Wedged perfectly between China and India, Southeast Asia is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world; and for a good reason! Whether its relaxing on the beach, feasting on exotic food, partying all night, immersing yourself in rich cultures and deep religions, Southeast Asia has it all! Couple this with decent tourist infrastructure and cheap costs and you find you can end up here for months on end. On this page I will give a brief overview of some locations, and then below will be links to blog posts about specific areas.
Thailand is most definitely the first place that comes to mind when you hear the word Southeast Asia, and for good reason. Stunning beaches, ancient ruins, sleepy fishing villages, delicious food, colourful culture and deept traditions, Thailand has a bit of everything. As the most popular destination in Asia, it also has excellent infrastructure and a well-beaten path. At the same time, there are still many chance to get away from the crowds, and find places untouched by mass tourism.
Malaysia is one of my favourite Southeast Asian destinations, a diverse and multicultural country. The Muslim Malay people make up the majority of the population, but there are also large numbers of Chinese, Tamil Indians, as well as various native peoples. This colourful mix means that you have plenty to keep you occupied; and while there may not be the grand ruins or historicla monuments of other Southeast Asian countries, but there is still beautiful mosques, Taoist, Buddhist and Hindu temples, and a huge variety of incredibly cheap yet delicious food. Malaysia has some of the oldest rainforests in the world, and some amazing beaches which are much less developed than Thailand. The country is divided between Peninusla Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo.
Indonesia is where things begin to get more adventurous. While Bali is one of the most visited places in Southeast Asia (and for good reason), many of the 1000 islands of Indonesia are well off the beaten track. As you’d expect with a country made up of so many islands, the peoples and cultures are so diverse, and have little in common with each other. What we probably think of as Indonesia would be the large islands of Java and Sumatra, which have dramatic volanoes overlooking rice paddies and small villages, as well as huge metropolis cities such as Jakarta and Surabaya. However, if you get further east, to places like Indonesian Papua, Timur, Kalimantan etc, you have many native tribes living deep in the jungles.
Despite its “touristy” reputation, Bali is still one of my favourite destinations to date. Something about the combination of exotic temples and culture, and amazing beaches, jungles and food just mesmerises me. Sure, Kuta and Seminyak are seriously over developed, and can be skipped completely. However, in the north of Bali, you can find a much more laidback atmosphere, awesome temples and friendly locals. In the centre of Bali is Ubud, the cultural capital and seat of the royal family. Ubud is a bit cliche, with a lot of new-age hippies and yoga schools everywhere, but it is still a great place to get a feel for Balinese culture, and is worth spending some time.
The Philippines is much less visited than the other Southeast Asian nations, as its a bit out of the way, however it is definitely worth it. Having been a Spanish colony for a large part of its history, it has a very strong Latin vibe, and rather than temples or mosques, catholic churches dot the skyline. The Philippines has some of the best beaches and islands in Asia, so I’ve heard, although I have only visited the capital, Manila, and some surrounding countryside.