Two Week Southeast Asia Itinerary – 5 Easy Routes
Southeast Asia is amazing. It is incredibly diverse in culture, food, language, landscapes, and activities. One day you could be showering under a waterfall and exploring ancient Buddhist temples, the next you could be scuba diving some of the world’s best coral reefs and kicking back at a reggae beach bar.
However, let me start by telling you it is impossible to see the whole region in a 2 week Southeast Asia itinerary. If you try to see every country, you’re going to be spending more time on a plane or a train than actually having meaningful experiences.
If you’re limited on time, then you should really narrow down what you want to see and where you want to go. A good way to do this is to consider what type of experience you want to have.
Here I’ve made five different options for an ideal 2 week Southeast Asia itinerary. These itineraries are easy to follow and ensure you will spend more of your time experiencing Southeast Asia than just being in transit.
Option 1: The Thai Islands
If you want to spend your two week Southeast Asia itinerary kicking back on the beach, exploring coral reefs and having the occasional party, then the Thai islands are the place for you.
- Koh Phangan – 3 days
Start with a bus trip from Bangkok down to Suratthani, followed with a ferry across to Koh Phangan. Tear up the Full Moon Party by dancing on the beach all night and enjoy some of those cheap buckets. However, don’t think that Koh Phangan is all a party. Hire a motorbike and explore the more remote beaches around the island like Bottle Beach and Thong Yai Pan Nai beach on the secluded east coast.
- Koh Tao – 3 days
After 3 days on Koh Phangan catch a ferry across to Koh Tao. If you want to get your scuba diving certificate, this is the place to do it. Koh Tao has the cheapest scuba diving courses I’ve found in Southeast Asia. Spend three days diving the island and exploring beaches by motorbike.
- Koh Lanta – 4 Days
Next hop across to the west coast of Thailand called the Andaman Sea. Here you can visit the beautiful island of Koh Lanta. One of my favorite scuba diving spots in the world is about 1 hr off Koh Lanta, it’s called Koh Haa. Back on the island there are awesome beaches along the west coast with epic sunset views like Ao Nui Beach and Bamboo Bay. At night you can admire the phosphorescent algae in the water too. I’d suggest spending 4 days on Koh Lanta.
- Koh Lipe – 4 days
Finally, hop on a speedboat transfer from Koh Lanta to Koh Lipe. This tiny island is so far south that on a clear day you can see Langkawi in Malaysia. Koh Lipe has some of Thailand’s most amazing beaches. Check out Sunrise Beach for awesome sunrises, and Sunset beach for epic sunsets. You can snorkel the vibrant coral reefs by just swimming out from the shore. Spend 4 days on Koh Lipe before heading back up north to Bangkok.
Option 2: Motorbike Northern Vietnam
Though it may not be for everyone, motorbiking the north of Vietnam is incredible. The north of Vietnam is one of the most diverse regions of Southeast Asia, and for that reason, you could spend an entire two week Southeast Asia itinerary exploring just this region. The opportunities within 300km from Hanoi are endless.
- Hanoi – 3 days
Start off with 3 days in Hanoi while you search for a motorbike to rent for the next two weeks. Spend a day exploring the narrow alleyways and French bakeries in the Old Quarter by Hoan Kiem Lake. Keep an eye out for the local coffee shop where you can enjoy a cup of coffee Vietnam style, dripped over ice and sweetened condensed milk. The food in Hanoi is also incredible, you have to try the Pho Soup in the early morning from a street vendor.
- Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island – 3 days
Ride to the east of Hanoi for a few hours where you will find the famous Ha Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay. There are over 1,600 karst limestone mountains scattered throughout the ocean here. One of the best ways to see Halong Bay is not rushing it with a day trip from Hanoi, but to stay one or two nights at Cat Ba Island. You can take a motorbike across to the island on the vehicle ferry from Haiphong.
- Ban Gioc Waterfall – 2 days
After exploring the islands in Halong Bay, continue north back on the mainland to the Ban Gioc Waterfall. This is one of the largest and most impressive waterfalls in Southeast Asia. It is located in the far north of Vietnam in the Cao Bang Province, on the Vietnam-China border. It’s a bit out of the way, so many travelers don’t make it this far north. If you head up this way, be sure to check out a local homestay in Cao Bang, it’s a great way to actually live the village life with a Vietnamese family.
- Ha Giang – 5 days
Ha Giang seems like the final frontier of northern Vietnam. Narrow barrierless roads wind their way along the steep mountain passes offering epic views for hours on end. From up here, you are effectively staring out across to the mountains of Guilin, the southern province of China. The most popular route is known as the Ma Pei Leng Pass running via Meo Vac and Dong Van, then there are a handful of smaller villages in between where you can repair a motorbike or get a bowl of Pho soup.
Although you will only spend one night at a time in this region, there are about five good long days of riding from Cao Bang across to Hag Giang and back down to Hanoi. You won’t want to rush this route any quicker.
Option 3: Rural Laos and Northern Thailand
You could spend your two week Southeast Asia itinerary exploring the rural countryside of Laos and the mountains of northern Thailand. Cruise through the rice fields, tube your way down the river and meet the people of the ethnic villages.
- Vientiane – 2 days
Start off with 2 days in Vientiane where you will find a quiet city with a French Colonial feel. Explore the French architecture, eat lots of fresh baguettes and drink those damn tasty fruit smoothies. Be sure to head down to the river promenade by sunset where you can watch the sunset over Thailand across the water while eating tasty cheap street food.
- Vang Vieng – 2 days
Continue north to Vang Vieng, a small town in the jungle which was once famous for tubing down the river. These days you can still go tubing, but it is a much more relaxed version of the raging party it once was. Spend 2 days here tubing, exploring the waterfalls and swimming in the various Blue Lagoons.
- Luang Prabang – 3 days
Next up is Luang Prabang, the city of temples. I suggest spending 3 days here. There are over 30 ancient Buddhist temples scattered around the town which you can easily spend a day exploring by foot. Make a day trip out to the Kuang Si Falls, a beautiful three-tiered waterfall about 30km from town, then kick back in the afternoon with a cold beer Laos n hand and enjoy the sunset view. On your last morning get up early to see the procession of hundreds of monks walking the streets accepting food offerings from the locals. This is a culture pot not to miss.
- Chiang Rai – 3 days
Next head over the Chiang Rai, the northernmost province of Thailand. You can either opt for the slow boat from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai, or hop on a bus which is a fair bit quicker. Chiang Rai deserves at least 3 days. On the first day explore the attractions around town like the iconic White Temple, the Back house and other ancinet temples. The next day you can head up to the mountains to see sunrise above the clouds at Phu Chi Fa and visit the minority hill tribes. On the third day head west for a day trip to the hot springs, some of the best I’ve found in Southeast Asia.
- Chiang Mai – 3 days
Finally, head south to Chiang Mai, the former capital of the ancient Thai Lanna Kingdom back in the 15th Century. All throughout the old quarter, you will find remnants of the ancient city still intact such as the old perimeter wall and a number of Buddhist temples. These days Chiang Mai is the second largest in Thailand after Bangkok. It’s loaded with things to do such as markets, temples, cooking schools, waterfalls, and mountains. A trip down to Chiang Mai is worth at least 3 days.
Option 4: Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok
This two week Southeast Asia itinerary from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok will maximize the diversity of cultures in a short trip. You will travel through three countries and get a quick taste of each country, but leave you wanting to explore more on your next trip.
- Ho Chi Minh City – 3 days
Kick off with Ho Chi Minh City where you can eat loads of the tasty Pho Noodles and Banh Mi Rolls. This street food is common to find and really cheap. During the day you can explore the history from the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War Museum and the Chu Chi Tunnels just north of town are both worth a visit.
Next, make a day trip down to the Mekong Delta, the region where the Mekong River meets the ocean. Here you will find busy floating markets and small villages along the river side. Be sure to hop on a small wooden boat for a short cruise through the Mekong Delta mangroves, it is a great way to see the region properly.
- Phnom Penh – 2 days
Work your way east through Cambodia to the city of Phnom Penh. This isn’t one of the most bustling cities you will find in Southeast Asia. It is quite erratic and still in a developing state. Most people visit to see The Killing Fields, one of the most notable locations of the Khmer Rouge regime. The promenade along the Mekong River is a nice place to relax in the afternoon with a handful of bars and restaurants along the strip.
- Siam Reap – 2 days
Siam Reap is home to one of Southeast Asia’s oldest most iconic temples, Angkor Wat. This huge temple was built way back in the 12th Century, originally as a Hindu temple, then converted to a Buddhist temple. Angkor Wat is located right near town and can be easily explored on your first day. The next day you can head a little further out of town to explore the huge Tonle Sap lake where you will find villages floating on the water, it is a very unique destination to add to your Southeast Asia itinerary.
- Koh Chang – 3 days
As you cross from Cambodia to Thailand you will reach Trat Province. There are a few great islands in this region, one of them being Koh Chang or “the elephant island.” Koh Chang is the third largest Thai island and has loads of amazing beaches to explore. It will take over 1 hour to ride around the island by motorbike. Then you can also explore the smaller nearby islands with a snorkeling day trip.
- Bangkok – 3 days
Finally, you reach the largest city in Thailand, and one of the largest in Southeast Asia, Bangkok. This mega-metropolis really has enough to keep you busy for weeks. With three days you can cram in a few temples, an island, some great nightlife, and plenty of tasty street food. Be sure the check out my huge Bangko travel guide if you plan to visit even for a day or two.
Option 5: Singapore and Malaysia
If it’s your first time in Asia and you want to ease yourself into the region, then this 2 week Southeast Asia itinerary starting in Singapore and working north through Malaysia is the option for you.
- Singapore – 3 days
Singapore is the most westernized city in Southeast Asia. It’s clean, it’s orderly, but it’s also expensive. I suggest spending 3 days exploring the city and the nearby islands. My favorite destinations in Singapore were the Jurong Bird Park, Gardens by the Bay, and Ubin Island. Be sure to visit the hawker markets where you will find loads of incredible food. The local specialty is the Oyster Omelette, though I wasn’t so crazy about it.
- Malacca – 2 days
From Singapore, you can hop on a bus which crosses the bride to Malaysia and continue north to Malacca. This small town has a diverse history having been occupied by the Dutch, Portuguese, British, and Japanese at different times. Spend 2 days in Malacca exploring the local attractions, understanding its history, and eating lots and lots of local food around the town center.
- Kuala Lumpur – 3 days
Just 2 hours north of Malacca you will reach Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is so culturally diverse. You will find a huge population of Indian, Chinese and ethnic Malays each bringing their own style of food to the city. Spend 3 days in Kuala Lumpur eating your way through Chinatown, Little India, and exploring the sights of the city.
Penang is located just 2.5 kilometers off the west coast of Malaysia. This relatively large island is accessible by the bridge connecting it to the mainland, so buses can head directly to the island from Kuala Lumpur. Penang has an interesting mix of street art, nice beaches, national parks, war history, and authentic Malaysia villages. The best way to do Penang is to hire a motorbike and just explore the island for a few days.
The island of Langkawi is just about as north as you can get in Malaysia. This huge tropical island has some amazing beaches to explore right around the island. Be sure to check out the Langkawi Skybridge Viewpoint for an amazing panorama view looking out over the Andaman Sea. There is quite a large town on Langkawi where you will find a whole range of hotels from budget through to luxury resorts. It is an island which can accommodate any sort of traveler.
Conclusions: 2 Weeks in Southeast Asia
As you can see, there is no single way to to do plan a two week Southeast Asia itinerary. The above five options are meant to give you an idea of what’s achievable, but they are not the only options out there. I have not even touched on Indonesia or the Philippines yet, which I may add details on in the future.
If I can leave you with one bit of advice on traveling to Southeast Asia for two weeks it is do not try to see it all. If you think you can see five or more countries in less than two weeks, then you’re quickly going to learn that it is not very fun.
Now whichever route you take, enjoy the travels. If you have any questions on route planning, please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll reply to you as soon as possible!