China-Malasiya-Vietnam-China: itinerary and advice

The idea of this trip appeared in September 2013, when constantly monitoring tickets for winter holidays anywhere, we came across the sale of China Southern and bought round trip tickets Moscow – Guangzhou – Moscow for 471$ each. But between September and the trip itself (in January) too many things happened. We overtravelled in the US, Nastya had appendicitis surgery less than a month before the trip – these and other small troubles made us think of returning the tickets (loosing 1/3 of their price only although we bought them on a sale). But we finally decided to go, and made Chinese visa last moment. What we did not consider is that our trip coincided with Chinese New Year which implies multiple migrations in this region and high prices for the tickets. That is why instead of the initial route China – Vietnam – Cambodia – Laos, we had to change the choice of the countries to Vietnam and Malaysia: tickets to and from them cost less.
Map of the route (clickable):

That is how our final itinerary looked like:

Vitebsk – Moscow – Guangzhou – Shenzhen – Kuala Lumpur –Taman Negara – Kuala Lumpur – Langkawi – Penang – Kuala Lumpur – Ho Chi Min – Buon Ma Thuot – Da Lat – Da Nang – Hoi An – Hue – Ha Noi – Nanning – Guangzhou – Moscow – Saint-Petersburg – Tallinn

The trip took 27 days.

Day-to-day plan of the route

  1. Moscow – Guangzhou
  2. Guangzhou
  3. Guangzhou
  4. Guangzhou – Shenzhen (by train), same evening to Kuala Lumpur by plane
  5. Kuala Lumpur – Taman Negara (by bus)
  6. Taman Negara
  7. Taman Negara – Jerantut – Kuala Lumpur (by bus), in the evening to Langkawi by plane
  8. Langkawi
  9. Langkawi
  10. Langkawi – Penang by ferry
  11. Penang, evening flight to Kuala Lumpur
  12. Kuala Lumpur, evening flight to Ho Chi Min
  13. Ho Chi Min
  14. In the morning plane from Ho Chi Min to Buon Ma Thuot
  15. Buon Ma Thuot and around
  16. Buon Ma Thuot – Da lat by bus
  17. Da Lat
  18. Da Lat – Nha Trang, evening train to Da Nang
  19. Da Nang and surroundings
  20. Da Nang and Hoi An
  21. Da Nang, evening bus to Hue
  22. Hue, evening flight to Ha Noi
  23. Ha Noi
  24. Ha Noi
  25. Ha Noi – Nanning by bus, Nanning – Guangzhou by night train
  26. Guangzhou
  27. Guangzhou – Moscow

Tickets we bought in advance

Shenzhen – Kuala Lumpur (Shenzhen is 1,5 hours and 10 euros away from Guangzhou. While the flights from Shenzhen are much cheaper!), 70$ each

Kuala Lumpur – Langkawi 23$

Langkawi – Penang by ferry 20$

Penang – Kuala Lumpur 15$

All the airtickets are from Airasia. Between them there were some bus trips

Kuala-Lumpur – Ho Chi Min 90$:(

Ho Chi Min – Buon Ma Thuot 30$

Hue – Ha Noi 40$

Places we liked most

Langkawi, Buon Ma Thuot and Daklak province, Taman Negara, Ho Chi Min, Da Lat and Da Nang

Places we did not like that much

Nha Trang is terribly touristic

Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An are touristic and expensive

Penang – dirty, touristic, spoilt as formerly colonized city

Main recommendations

For Vietnam:

  • Don’t grudge money for plane tickets. They are usually cheap (if it is not New Year), while Vietnamese buses are terrible. First, Vietnam is huge, and distances are long. Second, buses and roads are far from being good. Third and the most interesting, Vietnamese people vomit in the buses. Altogether. Loudly, with multiple sounds and smell, just next to you (they see nothing embarrassing in that). 3-4 hours of such trips are tolerable, but more than that is a torture. Think of buying airtickets.
  • Renting a motorbike is a good way for moving around, bring a driving license with you.
  • Learn Vietnamese words for rice (com), as well as for different kind of meets, and the word “vegetarian” if needed. Otherwise you risk to be hungry. Further it will go easier.  Moreover, if you learn the names for the dishes you would like to try, you will definitely save money: in Russian and English menus the prices are twice (and more) higher. Keep it in mind, and ask for Vietnamese menu for comparison.

For China

  • Learn Chinese. That is a joke, of course. But you cannot imagine now that there will be a moment when you remember this joke looking for the toilet in Chinese city where nobody understands you. And when you try to use gestures and show what you need they will be turning away from you embarrassed. Learn the most essential words or have a phrase-book with you.
  • Ask young people if you need to ask. If the question is very simple, ask schoolkids in their teens, they learn it at school and may be have not forgotten yet.
  • Buying the railway tickets, choose the third upper row. There is plenty of space there, they are easy to climb, and nobody will disturb you.

 For Malaysia

  • If compared to China and Vietnam you can relax: several years ago they had a prime-minister who forced Malaysians to learn English. Now everyone can speak it.
  • It is a Muslim country, you should wear appropriate clothes.

For all three countries

  • Buy medical insurance. These are the countries, where Westerners are sometimes seen as a source of money, by doctors as well. When Victor had a rash, in English-speaking Ho Chi Min medical center, they wanted 60$ for the doctor appointment. Meanwhile, doctor appointment is twice cheaper e. g. in Estonia and the average salary in Ho Chi Min is 100$.
  • No matter, how trivial it is: wash your hands. Buy a small spirit disinfection liquid bottle in pharmacy before your trip.
  • Their food will surprise you every day. Just relax and enjoy. Beans with corn and ice-cream? Yes! Chicken heads? Well… Open yourself to the new impressions!
  • Relax! Before the trip we read so many terrible things about these countries, but they appeared to be great. If you believe all terrifying reviews on them you find on the internet, you will get crazy. There are bad people everywhere. Just keep an eye on your pockets, better buy secret wallets (they are extremely cheap at

Soon we will start writing about this trip in details, not too long to wait!

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