SE Asia in 3 months
I'd recommend starting in southern Thailand for some beach time and working north from there. Actually if I were doing it again I flying into Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia and work my way up. After the beach spend some time in Bangkok and the nearby areas, head east to Cambodia, continue east to southern Vietnam then head north. Leave Vietnam to Laos and then into northern Thailand. You can check for returning flights from Chang Mai otherwise you'll have to go back down to Bangkok.
Once you're in the countries getting around is relatively easy and cheap, but not particularly efficient. It doesn't matter how far your going just assume that each day you're heading to the next town that it will take all day to get there. There's always delays, extra transfers you didn't know about or something. In the end you'll get where you intend to so just consider it part of the journey.
Come along for the ride!
Come along for the ride!
-Pay attention to visa times/ costs and whether they're multiple entry or not. Then if you want to see something in the middle (went to the 4,000 islands on the Laos side, then went back north to cross the border into Vietnam, when if had been a little more organized, could have nipped up to see that while in Cambodia.) you can figure out how to do it with as little cost but making the most sense on a route.
-Don't stay in Bangkok or HCMC any longer than you need to. They are an experience, and huge and crazy, but there's a lot more way awesomer places to be that don't involve nearly as much smoke and noise. Give yourself a little downtime between things... if you're trying to do too much, then you end up missing out anyway.
-Banking a day to get anywhere is a good idea. Especially in Laos and Cambodia, where the infastructure isn't as developed and the roads are crap. So even if it doesn't look like that far... it'll still take that long. Take overnights whenever possible, you'll be surprised how well you sleep when you're completely exhausted.
The biggest highlights of my trip were also some of the more costly, but were worth the splurge when everything else was so cheap. The number one thing I'd recommend is the Gibbon Experience in Laos. If you're going to Laos, you have to do this. If you cross into Laos to go to Luang Prabang from Chang Mai, it isn't even out of your way. Don't be fooled by the 'gibbon experience' postings you'll see in Chang Mai... Laos is the real deal. Google it, and then look for videos on Youtube. Ziplining from tree to tree over what feels like hundreds of feet, living in treehouses in the jungle... it is completely amazing and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I did do some diving, which was awesome, and Angkor Wat isn't to be missed either, although I think three days was enough to see plenty of temples.
Have fun, you're going at a beautiful time of year!
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