Dreaming of getting away for a couple of months? Fancying some serious beach time? Longing for some fascinating cultural experiences? Read on and get that plane ticket booked!
If you’ve never been to the capital of Thailand before, chances are that you’ll never have experienced anything like it. It’s overwhelming, frenetic and the best place to throw yourself into your South East Asia backpacking adventure. Head down to Khao San Road and get stuck into some serious partying or get lost wandering through the endless markets in Chinatown.
Once you’ve had your fill of the craziness of Bangkok, head up North to the more relaxed vibes of Chiang Mai. Hop on a scooter and work your way around the Mae Hong Son Loop and through the gorgeous mountainous countryside or just get your chill on and get exploring the incredible temples and treating yourself to the insanely good blind massages.
Next up, cross the border into Laos. Travel in this landlocked country is a step back in time from the more advanced transport systems in Thailand but that’s half the fun. No trip to the North of this country would be complete without a multi-day trek, camping out overnight in the jungle or experiencing some real culture staying in local tribe villages.
After your adventure in the wilderness, work your way down through Laos to Vang Vieng. Surrounded by limestone mountains with more caves, lagoons and springs than you will likely have time to see, this small town is an explorer's paradise. From hot air balloon rides, to tube rides down the river and rock climbing, there’s so much to do here. And then there’s the bars.
When you make it out of Vang Vieng head to the capital of Laos. If you like your museums and cultural experiences there’s plenty on offer here. Visit the COPE Visitor Centre to learn about the country's devastating and ongoing battle with unexploded bombs, learn how to mediate with monks at Wat Sok Pa Luang and wander around the ornate mix of french colonial and laotian architecture.
Now onto country number three, and the colourful and intense capital city of Hanoi. You’ll see more motorbikes here than you possibly ever have in your life and quickly realise that crossing the roads is skill to be swiftly learned. Famed for its delicious food and incredibly cheap local beer, expect to pack on a few pounds before you leave.
Cat Ba Island
Just off the north east of mainland Vietnam and a short boat ride away is the magical Island of Cat Ba. Indulge in a boat trip to discover hidden caves by canoe, snorkel in the beautiful bays and jump off the top of boat into the brilliantly turquoise sea. The sunsets from the viewing point at the centre of the island are to die for.
Fancy ziplining into caves and sliding through pitch black tunnels full of mud? Then this is your next stop off in Vietnam. Best explored by renting a scooter, this incredible place is home to the largest caves in the world and is a favourite of South East Asia backpackers.
Ho Chi Minh City
The last stop in Vietnam is Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon. Equally as chaotic as it’s Northern counterpart, Hanoi, there is fascinating culture at every turn in this city. Plan on spending some time here to learn about the history of the Vietnam War, visit the underground tunnels used by Vietnamese soldiers and make time for the incredibly sad but unmissable museums.
Next on the perfect South East Asia backpacking itinerary - Cambodia. Equally, if not more moving than learning first hand about Vietnam’s history, are the must-visit genocide museums in the capital of Phnom Penh. There’s another side to this city though, as through moving on from its harrowing past, it now has it going on where good times are concerned.
Set yourself up for some serious chill time at your next destination and hop between the most rustically beautiful places in South East Asia right now. Serious hammock sessions, rum fuelled evenings watching sunsets with new friends and night swimming with bioluminescent plankton are all guaranteed in this part of the world. Don’t miss Koh Rong Samloem and Koh Ta Kiev.
The penultimate stop off. Trundling through the dark Cambodian streets in a tuk tuk to watch the sun rise over glorious Angkor Wat Temple complexes is nothing short of magical. Let yourself be sucked in by Siem Reap’s wonderfully energetic party scene and dance your nights away in this backpacker haven.
Your last stop and time for some serious indulgence before heading back home to reality. Get your groove on at a full moon party on Koh Phangan, dive with turtles in one of the world's top dive spots on Ko Tao, visit the famous filming location of ‘The Beach’ on Koh Phi Phi and chill with a cocktail in each hand on the idyllic beaches of Koh Samui.
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