Fancy a full throttle adventure across three countries in 33 days with an itinerary full of culture, history, natural beauty, amazing food, party hostels and great people? Look no further than Southeast Asia: Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia experience. This was my last tour in this series after six months of traveling through all the new Roami travels in Europe, South America and Central America.
It was an incredible journey, but this latest adventure had so many highlights that it’s hard to sum them all up. This epic hostel-to-hostel tour takes you from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in Thailand, Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, and Kampot to Siem Reap in Cambodia with the final stop in Bangkok.
Whether it’s partaking in an ancient tradition of almsgiving with Buddhist monks in Chiang Mai or partying at a backpacker resort in Cambodia, you’ll find a bit of everything with local Chief Experience Officers (CEOs) phenomenal in mind.
Get out of your comfort zone with Bangkok street food
Meeting other travelers at the start of a “Roamies” trip is always a highlight for me and on our first night in Bangkok we kicked off with a tuk-tuk ride from Mad Monkey Hostel Bangkok to Chinatown for a tour of street food. The streets were filled with vendors, tourists, neon lights and noise – it’s everything you imagine Bangkok will be.
Our Experience Manager, who goes by the name of “Spicy Joe,” gave us our first taste of authentic Thailand with Goong Ten or Jumping Prawn Salad which is tiny live prawns hopping around in herbs and spices. We must quickly seize it before they abandon the container! We followed this lively starter with another traditional dish, Pad Kra Pao, or stir-fried chicken with Thai holy basil.
It wouldn’t be a night in Bangkok without visiting Khaosan Road where you’ll find most backpackers refueling. Here we tried salt and chili crickets which actually had a satisfying crunch washed down with Chang beer. It was a great first night to kick off what was shaping up to be a memorable tour.
Explore the ruins of Ayutthaya by boat and bike
Our third day was full of exploration through the temples and remains of a prosperous kingdom that peaked in the 14th to 18th century AD. Ayutthaya is in the valley of the Chao Phraya River and was a major trading center in Southeast Asia in its heyday. The city was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767 but the ruins of the temple and the palace are still well preserved. The historic town covers approximately 289 hectares and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visiting Ayutthaya by bike under the December sun was a real highlight. You will visit the huge Temple of the Reclining Buddha built in the 14th century called Wat Lokaya Sutha before venturing to Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit housing a seated Buddha ornate with gold leaf.
Our day ended with a sunset boat ride on the Chao Phraya River to Wat Chaiwatthanaram, a beautiful Buddhist temple built in a style similar to Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat.
Admire the natural rural beauty of Trang An
On days 10 and 11, we stayed at Trang An Landscape Complex in Vietnam’s Ninh Binh Province, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is known for the characteristic limestone peaks that dot the rural landscape and is often referred to as Ha Long Bay on land. We spent the night in the Trang An River View Homestay with the most striking setting at the foot of a cliff overlooking the Sao Khe River. The sunset that night was truly magical.
On day 11, I went for a run on the dirt roads surrounded by huge limestone karsts with water buffaloes grazing near the rice paddies. The experience was surreal. Take a guest bike from your host family to explore the area and you’re sure to be greeted with smiles and waves from the locals.
One thing I really loved about this trip was seeing parts of Vietnam that I wouldn’t have thought of visiting if I had planned it myself. On new adventures, I usually stay close to hubs of activity in big cities or seaside towns, so exploring the Vietnamese countryside was an experience I will truly cherish.
Take an amazing noodle cooking class in Hoi An
Hoi An is a beautiful historic city in central Vietnam that you can explore midway through your adventure. The old town is amazing to walk around and I highly recommend taking a boat ride on the Thu Bon River to see the multicolored lanterns illuminating the town at night.
Included in your visit is a G for Good Time at a training restaurant called Oodles of Noodles. Here, you will discover the various noodles typical of the Quang Nam region such as Mi Quang, Banh Cuon and Pho and you can even try your hand at making them yourself. The restaurant is run by an NGO called Streets International which offers apprenticeship programs for street youth to develop skills to work in the tourism industry.
As our Vietnamese CEO Huy said, “when you travel with G, you should feel so proud” because their non-profit partner Planeterra helped develop the cooking class to expand the training kitchen to enable students to practice their English with travellers. To date, the initiative has helped over 500 people in the community.
Party at Mad Monkey Backpackers Resort in Koh Rong
It’s not hard to believe that an establishment called Mad Monkey knows how to throw a party. Located in Koh Rong Samloem, just off the coast of Sihanoukville with its own private beach, the hostel has an ideal setting. You can snorkel, dive, hike or head to the jetty bar for a swim in turquoise water as the sun sets.
Our first night was filled with games, including a surprisingly competitive game of limbo, before a fire show on the beach brought the night to a close. We stayed in beach huts for two nights and before midnight you can swim in bioluminescent plankton.
Wake up very early for sunrise at Angkor Wat
One thing I need you to do as an optional activity on this trip is sunrise at Angkor Wat. I had the chance to see it twice and I will absolutely do it a third time if I have the chance. It feels like walking through the entrance to the complex in darkness with just the outline of its iconic cone-shaped pillars on the horizon.
In the early morning, the features of this extraordinary monument become clearer. It’s popular with tourists for good reason and a special time to share with the friends you’ve made after a month-long adventure through Southeast Asia.
After visiting Angkor Wat, there are countless temple ruins to explore in the archaeological park, including Angkor Thom and Bayon Temple. Be sure to finish with a visit to the Jungle Temple or Ta Prohm. Built in the 12th century with huge, encroaching tree roots wrapped around ruins, it is humbling to witness something so ancient.
Ready to spend a month and make the most of tuk-tuks, night markets, serene temples and tasty noodles? You can on Southeast Asia: Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia visit. OUR Roamies by Hostelworld & G Adventures the trips are just the ticket. And the price (especially for young travelers on a budget) is just as right!