Asian Dilemma

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by Steven Schwartz, Jan 21, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    I appreciate all who chose to read this thread to see if they can provide some advice. With another couple, we decided that we would try to trade his Aruba timeshare for the Marriott in Phuket a year from now. We would spend time in Bangkok and probably Chiang Mai. We made both worked to accumulate AA miles so that we could book First or Business to Bangkok.

    My friends wife just contacted us that she had done some research and there is a lot of stuff out there about potential terrorist threats in Thailand, including a major warning by the government of Australia for its citizens.

    For me, who knows what will be a year from now? We recently returned from Paris and God forbid, there could be an incident there. What I would like is some back-up ideas. What I mean is that instead of booking to BKK, we would book to HKG and then get Star Alliance flights on Thai if things are okay in Thailand. But if not, my question to you all is after a few days in HKG (how many is ideal?), what are some good alternatives? My wife is nervous about Japan as she feels it still may not be "safe" . How about 10 days in China and if so, how to break it up? Any other ideas? Vietnam? Cambodia?

    I'm very grateful for any help. Thanks.
     
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  2. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    Wow - do I have to go to FT?
     
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  3. rwoman
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    rwoman Gold Member

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  4. yaychemistry

    yaychemistry Silver Member

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    The US Embassy message is rather generic, and has no dates attached.
    http://bangkok.usembassy.gov/011312emergencymessage.html

    In addition, this USA Today article suggests that the specific threat has already been dealt with (as of 14 Jan, 2012):
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-01-13/thailand-terror-threat/52527864/1

    I would agree with rwoman right now. My gf and I scheduled to travel to Thailand this March, and besides the fact that it will be incredibly hot outside, we don't really feel that threatened (perhaps we are too young and naive). Unless there is a new specific and credible threat I doubt we will cancel our trip.

    That being said, of course register your travels with your state department (I'm not sure the Australian equivalent - but in the US there is the Smart Traveler program https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/). And I also recommend trip insurance with emergency evacuation coverage.
     
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  5. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    ooooo, if the JW Marriott Phuket, NICE PLACE !!! we loved our stay there.

    I'm with you, book an award to HKG, that leaves you PLENTY of options if you have to change last minute away from Thailand.
     
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  6. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    Appreciate the support but trying to get some back-up ideas. Anyone?
     
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  7. yaychemistry

    yaychemistry Silver Member

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    Any interest in the other SEA countries? Laos and Vietnam sound like interesting places to me - though they're not as built up as Hong Kong or Bangkok so you're not going to find a JW in either place. Neither country is really a target for anti-westerner terrorism. It's simple to get from Bangkok as a starting point to get to either Laos or Vietnam, so they can be a good back-up that requires minimal re-booking if you decide to change your plans (though you would still probably have to connect at BKK at least).

    My gf and I are including Laos and Vietnam on our trip. We're especially excited about cruising Ha Long Bay, which is near Hanoi. There are also plenty of beaches in southern Vietnam. A friend of mine is from Nha Trang and says the beaches are lovely.
     
  8. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    Bali? They did have terrorist bombings, too, several years ago, but we went about a year later and it was quite nice. Malaysia supposedly has nice resorts, too, but I don't have any personal experience there. Maybe you could look into Guam and Saipan. It's a bit off the beaten path for US tourists (lots of Japanese, though), but I found it to be beautiful and interesting from a WW2 historical perspective. And the major chain hotels (we stayed at the Hyatts on both islands) are quite nice.

    I really wouldn't worry too much. We went to Thailand in March and it was beautiful. A week in Hua Hin and a week in Bangkok. On the way there, however, we ended up in a bit of trouble as our flight into NRT was diverted to an air base and then Osaka due to a natural disaster you may have heard about that just happened to strike about two hours prior to our scheduled landing. Things can happen no matter where you go... or in our case, no matter how you go there.
     
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  9. harvson3

    harvson3 Silver Member

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    Back-up ideas?

    Well, there was a bombing in Bali, a nerve gas attack in Tokyo years ago, separatist movements all over Indonesia, riots in Taipei and southern China, scams in Vietnam, acid throwing throughout the region.

    And that same Australian government warned its citizens to be cautious in Singapore, and to reconsider any travel to Indonesia at all.

    However,

    The odds that you'll be a victim of a terror attack are very, very, very, very small.

    You could just stay home. But, oh, wait, the US has among the highest homicide rates in the developed world.
     
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  10. yaychemistry

    yaychemistry Silver Member

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    How was Hua Hin? My parents were nice enough to give us points for the Sheraton Cha-Am, which I believe is pretty close to Hua Hin. We've got two nights there.

    From what I understand, the Hua Hin area is a vacation area for mostly Thai families --- thus, it's not a prime terror target full of US/Western tourists like Phuket, Bangkok, or even Chiang Mai. It might be worth looking at the less touristy areas of Thailand itself?
    -Just brain storming here... I've never actually been to SEA, but I've read lots while planning my upcoming trip.
     
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  11. Bluto
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    Bluto Silver Member

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    I think you only need a few days in Hong Kong. You might also want to spend a couple days in Macau if you are interested in seeing the new mega-resorts there to do some gambling. I am planning to go to HK later this year and then a short flight to Taiwan for several days. It's not like Bangkok but if you're looking for something in the region with worry-free travel, that's not a bad option.

    I am not sure you should be spending this much energy worrying about Thailand terrorist activity a year from now. Also, it seems that these terrorist threats pop up in Thailand now and then but not much has come of it. I personally regard NYC to be a higher level of risk. If you wouldn't avoid NYC then I don't know if you should be fretting so much about how to avoid Thailand. When I went to Phuket it was great and I am glad I did not miss it.
     
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  12. MSPeconomist
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    If you're concerned, be low key, not obviously American if possible, and avoid crowds, especially crowds of American tourists.

    Singapore is nearby and feels extremely safe and well organized.

    As others have said, major USA cities are dangerous.
     
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  13. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Good advice. Alternatively, if you chose to fly into HKG, there is nearby Sanya resort in the Hainan province of China, being hailed as soon-to-be China's response to Haiwai'i. While in the HKG area, Macau is right there and lots of fun for a day or two!
     
  14. Jaimito Cartero
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    Jaimito Cartero Silver Member

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    I would not worry about Thailand. I travel in Thailand, and many countries in Asia. There often seems to be alerts in half the countries I go to. Book tickets to where you want to go. If things get bad, then worry about changing them.

    I was Bangkok during the red shirt protests, and it was inconvenient, but nothing that scarred me for life.
     
  15. Toula
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    Toula Gold Member

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    Vietnam is an excellent backup. We have been a couple of times in the past 2 years and it is on our schedule to go to again. Fascinating country with so much to see and do.

    Park Hyatt Saigon is actually my favourite Hyatt. Fabulous staff, the food was some of the best I have ever had. Hoi An, Nha Trang, Hanoi, all places that are definitely worth going to see.
     
  16. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    I liked it. I didn't find a lot of opportunity for sightseeing there, but I was actually looking for a place to relax for a week, read, eat and swim. And that's what I got. There was plenty of sightseeing and exploring during out second week in Thailand (Bangkok and surrounding areas).

    Right, most people I tell about our Hua Hin trip go "Hua what?" and I admit I only learned about it on FT when I read a hotel review of the Hyatt Hua Hin and discovered that it was it only a nice property, but also a great bargain on points. When Hyatt then recategorized it last year, I quickly booked it :)
     
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  17. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I think it's not the OP who is concerned, but rather his travel companions.

    As for China - no experience beyond Hong Kong (3 days I think are enough) and Macau (day trip via high speed ferry was enough for me). But I read this trip report recently that gave me some ideas for a future trip.

    http://milepoint.com/forums/threads/buddhas-pandas-and-river-cruises-savys-china-adventure.23018/

    Now, China is a big country I think, so there are probably lots of other options.

    What are the constraints for the alternate destinations? Resort destination with beach? Marriott required?
     
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  18. cennas
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    cennas Gold Member

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    Just adding what HaveMilesWillTravel has written about Hua Hin. I went there about 3 years ago with my Thai friends, having previously heard very little about the place, turned out it was a nice, little beach town perfect for a laidback and relaxing break. According to my Thai friends, those who visit Hua Hin are mostly local families on weekend breaks from Bangkok although there were plenty of foreign tourists when I was there, mostly Scandinavians. Since the royal family keeps a palace here, the place is family-friendly and there is very little sleaze if any at all.

    The Sheraton is to the north of Hua Hin proper, if I'm not wrong it's about 15-20 minutes drive to the center, where there's a bustling night bazaar. Hua Hin itself is about 2.5 hours drive from Bangkok (if the traffic co-operates).
     
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  19. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    Thanks all. There is a Hyatt in Hua Hin that looks beautiful and reasonable. Good chance to book and use my final Diamond Suite upgrade before I lose status next month!
     
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  20. MSPeconomist
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    Folks, remember that some of these countries, including China, require advance visas for USA citizens. This can be an expensive pain, for example China requires that visa applications be delivered in person or by an expeditor service.
     
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  21. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    Definitely liked my week there.
     
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  22. yaychemistry

    yaychemistry Silver Member

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    Vietnam requires arranging a visa in advance as well, but can be done in as few as 4 or 5 days. You can send your passport to the vietnamese embassy (it was $80/per the fee). The website says allow 3-5 business days for processing + shipping time, but ours took less than 4 days including shipping to/from CT. They put a sticker inside your passport for the visa (or you can request a loose-leaf as well).

    You can also get a pre-approval letter through a vietnamese travel agency (there are plenty online, and most hotels offer this service too) for a varying fee (~$20-50), and then by presenting your letter your passport will be stamped on arrival - the stamping fee is $25 USD (cash only, and there are no ATMs in the airport that dispense USD). The turn around time that I've seen advertised is 3-5 business days as well, and they will fax or email the letter.

    We opted to get a sticker from the embassy, as there are fewer opportunities to screw up (e.g. forgetting the stamping fee, leaving the approval letter at home, etc).
     
  23. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Living in NYC, where there are consulates galore, it is possible to just go and stand in line and have the visa the same day (you can pay an agency that goes to stand in line for you). For China, you could request an expedited service, where you dropped the passport in the morning and picked it up after lunch. However, they recently discontinued same day service, citing increased requests and volume. Two-day is available, and since I intend to travel to China at least twice this year, I just went ahead and requested a multiple entry visa (lasts 12 months) in December, which they granted without questions asked.

    Although HKG is technically part of China, US passport holders do not need a visa to enter HKG.
     
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  24. Toula
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    Toula Gold Member

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    We've done both options for the Vietnam visa. Did the consulate route the first time because I was concerned about how legit the VOA was.

    Second time did the VOA and it was so quick and efficient, it's the method I will always use in the future. Completed the forms online, they emailed me back that day with some questions, gave me the Paypal account for payment and within a couple of days we had our letter via email. It took no longer than 10 minutes to stand in line and collect our visa when we did arrive in Saigon. The company we used was

    http://visa4vietnam.com/
     
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  25. MSPeconomist
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    True, but not everyone lives in NYC.
     
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