One of the most frequent questions I have been asked related to my travels is how my 4 months travel itinerary through Southeast Asia looked like. My very first post on this blog was about how I planned my trip, so make sure you read that first.
In this post I will show you how the actual travel itinerary looked like, but also what I missed, what I gave up, what I wish I had seen, as well as learnings and recommendations based on my personal experience. So here it is:
Southeast Asia itinerary for 4 months
India was not part of my Southeast Asia itinerary but I found a better airfare this way and I also wanted to see some friends there. So I decided to stop over for one day in Chennai, where I actually lived a few months in 2014. Since then I consider India asmy third home. And I constantly miss it!
I have not written any post on Chennai yet but I already have 2 posts about my favourite place in India here.
2. Thailand (12+7 days)
Can you plan a travel itinerary in Asia without including Thailand? I have never heard of that ;-). So…
Bangkok (5 days)
Given the size of the city and all the praise and reviews I have read, I thought I should really take my time to explore it. It was also my first destination in my long solo trip, therefore I wanted to ease my way into it. Plus, I needed time to check out as many rooftop bars as possible 😉 . Its Bangkok after all!
5 days was the perfect amount of time for me to spend there but you can also do with 2-3 days (I would not recommend less).
Krabi (7 days)
I was dying for some beach time!!! And who doesn’t …when you are coming from -23 degrees in January? AND….my birthday was coming! It was the first time I was going to celebrate it in summer temperatures so … beach it was!
I made my base in Ao Nang but with daily island hoping. In addition to that, I spent 2 days in Koh Phi Phi, as a birthday treat ;-).
3. Malaysia (3 days)
I spent only 3 days in Malaysia and all of them in Kuala Lumpur.
While I think that 3 days are enough for KL, there are so many more places to see in Malaysia so I will have to go back and catch up. On my list for now are: Langkawi, Malacca, Penang & Sabbah
I can tell you from the outset that 11 days is TOO SHORT! My ideal amount of time for Myanmar would be 3-4 weeks, with a minimum of 2 weeks. Here is how I split my time there:
Yangon (1.5 days)
Ideal time in Yangon would have been 3 days but it also depends on your preferences of course. In the 1.5 days I have spent there, I managed to spend 5 hours (!!) at the Shwedagon Pagoda alone. But this is me! If I am interested in or really attracted to something I dedicate a LOT of time to it!
Bagan (3.5 days)
3-4 days is the perfect amount of time to spend there. More than that and I think even the most avid temple hopper (that would be me 🙂 ) would get “templed-out”. But of course there are other activities that you can do there once you have visited 10 too many temples. Make sure to check my post about it by clicking on Bagan above.
Inle lake (4.5 days)
Inle was my favourite place in Myanmar so I decided to stay longer…although it was also the place where I caught a cold (mornings and evenings were as cold as 5 degrees compared to 30 degrees during the day! CRAZY!). I’d recommend 3 days minimum.
Mandalay (1.5 day)
Again, a place where I could have stayed longer, especially to go for day trips. The city itself is very big and the traffic is a nightmare,which is another reason to allow for more time. I would say 3 days should be a fair amount of time to spend there.
One thing that I regret very much is not going to the beach in Myanmar. The country has recently opened to tourism and therefore there are still so many areas and regions not touched by it. And I would have really liked to experience them before it is too late.
Thailand- part 2
Chiang Mai (7 days)
My visa for Thailand was valid only for 3 weeks, therefore I had to break my travel in 2 parts. I wasn’t going to skip the jewel of the north that is Chiang Mai, so after Myanmar I went back to Thailand. I did not plan to spend 7 days in Chiang Mai but as I got really sick in Myanmar I decided to stay put and relax for a while. Plus in Chiang Mai I was back to “civilisation”….and by that I mean 7 Eleven (a convenience store that stocks up all you need “from home”). And people that have been to SE Asia know how important a 7 Eleven is there!
What can I say? In Chiang Mai you can spend from 3 days to….a few months! So many people do it. It is THE backpackers HQ in Thailand.
I had also planned to spend a few days in Chiang Rai but due to my condition I had to cancel that. However I would love to go there one day.
5. Laos (11 days)
Luang Prabang (7 days)
I had planned 3-4 days here…and then kept adding more. Luang Prabang stole my heart from the very first moment and I simply could not leave. Even after one week, I felt sorry to leave. Again, what can I say? It depends on the person. I think 3-4 days should be spent in LPB at the minimum but ever since I left I keep thinking that I would like to go back and spend at least a month there!
Vang Vieng (0 days) 🙁
Plain of Jars (o days) 🙁
I gave up both Vang Vieng and Plain of Jars because I preferred to extend my time in LPB. But I know I will go back to Laos and I need to see much more next time including Pakse and the Bolaven Plateau in the south
Vientiane (4 days)
As you could see in my post dedicated to it, I quite enjoyed Vientiane and that’s why I decided to spend 4 days there. People usually do not spend more than 2 days in what it is considered the “sleepiest capital of SE Asia”, but I think that is a mistake. Again, it depends what you are after.
6. Vietnam (3 weeks)
Hanoi (3 days)
Perfect amount of time for me. Biggest regret: I did not manage to go to Bobby Chin’s (one of my favourite restaurateurs) restaurant.
Halong Bay (2 days)
Perfect time! No more comments….for now. Just wait for the post 🙂
Hoi An (5 days)
I could spend 5 days or 1 month in Hoi An, just like in Luang Prabang. But I can definitely recommend no less than 3 days. It is a very historical and charming city with loads to offer. Check here my post on this charming city
Hue (2 days)
Some people skip Hue. WHY? You don’t need more than 2 days here and they are 2 days very well spent in the Imperial City. Do not skip Hue if you are in Vietnam! I’m serious.
Dalat (3 days)
This was a very personal choice. Most people will skip Dalat, but from my perspective it has a lot to offer. I spent one of my most fun days in Vietnam, in Dalat. You can go for 2 days if you don’t have more time but you should go! Think hill stations, collonial architecture, waterfalls and the freshest produce in Vietnam (including local wine!). I have not written a post on Dalat but I will let you in a little secret: waterfalls!!
Ho Chi Minh/Saigon (4 days)
You cannot skip this right? The name itself draws you to it! I could have easily spent one week in the cosmopolit, authentic & traditional in the same time, HCMC. I just loved this city! And not just because of the many rooftop bars…seriously! There is a certain energy to this city that was definitely on my frequence 🙂 .
Doctor’s advice: 3 days minimum!
7. Cambodia (1 week)
Phnom Penh (2 days)
I was so pleasantly surprised by PP. Most people either skip it or just spend 1 day but it is not enough. You go and check the “must do” sights but you don’t really have time to take in the city itself. And the city wants to be discovered! If I would go back I would probably want to spend at least 3-4 days there.
Siem Reap (5 days)
There is A LOT to do in and around Siem Reap, including Angkor Park and the Cambodian floating villages. So if you consider 3 days for Angkor (I could not do with less), you are left with 1 day for the city of Siem Reap and one day for the floating villages. And this is the minimum!
Sihanoukville (0 days) 🙁
A very good excuse to go back to Cambodia now… Did you know that there is a beach in Sihanoukville called Serendipity? Who would not want to go there? 🙂
8. Japan (3 weeks)
Although obviously not located in Southeast Asia, it was part of my itinerary. In fact it was the trigger and and driver for the timing of my itinerary. In the end, Japan is my favourite country in the world!
However, because this post is mainly about SE Asia I will not go into details about my Japan itinerary here, other than just mentioning it. I need to go back and see the rest of the country anyway 😉 . So here is how I spent my time in Japan:
- Tokyo (5 days)
- Kyoto (11 days)
- Nara (2 days)
- Myiajima (2 days)
- Nikko ( 1 day)
I have not finished my posts about Japan but you can see some about Japanese gardens (check the 2nd part as well here) and Sakura (cherry trees blossoms)
9. Indonesia (3 weeks)
Jakarta (2 days)
Jakarta was the place I enjoyed the least in my trip so I don’t even recommend it. But if you really want to go there, 1-2 days should be more than enough! It has the worst traffic I have ever experienced…and I lived in India!
Yogyakarta (4 days)
I enjoyed Yogyakarta but not as much as I expected. Out of the 4 days I spent there, 1.5 were at Borobudur, which was the main reason to go to Yogya. Yogyakarta is a small charming place but which can get very boring after a couple of days I must say. Conclusion: min 2 days, max 5!
Check also Prambanan Temples in Yogya
Bali (2.5 weeks)
Do I actually need to give an explanation for the amount of time spent on the Island of Gods?? All I’m going to say here is that, out of 2 weeks, I spent 11 days in Ubud and the rest in Seminyak and hopping around the island.
You should not go to Bali for less than 10 days. Under no circumstances!…Unless you are coming from Yogya maybe… As for the maximum, I met people who moved there so….I guess that would be a lifetime! 😀
So there you go: 9 countries in 4 months! There were lots of changes to my initial plan but it is normal. I know people who left for a few months and one year later they are still there…
SE Asia is a very popular region for first time long travel, solo travel and so on. And if you are planning a trip there I hope my itinerary can serve as an example. If you have questions related to this or would want more information, I would be glad to help. If you do or do not agree with something, I would also be interested to hear your opinions/ comments.
…and I hope you started with this article where you can also find a bigger collection of photos of course 🙂
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