How many countries have you been to? Why do you keep traveling in Southeast Asia so much? These are two common questions I get asked while traveling. Well, for me, travel is not about how many countries someone goes to or how many stamps someone gets in his or her passport, it’s not a sport of any kind. It’s about the experience and the way one gets to connect to a place, immerse in sights, sounds, and smells, learning a new language, losing one’s way in the wilderness, slipping into new lives, not how fast one gets to go through it.
If you read through my blog, you will see that I have been focusing a lot of my travels around Southeast Asia. That’s because of the immenseness of the region with 11 astonishing countries, the tourist routes are much more consistent in so many ways compared to other parts of the world. The cheap and affordable living costs, the beaches will certainly make your jaw drop, and the food will make you drool. Let’s not forget the amazing dive sites, the spectacular landscapes, the lush green jungles, and the warm-hearted and friendly people. Each Southeast Asian country is different and has a well defined culture and so much to offer that you will long to come back to this part of the world over and again. It is hard for anyone not to fall in love with Southeast Asia, in fact, it’s love at first sight for so many people. Plan a trip and spend a few weeks, I am sure you will have plenty of time to mark some things off your travel bucket list without spending hours in a queue.
Southeast Asia has been paradise for backpackers for so many decades. There are so many popular destination routes among budget travelers in the region that have been confused with historical merchant routes. They are incredibly cheap and relatively safe to move around, and if you are budget-conscious, you can manage on budgets as low as $10 a night staying in dorms, or try Couhsurfing, taking local transport, eating street food, and generally traveling on a shoestring budget. Believe it or not, there are more places, sights, and things to do than you can shake a stick at.
Certain Southeast Asian countries are more expensive compared to its sisters. For example, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Timor-Leste, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam and Malaysia (outside Kuala Lumpur) are cheaper options, while Singapore and Brunei are usually the expensive destinations in the region. Adjusting to street food is the wisest way to keep food costs low, and don’t fear gulping it down while it’s cooked right in front of you. It tastes way better and maybe even much fresher compared to the processed food back home. Why would you want to order an over priced clubhouse burger for $5 in Thailand when you can have a nice papaya salad or a pad thai less than a dollar? Always consider local and public transport instead of private or tourist bus, even if travel days are longer, of course if you have sufficient time.
Since, I have been to Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia & the Philippines, I will write about the rest of Southeast Asian countries that I am yet to score.
It’s the first light for a better democracy in this amazing land, dispersed with glittering gold of thousands of pagodas and temples where ancient traditions are followed unbroken. Float on a raft in the Irrawaddy or Ayeyarwady River, the country’s largest river. Chase the sun at the beach on the ecstatic Bay of Bengal. Trek through the mountainous tribal villages of Shan Hills and meet the locals with the warmest of smiles and are willing to teach their customs. This is the perfect time to make that connection, before it becomes the next Thailand. Wander around the centuries old stupas scattered across the plains of Bagan.
Surrounded by its blooming neighbors, with its deep and moist jungle, lush green rice fields, and the glossy tea leaves that blanket the mountains. It’s not just the great outdoors and landscapes that are green, Laos is also topping the list in ecotourism in the region and are admired for so many wonderful reasons. Adventurers can get themselves lost in deep stalactites in underground river caves, thick forest zip-lines or rock climbing. Nature lovers can take advantage of long walks on the wild side of life and run into gibbons or even elephants. Culture enthusiasts and purists can visit ruins of bygone civilizations and learn the ancient and sacred Lao traditions. Gastronomes can savor the the nuances of authentic Lao cuisine.
If you carefully analyse this heavily tightened and well-ordered sultanate, you’ll see the warm-heartedness of the people of Brunei and the untamed natural beauty of its environment. This slow pace darussalam (‘abode of peace’ in Arabic) didn’t turn its rain forests into oil palm plantations, and thanks for that – although they own the largest oilfields in Southeast Asia. Striking mosques contrast with the glamorous random water village, and the nearby mangrove forest remains home to crocodiles and proboscis monkeys. Brunei, serene and sometimes drowsy is a realization of a specific vision. Why not visit and judge for yourself?
With a long history of inspiration and depression, Cambodia promises a galore of thrills and excitement. Phnom Penh and Siem Reap may be the “populars”, but to a certain extent, they are far from the landscape Cambodia. Encountering a little glimpse of the rural life and the breathtaking rice paddies where time stands still. The tropical islands lie in the mainland South Coast with a small number of beach huts. The Cardamom Mountains, provides home to elephants, tigers, clouded leopards, pileated gibbons, Malaysian sun bears, Siamese crocodiles, giant blue-winged butterflies all of which are high on the endangered species list. The Mekong River that cuts through the country is the lifeblood of Southeast Asia and offers a glimpse into the region’s history, making home to some of the region’s last remaining freshwater dolphins. The real treasure of this enigmatic kingdom is its people, and nobody visiting Cambodia comes back without appreciation and admiration and fondness from its inhabitants.
A country of awe-inspiring natural beauty with a distinctive history and memorable experiences everywhere. Gaze at the picturesque expanse of sea surrounding the limestone islands on a Halong Bay cruise. Take joy in the hustle and bustle of crossing busy streets with hordes of motorbikes in Hanoi. Explore the world’s most breathtaking cave systems in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Pass by mopeds loaded with squealing pigs along the country lane. Witness a solitary grave at a war victims cemetery. For adrenaline junkies, the maritime waters off Mui Ne is fast becoming their playground for kite-boarding and windsurfing.
The newest country in Asia promises some of the world’s amazing off-the-beaten-track adventures, with a 30 million year old mountain to scale and untouched reefs to dive and snorkel. Venture into the dark history of the Dili’s museums, take a cultural journey out of the capital, head over the hills to hike the jungle caves, stroll through the foggy mountain village markets, and stop for a local coffee at the patio of a monumental Portuguese pousada. Take a break for a selfie around the magnificent seascapes as you grip the rugged cliffs along the north coast road. Find out what everyone else has been missing in the incredible country.
If I have already convinced you to plan a trip in Southeast Asia… well, you’ve made a fantastic decision! Now you might wonder how much time you really need to see Southeast Asia, my answer is honestly as much time as you possibly have.