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  • Sonal Mistry
  • "First time backpacker to SE Asia - best travel route please!"

Sonal Mistry

Leicester, United Kingdom

First time backpacker to SE Asia - best travel route please!

Hi all, I am traveling for three months to South East Asia Jan-Apr next year.  What is the best route to use and can you recommend the best places to visit?  I am working on a budget of £1000 total for two people, each month. (Not including flights) Thanks!

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  • Gina Czupka

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    answered first by

    Hi Sonal,

    It's a bit hard to know what to recommend without knowing more about your interests, tolerance for hard going vs. luxury, tolerance of noisy youths, etc., but there are certainly some general recommendations that I can make!

    I'd say to either start your trip in Hanoi or Bangkok and work your way toward whichever one you don't fly into. You should be totally fine on that budget; rooms can be gotten cheap and food is incredibly inexpensive, particularly if you opt for street food.

    In Vietnam, Hạ Long Bay is one of the must-sees, and as touristy as it is, it retains its magic. Stunning views that shift and change with every passing second. Handspan Aventure Travel is a great option for booking a boat trip; they're slightly more expensive, but this is one thing to splurge on and it's still pretty affordable. Hanoi is a food paradise—I grazed virtually all day long as we wandered around the city and I think the most we ever paid was about $3-4 for a shared meal. Most people head directly south from Hanoi, but if it strikes your fancy, I'd recommend going to Sa Pa District to see the gorgeous landscape of terraced rice fields, do a bit of trekking and see the local culture. You will be mobbed by (usually) ladies trying to sell you things, but be nice to them, keep your sense of humor and have a little fun. Talking with them made some of the best memories of our trip, but I saw a lot of tourists yelling at them and shooing them away. Southward, Hoi An and Hue are usually on the circuit. If you like beaches, Nha Trang and Mui Ne. Then, of course, Ho Chi Minh City—go to the markets, dodge motorbikes, eat eat eat. Cu Chi Tunnels aren't far away. Phu Quoc would be another option for beachy relaxation.

    In Cambodia, of course the big draw is Angkor Wat, for which Siem Reap is the gateway. There are tons of temples spread out over a huge area, so plenty to explore. Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Tonle Sap Lake are other options.

    Laos gets skipped sometimes, but I genuinely love it. You've got Wat Phu Bolaven Plateau and Plain of Jars Site 1 in the more southerly regions. Vientiane doesn't have a whole ton going on, but it's about as relaxed as world capital as you'll get. Vang Vieng had a reputation as an increasingly out-of-hand party scene, but the government cracked down on it in 2012. The landscape is gorgeous. Luang Prabang is elegant and a lovely place to spend some time; go to Pak Ou Caves, Kuang Si Waterfall Luang Prabang, take a cooking class or just lazily stroll around. To the northwest, you can go to Huay Xai for the famous Gibbon Experience, and then you're conveniently right at the Thai border.

    In Thailand, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, Sukhothai and trekking in the north, and then of course you have the South, with Phuket and islands like Koh Samui, Ko Lanta and more—with the amount of time you have, you can pop around and find the one that strikes your fancy. And naturally, Bangkok merits exploration.

    If you wanted to add a little more adventure, you could put Myanmar on the docket, going to Inle Lake, Old Bagan, Yangon and the Ayeyarwady River.


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    • Sonal M.

      Sonal M.

      Gina, Thank you so much this is really helpful! Thank you for taking the time to write . We're after a more laid back scene as we have the time to see and enjoy these places, not so much interested in spending my cash on booze and partying. Can I ask how you mostly got around? Flights seem to be fairly cheap but I hear buses are cheaper. I feel more excited about getting planning, the only other places we were considering adding is Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Singapore. I like how you mention food a lot - definitely something that interests me! Thanks again! · (0 likelikes)

    • Gina C.

      Gina C.

      I like your style—that's how I like to travel too! :) We traveled predominantly by bus, with a couple of flights thrown in when it made sense, time and budget-wise. I wish I could help with Malaysia and Singapore! · (0 likelikes)

    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. Hanoi (city)
    2. Bangkok (city)
    3. Hạ Long Bay (attraction)
    4. Handspan Aventure Travel (attraction)
    5. Sa Pa District (metro area)
    6. Hoi An (city)
    7. Hue (city)
    8. Nha Trang (city)
    9. Mui Ne (city)
    10. Ho Chi Minh City (city)
    11. Cu Chi Tunnels (attraction)
    12. Phu Quoc (city)
    13. Angkor Wat (attraction)
    14. Siem Reap (city)
    15. Phnom Penh (city)
    16. Sihanoukville (city)
    17. Tonle Sap Lake (attraction)
    18. Wat Phu (attraction)
    19. Bolaven Plateau (attraction)
    20. Plain of Jars Site 1 (attraction)
    21. Vientiane (city)
    22. Vang Vieng (city)
    23. Luang Prabang (city)
    24. Pak Ou Caves (attraction)
    25. Kuang Si Waterfall Luang Prabang (attraction)
    26. Huay Xai (city)
    27. Chiang Rai (state)
    28. Chiang Mai (city)
    29. Sukhothai (city)
    30. Phuket (city)
    31. Koh Samui (island)
    32. Ko Lanta (city)
    33. Bangkok (city)
    34. Myanmar (country)
    35. Inle Lake (attraction)
    36. Old Bagan (city)
    37. Yangon (city)
    38. Ayeyarwady River (attraction)

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  • cao tan

    answered by

    Hi Sonal

    First time in SE Asia ? This is my personal route: Yangon (Myanmar), Vientiane, Luang Prabang (Laos), Phnom Penh, Siem Reap (Cambodia), Bangkok, Chiang Mai , Phuket (Thailand) and if only you still have time and money , you passing by a short time in Hoi An (Vietnam). Have a good holidays.

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    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. Yangon (city)
    2. Vientiane (city)
    3. Luang Prabang (city)
    4. Phnom Penh (city)
    5. Siem Reap (city)
    6. Bangkok (city)
    7. Chiang Mai (city)
    8. Phuket (city)
    9. Hoi An (city)

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  • Hanh Ga

    answered by

    Hi Sonal, I'm Hong Hanh from Vietnam. I would like to suggest you to stop by Vietnam during your SE Asia trip especially the world biggest cave Son Doong Cave. You can fly into Hanoi and travel to Son Doong by bus.

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  • Nam Onrit

    answered by

    Southeast Asia for 3 months is not much but not to short too. Your budget for 2 persons needs well planning.

    It would be better to select mainland or archipelago.

    Mainland should focus Thailandas the hub then go to other places as you want such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnamand Myanmar.

    For archipelagos, there is Indonesia as the main destination then follow to Malaysia, Singaporeand South of Thailand.

    Philippines, Brunei Darussalamand East Timor (Timor-Leste)are not popular destinations but depends on you.

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    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. Southeast Asia (region)
    2. Thailand (country)
    3. Laos (country)
    4. Cambodia (country)
    5. Vietnam (country)
    6. Myanmar (country)
    7. Indonesia (country)
    8. Malaysia (country)
    9. Singapore (country)
    10. Philippines (country)
    11. Brunei Darussalam (country)
    12. East Timor (Timor-Leste) (country)

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  • claus andersen

    answered by

    With a budget that low you will not be able to move around every other day, but should try to stay longer periods in a place at time. There is nothing wrong with that.

    Some places that are good for longer stays when backpacking in Southeast Asia is 4000 Islands Bar Luang Prabang Vang Vieng Chiang Mai Hoi An George Town Lombok

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    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. 4000 Islands Bar (restaurant)
    2. Luang Prabang (city)
    3. Vang Vieng (city)
    4. Chiang Mai (city)
    5. Hoi An (city)
    6. George Town (city)
    7. Lombok (city)

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