With so many wonderful places to visit in South East Asia, it is very hard to decide where to go and what to see! We share our 2-week itinerary through Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Macau to give you an idea of the things to do in the region.
Day 1 and 2: Singapore
With easy connections to many other cities in Asia, Singapore is the perfect city to start your 2 week adventure. Hey, even Changi airport is a tourist destination!
Spend 48 hours in Singapore to see the best of what the city has to offer. Go from exploring the traditional Chinese and Muslim quarters to sipping a drink at the top of the modern Marina Bay Sands or the many rooftop bars.
A visit to Singapore is not complete without experiencing the amazing Garden by the Bay and the lush green parks around Mount Faber.
As a bonus, Sentosa island can be easily explored in half a day, or stay longer if you want to visit the theme parks and the beach.
What to eat | Visit the food courts known as hawker stalls, selling all sorts of delicious stuff, including Michelin-rated stalls!
Where to stay | Hotel NuVe Urbane, or based on your budget, choose a hotel close to a metro station.
Transportation within Singapore | Mostly walking. Metro or Uber to some locations.
Transportation to next location | Flight to Yogyakarta, Java (Indonesia) (2 hrs)
If you have more time | Visit the island of Pulau Ubin for some amazing nature walks.
Day 3 and 4: Yogyakarta
The city of Yogyakarta (also known as Jogjarkarta) is bustling with commercial activity and tons of motorbikes. Yet, it still retains much of its traditional charm. This was by far my favorite city during this trip. And it remains mostly outside of the tourist radar, so visit now before the crowds start coming!
Yogyakarta was a royal city of the Sultanate, so a visit to the Katron Palace and the Tamansari (Royal Water Castle) are a must.
Not too far from the city center, you will find the Kotagede neighborhood. This was the capital of the Sultanate in the 16th century, and later became an important merchant city. The merchants built opulent houses with a distinctive mix of Javanese traditional architecture with Dutch elements.
Now, the reason most people visit Yogyakarta is to explore the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Borobudur and Prambanan.
Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and was built in the 9th century. Although very touristy, it is worth coming here in the early morning to see the sunrise.
Prambanan was also built in the 9th century, but it is a Hindu temple, so the architecture is reminiscent of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
What to eat | Try the Javanese noodles, yum!
Where to stay | Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta by Sofitel, an old manor converted to a luxury hotel, but at a very accessible rate!
Transportation within Yogyakarta | Hired driver (including car, gas and parking)
Transportation to next location | Train to Surabaya (6 hrs and 30 min)
If you have more time | Watch a traditional puppet show at Sonobudoyo museum.
Day 5-6: Mount Bromo and Surabaya
Indonesia is known as the land of volcanoes. While in Java, go on a jeep ride up the mountains to reach Mount Bromo. But first, you need to take a long train ride to Surabaya. The trains are very comfortable and the scenery is just amazing, so we found the ride very relaxing. As an alternative, you can fly to Surabaya.
The jeep travels to the top of the mountain to one of the many lookout points overlooking Mount Bromo. Yes, it is touristy, but this is one experience you will not soon forget.
After sunrise, you will be taken to the base of Mount Bromo and the Whispering Sands. After a few photo stops, you will reach the base of the crater and the Luhur temple. If conditions at the volcano permit, you can climb up the steps to the crater.
Drive back to Surabaya (and catch up with your sleep) before heading out to Bali.
Where to stay | JW Marriott Surabaya, one of the most luxurious hotels in Surabaya, and also at a very affordable rate!
Transportation within Surabaya | Pre-arranged tour to Mount Bromo. Taxi from train station to hotel.
Transportation to next location | Flight to Denpasar, Bali (Indonesia) (1 hour).
If you have more time | From Probolinggo you can take a train to Bayuwangi (4 hrs 30 min), then take the ferry to Bali (45 min), and then a bus or taxi to your final destination in Bali (about 4 hrs to most tourist areas).
Day 7-9: Bali
It is surprising how many different things you can see and do in Bali. Most people come here for the amazing beaches and beautiful waterfalls. But there is also a rich culture to discover and many temples to explore. We decided to focus on the culture, and to pick out the most unique nature spots.
In 3 days, we explored the northern mountains and lakes.
On the east, we visited the most important temples.
And on the south we explored beach caves and witnessed the sunset fire dance.
What to eat | Bali was by far the most expensive place to eat on this entire trip. Most places cater to tourists and the food is simply not that great. However, there are some 50 World’s Best restaurants here. We recommend you book ahead one these, and have a great meal for only a few bucks more.
Where to stay | Read all the details in our Bali guide (coming soon!)
Transportation within Bali | Hired driver (including car, gas and parking).
Transportation to next location | Flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (3 hrs).
If you have more time | Spend a day (or two or three) at the beach. Take a boat trip to Nusa Penida.
Day 10-12: Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is best know for the iconic Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world (as of this writing).
Within the city there are many historical buildings. Do note that most of them are not close to metro stations, and the high temperatures make it hard to walk around too much. So we found it much more effective to hire a driver for the day, including pick up from the airport.
In the evening, we visited the firefly park in Kuala Selangor and had an amazing seafood dinner in a local restaurant with a river view. Watching all those fireflies light up the night was truly a unique experience!
No visit to Kuala Lumpur is complete without hiking up the 272 colorful steps to the Batu Caves. The caves are formed out of a limestone hill, and contain one of the most popular Hindu temples outside of India. Go by public transportation or take a taxi.
If you are looking for a day trip from Kuala Lumpur, visit the Cameron Highlands. The highlands are known for their tea plantations, but the area has been developed for agroturism. You can also go to a strawberry farm, a bee farm and flower gardens. With more time, spend a few days and do some hiking in the mossy forest.
What to eat | Try nasi kandar, a local dish of steamed rice served with curries and side dishes. Pelita Nasa Kandar, just a few blocks from the Petronas Towers, is a cafeteria-style place where you can see the dishes and choose what you want.
Where to stay | The Face Suites. Luxury 2 bedroom apartments (at an affordable price) with rooftop infinity pool with a direct view of the Petronas Tower. If you are traveling as a couple, you can save some money by renting a unit from the residential tower (Platinum Suites) in the same location.
Transportation in Malaysia | Hired driver (including car, gas and parking) and executive taxi (blue taxi).
Transportation to next location | Flight to Macau (4 hrs).
If you have more time | Visit the colonial city of Malacca or Penang Island.
Day 13: Macau
Macau is a perfect blend of old European architecture mixed with fantastic modern casinos and Chinese traditions. In one day you can easily walk around the old town and visit some of the historical areas.
As you walk around the old town, you can convince yourself that you are in Portugal, complete with pasteis de nata (known here as egg tarts)! Don’t forget to visit the iconic Ruins of St. Paul’s.
After all that walking, you probably have worked an appetite. Stroll around Taipa Village to sample some Macanese and Chinese dishes. You can also find some traditional Portuguese restaurants.
End the day at one of the casinos. The vibe is very similar to Las Vegas, and you can find entertainment and tons of food options in the hotels.
What to eat | Egg tarts from Lord Stow’s. Try Macau’s national dish, African chicken, if you like spices!
Where to stay | Metropole Hotel. Or choose from the many casinos in Cotai.
Transportation in Macau | Mostly walking. Taxi to ferry and from the airport. The big casinos run free shuttles from the airport, ferry and between hotels. So check the schedules and see if any of the routes is convenient for you – you don’t have to be a hotel guest to use the shuttle!
Transportation to next location | Direct ferry to Hong Kong airport.
If you have more time | As an alternative, you can visit Hong Kong instead. A few years back we did a similar stopover in Hong Kong, and can definitely recommend it!
Things to know
- Creating an itinerary can be hard, especially in South East Asia, where there is so much to see! So we are sharing with you our experience, and hopefully give you some inspiration for your visit. Of course, we are all different and like to see different things. So go ahead and have some fun with it! Add more beach days, more hikes or just some relaxing time at a spa!
- When creating this itinerary, our goal was to spend the least amount of time flying and to save on airfare. There are several routes you can follow to visit all of these destinations, so check the flight schedules and fares for your desired dates, and choose the most convenient route for you. For example, you can travel overland via bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (with a stop in Malacca). However, we chose not to do this to avoid a long and expensive flight from Bali to Hong Kong later on.
- As for our international flights, we also avoided flights with multiple connections – no need to extend and already long traveling day! Tickets were booked using miles transferred to airlines from credit cards. We don’t live in a hub city, so we purchased separate tickets to NYC and used that as a base. On our way to Singapore, we took advantage of a long layover in Taipei with EVA Air, and had enough time to go out and explore some of the highlights. On our way back, we took a direct flight from Hong Kong with United Airlines.
- Best time to visit | In general terms, this region has the coolest and driest weather from November to February, therefore this is also a popular time to visit. Summer brings high temperatures and humidy, as well as monsoon rain from June to October.
- Money | Credit cards are not readily accepted in this area. Some restaurants and most hotels and convenience stores will accept them. For anything else, including taxis and sites, you need to bring cash. ATMs are easy to find.
- Health | The Traveler’s Health CDC website is a great resource for health information. Always check the current recommendations for the areas you plan to visit early in your planning.
Are you thinking about visiting South East Asia?
Let us know in the comments!
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