What to Know About the 10 Countries on the Banana Pancake Trail
The Banana Pancake Trail is a famous hiking route through Southeast Asia that many travelers consider a rite of passage. There are four main countries that make up the itinerary: Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. These countries are easy to hike for loop backpackers which is why they are now considered the essential part of this trail. The route has been affectionately nicknamed The Banana Pancake Trail because of the banana pancakes commonly served in guesthouses in this part of the world.
For long-term travelers, the Banana Pancake Trail is an affordable hiking route with plenty to see and do. Beyond the more common path, there are various extensions of the trail that take travelers to less traveled parts of Asia, including Myanmar and Nepal. By following this trail, visitors could end up in any of these 10 countries.
Thailand is a quintessential hiking destination and has always been an essential part of the Banana Pancake Trail. Bangkok is Thailand’s central backpacker hub with areas such as Khao San Road attracting travelers for its nightlife and cheap accommodation options. Thai islands, especially Phuket, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Tao are also popular with international visitors.
Northern Thailand has also become a hub for backpackers and digital nomads in recent years. Accommodation prices in Chiang Mai are generally lower than in the south of the country and there are plenty of authentic restaurants and activities to enjoy here. Take a Thai cooking class or visit the Elephant Sanctuary before boarding a slow boat to Laos via the Mekong Delta.
Laos doesn’t get as much attention from international travelers as Thailand or Vietnam, but it’s a budget backpacker’s dream and an important part of the Banana Pancake Trail. On the classic Banana Pancake Trail loop between Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, many travelers arrive in Laos via a slow boat from Thailand. This begins their Laos adventure from Luang Prabang in the north of the country.
One of the best things to do from Luang Prabang is to visit Kuang Si waterfalls. After exploring Luang Prabang, many travelers head to Vientiane. From there, it is possible to take a night bus to Hanoi, Vietnam.
Vietnam hasn’t always been part of the Banana Pancake Trail, as much of the country was war-torn until the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Today, Vietnam has a thriving backpacker scene, from its northern capital, Hanoi, to the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh in the south. Travelers often choose to drive the country from north to south (or south to north) on a rented motorbike, sleeping in fashionable but affordable hostels along the way.
Cambodia connects Vietnam and Thailand on the Banana Pancake Trail while offering many of its own attractions to travelers. Siem Reap is a backpacker hub with many people choosing to visit for the experience of watching the sunrise from Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is a collection of magnificent temples that make up the largest religious structure in the world. Cambodia also has islands that rival Thailand, with lower prices and fewer tourists. Koh Rong is a popular island destination that travelers can reach from Phnom Penh.
Malaysia is a great addition to any trip around the Banana Pancake Trail. It is easily accessible from Bangkok by plane or train to Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia has a lot to offer visitors and is 16.6% more affordable than Thailand, which makes it economical. Visit the Batu Caves on a day trip or explore the relaxed side of Malaysia by venturing to the Perhentian Islands.
Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) opened to tourism in 2011, allowing travelers to experience the natural wonders of this country for the first time. Travelers frequently travel to Myanmar from Bangkok, starting their trip in Yangon or Mandalay. From there, one of the best things to experience is a sunrise in Bagan, where hot air balloons fly over the many temples that dot the vast landscape. River cruises on the Irrawaddy River are also a popular choice for travelers who have a bit more cash to spend on this luxury experience.
Indonesia is best known to travelers for the island of Bali, located west of Lombok and east of Java. Bali is a beautiful destination with a bustling culture of backpackers and digital nomads. The common areas to stay during your visit (or stay) are Canggu, Uluwatu and Ubud. Canggu is a remote worker’s paradise with plenty of cafes, coworking spaces, and gyms. Uluwatu is a coastal town ideal for surfing and relaxation, offering a slower pace of life. For those who travel to Bali for its spiritual appeal, Ubud is where they will find yoga studios, healers, and other holistic practices.
The Philippines is a archipelago of more than 7000 islands offering travelers the ability to island hop on a budget and enjoy some of the bluest waters in the world. International flights arrive in Cebu or Manila and from there travelers will need to plan their route to different islands by domestic flight. Popular choices for those taking the Banana Pancake Trail include Siargao, Palawan, or Boracay.
Nepal is the furthest north travelers can travel on the Banana Pancake Trail. Nepal borders China to the north and India to the south and is home to Mount Everest in the Himalayan mountain range. Although Nepal is an ideal destination for trekking, most people traveling the Banana Pancake Trail will simply stop in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, before heading south towards India. Kathmandu is full of beautiful temples to visit, such as Boudhanath Stupa.
India is sometimes included in the trip for backpackers along the Banana Pancake Trail if they have time to get there. Although not as easily accessible from Southeast Asia as some of the other countries on the list, India offers incredible cuisine, affordable prices, and incredible sights that attract visitors to explore the region. Travelers looking for budget accommodation and a chance to experience the yogi way of life head to Rishikesh. Others looking for warm waters and sandy beaches will prefer to spend time in Goa, on the west coast of India.
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