Planning a trip to Asia for the first time can be daunting. It seems so foreign and challenging, and when you're not familiar with the region, it is hard to know where to start. But don't worry, Asia is really an easy place to travel in.
The suggestions above are all good. The Thailand - Laos - Vietnam - Cambodia - Thailand route is a pretty well worn path, and the most obvious choice for part of your route. Bangkok is a perfect city to fly into, with unlimited resources for travelers, and is the intro to the region for a large percentage of travelers. From there you can head south to Malaysia and fly out of KL or Singapore, or continue into Indonesia. Though you said you don't have an interest in Bali, think of it as an exit point, since there are numerous flight options from there and you wouldn't have to backtrack through Indonesia. Of course all of this could be done in reverse, and actually, flying from Australia to Bali, and home from Bangkok is a pretty good option.
I think this route could easily take up 5 months, but if you have time to spare, you could consider flying over to Philippines for a bit, into Myanmar, or even up to Southwest China (Yunnan province is wonderful, and not the big city China you probably picture). I wouldn't cut out Hong Kong so quickly - it's a pretty amazing city.
As for money, it's really hard to say. I've traveled the region many times and on many different budgets. Some trips I got by on $15 a day for several months, and other trips I struggled to keep it under $50. I've also gone and spent a few hundred on a weekend in Bangkok. Usually though, if I watch what I drink, don't shop too much, and don't splurge on a touristy restaurants, I get by fine on $25-30 a day, depending on the area. Totally depends on the person though. If you like comforts and drinking, that's going up to up in a hurry.
Accommodation and transportation is also really easy. Hotels are easy to find in guidebooks, and I'm the kind of traveler who is happy to walk the streets and check out a few spots to get the best price. I usually go to the guidebook and find the area of town that has a concentration of hotels. If the guidebook lists 5, there are most likely 15 more on the block. Sometimes I book online, but generally only my first night, or if I'm on a really short trip and don't want to waste time. Hotel owners can usually give you advice on the best way to travel to the next town. Sometimes they can book bus and train tickets for you, or you can head to the stations yourself. There's no one blanket answer, and it's a different process in every country or town. You'll figure it out.
Hey Degolasse - thank you so much! This is amazing advice. Yeah, I think that route is the one I would prefer to do. Travelling as a young, single girl I would rather stay on the most beaten track! I suppose I could touch Bali on the way home for sure. I'm actually considering coming back to Australia after Asia to do my second year, so even Bali back to Australia would work.
The only reason I say I don't fancy Hong Kong is because I went on my way over to Australia and I didn't like it that much!
re: Budget - is that AUD approx?
That is a great suggestion re: accommodation and transportation. Thank you - all so helpful!
Hmm ... it really is difficult without any information about you and what you like ... so I will just tell you some things I loved about asia ...
My friend and I (two girls, so no worries about safety in asia!!) rented a bike and started in phnom penh. We went with the small automatic suzuki mio around the tonle sap (the lake in the middle of cambodia), visited angkor wat of course too, but it was not the most important part of our cambodia trip. It was really amazing and even if our butts were sore we loved it! :D
If you are going to laos try this:
It is a 3-4 trek through the jungle, you are using zipp lines for the most parts and sleeping in tree houses. It is hard (especially when you take the "waterfall tour") and beware of leeches (you need trekking shoes not only sandals). Maybe it is a little bit expensive, but worth it.
I will not say "If you go to thailand" because you defintely will ... ... So WHEN you go to Thailand don't take a plane or direct bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. There are some really nice places in between ... for example the Erawan Waterfalls or Sukothai.
I don't know how much time you have for the planning, but if time is short I use this site for my bookings:
There are a lot such pages online, you have to choose your favourite.
Hey! Thanks for these suggestions - they all look amazing! About Thailand: how would I get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai? Would it be best to take a few different buses and stop at different places just depending on how I like them? How expensive are the buses? Thanks!
In February 2015.
I have a Mekong river cruise from near Seam Reap in Cambodia to Saigon in Vietnam. Then an Irrawaddy river cruise from Rangoon to Mandalay in Burma and another Mekong cruise from Luang Prabang & back to Luang Prabang in Laos.
The first 2 are about 15 days each & 8 days in Laos.
I did see a place to stay in Laos I think, where the rooms are in the treetops & you get to them by zip-line. Maybe when I was younger, but not now.
This may not be for you as it is expensive but something to consider as river travel will be a great way to see the world go by.
Mine are not ferries but a ferry is a great way of getting from place to place.
My blog gives more details
Hey! Thanks for the advice! Yeah, I think they might be a bit expensive for this poor backpacker! I like the sound of the rooms in treetops in Laos though! Hope you have a great trip as well!
Allow 2 weeks in each of Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos & Sri Lanka. Allow a week in Cambodia & northern Thailand. Avoid Singapore, Malaysia and Phuket unless you have heaps of time. These are the only SE Asian countries I have recent experience in.
Hey! Do you think those time frames are long enough? Thailand for only a week doesn't seem long enough? I don't fancy Singapore but I think I want to do Malaysia and I definitely would like to go to Phuket - why do you suggest avoid? Thanks!
If you have time,try to visit Philippines specially if you love nature and cultures.. There are lot of untouch beaches and world heritage site that you can see.
People are nice and hospitable. And there are lot of cheap accomodations, if you're a backpacker.
Mayon Volcano in bicol, Taal Volcano, Sagada, Rice terraces, Vigan, Underground river, Elnido and Coron beach in Palawan, Chocolates hills in bohol, are some of the beautiful places in the Philippines.
Hey - I hadn't considered the Philippines! But from your suggestions it sounds and looks amazing! Thank you!
I left in September to travel all around Asia, and so far I have been to India, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and am currently in Indonesia.
I really struggled with how to plan it and I have been so surprised by what I actually needed and what places I loved when I thought I would prefer others.
I have put loads of tips and bits on my blog about theplaces ad stuff like what to pack.
it is called:
and its on blogspot. for some reason I cant post the link.
but hopefully you may find stuff thats helpful here.
let me know if I can help with anything else.
Hey! Thanks for this I'll have a look.
While traveling Asia, don't forget to travel to Nepal too. See the world's highest mountains including the Everest, go for the bungy jump, trek. climb peaks, raft, tour the mystical and magical Kathmandu, wildlife safari and many more...
Hey! That sounds amazing, thank you! There's so many hidden treasures you don't think of!
Vietnam, many beautiful beaches: Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Mui Ne, Con Dao and other sights such as the Mekong Delta, Cu Chi Tunnels, Hue, Hoi An, Hanoi, Sapa, Paradise cave, Phong Nha cave, Ha Long Bay. You can also visit Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, ... from Vietnam by road.
Hey! Thank you so much - I'm so excited after all this!