10 Day Countdown Until My Big Southeast Asia Backpacking Trip

It doesn’t really feel like it, but I’ve been back from my two month Central American ( + Cuba) trip for over a month now. I was supposed to only have two weeks to relax before jetting off to the Philippines for a big family reunion, but unfortunately got held up by visa requirements for some of the countries I was planning on going to. My family left without me, and while waiting for my passport to be mailed back to me, I had time to sit and plan for my longest and probably most challenging trip thus far.

I have not done any of that planning, instead opting to do my typical show up and act confused until someone generously decides to make it their responsibility to keep me alive. It works every time.

Just kidding. I don’t actually do that most of the time.

After traveling for the better part of the past year, I’ve heard countless stories about backpacking through Southeast Asia. The temples of Thailand, the pho soup of Vietnam, the beaches of the Philippines, the tourists of Bali… The list goes on, and it almost feels like taking on Southeast Asia is a rite of passage for me to be officially initiated into the backpacker community.

Despite hearing so much about it and being drowned with countless suggestions of what to do while I’m there, I feel less prepared than I have ever been for a trip. The last few countries I’ve been to?

Mexico. Panama. Colombia. Panama again. Peru. Bolivia. Peru again. Mexico again. Costa Rica. Nicaragua. Costa Rica again. Guatemala. Mexico yet again. Cuba. And finally, Mexico another time.

Notice a trend? As someone who is fluent in Spanish, traveling through these countries posed little to no challenge when it came to communicating and finding my way around. Sure, I had other struggles, especially in Cuba where nothing makes any sense, but for the most part, the going was easy.

Add biking down a volcano to the list of things I don't tell my parents about until after I survive #Peru #IgersPeru

A post shared by Eli ๐Ÿ“Vietnam ๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ณ (@thepartyingtraveler) on

For the most part.

Aside from my broken Tagalog that I started forgetting when I was 5 years old, I don’t speak any of the Southeast Asian languages. I hear English is pretty commonplace in some parts, but being able to communicate almost ubiquitously has been something that I’ve taken for granted for the past year.

The chaos of Southeast Asia is something I both yearn for and am terrified of. When I started traveling, getting lost, aimlessly wandering, and absorbing everything around me brought so much excitement. However, this was a lot easier and likely a lot safer to do in the European countries that I started off most of my early travels in. I hear that places like Bangkok and Hanoi are sensory overload. You simply can’t afford to let your mind wander or else you’ll probably get hit by one of millions of motorbikes.

India is so close by and a very cheap flight away, but every time I think about going to India, I watch the India episode ofย An Idiot Abroad and Karl Pilkington knocks me back to my senses. Who knows what will happen once I get there, though? I booked a return flight from Jakarta just so I don’t have to deal with all of that annoying “oh you don’t have a return ticket” mess that border control sometimes gives you. For some reason, booking a round trip with a return flight from Jakarta was only $120 more than booking a one-way to Bangkok, so I’ll gladly pay a little extra to guarantee not being deported.

Between my arrival and my tentative yet impulsive return flight, I have three full months to traipse around these countries filled with so much history and culture. I’ve watched a lot of documentaries on Thailand and Vietnam in the past few weeks, but I’ll admit that all of them have been about food. Besides, after Cuba, I’ve learned that no amount of preparation and research on a new country can actually prepare you for the fire pit that you’ll inevitably be thrown in.

I also plan on going to Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Malaysia, and a quick trip back to my home country of the Philippines. Looking around the region, places like Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, and Brunei have also all captured my attention.

I think that Southeast Asia will really be a big stepping stone for me as a traveler. Like I said, it almost feels like a rite of passage to finally take on Southeast Asia. After getting comfortable with the way of life in Latin America, I am eagerly looking forward to be thrust well outside of my comfort zone once again.

Have you been to Southeast Asia? Let me know what you thought about it and any and all suggestions you may have! Leave a comment below and follow me on Instagram to keep track of my misadventures across the globe!

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10 thoughts on “10 Day Countdown Until My Big Southeast Asia Backpacking Trip

  1. I noticed that Myanmar isn’t on your list. Definitely try to go there if you can. Specifically Bagan and Inle Lake. My husband and I spent 3 months travelling through SEA and Myanmar was my favorite destination.

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  2. Island hopping on the Gulf of Thailand side and Phuket side has been highlight. Island hopping off Phuket (Koh PhiPhi for example) are a fun way to sepdn your time. If you can check out a full moon party on Koh Pha Ngan (Gulf of Thailand), it’s something to behold. You will be down with Bangkok in a matter of days, Khao San Road is a nice central place to stay, lot’s of activity. Chiang Mai and Pai in the north are def worth a visit to get some jungle in. I highly encourage you to look up the Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary, washing a baby elephant, that was treated with dignity and not a metal spike, was very rewarding and a great experience.

    For Indo, the island of Bali is a party hub in Kuta. Seminyak is an attractive alternative if you want a little more sleep and don’t enjoy (as much) street haggling. The Gili Islands, off Lombok are great in good weather. Diving, paddleboarding, horse and carts are the standard for this place. Canggu, about an hour north of Kuta, is a great surf community away from the hustle and bustle, as is Uluwatu, the same distance south. Make a point of getting to Tanah Lot driving a scooter from Canggu, it’s a great drive and if you hate tour buses like myself, you have the freedom to get lost and explore. If you get a place somewhere near Single Fin bar in Uluwatu, you’re in the right place and renting a scooter is a must to get around. And waves, waves waves! Great beaches are Bingin, Pandang Padang, and walking down to Uluwatu cove (on low tide). Actually, just drive down the alleys along the coastline and get lost!

    These are pretty well known places but I felt exactly the same way before I went for the first time which is why I got carried away with the sharing! These are the places I visited extensively in the last 3 years and I just love them. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate. Can’t wait to hear about the adventure!

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    1. Wow man thank you! This helps a lot. I was a bit overwhelmed with trying to figure out where to stay in Thailand but I think I’ll definitely try to stay at Khao San now. Looking forward to checking out all of your other suggestions as well.

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  3. I’m currently in South- East Asia (starting in Bali) ๐Ÿ™‚ and for me it was a big step coming here solo aswell! I’ve travelled widely through Europe, as I Brit it’s where I feel comfortable! I speak basic French, Spanish and Italian so always know enough to get by!! Asia is a complety different world which, I was both excited and nervous to explore… Now I’m here, I’m wondering what was I fusing about? It’s amazing! You’ll have the best time on you’re trip ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Yeah I’m very excited! Everyone keeps telling me I have nothing to be nervous about so I’m hoping once I get there, I”ll see that they’re right. I’m there for 3 or 4 months maybe we’ll stumble into each other!

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  4. You will love South-East Asia, we did it the other way round, Asia first and then Latin America second. We definitely found Asia easier to travel in (apart from maybe India) as the countries are all so set up for backpackers. Even though I speak Spanish and it is great to be able to communicate in Latin America, it definitely is a more intense place to travel! Which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, the two sides of the world are just so different and it’s difficult to pick a favourite! Enjoy your trip ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Yeah now that I’m here it feels silly that I ever worried about getting around. Laos posed a challenge every now and then but Thailand and Vietnam definitely make it so easy for backpackers

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