There are numerous well-trodden trails around the world that simply have to be undertaken at one point or another and if you’re looking for an introduction to four of the countries that just have to be experienced then read on to find out just what you can expect to find.

The histories of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are so intrinsically woven that you might think that it could be tricky to tell them apart however, you’d be wrong, as from landscapes and people to customs and languages, cross from one border to the next and you’ll soon discover a whole new world opening up before your very eyes.

Below is a short guide to introduce the four connecting countries on the Southeast Asia ‘must experience’ map and if you’re looking to incorporate them all or just visit them one at a time, you’re bound to fall head over heels in love for a whole host of different reasons.

Thailand

Fast becoming an alternative destination for two week holiday makers, Thailand still holds plenty of mystique and excitement to grab the attention of more worldly wise travellers.

Bangkok is always a good starting point as from there you can explore the islands to the south or the hills to the north both of which present a wonderful means of escaping from reality no matter how long you’re away from home.

Chiang Mai in the north is Thailand’s second city and it’s from here that you can expect to find numerous visa stops and modes of transport to help you over the border into the next country on our list: Laos.

Temple in Thailand

Laos

Although this landlocked little sister of Thailand has long been on the traveller trail it still offers a more old fashioned approach to life in Southeast Asia and if you’re looking for a glimpse at how life was a few decades ago then you won’t go far wrong.

Dotted with shrines, temples and French colonial architecture, Laos is an absolute must for nature lovers and amateur historians alike with the city of Luang Prabang providing more than its fair share of gastronomic and cultural delights.

If you’re looking for a little excitement after your early morning French coffee then there’s no better way than tubing to get the pulse flowing but, be warned, with beer this cheap and readily available whilst going down stream, you might want to brace yourself for a bumpy ride.

Kayak in Vang Vieng, Laos

Vietnam

No matter how you choose to cross the border from Laos to Vietnam you’re sure to be taken by surprise as to the pace of life, especially when you hit downtown Hanoi.

Due to the amount of scooters, crossing the road can be an absolute nightmare however, thankfully, there are numerous pagoda-filled parks to help you regain the peaceful composure that you discovered in sleepy Laos.

Thanks to Vietnam’s physical shape, it’s easy to travel from Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City in the south without too much difficulty and you’ll find plenty of hop on hop off buses that take in several heritage towns and beautiful beaches along the way.

Of course, the Vietnam War is hard to ignore when travelling in Southeast Asia and paying your respects at the variety of monuments is definitely worthwhile for putting your own life and travels into context.

Woman paddling in the forest, Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Cambodia

Our final port of call on this mini Southeast Asian odyssey is Cambodia which can be accessed via all three of the countries mentioned above.

Sadly, Cambodians have experienced not only the horrendous conflict of the Vietnam War but also suffered greatly under the Khmer Rouge which was the regime responsible for some of the worst atrocities ever seen in the modern world.

Again, paying your respects at some of the memorial sites in around Phnom Penh is certainly advisable and once you’ve made your peace and said a little prayer you’ll be all the more enlightened as you encounter the rest of the country and its people.

Without a doubt, Angkor Wat has to be up there on every traveller’s radar and if you’re lucky enough to visit at sunrise then set your camera to stun as things don’t get any more amazing than this, even by Southeast Asia’s extremely high standards.

Tourists riding an elephant in Angkor Wat, Cambodia

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