Getting over jetlag: Night owls vs early birds

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The InsideAsia team have racked up more than a few air miles, but while few things are as worthwhile as travel (it is the only thing that makes you richer, after all), criss-crossing time zones is unlikely to be one of the highlights. Travel consultants Dylan and Charlotte (UK) and Amy and Grant (US), along with Senior Southeast Asia Product Executive Chris share their collective wisdom to help you make the most of the time change.

Early birds

• Tai chi, Vietnam

Tai chi in Hanoi

Charlotte: Rise at 5.30am for a spot of relaxing tai chi by the lake in Hanoi, or in the park in Ho Chi Minh City before grabbing breakfast and exploring early morning markets.

Alms ceremony, Luang Prabang, Laos

Monks file past during the morning alms

Dylan: In Luang Prabang, visit the wonderful alms ceremony. It takes place around sunrise – usually 5am, sometimes earlier – and is a really great way to watch the ancient Buddhist tradition of alms giving.

Charlotte: I agree! And would definitely follow it up with breakfast at the picturesque Kuang Si Waterfalls.

Sunrise over Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Sunrise Angkor Wat

Charlotte: Don’t miss seeing sunrise over the Angkor temples, but make a beeline for Pre Rup, it’s quieter than Angkor Wat.

Dylan: Angkor Wat is the most famous for “that” picture but there will also be a thousand other tourists vying for the same spot. My last client said there was only one other person at Pre Rup!

• Jogging, Southeast Asia

Monk in Phnom Penh

Chris: For early birders and people who like jogging, go for a morning jog around the town/city/countryside/village to see communities come to life. There are some great routes around Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Luang Prabang.

Good morning Hanoi tour, Vietnam

Hanoi bike, Vietnam

Dylan: Good Morning Hanoi is a great way to watch the city wake up (especially if you are already awake!)


Night owls

Vespa street food tour, Southeast Asia

Hanoi Vespa Tour - Dylan in front of Opera House

Dylan: A Vespa street food tour – in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Hoi An, Hue and Siem Reap – is always a winner! It usually runs from 6pm to 10pm.

Charlotte: A night time Vespa tour is a must!

Phare Circus, Cambodia

Dylan: In Siem Reap (and Battambang) the Phare Circus is a great way to kick off an evening. It isn’t too late (around 8pm) but a good place to head before going exploring.

• Play pétanque, Luang Prabang, Laos

Petanque in Laos village

Charlotte: In Luang Prabang, combine a barbecue with a game of pétanque (boules) with the locals!

• Explore the nightlife, Southeast Asia

Siem Reap's pub street

Chris: Head out for an evening cocktail or two on Bassac Lane in Phnom Penh, Pub Street in Siem Reap or the Binh Minh Jazz Club in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

Time zone tips

Egg coffee in Hoi An, Vietnam
Stay awake with the help of a strong Vietnamese coffee

Dylan: I always advise getting on the correct time zone immediately. It can be tricky in Southeast Asia as many flights from the UK arrive early in the morning, but if possible, it is always best to stay awake until at least 10pm then you should wake up around the correct time.

Grant: Coming from our direction in the US, things tend to land quite late. I like hitting the sack right away and waking early for a morning tour and enough activity to keep going all day.

Amy: My favorite tactic is to ‘ignore’ the schedule on the flight over – where they feed you meals at the time you expect it, but not when people are actually eating in Asia – and sleep on the plane, as much as I can. Once I’m on the ground, no matter how tired, I force myself to stay up until at least 9pm to get into a natural rhythm. That has always helped with jetlag, though adjusting to climate is an entirely different matter!

Chris: If arriving early, include activities during the day to keep you busy. When it comes to flights, you could try one of the new 777X’s – it has lower pressurisation that alleviates jet lag. The new Dreamliner Aircrafts have lower pressurisation as well and are used by Vietnam Airlines on the direct flights from the UK. Finally, if you can afford it, fly business class! A fully flat bed, nice comfy duvet and pillow will likely lead to a good night’s sleep.


Our team of Southeast Asia are full of tips and insider knowledge to make your trip memorable. Get in touch to start planning, or look through our Small Group Tours and Fully Tailored Journeys for more inspiration.

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