Southeast Asia. It is the favorite destination for many solo travelers for that first big backpacking trip abroad. It is where travelers often go, and sometimes never leave. It is a destination where the prices and freedom of travel can provide a traveler with the perfect excuse to arrive long-term, with very few plans and just wander around for a few months. And with lower fares to Asia from the EU and North America, it also makes for a good short holiday from the stresses of work. In many ways, the region serves as a “gateway drug” for travelers; after that first trip to Asia, one can easily become addicted to travel. And it is a place that travelers and digital nomads often return to again and again.
I have helped many of my clients plan their trips to this special area of the world, and I can help you too. As a traveler, travel industry professional, and digital nomad, I absolutely adore this region, and I have traveled there many times, with plans to return.
But what is it about this part of the world that makes it so attractive to travelers?
Let’s start with the obvious, the prices. Southeast Asia is still affordable for most travelers. A night at a good Chiang Mai, Thailand guesthouse in a private room can easily cost under $20 USD. And a tasty meal from the street food vendors in Cambodia is usually under $1 USD. Transportation is super affordable (and often unique). A two-day slow-boat ride down the Mekong from Luang Prabang (Laos) to the Thai border is still under $25. And the regional bus fares are perfect for those on a budget too. Sometimes flights on the low-cost carriers can be almost as cheap as the prices for buses and shuttles. All of this makes Southeast Asia a true travel bargain.
Then there is the ease of travel. You can find yourself in Bangkok, decide you want to go to the islands, and be on a bus/boat combination the very next day. I’ve purchased bus tickets across Malaysia with just a few hours notice. Southeast Asia is still one of those places where you can have a lot of flexibility with your travel plans. Especially during the low season, where you can often book regional transportation and accommodation only a day or two in advance.
Of course, there is the culture too, and Southeast Asia is full of it. Every country in the region has a distinct culture so you won’t get bored on an extended trip there. In Myanmar, for example, you will still see people, even in the big cities, wearing a traditional longyi and covered in thanaka, traditional face paint that also serves as a natural sunscreen. And with several religions, one can visit Buddhist temples, Hindu temples, and Muslim mosques. In each country, the architecture of these places of worship is distinctive. After a few weeks in the region, it is easy to tell the difference between a Buddhist temple in Thailand versus one in Myanmar.
For nature and wildlife, Southeast Asia is where it is at. Komodo dragons live in Indonesia, and you can take a trip to go visit them. Or there is orangutang spotting on the island of Borneo. Fancy hiking up waterfalls? That is an easy activity to arrange in almost every Southeast Asian country. Enjoy trekking? It is world famous in Myanmar and Thailand. Dare to hike up a volcano? Indonesia and Malaysia are full of opportunities to try that. Want to meet elephants? You can do it in this part of the world, but just make sure to do it ethically.
Or do you simply want to laze on a beach? From Vietnam to Thailand to Indonesia to the off the beaten track beaches of Myanmar, Southeast Asia has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. With clear blue water and excellent marine life, the diving and snorkling are world class as well.
Sold on Southeast Asia yet? Great! But of course, there are a few tips and tricks to make your trip there successful.
Deciding where to fly in and out of is your first big decision. If you plan on focusing on Indochina, Bangkok is always a good option. But if it is the islands of Indonesia or Malaysia that you fancy, Bali has a big international airport as well. If your time is limited and you can only visit a country or two, flying directly there will save you time. This is one of my specialties, and I can help you find the best flights for your trip.
Safety is always a big concern too. There are safety precautions for all travelers (especially solo travelers) regardless of how much you’ve traveled. But if this is your first international trip, you might want to consider doing a trip with a company like G Adventures at the beginning to get your feet wet. I can help you choose a tour and sometimes find you a better rate, so please reach out to me if something like this interests you. You will also need to make sure that you are covered by a reliable travel insurance provider in case anything goes wrong. I always recommend World Nomads as my clients and I have both had positive experiences with them.
Finally, embracing the differences is important. If you are from the EU, US, or Australia, Southeast Asia will be… different. But that is why you are traveling, right? Things will not be like they are at home, and being able to accept this with an open mind will make your travel experience to Southeast Asia memorable.
Ready to hop on the next flight to Bangkok, Jakarta, or Hanoi? Want to plan that big (or small) Southeast Asia trip? Please reach out to me and I can help make your Southeast Asian travel dreams a reality. Whether you are a first-time traveler who needs a lot of information or a seasoned traveler who just needs some quick regional tips or help making plans, I specialize in this part of the world. And I am currently offering free 15 minute Skype travel consultations so I can help get the ball rolling. Imagine spending part of 2018 lounging on a beach in Thailand, exploring Angkor Wat, or enjoying the street food in Ho Chi Minh City. It can be your reality!