How to Spend One Month in SE Asia
Have I mentioned that one of my best friends from college will be joining me for the first month of my trip yet? Guys, I am super excited (as you can see) to have a partner. Chris is going to be the absolute best travel buddy, I just know it. Mostly because if he isn’t, y’all will hear all about it and he knows that. Anyways, he has been pestering me lately, wanting more details about where exactly we are going, for how long, by what mode of transportation and unimportant things like that. His barrage of questions has burdened me with the responsibility of planning a one month itinerary. Make the travel blogger plan the trip, cause she doesn’t have anything else to do, right?The first thing I would like to point out is that if I was only going to spend one month in SE Asia, this is not the itinerary I would follow (sorry Chris). However, I do think it is the best way to start a longer exploration of this region. I have been reading travel blogs for a couple of years now and it seems to be inevitable that every travel blogger will end up in SE Asia at some point. The number of articles I have read about this region is simply unfathomable. The itinerary I created for my trip to SE Asia was based on not one, but every article I have ever read on the subject. I compiled a huge list of places that I wanted to see and mapped it out using Trip Line, which is my favorite online mapping site. I knew that the list was way too large to see everything in a single year, so I started to downsize. Instead of cutting out the places that I had seen mentioned only once or twice, I started cutting out the places that had been mentioned most frequently. Eventually I narrowed down the list to be somewhat manageable.
How To Spend One Month in SE Asia
Every trip to SE Asia seems to start in Bangkok. This could be because it is the cheapest international airport to fly into, or it could be because everyone wants to begin and end their trip in Thailand. I am sure I will find out why. The determining factor for me was price. I scored my one way ticket from Seattle to Bangkok for $474.
Day 1-2 : Bangkok, Thailand (April 19th-20th)
Finally out of the airport. After 20 hours of flying, and likely multiple children kicking the back of my seat, we will have arrived in Bangkok. My goal is to stay awake as long as possible to ensure that I beat the jet lag. Mind you, this doesn’t always work, but I would rather spend my day tired, cranky and exploring than in a coma in my hostel.
Expected Temperature: 87°F (31°C)
Budget: $62 USD
- Hostel: $12 per night
- Food: $20 per day
- Activities: $30
- Grand Palace
- Royal Elephant Museum (free with ticket to Grand Palace!)
- Wat Pho
- Wat Arun
- Lumpini Park (free!)
- Floating Market
- Day 2: trip to Ayutthaya
Day 3 : Travel to Koh Tao, Thailand (April 21st)
Budget: $50 USD
This is going to be a longggg day folks. The trip takes approximately 11.5 hours and involves a bus, train and ferry. Expect to see angry travel Snapchats. But just keep in mind that at the end of this travel day, we will be on a beautiful island in Thailand.
Day 4- 9 : Koh Tao, Thailand (April 22nd-27th)
Since people tend to associate Koh Tao with diving, that is exactly how we will be occupying our time on this island. Koh Tao is second only to Cairns, Australia for number of Scuba certifications per year. The course that we will be taking is the Open Water Course from Simple Life Divers. There are wayyyy too many shops to choose from, but this shop was recommended to me by Nomadic Matt, and the class sizes are around 4 people per instructor which makes me feel a bit safer. Days 8 & 9 will be dedicated to the beach, a hammock and a book. After all, this is a vacation, right?
Expected Temperature: 84°F (29°C)
Budget: $387 USD
- Hostel: $10 per night
- Food:$6 per day
- Scuba: $275
Day 10-11 : Travel to Ko Lanta, Thailand (April 28th-29th)
Since the goal of this trip is to see how cheaply I can travel in SE Asia for a full year, we will be opting for the 15 hour travel day, as opposed to flying which is substantially more expensive. I figured we would stop in Krabi, stay overnight and do some rock climbing on Day 11. If we fall in love with Krabi, maybe we will stay a couple of extra days and participate in a multi-day rock climbing package. C’est la vie.
Budget: $96 USD before rock climbing
- Transportation: $70
- Hostel: $10
- Food: $ 6
Day 12-16 : Koh Lanta, Thailand (April 30-May 4th)
Koh Lanta is all about relaxation for me. Since it will likely rain during most of our visit, as monsoon season will be upon us, we will probably spend a decent amount of time inside. This means that we will be eating and drinking a lot (and potentially leaving early). If we get lucky and catch a sunny day, we will rent a scooter and zip around the island in search of a secluded beach for a picnic.
Expected Temperature: 83°F (28°C)
Budget: $170 USD
- Hostel: $12 per night
- Food: $15 per day
- Activities: $35
- Rent a scooter
- Visit the local market
- Watch the sunset from the lighthouse in the National Park
- Get massages
Day 17 : Travel to Cameron Highlands, Malaysia (May 5th)
The only easy way to travel from Koh Lanta to Tanah Rata, the largest town in the Cameron Highlands, is by taking a ferry from Koh Lanta to Krabi and flying from Krabi to Kuala Lumpur. This involves a lot of backtracking, which I am not super stoked about. I am hoping that once we get on the ground, we will be able to find ground transport between Thailand and Malaysia for a lot cheaper than the $100 flight. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Day 18-20 : Cameron Highlands, Malaysia (May 6th-May 8th)
After close to two weeks on the beach, we will likely want a change of scenery, which is why I have included the Cameron Highlands in the itinerary. In this mountainous region of Malaysia, the area is full of tea plantations, contains most of the countries agricultural land, and the towns are small and surrounded by rolling hills. It is known for its numerous trekking opportunities and we will probably spend the majority of our time hiking. After eating and drinking our way through Thailand, buckets in hand, a detox will be necessary.
Expected Temperature: 91°F (33°C)
Budget: $83 USD
- Hostel: $6 per night
- Food: $15 a day
- Activities: $20
- Tour a tea plantation
- Rent a scooter and visit nearby towns
- Visit the Time Tunnel Museum
- Follow Trail #9 to Robinson Waterfalls
- Camp out in the jungle
- Visit a bee farm
Day 21 : Travel to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (May 9th)
Realistically, the journey from Tanah Rata to KL will only take about 3.5 hours, if we end up getting on the right bus at the right time. However, I don’t want to plan out the rest of this day because we will likely need at least a half day to stock up on supplies that we couldn’t find in the smaller towns we have been visiting. I figure we will need a break from visiting tourist attractions and snapping breathtaking travel shots. A relaxing night in the city will be just what the doctor ordered. Maybe we will even stay in a nice hotel. Anyone interested in hosting us?
Budget: $40 USD
Day 22-23 : Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (May 10th-11th)
Don’t get me wrong, I love small towns more than big cities. However, after extended amounts of time in the countryside, a taste of big city life, fancy restaurants and busy streets will be a refreshing change of pace. I have heard nothing but good things about KL, as it is one of the cleanest SE Asia capitol cities (maybe it will give Seattle a run for its money?). Though we don’t have a ton of time here, as we want to spend as much time in Bali as possible, we will be able to visit some markets, and a few attractions before we jet off for more island life.
Average Temperature: 82°F (28°C)
Budget: $78 USD
- Hostel: $8 per night
- Food: $11 per day
- Activities: $40
- Shop at Lot 10 (a shopping mall with designer items that are among the cheapest in SE Asia)
- See the view from Menara Kuala Lumpur
- Visit the Sri Mahamariaman temple
- Visit Batu Caves
- Visit the KL Bird Park
Day 24 : Travel to Bali, Indonesia (May 12th)
Again, like the trip from Tanah Rata to KL, this trip will only take about 4 hours as we are going to fly for the first time since landing in Bangkok! I know you thought we were going to opt for the longer train, ferry, bus voyage, but I like to keep things interesting. The first night in Bali, we will stay in a hostel, eat cheaply and maybe do some trekking. We will need to save our pennies since the last few days of Chris’ time in SE Asia will be spent living like kings. We all need to be spoiled every now and again.
Budget: $100 USD
Day 25- 29 : Bali Indonesia (May 13th-17th)
I am pretty sure that a visit to Bali was the determining factor for Chris joining me on this trip, so I decided to make it special for him. After spending the last three weeks in cheap, dirty hostels, I figured we could go big in Bali. I am planning a number of surprises for him here, but the biggest surprise is going to be a self-guided yoga retreat (SURPRISE). Both of us are huge yoga fans (can’t quite call ourselves yogi’s yet), and I have read that you can plan out your own “yoga retreat” for much cheaper than the resort hosted options. Since I am planning to go all out on the hotel, I figured a self-hosted retreat would still fit into our budget. This week is going to be about treating our bodies, minds, and souls to refreshing foods, healthy activities, and a bit of adventure. Skydiving anyone?
Average Temperature: 82°F (28°C)
Budget: $675 USD
- Hotel: $50 per night
- Food: $25 a day
- Activities: $300
- Bungee Jumping
- Visit Gili Islands
- Visit Ubud Monkey Temple
- Rock Climbing
Total Budget: $1800 USD
As this trip is now only FOUR MONTHS away, I am starting to get freaking pumped. Stay tuned for packing lists, restaurant guides and more on how I will be spending the first month of my gap year in SE Asia. As always, if you feel that this was helpful, interesting, or entertaining, please share! If you have suggestions of hostels, hotels, restaurants or activities that I may have overlooked, please, please, please comment and let me know what they are! I would hate to miss anything that other people have loved.