If you’re looking for recommendations about where to hop off and spend more of your time in Southeast Asia, you’ve come to the right place!
While each destination in this diverse region has its own charm, we know that most travellers only have so much time and money to spend. So we handpicked our favourite spots in each country, that will give you a variety of epic experiences and create memories for a lifetime… apart from a few nights you might not remember.
Where to hop off in Thailand
Most of our passes start or finish in Bangkok. This buzzing capital has a lot to offer if you have a few days up your sleeve. Check out some of the ancient temples and vibrant markets. Visit the crazy tourist mecca of Khao San Road and check out Rambuttri Road which runs parallel. Stop in at the Stray Shop just off Rambuttri and we can help you plan your day. If you’re arriving into Bangkok and want some help with your first night’s accommodation and a private airport transfer (always wanted to see someone waiting for you with your name on a sign?), check out our Bangkok Arrival Packs.
Heading North, Chiang Mai is next on our list of places to hop off. Nestled in the mountains of Northern Thailand, the city is known as an adventure hub and has an arty, youthful vibe. If you’re into hiking and nature, this city is a great place to base yourself. There are many treks accessible from here that combine hiking, nature and culture – the trifecta of activities!
For those seeking wildlife, this is the place you can spend a day walking with elephants. As animal lovers, you’ll be aware that there are many unethical “sanctuaries” in Southeast Asia and beyond. It can be hard to know which organisations are helpful or harmful. We’ve done our research, and can confidently recommend Elephant Nature Park.
A trip to Pai should definitely be on the cards if you’re hopping off in Chiang Mai. This small, riverside town sits on a beautiful valley. It is famous for its hot springs, gorgeous waterfalls and the Pai Canyon, which offers scenic hiking opportunities. Travel time to Pai is about 3 hours, so we recommend staying the night there to truly embrace the experience.
For more tips and advice about what to do in Chiang Mai, check out this blog.
Where to hop off in Laos
The moment you arrive in Vang Vieng, you’ll know you want to stay a while. The small town sits alongside the Nam Song River, and is surrounded by striking limestone mountains and caves. The reputation of this place has undergone a massive transformation in the last 10 years; from a boozy party capital with unregulated and dangerous tourist activities, to an adventure seekers paradise, thankfully with much better regulations.
Top things to do in Vang Vieng still include some of the old classics, like tubing down the river (safely) and partying. The Insta-worthy Blue Lagoon is worth the tuk tuk ride out of town, and if you bring a torch, you can spend some time exploring the Tham Phu Kham cave while you’re there. Cave tubing, rock climbing, zip lining and panoramic hiking are all on the agenda.
See how we’d spend 48 hours in Vang Vieng here.
Don Det is one of the islands on the Mekong River that makes up the stunning and popular 4000 Islands. This island was once a backpacker secret, known as a beautiful place to escape from the hustle and bustle of travel. The secret is out, and the island is developing rapidly, but we’re pleased to say that it has retained its good looks and chill factor. If you’re looking for a place to hop off and relax for a few days, this is it.
You can still get some exploring done while you relax though. Don Det picked up the ball where Vang Vieng dropped it, and is now the place to go for lazy river tubing and a few beers. It is an entirely safe activity, just make sure you don’t overdo it on the booze, and hop out of the river at the bridge.
Other awesome activities along the Mekong include a trip to see the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin. One of the last remaining pods in the world live here! You can also rent a kayak and explore the waterways, or head to Khon Phapeng Waterfalls, the biggest in Southeast Asia.
Where to hop off in Cambodia
Seeking calm? Kampot has got you covered. The former port city has a retro ambience to it that will leave you feeling peaceful and ready to tackle to chaos of Phnom Penh. Known for producing some of the best pepper in the world, visiting a pepper farm here is a must do activity.
Joining a sunset river cruise is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the area. As the sun sets behind the nearby Bokor National Park and stains the sky, watch the lovely town light up. Keep your eyes out for fireflies too!
Speaking of Bokor, a visit to this national park is an excellent way to reconnect with mother nature. You can take an affordable taxi tour of the park in an afternoon. View stunning waterfalls, beautiful views of the city and ocean below, and a ghost town that was one of the final strongholds of the Khmer Rouge. For those feeling more adventurous, you can sign up for a trekking tour of the Bokor Moutain – home to wild elephants and tigers (don’t worry, sightings are extremely rare).
Check out our blog on why you can’t miss Kampot.
Where to hop off in Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh
On the Stray bus we spend two nights in Ho Chi Minh, but take our advice, it is not enough. This is a city steeped in history, from its Khmer roots, to French colonisation and 100 years later, its pivotal role in the Vietnamese independence. Spend some time here to learn about the turbulent history. A visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels is a must, an incredible experience that demonstrates the resourcefulness and determination of the Vietnamese. Combine this with a visit to the War Remnants Museum for a deeper understanding of the Vietnam war (from their perspective).
Stepping back into the present, you must be hungry. Luckily for you, food stalls line the streets, providing endless opportunities to sample authentic Vietnamese delicacies. From Pho to Bánh Mi, the food is a tourist attraction in itself.
Check out 5 foods you must try in Vietnam.
From beautiful pagodas to French architecture, there is plenty to see in this buzzing city. For more sightseeing ideas, take a look at our self guided walking tour of Ho Chi Minh.
Half way up the country you’ll find yourself in Hoi An. This magic little coastal city is definitely worth a bit of your time. The exceptionally well preserved ‘Ancient Town’ is a major attraction, and reflects the melting pot of different cultures that have influenced the city. Doing this UNSECO heritage site justice will take at least a full day of your time.
Hoi An is also the place to get yourself some sweet new threads. With over 400 tailors in the city, you’re spoilt for choice! Dream up your new outfit, decide your budget and get some recommendations (an important step). Most tailors in the area will offer a 24 hour turn around, so you’ll be looking suave in no time.
You’re on the coast, so why not hit the beach! Some of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam are just a bicycle ride away – check out Cua Dai beach and An Bang beach. For an island experience, grab your bike and board a ferry to Cham Islands – a great place for snorkelling and diving.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for Hoi An; the food, nightlife, nearby temples and activities are all there to be explored!
For our top 7 things to do in Hoi An, click here.
Welcome to the capital, and your final destination on your Stray trip. Although you technically have to hop off here, we’ve included Hanoi as one of our favourite stops, because it’s worth keeping a few days up your sleeve to explore. Spend an afternoon meandering around the Old Quarter. The streets are named for the goods that are sold on them, can you guess the English names?
For a cultural experience featuring the legend of a giant golden turtle and a dragon king (we know you want that), look no further than Hoan Kiem Lake. Ngoc Son Temple sits on Jade Island in the middle of the lake, accessible by footbridge. Large soft shell turtles roam the waters beneath, and in the mornings you can watch locals practicing t’ai chi on the shore. The Water Puppet Theatre nearby is an historic art form and a must see. These shows in Hanoi are rated the best in the country.
For more information, check out why you should hop off in Hanoi.
Just three hours from Hanoi by bus is the picture perfect Ha Long Bay. Sparkling emerald waters filled with rainforest-clad limestone formations, this is one place you need to see for yourself. Jump on a traditional junk boat or rent a sea kayak and go at your own pace. Explore caves, climb rocks, or go SCUBA diving and see things from a new perspective! Your Tour Leader can help you book with a reputable company.
We hope this has helped to give you a clear idea of where to hop off, and which places you’re itching to know more about. Are there any we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!