When planning a multi-stop trip – whether it’s one country or one continent – can be daunting, with many places to see. Do you stay on the well travelled route – or do you want to go off the beaten track? Are you travelling on a shoestring or do you want to treat yourself? Are you going to plan it all before you go or give yourself some flexibility and leave it open? Are you going to fit it all in to a few weeks or stretch it out over a few months?
The most important thing is deciding what sort of trip you want to do. There is no right answer – it’s your trip and you can do it exactly how you want. And of course it depends on a lot of different factors – how much money you have saved, who you’re going with, how much time you have…
I always think planning a trip is half the fun – but everyone is different!
So here is my recommended route from Bangkok to Bali to help start you off:
As a major city, it’s easy to secure international flights here from any major airport. If you’re on a budget and don’t mind which airline you fly with, you can mostly always get great prices, even in peak season. I travelled there in mid-November and managed to secure flights for £315 from Birmingham.
It’s time to leave the bustling and hectic city of Bangkok and head to Phuket, the gateway to the beautiful Thai islands for a bit of relaxation. Now you have two options here: you can catch a bus from Bangkok to Phuket. A lot of people say long bus journeys and experiencing the public transport are part of the whole Southeast Asia experience – which is very true, but it is a long and sweaty 10-12 hour journey – and in my opinion, there is really no need to, as your second option is flying. Internal flights within Thailand (and Asia) are so cheap (only slightly more than the bus costs) and takes just over an hour. And there will be plenty of other opportunities for bus journeys in other parts of Asia!
It depends what you’re after and which beach you stay at in Phuket, but I wouldn’t recommend more than a couple of nights here. In fact, if it wasn’t an essential stopover in terms of travel distances, I would have avoided it completely.
If you’re after a party scene, head to Patong Beach, where you’ll find a buzzing nightlife with hundreds of restaurants, bars, neon lights, cabaret shows and clubs, mainly located around the Soi Bangla (Bangla Road) area. It really is tacky though and if you’re visiting Thailand to see its beauty, then this isn’t the place to go! Other places to consider staying are Karon Beach, which has one of the island’s longer beaches and a beautiful Buddhist temple, and which still has a lot going on in terms of dining, shopping and entertainment. For an even more relaxed stay, try Kata beach, Bangtao beach, Surin beach, Kamala beach, Mai Khao beach, Nai Harn beach and Laem Singh beach.
But like I said – be prepared, as Phuket is a very touristy destination and if you’re looking for nothing more than a quiet beach and to experience the relaxed Thai lifestyle, then continue on to the other islands…
You really don’t need to book any boats in advance for this part. Once you’re there, it’s so easy you can leave it till the night before you want to travel to book a boat journey. I would just say choose which side you want to start on and go in one direction.
My route was KOH PHI PHI —> KRABI —> RAILAY —> AO NANG —> KOH LANTA —> (STOPOVER IN PHUKET) —> KOH TAO —> KOH PHANGAN —> KOH SAMUI
This was the one place I didn’t actually visit, due to time limits, but I really wish I had (at least I now have another excuse to go back haha). Chiang Mai, in the north of the country, is known for its beautiful green countryside, elephant camps and temples, so I imagine it’s not hard to find ways to fill your days there.
It’s now time to leave the gorgeous, slow paced lifestyle of Thailand to head to its neighbouring country, Cambodia. I would recommend flying here from either Phuket or Bangkok, which is less then a two hour flight and prices are extremely cheap with the local airlines such as Thai Airways or Bangkok Airways (some of which give you a complimentary inflight meal even on the short-haul legs, which I was very impressed with)! An alternative option is to fly to Phnom Penh which is also just as near to the main tourist attraction you are there to see, Angkor Wat.
From here, it’s another short flight to the cosmopolitan city of Hanoi in the north of Vietnam. I stayed just two nights here, enough time to see all the sights and get a feel for the city, before heading to a different world in the green countryside of Sapa…
Just a few hours drive from the bustling city is this gorgeous little village right up in the mountains of Northern Vietnam. For this, I would recommend booking a tour, which will include your transport and then you have the choice of either a hotel or a home-stay, where a local family hosts you for the night including a home-cooked meal, giving you a real insight into life in this tiny village.
After a night or two’s stopover back in Hanoi to break up the journey, it’s time for head east to one of the world’s most picturesque sights, Halong Bay. Again, make sure you book onto a tour for this. But there is no need to plan in advance – we booked ours at our Hanoi hotel when we got there. There are so many different options to suit your budget, from basic accommodation to luxury yachts, 1 night trips up to 3. The tour guide will also take you around, into the famous caves, the secluded coves, and other sights including the Halong Bay Pearl Farm.
—>HUÉ—>HOI AN—>NHA TRANG
Now you’ve pretty much covered the beautiful north of Vietnam, it’s time to pack away your raincoats and walking shoes and travel down the coast. I would recommend flying down to Hué, as this has a regional airport and is the longest distance from the north, and from there picking up a hop-on-hop-off bus.
—>HO CHI MINH
One of the main things I noticed when arriving in Ho Chi Minh was the change in weather! It was incredible how much it can vary within the same country, and I had never been more glad of the heat!
From here, head to the absolute paradise of Bali. Flights into Denpasar are probably one of the most expensive out of the trip, but still relatively cheap compared to anywhere non-Asian – and anyway, it is so worth it. There are many places to stay in Bali, from the more built up tourist destinations like Kuta and Seminyak to quiet, deserted beaches. My recommendation is to first head to the south, choose from quiet, peaceful Sanur, upmarket Nusa Dua, Jimbaran, or the mini paradise of Uluwatu (where I stayed), which was just perfect, with Dreamland beach and Pecatu beach right nearby and the beautiful Pura Luhur temple. After a few relaxing days or weeks on the beach, travel inland to the cultural heart of Bali, Ubud, where there is so much to do – from monkey sanctuaries to rice paddy fields to temples to coffee plantations.
I had the most amazing 6 weeks travelling this route around Southeast Asia – you really do get an incredible insight into all that it has to offer – from the bustling cities to the tiny, mountainous villages and the coastal beaches. Of course this doesn’t cover everything and there is so much more to discover beside this…let’s leave that till the next trip!
And for more detailed guides on what to do whilst there, visit my other related posts here: