Lucky enough to have four weeks to spare and want to really tick off Southeast Asia? We’ve put together an itinerary taking you through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and finishing up with a stop in Hong Kong. Let this uber itinerary inspire a tailor-made trip of your own…
Day 1-2: Bangkok
You’ll start your adventure in Bangkok, one of the most vibrant cities of Southeast Asia. You can tour the Grand Palace which was built in 1782, and was home to many Thai kings for more than 150 years. Visit the temple of the Emerald Buddha, a meticulously carved statue made entirely from a single block of jade.
Day 2-5: Chiang Rai
You can take a direct flight to Chiang Rai, a small, relaxing city often overlooked but it’s the perfect place to explore the remote corners of northern Thailand. You can discover local tribal villages, relax and enjoy the countryside or visit the famous ‘golden triangle’ vantage point for views spread across Laos, Burma and Thailand!
Day 5-6: Mekong River
From the border crossing from Thailand to Laos in Chinag Khong, board the Luang Say cruise on the Mekong River. Here you can relax and meander down the river at your leisure. You will enjoy a night’s stay in Luang Say Lodge. Largely untouched by the modern world, you can watch the world pass by on this remote stretch of the country.
Day 6-8: Luang Prabang
Leaving the boat at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, you’ll discover colourful French provincial architecture, a quaint atmosphere, thousands of monks and their novices wearing burnt sienna robes, and coffee shops on every corner. With this slow pace of life, you can pass the days easily but make sure to visit the Paku Caves which are like no other, especially if you take the early start to see them at sunrise.
Day 8-11: Siem Reap
Jump on a flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia where you can explore the ancient temples including that of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. If you’re feeling adventurous, head a little more off the beaten track, and go to Preah Khan, one of Imagine’s favourite temples in Asia. As well as the temples, be sure to check out the delicious Khmer world-class dining.
Day 11-13: Phnom Penh
Travel by car to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. As well as visiting the Russian markets and glimmering spires of the Royal Palace set on the banks of the Mekong River, there is a lot of history to be discovered. You can take an excursion to Tuol Sleng museum, displaying artefacts from the crimes of the S21-Prison genocide and the surrounding Killing Fields – not for the faint-hearted, but incredibly moving.
Day 13-14: Chau Doc
Travel by speedboat to Chau Doc in Vietnam, the gateway to the Mekong Delta. A passing route for many travellers, this small town is full of unexplored mosques, temples and churches. It is also home to many fascinating pilgrimage sites, a large indoor market and floating houses at the riverside.
Day 14-16: Can Tho
Drive to the luscious, green riverside town of Can Tho. Get up early to enjoy the unique experience of Can Tho’s popular floating markets, open from around 4am and selling mainly fruits and vegetables. Other highlights of the city include wandering through the town absorbing the beauty of the pagodas and surrounding Mekong Delta.
Day 16-17: Mekong Delta
Cruise the Mekong Delta in style with Bassac Cruises on one of their traditional wooden boats. The sunset over the delta is a moment to remember as you enjoy a luxurious dinner at the on-board restaurant.
Day 17-19: Ho Chi Minh City
Disembark at Cai Be and drive to the commercial capital of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City. This impressive city blends modern skyscrapers with ancient Chinese pagodas. A unique way of sightseeing is by Vintage Vespa tour, which involves touring the city at night, experiencing and trying new cuisine from the street food stalls and being taken to local places of interest. Brilliant fun.
Day 19-23: Hoi An
Fly to Da Nang and then travel to nearby Hoi An where we recommend staying at the luxurious Nam Hai Hotel for some downtime. Hoi An is arguably the most delightful town in Vietnam, with beautiful architecture reflecting a mixture of eras and styles. Spend time relaxing on the beautiful beaches, trying your hand at a cooking class or taking a cycling tour.
Day 23-25: Hanoi
Fly to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam for a couple of days full of ancient culture and colonial charm. The Temple of Literature, Hanoi’s first university, is a highlight along with sampling some traditional street food. Be brave and try something unique to Vietnamese cuisine, such as squab (pigeon) porridge.
Day 25-26: Halong Bay
Drive to nearby Halong Bay, one of the world’s new natural wonders and an absolute must for those travelling through Vietnam. It is a beautiful and picturesque area of 2,000 limestone pinnacles and islands. The best way to experience this is an overnight stay on a traditional junk – Imagine’s choice is The Violet.
Day 26-28: Hong Kong
Take a flight to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong for some souvenir shopping and amazing food for your last few days before returning home. If you’re left with any time, other must-see highlights include visiting The Peak which has some of the best views of the city day or night, the many street markets, and Wong Tai Sin Temple.
Here are a few suggestions of where you can fly onto… Fly direct to the Philippines for world-class beaches and diving. You’re at the gateway to China, venture to the home of the world’s oldest continuous civilization and futuristic megalopolises. Head onto Burma to experience cultural treasures, architectural marvels and natural splendour.