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Southeast Asia from Singapore - Itinerary & Getting Around

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Newport Beach, CA
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Southeast Asia from Singapore - Itinerary & Getting Around

I was just informed by my husband that his company is sending him to Singapore for a day or two of business. We've decided to take this opportunity to stretch the trip out into our first trip to Southeast Asia.

To give you a little background, we our late 20's early 30's, well traveled, and adventurous. We have never been all over North America, a little of South America, and Europe but never Asia.

It looks like we will have 8 full days (10 days total but removing 2 of those for travel). 2 of those are committed to Singapore for business but we should have time to tourist around there a bit too.

After looking into it we are interested in trying to see a little of Malaysia and Thailand if possible. Time is our enemy so I want to pick our stops well.

I know these are some common stops on the south to north route:


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Penang, Malaysia

Phuket, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

If we can dedicate 2-3 days to 3-4 of those stops what would you recommend most (and why).

Singapore and Bangkok are likely set in stone as it looks like we do best on airfaire flying in one and out the other since they are the main international hubs in the area.

Alternatively, if it just seems like too much to get from Singapore to Bangkok in that amount of time I am open to just doing r/t from US to Singapore and staying in and around Singapore, Malaysia or maybe Bali or Indonesia (we are scuba divers) if there is enough to do and see. We are unlikely to get back to SE Asia soon so I want to see as much as we can but not at the risk of feeling over traveled for our 8 full days we are there.

Of the others what do you recommend. Also, whenever I have traveled in Europe I have always done train travel to see more of the landscape, etc. Also it is very efficient and easy in Europe. How is it in SE Asia? I also read a lot about the discount air carriers like Air Asia, etc. I am open to either options. Just really looking to maximize our experience in an unfortunately short period of time.

Advice, tips, critiques of my thoughts, etc all encouraged. Thanks for your help!

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1. Re: Southeast Asia from Singapore - Itinerary & Getting Around

hi norlanderk, you are facing a hard choice: there are so many things to see and to do in South East Asia and you have so few time...

Additionally to Singapore you may consider doing only either Bangkok or KL: doing only 2 major cities would save you a few days you can may spent somewhere else. In Singapore you will how multicultural the Lion city is and also it is heaven for food. Bangkok is somehow overwhelming with its palaces and temples, and it is so great cruising on a boat on the Chao Phraya river and the klongs. You will also be able to indulge yourself with massage sessions as they are very affordable. Thai food is so good and affordable as well. Singapore and Bangkok are 2 major cities but so different and so unique...

Penang is great for food and Georgetown is an Unesco World Heritage city so great to visit!

Never done Cameron Highlands yet but it is on my to do list :)

For Phuket, check that you go there during the right season...

As additional option you may considering squeezing 3 days in Siem Reap to visit the Angkor Temples. Really worth the visit IMHO...

Kuala Lumpur...
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2. Re: Southeast Asia from Singapore - Itinerary & Getting Around

With only 8 days, you'll be on the road a whole lot if you're trying to see all those places. I'd select a max of 3.

Of course not knowing the type of person you are, and what your interests are, it's difficult to make concrete suggestions but here goes:

For someone who's never been to this part of the world, what you'll probably need is a "snapshot" of the main tourist areas.

KL and Bangkok are, to a certain extent, similar .... chaotic, mad traffic with quite a few markets. Both are fascinating cities in their own right.

Cameron Highlands is a pain to get to ... you'll either have to self-drive (not for the faint-hearted!) from KL or take the bus. Not worth the hassle.

Penang's a very interesting cultural UNESCO World Heritage site with great food. Forget the beach .... one of the murkiest waters in Peninsula Malaysia.

Phuket has fab beaches .... the soft sandy type with swaying palms. Boozing and food are cheap. Accommo ranges from 6 star to 1 star. High season's 1 Nov to 30 April.

Yes, there's an LCC called Air Asia. You could also check out Fireflyz.com ... the LCC arm of Malaysia Airlines.

So you could do this: fly Singapore to Penang (either Air Asia or Fireflyz), spend 2 nights. Then fly Penang to Phuket (Fireflyz), 2 to 3 nights. Finally fly Phuket to Bangkok (Air Asia). With this loose itinerary, you wouldn't be hopping on and off planes.

If ancient temple ruins are your thing, you could do what huow suggested ... throw in Angkor. Fly BKK/REP on Air Asia.

And if you're entralled by the little you've seen, come back for more!

Singapore, Singapore
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3. Re: Southeast Asia from Singapore - Itinerary & Getting Around

U may want to check with any local travel agents here who may be able to quote you any available special round trip airfares that cover all the Asean Countries as well

Cambridge, United...
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4. Re: Southeast Asia from Singapore - Itinerary & Getting Around

Hmm, with airfare you'd do best going into and out of one hub, rather than two. Arrange to do the Singapore section at the end on the way back - to be fair I could fill the whole time you have in Singapore, and that would be my recommendation if you are happy with exploring one place. Singapore is a great gateway to the east and if you like it and enjoy it then you can always arrange a dedicated holiday to do the other countries - and for them the same holds true, the 3-4days is a squeeze.

The reason being 2-3 days tourism in Singapore is really barely going to get you any more than a taste and you really want to carefully plan your options to get the best taste and an idea of what you are missing in case you want to come back.

If you could stretch it to 3-4days you will get a lot more out of it, although you still sell the country short - again thats true for the other two countries - for the time you mention if you must do multicentre I'd probably suggest you settle on only two of the countries.

One option is a whistle stop tour of Malaysia doing Penang and the Cameron Highlands in a few days and then back to SIngapore is a reasonable idea.

If Malaysia attracts you might consider going east - fly to Kuching and do stuff in Borneo? THere are some fairly standard 3-4day trips doing that, and then you can return to SIngapore for that leg and the return flight.

Thailand is an entire trip on its own, ranging from the beaches on the islands to the bustle of Bangkok, to the more poignant trips down the River Kwai and Hellfire Pass - thats not even considering the northh of the country either. Again an option if heading that way is to divert slightly and do Angkor Wat...plenty of travel agents do it and its not a World Heritage site for nothing...

Cheap air flights are easy to come by, and if you are doing one country actually tacking them onto the flight into Singapore (assuing you fly SIA which I recommend) is pretty cheap and easy either with SIA itself or its SilkAir subsidiary - certainly not much more than doing a separate budget flight last time I looked - plus its all with one airline, and it would be full service so no issues if flights go down, and they are less likely to cancel/postpone etc.

Singapore, Singapore
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5. Re: Southeast Asia from Singapore - Itinerary & Getting Around

hi, you may plan your route using budget carriers as SEA don't have high speed train to connect each other like in Europe . To save time on travelling, you shd travel by flight .

You may consider this :

Spore to Siem reap (angkorwat) by jetstar, spend 2 nights

Siem reap to Bangkok by bangkok airways, spend 2 nights

Bangkok to Penang by air asia, spend 2 nights

Penang to Medan (dive) by air asia, spend 2/3 nights

Medan back to spore by jetstar .




Hotels booking you may refer to following sites :



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6. Re: Southeast Asia from Singapore - Itinerary & Getting Around

Important question: When are you coming to SEA? You do have rainy seasons, e.g. Phuket is supposed to be the rainy season now. I know someone who went there in July and it rained every day.

And as for diving, I don't dive, but is there a certain amount of time you have to wait before diving after flying?

I would recommend Bali. You have temples - Hindu temples, but Bali's hindusim is quite different from the hindusim in India.

You also have beaches - you can go diving at Menjangan Island.

You have rice fields, you can see village life - and there are quite a lot of options for accommodation.

You can also have shopping and go for spa treatments.

I do like all the other options, but you do have to fly to quite a bit of places to see the toehr stuff. Phuket - it's known for the water and beaches (though beaches on the islands off Phuket are much nicer than Phuket itself)

Angkor - you have the temples, but no beach.

Penang - UNESCO Heritage Site. I haven't been there recently, so can't really comment on that.

BKK - mainly shopping, massages, temples, see a different side of Asia...no beaches.

So what do you really want/like? :-)

I feel trains are OK in the occidental world, but you don't have much time and the trains in Asia are very different.

If diving is high on your list, why don't you try Sipadan (east Malaysia, not Peninsula Malaysia)? I haven't been there - it's on my list but I don't dive though - and friends who have dived all around the world say it is really the best.

I know you were planning on Thailand and Malaysia.

I do know how you feel since it's your first time in Asia. I would honestly say skip a bit city and head for something different from Singapore. Singapore is a great start to SEA, esp for un-adventurous people/people who have never been out of their country/older folk, etc (it's known as the Switzerland of the east) - which you are obviously not, so I would say go for something different.

However, if you do decide to head to Malaysia and Thailand, they are still very nice and the options listed above are good too. Just check if it's rainy season - there are sometimes landslides en route to Cameron Highlands.

I hope this helps. What a happy problem you have on your hands! ;-)

Newport Beach, CA
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7. Re: Southeast Asia from Singapore - Itinerary & Getting Around

Wow! Thanks for all the quick and detailed replies.

For the most part it seems commuter flights are the way to go in SE Asia according to all your posts. Great! Already a big help.

With just 8 days we have decided to stick to 3 cities max. We are going to be flying in and out of Singapore now. This trip is coming up fast...I mean literally next week fast so I am amped to get our itinerary set.

I did check and it appears it is the rainy season in Phuket. It sounds like in all your experiences this would not be a good time to visit there? I guess we can always save Thailand for another trip and maybe focus more on Singapore itself and Malaysia? Although I like the Bali suggestion as well.

With all this great info you all have given me in mind....I am thinking either we do:

A) Singapore and Bali or...

B) Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang or...

C) Singapore, Penang, Phuket (if you think we can get away with a visit now while it is rainy season...we have traveled to Mexico and the Caribbean during the rainy season and don't mind half a day or rain or so but I am not sure what "rainy season" means in SE Asia).

As you can tell with us leaning towards Bali and Phuket we are beach and activity lovers. However, we do like taking in some of the culture and seeing the sites so if it is a bad time of year for beaches then we are open to a more cultural and food centered trip.

Thanks again for all the feedback...hope these extra details help!

8. Re: Southeast Asia from Singapore - Itinerary & Getting Around

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