South East Asia has been a firm favourite of backpackers and pleasure‑seekers for many years now. Since Leonardo Di Caprio first stepped onto Ko Phi Phi in The Beach in the year 2000 (and for a little while before that) Thailand has been considered a veritable haven for culture, cuisine and paradise beaches; and the neighbouring countries are quickly catching up.
As travel connections improve and the world shrinks as a result, South East Asia has become a well trodden route for travellers looking for quite the adventure; and with good reason. But we can’t all be lucky enough to have an endless pot of money and stretches of free time to play with when we head to this stunning corner of the world; so if you could pick 5 countries to prioritise when in this region of Asia for a few weeks, where should you go?
With such a variety of cultures and countries to choose from it can be difficult to know where to begin when planning your route, so we thought we’d offer a helping hand. When you’re travelling such a great distance, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into.
It’s a popular one, but there’s a reason why people can’t stay away! Thailand is probably the most popular of South-East Asia’s countries and has plenty to offer the travel hungry. It’s well set up for tourists, so can be a good place to start if it’s your first time in the region and you’re looking to find your feet.
Whether you want to party on the islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the Khaosan Road in Bangkok, or take in the culture and beauty of the Mekong River, you’ll find something to pique your interest.
If you’re heading North, Chiang Mai is a vibrant cultural hub, where cooking, meditating and trekking through local villages makes for breathtaking scenery and unforgettable experiences. Temples and national parks abound, and these are well worth a visit before heading south to the famous white sand beaches and party islands. If the sea is your thing, we’d definitely recommend scuba diving off the Thai coast, where there are some of the best dive sites in the world.
This stunning drone footage showcases the beautiful Phi Phi, Phuket and Krabi, so you can get a taste of what Thailand has to offer.
Vietnam is a big country steeped in history; so if your trip to Asia is short, it’s worth doing your research to work out your priorities before you go. From the Mekong Delta to Ho Chi Minh, central Hoi An and the beautiful emerald waters of Halong Bay in the northeast, there are a huge variety of landscapes to visit and enjoy.
If you’re in Vietnam long enough, we’d recommend riding the Vietnam loop on a moped (wear a helmet!) which takes you around the north and through the mountains for around 2 weeks. You’ll probably see some of the most breathtaking sights you have or will ever get to see, and the freedom of riding the loop on a scooter makes it even more exciting.
To see more from Vietnam, have a watch of this video.
Laos is one of South East Asia’s poorest countries, which makes it all the more worth a visit should you be travelling to the region. Its capital city, Vientiane, is extremely modest in comparison to those of neighbouring countries; and from there you can head north to Luang Prabang and enjoy the natural landscapes, waterfalls and mountains that the unspoilt Champassak region boasts.
If tourist-laden Thailand isn’t your thing, head to Laos for modesty, natural beauty, charming people and a history that will really encourage you to put things in perspective.
You’ll soon see why Laos is worth a visit in this beautiful video.
Cambodia is beautiful, and the largest religious monument in the world (Angkor Wat) is just one of its many gems. In terms of islands, the southern islands of Cambodia are far less busy than the Thai resorts and are absolutely beautiful: Koh Ta Kiev is perfect for back-to-basics beach living, and Koh Thmei is unspoilt, almost uninhabited, and perfect for nature lovers looking to kick back to a simpler way of life.
Also worth visiting is the capital city of Phnom Penh, from where you can push onto the famous city of Siem Reap. This is a buzzing hub for those wanting to visit the temples of Angkor, but is also a great cultural centre in its own right.
Learn more about Angkor and the surrounding area in this stunning film.
5. The Philippines
If it’s paradise you’re searching for, look no further than Palawan in the Philippines. It’s difficult to do this breathtaking archipelago justice in words; but we’ll give it a go.
Made up of over 7000 islands, this country in the Western Pacific offers white sand beaches, warm waters and lush landscapes.
Manila is the capital and is a great gateway into the country, with stunning architecture and a chilled out atmosphere that will ease you nicely into your Philippino adventure. Head to North Luzon to take a look at the beautiful rice terraces, Siargao for amazing surf, and Palawan for the stunning rock formations that the Philippines is famed for. The Philippines also offers some incredible diving opportunities which you should definitely monopolise if you’ve got your PADI.
The Philippines isn’t as geared up for tourists as somewhere like Thailand, but with a bit of planning this stunning country could be the highlight of any South East Asian adventure.
See more from this stunning region in this video.
By: Paulo Palha, Founder of Travideo