Are you looking for a multi-month Southeast Asia itinerary but don’t know where to start? In this article, I’ll show you what our 5-month travel itinerary through Southeast Asia looks like, with my favorite places, to help you make the most of the experience.

You may have to be adventurous sometimes, but it’s worth it!

south east asia backpacking route

South east asia backpacking route : My 5 month itinerary


In January 2023, we had one of the best experiences of our lives, spending 5 months backpacking in Southeast Asia.

We set off on an unforgettable journey through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Singapore, ending in Turkey.

So, if you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia, you’ve made an excellent choice! Southeast Asia is, without a doubt, one of the world’s best regions for independent travel. It offers more adventures than you can imagine and is generally incredibly inexpensive.

south east Asia backpacking route: Our itinerary

So I relied on sites like Where and When to Go? which give a quick overview of the best seasons for each country. Below is a summary of what we did.

I also turned to, for anyone wanting to prepare for a big trip: destination-specific advice, must-see places, checklists, and more. This site was a great help in organizing our trip.

  • January: Malaysia (West Coast)
  • February: Thailand (South to North)
  • March: Laos + Cambodia
  • April: Vietnam
  • May: Singapore + return to Thailand for the Trat islands
  • June: Turkey

This itinerary is perfectly suited to your wishes.

Below are a few examples of what you can add to our itinerary, depending on your wishes and the time you have available:

  • Philippines
  • Indonesia
  • Northern Laos (Nong Khiaw, Luang Namtha)
  • Mae Hong Son loop in northern Thailand
  • Phuket Bay
  • East coast of Malaysia
  • The town of Batambang in Cambodia and a stay in the Mondolkiri region….
  • Myamar (conditions permitting)

south east asia backpacking route: The Banana Pancake Trail

First, it’s important to know that our route is called the Banana Pancake Trail. It’s arguably the world’s most legendary route.

With major stops all over Southeast Asia, this route is renowned for being easy, safe, affordable, yet adventurous and home to many spectacular sites.

But why the name?

The Banana Pancake Trail was named several decades ago when guesthouses began selling banana pancakes to travelers as an alternative to the typical rice-based breakfast. The name has stuck ever since.

Countries on the trail

The Banana Pancake Trail covers several countries in Southeast Asia. It’s not an “official” trail; it’s simply a name for a set of travel destinations that easily link up to form one big itinerary. Although most people travel in much the same way, the route is entirely open to interpretation.

The most famous section of the Banana Pancake Trail crosses the four countries of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Many travelers claim that this is the original route.

As backpacking has developed, the trail has extended to other, less-frequented regions and countries. These include the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Myanmar (safety permitting).

1. South east Asia backpacking route – West Coast Malaysia (15 days + 3 days Singapore)

  1. The best option is to arrive in Singapore, where you’ll spend 3 to 4 days. (We placed Singapore after Vietnam for Covid reasons). So we started this trip in Kuala Lumpur.
  2. Then head up to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, for 2-3 days.
  3. Then, head to the Cameron Highlands for 2 days. This is an ideal place to relax and reconnect with nature.
  4. Visit the city of Ipoh, which emphasizes food, architecture, culture, and street art.
  5. After Ipoh, head to Georgetown (Penang), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for 3-4 days.
  6. End your stay on the island of Lankgawi for a week of relaxation.

Our 2-week tour of Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur (3 days) – Cameron Highlands (2 days) – Ipoh (2 days) – Georgetown (4 days) – Langkawi (3 days)

itinéraire Malaisie

Check my detailed article about my 10 days in Malaysia itinerary as well as my Singapore itinerary.

2. Southeast Asia Itinerary – Thailand (36 + 12 days)

Is it possible to plan a travel itinerary in Asia without including Thailand? I’ve never heard of it! Here’s what our Thailand itinerary looked like.

Southern Thailand – 3 weeks

  1. From Malaysia, head to Thailand by boat to the island of Koh Lipe for 3 days of relaxation.
  2. Then, travel to the island of Koh Lanta and spend a few days discovering this Thai island.
  3. Other places we also visited in southern Thailand are Krabi, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao for activities such as diving. Koh Phangan is known for its yoga courses and spiritual retreats, so we did a 4-day retreat on the island.

Central Thaïlande – 3 weeks

  1. After the beaches and islands of the South, head for Bangkok, for 2 to 3 days of exploring the sites of one of Asia’s busiest cities.
  2. After Bangkok, explore the islands of Trat for around 2 weeks. The islands are Koh Chang, Koh Mak, and Koh Kood. We’ve placed this destination after Singapore, but it’s easiest to do it once you’re in Bangkok to avoid taking flights.
  3. After your lazy island break, head to Ayutthaya for an overnight stay.

Northern Thailand – 1 week

7. Next, head north to Chiang Mai for 4 to 5 days.

8. After Chiang Mai, stop off in Chiang Rai for 2 or 3 days to visit the famous White Temple and Blue Temple.

Our 7-week tour of Thailand, from south to north

Koh Lipe (3 days) – Koh Lanta (4 days) – Krabi region (6 days) – Koh Phangan (6 days) – Koh Tao (3 days) – Bangkok (3 days) – Ayutthaya (2 days) – Chang Mai (5 days) – Chang Rai (3 days) – Thailand part 2, Trat islands (10 days)

Check also my other articles related to Thailand :

3. Southeast Asia Itinerary – Laos (12 days)

After visiting Thailand, set off from Chang Rai for Laos. Take the slow boat from the Laos border to the town of Luang Prabang.

  1. From northern Thailand, the first place to visit Laos is its ancient capital, Luang Prabang. Spend at least 3-4 days in this city, including an excursion to the stunning Kuang Si Falls.
  2. After Luang Prabang, head down to Vang Vieng for 3-4 days to explore its many lagoons, caves, and rice fields.
  3. The next stop is Laos’ new capital, Vientiane. Many travelers say Vientiane is dull, but why not discover this city if you have the time?
  4. After Vientiane, drive down to the town of Paske. Although there’s not much to do in Pakse, it’s the starting point for exploring the incredible waterfalls and landscapes of the Bolaven Plateau. The best way to see all it offers is to do the long loop (or the short loop if you’re short of time) by motorcycle or scooter, with overnight stops along the way. Allow at least 3 days for this. You can also do the Takthek loop (which we didn’t do).
  5. The last stop on the list for Laos is the 4000 Islands in the Mekong Delta. Spend 3 days here to relax. The islands of Don Det and Don Khon are the main places to stay.

Our 2-week tour of Laos

Luang Prabang (3 days) – Vang Vieng (2 days) – Paksé (4 days) – 4000 Islands (3 days)

4. Southeast Asia Itinerary – Cambodia (18 Days)

  1. If you’re arriving from Laos, your first destination in Cambodia should be Siem Reap, where you can spend 3 or 4 days exploring the famous temples of Angkor Wat.
  2. After Siem Reap, head for Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Like the capital of Laos, some travelers have described this city as uninteresting. But if you have the time, it’s worth stopping off for a few days to discover its attractions.
  3. Escape the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh by heading to Sihanoukville, then take the ferry to the island of Koh Rong and/or Koh Rong Samloen, where you can relax on the beach for a week.
  4. Round off your stay with a trip to the Cambodian coast. Spend 3 days relaxing in the river town of Kampot and explore the town of Kep and the famous pepper plantation ‘La Plantation’.

Our 2-week tour of Cambodia

Siam Reap (3 days) – Phnom Penh (2 days) – Koh Rong Samloem (4 days) – Koh Rong (3 days) – Kampot (3 days)

itinéraire Cambodge

5. Southeast Asia Itinerary – Vietnam (28 Days)

  1. The first stop on your Vietnam itinerary from Cambodia will be the capital, Ho Chi Minh City. You’ll need at least 2-3 days to explore, including a day trip to the Chu Chi tunnels.
  2. Travel north, stopping in the old port city of Hoi An for 3 to 4 days of beaches, shopping, and world-class cuisine.
  3. Then head up-country with a stop in Hué.
  4. Then continue to the city of Ninh Binh, where you can spend 3 to 4 days soaking up its incredible sites and landscapes.
  5. Continue up the country to the city of Hanoi, where you can spend 3 to 4 days soaking up its sites and culture.
  6. From Hanoi, you can take an overnight excursion to Halong Bay, a magical World Heritage Site.
  7. Head to Ha Giang for a 3 to 4-day scooter loop.
  8. Finish your trip to Vietnam with a visit to Sapa, in the remote northern mountains. Spend two to three days trekking and discovering the region’s tribal villages (Black H’mong, Red Dao, etc.).

Our 1-month tour of Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City (3 days) – Mué (2 days) – Hoi An (5 days) – Hué (2 days) – Ninh Binh (4 days) – Hanoi (4 days) – Ha Giang (4 days) – Sapa (5 days)

Other related articles :

Extra – Turkey (2 Weeks)

Before heading back to Belgium, we made another stop in Turkey and took a wonderful trip through Turkey, from Istanbul (4 days) via Cappadocia (4 days) to the Turkish Riviera (6 days).

My Favourites

It’s hard to love and appreciate everything on such a long and intense trip. Here are a few favorites from each country.

Malaysia: Georgetown and Kuala Lumpur.

Thailand: I’ll admit that I enjoyed everything in Thailand, but I fell in love with the islands and the Thai food.

Laos: The Pakse scooter loop, including a visit to the Mr. Vieng coffee plantation and the Captain Hook ethnic village.

Cambodia: Koh Rong islands.

Vietnam: Sapa rice trek, Ha Giang motorcycle loop.

Turkey: The Cappadocia region.

That’s it for this first article on Southeast Asia. I haven’t detailed everything we did, saw, and experienced, as that wasn’t the aim here. The article aimed to retrace our itinerary in Southeast Asia and to give you some ideas if you’re planning a trip to this part of the world.

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