Backpacking SE Asia: Our Route

I didn't really write too much about this on my blog, because it held such a sacred spot in my heart that I didn't want to share it and dilute the experience at all, but some months ago I backpacked SE Asia with some friends in what quickly became known as 'The Summer of Dong.' Geez, ya perv. Not literal dongs! Vietnamese dong, the currency.


The Dongers quickly settled into our rhythm as a traveling quintet, and I truly couldn't have asked for better travel buddies. We started in Hong Kong together, where we acquired some matching shirts for the trip, as one does. Then it was off to Bangkok! We pretty much just ate our way through this city, and didn't try to 'do' too much of anything. Our street noodle habit began in Bangkok, which would prove to be a hard habit to break.

We travel in style

Happily tricked into renting an overpriced private boat

From Bangkok we opted for an overnight train to Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand. We had our hearts set on cooking classes and elephants, and Chiang Mai did not disappoint. We clicked with Chiang Mai so much, we actually extended our stay here an extra night because we weren't ready to leave.

Handling the cutlery during our cooking class

From Chiang Mai, it was off to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. Siem Reap was such a pleasant surprise! I figured it would be a home base for exploring the region's better known sites, but the city in itself was really fun. From the epic Bar Street, to yoga classes, a trip to the history museum, and eating silk worms at a non-profit restaurant, Siem Reap was three days well spent.

Ta Phrom in Angkor

We did a quick one night stopover in Phnom Penh, which was meh, moving on to Sihanoukville very excitedly from there. Papa Pippo's in Otres Beach became our base for a few days of lounging around, more yoga, passing around bottles of wine on the beach, and ukulele sing-a-longs in the sand.

My final stop with the Dongers before they continued on to Vietnam and I headed to the Pacific NW was Palm Beach Resort on Koh Rong. Imagine the feeling if you walked in to a bar and your favorite celebrity was sitting there waiting for you with a glass of your favorite whiskey and your favorite album was playing in the background and someone was lined up to rub your feet and a purring kitten jumped in your lap and they started frying bacon behind the bar at that exact same moment and you received a text message that a distant relative left you a sizeable inheritance and you never had to work again. That kind of describes the feeling of walking up to Palm Beach. Sort of.

Our sunset boat ride to Koh Rong

Our stay in Palm Beach was completely happenstance- I emailed a bunch of different hotels on Koh Rong and they were the first to respond! We had reserved the family bungalow for 50 bucks a night, unaware that it also came with a hostel dog, welcome beers and cocktails, and a hammock overlooking the bay. The water there literally sparkles at night because of a native algae, just to up the magic factor in case Koh Rong didn't have you convinced already. Palm Beach hosts evening seafood barbecues, lets you plug in your iPod at the beach bar, and aims to help you completely disconnect from whatever demons you left on the continent. Koh Rong was koh, koh right.

The pier to enter Koh Rong's Palm Beach

Beaching it up in Koh Rong

This is where I reluctantly parted ways from the group. They tore up Vietnam, and I ventured off to Canada for the first time. We did all of this in three weeks but you could surely slow it down and spend a lot more time in the region.

A final snap of The Dongers


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