Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away…
And this galaxy was called Little Rock, AR. The year was 2011 and I had just landed in South Korea, my first time outside of the United States.
Not only was I a very sheltered junior in high school with no true concept of travel or cultural awareness, my trip was this super structured and organized 2-week affair that was led by teachers and principals. In sum, one of the WORST ways to travel.
But that was then, this is now.
It’s 2019 and I’m about 25 days from my first solo backpacking trip ever, but my second time visiting Southeast Asia.
Planning this trip was daunting for several reasons.
For one, the first time I went abroad, I had gone with my high school. The second time was with my twin sister, who had planned her own trips before, so I was able to rely on her experience a lot.
For this trip, though, it was all on me to plan which countries I wanted to go to, what cities I would hit up, where I would stay, what I would do for money, vaccines, the list goes on.
But one thing I’ve always been good at is research, so after a few weeks of reading through travel blogs and other helpful resources online, and hooking myself up with a Round-the-World (RTW) ticket, I finally had a semi-solid itinerary!
So without further ado, here’s my itinerary for Adventure Asia 2019!
Stop #1: Guam
When I was building out my RTW plane ticket(s), I decided to create a loop of sorts with my list of destinations so that I could travel in a general direction and not waste precious exploring time by doing a lot of backtracking.
That being said, I knew from the beginning that my first stop would be Guam.
A little backstory, my twin sister is a travel nurse and she started her first assignment in Guam back in June of this year. So visiting her in Guam was the perfect way to kick off my 3-month journey in Asia.
I’ll spend about 2 weeks there catching up with her, getting scuba certified, and other general shenanigans that we tend to get into.
Stop #2: the Philippines
Because I knew I wanted to explore more of continental Asia, I chose the Philippines as my next stop since it provided a good stepping stone to the mainland.
After landing in Manila, I’ve got a few places on my list to hit up:
- Puerto Princesa City. Ideal for island hopping, hiking, and visiting the world-famous Underground River
- Mount Pulag. Famous for the Sea of Clouds view and breathtaking views of the Milky Way
- Sagada. Known for beautiful caves that are great for spelunking, the famous hanging coffins, beautiful waterfalls, and mountain views
I’m 100% sure there will be other places that I visit in the Philippines, but I think for now this is a good start. Plus I’ve only got 2 weeks here, so I want to still be able to take a breath and soak in the area.
Stop #3: Malaysia
Malaysia is where things get interesting. Even though I officially start my trip in Guam, I’ll be flying out of Cambodia to get back to the US. So in between Malaysia and Cambodia, I plan to rely mostly on overland forms of travel, like buses and trains.
So I’ll start the Malaysian-leg of my journey in Kuala Lumpur, the capitol of Malaysia.
Starting off in the capitol, already there’s plenty to do. I know that there’s the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, apparently the oldest Hindu temple int he city. But there’s museums, markets, street food, aquariums, and a lot of other places to explore.
Since I’m trying to keep my transit times short, I’ve mapped out several towns and cities to stop in on my way to Thailand. The first stop after Kuala Lumpur is Penang Island, also known as Georgetown.
Apparently this area is a culinary paradise, with bomb curries, noodles and other decadent street food.
Don’t be fooled. Food isn’t my only reason for coming to Asia. Penang Island also has a bunch of ancient buildings, temples, and forts to explore while you’re there. Not to mention the famous Tropical Spice Garden in Jalan Teluk Bahang.
I’m especially excited to visit the Kek Lok Si Temple, which includes a spectacular Pagoda and statue that’s been constructed in the shape of the Goddess of Mercy, and the infamous Snake Temple!
After Penang Island, next stop in Malaysia is Langkawi.
Langkwai is a beautiful island located right off the coast of Penang, known for its beaches, night markets, and snorkeling!
There are also plenty of natural wonders to explore in Langkawi, including the famous mangroves, a ropes course in the jungle canopy, and the hot springs in Air Hangat Village.
Stop #4: Thailand
Thailand is probably the country I’m most excited about visiting in the next 3 months. It’s got gorgeous beaches, amazing rock climbing, and awesome food.
This section of my trip is going to be a verifiable gauntlet of island hopping and ferry riding as I wind my way through the Gulf of Thailand. That being said, here’s the breakdown:
- Ko Lanta
- Ko Jum
- Ko Yao Yai
- Khlong Phanom National Park
- Chiang Mai
Essentially, I’ve chosen a bunch of locations that hug the Gulf of Thailand as I travel North towards Bangkok, where I’ll eventually fly or take a train to Chiang Mai.
After hanging out in Chiang Mai, I’ll head to my fourth and final country in my trek around Southeast Asia.
Stop #5: Cambodia
I know very little about Cambodia, other than that my friend enjoyed her time when she lived in Asia and that it’s got really amazing temples.
When I went to South Korea so many years ago, I was fascinated by the temples and the history of their architecture. As an American, our culture seems both young and even non-existent; so we don’t have any structures identifiable to us that we could call “ancient.”
So, here’s the breakdown of the Cambodian leg of my journey:
- Siem Reap
- Battambang Province
- Krong Khemara Phoumin
- Phnom Penh
If I have any extra time in Cambodia before I fly out, I’ll spend a few more days along the Gulf of Thailand because I can’t stand to be away from cliffs and water.
And come November 26th, I’ll fly out of Phnom Penh, Cambodia back to the States, where I’ll land in Little Rock, Arkansas just in time for Thanksgiving Day.
Of course, I’ll probably be too jet-lagged to even remember the holiday, but you can’t say I didn’t make the effort!