Thailand & Cambodia & Vietnam (Oh My!)
After planning a grand, thoroughly detailed wedding, we dove headfirst into organizing an epic, three-week honeymoon in Southeast Asia. Without coincidence, it was the ideal mix of adventure and relaxation – plus, consistently incredible eats throughout. Our only regret upon conclusion was the inability to extend the trip for another three weeks…
If you’re embarking on a trip to Southeast Asia, here are some initial considerations:
1) Check the weather
Rainy season lasts from May to November in Thailand, which is dominated by the southwest monsoon. In layman terms, you will be rained on. Heavily. Similarly in Vietnam, summers (May to October) are hot, hot, hot, combined with the country’s highest rainfall.
We embarked in January, amid winter in the Northeast, and experienced mostly perfect weather – while missing two major snowstorms back home in Boston! Win win.
2) Stick with two countries
Unless your travel time is infinite (in which case, I envy you deeply), stick with two countries. We added on a few days in Vietnam at the end of our trip and ultimately left with a burning desire for more. If you’re traveling for two to three weeks, we’d recommend either visiting Thailand and Cambodia, or Vietnam and Cambodia.
Next trip to Southeast Asia, we’re aiming to explore more of Vietnam and head to Myanmar.
3) Factor in travel time
Take a look at a map: Getting to Southeast Asia from the Northeast is quite the trek. Understand that travel alone may take a full day or two on either end, and will likely include multiple planes. Make sure to account for this time in your trip.
For perspective, we flew from NYC to Taipei (16 hours); Taipei to Bangkok (4 hours); and Bangkok to Chiang Mai (1.5 hours) on the first leg of our honeymoon.
4) Book inter-country flights
We traveled on several airplanes throughout our trip, maximizing time within each destination. Flights were no more than two hours each, and costs were very reasonable (we booked in advance).
From our experience, Thai AirAsia tends to be more of the Spirit Air – cheaper, but in return, you get less. Nonetheless, it gets you where you need to go, just without bells and whistles. Bangkok Airways typically costs more, but the service is incredible. On every single flight, even if 45 minutes, a meal is served. And, at each airport, the airline has a lounge, featuring complimentary Wi-Fi, beverages and snacks!
Once you have the timeframe and length of travel determined, get right to planning. While most tourists begin in Bangkok, we opted to conclude with the big city, as it offers the only direct flight to Siem Reap; we preferred more travel time at the upfront to avoid flight connections throughout. Although the trip-of-a-lifetime, if we could ‘redo’ our itinerary, we’d have spent less time in Phuket and Koh Samui, and more time in Vietnam.
Here’s our topline itinerary. Be sure to click on the links for more detailed looks at the respective destinations, including where to eat and what to do.
- Chiang Mai – Three days
- One-hour flight, Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- Two-hour flight, Chiang Mai to Phuket
- Phuket – Three days
- 15-minute speedboat ride, Ao Por Grand Marina in Phuket to Naka Yai Island
- Naka Yai Island – Two days
- 55-minute flight, Phuket to Koh Samui
- Koh Samui – Two days
- One-hour flight, Koh Samui to Bangkok
- Bangkok – Three days
- One day trip to Ayutthaya
- One-hour flight, Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Siem Reap – Three days
- One-hour flight, Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City
Once you’re booked, here are a few extra tips:
1) Visit your doctor
We were up to date on routine vaccines, but we also had to receive the Hepatitis A and Typhoid injections. Reach out to your doctor as early as possible, as some vaccines take many weeks to become effective. The Center for Disease Control & Prevention website provides very accurate and up-to-date information relevant to your itinerary.
2) Know the dress code
Southeast Asia is filled with temples. In fact, according to the Office of National Buddhism, there are more than 40,000 Buddhist temples in Thailand alone! To visit any of these, you must abide by the dress code – shoulders and knees covered, no shoes inside. Although it’s a million degrees out, make sure that your baggage isn’t solely filled with beach clothes.
3) Pack the necessities
- Toilet Paper: Many “toilets” along this trip may look strangely similar to holes in the ground. Fair warning so that you’re prepared.
- Hand Sanitizer: See bullet above 😊.
- Medicine: Don’t forget Tylenol (hangovers will most certainly ensue), Dramamine (you’ll like end up on a boat at some point) and Tums (street food doesn’t always work out the way you intend for it to).
- Bug Spray: Especially in the more jungle-like regions (Chiang Mai and Siem Reap for us), you’ll want to ensure you are covered. Zika is also still a risk in these locations, per the Center for Disease Control.
- Sunscreen: Even if you want to get some color on your trip, you’ll need sunscreen at some point. And in beach towns like Phuket, sunscreen is a lot more expensive.
- Power Adapters: Purchase an international power adapter so you can charge all your devices. You may want a surge protector, too.
- Quick Dry Towels: They’re not as bulky as regular towels, so we kept them in our backpacks for spontaneous beach days and water activities. Check out our favorite ones here – they’re microfiber and antibacterial, too!
- Travel Documents: As a general rule of thumb, bring extra copies of your travel documents (passports, visas, etc.) in case anything happens to the originals. Hopefully you won’t need these!
4) Leave everything else at home
- Cash: Don’t overdo it in the cash department. In Thailand and Vietnam, you’ll find ATMs just about everywhere, which will readily accept your American ATM cards. In Cambodia, you can use U.S. dollars!
- Clothes: If you’re traveling for a long period of time, you won’t want a huge suitcase. You’ll find clothes for sale at local markets EVERYWHERE (make sure to bargain), megamalls with familiar stores in some areas (e.g., Bangkok) and cheap laundromats. We sent our laundry out three times throughout the trip, which came back washed and perfectly folded for close to nothing.
Now, you’re ready to go! Keep in touch – we want to hear about your trip!