How to Spend 9 Weeks in Southeast Asia

The nine weeks that I spent in Southeast Asia were some of the best times of my life – diving off the coast of Bali, cruising through beautiful Halong Bay and discovering the remarkable Angkor Wat.  There is something about this part of the world that can’t help but steal your heart. Besides the fact that it is a completely economical place to travel, I found that it was extremely easy as a solo traveler and I made lifelong friends during my time there.

If you haven’t read my story yet, then you wouldn’t know that my entire foray into the travel blogging world began with this trip – a solo, nine-week adventure in Southeast Asia. Many have asked me where I went, where I stayed, and how I afforded it without ever staying in a single hostel – so here it is.

During my nine weeks in Southeast Asia, I took 16 different flights, spent more than 100 hours in the air, on a bus or on a ferry, visited a total of 4 countries and roughly 18 cities, and made an infinite number of memories.  I spent roughly $8,000 USD and did not hold back on shopping, food, or activities one bit. The following provides a breakdown of where I stayed, how I got there and a couple of the things that I did while I was there.

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Bangkok

  • Get There: LAX to Bangkok via Cathay Pacific, connecting in Hong Kong. Flight time – 18h 45m
  • Stay Here: Dream Hotel – this is a great hotel and I love staying here. It is centrally located, clean, comfortable and friendly.  This was the most expensive hotel I stayed in during my entire trip. Bangkok is a major city so hotel prices tend to be higher.

You Might Like: The Complete Travel Guide to Bangkok

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Chiang Mai

  • Get There: Bangkok to Chiang Mai via Bangkok Airways. Flight time – 1 hour
  • Stay Here: I checked into The Castle and while I enjoyed this hotel and have zero complaints about the hotel itself, I actually would not recommend staying here only because it is outside the city walls which makes getting into the city a bit of a hassle due to the busy traffic and lack of crosswalks. I recommend staying inside the city walls. For some budget-friendly hotels, check out Pat’s Klangviang Boutique Guesthouse or Thongran’s House – both of these hotels are centrally located and offer great values.
  • Don’t Miss:  Chiang Mai is a popular city in Northern Thailand.  While many say Chiang Mai has become a bit of a hippie town to which I can somewhat agree, there is so much more to this city than hippies, peace signs and incredible vegetarian restaurants! On top of a hill overlooking the city is Doi Suthep which is an absolute must.

You Might Like: Top 10 Things to Do in Chiang Mai

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Hanoi

  • Get There: Chiang Mai to Hanoi via Bangkok on Thai Airways. Flight time – 4h 25m with 1h 25m layover in Bangkok.
  • Stay Here: Tu Linh Palace Hotel is a great value luxury hotel. The rooms are nice and the staff is extremely helpful. The hotel has two other sister hotels as well. All three hotels vary in prices and are scattered throughout Hanoi.
  • Don’t Miss: Take a tour with Hanoi Kids, a student-run organization that offers free tours (museum admittances not included). This is a great way to get to know Hanoi with a local as a guide. Foodies will love taking a food tour of the Old Quarter where street food dominates the scene. A visit to Hanoi wouldn’t be complete without spending a cruising on a junk boat in Halong Bay.

You Might Like: A Complete Guide to Halong Bay

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Hue

  • Get There: Hanoi to Hue via Vietnam Airlines. Flight time – 1 hour
  • Stay Here: Jade Hotel or Holiday Diamond Hotel. Both are great options in the city center.
  • Don’t Miss: Be sure to visit the Citadel, the Dong Ba Market and consider taking a tour in order to see all of the hidden sights. Not a whole lot to do here, spend a few days and then move onto Hoi An.

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Hoi An

  • Get There: I took a car service from Hue to Hoi An. Drive time – 2 hours
  • Stay Here: I stayed a few nights at Hai Au Hotel, which was very well located and within walking distance to the center of town.
  • Don’t Miss: The highlight of Hoi An is the city itself, after all it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After wandering around the city, consider taking a Vietnamese cooking class with Green Bamboo like I did.

You Might Like: Learning to Cook Vietnamese in Vietnam

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Siem Reap

  • Get There: From Hoi An, fly out of the airport in Da Nang nonstop to Siem Reap. Flight time – 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Stay Here: Hotels in Siem Reap are by no means pricey and you can find a luxury hotel for a great value. I decided to go for the small, family-run option over the big resort so I ended up at V&A Villa. The couple that runs this little B&B is so sweet and the rooms are very spacious. Highly recommend staying here.
  • Don’t Miss: Arrange for a tour guide to take you to the highlights in Siem Reap, one obviously being the Angkor Temples. Spend your evenings enjoying the bustling nightlife along Pub Street. Skip a visit to Tonle Sap lake – waste of time and not all the interesting.

You Might Like: Exploring the Angkor Temples

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Koh Samui

  • Get There: From Siem Reap, connect in Bangkok before continuing onto Koh Samui with Bangkok Air. Flight time – 3h 15m with 1h 15m layover in Bangkok.
  • Stay Here: Koh Samui is a huge island with all the various areas being unique and offering a different experience. For seclusion and a great value, head to Hutcha Resort. I thought it was a relaxing experience and had a serene, private beach to boot.
  • Don’t Miss: Rent a motorbike (be safe!) and explore the island. Every beach offers something different and you will want to explore everything Koh Samui has to offer. The party scene is predominantly in Chaweng.

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Koh Phangan

  • Get There: From Koh Samui take the high speed catamaran called Lomprayah. Travel time – 35 mins
  • Don’t Miss: While one of the main attractions in Koh Phangan is the Full Moon Party, there is so much more to this island. Rent a motorbike and head to the west side of the island to catch an incredible sunset.

You Might Like: Survival Guide to the Full Moon Party

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Koh Tao

  • Get There: Take the ferry from Koh Phangan. Be sure to arrange transport from the pier with your accommodation in Koh Tao as they will most likely offer it and all dive shops will certainly offer it to those who will be diving as was my experience. Travel time – 1h 30m
  • Stay Here: You will want to stay in Sairee Village. I recommend staying at Sairee Cottages because it is very central, the dive staff is amazing and the rooms (yellow and up) are incredible. I stayed in the yellow rooms and one night in the orange rooms. If you can rough it, then by all means stay in the orange room – it was a little too primitive living for me!
  • Don’t Miss: Diving! Koh Tao is a mecca for dive schools with new ones popping up all the time.  I strongly suggest diving with Sairee Cottages.  The prices are reasonable, the location is ideal and the staff seals the deal.

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Krabi

  • Get There: From Koh Tao, you can take a ferry back to Koh Samui and then continue onto Surat Thani where you will then get on a bus to Krabi Town. Once you arrive in Krabi Town, you will then transfer to a smaller shuttle that will transport you to your hotel. See ferrysamui.com for booking. Travel time – 6 hours

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Koh Phi Phi

  • Get There: Take the ferry from Krabi to Koh Phi Phi with the Phuket FerryTravel time – 1h 30m
  • Stay Here: Let me start by saying that the hotel options on Koh Phi Phi are plentiful but a good place to stay is hard to come by. I was attached by loads of bugs at Phi Phi Ingphu Viewpoint Hotel and my legs are completely covered. The hotel was just a horrible place to stay all around. It was up on top of a hill and for a solo traveler, heading to and from town at night when the roads are pitch dark, is not fun. Do yourself a favor and don’t try to save money on accommodation in Phi Phi. I ended up staying at Phi Phi Palms Residence and it was great. Perfect location and wonderful rooms.
  • Don’t Miss: Go diving! Koh Phi Phi had some of the best diving in Thailand. I went diving with Hippo Divers and it was amazing. They also had the best boat out of all the dive shops on the island. Check out the Reggae Bar one night and if you are feeling brace elect to partake in a Muay Thai fight.

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Phuket

  • Get There: Take the ferry from Koh Phi Phi to Phuket with the Phuket FerryTravel time – 3 hours
  • Stay Here: The most notorious place in Phuket is Patong for it’s wild nightlife. I stayed rather far from the beach (which I regretted) at Islanda Boutique Hotel. Stay near or close to the beach as Phuket is still recovering from the tsunami so roads are still incomplete especially the further from the beach you go.
  • Don’t Miss: Whether you stay in Patong or not, check out the nightlife on Bangla Road. It is very entertaining.

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Kuta

  • Get There: From Phuket, you can catch a flight connecting in either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur with flight times varying on connections. Minimum flight time – 5h 20m
  • Stay Here: I stayed at Loft Legian Bali. Great hotel, down the street from the beach and love the Coffee Bean in the lobby! For a more luxurious stay, I loved the Discovery Kartika Plaza. Swim up bar and beachfront location.

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Candidasa

  • Get There: After you’ve rented a car in the Kuta area, head north along the east coast of Bali and find your way to the sleepy town of Candidasa. Drive time – 1 hour
  • Stay Here: I splurged on a gorgeous hotel, Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa. Wonderful pool and free yoga classes on certain days of the week!
  • Don’t Miss: Consider taking a trekking tour to Mount Batur. At the hotel, rent bikes at take a cruise into the quiet town where you can peruse the stores. Calm waters make it a great place to go snorkeling as well. Take the car and visit some of my favorite sights like Tirta Gangga and Lempuyang Door.

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Amed

  • Get There: When you leave Candidasa, make a stop in Karangasem before continuing onto Amed. Drive time – 30 mins
  • Stay Here: I stayed at Bedulu Resort. Nice bungalows overlooking the ocean. If you are there when it is boiling hot, make sure you get a bungalow with AC. You will need it!
  • Don’t Miss: Be sure to dive the Liberty wreck. It is one of the most amazing dives in the world. Considering how deep the boat lies on the ocean floor, advanced diving certification is recommended otherwise you will not be able to go to the level of the wreck.

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Ubud

  • Get There: From Amed, you have two choices, you can head back the way you came passing through Candidasa or you can continue North, take a drive along the coast and cut through the center of Bali passing through the mountains. I did the latter. From Amed, I went along the north coast until I arrived in Lovina where I then headed south driving through the mountains and around a grouping of three lakes – Lake Bratan, Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan. Drive time – 3 hours
  • Stay Here: I found a hotel conveniently located within walking distance to Monkey Forest Road. Tunjung Mas Bungalows was a stunning hotel with a pool!
  • Don’t Miss: Be sure to take a yoga class at Yoga Barn. Consider renting a motorbike (just don’t crash it like I did) and cruise around Ubud where you can visit one of the better fire dances located outside of town.

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Nusa Lembongan

  • Get There: On the way to the Gili Islands, Scoot Cruises will take you to Nusa Lembongan at no extra charge where you can stay for as many days as you like. Travel time – 45 mins
  • Stay Here: I stayed at the Made Inn. Not exactly my typical go-to as it was a little too much of a “rough it” kind of vibe. I’d suggest staying at the Scooby Doo Beach Bungalow.
  • Don’t Miss: I came to Nusa Lembongan for the sole purpose of diving. I decided to dive with Lembongan Dive Center and it couldn’t have been a better experience! Run by locals so you really get an insider’s guide to the island.

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Gili Islands

  • Get There: High speed boats run from mainland Bali out of several different ports. From Nusa Lembongan, Scott Cruises makes a stop in Lombok before continuing onto Gili Trawangan. Travel time – 
  • Stay Here: I stayed one night at this little B&B called Rumah Purnama. It was set off the beach in the back streets. Lovely little place and I highly recommend for those who have a low budget but don’t mind being set off the beach a bit in exchange for great, clean accommodation. Because I was in the Gilis to dive, I moved to Trawangan Dive Resort. Because I was doing a dive course (advanced diver), I was given a reasonable package of about $50 per night for a luxury room. If you want to stay in a resort in the Gilis, you have to pay. I looked at several other accommodations and they were awful. Trawangan Dive Resort was the best deal for what you pay and what you get.
  • Don’t Miss: Rent a paddle board and take a paddle over to Gili Meno. Be sure to talk a walk around the perimeter of Gili T. The other side of the island is a complete contrast to the main developed side. Also note that each bar has it’s own “party night” so everyone looking to party basically ends up at the same place. I was a huge fan of Tir Na Nog. The Gili Islands are my version of paradise.

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