Backpacking trip to Asia

What place should I start at if I want to make a backpacking trip to Asia?

I’m planning to make a trip around Asia next July (2016) with a friend, but we’re not sure where to start or what route we should follow. Which places should we definitely go to? What are some good hacks when traveling around Asia?

Well, this question is too broad to answer yet.

  1. How long would you be traveling?
  2. What is your overall budget?
  3. Which part of Asia are you interested in visiting in priority? You won’t be able to see every country unless you spend a year or longer.
  4. What kind of activities are you into?

So, I’ll make a couple of assumptions, and if I’m way off the mark, you can answer the questions and I’ll readjust my answer.

Assumptions: two months, 10,000 USD, flying from the US. Southeast Asia as a main target, with China as a side.

I’d recommend leaving later in the year, as summer months are miserable in most of these destinations.

Fly to HK (buy a return ticket, you’ll end up there at the end of your trip) and then to Kuala Lumpur and use this place as your hub. Hang around KL a day or two then go to Singapore (overnight bus or fly). Spend a couple of days in the Switzerland of Asia, then ferry to Bintan island. Fly from Tanjung Pinang airport, or probably from the new airport they’re building to Bali, via Jakarta (nothing to do/see in Jakarta, move along). If you’re on a tight budget retrace your steps back to Singapore and KL. If you have a little extra buy Bintan-Jakarta one way, JKT-Denpasar return, JKT-KL one way.

From KL go to Penang (cheap option: bus – try and stop on the way in Ipoh; fast option: plane). Spend 4/5 days there. Ferry to Langkawi and back.

Bus to Hat Yai in Malaysia. Then another bus and ferry to Phuket. Or fly there.
Other option is bus to Hat Yai then Surat Thani, ferry to Samui. Or fly to Surat and ferry. Have fun there too, 3/4 days.

Ferry back to Surat. Fly to Bangkok. Couple of days there. Take the time to apply for a Myanmar visa there, fastest process time.

Bus to Nongkhai (from Mo Chit bus station) or fly to Udon Thani from Don Mueang airport and a van to Nongkhai. Bus to Vientiane. Nok Air has a plane+bus offer.

A day or two in Vientiane (boring city), then fly to Luang Prabang. Best place in Laos, and cooler, as it’s on hills. Spend as many days as you can stand 🙂 It’s cheap, relaxing, people are friendly and the food is great.

Boat to Chiang Rai, takes 2 days. Nice little trip. Enjoy Wat Rong Khun the white temple. Bus to Tachileik, in Myanmar. Look around then fly to Heho for the Inle Lake. Then fly to Mandalay, the real economic and cultural center of Myanmar, then Yangon. From there You can fly back to Bangkok. Apply online for a Cambodian visa, while cooling off.

Fly to Siem Reap (your pre-approved visa will come in handy). Don’t try buses to go there. Between the scams and waits at the border it ain’t worth it. Visit Angkor Wat. Spend as many days as you can there. You may spend a couple of days in Phnom Penh after that, albeit to at least say you’ve been there. Bus Siem Reap-Phnom Penh then bus(es) to Saigon, aka Ho Chi Minh City. You might need to arrange a visa beforehand, at a Vietnamese consulate. Do that at home.

From Saigon to Hanoi, you can make a few stops on the way – you don’t have to do the whole scenic route but stops in Nha Trang, Danang, Hue, Haiphong could be fun. Hanoi is worth a couple of days. Bus to Mong Cai the Vietnamese city with a developed country’s GDP. Cross the border to Dongxing in China. Visa required, do this at home before leaving for Asia. Bus to Nanning. Fly to Pu’er via Kunming and discover all you want to know and more about the Rolls Royce of teas, Pu’er tea. Seriously. Fly to Guangzhou, via Kunming again. Visit Guangzhou and Foshan. High-speed train to Beijing. Plenty of things to do there. Fly down to Shanghai, rinse and repeat.

Take the slow train to Hong Kong (18 hours). Enjoy the view. If you have any money left buy a return flight to Taiwan. Doesn’t have to be Taipei – sometimes flying to Kaohsiung is cheaper. Visit Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taipei. High speed trains between these cities. Go to Hualien, slow trains. Visit the Taroko National park. Finish the trip around the island by going back to your starting point (Kaoshiung or Taipei). Fly back to HK, then home.

That should take you around Asia for two months.

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