The first two backpacking trips I have done so far taught me immensely how our world is such a wonderful place to explore. If you haven’t checked them out already, here are the links:

In a short amount of time, I have seen so many breathtaking views, learned so many new things, many different ways of life, experienced new cultures, and tried new cuisines.

As soon as I completed my second, Thai-centric backpacking trip, I knew that I’d have to organize another one.

And I did.

The Backpacker III!

This occurred just a few months after the last one. This time, I had 7 days and skipped Thailand almost entirely.

And of course, below are the video trailers which I often used to heighten my excitement on the days leading to the start of the backpacking trip!

The Backpacker III – Video Trailers

The Backpacker III – Video Trailer 1. This shows the destinations of the third backpacking trip
The Backpacker III – Video Trailer 2

Here was my official announcement on a live video broadcast on Facebook:

Announcing The Backpacker III from my office in Singapore when I had to work on a Saturday.

The Backpacker III Full Documentary: Journey Into Cambodia and Laos in 7 Days

Watch The Backpacker 3 full video documentary (9~ minutes)

The Backpacker III Photo Essay

This section shows a travelling adventure that covered hundreds of miles in a week. Tons of adventures ahead and limitless excitement!

Day 1 – From Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and then to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Departure To The Third Ignition
My third backpacking trip started from Singapore to Johor Bahru in southern Peninsular Malaysia.

After the usual challenging land border crossing, I arrived just in time to board my bus to Kuala Lumpur airport. I used Kuala Lumpur airport instead of the usual airport at Johor Bahru because the former is better connected to many places in Southeast Asia and understandably so since it is Malaysia’s capital city.

The bus trip took more than 3 hours but I felt fine upon arriving as I had the ability to have a good quality sleep on a bus trip. I can basically sleep easily, anywhere quite literally.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport is a large airport with plenty of shops and cafes so it is an excellent hub for travellers like me.

From Kuala Lumpur airport, I took an AirAsia flight to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. As this was my first time travelling to this city, I felt really excited to “discover” it, especially since I would be meeting an old Irish friend who used to work in Singapore.

Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia.

Day 2 – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Having been to many cities in Southeast Asia, my expectations for Phnom Penh were not high. In fact, I thought that it was just another wild urban city in Southeast Asia. I turned out to be correct.

A street in the city of Phnom Penh. Many cities in Southeast Asia have similar sights.

The Killing Fields of Cambodia

At 7:55am, I safely landed on a foggy morning in Phnom Penh after an overnight journey from Singapore via Kuala Lumpur. I felt ready for some sightseeing and a major dose of history on the dark past of Phnom Penh. Based on what I have initially read on Wikipedia, millions of Cambodian people were systematically killed in the 1970s by the Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Communist Party of Kampuchea general secretary Pol Pot.

Firstly, I met my Irish friend Brendan who was now running a business in the music industry in the country. Before, he used to work for Apple.

My Irish friend Brendan.

After a quick catch-up chat and lunch near a beautiful temple and the grand Mekong River which divided the city into two, I hired a tuk-tuk to bring me to the city’s main highlights: the Killing Fields of Cambodia and the genocide museum.

A sign in The Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
A mausoleum at The Killing Fields. It looks impressive from the outside, yet shocking inside.
A shock-inducing stockpile of skulls showing the victims of the genocide that took place at The Killing Fields in 1970s.

After a trip to The Killing Fields, I returned to the city centre to visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which used to be a school. This place, much like The Killing Fields, was the ground zero of one of humanity’s darkest histories.

In this place, I saw many haunting mugshots of genocide victims, the devices that were used to torture them, their prison, a guillotine, and much more. It was really dark, stomach-churning, and gut-wrenching — but this museum was preserved on purpose to remind its visitors of the lengths humans go to keep themselves in power. 🙈 I thought anyone who steps into this museum walks out a bit changed.

After an eventful day, I spent the night at Brendan’s place recovering from what I have seen in Phnom Penh. I was taken aback by just how tragic Phnom Penh was in the past and I was astonished at how this backpacking trip started with negative vibes. lol

Day 3 – From Phnom Penh to Stung Treng, Cambodia

The next day, I said goodbye to my Irish friend and went straight up to Phnom Penh central bus station to catch my bus and advance my trip up north. I was looking forward to leaving the city to change my headspace for something more exciting.

The place where I took a bus in Phnom Penh for Stung Treng.

1,616 Kilometres of Adventure

From Phnom Penh, I began my immense overland trip of 1,616 kilometres (~1,000 miles) on mostly dusty country roads on this backpacking trip.

The first segment of this to Stung Treng in northern Cambodia. Here are the sights I have seen on this trip:

Here’s the bus that I took from Phnom Penh to Stung Treng, Cambodia. Taken during a lunch break.
Blogging while on a dusty bus trip to northern Cambodia.

At 6:15pm, I arrived in the town of Stung Treng in northern Cambodia after 7 hours of treading 404~ kilometres of slow and bumpy, dust-fest bus ride on dirt roads.

This taught me what the countryside of Cambodia looked like, at least at this time of the year. Dry and dusty, brown, tropical savanna: sometimes I thought the surroundings resemble the Australian Outback.

My arrival, which started with what had to be the spiciest noodle soup I have had in a while, quickly turned eventful as stray dogs stalked me from behind whilst I peacefully sped-walked to my homestay, where I spent a relaxing night.

The road where my homestay in Stung Treng was located and where I was “menaced” by dogs.

Day 4 – From Stung Treng, Cambodia to Don Det (4,000 Islands), Laos

The next day, I woke up curling in bed with a livid stomach but incidentally resolved with the tiny bananas I bought on impulse out of their cuteness. 😂

I could not resist these bananas.

I was on the move again in a bus that drove northwards out of Stung Treng and expected to cross the Cambodia-Laos land border for a date with nature in Laos’s famous 4,000 islands. This place, as its name implies, has thousands of tiny islands dotted in the mighty Mekong River.

The land border connecting northern Cambodia and southern Laos.

After crossing the Cambodia-Laos land border, I merged with a group of bored French backpackers. We were all clueless if any transport would come to pick us up. The border crossing — which is infamous for its alleged scams as reported by many backpackers one who have gone through this exact route — was not as horrific as how I imagined it to be. Still, it was uncomfortable to wait for so long with no clue of what would happen to us on the other side of the border.

After hours of waiting, a minivan finally arrived and picked us up. We then continued our journey into Laos, in particular, to Nakasong, where we took a fascinating boat ride to the river island of Don Det.

On the move again after feeling abandoned at the Laotian border.

Four Thousand Islands

Shortly at midday, I and the French backpackers I travelled together with finally landed on one of the 4,000 Mekong River islands: Don Det.

Rural Laos feels were real on Don Det, but I was equally fascinated by how locals in shops were glued to their smartphones.

The boat traversing the Mekong River to one of the islands in Don Det was a worthwhile experience in itself. There are bigger islands with settlements and full of hostels and restaurants designed for adventurous backpackers.
Young French backpackers from Corsica at Don Det in 4,000 Islands, southern Laos.

I was also surprised by how touristy and relatively developed the island of Don Det was, albeit also amazingly quiet. The island has an array of restaurants, bars, and even a few night clubs sitting by the banks of the Mekong River. To me, the place felt pretty much like Bali’s Kuta, minus the choking road traffic and specifically designed for budget travellers and backpackers.

The 4,000 Islands (photo taken from Don Det island) proved to be very scenic, quiet, and laid-back. Such a satisfying place to be after a hectic segment of the trip and even more so, a hectic environment at my workplace in Singapore.

The next day after spending a quiet night on Don Det island, I rented a bike and cycled around to do some sightseeing on the dry, dirt roads of the river island in rural Laos.

I wanted to figure out what’s best to do in Don Det. And nothing — nothing is the answer on what’s best to do here, in case you develop a fancy to visit this place.

Hate the city or want to take a break from your busy life? Come to the 4,000 Islands in southern Laos.

The environment on this river island was very chill and laid-back: worlds apart from my lifestyle in Singapore. If you like the idea of having a massive space for your mind to let it be while you sit by the river, a book in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other, then come to this place!

Don Det is where you take yourself on a date and recollect your thoughts.
A breathtaking view of a sunset over the Mekong River was made even more satisfying with a cup of local black coffee!
I did not know that I booked a room with so many beds when I stayed in Don Det. lol

Day 5 – From Don Det (4,000 Islands) to Champasak, then to Pakse, Laos

On the fifth day of this backpacking trip, I had a nice, slow breakfast at a cute restaurant by the river where I saw groups of backpackers hiring kayaks for some water adventure on the Mekong River. This activity was beyond my consideration as I could not swim!

If you insist to be busy on Don Det Island, you can do kayaking on the Mekong River. Just be careful because there are rapids and areas with waterfalls.
Such a lovely place to have breakfast.

Shortly after, I left Don Det and took another bus headed north to the city of Pakse in the middle of Laos.

But before reaching there, I decided to stop at a ruined temple located in the town of Champasak, 42 kilometres south of Pakse.

This was a last-minute decision as this idea only came up after I heard it from other backpackers who were talking about this place on the bus. It sounded interesting to me so I followed my curiosity.

The place where I took a boat and crossed the other side of Mekong to reach the town of Champasak.

Right after I alighted from the bus with a few other travellers, we were greeted by some boatmen who took us to the other side of the murky and wide Mekong River. From the boat, I was graced with a view of the Phou Khao mountains in the distance, which made me feel excited.

View of the Phou Khao mountains from the boat. Little did I know that the temple complex I was headed to is located at its foot.

The Ancient Outpost

From there, I hired a local motorcycle driver who took me to the temple ruins of Wat Phu. I had no idea about this place when I arrived, so I was truly mindblown to see just how elaborate the temple complex was. It felt like I was in a scene from Indiana Jones.

Arriving at the ancient causeway of Wat Phu temple complex.

The remnants of the temple buildings closely resemble those I’ve seen at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. There was art and elaborately-designed causeway, as well as a cobble-stoned stairways that led up to a temple on the mountain.

The temple’s stone architecture is similar to those I have seen in Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The higher I climbed, the more scenic the surroundings became as the dry plains of Champasak came in view. It looked like some places in Southern USA/Texas I’ve seen in the movies.

Wat Phu temple complex as viewed from the mountain.
The plains of Champasak Province as I have seen from the mountain temple of Wat Phu. It looks like some place in Texas!

According to my quick Google research while I was captivated by the mystical feel of the temple, Wat Phu is a ruined Khmer Hindu temple complex and one of the oldest places of worship in Southeast Asia. It was also used as an ancient outpost to protect the Angkor kingdom from invaders.

Imagine what these trees have seen over hundreds of years in their past.
Photo of me taken by a random Italian backpacker named Lorenzo who later became my friend.

While I was taking photos around, I bumped into an Italian guy who was as amazed as me of this place. We helped each other take portraits of ourselves, but ultimately, I ended up riding on his motorcycle to Pakse as we both want to catch the sunset there over the Mekong River.

The route from Champasak to Pakse was extremely scenic. Loved the sights of mountains contrasting against the greens of rice fields.

The trip to Pakse from Champasak was very scenic. We stopped a few times as we rode through the rice fields and silhouettes of the mountains to take photos.

We had to stop a few times to take snaps of the landscapes.
Let’s go on a backpacking adventure!

The trip straddled along the Mekong as we headed northwards. After about an hour, we successfully arrived in Pakse just in time to witness a glorious sunset.

The glorious sunset over Mekong River in Pakse, Laos.
A French themed restaurant in Pakse, Laos. Pakse is a city founded by the French during the colonial times.

Day 6 – From Pakse to Vientiane and then to Vang Vieng, Laos

My time in Pakse in this trip was unfortunately extremely limited. After having a local dinner nearby, I went to the city’s central bus station to catch a sleeper bus en route to Vientiane, Laos’s capital city which is located further north.

Sleeper bus from Pakse to Vientiane, Laos.

It was my first time to take a bus where you sleep beside a random stranger in the entire trip. It was a new experience in itself. Surprisingly, the 10-hour overnight trip was smooth and I slept well until I woke up to the streets of Vientiane.

Many parts of Vientiane are less developed during this trip.

I also did not have time to see more of Vientiane in this backpacking trip as I decided to switch to a minivan to head further north to the mountains. I have long heard from other backpackers about the Laotian town of Vang Vieng and this time, I had the chance to see this place and what it is known for.

Karst Mountains and Whiskey

I reached Vang Vieng in the afternoon after over a 3-hr ride from Vientiane. There was nothing special about the route, except for the sights of the karst mountains in the backdrop of Vang Vieng upon my arrival.

Scenic karst mountains in Vang Vieng, Laos.
A restaurant by the river in Vang Vieng. This river is popular for tubing.
A wooden bridge in Vang Vieng leading to more restaurants with tables dipped in the river waters.
The world’s cheapest hot air balloon ride is found in Vang Vieng, Laos. One person costs only 90 dollars.

In the early evening, I joined a group of young Canadian and English backpackers in my hostel. It felt like the night had the potential to be wild — which I was open for, especially after a few days spent on the roads and relaxing. And indeed, it was.

My hostel roommates from Canada, United Kingdom, and Germany.
Partying in Vang Vieng, Laos. Yeaaah!

It was a shame that I did not have much time to enjoy Vang Vieng in this trip. However, as how I designed it in my mind, this trip was supposed to function only as a reconnaisance — so I could decide in my future trips whether I’d like to return or not. After seeing the sceneries in Vang Vieng, I promised to myself that I would return and relish this place a bit more.

Day 7 – From Vang Vieng to Vientiane, Laos and then to Bangkok, Thailand

The seventh day of this backpacking trip marked the beginning of its end. The trip from Vang Vieng back to Vientiane marked the last segment of my 1,616 kilometres overland journey from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In Vientiane, I took an AirAsia flight to Bangkok, Thailand, and spent the night there.

The Temple of Dawn

During this short stopover, I still managed to see Miko — one of my two Finnish friends whom I have met in my first two backpacking trips. I also managed to do a bit of city sightseeing in the following morning, feeling grateful just how well-connected Thailand capital is.

Caught up with Miko, one of my Finnish friends who was based in Bangkok, Thailand, in this trip.

My time in Bangkok was up quickly and I had to return to the airport to catch my flight back to Phnom Penh, where I switched to another flight back to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Day 8 – From Bangkok, Thailand, to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and then to Singapore

Day of Transits

From Kuala Lumpur’s airport, I took a direct bus back to Johor Bahru and then crossed the land border back to Singapore.

Overall, I really loved the experience I had in this trip. It might have felt like a whirlwind but I totally enjoyed the overland trip and the non-stop discovery and new experiences it offered.

I particularly fell in love with Laos’s laid-back feeling. For someone who was living in the urban jungle of Singapore, being in the open space and away from huge crowds and queues felt like I was in paradise.

Journey complete! Here’s the adventure map of The Backpacker III.

Ever since this solo trip occurred, I could not stop thinking about Laos and I daydreamed a lot to be on the riverbanks of Mekong River again to see another fabulous sunset.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed it!

Have you been to any of the places in this backpacking trip? Share your thoughts in the comments.

About Author

2 thoughts on “My Backpacking Adventures – Part 3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *