Asia + Gastro-travels
Routes of a magical trip: Recommendations and itineraries to visit Southeast Asia
What you need to know to make an unforgettable trip to those Asian places
I never think twice to respond that the best trip that Jorge and I have ever made in our lives has been to visit Southeast Asia. In fact, as it was 26 days, we could only know one drop of that enormous geography composed by wonderful countries, rural landscapes, gastronomic paths and natural smiles. However, being able to find much of that is not as spontaneous as the smiles you get from the Vietnamese when you look at them. It was no accident. We spent months ago figuring out how to set an itinerary that would allow us to move and take advantage of the weather as much as we could, but without running just making photos and knowing a thousand places in a single day. It was great to find North American and European tourists who recommended the options. I was writing a blog, which I will summarize later in order not to bore the food travelers, but here I give some first recommendations for you to visit fantastic places like the ones we visited.
Recommendations to start a short trip (3 or 4 weeks) to Southeast Asia (especially if it is your first time):
1- Climate: Southeast Asia is super rainy and humid. The best months are between December and April (actually early April). It rains less and you have sunnier days. With the exception of Hanoi, most of the sites we visited were temperatures over 30 degrees. To give you an idea, our itinerary was from March 19 to April 15 and it only rained for 3 or 4 days.
2- Gastronomy: If you are one of those that does not like everything and just eat hamburgers and pizzas, think twice before making this trip. Southeast Asia is very rich and varied in cuisine, so for us it was mostly a gastronomic experience to discover new dishes, rare fruits, different forms of preparation, enjoy the intense spicy Thai, among others. However, some places are prepared for all types of touristsmore than others, so surely, you will adapt.
3- Clothing: We wore Bermuda shorts, T-shirts, cool long sleeve shirts and swimsuits almost every day. We wore flip-flops and comfortable shoes to walk long distances. In the case of the temples, only in the Grand Palace (Bangkok) we had to rent long pants because we were in shorts; in all other temples and pagodas we had no problems. Women, for example, for Angkor Wat in Siem Reap demanded to have covered shoulders, so that day they wear a shirt or shirt to hide them.
4- Hotels: one of the most positive things to visit Southeast Asia is that hotels are super cheap. We did a selection of hotels, ranging from hostels from private rooms with bathroom to a few more luxurious ones. Prices ranged from 30 to 100 USD per night for two people. Actually, our average was about 60 USD. All hotels had breakfast included. Trip advisor helped us a lot, especially the comments from people. Be sure to choose hotels before you travel, as some cities are full of tourists, especially in the months ofgood weather.
5- Flights: Before you do anything, start by defining an itinerary whose flights are direct and do not have to do almost stops. We used Hanoi as headquarters, because we had a friend living there, but later we realized that it is better to start and end the trip in Bangkok because it has more frequent flights and destinations, and more variety of airlines. Remember that, for example, Bangkok has two or three airports, so check it out if you go and get there.
6- Transportation: it was varied. For example in Vietnam we used taxi and motorbike, in Cambodia the tuk-tuk, and in Thailand a mix of both. The point is that you have to negotiate everything and at first you have the energy, but then it is a little annoying. However, on many websites, it is always recommended to do it, because it is necessary for their economy.
What was our itinerary?
Our trip was 26 days, divided as follows:
Vietnam: 10 days (5 Hanoi / 2 Ha Long Bay / 3 Ho Chi Minh)
Cambodia: 4 days (4 Siem Reap)
Thailand: 12 days (4 Chiang Mai / 4 Koh Phi Phi / 4 Bangkok)
Singapore: A 12-hour stopover that allowed us to tour the city and dine at the Garden by the Bay.
This allowed us to be about 4 or 5 days by city or place, and to be able to use the time. In Ha Long Bay we only stayed one night on a cruise, and that’s enough.
What was so special about each of these countries?
1- Vietnam: it was my favorite and, in fact, I think it is one of my favorite places in the world. The nicest thing about Vietnam is how authentic and traditional it is. That is, even when many foreigners visit it, it still maintains an essence that I have not seen elsewhere. I found the country with the kindest and humble people. We never felt cheated of any kind and it was quite usual that they give you a look with a smile. Something that was very funny, is that they love taking pictures with tall people and Western features. In addition to the warmth of the people, the food is very fresh and has a lot of flavor. In Hanoi we met a bit with the old socialist past of Vietnam and we really enjoyed feeling that we really were in a very different place, while Ho Chi Minh is much more westernized. My favorite place was Ha Long Bay where I would always recommend spending a night on a cruise surrounded by those wonderful rocky islands.
2- Cambodia: It is a magnificent place and, unfortunately, one in which we were only 4 days in Siem Reap (or SiemRiep). When I review the photos of that place, I look forward to returning and getting to know more of that country. What you should not miss is the temples. Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm are the most fantastic temples we have visited and the truth is that having seen them a couple of days was not enough. It’s worth getting up early at 4 to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We also had the opportunity to visit the nearby (Country Side) of Siem Reap and you are excited going from house to house to visit those who make incense, rice noodles, sugar candy, among others. For a foodie, the market in Siem Reap is an entire display of vegetables, fruits and lots of bloodof fish and pigs, but it should not be missed.
3- Thailand: It was perhaps the most fun in terms of experiences, but it is also the most prepared for tourists, and I would also believe the cheapest of the countries we visited. In Thailand we were able to take the walk to meet elephants (the right way / ethically, since they are exploited in some regions of the country), we did a Thai cooking course to learn many of the dishes we tasted in the fantastic waters of Koh Phi Phi. It was unforgettable. Thailand is also characterized by having very rich temples of gold and other shiny metals whichare impressive. One of the things we enjoyed most of was street food routes because it allowed us to move to less crowded tourist areas and be able to get to know another side of Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
4- Singapore: This stop was a nice closing of the trip, because although it is distant of all that wonderful rural Asia, it was very cool to feel the blow of the change to a futuristic place full of great skyscrapers and shops with much design. The nicest thing was that our farewell dinner from the trip was in the Garden by the Bay, a park-garden with huge very green treeswith many lights in the afternoon.
The must-see of the trip:
1- Ha Long Bay
2- The temples of Siem Reap (especially the unique sunrise at Angkor Wat!)
3- The elephants in Chiang Mai (use the ethical route, do not ride on them!)
4- The beaches of Phi Phi Islands
The least impressive: (we might not recommend it for your first time in Southeast Asia)
1 – Ho Chi Minh (we enjoyed it a lot, especially because we did a fun tour of street cooking and remember it with love, but probably there are more incredible places)
For the following months, I hope to prepare more posts dedicated to each of these 4 countries to have more food tips, hotels, prices and more images, with the pages of a blog that I filled those days. If you have a doubt or you are choosing the hotels and you want to know where we are, write me here, an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram to: @ food.o.grafo. Happy food trip!!!!Tags: asia, food, foodie, itinerary, southeast, tourism Asia, trip