Southeast Asia Backpacking Route 3 Months

By: Parry Loeffler

The South East Asian region of the world - Thailand,
Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos - has become increasingly popular as a destination for those travelers seeking a more adventurous
holiday.

Southeast Asia Backpacking Route 3 Months

  • 1) Start With Bangkok
    Bangkok is rich with markets, temples, and plenty of fabulous food. Around Bangkok, there are several options for some side trips which allow you to get your feet wet. Kanchanaburi is a few hours away and is the location of the infamous bridge over the River Kwai and the Death Railway, the Erewan National Park, and the Three Pagodas Pass near the Myanmar border. If you are not going to the southern islands, but wouldn’t mind checking out the beach scene, you could also take a few days and visit Ko Samet or Ko Chang (less expensive) to get a taste of island life. Both are only a few hours from Bangkok by bus.
  • 2) Next Proceed to Chiang Mai.
    I like the train and it can be taken overnight, for those low on time, or during the day for those that wish to see some of the beautiful countryside. Chiang Mai is much less hectic than Bangkok, has some opportunities for great sight seeing, and also has a great cooking school! If you want to check out some smaller towns in Thailand, you can do that from Chiang Mai with a little add-on side trip. It’s a loop that goes by public bus to the wonderful village of Pai which is set up in the misty valleys that are laden with lush rice paddies, and then continues by bus or boat to Mae Hong Son, then by bus back to Chiang Mai.

    From Chiang Mai, continue your journey north to Chiang Rai and onwards to Chiang Khong, which is the jumping point into your second country, Laos.
  • Laos
    Cross the Mekong River with a short boat ride and you will enter Laos on the opposite bank at Huay Xai. From there you immediately continue on to Luang Prabang by slow boat or fast boat, making an optional overnight stay in the rustic village of Pacbeng.


After spending a few days in Luang Prabang you could do a side
trip up north, exploring the small northern villages of Laos for
a few days, or just head down to the chilled-out town of Vang
Vieng by bus or air. The road route to Vang Vieng is sometimes
the target of bandits, so be sure to check what recent activity
has been like, and then make your decision - but the safety
record of air travel may not be much more inspiring!

Vang Vieng is full of fun kayaking, biking and caving
opportunities, so you’ll want to plan for a few days there before
moving on to the capital city of Vientiane. It doesn’t seem too
exciting for a capital city, so I wouldn’t plan to spend too much
time there, other than to visit the strange, but interesting
Buddha Park.

Take the bus from Vientiane to Hanoi via the mountains and the
Cau Treo border crossing into Vietnam. Hanoi is a very
interesting place with lots to do and also offers a few
interesting side trips: Sapa is a beautiful village set in the
mountains, and Halong Bay, a Unesco World Heritage site, offers
amazing views of thousands of mountainous karsts jutting up from
the ocean waters.

In Hanoi, you can buy an “Open Tour” bus ticket that gets you all
the way south to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). It has a standard set of
stops, but allows you to purchase add-ons for a few dollars each,
two of which I highly recommend being Ninh Binh and Dalat. From Hanoi, the first stop will indeed be Ninh Binh. Not a
particularly touristy town, but the launching point to visit the
spectacular Tam Coc park and/or the Cuc Phuong National Park.

From Ninh Binh, move to Hue for a day or two, then on to Hoi An
to check out the amazing tailors and beaches, then to Nha Trang
(a partying beach town that can be skipped if you wish), and then
on to your second add-on which is the mountain town of Dalat.
From Dalat, you can do another addon stop in Mui Ne which is very quiet and good if you just want to relax and maybe poke around the local market a little bit.

The last stop in Vietnam will be Ho Chi Minh which offers plenty
to see and do including a massage at the Vietnamese Traditional
Medicine Institute for a couple of dollars. From there, you can
cross into Cambodia in a couple ways. The first is a bus ride
through some beautiful country to Phnom Penh, and the second is a boat tour through the Mekong Delta which also deposits you in
Phnom Penh. Be warned though: the roads in Cambodia are dirt and very slow going, but the scenery is incredible if your backside
can take it.

Phnom Penh gets mixed reviews but does have a couple of must
visits before you continue: the Killing Fields and S-21. When you
do move on, you again have the choice of bus or boat up to Siem
Riep. I prefer the bus because of the fantastic views and the insight into the lives of the country folk - trust me, you’ll never forget it.

After spending some time gawking at the awesome ruins of Angkor Wat at Siem Riep, you can fly or bus it back to Bangkok, once again back where you started! Again, the bus is harsh, but worth it to see Poipet (I’ll say it again: not to stay, but to see) and the night-and-day change visible in a matter of a few meters when you cross from the poverty of Cambodia into developing Thailand.

There you have it. That route can be done in 3 months if you
don’t choose every side trip mentioned (to do it all you’ll want
to add another couple of weeks). If you work it out, you’ll find
you can spend a few nights in each place, but don't make the
mistake of creating some sort of concrete itinerary. Just be
aware of your time, because you will want to spend lots of time
in some places, while spending little in others and you really
won’t know which until you get there. Be flexible within reason,
and remember: it’s all about having fun!

Once back in Bangkok, you now have the option to work your way
south to the islands, and perhaps, onward to other countries like
Malaysia and Indonesia, or perhaps they will have to wait until
your next trip, and yes, you will want to come back.

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