Backpacking Tips Asia: Planning a trip Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia

by Arild B.

Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia

Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia

Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia Hoi An, Vietnam Halong Bay, Vietnam

Question: Hi, I'm thinking about doing a 2 months trip to Thailand, Vietnam Cambodia and Malaysia (January to early March). Am I spreading myself to thin or will it be enough time?

Don't know where I should go and in what order.
I'm flying from Stavanger/Amsterdam to Bangkok.

I'm in to photography so I'll be bringing my SLR-camera. So would like to see some big landscapes, maybe do a boat ride up a river, somewhere (doesn't have to be in Thailand).

I know I'd like to see the snake farm and big buddha. Koh Pha Ngan seems to have a lot of the stuff I like: quiet beaches, elephant riding, snorkeling and diving, waterfalls, massages and muay thai fights.

Could do some night-trains to save money and get more out of my time there.

Hope you can help me :)

Btw: what vaccines should I get? Thought I'd get hepatitis A/B, tetanus and diphtheria. Hoping to be able to drop the Malaria tablets since I wont be going to far up in the mountains.


Answer: Hello Arild, I'll answer your question about the itinerary first:

Yes, spending two months in four countries is too short. In theory, you'll be spending two weeks in each country. But of course, if you like speeding up a bit it can of course work. And as you say, go for the night transportation.

I'm not going to say that you have to spend longer in those countries, because it seems like you only got two months.

Here's a suggestion of an itinerary -- 2 months: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia.

Since I don't know from where you'll depart home again, I assume that you're flying out from Kuala Lumpur (which you should to save time).

START: Bangkok --> border cross from Aranyaprathet to Poipet in Cambodia --> Siem Reap (Angkor temples) --> Phnom Penh (Genocide museum, Killing fields) --> border cross from Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam (several buses leave Phnom Penh to Saigon, ex Sorya transport and Mekong express) --> in Vietnam you can take a Mekong Delta boat trip (supposed to be great) --> Mui Ne (quiet beaches) --> Hoi An (French Colonial town) --> Hanoi (trip to Halong Bay -- great place for pictures) --> flight from Hanoi to Bangkok

From Bangkok --> Koh Phangan --> Koh Samui --> train to Alor Setar in Malaysia (ferry for Langkawi island) --> Ipoh (caving and jungle trekking) --> Kuala Lumpur

You can spend 4 days in Bangkok when you arrive there, 10 days in Cambodia, 2,5 weeks in Vietnam, 1,5 week in south Thailand and 2 weeks in Malaysia = 2 months! :-)

When border crossing from Thailand to Cambodia, I got to warn you that all sorts of scams are going on these borders. The same scams seem to be used at several border crossings.

Ex: Border crossings Thailand to Cambodia

Another ex: Hat Lek to Koh Kong

But in my opinion, border crossing is part of backpacking and real adventures, and it's a great way of learning the art of traveling ;-) Just be prepared and use your common sense, that's all I'm saying!


I would at least get the Hep A + Hep B, Tetanus/diphteria, Typhoid and Polio (if you haven't renewed it since elementary school). I've taken these myself.

I've traveled a lot in Southeast Asia, and I haven't taken malaria tablets. BUT this depends on the time you're leaving (some seasons are more malaria-infested than others) and where you're going. I'm not going to recommend you to not take malaria tablets because I don't have the medical authority to do so. Get in touch with your local vaccination clinic, and get advice there :-)

Hope this helps! :)

-- Admin and editor

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Nov 27, 2010
One more thing:
by: arild

Im traveling in and out (back home) from Bangkok..
But think Im just gonna have to drop Vietnam this time..Maybe even Cambodia.. Think it will be better to concentrate on fewer countries and rather going there another time..

Someone recommended this itinerary:
"Bangkok 4 nights exploring (Chao Phraya ferries, Wat Arun, Chatuchak market, skytrain and MBK Mall are must sees).
Chiang Mai great for shopping 6 nights is enough. We took overnight train up and back - decent.
Khao Lak - for snorkeling the Similan Islands 3 nights minimum
Koh Lanta - relaxing on Khlong Nin Beach - lots of walking and swimming. 3 to 7 nights.
Koh Kradan - for snorkelling, very isolated and undeveloped, get there from Koh Lanta. 3 to 5 nights.
Koh Lipe - getting built up but still scenic - cross over to Koh Adang for snorkelling by longtail.
From here cross over to Langkawi, Malaysia and spend a few days here.

By now yo'll likely have to head back up north (it depends on how long and how often you stop somewhere). If you're heading back just stop wherever you like on the way maybe getting to trang then taking a train from Trang to Bangkok."

Any comments to what they suggested?

I must say I did get a bit put off of the whole border crossing.. I'll be traveling alone, and a easy mark in the eye of the con men

Nov 27, 2010
by: Amanda/Backpacking Tips Asia

Wise move of you to visit fewer countries in two months :-)

Bangkok: Haven't been to Wat Arun or taken the Chao Praya ferries. But taking a ferry up the Chap Praya is supposed to be good Lonely Planet: Chao Praya

Chatuchak weekend market is definitely a must-see -- diverse shopping and live animals -- it's actually Thailand's largest market. MBK mall is a must-see if you're into the serious shopping. You can read more here Bangkok Shopping: MBK. You can take the Skytrain from MBK to Chatuchak weekend market -- great view of Bangkok and super fast. Hehe

I would add the Snake farm as you mentioned earlier, and a visit to Wat Phu. Those are attractions in Bangkok which I think is worth visiting!

Chiang Mai: Chiang Mai is not only great because of shopping and the night markets, but also because of the scenery, jungle treks and elephant riding! So it's worth staying there for one week. I stayed there for one week, and it felt like three days. We had a blast there!

Khao Lak: I've been to Khao Lak and it's beautiful, but I haven't snorkeled there (because it rained during the three days I visited in January 2008). But snorkeling and diving around Similan islands is supposed to be world-class.

Koh Lanta: Lanta is beautiful and more laid-back than other islands. Great snorkeling, and you can watch muay thai fights here as well. One of my favorite islands!

Koh Kradan and Koh Lipe: Haven't been there. Check out these great posts Tezzas Blog: Koh Kradan

Tezzas Blog: Koh Lipe

From Koh Lipe you can take the ferry (Tiger Line Travel) directly to Pulau Langkawi. There's also a direct ferry from Koh Lanta to Koh Lipe.

Trains from Trang to Bangkok Seat Trains from Trang to Bangkok

Sorry I scared you about the border crossings from Thailand to Cambodia :-S But that's reality for now :-(

Nov 28, 2010
Don't miss Laos!
by: Roam-The-World

This will be an amazing trip, you'll have an awesome time. Whilst I acknowledge you don't want to 'spread yourself too thin', think carefully before skipping Laos. I've travelled much of the world and Laos is one of my favourite countries. It's still touristy enough to be comfortable but with fewer tourists and lower prices than Northern Thailand. Therefore if you want elephant trekking, jungle treks, hill-tribe homestays and exotic adventure I'd recommend Laos.

Have a great time!

Jan 21, 2011
uk work permit
by: arnie

This one is useful. I was about to ask a question but thanks to the sharing. thumbs up! :)

May 31, 2011
time table
by: Anonymous

bangkok-cambodia-vietnam-bangkok-phuket-bangkok-manila(home) we did this for less than 2 weeks ;D

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