I’ve lived off and on through Southeast Asia for a big chunk of my life. The best memories from my childhood come from tubing down a river in Laos (yes, the one that was known for death by bar-hopping/drugs) and playing with elephants (ethically!) in Chiang Mai, with some rock climbing in Souterhn China thrown in there. I moved to Singapore to finish high school and made more memories of Southeast Asia, from clubbing until sunrise with my classmates to climbing over 1000 vertical meters up Mt. Kinabalu. And finally, throughout my gap year, I had spent time bouncing around Southeast Asian countries, loving every single second of it.
Southeast Asia definitely has a little part of me, making it impossible to not return.
Everyone comes to Southeast Asia for its charm, and no matter how much time you have to spend here, there are a billion things to do. Here’s a Southeast Asia backpacking itinerary for you, with sample itineraries that are dependent on how long you have.
10 Day Vietnam Itinerary
Venture up (or down) Vietnam
It doesn’t matter how long of a vacation you have, go see Vietnam! Start out in Hanoi, where you can get a feel of the busy city life, then make your way to Ha Long Bay, the most spectacular little bay Vietnam has to offer! After that, continue your trip down South (you can take a night train from Hanoi) to Hoi An, a town full of tailors and dozens of cultural sights, before making your way to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), where you can see the Cu Chi tunnels and have a night out in the crazy backpacking area.
If you have longer, check out the treks/hills of Sapa or the sand dunes down south. Vietnam is absolutely FULL of places to explore and it’s such a wonderful country.
If you have two weeks…
Start up North in Chiang Mai, a city full of temples, good vibes, and wonderful people, before taking a bus even further North to Pai (hippy heaven). Head down south to Bangkok and see the madness of Khao San Road, along with the beautiful waterfront temples and giant shopping malls, then wind down when you go further down south to the Thai Islands, where you can relax/party/hop around Phuket, Koh Yao Noi, and Koh Phi Phi! Koh Samui and Koh Lanta are also popular choices 🙂
If you have longer, maybe start South and finish North, then, from Pai/Chiang Mai, head on over to Laos!
If you have a month…
Cover everything mentioned above, but head over to Cambodia too! Siem Reap is a CLASSIC (Angkor Wat and Pub Street!), and Battambang, Phnom Peng, and Sihanoukville are also good places to visit!
If you’re on the road indefinitely…
Travel the Banana Pancakes Route!
This particular trip through SE Asia is called the banana pancakes route because that is the one thing you will be able to order consistently throughout it. It’s another name for the classic Southeast Asia trip all backpackers take (almost like a rite of passage). It doesn’t matter if you travel with others or solo; meeting wonderful people IS GUARANTEED.
There are plenty of different variations of this trip, but this the one I created and personally, find most convenient.
Fly into the Thai Islands to start your adventure (or fly to Bangkok and train/bus/fly down south), then go to Bangkok. From Bangkok, take the train or the bus to Siem Reap (directions will be posted soon). Travel through the cities mentioned above, then find your way to Saigon (properly Ho Chi Minh City). From there, venture up north (stopping at the cities also mentioned above), and make your way into Laos. Make sure to hit Luong Prabong for amazing croissants and spectacular temples, as well as Vientiane (beautiful little find), and definitely Vang Vieng for some craziness. Definitely finish up Thailand, seeing up north, making sure not to miss Chiang Mai and Pai.
However long you have in Southeast Asia, you’ll find something special about this little region, making it impossible not to return to. You will never ever ever be sick of this place, especially as it’s constantly changing. It’s not only the beauty of the countries you’ll visit that connect you to SEA, it’s also the people and the experiences, as well as the amazing adventures you have, that you’ll always dream about.