only window for an "out of the world" trip, before I start looking for a job, or sell my soul to the devil for cash.

I have a question; is it a common practice for backpackers to book their hotels beforehand or do they pick one upon reaching the places?

If anyone has any experience travelling across borders in SE asia overland, please do share!  :hello2:

Offline wei

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Re: Singapore to China, overland!
« Reply #3 on: Jan 28, 13, 06:02 PM »
Sorry if the reply is perceived as being sacarstic, but it's just my way of wanting you to be a bit more practical in your ideas for the trip.

Everybody has their own style of traveling. Some people think that sitting down for a cup of coffee and watching the sunset is a waste of time while traveling, while some people feel that, that is what travels should be like. how fast or slow you move, how much you can complete within the time frame that you have, all depends on what kind of traveler you are. in my humble opinion, laid back countries like those in SEA tend to be a bit more slow paced and hence can be enjoyed better if you move at a slower pace. Keep in mind also that transport may be slower and roads are not as good in these places, so you may have to budget more time for being on the road.

As a Singapore passport holder, crossing borders between these countries are relatively hassle free. You do not have to worry too much.

As for booking of hotels, it is all relative. For major cities, like Hanoi or Siam Reap, I like to make a booking beforehand. You get a huge variety of accommodation in these places, but those that are good are not that many. If you want to go for some place good and cheap, you may want to do a bit of homework and make a prior booking. For those small towns, I tend to just arrive and walk from place to place to look for the right one to stay in. The owners are usually happy to just let you look around before you decide if you want to stay. More often than not, you can even ask for a discount. In China, you may want to consider staying in YHA/HI hostels. You can get a member card done on the spot and use it for a 10% discount right away. It is cheaper to get a member card there than apply for one in Singapore. 

Offline thexcuriousxwanderer

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Re: Singapore to China, overland!
« Reply #4 on: Jan 29, 13, 02:15 AM »
"I want to experience the countries from the eyes of the locals, to get down and dirty, and not from the eyes of a tourist who is willing to spend whatever is in his budget."

If that is the case, in almost any ONE of those SEA countries alone you could spend that amount of time, and not even explore that country, if you want to "get down and dirty". That amount of time you suggested isn't even enough to hit the tourist destinations in the countries you suggested. Perhaps that probably explains the replying poster's reply.

Let me begin by suggesting that you have to be truthful to yourself ... by allocating so few days, either you are lacking in research, or you are just lying to yourself that you are "getting to know" the countries. If you come out and say it is a personal goal to complete the long journey by land, no one is going to come out and say anything (i guess). Once you get that clear, it will be easier to plan and ask questions.

I should qualify by saying I do have the experience you are looking for. But like I mentioned, in each of those countries I spend about 3 weeks, some more and some less, and even then i don't see the whole country. How do you expect me to give you advice if our time frames are so different, without knowing your true intentions of travelling? You mentioned adventure. If it is your first time travelling, and go to these countries and want adventure, the more backward, the more adventure and off the path you can get. With the time you have though, that would mean missing some tourist spots, which are tourist spots because they deserve attention, eg Angkor Wat.

As for booking hostels, I generally go without booking, as I don't stay in a lot of mainstream places anyway, but if you are doing this first time you might want to book your first few days and if feel that you can do without, then go ahead and do that.

Good luck for your trip. If this is going to be your trip of the lifetime, I would suggest spending more time to go places, even if you are just hitting the tourist places. If you are seeking, you will find that the world has so much diversity to offer. Keep an open mind, and have fun :)

Offline Skytng

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Re: Singapore to China, overland!
« Reply #5 on: Feb 04, 13, 05:28 PM »
Hmm.. I think I got off to a bad start, so let's just forget my purpose and what I want to accomplish for this trip.

Instead, I am quite interested in knowing what are some of the difficulties that I might face along the way, particularly in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. I was hoping to get insights to their land transportation, trains and buses, their comfort level, and whether there will be any complications when crossing borders on land.

As for places to visit, I will just plan that out with my friend.

Offline wei

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Re: Singapore to China, overland!
« Reply #6 on: Feb 05, 13, 08:33 AM »
singapore passports gets to all SEA countries except Myanmar visa free for a certain period of time. There shouldn't be any problem clearing immigration at the borders of the countries you are looking at. Just wait for the stamp and you can cross.

Taking buses and trains are quite easy. These countries are frequented by tons of tourists. They are not as laid back as you think. To take the bus or to take the train is up to your own discretion. I will suggestion you go to the library and borrow some guides to read up. Information on transport is wide and extensive and will def be much more informative than what anyone of us can list here. Usually there are tourists buses which offer a higher comfort level as compared to the local buses. You need not worry about the languages as all you need to say is the name of your destination. You do not have to book the tickets in advance, unless you are looking at taking night buses. Roads are not great in certain places and do not expect world class bus drivers. Night buses do offer sleepers so you can lie back in relative comfort and sleep. But whether the driver will drive safely or not, it all depends on your luck. Whether you are taking the bus or the train, keep your valuables with you at all time. Do not leave any of your valuables unattended, even if you are getting off the bus to go to the toilet at pit stops. It's not like Singapore where you can leave you bags at some table and come back 10 min later and still expect to see it. Do not keep your money exposed nor leave in in some place like a pouch hanging on your neck and sleep dead to the world. You are just inviting trouble. This goes the same for every country in the world, not just the countries you are thinking of visiting. If you are not one who can rough it out, then spend a bit more money to take better buses or get a first class train ticket. If money is your concern and you want to do it as dirt cheap as possible, then just suffer the discomfort a bit. You have to pay a price for quality and comfort.

If you are thinking of enjoying the night life, do it at your own risk. Yes, there are many people who have gone out to party and walked back at 2am in the morning and arrived safe and sound. But there are also many who got conked on the back of the head and wake up in the hospital, not knowing what hit them. You can go ahead and try the happy pizza, the margaritas etc, but DO IT AT YOUR OWN RISK. Letting yourself lose control of yourself only put yourself at risk.

Offline CSORG

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Re: Singapore to China, overland!
« Reply #7 on: Feb 15, 13, 03:28 AM »
Sky,

I might be interested to go with you. Keep in touch...

Thanks