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Southeast Asia vs. South America

Albuquerque, New...
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Southeast Asia vs. South America

I am planning a regional or mini-RTW backpacking trip starting this Dec/Jan for 3 – 6 months, and have a budget 15k – 20k USD. This will be my first long trip as it has always been hard to get away from work for more than 3 or 4 weeks at a time in the past. I know this topic has probably come up many times before, but this has been an incredibly difficult decision for me, so I thought I would ask for some insight into my travel plans.

I have been to Thailand once, which I loved, so I am considering going to SEA to travel Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Burma, with possible stops in Japan, Indonesia, and/or the Philippines. I would also go to Nepal to trek to Everest Base Camp (possibly with some time in India), then a few weeks in Germany on the way back to visit some friends. Things I really want to do in this region are island hop, scuba dive, go caving, Angkor Wat, trek, EBC, and motorbike through Laos

The other option I am looking at is SA, mainly from Peru to Argentina. With this trip I was considering either starting in San Diego, and go overland through Baja/Copper Canyon, and either fly from the north of Mexico or Mexico City to Nicaragua or Costa Rice, or just start in Southern Central America skipping Mexico. Either way I want to sail through the San Blas Islands from Panama to Colombia. From Colombia I would probably then fly to Peru. With this trip I would want to do some Spanish Immersion Classes, Machu Picchu, sail from Panama to Colombia, Salar de Uyuni, mines at Potosi, mountain climbing, and partying in Buenos Aires.

I am 37 and I found the SEA backpacker scene to be a little young for me, and have heard the SA scene is a bit older, but I still enjoyed myself; I just found places like Koh Lanta, which was a week of heaven more my pace, than say full moon parties on Koh Phangan. I like to party, I just prefer clubs (I am a big electronic dance music fan), lounges, or beach bars (420 friendly) over buckets. I really enjoyed the cultural experience in SEA, but not sure really sure what to expect from SA (I grew up in Los Angeles so I am very familiar with Mexican culture). Except for Everest, I am guessing the adventure sports in SA would be better, but I would miss out on the tropical/island hoping for the most part.

My biggest concern with SA is safety, if I am constantly worried about getting mugged, having everything stolen, or do not feel safe getting into a taxi, I will have a hard time enjoying myself. Otherwise the I think the SA trip would be more varied, and I really want to learn Spanish, but I already know I love SEA and want to see more. Man this is a tough decision, but I guess it is a good one to have, so I can’t complain!

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Las Vegas, Nevada
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1. Re: Southeast Asia vs. South America

Here's my take. You sound like you think you should go to South America out of a sense of duty. You sound like you heart says Southeast Asia (editoral aside: "says"? more like "screams"), but you list logical reasons for and against South America.

I love South America. If it were my trip, choosing South America is the proverbial no-brainer. But it's not my trip. And if the ONLY negative thing you can proffer against Southeast Asia is that the backpacker scene is a little young, well, in a few years, when you list your failure to make a return backpacking trip to Southeast Asia among your regrets, you'll be older and the backpacking crowd there will still be the same age. Since a time machine isn't an available option, go now.

2. Re: Southeast Asia vs. South America

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