Two Week Southeast Asia Itinerary – 5 Easy Routes
Southeast Asia is incredibly diverse in culture, food, language, landscapes, and activities. One day you can shower under a waterfall and explore ancient temples, the next day you can scuba dive the world’s best reefs then chill at a beach bar.
The problem is that too many people try to fit too much in too little time.
Rule #1: Don’t cram. It’s impossible to fit everything in a 2 week Southeast Asia itinerary.
If you try to see every country in two weeks, you will spend more time on a plane or a train than having meaningful experiences.
Try to narrow down what you want to see, and where you want to go. A good starting point is to consider what type of experience you want.
Here I’ve suggested five easy options for a 2 week Southeast Asia itinerary. These itineraries ensure you spend more of your time exploring Southeast Asia than being in transit.
If you’re still unsure how to plan your trip, feel free to send me a travel planning inquiry. Together, we will develop a unique travel itinerary that gives you the experiences you are after with the knowledge I have in my head. My goal is that you get the most epic trip possible.
Option 1: The Thai Islands
If you want to spend two weeks in Southeast Asia kicking back on the beach, exploring coral reefs and having the occasional party, then this Thai island itinerary is the one for you.
You can quite easily explore four to five islands in two weeks. On the flipside, you might just decide to chill out on the one island the whole time. There’s no right answer, it depends on how you feel!
- Koh Phangan – 3 days
Start with a bus trip from Bangkok down to Suratthani, followed by 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.
I’ve partnered up with an awesome motorbike rental shop in Vietnam. If you want to experience this incredible trip, send me an inquiry for some super reliable motorbike rentals.
- Hanoi – 3 days
Start 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 entire two weeks in Southeast Asia 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 explore on foot. Get up early to see the procession of monks walking the streets accepting food offerings from the locals. Make a day trip to the Kuang Si Falls 30km from town, then kick back in the afternoon with a cold beer for sunset. Discover more things to do in Luang Prabang…
- Chiang Rai – 3 days
Chiang Rai is the northernmost province of Thailand. You can catch 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. First explore the iconic temples around town; White Temple, Blue Temple, and Black House. The next day you can head up to the mountains to see the 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. Read my ultimate Chiang Rai travel guide here…
- 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 Vietnam War history. 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 riverside. 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 with lots of beautiful beaches. 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. Be sure to read my definitive guide to the beaches on Koh Chang here…
- Bangkok – 3 days
Finally, you reach Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand and one of the largest cities in Southeast Asia. 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. Oh, and don’t forget to check out a floating market on the outskirts of the city.
Be sure the check out my huge Bangkok 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 that crosses the bridge to Johor Bahru in Malaysia, then 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 that 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 two weeks in Southeast Asia. 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’s – 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.
If you’d like me to help you with planning your trip, be sure to send me a message through my travel planning inquiry page. First, I will collect the essential details about your trip. Then, I’ll work on a trip plan which we can review and discuss on a call.
My goal is that you get the best possible trip, and continue to use The Lost Passportas your go-to travel resource.
13 thoughts on “Two Week Southeast Asia Itinerary [5 Options for 2019]”
Hi Josh, I’m planning a six-week swimming vacation on the islands. 4 weeks solo, then wife joins for two weeks. I’m starting off in Lanta for a week, then trying to decide the next three weeks. Debating Ngai, Mook, Libong, Kraden. Will need internet connection to work 3-4 hours a day, then want to swim, snorkel, explore, laid back raggae bar scene in evening. Of those four, what do you think, eliminate one? some islands worth more days than others?
Then when wife comes, thinking of Lipe, Turatao, Sukhurn, maybe phangan for two weeks. Any opinions you have would be wonderful. Thanks for your blog! Robert
Hi Robert, if you want a bit of nightlife and good snorkeling then I’d cut out Koh Libong. It’s a really nice island with a local vibe but doesn’t offer much in the way of those things you’re after. Koh Lipe has plenty of facilities, restaurants bars. Koh Tarutao is more remote and better for disconnecting completely. I’ve got island guides on this blog for Koh Ngai, Koh Mook, Koh Libong, Koh Lipe, Koh Kradan, and Koh Lanta in case you haven’t come across them all yet!
Hi Josh. We are planning a 2 week trip in March/April 2020, we arrive and depart in KL. Ideally we would spend 3 days in KL and then are open to ideas. Initial thoughts are to see an island or two in Malaysia and perhaps Ankor Wat if you think do-able in such a short visit?
Hi Sue, you could easily visit a few islands off the west coast of Malaysia like Tioman, Redang, and Perhentian. If you want to visit Angkor Wat, the best way will be to fly from KL up to Siam Reap. I’ll send you an email to discuss this trip plan in more detail!
Thanks for the super helpful tips. We are going to be spending roughly 16-17 days in SE Asia in January. Originally, we were going to travel through Northern Vietnam, but we’re realizing the weather is a bit unpredictable… so back to the drawing board to potentially reconsider that plan.
Which of these would you recommend to be best for culture and food (and a little more authentic/less touristy)? I wouldn’t mind a beach day or two, but it isn’t a top priority.
Thanks for your help. Cheers!
Hi Madeline, for the culture I would suggest Rural Laos or the North of Thailand for about 2 weeks. You could then hop on a quick flight from Chiang Mai to the south of Thailand (Hat Yai or Trang) to visit an island.
Hi Josh we are 2 couples in our 50 s wanting to visit south east Asia for the first time.we are feeling quite overwhelmed where to start we have 14-16 days could you offer any advice
With kind regards
Hi Jayne, I suggest first you consider what sort of experience are you after – adventure, relaxing, culture, food? and what time of the year are you traveling? Let me know and I’d be happy to help you plan up a customized itinerary.
Hi Josh we plan to go last week in February and first week in March and would like to explore the sites and experience the food and culture maybe ending with a couple of relaxing days
Thankyou for your reply and help
My wife and I are planning a trip to Asia and Thailand is a for sure destination and then are debating between Japan or Vietnam as another stop. Obviously to go to Japan from Thailand we would need to fly but can you expand upon the travel from Thailand to Vietnam? Is there a decent train, car service or would a flight be needed? Also, would we need any sort of visas to travel to any of these countries that we would need to take care of ahead of time? Thank you!
Hi Jordan, unless you also wanted to travel through Laos or Cambodia, then I’d suggest a flight from Bangkok or Chiang Mai to Hanoi or HCMC. You can check out some local budget airlines such as NokAir, VietJet, and AirAsia which all do pretty cheap fares. A van or bus from Thailand to Vietnam otherwise would take quite a long time. Let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with!
Hey, I stumbled across this post and wanted to ask some questions. I’m going to be traveling around south east Asia for 2 weeks at the end of September. I was wondering what would be the best place to visit where I could scuba dive, see whale sharks, do some hiking, some great food and markets and some night life as well. I look forward to hearing from you.
Hi Paul, for diving with whale sharks you need to check out Pulau Sipidan off the east coast of Sabah, Malaysia. There is also some great hiking in Sabah like the climb up Mount Kinabalu. I haven’t seen much of a nightlife there though, I’d suggest the Thai islands like Koh Lanta for that. Let me know if you have any other questions, happy to help!