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Banana Pancake Trail

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Last update: September 2022

The Banana Pancake Trail is a great way discover South East Asia and beyond. This goes for first time travelers, as well as for more experienced globe trotters. The routes provide affordable, safe and accessible travel infrastructure. Most of the highlights are located along the routes. Partying and social mingling with fellow travelers is easy along the trail, while opportunities for more authentic experiences are never far away.

So, what exactly is the Banana Pancake Trail?

What is the Banana Pancake Trail?

The Banana Pancake Trail is not an actual geographical trail. It’s a metaphor to describe various popular travel routes in South East Asia. Along these routes the local communities (and entrepreneurial expats) adapted by offering budget accommodation, easy transport, restaurants, guided tours and the occasional Irish pub.

The trail is named after one of the most popular breakfast’s along the trail…Banana Pancakes!

So, why is this an interesting trail for you to follow?

Banana Pancake Trail is named after the popular breakfast on the trail: Banana Pancakes

My first time on the Banana Pancake Trail

On my first trip to South East Asia I set out on the Banana Pancake Trail. My journey began at the unofficial, but undisputed trail starting point: Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand. From there my trail went North to eventually end up in Chiang Mai. Soon after I crossed the border into Laos.

Laos was gorgeous and with the exception of the capital Vientiane and maybe Luang Prabang, still undiscovered. Man, this country is so beautiful I wanted to stay forever, but on I went, crossing the Laos-Cambodia border near the 4000 Islands (Si Phan Don).

Laos is part of the banana pancake trail
Beautiful Laos

In Cambodia my visit to Angkor Wat was obvious and so was Phnom Penh, along with several other locations. Finally I reached Thailand again to at long last fly back home from Bangkok airport.

I only had one month and to be honest it wasn’t the best way to explore the trail. Pressed for time I had to skip a lot of interesting places and only spent very short periods at the ones I did visit. However, it was still wonderful and it really opened my eyes to South East Asia. Needless to say that I returned for numerous visits, discovering more and more routes.

To this day I still haven’t seen everything on the trail. It’s continuously expanding as travelers keep exploring the edges. So, my discovery of the Banana Pancake Trail is still ongoing.

Should you go?

Well-seasoned travelers might argue that the trail offers no authentic experiences since everything is so adapted to tourism. I would say this is only partly true. Yes, it’s hard to find authenticity if you only stick to Khao San Road or Sukhumvit in Bangkok, although even that is debatable. On the other hand, just turn the corner of Khao San Road and you’ll find authenticity right there.

Bangkok market along the banana pancake trail
Around the corner from Khao San Road. What’s not authentic about this?

Just because the trail is popular it should by no means put you off to follow it. It is still very much possible to have an authentic experience. Now look here, for most of the not-to-be-missed attractions it’s unavoidable to find yourself on the trail anyway. Moreover, real off-the-beaten-path experiences are often just a short detour away from the trail.

It only means that yes, you’re not unique on the trail and you will encounter other travelers along the way. But then again, you’re a traveler yourself. Part of the fun of travel is meeting like-minded spirits from all over the world isn’t it? Above all and especially for first timers, you can expect that infrastructure and facilities for safe, worry free, fun and affordable travel are widely available.

So heck yes, you should go!

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Places to visit on the Banana Pancake Trail

There is no official map outlining the routes of the Banana Pancake Trail, nor is there a complete list of places to visit. Again, it’s just a metaphor. However, if there would be such a list then the usual suspects would at least include:

  • Yogyakarta
  • Bali
  • Gili Islands
  • Lake Toba
  • Luang Prabang
  • Vang Vieng
  • Nong Khiaw
  • Si Phan Don
  • Yangon
  • Bagan
  • Mandalay
  • Inle Lake
  • Palawan
  • Boracay
  • Siargao
  • Bohol

Boracay sunset on the banana pancake trail
Stunning Boracay in the Philippines

Banana Pancake Trail 2.0

The above are only a few examples of places to visit on the trail. There are many more and the number is continuously expanding. At the same time it seems that the banana pancake trail is no longer limited to South East Asia.

As travel for longer periods and to further destinations becomes increasingly popular, many interesting places beyond South East Asia are also added to the trail, such as:

  • Dali, Yangshuo and Kunming in China;

  • Goa, Varanasi and Manali in India;

  • Kathmandu and the Annapurna in Nepal;

  • Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Taiwan.

Typically enough, some of these newly added places are part of the “Hippie Trial”, which was popular in the 1960’s/70’s and is said to be the precursor of the Banana Pancake Trail.

Kathmandu is a popular stop on the banana pancake trail
Durbar Square in Kathmandu

It needs to be said though that certain events can at times limit access to parts of the trail. Vietnam for instance only opened up in the 1980’s after the war and likewise for Cambodia after the 1990’s. Nowadays for instance, China has restrictions because of Covid and a bunch of other stuff, while Myanmar has its own problems.

Note!: Healthcare along the Banana Pancake Trail is hopelessly underdeveloped. Any serious ailment or injury will almost certainly involve medical transport to Bangkok or Singapore, costing a fortune and payable upfront. Better have that wealthy uncle on speed dial.

I know insurance is boring, but the right travel insurance is essential. Make sure it covers medical care, evacuation and repatriation and it includes adventurous activities. Read more about travel insurance here, or get an instant, non-committal quote here.

Useful Tips


Your itinerary will pivot around a two important things:

  1. What is your goal? Meaning, do you want to see as many countries/highlights as possible? Or maybe, your aim is to have a more in-depth experience of each place you visit? Are you culturally interested, or do you care more for the party side of it all? Do you want to include some beach-time?
  2. How much time do you have? You can do pretty much all of the above in just one trip, provided you have enough time. If not, you will have to make choices.


Travel insurance, unlock sim card, packing list, visa, cash, vaccines, medication, check your bank regulations for use abroad

Useful Banana Pancake Trail Resources

The travel resources below have always been helpful when planning and preparing my trips. Particularly in South East Asia they have proven to be extremely useful on the trail.

Note: Some of the links (not all) are affiliate links and I might earn a small commission from your booking. This comes at no extra cost to you and it allows me to keep all content up to date. Moreover, I regularly use them myself with great satisfaction and highly recommend them:

The best flight deals, including a search on small booking sites. The platform has a calendar view that shows the cheapest days to fly.

Brilliant transport planner. Just a few clicks to schedules and ticket rates of all transport on your chosen route in South East Asia. Order tickets online and skip the lines at the bus station.

Insurance for long term travelers by travelers. Evacuation, repatriation, and medical care. Example: $118.90 for 1 month in Thailand/Vietnam for a US resident (30y). Get your free non-committal quote.

The best accommodation booking site for South East Asia. Largest range of accommodations with free cancellation.

Always good for a quick check on which travel documents are needed for your trip. Not only visa, but also health/Covid certificates, etc. Fast and easy online service.

Features an incredible amount of local group and private tours. The tour reviews provide good info about the professionalism of the local tour companies.

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