In less than two weeks we’ll be touching down in Bangkok, the beginning of a four-and-a-half-month stay in Southeast Asia and our first visit to the continent. It’s exciting (and slightly nerve-wracking) to think about spending such a lengthy amount of time in a place that will be so different to us in just about every respect—language, culture, customs, cuisine.
In Europe, we moved every three to four days on average, but we plan to slow down our pace in Asia. Getting from place to place will take longer, plus we want to make sure we have unscripted sightseeing time to soak up the atmosphere in each locale.
We’ve also learned a thing or two about our style of travel over the years, and that has colored our itinerary to some extent. One place we’re skipping this trip is Sapa in Vietnam. It looks amazing, but the only way to get there is by overnight bus followed by another overnight bus on the return trip. That’s simply too much travel pain for a couple of days in a destination.
We nonetheless hear a lot of folks recommending traveling overnight, especially in this part of the world where distances between cities are long and transportation is slow. And it is true that taking an overnight bus or train gets you to your destination during what would otherwise be downtime and saves a night’s lodging cost in the process. But those benefits have never been worth the trade offs for us. In our experience overnight transport always costs us more time than it saves.
The day of travel we get kicked out of our hotel room in the morning and then have to wait around for a train, bus, or plane in the evening. Theoretically we could use those ten or twelve hours to sightsee, but in practice we never do. We always find that by then we’ve seen everything we wanted to see in the area. And because we never like leaving our computers and other gear in the hotel’s storage room or at the front desk, we usually end up spending all those hours babysitting our backpacks.
Once on the train we don’t really sleep. We get to our destination overnight but we’re pretty well wrecked the next day. So the overnight train that was supposed to save us a day’s travel ends up costing us two. We’re going to avoid them whenever we can.
So far we’ve planned out the first half of our itinerary from November 4 through January 16. That still leaves two months until our flight out of Bangkok on March 17. We might hit the Thailand beaches, meander to Malaysia or Myanmar, or bound over to Bali or Borneo. Suggestions on where else in Southeast Asia we should venture? Please give us a shout. We’d love to have your input.
Here’s what we’ve decided on so far:
- Chiang Rai, Thailand
- Chiang Mai, Thailand (including a night in an Elephant sanctuary)
- Luang Prabang, Laos
- Hanoi, Vietnam (including a night on Halong Bay)
- Hoi An, Vietnam
- Hue, Vietnam
- Da Nang, Vietnam
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Thailand beaches and south to Malaysia?