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Looking for the perfect Southeast Asia itinerary for 3 months? You found it! There are so many fascinating destinations and beautiful sights to see in this region.
If you have no idea where to start or how to get around, fret not as I’m sharing my tried and tested Southeast Asia backpacking route.
Read next: 101 Southeast Asia travel tips
Where to go during 3 months in Southeast Asia
The countries I’ll be talking about in this blog are Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. If you’ve yet to decide which countries to visit, you might be best off reading my guide to the best things to do in Southeast Asia ordered by country.
If you know where you want to go, you’re in the right place. In this blog post, I’ll share 3 travel itineraries for spending 3 months in Southeast Asia. The first is for the big four: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. This Asia backpacking route can be explored entirely by land with no flights needed.
The second two Southeast Asia itineraries include Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines although, a word to the wise, I don’t recommend trying to see all eight countries in three months. It would be insanely busy!
3 MONTHS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA ESSENTIALS
Copy of Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a shoestring
Check visas requirements: iVisa
Book buses and trains in Vietnam: 12GoAsia
Accommodation: Browse Hostels (Hostelworld) Browse hotels (Booking.com) //
Tours: GetYourGuide, Backstreet Academy (social enterprise)
For foodies: A Chef’s Tour
Travel insurance: World Nomads
Essential reading: Things to do Southeast Asia / Vietnam travel guide / Backpacking the Philippines / Malaysia itinerary / Bali itinerary
Before we get stuck into my Southeast Asia backpacking itinerary, I want to share…
The perfect Southeast Asia backpacking route
I believe I’ve hacked the perfect route around Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It was trial and error because I definitely did it ‘wrong’ during my first trip.
My first attempt at a Southeast Asia backpacking route was from northern to southern Laos to visit Four Thousand Islands on the border of Cambodia only to travel back up (which took almost two days!) for my flight to Vietnam. Then I ended up in Cambodia two months later.
In retrospect, there’s a more sensible route…
Perfect Southeast Asia backpack route:
- After seeing Thailand, take the slow boat from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang, Laos
- Travel down Laos by bus to the Four Thousand Islands
- Cross the border to Cambodia
- After seeing Cambodia, cross the border to Vietnam (by boat or bus) and arrive in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh)
- Travel up Vietnam and finish in Hanoi.
I believe this is the perfect Southeast Asia backpacking route. You won’t pay for any flights (which is great for Planet Earth) and you’ll take the more adventurous, scenic route.
This 3 month Southeast Asia backpacking route doesn’t include Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines or Indonesia so keep reading as I’ll include an itinerary for these later.
How to get around Southeast Asia
One of the best things about backpacking Southeast Asia is how easy and affordable it is to get about. Here are the main options:
Flights – there are numerous budget airlines in Asia including Nok Air, Lion Air, Scoot and Air Asia. Book them on AirAsia or Kayak.
Buses – this is a popular way to travel in Asia and usually my preferred option. Many of the Southeast Asia backpacker buses are comfortable with reclining seats, aircon, and snacks included with the ticket. Use 12GoAsia to book and compare prices.
Trains – you can travel by train in various parts of Southeast Asia. These are a scenic way to travel and usually very comfortable. Trains can also be booked on 12GoAsia.
Boat – don’t overlook boat as a way to get around. The slow boat from Northern Thailand to Laos and the bus and boat along the Mekong between Cambodia and Vietnam are adventures in their own right.
My top tip for backpacking Southeast Asia – travel early in the morning for short journeys and throughout the night for longer ones. Yes, it feels a bit rough but it saves you so much valuable time.
How long to spend in Southeast Asia
How long is a piece of string? I spent almost a year in Southeast Asia from 2015-16 and another year from 2018-19. But I’m aware most people probably don’t have that much time on their hands, especially if they don’t work online. I would suggest spending 3 months in Southeast Asia at a minimum.
The following 3 month Southeast Asia backpacking itinerary will help you see the best of the region.
Note – these itineraries are busy and fast-paced to incorporate as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to stay longer in places you love and miss a few stops!
#1 – Southeast Asia 3 month itinerary (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam)
This Southeast Asia backpacking itinerary is a classic. This popular section of what’s often called the ‘Banana Pancake trail’ is the perfect place for beginner travellers, solo travellers and those who’ve never backpacked before.
It’s safe, affordable and you’ll meet plenty of other travellers. There are beaches, adrenaline adventures and bucket list experiences aplenty…
Weeks 1-2: Southern Thailand
After flying into Bangkok, make your way down to the islands by night bus or flight. There are two main clusters of Thai islands:
– Koh Tao (famous for diving), Koh Samui and Koh Phanang (famous for the Full Moon Party) off the east coast
– Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Koh Yao Yai further south off Krabi on the west coast.
If you have 2 weeks in Thailand, include these stops in your 3 month Southeast Asia itinerary…
Days 1-2: Bangkok. A two-day Bangkok itinerary is enough time to see highlights including the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun and Chinatown. Catch a flight to…
Days 3-4: Koh Samui. Visit the Big Buddha statue at Wat Phra Yai Temple and explore beaches and waterfalls. Swap this stop for Koh Phangan if it times with a Full Moon Party. Read about the differences between Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.
Days 5-7: Koh Tao. Try diving and spend longer if you wish to complete your Open Water diving qualification. Catch a ferry to Surat Thani and a bus to…
Days 8-10: Krabi. Explore Railay Beach and its caves, hike to Wat Tham Sua temple, and visit Krabi Hot Springs.
Days 11-12: Koh Lanta. My favourite Thai island has loads to do from boat trips, kayaking, volunteering at Lanta Animal Welfare and visiting caves, beaches and national parks.
Days 13-14: Koh Phi Phi or, if you’re not a fan of parties, visit quieter Koh Yao Yai.
Weeks 3-4: Bangkok and Northern Thailand
After two weeks of island paradise, get your culture fix by travelling back to Bangkok and making your way towards Northern Thailand. The mountains, countryside and temples are a total contract to the south. Here’s my itinerary for 2 weeks in Northern Thailand:
Days 15-16: Return to Bangkok. Take a trip to Ayutthaya, Thailand’s ancient temple site.
Days 17:18: Take a bus or train to Sukhothai, a UNESCO site populated from 1238 until 1438.
Days 19-21: Chiang Mai. This small city in Northern Thailand is one of my favourites in Asia. Take a bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai or catch a flight. Check out my Chiang Mai itinerary.
Days 22-24: Pai. This hippie town in the mountains is a lovely spot for a couple of days exploring hot springs and Pai Canyon.
Days 25-26: Head back to Chiang Mai and take a trip to Doi Inthanon National Park with GetYourGuide. Alternatively, take longer overnight hikes from Chiang Mai.
Days 27-29: Chiang Rai. Not only is this town a fantastic place for temple-hopping but it’s an essential stop if you’re heading to Laos. Tour companies will take you to Huay Xai to begin the boat ride. Check out my 2 day Chiang Rai itinerary.
Day 30: Slow boat to Laos. Follow my Southeast Asia backpacking route by taking a 2-day slow boat from Thailand to Laos and soaking up some amazing scenery along the way.
Weeks 5-6: Laos
The small, landlocked country of Laos may be lesser-visited but it’s well worth including in your 3 month Southeast Asia itinerary. Here’s how to spend 2 weeks…
Days 33-36: Luang Prabang. The slow boat from Thailand arrives in Luang Prabang. Things to do in Luang Prabang include temple-hopping, shopping and eating at the night market, watching sunset from Mount Phusi and swimming in Kuang Si Waterfall.
Days 37-38: Vang Vieng: Spend a couple of days in eco-adventure paradise, kayaking, canoeing, abseiling and trekking. Browse activites here.
Days 39-40: Vientiane: The capital of Laos has a few cool attractions including Pha That Luang temple and Buddha Park. It’s also a good place to try tasty Vientiane food.
Days 40-41: Kong Lor Caves. These huge limestone caves in central Laos can be explored by boat.
Days 42-44: Pakse. Travel from Kong Lor to Pakse. Visit Wat Luang Temple and learn about the region’s culture at Champasak Historical Heritage Museum.
Days 45-47: Don Det, Four Thousand Islands. Three months in Southeast Asia can be busy so take some time to relax. The Four Thousand Islands are scattered in the Mekong connecting Laos and Cambodia. Bag yourself a $5 beach hut on Don Det and book a kayaking tour to spot river dolphins.
When you’re done, continue my Southeast Asia backpacking route by booking your transportation from Don Det to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Weeks 7-8: Cambodia
Days 48-51: Siem Reap. It wouldn’t be a trip to Cambodia without marvelling at Angkor Wat, a Hindu temple site dating back to the 12th century. Stay in Siem Reap town and hire a tuk-tuk driver who will bring you to the temples for sunrise.
Days 53-53: Kep. Once an elite French seaside town, Kep is now a popular stop for travellers. Hike in Kep National Park, soak up the sunset and sample fresh seafood.
Days 54-55: Kampot. This is favourite stop for foodie travellers who come from far and wide to sample famous Kampot crab seasoned with Kampot pepper.
Days 56-57: Koh Rong. Travel from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong island known for its diving, snorkelling and lively beach bars.
Days 58-59: Koh Rong Samloem. Take a trip to the smaller and more peaceful Koh Rong Samloem. There are fewer busy beach bars and more empty beaches.
Days 60-62: Phnom Penh. Explore Cambodia’s capital and visit tragic but important locations, the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide. Book activities on GetYourGuide.
Afterwards, catch a 3-day boat and bus combo ticket from Phnom Penh to Saigon.
Weeks 9-12: Vietnam
I adore Vietnam! It’s well placed on the Southeast Asia backing route and home to cities, beaches, mountains and more. Spend four weeks here to finish up your Southeast Asia itinerary.
Read next: The ultimate Vietnam itinerary
Days 65-68: Saigon. Explore the War Remnants Museum, Chu Chi Tunnels, Walking Street and Ben Thanh Market. Follow my Saigon itinerary.
Days 69-70: Mui Ne. Try your hand at sandboarding.
Days 71-72: Da Lat. This cool, mountainous part of Vietnam is known for coffee, canyoning and countryside tours.
Day 73-74: Nha Trang. I don’t love Nha Trang but you’ll need to stop over to break up the journey up the coast. Take a trip to the nearby hot spas.
Days 75-78: Hoi An. This quaint city is a must for any Southeast Asia backpack itinerary. Include the Ancient Town and My Son Temples in your Hoi An itinerary.
Day 79: the Hai Van Pass. Cruise the coastline by scooter or Jeep to soak up some of Vietnam’s best scenery.
Days 80-81: Hue. Spend 2 days in Hue to explore Vietnam’s ancient capital and explore the temples.
Days 82-83: Phong Nha National Park. The largest caves in the worlds are found in Phong Nha. Take day trips from the town at the centre of the national park. Board a night bus to…
Days 84-85: Ninh Binh. Spend 2 days in Ninh Binh. Explore mountains and countryside temples.
Days 86-87: Hanoi. Vietnam’s atmospheric capital is one of my favourite places. Spend 3 days in Hanoi to catch the highlights.
Days 88-90: Sapa. A few days hiking in Sapa is a must for nature lovers.
Days 91-93: Ha Long Bay. Spend a couple of nights cruising between islands in Ha Long Bay. Book a 2-day Hanoi cruise to finish your 3 month trip!
3 month Southeast Asia itinerary – more than the big 4!
#2 – Southeast Asia itinerary (inc Myanmar and Malaysia)
This 3 month Southeast Asia itinerary is similar to the one above but it spends a little less time in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to allow for a month exploring Myanmar and Malaysia.
Overview: 2 weeks in Malaysia, 3 weeks in Thailand, 2 weeks in Myanmar, 10 days in Laos, 10 days in Cambodia, 2 weeks in Vietnam
Weeks 1-2: Malaysia
Malaysia is truly one of my favourite countries which is why I recommend visiting during your 3 months in Southeast Asia. In my 2 week Malaysia itinerary, I share three different itineraries suited to city, beach and nature lovers. Here’s a quick overview:
Days 1-2: Kuala Lumpur. Explore highlights in the Malaysian capital like the Petronas Towers, Chinatown, the Batu Caves and Little India. Use my 2 day KL itinerary to plan your trip.
Days 3-5: Taman Negara. This ancient rainforest and national park in central Malaysia makes a great escape from the big city. You can trek and spot wildlife on guided walks by taking a tour from KL.
Days 6-8: Cameron Highlands. Drink tea in the cool, lofty climate of this ex-British hill station.
Days 9-11: Penang. Stay in Georgetown and explore the vibrant capital of Penang Island. Once you’re done with street art, street food, cool cafes and culture, you can take a day trip to Kek Lok Si Temple.
Days 12-14: Langkawi. Spend a few days snorkelling, beach-basking, taking boat trips and other activities in Langkawi, Malaysia’s most beautiful island.
How to get from Malaysia to Thailand: Of course you can fly from KL or Penang airports but this Southeast Asia backpacking route is all about overlanding! You can travel by bus and boat from Langkawi to the Thai islands without catching a flight. The Langkawi ferry arrives into Koh Lipe from where you can catch another ferry to Koh Lanta.
Week 3-6: Thailand
Spend 2-3 weeks in Southern Thailand depending how much you like beaches and nightlife. An itinerary could look like this (for descriptions about these places, see my #1 itinerary above).
Days 16-19: Koh Lanta. Relax in island paradise.
Days 20-21: Koh Phi Phi. Party and snorkel.
Days 22-23: Krabi. Visit beaches and rock climb.
Days 24-26: Koh Tao. Try your hand at diving or check out Koh Samui or Phangan instead.
Days 27-30: Bangkok. Explore the Grand Palace and eat street food.
Days 31-34: Chiang Mai. Visit temples and night markets.
Head from Chiang Mai to Myanmar by bus or flight.
Week 6-7: Myanmar
Note – in 2022, Myanmar is not safe for travel due to the political situation. I will update this post if this changes.
One of the most captivating and culturally rich countries I’ve been to is Myanmar, a must for your 3 month Southeast Asia itinerary. Tourism is still fresh compared to Thailand and it’s the perfect place to get off-the-beaten-track and see how locals live. Here’s how to spend 2 weeks…
Days 35-36: Yangon. Explore the vibrant and busy city of Yangon. Visit 99-metre Shwedagon Pagoda, eat barbecued seafood on 19th Street, walk around Kandawgyi Lake and take a trip to pilgrimage site, the Golden Rock.
Days 37-40: Bagan. With 1,000 years of history and hundreds of ancient temples to explore, there’s nowhere quite like Old Bagan. Stay within the temple site and explore the countryside by e-bike or day tour, finding shrines and pagodas as you go.
Days 41-43: Kalaw to Inle Lake trek. Arrive by bus into Kalaw and locate Sam’s Family restaurant and trekking company. They’ll take you on a multi-day adventure through the countryside destined for Inle Lake.
Days 44-45: Inle Lake. Spend a few days exploring Inle Lake by boat, watching local fishermen row with their feet and visiting floating markets. Finish your day with a sunset Inle Lake tour.
Days 46-48: Mandalay. Visit Kuthodaw Pagoda, travel to U Bein Bridge and watch sunset from the top of Mandalay Hill.
From Myanmar, fly back to Northern Thailand. When you arrive back in Chiang Mai, you can continue your Southeast Asia backpacking trip by taking a bus to Chiang Rai and boarding the slow boat to Laos. Alternatively, fly into Luang Prabang.
Week 8-9: Laos
Spend 2 weeks exploring the highlights of Laos. For descriptions about these stops, see my #1 itinerary above.
Days 50-52: Luang Prabang. Visit temples and swim in Kuang Si Falls.
Days 53-54: Vang Vieng. Try adrenaline activities and explore the countryside.
Days 55-56: Vientiane. Visit the Laos capital.
Days 57-58: Kong Lor. Cruise through this enormous cave complex by boat.
Days 59-60: Pakse. Stop overnight.
Days 61-63: Don Det, Four Thousand Islands. Relax and kayak to see river dolphins.
Week 9-10: Cambodia
Spend 2 weeks exploring the highlights of Laos. For descriptions about these stops, see my #1 Southeast Asia itinerary above.
Days 65-67: Siem Reap. Explore Angkor Wat.
Days 68-69: Kep. Relax and hike.
Days 70-71: Kampot. Eat Kambot crab.
Days 72-73: Koh Rong. Party and snorkel.
Days 74-75: Koh Rong Samloem. Chill in paradise.
Days 76-78: Phnom Penh. Catch a boat and bus combo ticket towards Saigon or for a quicker journey, a bus from Phnom Penh to Saigon.
Weeks 10-12: Vietnam
With two weeks in Vietnam, following this itinerary. Check out my 2 week Vietnam itinerary for more details.
Days 80-81: Saigon. Explore War history and eat street food.
Days 82-85: Hoi An. Soak up Hoi An Ancient Town and take day trips. Catch a night train from Da Nang to Hanoi.
Days 86-87: Hanoi. Shop and eat in Hanoi Old Quater.
Days 88-90: Ha Long Bay. Take a 1 or 2-night boat cruise.
Days 91-93: Sapa. Hike in the mountains to finish this Asia itinerary.
#3 – Southeast Asia itinerary (inc Indonesia and the Philippines)
For this final Southeast Asia backpacking itinerary, I’ll include two of my favourite countries: Indonesia and the Philippines. If you’re keen for beaches, diving and island-hopping, this is the Asia itinerary for you!
Overview: 2 weeks in Thailand, 1 week in Laos, 1 week in Cambodia, 2 weeks in Vietnam, 3 weeks in Indonesia, 3 weeks in the Philippines
Weeks 1-2: Thailand
Spend a week in the Southern Islands and a week in the North. For descriptions about these places, see my #1 Southeast Asia itinerary for 3 months (above).
Days 1-2: Bangkok. Visit temples, museums, eat and party.
Days 3-4: Krabi. Hike and rock climb.
Days 5-7: Koh Lanta. Relax, snorkel and hike.
Days 8-10: Koh Phi Phi. Enjoy the nightlife. Catch a ferry to Phuket and flight to…
Days 11-13: Chiang Mai. Take cooking courses and visit temples.
Days 13-14: Chiang Rai. Board the slow boat to Laos from Huay Xai.
Week 3: Laos
For a flying trip to Laos, stick to three locations. For descriptions about these places, see my #1 itinerary above.
Days 16-17: Luang Prabang. Eat, temple-hop and chase waterfalls.
Days 18-19: Vang Vieng. Take eco tours.
Days 20-23: Don Det, Four Thousand Islands. Relax, unwind and spot dolphins.
Week 4: Cambodia
For a flying trip to Cambodia, stick to three locations. For descriptions about these places, see my #1 itinerary above.
Days 25-26: Siem Reap. Marvel at Angkor Wat.
Days 27-28: Kampot. Beaches and seafood.
Days 29-30: Phnom Penh. Museums and history.
Weeks 5-6: Vietnam
Spend a glorious two weeks catching the highlights of Vietnam. Follow my 2 week Vietnam itinerary mentioned above.
Days 33-34: Saigon. History and street food.
Days 35-37: Hoi An. Wander lantern-lined streets and visit Hoi An cafes.
Days 38-40: Hanoi. Explore the vibrant capital.
Days 41-43: Ha Long Bay. Take a boat cruise.
Days 44-45: Sapa. Hiker’s paradise!
Weeks 7-9: Indonesia
The captivating country of Indonesia is comprised of 17,000 islands, of which Bali, Lombok, the Gili trio and the Nusa islands are the most popular and accessible on the Southeast Asia backpacking route.
While there are countless lesser-visited islands to explore, with just 3 weeks in Indonesia, I would suggest exploring both Java and Bali. Follow my Asia backpacking itinerary…
Week 7 (days 46-53): Java. Fly into Yogyakarta (you may need to transfer in Jakarta), the culture capital of Java island. Spend up to four days in Yogyakarta to explore the city’s highlights, sample Javanese food and take a day trip to Borobudur and Prambanan temple sites.
Head overland towards Mount Bromo, an active volcano that you can hike for sunrise.
Fly from Juanda Airport into Denpasar, Bali. Alternatively, take an overland tour (usually lasting 9 days) from Yogyakarta to Bali visiting Malang and Mount Bromo en route. This arrives in Bali by ferry.
Weeks 8-9 (days 54-68) Bali: Spend two weeks in Bali to get the best of the island, from rich Hindu culture, unique Balinese architecture and fresh, veggie-friendly Balinese cuisine. Be sure to get off-the-beaten-track and find the Bali hidden gems!
2 weeks in Bali
– 3 days in Ubud. Visit temples, rice fields, do yoga and indulge in the Ubud food scene.
– 3 days in Canggu. Relax, eat, surf, repeat!
– 3 days in Uluwatu. Visit Uluwatu Temple for sunset.
– 4 days on Nusa Penida island. Swim with manta rays!
Weeks 9-12: The Philippines
I spent two whole months in the Philippines and can safely say it’s one of the most beautiful countries on earth. If you don’t have that long, no worries – just follow this Southeast Asia itinerary for 3 months. This condensed version whizzes around the Philippines’ highlights in just 3 weeks.
There are countless Filipino islands to visit so do your research and pick the ones best suited to you. This 3 week Philippines itinerary includes Coron, Palawan, Cebu and Siargao.
Day 69: Manilla. I didn’t love this city so I would recommend moving on fairly quickly to…
Days 70-73: Coron. On this picture-perfect island, you can dive a shipwreck and explore beaches aplenty.
Day 74: Ferry to El Nido, Palawan.
Days 75-77: Island hop in El Nido. Spend a couple of days taking boat trips, hiking to Taraw Peak and visiting Nacpan Beach.
Days 78-79: Port Barton. Take more boat trips in Port Barton and find hidden gems in this less touristic version of El Nido.
Days 80-82: Puerto Princesa. Visit the Underground River and watch prisoners perform hip hop dance shows to aid their rehabilitation at Iwahig Jail.
Day 83: Fly to Cebu. This busy city isn’t the greatest so I’d suggest boarding a bus to…
Days 84-86: Moalboal. Here you can snorkel with turtles and sardine shoals, hike to Osmena Peak and swim in Kawasan Falls.
Days 87-90: Siargao. Finish your Southeast Asia itinerary in paradise! Things to do in Siargao include learning to surf and taking boat trips to nearby islands.
Essentials for 3 months in Southeast Asia
Travel luggage – I use the Mountain Warehouse Traveller Backpack (60L with 20L detachable backpack).
A handy bumbag to keep your belongings secure.
A camera – I use the Sony DSC-HX350 Digital Compact Bridge Camera which I think is one of the most affordable options based on the zoom and quality of photos.
A GoPro if you’re into making videos – I use the HERO7 Black.
Southeast Asia bucket list
Check out my ultimate Asia bucket list including 101 experiences to tick off during your Southeast Asia itinerary for 3 months. For a quick rundown, here are my top 15…
– Go temple-hopping in Chiang Mai
– Take a Muay Thai boxing class
– Celebrate Songkran Festival in Bangkok
– Cruise through Ha Long Bay by boat in Vietnam
– Watch sunset over Angkor Wat
– Trek through misty mountains and earn about minority groups during a Sapa tour in Vietnam
– Eat famous Penang street food in Malaysia
– Climb the rainbow staircase at the Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur
– Visit the world’s largest Buddhist temple site, Borobudur on Java Island, Indonesia
– Dive with manta rays around the Nusa Islands, Indonesia
– Dive a shipwreck in Coron, the Philippines
– Take a cooking class in Hoi An, Vietnam (or anywhere else!)
– Stay in a hostel and explore the nightlife with new friends
– Learn a few words of a new language
– Learn a new skill like kayaking, surfing or boxing. Not being very sporty, I learnt how to make silver jewellery and tried my hand at watercolour painting on tours with Backstreet Academy.
Thanks for reading my Southeast Asia backpacking itinerary!
I hope you find it easy to follow my Southeast Asia backpacking route and have countless fantastic experiences along the way! Let me know how you get on.
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See you next time for more adventures,
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