Our 3 week South East Asia Itinerary

Monday, November 3

Kevin and I travel a lot. But whenever we mention our South East Asia trip, we both get this twinkle in our eye, the kind that says "that was really the best trip ever". We never rate our trips, because we do love every where we go. But there was something about this trip that was incredibly special. I wanted to share with you the places we went, the hotels we stayed at, and the activities we did, because they were just so…magical. *sigh…i'm getting all nostalgic on you…*

Kevin and I chose to visit Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in a 3 week span, with one week in each country. If you have more time, I would add Laos on to the trip! If you have less time, I might just subtract a country.

Thailand 
Kevin and I had been to Thailand before this trip, hitting up the major places to see such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai and closer islands such as Koh Samet and Koh Chang. Because of this, we decided to spend our week in Thailand in a place we'd never traveled.

Railay Beach

Kevin and I had been living in Nepal prior to our 3 week trip throughout SE Asia. Therefore, on coming to Thailand, we were absolutely exhausted, both physically and mentally. Because of this, we wanted to find an oasis to completely unwind and just relax. And we found Railay Beach, and it was absolutely perfect. This is the closest place i've found to heaven on earth, and I can't even tell you how much I loved it here. It has the most beautiful beaches, gorgeous and economical accommodations, and was quiet and peaceful (unlike some of the surrounding islands which are known for being party magnets!).

Getting to Railay: We took a domestic flight from Bangkok to Krabi (you can find cheap tickets on Air Asia!). Once in Krabi, take the shuttle to the port of departure for Railay. You will then get into a longboat, and be shuttled over to Railay Beach. RB is not an island, but a peninsula that you can't get to by land.

Days Needed: We stayed on Railay 4 nights and 5 days. It was the perfect amount of time for us, as we needed to recharge before we tackled the rest of SE Asia! Two days we stayed on Railay Beach, swimming and reading and eating and swimming some more! One day we spent on Phra Nang Beach (a 5-10 minute walk away!) and one day we did a speed boat tour through all the islands. If you are in a time crunch, I would say you need a minimum of 2 days!!

Where to Stay: I'm not kidding, some of my favorite accommodations ever were on Railay! We stayed at the Railay Garden View Resort. We paid $20 a night, and had our own bungalow that was absolutely adorable, updated and clean!! Every morning we would sit in the dining room area that overlooked the beach and drink coffee and just soak in the view. The staff is super nice too!

To see more of our time in Railay, click on the posts below!
Railay Beach
Phra Nang
Speed Boat Tour  & snorkeling {Koh Phi Phi, Maya Bay, Bamboo Island}

Cambodia

From the minute we stepped foot in Cambodia, we felt welcome. We just fell head over heels in love with the people, and the sights…wow, don't even get me started! So, so good. We started our Cambodia introduction in Siem Reap and then went on to the capital of Phnom Penh.

Siem Reap

Hands down my favorite place in Cambodia. This sweet little town is both laid back and also bustling with action! Siem Reap is the jumping off point for seeing one of the great wonders of the world…Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples!

Getting to Siem Reap: We took a bus from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia. It only leaves once a day in the morning, so arrive with plenty of time to buy your ticket! Go to Mochit Station, and ask around for the bus to Siem Reap. The ticket costs around $25 and you can read more about it here.  Since you are crossing international borders, you will need to get a visa. Kevin and I bought our visa online (e-visa), but you can also buy your visa at the border crossing.

Days Needed: We stayed 3 nights and 4 days in Siem Reap, and it was perfect. The first full day we spent visiting the majestic temples! (Angkor Wat, Bayon, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, etc). It is absolutely majestic, but also tiring! After a full day of temples, we felt satisfied. So the next full day we hired a tuk tuk driver to take us out into the country side! We visited a lotus pond, Ton Le Sap Lake (with the floating villages) and stopped at a country restaurant filled with hammocks. It was a perfect day!

Where to Stay: Don't stay anywhere else but the Golden Temple Villa!!!! This place is incredible! For $12 a night you also get a free 30 minute massage, complimentary snacks and drinks, and a computer lab with free wifi! The grounds are just gorgeous, with a garden, hammocks, and their restaurant is amazing. We so enjoyed our stay here and would go back again and again!

To see more of Siem Reap and the surrounding countryside:
Siem Reap
Angkor Wat
Lotus Pond
Ton Le Sap Lake
Hammocks and hikes


Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh truly surprised me. As the capital of Cambodia, with a violent history, I suppose I was expecting something a bit more undeveloped like Kathmandu (where we had been living). But instead, we found a bubbling, vibrant and friendly city with wide boulevards and regal monuments (a product of being a French colony).  We found the people to be so kind, and the history incredibly heart breaking. Our time in Phnom Penh was life changing. 

Getting to Phnom Penh: From Siem Reap, Kevin and I took a mini-bus to Phnom Penh. I believe it took us around 6-7 hours, but that was an hour faster than the bus! 

Days Needed: We spent two nights and three days in Phnom Penh. It felt like the right amount of time. We spent our only full day starting off with the genocide monuments, with the Tuol Sleng prison and the killing fields. Both powerful, but hard. We then explored the markets, the river walk, and the palace (which was gorgeous!). 

Where to Stay: We stayed at the White Linen Boutique Hotel, which we chose very carefully and consciously. Because Cambodia has a huge problem with sex-trafficking, especially among little girls, we chose the White Linen because it supports an organization called The Daughters of Cambodia. The DOC works with women who have been trafficked, helping them heal from their trauma as well as teaching them job skills. Therefore, the workers of our hotel were young rescued women training for a future in hospitality. This hotel was incredibly gorgeous, and I'd totally recommend staying there! 

To see pictures and read more about our time in Phnom Penh, click here

Vietnam

Vietnam has quickly climbed to one of my top favorite countries in the world! Growing up in the USA,  Vietnam is so closely tied to the Vietnam war, that like most people, i'd never thought of it as a tourist destination. However, after hearing so many of our friends sing the country's praises, we were curious to explore there. And are we ever glad we did! Vietnam is absolutely stunning, diverse, fun-loving, colorful, and the food is off the hook! I could not recommend it more!!

Hoi An
Even though every where we went on this trip was special, Hoi An was just magic. Kevin and I both looked at each other numerous times in our 4 days here and said "we could move here". Hoi An is a sleepy backwater town with SO much culture and SO much yummy food! It is the perfect mix between quaint little city, and gorgeous beach! We biked every where, ate delicious food, and relaxed for hours on the sand and in the stunning waters! 

Getting to Hoi An: Coming from Cambodia, it took some planning to make our way across the border into Vietnam, and then up the country to Hoi An. First, if you fly into Vietnam you can get a visa on arrival. However, if you take a bus, you need to get a visa ahead of time (at least as an American). Kevin and I went to the Vietnamese embassy  while we were in Holland, and secured our visas. We took a bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Min City in Vietnam. It was a janky bus filled with many hilarious memories, and 6 hours later, we made it. Once in Ho Chi Min, we took a domestic flight up to Da Neng, where our hotel picked us up and drove us the 40 minutes into Hoi An. It seems complicated, but it actually went really smoothly! 

Days Needed: Stay as long as you can!! Once you come to Hoi An, you will never want to leave. We stayed 3 nights and 4 days, and we still felt like there were things to do and see! We rented bikes and a scooter and were able to see a lot of the surrounding countryside, beaches, and canals! 

Where to Stay: We stayed at the Botanic Garden Homestay and loved it. It was between the town and the beach, which was a nice compromise. It was quiet and had beautiful gardens! I think we paid around $30! 

To see more of Hoi An {and trust me, it was a photographer's dream!} see {Day 1} and {Day 2 & 3}

Halong Bay 

If ever there were a dream world, Halong Bay would be it. I looked forward to cruising Halong Bay our entire trip, and it did not disappoint. We spent our days kayaking, eating delicious food, meeting new friends from around the world, swimming, and soaking in the breathtaking views! Do not miss this incredible place! 

Getting to Halong Bay: From Hoi An, we took a flight from Da Nang to Hanoi. From Hanoi, your cruise company will come and pick you up at your hotel and drive you out to the launching point (about a 4 hour drive). You will cruise around for 1-2 days, and then they will drop you back at your hotel in Hanoi. 

Days Needed: You have the option of doing a 1 night cruise or a 2 night cruise. We chose the 2 night cruise and could not have been happier with that decision! Here's why…on the 2 night cruise you actually get to go further into the bay than anyone else. You get a full day of swimming, kayaking, and lounging. Everyone that only paid for the 1 night cruise did not want to leave and was a bit jealous that we were staying! Go for the 2 night cruise!!! 

Where to Stay: Well, in Halong Bay you have the choice of a LOT of different boat carriers. We chose the Halong Dragon which was a mid-range ship. I think we paid $175 a person (which included the pick up and drop off in Hanoi, lodging, food, and excursions! A great deal!). Our friends chose the Marguerite Junk (which is a step ahead of ours) and they loved it! As a tip, you'll save money if you book your ship when you arrive in Hanoi! 

To see more pictures and read more about our time in Halong Bay, click here. 

I hope this was helpful for you! If you ever have any more questions, don't hesitate to email me!! I truly hope you get to explore South East Asia…it will take your breath away! 

Happy Monday! 

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