Backpacking in Southeast Asia Itinerary (Part 1)

...tell us your itinerary, where you’ve been during your backpacking trip. 

That is the questions that I’ve been getting lately from people. I have written “Things I Learned From Traveling Alone” and still posting each place I explored in a more detail. Here I realized I have not listed the overall itinerary of the backpacking journey. Something worth knowing is this is my first time backpacking out of United States. Not the most experienced person but at the end of the trip, the journey is a great experience to me.

In short the journey is shown below:

USA -> Indonesia -> Malaysia -> Myanmar -> Thailand -> Laos -> Vietnam -> Cambodia -> Malaysia -> Singapore -> Indonesia -> USA

Yes, there is no mistake, I stopped at Malaysia and Indonesia twice in different cities. I skipped Philippines as I was there three years ago and I did not get a chance to visit Brunei Darussalam as I am running out of time. Map

The trip is not possible to finish in two or three weeks. Trust me you will need 12 weeks or more. I skipped couple of cities planned as I was running out of time. I spent eight weeks in total starting from early December 2015 and here is how it goes:

Indonesia is Exotic: Jakarta -> Bandung -> Jakarta -> Bogor -> Jakarta

Bogor Skyline

Spending a few days in Jakarta checking out malls and historical places before heading to Bandung by train. Unlike Jakarta that is hectic, Bandung is stiller, greener, and colder. Aside from that, I wanna say Bandung is a foodie heaven for people in Java island. Hopped on the train heading to Jakarta again before taking a bus to Bogor. Famous for its Botanical Garden, this place is one of the laid back city in Indonesia where you literally can just chill and do nothing. Next destination is Yangon but the plane comes with a transit to Malaysia from Jakarta.

*Check out my other post about Jakarta and make sure to check the walking tour with Jakarta Good Guide

Quick Guide:

Table 3

Malaysia is Multi-Cultural: Kuala Lumpur

Two days, one night in Kuala Lumpur as I have been here for a couple of times and I am visiting this place again later in this journey. For now, I am considering this place as a starter to get myself ready for the journey ahead. The Petronas Tower is the thing you do not want to miss here. The next day, the plane took me from Kuala Lumpur to Myanmar.

Myanmar is Friendly: Yangon

Yangon

New place, new country, new culture. I am lost in this city but I realized that is how you found yourself. Visiting temples and markets, making new friends, eating street foods, blending in with the culture, there are so many things you can do in this city that once was a capital of Myanmar. Hey, the locals are really really nice here. Talk to them and you will be surprised. Spending more than a few days here before heading to ChiangMai by flight. I got another stopover in Bangkok as the plane is the same price for me. Been to Bangkok before but I guess this city is always worth a visit.

*Check out my other post about Yangon

Quick Guide:

Table 5

Thailand is Beautiful: Bangkok -> ChiangMai -> ChiangRai -> ChiangKong

White Temple

Cheap, everything is cheap here. Eat whatever you want, buy whatever you need here. The food are extremely good here, probably one of the best in South East Asia along with Indonesian food according to me. Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand. A lot of things is happening here, both during the day and night, depending on what you want to do. Temple is unavoidable if you travel across South East Asia. Unlike Bangkok, ChiangMai is the laid back city of Thailand. Everything moves very slow here. Take on a motorbike or Tuk Tuk and head to Doi Suthep mountain to see ChiangMai from the peak point of the city. Eat their Khao Soi, attend the night market and night bazaar. There are so much to do that I extended my stay for two times. Head to Pai if you have time, wonderful place claimed by several other backpackers that I met.

Three hours car ride and ChiangRai offer another beautiful place, for example the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun). Another laid back city according to me but I still love ChiangMai more. The next leg of the journey, I headed to ChiangKhong to catch my slowboat to Laos. Nothing to do in ChiangKhong to be honest. I really hope it will develop into a wonderful city as that is the hub for slowboat ride between Thailand and Laos. From ChiangKhong, I took a motorbike ride approximately 30 minutes to arrive at the pier.

Quick Guide:

Table 4

Laos is Charming: Pak Beng -> Luang Prabang

Sunset over Mekong River

The slowboat from ChiangKhong to Luang Prabang took me 2 days with a stop over at Pak Beng. Yes the slowboat is really slow traveling across the Mekong River. The boat is filled with approximately 60 people and it is only running one boat per day. What is wonderful about this ride is the fact that by then end of the ride, you know that you have made friend with at least half of the people in the boat. Midway through the journey along the Mekong River, we arrived at Pak Beng, a very small village in Laos. Get your hand on the Lao Beer and sit by the Mekong River to watch the sunset with your newly made friends.

Kuang Si Falls

The next day, I am up early to catch the sunrise only to be greeted by my buddies who are sitting by the river laughing and chatting waiting for the sunrise too. Another day in the boat does not sound so bad until we encountered a bad weather. Forget about the weather, everyone is still enjoying the company of each other with chatter and laughter. Arrive at Luang Prabang shortly before sunset and everyone hopped on to the Tuk-Tuk to the city.

Luang Prabang is a very relaxing city and probably the city that attracts the biggest tourism after Vang Vieng in Laos. Pak Ou Caves, Kuang Si Falls, Whisky Village and many more stuffs to do and you really don’t wanna miss any of them. You will be surprised how small this city is as you will bumped into your friends made in the slowboat trip more than just occasionally. I spent way longer than expected (again) in Luang Prabang before heading to Vietnam by bus. It is gonna be a 27-hours bus journey or known as Journey From Hell.

Quick Guide:

Table 7


Halfway through my journey. I hope you are enjoying the itinerary so far. Check out the second part here.

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