Captivating, mystic, and enthralling… South East Asia is a diverse region offering some of the world’s most spectacular natural sights. With its spectacular subterranean rivers, coral reefs flourishing with life, rocky limestone mountains jutting up out of the sea and white sand beaches, it is undeniably a favorite destination amongst international tourists.
Aside from its astounding biodiversity, South East Asian is a wonderful region to travel even on a tight budget. Travel costs are actually low while still giving you a lot of great value, so its popularity with backpackers is no coincidence.
According to ASEAN Tourism Statistics, in January 2017, there are 108,904 tourist arrivals in the different South East Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore – the top 3 most visited spots in the region.
So are you ready to stoke your wanderlust? WorldJourneys.co.nz will take us with a carpet and lit, as we explore South East Asia – the most diverse, beautiful, enjoyable, and accessible landscapes in the world.
Koh Tarutao, Thailand – An Adventurer’s Paradise
While much of Thailand has been built up into a destination of hotels and resorts, there are tourist spots that are still untouched and covered in the beauty of this part of the world. Koh Tarutao is the largest of the 51 islands that belong to the Tarutao National Marine Park archipelago in the Southern Andaman Coast of Southern Thailand where you can hike, cycle, spot wildlife, and just relax. You won’t find any chain hotels, knick-knack shops, or fast food restaurants here, either. Live bands and mediocre electronic dance music don’t blast from huge heavy speakers here; rather, only the sounds of the waves crashing and birds chirping can be heard.
Deserted beaches, stretches of intact mangroves, karst of limestone cliffs, and a blanket of green jungle spreading upwards towards a spectacular chain of mountains with the abundance of wildlife where you can encounter macaques, boars and all sorts of lizards, and if you are lucky enough, you might also spot flying lemurs, dusky langurs, hornbills and otters… These are the things you will be able to witness and experience within this pristine paradise in Thailand.
If you’re looking for luxury, shopping, or nightlife, this is not the place for you. However, if it is peace, quiet, adventure, and nature that you seek, this is one of the best places in Thailand.
Average daily travel cost: $84 (฿2,882)
Tiger Leaping Gorge, China – A hidden gorge(ous)
Beautiful nature and a thrilling hike await you here! Tiger Leaping Gorge is located between two snow-capped mountains called Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain. The gorge is one of the deepest in the world with a length of 15 kilometers. Legend has it that a tiger once leapt from one of the rocks in the middle of the gorge to the other bank to escape a hunter. The hike is not too strenuous if you take your time, spreading the journey out along two days. Also, the high trail is easily accessible, with clearly marked signs, and clean and friendly lodges to rest at along the way.
The dramatic scenery and exciting hike along the high path through the rural villages make this a very enjoyable travel adventure to have. As you rise higher and higher, the views become more and more spectacular. For lovers of the great outdoors and adventure travels, Tiger Leaping Gorge should be high atop your China bucket list!
Average daily travel cost: $11 (¥78)
Enchanted River, Philippines – A glimpse of what true mystic is like
Hiding in the rocky mountains of Hinatuan, Surigao Del Sur, Philippines, lies a river that is something you’ve never seen before – the Enchanted River. This is considered as one of the most surreal places in the Philippines. Its waters are as clear as a crystal reflecting the bluest skies. Its splendor is the kind that would make you feel entangled in such a dream filled with the songs of fairies weaving everything into perfection!
Legends and myths exist on how it was called “Enchanted” making this river more intriguing and mysterious. The river ran deep into the unknown hallows no one ever dared to explore. The visible limestones underneath the water create a mystery that something unearthly is down there. But the Enchanted River’s natural splendor is more than enough for it to be tagged as “mystical and enchanted.”
This is definitely a fascinating place to go to alleviate the exhaustion from your restless souls. Submerge yourself into the clear waters of this river and experience its awe-striking mystical beauty!
One-day joiner tour cost: $37 (Php. 1,850)
Angkor Wat, Cambodia – the Lonely Planet’s World’s #1 Sight
Angkor Wat is the most renowned and iconic temple in Cambodia. It is an awe-inspiring temple that is stunning for both its grand scale and incredible details.
Visitors to Angkor Wat were amazed by its impressive grandeur and its fascinating decorative flourishes. Stretching around the outside of the central temple complex is an 800m-long series of intricate and astonishing bas-reliefs – carvings depicting historical events and stories from mythology.
Fact: The beauty of Angkor What temples, walking in awe and wonder at structures that were created thousands of years ago by a man and no machines, you can’t help but be amazed at the power and determination of the man.
Tour Costs: an entry pass to the temples of Angkor costs US$20 for one day, US$40 for three days and US$60 for one week.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – A city of lovely chaos
Ho Chi Minh City, the city formerly known as Saigon is Vietnam’s largest and most chaotic city which has emerged from its darkest days to become one of Asia’s most exciting cities. It boasts vibrant street life, skyscraper buildings, and warm weather all year round.
Beyond Ho Chi Minh City’s parks and gardens are rivers, wildlife reserves, mangrove forests, the famous Mekong Delta, and Cu Chi Tunnels, Jade Emperor Pagoda and much more. Adventurers can travel by foot, bus, or boat for an unforgettable outdoor experience. The city also houses wonderful shops, fantastic nightlife, and delicious food.
Average daily travel cost: $30-40 (680,000-900,000 VND)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – A city of an electric mix
Kuala Lumpur is considered to be one of the most culturally diverse cities in Southeast Asia. As an Islamic state, you will see plenty of mosques throughout the Malaysian capital but between these, you will also see South Indian Hindu Temples, Catholic churches and Chinese temples. Make sure you visit Chinatown, Dataran Merdeka, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, and the Islamic Arts Museum. Also head to the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, which at one time was the world’s tallest buildings. They are quite impressive and a trip to the top is enjoyable. Other notable museums around town include the National Museum and the Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery. Surely, you will get a surreal dash of the electric mix!
Average daily travel cost: $32
Bali, Indonesia – The Island of Gods
White and black beaches, world-class surfing, lush vegetation, endless rice terraces, ancient culture, countless temples and volcanic mountains. Bali became so popular because it has something for everyone. You’ll find all kinds of travelers there, from the backpackers who travel all across Southeast Asia, the spiritual yogis, luxury travelers, families, divers, surfers… They all come to Bali, mainly for one reason: It’s an excellent value for a good price, and the variety that Bali has to offer is unlike any other tourist destination in the world.
It is truly a colossal island with an endless list of places to visit and things to do. If you’re searching for diving deeper into the Indonesian culture, head over to Ubud where most of the cultural and historical activities and sights can be found. You may also go for a stroll along the beach, sip a pleasant drink and be sure to get a tradition massage. The special Balinese techniques of long strokes, skin rolling and palm-to-thumb pressure will change your life. And For a bigger adventure, there is world-renowned scuba diving in Gilis. Explore the coral reefs, make friends with sea turtles and try to keep up with the majestic manta rays. There’s really never going to be enough time to see every wonder Bali has to offer.
Average daily travel cost: $58