Tips for 12 Days DIY Backpacking in South East Asia

By Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor March 4th, 2015 Posted in Asia Travel Blog, Destination, DIY Travel, Travel Blog 4 Comments

This is a guest post from our previous writing competition.

Being a regular employee who has been working 5+ days a week and 9+ hours a day, it’s hard for us to plan an extensive travel. This is why I am so inspired by the bloggers and backpackers who have the guts to leave their jobs and enjoy traveling while working. Yet, everyone needs a break! The choice is still ours to enjoy it and make it happen. So I travel to Southeast Asia.

09 - leyn_vhix_laos

For most of us, 12 days were such a long break and conquering 5 Southeast Asian countries – Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Indonesia was such a big Wow! Who have thought I and my travel buddy proudly did it, just by doing the preparation the right way is the key to success. Lots of planning, reading, and savings are needed to achieve it. In addition, taking the opportunity of using company leave commutations, holidays and of course a bunch of considerations from the boss (good thing I have one). Believe me, when you come back to reality at the office every memory of it is really worth it.

12go Asia

Here’s how to dream, plan and make it happen trip with a bang:

1. Decide where to start and end the journey

Travelling out of the country is such a big challenge and opportunity as well. So when I go on this kind of trip, I always see to it that I am covering two or more nation. It’s like a project in school or at the office. It begins with a vision ‘To conquer as many South East Asian countries as possible on a single trip’. Then with brainstorming pretty small things we wrote down what we wanted to experience. Below is my list.

– Elephant ride, floating market and river cruise in Thailand
– Petronas tower in Malaysia
– Camel ride, temples of Bali
– Angkor watt in Cambodia
– Temples of Laos

That vision drove us to book our one-way flight which is 10 months before our trip. The seat sale triggers Malaysia – our entry country where the cheapest flight from Manila is easily available. Weeks after, we got the return flight to Indonesia. Then we started pinning itonn the map

2. Prepare a Schedule and Estimate Budget

Detailed schedule and budget are two most important elements especially when doing Do-It-Yourself of the trip. Since I and my travel buddy live and work in different place, everything is being communicated online. Throughout the preparation, we have our Shared document via Google sheets that contain the estimated budgets for everything. We also divided our tasks to cover the whole thing – I am in charge of booking flights and accommodations, she’s with the itineraries and other reservations.

08 - temple of bali

Since we need 6 more flights and 4 accommodations to move from one destination to another we’ve created price alerts via Skyscanner, Agoda etc., created comparison list then booked it once we got the best price. We also realize that price drops mostly during Tuesdays and holidays.

3. Research, Research, Research

Different places, means diverse languages and cultures so we have to learn at least the do’s and don’ts in each of them like when getting into the sacred temples in Cambodia or Laos we need to wear appropriate attire. Blogs and forums are big aids in feeding this information.

03 - angkor watt, cambodia

Months away before our trip, the itinerary in Malaysia is still not in place aside from the tower. But with continued your research, we discover more than what we wanted like discovering the rich culture of UNESCO world heritage Melaka that is two hours away from Kuala Lumpur.

The 14 hr train ride from Bangkok to Laos is even worth it when we were enthralled by architecture Patuxai – the French gate of Asia and other monuments.

4. Shopping is Everywhere

Days before the trip, since there is a need to finish everything before the vacation, anticipate that schedules are so stressful. As the trip comes closer, more cramming, more shopping and more things were added to my bags. We agreed that were packing light and will not purchase a check-in baggage for our departure but on the night before our trip I’m still packing and didn’t recognize that I put more than the required. So, when I came to each and every airport I have to pretend that everything is manageable even though it’s not. Lessons learned, prepare early by listing down what is really necessary which is also means packing light. As shopping is everywhere clothes and other stuff that are easily find anywhere. That is visiting five different countries means we need to provide a space for our souvenirs.

04 - food trip, thailand

Let’s all face it specially when we are newbie to the country, we still converts the price.  This is the thing that we missed and one of the reasons we argued. Alternatively we used our phone’s calculator but currency converter can make travellers life so easier.

5. Enjoy, Feel and Record Milestones

The experience is incomparable like stepping and feeling the morning breeze of Angkor Watt Cambodia is something that stops my world. As sun shines into it, its beauty brightens. The one-of-a-kind Elephant ride in Thailand, the Cruise by the river and the Camel ride in Bali are bit expensive but the picture of it shows a thousand smiles. It’s normal to take it slow, spend a little, and experience it

05 - Rivercruise, thailand

Capturing each and every milestone is a once-in-lifetime thing, saving the memories that last forever

6. Get ready to be tired, lost and sleep anywhere

The moment we choose to experience this long journey, we knew we have challenges along the way – sleeping at the airport while for our flight, check-in the train, sleeping at the bottom of the temple and the only nap we have are plane or bus ride. In Addition to that is carrying heavy baggage when transferring to our next destination. As long as there is a backrest and an empty space to relax, we took the opportunity to rest.


On the go, even we have downloaded maps I remember how we get lost when we entered a temple and then exits on the wrong way so we need to walk few more kilometres in order to go back. We got exhausted but patiently returned and regained strengths.

Related Article: Looking for affordable accommodation in Southeast Asia? Check out our Ultimate List of Best Hostels.

7. Don’t Forget To Eat and Sip a Cup of Coffee

We always loaded our body in the morning at the start of the trip. It is also important to know the food preferences to avoid insisting the food that your buddy doesn’t like. During our research, we noted all the delicacies of each place that were heading to and one the best experience is to find try it during travel

When you feel like you’re sleepy, stop for a while. For me, it’s a cup of coffee that makes me alive, for my buddy just simply strawberry shake.


8. In Times of Trouble Remember Your Travel Buddy Is Your Shoulder to Cry On

Along the road, you will have arguments and sometimes fight. Always remember, you planned it together you should fix it together – when you didn’t understand your buddy will be your interpreter, when you lost, your buddy will be your map and when you run out of cash your buddy will be your ATM machine. Leave some space when it happen, either talk or give way to resolve it.

Overall, DIY backpacking is a tough challenge, a trip with an extensive planning and preparation that requires patience and determination. But when you wholeheartedly loving it, the experience, happiness and memories will always sealed its worth.

Transportation Tip: If you’re looking for the cheapest way to book the Trains, Buses, Ferries, Transfers on this route, we use 12Go.Asia to compare the prices!

Powered by 12Go Asia system


About the Author:


Leyn Causon, a backpacker, traveller, technology enthusiast and explorer. She’s a person who loves risks and challenges. Coffee addict, picture addict, food enthusiast, nature lover, adventure seeker and masochist at work, and will do anything ‘For the Love of Travel’.

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4 thoughts on “Tips for 12 Days DIY Backpacking in South East Asia

  1. Please proofread your work or have someone who has a good grasp of English grammar proofread your work. Such a waste that the blog seems to be interesting and full of wonderful insight but I find it uncomfortable reading too many errors so I don’t finish reading it.

    1. I understand you, this one is an entry for our writing competition and we werent able to proofread it, we really apologize.

  2. Hi Kach and Jon,

    #5 jumps out at me.

    I’m writing these words from Bali now. Working, and playing. Looking out at the palm trees, feeling today is a beach day, enjoying the moment. I’ve been through much of SE Asia so totally vibe with your tips and feel #1 is A1 in my book. People rush through trips. Me included. And I’m a long term guy, traveling for 4 years running almost. Take a deep breath. Be in the moment. Long or short term, it’s not how many countries you visit but how present you are in those moments. Learned from tons of missed moments over here of course 😉

    Make an impact on where you are to get the most out of the experience. Make an impact on each person whose life you touch. Then you’ll get so much more out of traveling, long or short term,however you wish to travel.

    Love the post guys!

    Tweeting through Triberr.


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