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Recently Tom and I have been feeling a familiar itch. It’s the same itch we felt when we began fantasizing about full time travel, the same itch we felt when we were considering buying a Toyota Dolphin. It’s the itch that tells us we’re ready to shake things up in a BIG way. We threw out the rule book years ago, and we aren’t afraid to be flexible and make changes when they feel right to us.
So, after taking some time to consider our next move, we’ve decided to backpack Southeast Asia for the next 6 months! We’ve planned a Southeast Asia backpacking route that we will tweak and report back on as we make our way across Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Malaysia.
The best time to visit Southeast Asia is in the dry months from November to March, so it’s a perfect place for us to spend our winter.
Why Southeast Asia, you ask? That’s a great question with many answers.
Southeast Asia is both Affordable and Exotic
We absolutely loved traveling through Mexico, largely because we love experiencing new and different cultures.
From the floating markets of Thailand to the ancient temples of Cambodia, Southeast Asia offers a huge assortment of exotic cultural experiences. Add to that the affordable food and accommodation options throughout the region, and Southeast Asia quickly landed at the top of our international travel list.
The more we read, the more our Southeast Asia itinerary seems to expand. There are so many incredible things to see and do in Southeast Asia that it seems impossible to see all of it, even in a 6 month Southeast Asia itinerary!
We are Ready to Experience a Different Mode of Travel
We love camper life, and we’ve had a blast roaming around North America for the last two years. While North America has a ton to offer, we have seen many of the parts of this continent that were the most exciting to us.
We also love the idea of someone else flying/driving while we relax with a book and a beverage. We’ve covered over 20,000 miles on our travels, and honestly it’s time for a little break from all the driving! Backpacking through Asia will give us the chance to travel in a completely new way.
We want to Downsize Even More
The idea of heading across the world with nothing but a carry-on backpack is incredibly enticing to us. Tom and I have a saying we like to live by when we travel: “If you don’t have it you don’t need it.” Backpacking Southeast Asia feels like an awesome way to put this idea to the ultimate test.
We’re going to take you along with us step by step as we prepare for this journey, and our first challenge is fitting everything we need for 6 months of travel into two carry-on backpacks!
Southeast Asia Backpacking Route
Without further ado, here is our tentative plan for traveling Southeast Asia. This will likely change once we’re on the road because we prefer to remain flexible when we travel. We will keep you updated on any changes we make to our Southeast Asia trip itinerary (and why we make them).
We flew into Bangkok in late November and spent our first month in Southeast Asia exploring Koh Chang, Chiang Mai, Pai, and Chiang Rai.
We took the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and wrote a complete guide to taking the sleeper train! In Chiang Mai I experienced my first serious travel meltdown caused by burnout and culture shock.
After Chiang Mai we spent a week in the hippie jungle oasis of Pai. We loved Pai, as it totally fit our laid back travel style, and we would have stayed longer but our one month visa exemption was running out fast so we had to skidaddle to the Laos border!
We took the bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, and that was a bit confusing so if you’d like to do the same check out our blog post detailing how we did it.
There is SO much to see and do in Thailand, and our month there flew by! We plan to return to Thailand for another month at the end of our Southeast Asia travels, and we’ll update this post when we do!
We are currently about 3 weeks into our Laos visit, and it has been everything we dreamed it would be. Warm locals, beautiful natural scenery, and a generally laid back pace have made Laos a true pleasure to visit.
Our favorite spot in the country so far was the picturesque village of Muang Ngoi Neua in northern Laos. Located on the banks of the Nam Ou river, and only reachable by boat, Muang Ngoi is the kind of place I dream of when I dream of travel. Read all about Muang Ngoi in our complete guide to the village.
Next we are heading to southern Laos and the 4000 Islands, an area where the Mekong river splits into several flows, with a cluster of islands in the center. We will continue updating this post as we go, so check back for new info!
After Laos we are heading to Cambodia! We have always wanted to see the incredible ruins of Angkor Wat, and we plan to spend plenty of time in Siem Reap, exploring Angkor Wat by bike.
Our earlier readers may recall that we began our travels as bicycling nomads, and we LOVE cycling. We plan to rent bicycles for transportation as frequently as possible in Southeast Asia. Bicycling Angkor Wat is a once in a lifetime experience that we cannot miss!
We plan to spend a month in Cambodia. Our Cambodia backpacking route will take us from beautiful beaches and islands to rural inland villages.
We have read extremely mixed reviews of Vietnam. It seems that many travelers absolutely love it or hate it. The Vietnam backpacking route is famous for a variety of scams, chaos, and pushy vendors. It’s also famous for incredible food, rich historical sites, and friendly locals. While we plan to spend a month in Vietnam, we’ll have to see how we feel once we arrive and experience it for ourselves.
We are especially excited for some of the incredible outdoor experiences in Vietnam. Hang Son Doong is the world’s largest cave, located in Vietnam's Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Ha Long Bay is a famously scenic bay in Vietnam that can be explored by taking a two or three day cruise, one of the most popular Southeast Asia tours.
I’m very excited to experience the cuisine in Malaysia! Back when I lived in New York City, my very favorite spot in Chinatown was a Malaysian restaurant that served the most insanely mouth-watering curries I’ve ever eaten. No one spoke English, and we usually ordered by just pointing at the menu.
From what I’ve read, Malaysia is famous for just that- a melting pot of cuisines, combining flavors from South Pacific countries with Middle Eastern influenced dishes. I’m very much looking forward to eating my way across this country, and experiencing the foodie scene in Kuala Lampur.
We also plan to venture into Borneo in Malaysia so we can hopefully spot wild orangutans!
With so many amazing places to visit in Southeast Asia we will likely add some stops to our route, and we may remove some of our planned stops after talking with other travelers in the area. In our experience talking to other travelers is the best way to discover a country’s hidden gems.
We have spent hours and hours researching Southeast Asia, and have found Lonely Planet's Southeast Asia on a Shoestring Budget guide to be absolutely invaluable.
If you’re considering your own Asian travel adventure be sure to get travel insurance before you leave! After researching a variety of companies we decided to use World Nomads Travel Insurance. Fill out the form below for a quick and easy quote from World Nomads.
For more detailed information on Southeast Asia check out this post where several top travel bloggers detail their favorite spots in Southeast Asia! We are going to travel with carry on backpacks only, check out this post where we discuss our packing list for 6 months in a carry on!
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