Welcome to 2019! I’m starting off the new year with the thing I am most excited about: our upcoming three weeks in Southeast Asia! We’re off to Singapore (via Tokyo) on January 22nd and I am counting down the days.
So in honour of our upcoming trip, I’m sharing our itinerary for three weeks in Southeast Asia. We booked these flights way back in March 2018, which means I have been researching and planning for almost a year. For most people, that would be way too much time. But for me, it’s awesome! I love having all of this time to research, plan and book. It makes three weeks in Southeast Asia feel so much longer when I have months and months to plan it all.
So what are we getting up to? Check out our itinerary for three weeks in Southeast Asia below.
After an overnight layover in Tokyo, we arrive in Singapore. I’m excited to see Singapore, mainly thanks to Crazy Rich Asians, and to eat at all of the hawker stalls. But it’s not somewhere I’m really dying to see. It’s an expensive part of Southeast Asia and doesn’t really have the same appeal to me as Thailand does. But I’m excited to make the most of it!
We’re planning to check out Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay and possibly the zoo. And you know I need a picture of that Merlion statue by the water! We have three nights in Singapore – I would have preferred two, but flights were cheaper the next day.
From Singapore, we’re onto Siem Reap! We’re headed to Siem Reap for the obvious draw: Angkor Wat! We’ll have four nights in Siem Reap, which is probably just enough to get full temple burn out and some heat exhaustion. I’m hoping we can take it easy with some breaks at our hotel pool and a fun Cambodian cooking class. We also hope to do some non-temple activities in Siem Reap, like check out the Landmine Museum (if it’s open) and maybe a floating village if we have time.
Next up on our three weeks in Southeast Asia is Phuket. I know Phuket is not the most popular choice. Actually, the problem might be that it is too popular. On every travel group I’m part of, people always advise staying away from Phuket and picking another Thai island or beach. They say Phuket is crowded, dirty and for party-goers only. Well, I’m hoping they’re wrong!
For starters, Phuket is a pretty large island. It’s not just Patong and Phuket Town (both of which I have zero interest in). I’m hoping somewhere in Phuket, preferably where we booked our hotel, is a quieter beach area. But our main reason for choosing Phuket is convenience. From Siem Reap, you can fly directly to Phuket. If we wanted to go somewhere else, like Krabi, we’d have to take two flights or spend a ton of time on boats/buses. I’d much rather conserve our short time and just stay in Phuket.
Plus, since this is our first Thai island beach, we won’t have anything to compare it to – so we won’t be disappointed! Planning to spend our four days in Phuket just relaxing by the beach and taking it easy.
From Phuket, we head up to Chiang Mai, which I am so excited about. Everyone always talks about how awesome this Northern Thai city is, and so many digital nomads have decided to call it home. So I’m really excited to visit this city, walk through the markets and hopefully take a cooking class. I’d love to also head up to Pai, but I don’t think we’ll have time on this trip.
We are, however, making time to stay at an elephant sanctuary! Finding an ethical elephant sanctuary was very important to us. We don’t want to go somewhere where elephants are mistreated just so tourists can take some photos. I found Chai Lai Orchid on Instagram and immediately fell in love. This peaceful jungle retreat, home to rescued elephants, will also be our home for two nights.
We finish off our three weeks in Southeast Asia in Bangkok. To be honest, I’m not super stoked about Bangkok. From everything I’ve read, travellers either love or hate Bangkok. I’m hoping I won’t hate it, but it doesn’t seem to have the appeal of some of the other stops on our itinerary. But I kind of like the idea of going into a place with low expectations.
In Bangkok, we’re planning to hit up the night market, visit the temples and hop on a ferry.
And then we’re heading home! We fly back to Vancouver from Bangkok, but on the way we have an almost 24 hour layover in Tokyo. So, of course, we’re going to make the most of it. I’ve spent time in Tokyo before, living there for a month in July 2014, but Colin has never been.
So we’re going to cram some Tokyo highlights into one day in Tokyo: visiting the Sensoji temple, walking through Akihabara, walking through Harajuku, doing the Shibuya crossing, and grabbing some sushi and ramen before we jump back on a plane! I’m hoping we have the energy to cram in a big Tokyo day on the last day of our trip.
Recap: three weeks in Southeast Asia
- Fly to Singapore via an overnight in Tokyo
- 3 nights in Singapore
- 4 nights in Siem Reap
- 4 nights in Phuket
- 5 nights in Chiang Mai (2 at Chai Lai Orchid)
- 3 nights in Bangkok
- 1 night in Tokyo (layover)
- Fly home to Vancouver
Phew! That’s a lot in just three weeks. This is going to be a really fun trip – Colin’s first time to Asia, a bunch of bucket list items, and three whole weeks. Our last few trips have been more in the 5-10 day range, so 22 days is going to be both a luxury and a challenge. I’m glad that we’re giving ourselves 3-5 nights in every spot, so it doesn’t feel as rushed. But in a perfect world, I’d love to have even longer in each city so it doesn’t feel like we’re jumping on a flight every few days.
What did we miss?
Well, a lot! Three weeks in Southeast Asia is not a lot of time. Even if we had three months, we might not be able to see it all. I know we’ll go back someday and I hope we have more time to experience more of this area. I can’t wait to visit Laos, the Philippines, Malaysia and Bali! And there’s so much more in Thailand and Cambodia that I want to see. Plus, I’d love to see more off the beaten track destinations in Vietnam after hitting a lot of the highlights on my previous visit.
For this trip, our main priority was Thailand, since we had to fly out of Bangkok. And I desperately wanted to add Siem Reap since Angkor is super high on my bucket list. When I was in Vietnam in 2016, I contemplated adding a Siem Reap side trip but went with Phu Quoc Island instead. So now is my time!
And there you have it – that’s our three weeks in Southeast Asia!
What do you think? What would you add or change to our itinerary?
Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear your favourites from Southeast Asia.
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