I was supposed to fly from London to Bangkok this week to spent the next two months bumming around parts of the backpacker trail in southeast Asia. I planned to start in Bangkok and head north, crossing from Thailand into Laos and travelling down into Cambodia.
Obviously with global travel at a standstill because of the Coronavirus, I’ve had to postpone the trip indefinitely.
I had originally planned to also include Vietnam in my itinerary, but quickly realised that given how many places I wanted to visit, it wasn’t feasible. Two months might sound like a long time, but given the wealth of beautiful sites there are to visit in that part of the world, it quickly gets filled. I wanted to take my time and explore areas I had to skip in previous two-week trips, and even so, I ended up with a jam-packed schedule.
I thought that, even though travel is suspended right now, I would outline my planned route here to offer ideas for a similar journey when we’re all moving again. (I’m trying to put the creeping thought at bay that it could be a long time before this kind of continuous travel is possible again.)
I still plan to follow this route, and I’ll likely have more than two months so it won’t be so hectic. I’m aware it’s rather intense, moving on every couple of days! I’ve always ended up trying to cram in as much as possible into my two-week trips but whether it’s sustainable for a couple of months is a different question. I have put in longer stops in places like Chiang Mai, 4,000 Islands and Kep/Kampot to just chill for a few days before moving on again. I’ll give myself leeway to adjust the itinerary along the way depending on how it’s going.
If you want to do it at a more leisurely pace either allow yourself more time, or drop a couple of stops.
While I’ve been to Laos and Cambodia a couple of times before, I’ve only ever been to Thailand for an evening stopover in Bangkok, so I’d really like to spend some time exploring.
Days 1-3: Bangkok
Explore the capital of Thailand, visiting historical sites, checking out the infamous Khao San Road night market and eating plenty of noodles.
Days: 4-5: Ayutthaya
Hop on the train heading north, first visiting the former capital of the Kingdom of Siam, to explore the beautiful ruins in the historical park.
Days 6-7: Lopburi
Check out the famous Khmer ruins overrun with monkeys.
Days 8-9: Sukhothai
Continue along the train route, following the trail of ancient ruins.
Days 10-15: Chiang Mai
Chill for a few days, wandering around the Old City and the markets. Take advantage of the cafes and co-working spaces to get some work done!
Days 16-18: Pai
Take in the mountainous landscape and waterfalls, check out the vegan food scene.
Days 19-21: Chiang Rai
Visit the White Temple, take a day tour to get around the sights.
Days 22-23: Boat to Luang Prabang
Take the slow boat into Laos. I had wanted to do this the last time I went to Laos in 2018, but as I only had a two-week trip I didn’t have the time to fit it in.
Days 24-25: Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is one of my favourite spots. Yes it’s touristy, but so what — as a Londoner that’s relative — it’s charming and chilled out and the food is great. I stayed for a week last time, which is the only reason I cut down the time in this one to use the time to explore somewhere else.
Days 26-28: Luang Namtha / Nong Khiaw
Trekking and taking in the scenery. I hope to be able to fit in both Luang Namtha and Nong Khiaw, especially now that I’ll have more time if I actually get to do this trip. I dropped Vang Vieng to fit them in, so maybe I’ll add it back — another infamous tourist town I love anyway.
Days 32-34: Vientiane
Vientiane has a reputation for being a bit boring, but that’s a good thing when you need a couple of rest and work days. A bungalow with a balcony, good vegan food and the riverside market are all I’ll need.
Days 35-36: Tha Khaek
A beautiful stop on the scenic circuit heading south. Go out into tge countryside and see some caves.
Days 37-41: Pakse
A chilled out place to do some work and take day trips out into the surrounding area.
Days 42-45: Don Det (4,000 islands)
Really chill out for a few days at the beach and take in the stunning Lao scenery.
Days 46-47: Siem Reap
Angkor Wat is one of my favourite places in the world. I’ve to Siem Reap been a couple of times so don’t plan to stay as long as I otherwise might, but equally I couldn’t bypass it. Especially because the vegan food is so good.
Days 48-49: Battambang
Check out the French colonial architecture, eat at chilled-out cafes and street food stalls, ride the bamboo train.
Day 50-51: Phnom Penh
There’s something about Phnom Penh that captured my heart the first time I went there. Slightly grimy and gritty yet becoming commercialised with designer brands there’s nonetheless something special about the vibe. It’s busy and relaxed at the same time, the architecture is beautiful, the vegan food is great (a recurring theme).
I’d like to just spend an extended period of time on a hotel terrace writing my days away, but this time it’ll just be a brief stopover on my way to more beaches.
Day 52-56: Sihanoukville & Koh Rong
Come off the grid for a few days on the island of Koh Rong and watch the sunsets from a hammock. Bliss.
Days 57-62: Kep & Kampot
Ease back onto the grid in the chilled out towns back on the mainland. Split the time between the twi depending on the vibe.
Day 63: Phnom Penh
Head back to Phnom Penh to catch a flight to Bangkok.
Day 64: Bangkok
Relax ahead of a flight back to London the next day. Revel in the memories of an epic two months in my favourite part of the world!
Phew! There’s so much to do and so many places I’ve skipped. It’s bittersweet compiling this post, because now I don’t know when this trip will happen but by no means am I hard done by spending the next two months in Barbados instead!
Have you been to southeast Asia? What’s your favourite place and what do you like to eat there?