Following the Banana Pancake Trail: sights in SE Asia you shouldn’t miss

photo by CC user lightwrite on flickr

The Banana Pancake Trail is a well-worn backpacker travel route that takes wanderers throughout Northern Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. While there are a lot of attractions, most travelers don’t have all the time in the world to enjoy them all.

If you are doing this trip soon, experiencing the following attractions will leave you with no regrets when the time comes to step on the plane to go back home.

1) Attending the markets of Chiang Rai, Thailand

Start your journey on the Banana Pancake Trail by heading towards the river border crossing into Laos from Thailand in Chiang Khong. Before you do this though, take a few days to experience the food markets in the northern city of Chiang Rai.

Being the little brother to the far more popular Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is not as touristy, but still has its share of attractions that will engage the inquisitive traveler. The markets stand out here, as not only do they offer traditional and modern handicrafts that will make for unique souvenirs for loved ones back home, but the variety of food on offer will shock you, with noodle and rice dishes being just the beginning.

Try the Northern Thai sausage, sample the local fried chicken, and finish it off with a selection of dessert options, ranging from grass jelly (not as bad as it sounds) to mango and sticky rice.

2) Sailing amidst the limestone karsts of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

After spending some time getting to know Northern Laos (we suggest the Gibbon Experience, as well as a few days stay in Luang Prabang), make the trip over the mountains to northern Vietnam. While Sapa and Hanoi have their attractions worth experiencing, do not leave this part of SE Asia without booking a cruise on Ha Long Bay.

Considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its otherworldly natural surroundings, this multi-day adventure will have you sailing countless rocky monoliths shooting up hundreds of metres into the sky, and with plenty of opportunities to swim in the warm South China Sea and party out on deck, it will be a time that you will look back on with fond memories.

3) Experiencing beach perfection on Koh Rong, Cambodia

Cambodia is a complex, yet unforgettable part of the Banana Pancake Trail, with epic ruins at Angkor Wat, yet saddening sights at places like S-21 and the Killing Fields. There are places here where you can stretch out and relax though, and there is no better spot to do it than on the island of Koh Rong.

Located within a two hour ferry ride from Sihanoukville, this Hong Kong-sized island is ringed with fine white sand so perfect that it squeaks when you walk on it. This shade of white makes the surrounding Gulf of Thailand take on a blue hue that will have your friends mistaking it for an Instagram filter, and with only a handful of resorts here, you’ll be constantly pinching yourself to make sure that this trip isn’t just a dream.

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