My Time in Southeast Asia: From Thailand to Vietnam by Road, Train, and Boat

Siem Reap Cambodia Travel Guide

My Time in Southeast Asia: A how-to guide for planning your travel itinerary!

One of the most complex beasts out there has to be planning a travel itinerary. Even though I can literally tell you all my secrets and share my Southeast Asia Travel tips with you, there’s simply no “perfect” way to get the job done.

Sunrise in Vietnam
Sunrise in Vietnam

We all want to see different sites and do certain things while we’re traveling. I personally don’t have a secret formula for planning an itinerary, but I can tell you that my most daunting (yet rewarding) one has to go to that time I visited Southeast Asia.

Halong Bay Vietnam
Halong Bay Vietnam

Here’s My Number One Secret:

If you’re traveling to Southeast Asia and you’re planning on sticking with your itinerary – down to the T – just know that it will eventually let you down a little. The reason for this is because we want to see this, and that, ooooh and we definitely want to get around to seeing that! Seeing all of those things requires A LOT of time, and since South East Asia is so huge, you’re going to have to be a master planner to squeeze everything in. You’ll inevitably have to cut a few things out, which is essentially what will get you feeling a little blue.

And Then There’s Secret Number Two:

Backpack. As far as you can, for as long as you can. This is one of the cheapest ways to see Southeast Asia, and it also ensures that you’re put in touch with the transportation you’ll use to get from one destination to the next, whether that’s by road, train, or boat.

Ancient Buddha Statue in Bangkok
Ancient Buddha Statue in Bangkok

My Southeast Asia Travel Itinerary

I had 2 months to explore all of Southeast Asia, sometimes I wish I had a year, but still, I made the best of my time there, and here’s how…

2 months seemed like enough time for me to explore the 4 mainland countries of SE Asia, which comprises of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. They call this the ‘Banana Pancake’ backpacker’s route.

Since Bangkok offered me the cheapest (and biggest variety) of flight connections, this is where I landed in South East Asia. I spent a few days exploring the area by taxi and foot, but then it was time to hop on the train and head up to Chiang Mai. I also got on the ferry here to go see Pai and the popular Mae Hong Song loop, after which I headed to Chiang Rai, which lies close to the Laotian border.

Waterfalls in Luang Prabang - Southeast Asia
Waterfalls in Luang Prabang – Southeast Asia

From Laos, I got on a slow boat tour from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. I’m pretty sure you can get there a little faster if you take the bus route, but I always prefer the more scenic adventures. My time in Laos came to an end after two weeks, after which I went off to explore Vietnam in all its glory.

Vendor in Hanoi
Vendor in Hanoi

I heard about a bus tour that runs from Laos to Northern Vietnam, but that takes 30 odd hours, so I decided to take the plane from Vientiane to Hanoi just to speed things up a bit. This ensured that I got to see some amazing sites in northern Vietnam such as Ha Long Bay!

Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

As I traveled through Vietnam with the bus, I made a pit stop at Hoi An. Around Ho Chi Minh City I got to embark on a few Mekong delta tours, which I opted to do solo because the commercial tours looked too crowded and overrated to me.

Siem Reap Cambodia
Siem Reap Cambodia

From Vietnam it was time for me to see the great attractions such as Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, located in Cambodia near the Vietnamese border. I kicked back on the beach at Sihanoukville for a few days while I was in the area before I made my way back to Thailand. This is when I truly got to spend the rest of my “off time” just relaxing on the white beaches and soaking up the sun!

Travel Tips for Seeing South East Asia

  • South East Asia is a country that’s best explored by bus, unless of course you have a bottomless budget and you don’t want to go the cheapest route.
  • Trains are a little more expensive to get you from Point A to Point B, but they’re comfortable and usually a little more reliable.
  • If you’re okay with haggling and the idea of paying a little more than you would have for public transport, go ahead and make use of the taxis and tuk-tuk rides available all over SE Asia.
  • Air Asia and Tiger Airways will allow you to fly from one region to the next, with the cheapest possible fair prices as well.
  • Trains are unreliable anywhere outside of Thailand and the route from Singapore to Bangkok. Don’t waste your time or money with trying to go by train if you have other options.

Final Thoughts

While I’m not keen on the idea of newbies visiting southern Thailand on their first ever Southeast Asia adventure, it’s not a deal breaker if you do end up spending a lot of time here. The truth is this: adventure lies tucked away in the more remote destinations such as Phy Quoc, the southwest of Cambodia, Vietnam and Bohoh, not just in the islands of southern Thailand.

Exploring Siem Reap - Southeast Asia
Exploring Siem Reap – Southeast Asia

I hope that you have enjoyed reading through this post and that a glimpse of my travel itinerary has helped you set some clear and definitive goals for getting around Southeast Asia while you’re there!

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