We mentioned in a previous post that we’re trying not to plan everything about this trip. But of course, some planning has to happen, including where to start.
After deciding on Southeast Asia, the next question became which countries? Stereotypical though it may be, we are planning to visit what could be considered the core of the so-called Banana Pancake Trail*: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. These four countries are next to one another, making them an obvious selection. And of course, there is much to see and do in all of them. While Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and even India and Nepal are sometimes included by different travelers in their itineraries, we want to spend more time in each place, so are limiting the number of countries to four. Or at least, that’s the plan for now.
But, which one to start with?
We initially assumed we would start in Bangkok, as that city is a major hub for flights to and from the West. Most blog articles about the Banana Pancake Trail recommend Thailand as a starting point (maybe because it sees the most Western tourists of the four countries and would be a bit easier for first-time visitors to acclimate) and then looping through the other three (or more) countries and finally ending back in Bangkok for a flight home.
But we were having a hard time finding flights to Bangkok at a reasonable price. Also, because it’s not really possible to buy round-trip flights with dates so far apart (without a trust fund), there’s no reason we had to fly in and out of the same city.
The more we talked about what we hoped to get out of this trip, we realized we really wanted to begin with a long stay somewhere. Not a few days, but a few weeks. To be able to slow down, walk the back streets and get a feel for what it would be like to really live somewhere. While we loved our visit to Bangkok in 2016, and will certainly visit it again on this trip, it’s not quite what we envisioned for an initial, relaxing long-term stay.
Where would we want to spend three or four weeks, with plenty of time to explore and discover slowly and properly? To eat all the food and visit all the things, but with plenty of time to just sit at a café and experience the place?
And then it came to us: Vietnam. More specifically, Hanoi.
Searching on Airbnb, Rob came across a beautiful apartment in the old quarter of the city, well under our budget and available on the right dates. I found one-way flights fully covered by the points we had. It all fell into place.
So, that’s sorted: our first city will be Hanoi, for three weeks. As for the rest…stay tuned.
Countdown: 47 days.
*The name given to popular backpacking routes through Southeast Asia & Asia, where the increase in travelers over the years has led to many restaurants and hostels serving up comfort foods for Western palates, such as banana pancakes.
Have you done an extended visit to Southeast Asia? If so, where did you visit and for how long?