5 Months in Southeast Asia Round-up: SE Asia Top Highlights!

What have the past 5 months in Southeast Asia looked like?

Kuala Lumpur – Melaka – George Town – Cameron Highlands – Kuala Lumpur – Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville – Siem Reap – Battambang – Phnom Penh – Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) – Mekong Delta – Nha Trang – Hoi An – Halong Bay – Hanoi – Sapa – Bangkok – Chiang Mai – Bangkok – Chiang Mai – Tachilek – Chiang Mai – Hat Yai – George Town – Phuket – Chiang Mai – Bangkok.

Phew! It’s been a busy few months and at times a little exhausting (especially when we tried to cram in 7 different locations during our month in Vietnam!), however, the reason for this round-up is that we are switching gears over here.

After 5 months in Southeast Asia, it’s time to explore a new region!

I feel like I have barely scratched the surface here, yet I’m sure I would feel the same way six months from now. Sam and I are ready for a change of scenery and that is starting with a very unexpected trip to Europe and a little visit to Canada for me.

And now let’s go back to the start for a look at some of the highlights and lowlights (there have been very few of those) during my time here.

Malaysia

Highlight: Melaka was my first introduction to Southeast Asia and I couldn’t have asked for a better destination. The riverfront was covered in colourful street art, there were countless temples and shrines to explore, the food was delectable, and the weather was tropical! The city center was small enough to be enjoyed on foot, but there were also riverboats and trishaws available to discover the outlying parts of Melaka. I’d go back anytime.

5 Months in Southeast Asia Round-up: SE Asia Top Highlights! Colourful street art along the river in Melaka (Malacca), Malaysia

Lowlight: Getting kicked out of our hotel room in the Cameron Highlands because the owner had given away our room to someone who was willing to pay a higher rate over the holiday…we only had half an hour to scramble and get out of there. Everything else in town was either booked for the weekend or outrageously overpriced so we just decided to leave town even though we hadn’t done any sightseeing. It felt like a bit of a wasted journey to go all the way there only to have to leave so soon, but sometimes that’s just how things go.

Cambodia

Highlight: Watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat and visiting some of the lesser known temples of Angkor. It was more magnificent than I ever expected.

A fiery red and orange sunset over Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
A fiery red and orange sunset over Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Lowlight: Oh Sihanoukville… I had read such great reviews from other bloggers, but what I found instead was a backpacker ghetto with a really dirty beach. Add to that an incident on Serendipity Beach where a little boy (probably no older than 11) tried to pick a fight by shouting all kinds of profanities after we politely declined to buy bracelets…I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. If you’re heading to Sihanoukville, you’re better off avoiding Serendipity Beach altogether – apparently Otres Beach is a bit more relaxed, but I didn’t personally make it there.

Vietnam

Highlight: It’s no secret that I loved travelling through Vietnam. If you only have time for a few countries in Southeast Asia, Vietnam should be at the top of your travel list. I recommend visiting Hoi An which is a really charming town and also a great place to get clothes custom made, a boat tour of Halong Bay, and trekking in Sapa.

Trekking to Cat Cat Village in Sapa, Vietnam.
Trekking to Cat Cat Village in Sapa, Vietnam.

Lowlight: Sam getting food poisoning! This consisted of me having to run out to a pharmacy in the rain with Vietnamese words scribbled on a little paper (Google Translate is magic!), and then being woken up at 3 in the morning to go in search of toilet paper. Running around the hotel lobby and going into empty hotel rooms in search of TP when it’s pitch black is plain spooky!

Thailand

Highlight: Planting temporary roots in Chiang Mai and living like a local. After three month of being constantly on the go, it was nice to get a little apartment and enjoy the city’s markets and restaurants. I also really enjoyed heading down to Bangkok for a few days to attend the first ever Digital Innovation Asia conference. It was a great time to network with industry professionals, meet up with bloggers I knew in person and others that I only knew virtually, and there were also some great parties to attend.

A colourful building in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
A colourful building in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Lowlight: Up until this week if you had asked me to name the lowlight of my time in Thailand, I couldn’t have given you one. Then about two days ago I got the worst bout of food poisoning I’ve had in the past 10 years…and so did Sam. Oh my, oh my. Let’s just not get into the details.

So what next?

Well, I still have plenty left to write about my time in Southeast Asia, but you can also expect a few pieces from Finland and Canada in the coming weeks.

Join the Conversation

27 Comments

  1. says: Julika

    Great round-up Audrey! I love that you covered all the up’s and down’s of being on the road for this long! I can’t wait to hear about your next (European!) adventures!

    1. says: Audrey

      I know! I was planning to go there for a visa run but I somehow ended up back in Penang instead. I definitely need to check out Laos at some point.

  2. What a busy few months you guys have had. I don’t know how you do it – the amount of travel plus the amount of blog posts and videos you seem capable of cranking out is amazing.

    Looking forward to seeing what Finland’s all about!!!

  3. I was thinking about checking out Cambodia though it looks like Vietnam is the place to go first! It’s no surprise that there wasn’t much of a lowlight with Thailand, it’s the Land of Smiles after all, hehe.

    What I like about these places is that they are fun and budget friendly. Not only that, but there is always a new adventure awaiting for you as well.

  4. says: jasmine

    love your posts audrey ! I found i got yelled at a few times in cambodia for not buying braclets and clothes also !!
    Love reading all your posts on your blog – I kind of follow you, the places i read about from your blog i then travel too – so from this it looks like i just need to spend some time in malaysia šŸ™‚ Photos look great !
    keep up the great stories and information – cant wait to hear about canada !

  5. says: Nicco

    Hola Audrey!

    Me encanta tu blog y me das mucha inspiracion y buenas recomendaciones para mi viaje al sud este asiatico que voy a hacer el aƱo que viene.

    Te queria hacer una pregunta no mas. Voy a estar viajando por un aƱo (o mas) y dudo que voy a querer quedarme un aƱo en distintos hosteles, en algun momento me gustaria alquilar un departamento como hiciste vos. Como hiciste para alquilarlo? Donde buscaste, como lo encontraste, cuanto te costo mas o menos?

    Te agradeceria cualquier respuesta!

    que sigas bien en tus viajes

    1. says: Audrey

      Hola Nicco,

      Yo alquile un departamento en Chiang Mai, Tailandia y el proceso fue bastante facil. Mi departamento costo $280 (USD) por mes, y tambien tuve que dar un deposito de la misma suma. Es posible encontrar lugares mas baratos afuera del centro de la ciudad. Yo encontre mi lugar por internet, pero a veces es mejor llegar en la ciudad y ver el lugar en persona antes de decidir si quieres alquilar el lugar, de esa manera no te encuentras con ningunas sorpresas. šŸ™‚

      1. says: Nicco

        Buenisimo! Muchisimas gracias por tu respuesta! espero que mi experiencia por la zona sea tan linda como la tuya. Un beso grande y que sigas disfrutando!

  6. says: Julie - farm4Food

    Audrey,

    Where do you think you got the tainted food? Chiang Mai and Hoi An are my fav SE Asia cities so far. Where do you recommend we visit in Malaysia?

  7. You sure bounced around a lot lol. I’m almost 4 months in to my Southeast Asia trip and I did Thailand – Myanmar – Thailand – Malaysia (where I am now). I have all the time in the world and so much to see. Next year I’m thinking South America.

    Safe Travels!

  8. says: Camille

    I agree that Sihanoukville is one of those places you can skip if you are trying to get out of the touristy scene of traveling abroad. That being said, some of the other beaches off the main strip are unbelievably beautiful- if the little boat you have to hire can find them!

  9. says: Sarah P | The Travel Spolight (by Sarah P)

    Sounds like a super productive 5 months! You guys seemed to have covered all the best bits of SEA! I’m ashamed to say as a native, it’s taken me way longer to cover all that you guys did!

    I loved Hoi An too! Although I’d love to go back and explore more of Vietnam!

    All the best on your Europe trip & Canadian detour – I’m sure you guys will have a blast! Can’t wait to hear all about it! šŸ˜€

  10. Just wondering where you got the food poisoning. The worst case I’ve ever had was the result of eating a vegetarian meal at the Buddhist temple in Macau. It was no laughing matter! Afterwards I read in a Hong Kong newspaper that this was not unusual. The article said many of these temple restaurants were simply money making ventures and little attention was paid to sanitation. Lots of chemicals were used (how else could you turn tofu into something that tastes like meat?) and there was no refrigeration.

  11. says: Amber

    I find it interesting that you liked Melaka so much. Perhaps it was because we had seen so much of SE Asia before Melaka that I just found the city very packaged. I am also glad you loved Vietnam. It gets such a bad rap that I am always excited when people have a good time there! Thanks for sharing.

  12. says: Heather

    My husband got food poisoning in Vietnam that was so bad we had to cancel our trip to the Mekong. Luckily I was fine and someone at our hotel sent me out in search of ginger tea. Not sure it was the cure-all they claimed it would be, but it was still an interesting adventure!

    1. says: Audrey

      Yikes! It sucks when food poisoning calls for a change in travel plans. I’m glad the ginger tea helped. I’ve also heard that tea made with pomegranate rind is supposed to help.

  13. says: Nicole @ Green Global Travel

    Wow, you have been busy!

    Asia is an amazing location to travel for so many reasons. Can’t wait until we finally hit that area šŸ™‚

  14. says: Sara @SaraorSarah

    Really interesting! This is part of the world that I would love to explore more. I’ve had Vietnam on the wish-list for far too long. Your Cambodia photo is really beautiful.
    Hope to see some of these places soon.

  15. says: Peter Lee

    Hey, nice post. Thanks for sharing the information regarding highlight and lowlight of your trip as I am planning to visit parts of Southeast Asia.

  16. Wow, you managed to cram in a lot of cool places in only 5 months. Europe will be a nice change and the weather over there has finally improved as well, so you should have a nice summer out there.

    1. says: Audrey

      We sure did. I think in the future we would want to travel even slower, haha. And the weather in Europe was so cool and refreshing! šŸ™‚

  17. says: Mallory

    Great round up! I will have to check out all your posts about SE Asia, because I’m hoping to make it out there to at least one of those countries within the next year or two. I’m still not sure which one since I want to visit them all. I think it’s great that you were able to stay in Chiang Mai for three months and take it easy for a bit! Excited to hear about your Europe Travels

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