Southeast Asia is the perfect place for a traveler who does not want to spend too much money and at the same time wants to experience an amazing adventure and try oriental flavors. During my solo 5-month trip to that part of the world in 2018, I visited Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. This is my subjective ranking
Don Khone is one of the 4,000 islands in Laos on the Mekong River (right on the Cambodian border). It's the perfect place to relax in a hammock for a few days, reading books and slow walks under palm trees. A small stone bridge connects Doh Khone with the neighboring (more entertaining) island of Don Det.
Here are the biggest attractions of Don Khone:
- cycling on sandy, bumpy roads (hard work!) to see the waterfall and the beach
- a trip by a fishing boat to observe freshwater dolphins (often connected with the illegal crossing of the border with Cambodia)
- tasty food in local restaurants (including several decent Indian restaurants)
- no wi-fi in the bungalow on the river and silence 😊
There is a good chance that you will land at the beginning of your Asian adventure in Bangkok (a large number of aircraft from Europe come here). Bangkok is definitely teeming with life. Beautiful temples (eg Wat Pho with a 45-meter Buddha), giant shopping centers (7-story MBK Center), busy Khao San Road and many other attractions will draw you in for a few good days. I recommend traveling around Bangkok by boat and enjoying Thai food (for carnivores, street food is enough, for vegans - you will easily find local restaurants on www.happycow.net, where you pay for 1-1.5 euro).
Cat Ba Island is a good starting point to enjoy the famous Ha Long Bay, the floating villages and canoe trips.
What can you do on Cat Ba:
- go on a full-day trip around Ha Long Bay (including kayaking; avoid trips with visit to Monkey Island
- monkeys were brought to the island from Thailand to become a tourist attraction)
- have a meal at the barge restaurant
- take a walk on the cliff paths to the nearby beaches - check my post on how to travel to Southeast Asiato find out how to find them.
Walking around Marina Bay I felt like I was moving to the set of the Si-Fi movie. Be sure to go to Gardens by the Bay in the evening and watch Garden Rhapsody (every day at 7:45 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.) - a free light and music show on giant electronic trees. Take a look at Esplanade - Theaters on the Bay. Maybe you can get yourself a free spectacle or an interesting exhibition?
Note: Singapore is definitely more expensive than neighboring countries! If you care about the budget, I recommend dining in the Indian quarter 😉
Gili Meno is the calmest of the three islands of Gili, which you can reach by a fast boat from Bali. So it is perfect for a honeymoon or a holiday with a sea view. The island is small, so the biggest attractions are snorkeling and diving (if you would like to become a certified diver, I recommend Malaysia as it is a bit cheaper in this respect). In the sea at the shore of Gili Meno you can admire underwater statues and observe turtles.
Who is a fan of the movie "Eat, Pray,Love" like me? In one of the scenes, Julia Roberts rides a bike around Bali with an unusual, calm smile. Bali Island quite disappointed me with traffic jams and crowd of tourist. However, I found peace and joy of Julia Roberts riding a bike between the rocks and rice fields in Tam Coc. Take a look at the post with ranking of the best accommodations in Southeast Asia to find out where to stay in Tam Coc.
In Tam Coc, life flows peacefully. All in all, apart from riding a bike, climbing steep hills, visiting several caves and temples, there is nothing to do. But do you need more to be happy?
Homestay Dong Que is situated in a Thai ethnic minority village with wooden stilt houses and views of the nearby mountains that look like the back of a sleeping dragon. I saw here green rice terraces for the first time during my 5-month travel in Southeast Asia (I was there at the end of April 2018. In Thailand, Laos and Cambodia in the previous months rice was cut and the terraces dried up).
It's a very quiet place - zero night life, but full of authenticity. If you are in the area, it is worth going to the distant 45km Tam Son. Every Sunday there is a market where residents of the surrounding villages come in their traditional costumes.
If you are looking for real paradise beaches, calm, azure waters and great diving or snorkeling, be sure to go to Kecil. It is one of the cheapest diving sites in the world with several local diving schools (if you are thinking about getting a certificate, check first if your accommodation will not be included in the price of the course!).
Note: Mosquitoes bite hard on Perhentian Islands, and in Malaysia you can't buy effective but harmful DEET sprays. So take your spray from Poland or buy it earlier, e.g. in Thailand.
Download the Maps.me app on your phone and go on trail number 10 first and turn onto trail number 6. Although the paths are badly marked, they can be very slippery and steep, you will certainly not regret the view of tea bushes around you. Join another traveler for safety.
I also recommend going to the mossy forest on the nearby Gunung Irau Mountain.
Note: Together with the Latvian traveler Gytys, we got lost on route number 3. I completely destroyed my clothes. 1.5 hours we were breaking through the jungle. My advice - if you're not sure of the way, turn back to the last crossroad. There are many species of venomous snakes in Southeast Asia, so don't risk it. Look at the post - Snakes - safety in jungles of Southeast Asia
Traveling around Southeast Asia, you can't miss Angkor- the largest temple complex in the world with the most famous Angor Wat. If you have time, buy a 3-day ticket (for 62 American dollars!), Rent a bike and admire these amazing ruins at your own pace.
Tip: The Angkor complex is very crowded. If you want to feel like Lara Croft, I advise you to wait in front of the temple of Ta Prohm (with many roots of giant trees) before 7:30 am and enter it as one of the first visitors to feel its amazing atmosphere.
Note: Asian roads are very dangerous for tourists who do not know their rules. This is where the right of a larger vehicle works (e.g. cars are standing on the green to give a forst move to a bus that has a red light). Watch the traffic here for a few days before renting a bike or scooter.
The city of Siem Reap (starting point to Angkor) is located near Tonle Sap Lake, which is famous for its floating villages (villagers in crates in the murky water of the lake breed crocodiles imported from China for skins, meat and eggs). You can pay for a trip to see floating villages or if you are a Catholic and you want a truly authentic experience, then go to Mass in St John's Catholic Church on Sunday and read the notice board in front of the church - one of the priests goes to a floating church every Sunday in a floating village and can be joined by prior arrangement 😉.
I also recommend going to the sensational circus of acrobats - Phare - in Siem Reap.
Indonesia is situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire - the zone of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The country has over 330 volcanoes from which 127 are active. It is worth hiking even one of them to feel the real power of nature. If you do not have your own vehicle, it is worth buying trip including transport and accommodation to see some of them. Being in Yogyakarta I bought such a service to climb 2 volcanoes: Bromo and Ijen (combined with transportation to the island of Bali).
Bromo volcano roars and releases volcanic smoke, while Ijen is famous for its turquoise sulfur lake. The latter tourists visit in gas masks. I recommend - after going down to the Ijen crater and seeing the blue fire in the darkness, climb quickly to the sunrise at the edge of the crater and walk away. Most people stay downstairs and wait for the sunrise in the crowd, I was alone on the edge above and experienced one of the most spiritual moments in my life.
You may also be interested in my other posts:
And if you were to create your ranking of the 11 most beautiful places in Southeast Asia, what would you put in it?