Above is a map of our itinerary and below tells you approximately how many days we spent in each place. It’s important to keep in mind that I did not include travel days, so you need to build in extra time to get to each destination. We certainly did not travel the most efficient route, but we were meeting up with people in different times and places. One aspect of our itinerary that I really liked, however, was that we managed to alternate types of destinations. For instance we would spend a few days at the beach, then go to a city, then spend a couple days hiking or visiting temples.

  1. Ubud, Bali – 2 days
  2. Bukit, Bali – 3 days
  3. Mt Bromo – 1 day
  4. Yogyakarta – 2 days
  5. Kuala Lumpur – 1 day
  6. Melaka – Day trip
  7. Kuala Lumpur – 2 days
  8. Taman Negara – 2 days
  9. Perhentian Islands – 3 days
  10. Singapore – 1 day
  11. Phu Quoc – 3 days
  12. Can Tho – 1 day
  13. Ho Chi Minh City – 2 days
  14. Sa Pa – 3 days
  15. Hanoi – 2 days
  16. Ha Long Bay – 2 days
  17. Hanoi – 1 day
  18. Siem Reap – 3 days
  19. Phnom Penh – 2 days
  20. Bangkok – 3 days
  21. Koh Lanta – 4 days
  22. Phuket – 1 day
  23. Ao Nang – 3 days
  24. Bangkok – 1 day
  25. Chiang Mai – 3 days
  26. Huay Xai – 1 night
  27. Gibbon Experience – 2 days
  28. Luang Prabang – 4 days
  29. Vang Vieng – 2 days
  30. Vientiane – 1 day
  31. Bangkok – 1 day
  32. Yangon – 1 day
  33. Trek to Inle Lake – 3 days
  34. Nyaungshwe (Inle) – 1 day
  35. Mandalay – 1 day
  36. Bagan – 3 days
  37. Yangon – 1 day
  38. Bangkok – End of SEA portion of trip

SEA itineraries vary greatly depending on the traveler. You have to factor in how much time you have and which countries you want to visit. Some backpackers arrive in Bangkok with no plans, and they just figure it out as they go along. This is a fine strategy if you have a lot of time and don’t have a long list of places you want to get to. We were not trying to see everything in every country – that’s unrealistic and you miss out on getting to know the culture and people of a place if you’re only there for a day. However, we also knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we might not get back to some of these places for a very long time, if ever.

So I think the best way to plan for your trip is to do as much research as possible beforehand and make a list of all the places you want to visit. Unless you have an infinite amount of time, you will not be able to see everything, so try to narrow down the list as much as possible. Keep in mind you probably won’t stick to it exactly (unless you’re under serious time constraints), but it’s a helpful exercise in figuring out priorities and transportation between various cities and countries. For instance we changed our Vietnam plans drastically after talking to other travelers who gave us good advice. Also, we hadn’t originally planned on going to Myanmar, so we extended our trip by a couple extra weeks. I’m grateful that we had a plan, but it is equally important to be flexible in changing it. It’s also important to build in travel days. It can sometimes take an entire day just to get to your next destination. You don’t want to cram in too much because that just makes for an exhausting and unenjoyable trip. And lastly, remember that it’s sometimes a good idea to mix up the beach, city, outdoor and temple destinations so you don’t get sick of any one thing.

Some helpful resources in planning your trip:

  1. – Probably the best resource in planning a budget trip to SEA. They also have iphone apps for certain destinations.
  2. Lonely Planet Travel Forum – Helpful when looking for specific information, especially related to transportation.
  3. Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a Shoestring Book – I actually didn’t use this book as much as other resources, but I still recommend bringing it with you. Make sure to buy the most recent publication as things can change a lot in just a few short years!
  4. – I never use tripadvisor in the US, but it was actually really helpful to read reviews of certain hostels and guesthouses (reviews for hostels and guesthouses are usually located under the “B&B and Inns” or “Specialty Lodging” tabs under hotels).
  5. – Helpful in booking certain hostels and guesthouses
  6. State Department – Practical information concerning visa requirements and travel advisories
  7. CIA World Factbook – It’s good to know some basic information about each country prior to arrival.

If I was going to do this trip again, there are a lot of things I would change. I would try to spend more time in Indonesia, even if it’s difficult to get around. I would have liked to explore the islands to the east of Bali and Sumatra. In Malaysia I would have liked to see what Penang and Langkawi are like, and I’m not sure I would spend much time in Taman Negara or Melaka. I wish we built in another day in Singapore because there’s actually quite a bit to do, although it is much more expensive. In Vietnam I would probably skip Phu Quoc and instead go to Hoi An. In Cambodia I would have liked to spend time in one of the other regions. I could have easily spent an extra week in Thailand, between the beaches and Chiang Mai. I would have liked to have seen 4,000 islands in Laos, and skip Vientiane. In Myanmar I could have skipped Mandalay. And I would have liked to visit the Philippines and Borneo, although I would obviously need more time to see them both. However, I’m still really pleased with our itinerary and I would have never figured out these preferences if I didn’t visit them in the first place.