Where to Travel in South East Asia
My most recent adventure began by working as a summer camp counsellor in China – busying myself with arty endeavours and teaching copious amounts of yoga.
While I had taken this time out of my daily life in London, I decided to squeeze the most of my trip and extend it to a 4-month stint in South East Asia, living the digital nomad dream and blogging from beaches in between site seeing, waterfall hopping, and eating delicious street food.
China and Beyond….
If you’re beginning a travel trip in China, perhaps working as a summer camp counsellor, you’ll probably want to make the most out of exploring this intriguing part of the world. Within China, you’re likely to already know a lot of the top spots to go to, or at least some of the major cities to start in. For more China-specific travel inspiration, head over to our other blog posts to find out about the best places to visit in China.
A good first step out of China (or at least within the region classified for needing a Chinese visa!) is the incredible metropolis of Hong Kong. This melting pot of influences allows for an overwhelming yet extremely exciting taste of an east meets west culture. While you’ll certainly come across more fluent English-speakers and Westerners in HK than you will in China, there’s definitely not a lack of ‘Chineseness’ in the city. The amazing thing about Hong Kong is its richness in contrasts: the contrast of city-slickers with street vendors, the contrast of sky-scrapers with mountainous landscapes, and the constant reminder of ancient vs contemporary.
Vietnam is a great destination to head towards after a stint in China and Hong Kong, with a variety of experiences on offer, you can choose the pace of travel you’d like to have. The major cities in Vietnam, including Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi can be particularly chaotic and require a bit of getting used to for first-time visitors.
Expect to feel temporarily scared for your life as you first attempt to cross the hectic, motorbike-ridden roads. But, with a bit of practice, you’ll soon be hopping your way between the bikes and leap-frogging towards the nearest Pho (noodle soup) street vendors.
If you’re a keen biker yourself, or at least feel comfortable riding on the back of a motorbike, a well-loved travel option for Vietnam is to ride the ‘northern loop’ – allowing you to experience both cities and countryside areas at your own pace and on your own timescale, all with incredible views witnessed from your saddle. If you’d rather stick to trains, buses and planes, there are plenty of routes to allow you to experience the refreshing beauty of areas like Halong bay and Sapa, as well as the slightly more relaxed city of Hoi An.
Most famous for its impressive Angkor Wat temple, Cambodia is a convenient stop off between Vietnam and Thailand. Be sure to visit the capital city of Phnom Penh, which is home to an impressive art deco market, the glittering royal palace, and a number of historical sites. For an unspoilt slice of luxury, head over to Cambodia’s Southern Islands, where you’ll find gorgeous white sands and sparkly seas – so far untouched compared to some of Thailand’s westernised destinations. Like many areas in South East Asia, Cambodia is cheap to get around, cheap to stay in and cheap to eat in – so make the most of it!
A particularly popular destination for western tourists, Thailand has gained a bit of a reputation for being the place to go for party people. So if you’re keen to have a full moon party experience (of two), embrace the nightlife and head over to the party island of Koh Pha Ngan.
For a more relaxed thai experience, stick to islands like Koh Samui and Koh Tao, where you’ll be able to unwind on beautiful beaches and dive into the deep blue with plenty of opportunities for scuba-diving.
Back in the mainland, it’s definitely worth temporarily stepping into the madness of Bangkok, where you’ll be sure to fall in love with the food, the temples and the intriguing boat road commute between the old town and the new town.
Those hoping to connect with nature should definitely take a trip north to Chiang Mai and Pai where you’ll be able to visit elephant sanctuaries and connect with the friendly locals.
In a similar way to Vietnam, Indonesia comprises of a variety of travel options. Whether you’re looking for a bustling city trip to the capital of Jakarta, a week of beach-side pool parties in the region of Canguu in Bali, or a relaxing yoga retreat in the blissfully spiritual area of Ubud, Indonesia has a little something for everyone. Immerse yourself in Balinese culture with luscious walks in rice fields and visits to the local temples, as well as trying your hand at yoga and group meditation – and of course try out the delicious cuisine.
The interesting thing about Indonesia is that it’s made up of a collection of islands, so if you’d like to spend a good chunk of time in the country, be prepared to jump on a few boat rides and find yourself on some paradisical beach islands.
With so much to experience in the wonderful region of South East Asia, these tips are certainly not extensive – but should at least get your travel taste buds tingling, and have you reaching for your rucksack!