If you haven't been to Asia and/or Southeast Asia, here's a short guide to get your planning started.  

 Phuket

Phuket

GETTING TO SOUTHEAST ASIA FROM TORONTO

Yes, it will take you 20 hours+ but it’s easier than it seems.  We usually break it up and layover somewhere fun.  Or as Jim says it’s a couple of movies, glasses of wine and an ambient.  There are no direct flights from from Toronto to South Asia.  There are 3 potential “hubs”.  Each with its pros and cons: 

  1. The most direct/least stops and also cheapest to Penang is via Hong Kong with Cathy Pacific airlines or Taipei via China Airlines. Hong Kong has more and more inexpensive options to connect to anywhere in Asia.

  2. Hub in north Asia via Tokyo, Shanghai/Beijing or Seoul. Sometimes these airlines will have deals, but you will not have as many options and not as inexpensive as connecting out of Hong Kong but you’ll get to see some of the most iconic cities in the world. You will also need to connect in Singapore or KL to get to Penang.

  3. Hub in Europe via Amsterdam, London, Frankfurt, etc. or Dubai. Like North Asia, you’ll have to connect in KL or Singapore to get to Penang. For example our latest routing was Penang to Singapore via Scoot Airlines, then onto Athens. Athens to Toronto via Air Canada. It’s 3 stops.

GETTING AROUND SOUTH ASIA

For intra-Asia travel, the national airlines like Thai/Bangkok airways, Vietnam, etc. are all fine to fly.  I’d buy one way plane tickets so you don’t have to hub/retrace your steps so to speak.  Discount regional airlines:

AirAsia - a Malaysia company. They go just about everywhere in Asia and really inexpensive.

Scoot Airlines - Singapore airlines no frills air line. Amazing deals from Singapore to Australia. For example one way from Singapore to Sydney which is about 7 hour flight - $300 CDN…Hong Kong to Singapore is $150 CDN

Jetstar - part of Qantas out of Australia. I prefer them over AirAsia as it’s Aussie run thus more reliable and organised.

POTENTIAL ITINERARIES

Just as a starter, I made a few assumptions below.  If it were me and my first time, I’d do Hong Kong and Bangkok, followed by Singapore.  They have the most to see.   Phuket for beach and clear, warm bluest water and to chill.  Then Bali, then Vietnam then Sri Lanka last and Penang just to see us.  The approximate cost of flights including economy from Toronto to Asia is $2000 CDN.

  • You will fly to Hong Kong where you will layover for a few nights to get over jetlag and it’s an amazing city!

  • You will come to Penang to stay with us. You don’t need to. We can always come meet you.

  • You will go to Singapore cause it’s easy from Penang and really interesting.

  • Plus go to 1 other Southeast Asian country; Vietnam, Thailand or Bali for some beach time.

Option A:  14 days Vietnam

  • Fly Toronto to Hong Kong (15.5 hour). Layover in Hong Kong for 3 days to get over jet lag and see the city.

  • Fly Hong Kong to Hanoi (2.5 hour). Spend 3 days.

  • Fly Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (2 hour). Spend 2 days.

  • Fly HCMC to Penang (1.45 hour). Spend 3 days.

  • Fly Penang to Singapore (1.5 hour). Spend 3 days.

  • Fly Singapore to Hong Kong (1.5 hour) then onto Toronto

Option B:  13 days Thailand

  • Fly Toronto to Hong Kong (15.5 hour). Layover in Hong Kong for 3 days to get over jet lag and see the city.

  • Fly Hong Kong to Bangkok (3 hours). Spend 3 days.

  • Fly Bangkok to Phuket (1.5hours). Spend 4 days doing beach thing.

  • Fly Phuket to Singapore (2 hours). Spend 3 days. FYI, there is a direct 1 hour flight from Phuket to Penang.

  • Fly Singapore to Hong Kong (4 hours) then onto Toronto

Option C:  10 days Bali

  • Fly Toronto to Hong Kong (15.5 hour). Layover in Hong Kong for 3 days to get over jet lag and see the city.

  • Fly Hong Kong to Singapore (4 hours). Spend 3 days.

  • Fly Singapore to Bali (3 hours). Spend 4 days.

  • Fly Bali to Hong Kong hen onto Toronto

Option D:  10-12 days Sri Lanka

  • Fly Toronto to Dubai (13 hour flight and 4+ hour layover via Emirates) then onto Colombo. You will need 5 days or more to do Sri Lanka well.

  • Fly Colombo to Singapore (5 hours). Spend 4 days.

  • Fly Singapore to Colombo. Colombo to Dubai then onto Toronto. Might want to layover in Dubai to break up a long trip back.

OVERVIEW

A quick overview and photos of top sights.  Hotels, restaurants, etc. to follow when needed.

Hong Kong:  It's all about shopping and eating with a few key sites.  Hop On/Off bus tour, Victoria Peak & tram, Temples/Monasteries & big Buddha, night markets.  Peninsula hotel on Kowloon side for afternoon tea, Intercontinental lobby lounge for cocktails and spectacular view; maybe dinner at Nobu afterwards, China Club for dinner/brunch.

Bangkok:  Grand palace, Temples, cruise on Chao Praya river,  Chatchuchak market, Flower market, Jim Thompson House, Mandarin Oriental for lunch and massage.  Perhaps Gaggan (world's best 50 restaurants) for dinner.  Phuket is all about beach and water.

Singapore:  Hop On/Off bus tour, Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands hotel, Raffles Hotel, Night Safari at the zoo, F1 race in September, Singapore River Tour and Fullerton Hotel.  Have look at Crazy Rich Asian guide to Singapore.

Penang:  Old Georgetown & its UNESCO World Heritage sites and temples, Blue Mansion, Penang Hill and Habitat, Seven Terraces Hotel & Kebaya for dinner, Eastern & Oriental Hotel on the water, beaches of Batu Ferringhi.

For more on Penang, Vietnam, Bali, see our posts.  I’ve skipped over Hoi An in Vietnam, Cambodia & Angkor Watt, Myanmar, Loas & Luang Prabang.