Three months in Southeast Asia in Review

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Photo from the Road: Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia
August 7, 2011

Three months in Southeast Asia in Review

Overall my Southeast Asia trip was a great success. I witnessed incredible experiences, met extraordinarily friendly people, and saw how people live life in places that are very different from where I’m from.

What went well

  • Got a good mix of seeing places, people, and experiences.
  • Managed the marriage work and travel together well, stopping at a home base with a good internet connection every week or two.
  • Split up with and reconnected with my travel partner, Noel, on a regular basis. This broadened our perspective of the countries we visited and gave us something to talk about when we saw each other again. He started a blog and it’s great to see our different perspective of the same places and events. He blogs at and is a real nomad with a great curiosity of our world and non-judgmental attitude. I travel differently by myself, and I travel better in most aspects, having better travel experiences. On the other hand, I enjoy traveling with a good friend and like to share experiences together. I also like someone to watch my back and vice versa. Additionally, traveling in a pair is more economical, saving money on accommodation and sometimes transportation.
  • Didn’t spend very much money. Southeast Asia is one of the best value destinations on the planet. If you are careful you can make $1,000 US last 2 months.

What I would change for next time

  • Would have budgeted more time in each country. I totally missed out on Vietnam because we spent an extra week in northern Thailand and more time in Laos.
  • Would have brought more cash to exchange for local currency. My money stays safe in my money belt so I don’t worry about losing it and I could save a lot on ATM fees (which were sometimes up to $10 US per transaction).

Why I will return to Southeast Asia

  • Southeast Asia is a backpacker’s paradise. A fantastic infrastructure exists for independent travelers, the landscape is gorgeous, the locals are friendly, the cultures are interesting, and the food is delicious. Moreover, it’s safe and very inexpensive.
  • My trip feels incomplete without having visited Vietnam. My week in Cambodia was not nearly enough. Thailand, although I’ve visited a fair portion of, is so tourist-friendly, comfortable, and inexpensive it’s hard to imagine any trip in the region avoiding the country. In addition, the visa is easy, straightforward and free for most. And there’s still Burma, Indonesia, and the Philippines which I’d really like to visit.
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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. Visit us here in the Philippines soon! You will surely love it here.

  2. Stephen Bugno says:

    Thanks @Micamyx I’d love to go to the Philippines some day. I’ve heard a lot of good things.

  3. Amer says:

    Great post. In all honesty you’ve covered more of SEA than I have, and I’m actually from Malaysia! Feeling a bit ashamed here. But anyway, I’ll be back in SEA soon and hopefully / finally will be able to visit Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma. Thanks for reminding 😉

  4. Rye says:

    Yeah, the Philippines, despite the not-so-good things you might have heard, definitely rocks. ;p

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