After our 3 week trip to Southeast Asia just a couple years ago (which included Vietnam, Thailand and a long layover in Japan), we were surprised to be heading back so soon. But taking part in a close friend’s destination wedding was just the excuse we needed to catch some of the sights we missed on our last trip! If you’re not familiar with the region, Southeast Asia generally includes the group of fourteen countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. This includes portions of mainland Asia as well as several outlying island nations. Although there are a few reasons why a trip could be a challenge, we had a blast on both of our trips.
2.5 Weeks in Southeast Asia – Laos (Luang Prabang), Thailand (Chang Mai, Hua Hin, Phetchaburi) and Cambodia (Siem Reap, Ankor Wat)
17 days, 16 nights
- Days 1 & 2: Travel days – Arrive in Bangkok
- Day 3: Luang Prabang – Morning in Bangkok, flight to Luang Prabang, explore city and visit night market
- Day 4: Luang Prabang – Morning alms procession, hiking to temples, Lao food at Tamarind, window shopping in botiques around the town
- Day 5: Luang Prabang – Coffee at Saffron, trip to Kuang Si waterfall, authentic Italian at Secret Pizza
- Day 6: Luang Prabang, Chang Mai – Wat Xieng temple, flight to Chiang Mai, dinner at Writers Club for khao soi (northern Thai dish), Saturday market, lanterns for NYE
- Day 7: Chang Mai – Elephant Nature Park, dinner from street vendors at old city market
- Day 8: Chang Mai – Sticky waterfalls, travel to and stayed in a treehouse near Pasak Ngam
- Day 9: Chang Mai – Bike ride to bat cave near treehouse, travel to back to Chang Mai, wandering around Chang Mai, night train to Bangkok
- Day 10: Hua Hin – Travel to Hua Hin, relax during the day, bachelor/bachelorette party at night
- Day 11: Hua Hin – Thai cooking class and visit to market
- Day 12: Phetchaburi – Travel to Phetchaburi, relaxing by the beach and rehearsal dinner
- Day 13: Phetchaburi – Wedding day, Thai ceremony in the morning, American ceremony in afternoon
- Day 14: Phetchaburi, Siem Reap – Travel to Bangkok, flight to Siem Reap, dinner at Chanrey Tree, cocktails at Miss Wong’s
- Day 15: Siem Reap – Tuk tuk tour of Angkor wat and surrounding temples
- Day 16: Siem Reap – Relaxing at hotel, lunch at Spoons, flight back to Bangkok
- Day 17: Travel day – Return to Chicago
If you have extra time:
- Since we checked out Southern Thailand and the islands in the Gulf of Thailand on a previous trip, we didn’t make time for them on this one but they are certainly worth it! Spend at least a few days relaxing at the beach and exploring the many islands.
- If you had additional time consider adding Vientiane, the capital of Laos. This small city is situated along the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. You’ll find many temples, Buddhist monuments, markets and bowling alleys.
- Explore the Pak Ou Caves in Luang Prabang. Situated along the river, the caves contain over 4,000 Buddha statues! Check with your hotel to see if they can book a day trip for you.
Tips for a great trip:
- Southeast Asia has a robust tourism economy. Although the regional customs may be a bit different than what you are accustomed to, we have always found tours and transportation booked through our accommodations to be extremely reliable. In short, if your host says that your $10 tour includes an 8am pickup, full day tour, lunch and drop off, you can usually trust them! Although the schedule may be a bit fluid and the driver may not speak a lot of English, you will get the tour you were promised and be returned to your hotel at the end of the day… so trust the process!
- Embrace the low cost of traveling in the region, but don’t always feel like you need to travel like a local. While in Southeast Asia, staying in guesthouses, eating local food, and taking busses/trains can be great ways to immerse yourself in the culture and save money, but it can also be well worth the money to pay a bit more. For example, if a bus ticket to a city you want to visit is $14 but the trip is 20 hours on a bumpy road while a flight can be purchased for less than $100 and takes 40 minutes, it may be well worth it to take the plane.
- Similarly, traveling in a low cost of living part of the world can allow you to have unique or luxurious experiences you couldn’t afford at home. On our last trip to Bangkok we ate at Nahm, one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Although it wasn’t cheap, it cost significantly less than one of the top restaurants in our home city of Chicago. Similarly, we can never seem to get enough of those $8 hour-long massages.
We’ll share more details on what we did in each city that we visited over the next few weeks. We hope our information can help you plan a great trip! Are there specific questions you have about any of the places we visited? Are you planning a trip to SE Asia?