Route: Phuket Kho Phangan Bangkok Chang Mai Vientiane Hanoi Ha Long Bay
Duration: 20 nights
Transport: This route is a 21 day trip covering 8 of South East Asia’s most popular cities. You’ll spend 18 nights in your accommodation with mostly day travel by bus except for two nights which are by sleeper bus.
Summary: This epic 4 week adventure hits all the most popular spots for backpackers in South-East Asia. Kick off your trip in Vietnam’s bustling capital, Hanoi, before working your way through Loas, Thailand and Cambodia before finishing back in Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City. With everything from stunning beaches, beautiful landscapes and incredible cities, whatever it is you’re looking for this trip will deliver, giving you a once in a lifetime experience.
Phuket is one of Thailand’s most popular destinations and with an incredible mix of stunning beaches, beautiful temples and lush rainforests, it really does have it all! The town of Phuket itself is a bustling hub of activity and a haven for fun seeking travellers. Spend the day exploring the multicoloured streets decorated with street art, cafés, and souvenir shops. If you’re there on a Sunday, head down to Phuket’s weekend market and explore the weird and wonderful stores and incredible street food. At night, Bangla Road is the place to be thanks to its outdoor bars and lively clubs. Just out of the main town, perched on a hill is the Big Buddha statue. This must-see monument offers stunning panoramic views of the entire island below. Take the time to explore the rainforests that cover the island and head over to Bang Pae waterfall for a dip in the water below. Phuket’s beaches, among the most idyllic in the world, offer long stretches of white sandy beaches and crystal-clear water. Sit back, cocktail in hand, and enjoy the view from this paradise island.
Bus and ferry to Koh Phangan – 12 hours
The popular island of Koh Phangan is well worth the journey. The island, famously home to the Full Moon Party, is renowned for its unrivalled nightlife. If you’re not there for the full moon though, don’t worry! There’s always the half-moon party, a slightly lower key event but still an unforgettable night out. Nightlife aside, Koh Phangan is a must-see stop on any trip to South-East Asia. The beaches are second to none, with Thong Nai Pan being a particular highlight. Most beaches will have kayaks if you want to hop between bays, but by far the most popular way of exploring Koh Phangan is by motorbike. At roughly £5 an hour, it’s easy to see why! If you’re still searching for things to do, a snorkelling trip off Mae Haad beach or a trip up Secret Mountain at sunset are both great options.
Ferry and night bus to Bangkok- 17 hours
Ranked among the world’s most visited cities and declared as the world’s best street food city, Bangkok is definitely a capital you must visit at least once in your life! Located in the Old City, you’ll find the Grand Palace , home to the famous reclining Buddha and a Thai massage school. Head across the river to reach Wat Arun, or the Temple of the Dawn, and get an incredible view, overlooking the city from the top. Visit the National Museum, focused on Thai culture, and admire some local art at Bangkok Art and Culture Center. To experience the local chaotic lifestyle, walk along the vibrant Khao San Road, famous for being a haven for backpackers and travelers. Keep going visiting the Floating markets and let yourself go at some local treats cooked then and there. Finish your tour by exploring the bustling Chinatown. If you’re looking for a more chilled place to relax, then Lumpini Park is what is perfect for you. Looking to enjoy the best nightlife in Bangkok? Go to Sukhumvit Road, which is home to most of the finest clubs and bars that the city has to offer. You can’t leave Thailand’s capital without tasting these delicious traditional dishes: Pad Thai, Tom Yum Goong, Gaeng Daeng and Khao Pad.
Located in rural Thailand, around 400 miles north of Bangkok, sits the stunning Chiang Mai. Nicknamed Thailand’s ‘rose of the north’, the city is the capital of Chiang Mai province. Its proximity to the Himalayas means the area is full of stunning hills, mountains and rainforests. A must see here is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a stunning Buddhist temple at the top of the Doi Suthep mountain and a sacred place for many people across Thailand. The area surrounding Chiang Mai is also home to many unmissable spots such as the Bua Tong or sticky waterfall, so-named because you can climb it without slipping. Huay Tung Tao lake is also 20 minutes out of the city and is a great place to swim alongside the bamboo huts selling drinks and amazing local food. The nearby Elephant Nature Park is one of Thailand’s most respected ethical elephant sanctuaries and, at just a half hour drive from the city, it makes a perfect day trip.
Bus to Vientiane – 16 hours
Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos, located on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. Here, you can’t miss a visit to Pha That Luang, a large gold-covered Buddhist stupa, famous for being the most sacred building in all of Laos. Tour Wat Si Muang temple and Patuxai, the memorial monument. This monument is also part of the wider Patuxai Park, a great place to wander and admire the sunset at golden hour. If you’re a nature lover, continue your trip exploring Buddha Park: you’ll find a 40 meter high Buddha sculpture, as well as other Hindu and Buddhist signs scattered amongst the gardens and trees. If you’re more into vibrant and crowded places, go to Talat Sao morning market where you’ll be overwhelmed by the variety of goods it has to offer! Try local dishes such as bla kan sung (grilled fish), bet yang (roasted duck) and sai oua (Laotian sausage) while walking through Vangthong Evening Food Market. Wondering where to have fun on a night out? Do a pub crawl along the riverside or spend an evening at the night market!
Night bus to Hanoi – 20 hours
Located by the banks of the Red River, Hanoi is an old city characterised by Chinese and French colonial influence. Unlike most big cities, the best way to get around here is on foot! Walk through the Old and French Quarter boulevards, visit Hoa Lo prison (now a museum but once a prison for US soldiers during the Vietnam War) and watch a typical Vietnamise cultural show at the Water Puppet theater! Don’t forget to bring your camera with you and take pictures of spots such as Train Street, an active train track with cafés on both sides. If you’re into local cuisine, make sure to taste Pho, Ca cuon and Banh goi. At the end of the day just relax sipping a couple of Beer Hoi (Fresh Beer) in Bia Hoi Junction or go crazy clubbing at The Bank Hanoi: the biggest nightclub of the city. Looking for family-friendly activities instead? Spend an evening at Vietnam Central Circus. Clowns, acrobats and animal performances are sure to keep you entertained!
Bus to Ha Long Bay – 4 hours
Ha Long Bay is Vietnam’s most popular tourist destination and it’s not difficult to see why. With thousands of tall monoliths rising out of the turquoise sea, Ha Long looks like a set from Avatar and is guaranteed to take your breath away. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches, with Bai Chay and Minh Chau being amongst the best in the region. Take a boat trip to a nearby scuba diving spot or to one of the incredible caves covered with stalactites in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The floating village at Cua Van is like nothing you will have ever seen before. The best way to reach it is by kayak, passing locals in bamboo boats on your way. Just inland, the town of Ha Long boasts the world’s longest ariel tramway, offering a stunning view of the bay and the islands below. On an evening, Cat Ba island is where the party’s at, so head here to make the most of the local nightlife.