So you're planning a trip and you're wondering how far you'll get South East Asia within four to six months? This is my list of places I visited in four months without rushing from one place to another using local transportation when possible and flights when needed, including Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines and a little bit of Vietnam. It can easily be stretched to six months by staying longer at a few great places or by adding a few.
I didn't include much information about budget, since there are great posts about it already.
Thailand (24 Days)
Bangkok (3 days)
You'll probably start in Bangkok as many international flights go there. It has quickly become my favourite city in Asia and is a great place to get started. Have your first Thai Massage, lie in Lumpini Park and drink your Jet leg away.
Train + Boat to Koh Tao
Koh Tao: Get Scuba certified (10 days)
If you haven't done your Scuba certification yet, you might want to think about starting your trip with it.
The course is fun, you'll meet great people and Koh Tao is simply adorable. I ended up staying on the island for almost two weeks of diving, dancing and drinking and driving around on a scooter (not in that order).
I did my Padi and stayed with Sairee Cottage (loved them!)
Boat + Bus + Boat to Tonsay
Railay / Tonsay Beach: relax and try rock climbing (4 days)
Tonsay is a dream for rock climbers, as it's located right in between massive cliffs. Railay can be reached by climbing over a smaller cliff (seriously) or by walking through the jungle. Railay is kinda touristy, but offers a few nice restaurants and shops. Tonsay is much quieter and hippie-esque, there even is some Street Art.
Since I was sick while staying there, I didn't really do much, but I'd love to go back to try mountain climbing and to kayak around the cliffs.
Boat to Aonang
Aonang: explore Krabi (3 days)
Aonang itself isn't that exciting, but it's a great place to explore the surrounding area and to visit Maya bay and Koh Phi Phi.
Bus + Boat to Koh Lipe
Koh Lipe: beach beach beach (4 days)
I loved Koh Lipe. It's tiny, the beach is perfect and there aren't many people. I spent my days swimming, napping and doing Yoga. That's my kind of island.
Boat + Bus to Penang
Malaysia (8 days)
Penang: Street art everywhere (3 days)
After all this island time, I was worried about going back to a real city. Penang turned out to be exactly the right place for that. I spent my days strolling around, looking for street art and eating Indian-style street food.
Bus to Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur: back to city life (5 days)
After travelling pretty quickly in between Thailand and Malaysia, I needed a break. Although Kuala Lumpur isn't really the place for that, I had a brilliant time there, exploring the city and celebrating my birthday with new friends.
What I missed: Perhentian Islands
I've heard amazing things about these islands and they seem to be a diver's paradise. I'll have to come back to Malaysia for that.
Flight to Yangon
Myanmar (9 days - could have easily done more)
Yangon: Fall in love with the people (2 Days)
I loved Yangon. True, it's not the prettiest city, but the people are great and it's the perfect place to ease into Myanmar. Take a train and ride around the city! You'll make friends and see a big part of the city without having to move at all.
Bus to Bagan
Bagan: Temples Temples Temples (3 days)
Bagan is simply magical and can't be skipped when in Myanmar. I felt pretty templed out after two days, but simply riding around in between the temples on electrical scooters in hilarious. We also took a tour to a temple on a mountain, which was pretty and exhausting.
Bus to Inle Lake
Inle lake: spend your days on a boat (2 Days)
Another spot, that can't be missed. The lake is massive, there are villages built onto it, you can take a boat, cycle around it and even do a wine tasting.
Bus to Mandalay
Mandalay: Back to city life (2 days)
The city has a horrible reputation, so I decided to love it. It's kind of stressful as there is a lot of traffic, but the surrounding areas are great. Again: Amazing food.
Flight to Chiang Mai
Back to Thailand (5 days)
Chiang Mai: bathe an elephant
Chiang Mai is a great city to relax, take a Thai Massage course or – if you are working on the road – finally get some work done with a great internet connection and tons of hipster cafés. I took
a Thai Massage course, jumped off cliffs and visited the Elephant Nature Park, a
rescue centre for elephants, where you can volunteer and visit to help.
Some other parks offer riding on elephants, please don't do that.
Since I visited Tbex Bangkok, I went back to Bangkok after Chiang Mai, which I'll leave out here, as it simply doesn't make sense.
What I missed: Take a boat to Laos (2 days)
Laos (11 days)
Vientiane: Skip if you can (I stayed for 3 days)
To be honest, I wasn't too excited about Vientiane. It's small but still has a lot of traffic and I didn't find much to do, except for checking out the Putaxai Monument (which was pretty cool). You'll probably go through Vientiane while travelling through Laos, but I wouldn't stay longer than two days.
Bus to Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng: Tubing and drinking
Well, Vang Vieng is special. When people tell you that tubing is over and that it's all outdoorsy now: don't believe them. Yes, you can also kayak along the river, but there will still be hordes of drunk Australians, all wearing the same t-shirt you'll see all over Asia because one bar gives them away if you buy two drinks at once.
If you go, you'll have to join the fun.
Bus to Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang: Pure Bliss (5 Days)
After being not too excited about Laos, I was SO happy to arrive in Luang Prabang. This small town, which is mainly built from french colonial style buildings had my heart within minutes with its vegetarian street food, french-lao cuisine and smiling people.
I could have stayed much longer.
Flight to Hanoi
Vietnam (3 days)
Hanoi: eat eat eat (3 days)
I changed my plans and skipped Vietnam altogether. I'll might give it another chance one day.
Flight to Puerto Princesa
Philippines (29 days)
Puerto Princesa: Snorkel around tiny islands (3 days)
Ok, Puerto Princesa isn't the most beautiful town you'll find in the Philippines, but it's a great starting point to explore the surrounding beaches, for snorkelling and to visit the underground river. Also, from there you can take your bus to el Nido.
Bus to El Nido
El Nido: rent a boat and visit uninhabited islands (4 days)
I've heard mixed reviews about El Nido, as it has become rather touristy. I still had an amazing time at stunning beaches, diving and driving around on several boats.
As pretty much everyone you'll meet in Puerto Princesa will be going to El Nido afterwards, you'll probably already have friends before you even arrive (that's how it worked for me).
Boat to Coron
Coron: Go wreck diving (3 days)
I've heard scary stories about the boat to Coron and was surprised to find a nice and shiny boat, that even had wifi. Apparently, the boats are too small for bigger waves, but as I was travelling on a sunny day, it was just fine.
Coron itself is stunning and you'll HAVE to visit the surrounding tiny islands for diving and snorkelling.
Bulalacao: Chill on a private island (4 days)
This private island probably won't fit in everybody's budget, that's why I was super excited having been invited there.
I spend four days in awe about the food, the service and the wreck diving.
Speedboat + flight to Bohol
Bohol: Tarsiers and Chocolate Mountains (1 day)
I only had half a day in Bohol, which I used to visit the tarsiers and the chocolate mountains.
Well, the tarsiers were all asleep and I simply wasn't too excited about the mountains. I'm happy that I went, but would't try to squeeze it in, if you don't have the time.
Boat to Camiguin
Camiguin: Snorkel a sunken graveyard (4 days)
I met my friend Paul on Camiguin and we had the best time driving around on our motorcycles, being dropped off on tiny islands, snorkelling a sunken graveyard and hiking volcanoes.
Camiguin is much less touristy than the places I went before and I absolutely loved it. Highly recommended!
Flight to Cebu, Bus to Moalboal
Moalboal: Dive with a swarm of sardines (4 days)
Moalboal is a great place for diving with a sardine swarm, that for some reason just won't leave. You can simply walk in from the beach and either see it snorkelling or diving.
I loved the experience and overall had a great time in Moalboal, I just simply wouldn't go if you're not a diver, there isn't much else to do.
Where to stay: Moalboal Backpacker Lounge
Bus to Cebu, flight to Siargao
Well, this didn't work out. My flight had to turn around due to the weather. I would have loved to visit and definitely will have to come back to see Siargao.
Instead: Bus + Boat to Malapascua
Malapascua: Dive with tresher sharks and do yoga (8 days)
With a week to spare until my flight, I decided to go to Malapascua, as I had heard about the tresher sharks, that you can dive with there.
I loved this island, as it is so peaceful (no streets, just sand) and you can easily take a walk around it.
After my second day, I had my daily routine of walking around the island, taking a nap at one of the beaches in the middle and then either diving (which was great and the sharks weren't scary at all) or taking a yoga class at Buena Vida (also great).
I could have stayed much longer, but my visa was about to expire, so I had to head back towards Cebu.
Where to stay: Buena Vida (I only went there for yoga and the spa, but I'd definitely have stayed there if it had been in my budget)
Boat + Bus to Cebu, flight to Manila
Manila: Visit a village on a cemetery (3 days)
I had heard horrible things about Manila and was surprised to find a beautiful city with lots of great history.
I visited people living in a graveyard, ate great street food and explored the old city.
flight to Siem Reap
Cambodia (27 days)
Siem reap: Angkor wat, Obviously (4 days)
Some things are touristy for a reason and Angkor Wat definitely is one of them. Yes, there aremany people there and it's kind of expensive, but it's simply worth it.
Also, Siem Reap (the closest city) has a giant market and many great restaurants and massage parlours.
Bus to Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh: Eat a lot and learn about the khmer rouge ( 3+3 days)
I went to Phnom Penh twice, the second time mainly to see Ashton, who I had met in Laos two months earlier.
To look at the killing fields, the museum, the central market and art street, three days will be enough.
But Phnom Penh also has amazing restaurants (many of them with a social background to offer education to young people), markets and a river to cruise around on.
Bus to Kampot
Kampot: Relax in a girls-only spa – sorry, boys (4 days)
Kampot is the perfect place to relax after busy city days. You can drive through the countryside on a tuk tuk or scooter, there is a spa just for girls or you can simply stroll around looking for french architecture.
Bus to Otres
Otres: Beach time (5 days)
If you're trying to stay away from the madness in Sihanoukville, but still want to spend some beach time at the Cambodian coast, this is your place.
The beaches in Cambodia simply aren't as nice as the ones in Thailand, but they are also more peaceful with less people.
Get ready to have ladies at the beach offering you all kinds of beauty treatments in a very charming way of telling you how unacceptable you look. (“you need to get your nails done or you'll never find a husband! Do you want threading? Open your legs, open your heart”).
Ask for Lina, she is great and the other girls will leave you alone, if you tell them you're with her.
Boat to Koh Ta Kiev
Koh ta Kiev: Try Life without electricity and water (4 days)
I met a guy in Otres, who told me about this magical island without electricity or water he just came from.
I was intrigued and decided to see if I could live without wifi.
The island is adorable, you really won't meet more than five people a day and it is SO peaceful. There is a generator, which is turned on at night, so there is a little light – mainly to find the bathroom , but apart from that all you can do is read a book or walk to one of the “cafés” for a drink.
I literally slept in a tree house and could not have been happier about it.
Boat to Koh Rong
Koh Rong: Beach and party (4 days)
After a while, I felt like I really wanted to check my eMails, so I headed towards Koh Rong. I had a great time there spending the days laying on the beach (I found my little spot on police beach, where I was all by myself every day) and checking out one of the bars at night. I joined a pub crawl on my first evening, which is something that I usually wouldn't do, but I met two very convincing girls and joined them. After that night, I literally knew every traveller staying on the island. Totally worth it (and I got a new shirt).
Boat to Sihanoukville, Bus to Phnom Penh, Flight to Hong Kong
Hong Kong: Back to city life (4 days)
Not really part of the classic South East Asia trail, but I realized that my visa for Cambodia was about to expire and wanted to go to a new place.
I spend a perfect Christmas with new friends in Hong Kong and Macao, mainly lived of street food and was excited to be back in a big city.
Flight to Bangkok
Bangkok (3 days)
I loved, that I could end my trip where it had started.
Bangkok had become my home base in Asia, where I could tell the taxi driver where to turn and knew where to get the best Thai massage.
You have some time left? Great!
I didn't include Indonesia on this trip, as I've been there before. I absolutely loved it and am going back there this year. Or if you liked Hong Kong, maybe you want to check out mainland China?
I fell deeply in love with South East Asia during my time there and can't wait to be back.
Obviously, this guide isn't complete and I've missed many great spots, but maybe it can help some of you decide where you want to go.
If you guys have any recommendations, please let us know in the comments section!
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