For just two days in Langkawi, Pantai Cenang or Pantai Tengah are the base camps of choice, with white sandy beaches, an abundance of shops, restaurants and cafes along plus plenty of transport rental options.
Where to stay? For backpackers, Rumours Guesthouse has dorm rooms starting at 20 ringgit per night per bed and private rooms from 70 ringgit. Midrange travellers can opt for Langkapuri Inn which starts at 140 ringgit per night for a beachfront room, complete with sea breeze and sunset spot. Also, check out Langkawi Cactus Inn in Pantai Tengah. Seaside splurges can be had at Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa or neighbour Casa Del Mar, with the sandy white beach at your doorstep.
Start your lightning visit with a dip in the sea and a sundowner, with several spots that double as great spots to eat as well. Sugars offers an array of drinks and Asian fusion fare with the added bonus of a view of newbies launching parasails on the beach. At the north end of Pantai Cenang is Cba at the Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort, with cosy outdoor couches set against the backdrop of the Andaman Sea. They have a daily happy hour from 17:00 until 19:00 as well as waterfront dining under the stars.
By sundown, most shops along busy Jalan Pantai Cenang are open and ready for business. From cheap eats and duty-free spirits to Persian rugs, anything and everything is available here. For those determined to make the most of their duty-free visit, centrally located Naam's OMG! fills the bill for late night revelry. The Langkawi Beach Hash House Harriers have a ‘run’ every other Friday evening and is an interesting way to explore local trails and meet a few local characters. As a bonus, the run comes with a meal and all you can drink for 35 ringgit.
For early risers, a Saturday breakfast at local favourites The Cactus Cafe in Pantai Tengah or in Pantai Cenang, Tomato Nasi Kandar for roti canai or nasi lemak will get your day started quick. A day skirting the shoreline or zigzagging across the island via motorbike will give you a chance to explore off the beaten path at your leisure.
Head to pristine Tanjung Rhu Beach to Scarboroughs Fish and Chips for excellent fish and chips and a cold one. Alternatively, hike to the top of Mount Gunung Raya and enjoy a panoramic view of the archipelago as well as distant Thailand. Mangrove or nature cycling tours are fun guided excursions and you’ll be back in time for sunset. A few tour companies, such as Dev’s Adventure Tours, include hotel pick up. Group island hopping jaunts are real bang for your ringgit with a three-hour, three-island tour, which includes a stop at the legendary Lake of the Pregnant Maiden, for about 50 ringgit.
Adrenalin junkies can take a jet ski tour which gives about four hours of water time, including spectacular offshore geological formations in addition full throttling opportunities safely away from the populated shoreline. Do book a day in advance.
A sunset cruise is a great way to spend the late afternoon and evening as you slowly putter through tranquil waters and enjoy an island-style meal with open bar for under 300 ringgit. Expect to make lots of friends as the evening wears on.
Overlooking the picturesque Telaga Harbour, Privilege Restaurant & Bar serves excellent Malaysian fusion cuisine -- it's a five-star experience at three-star prices. Reservations are highly recommended. Just up the road in Kuala Teriang is local hotspot Santai Cafe, serving excellent Malaysian-inspired dishes at backpacker prices.
Catch the Panoramic Cable Car early on day two before the crowds arrive and take a dip in nearby Seven Wells. On your return, enjoy a fresh coconut juice or sample the hearty Western brunch at Mangoes Bar and Grill complete with bloody marys or mimosas. Mangoes is located on the waterfront of a fishing village and is a great setting for that Instagram shot to remember Langkawi by.
Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!
Burma lends itself to a short fast trip with frequent flights thrown in or a longer, slower trip where you don't leave the ground. There isn't much of a middle ground. Ground transport remains relatively slow, so be wary about trying to fit too much in.
Roughly apple-shaped, you'd think Cambodia would be ideal for circular routes, but the road network isn't really laid out that way. This means you'll most likely find yourself through some towns more than once, so work them into your plans.
How long have you got? That's not long enough. Really. You'd need a few lifetimes to do this sprawling archipelago justice. Be wary of trying to cover too much ground - the going in Indonesia can be slow.
North or south or both? Laos is relatively small and transport is getting better and better. Those visiting multiple countries can pass through here a few times making for some interesting trips.
The peninsula is easy, with affordable buses, trains and planes and relatively short distances. Sabah and Sarawak are also relatively easy to get around.The vast majority of visitors stick to the peninsula but Borneo is well worth the time and money to reach.
So much to see, so much to do. Thailand boasts some of the better public transport in the region so getting around can be fast and affordable. If time is limited, stick to one part of the country.
Long and thin, Vietnam looks straightforward, but the going is slow and the distances getting from A to B can really bite into a tight trip plan. If you're not on an open-ended trip, plan carefully.
This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.