From temples to karst islands: Backpacking in Southeast Asia

Travel is an age-old leisure activity that is enjoyed by all ages and all walks of life. With budget airlines proliferating like a viral video, vacationers have been given a much wider selection for their travel destinations. The so-called ‘backpackers’ are among the most active in this segment of the travel industry. With nothing but their clothes on their back (and perhaps a laptop and an action cam), they set off to new horizons for extended periods of time. Among these adventurers’ travel choices, South-East Asia is a marvelous region to explore.


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Southeast Asia, as the name implies, is a region south-east of Mainland Asia (dominated by China), north of Australia, in the western Pacific. It is split between two sub-regions: Indochina and maritime Southeast Asia. Those directly connected to the continental mainland include Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia. Island countries and archipelagos include Indonesia, Singapore, East Timor, and the Philippines. All of these countries are situated in the tropics, which means that it is sunny all throughout the year with high temperatures and humidity. However, there are some countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, and Laos which have microclimates. So before going to those areas, it’s best to do some research first regarding the best timing for visiting.


When backpacking in Southeast Asia, trying out the street food culture is a must. The region has plenty to offer and strong regional cultures means that one will never run out of unique food choices. It is home to some the world’s tastiest cuisines, and luckily the really good ones are delicacies which one can get for cheap. Night markets are especially great for going on a street food binge because they sell their food at amazingly low prices. Even in the tiny but ultra-modern Singapore, food trips are world-class.


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With thousands of karst islands, towering mountains, and crystal blue waters, the region is also a great destination to understand Mother Nature more deeply. In the Philippines, for example, some of the most amazing beaches and islands are still devoid of mass tourism. In Indonesia, ancient temples blend harmoniously with the verdant volcanic mountains.


For party lovers, Bangkok, Vang Vieng, and Sihanoukville have high-octane nightlife scenes. Thrill seekers can also enjoy sports and outdoor activities in Cebu (canyoneering), Tubbataha (scuba diving), Temburong (jungle safari), Lido Lakes (skydiving), Luang Prabang (off-road motorbike tours), and Mui Ne (kitesurfing).


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Lastly, one should never forget to learn from the locals. Backpacking in Southeast Asia, apart from being extremely fun, is also highly educational. The high degree of diversity in the region means that one will always be able to learn something new every day.