We don’t want you to leave, but you will. You have to really. After all, South East Asia is spectacular and you haven’t been lugging around that big fat guidebook for nothing. If you’ve returned your key and promised us you’ll come back, then go ahead and check out these must see destinations on the backpacker trail.
#10 - Do Something Artistic - Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang is still heavily colored by the remanents French Indo-China. It’s a gorgeous cross-culture gem on the Mekong River. And its slowness is intoxicating.
Pick a creative outlet and a riverside café. Drink too much Laos coffee while you scratch that artistic itch. If coffee isn’t waking up your muse try Beer Laos, it’s the best brew in South East Asia!
#9 - Rent a Motorcycle in Pai – Northern Thailand
Nestled in the hills North of Chiang Mai, Pai is a beacon for hippies and counter-culturalists. It is surrounded by canyons, rolling hills and vineyards. Rent a bike and do the Easy Rider thing across Thailand’s mountainous north.
#8 - Drink Cheap Beer – Hanoi, Vietnam
Hanoi is a mad and wonderful city. It’s worth exploring. But, why risk your life crossing all those busy streets when you can just find a corner-store that sells Bia Hoi and let the city come to you!
Bia Hoi cost about 10 cents a glass. It’s not the best beer in the world, but it is an excellent people watching beverage. In the hectic streets of Hanoi you will see it all; insane traffic, vendors carrying their wares on wooden poles, cyclos carrying tourists in ridiculous outfits. Settle into a miniature plastic chair, sip on a few luke-warm brews and enjoy the sights and sounds of Vietnam.
#7 - Rediscover Lake Danu Toba – Sumatra, Indonesia
The world’s largest volcanic lake has been largely forgotten by tourists. You can still see the remnants of its glory days, but now it feels like stumbling into a secret escape. The water is cool, the surrounding mountains are beautiful and the people couldn’t be kinder.
#6 - Stay on a Floating Bungalow – Cheow Larn Lake, Thailand
Adjacent to Khao Sok National Park in Southern Thailand, Cheow Larn Lake feels like a smaller Halong Bay, an undiscovered Halong Bay. Its waters are clear, cool and surrounded on all sides by limestone cliffs. There are a number of floating bungalows on the lake. Most provide both room and board. For less than 40 USD you can spend two days/nights swimming, kayaking, and relaxing in a stunningly beautiful locale.
#5 - Climb an Active Volcano – Lomboc, Indonesia
It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. You’ll see a gorgeous lake pierced by a volcanic cone that looks like it’s straight out of Mordor. You see the best sunset and sunrise of your life. You’ll see Bali and the Gili Islands in the distance. And you will definitely burn off those holiday beers.
#4 - Songkran – Chiang Mai, Thailand
Songkran (New Year) celebrations can be found throughout Thailand and Laos but nothing comes close to the madness in Chiang Mai. For nearly a week the whole of the old city becomes the world’s biggest water fight. The streets are packed on both sides with people firing water guns and throwing buckets of moat water. The passing cars and scooters are armed as well. Tourists attack with any water they can get their hands on. The Thai people think ahead and ice down garbage cans full of water to give the farangs a frigid shock.
#3 - Halong Bay Overnight – Vietnam
Most of the tour boat operators are surly and humorless. And you may have a feeling of being herded and unwanted. Doesn’t matter. Halong Bay is so spectacular you’ll find yourself willing to overlook any mismanagement.
#2 - The Angkor Temples - Siem Reap, Cambodia
The ancient capital of the Khmer Empire seems too exotic to be real. It’s the stuff of Indiana Jones movies and Rudyard Kipling stories. Spend at least two days exploring, you’ll need it. Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon; each temple is unique and inspiring. Going in you’ll think that the temples couldn’t possibly live up to your expectations. They will.
#1 - Stay Here! – Koh Tao, Thailand
Or you could just stay here! You’ve got a comfortable bed at the Taco Shack. You’ve got loads of new friends. And you’ve got so much to see still. You haven’t been to Sai Daeng beach. You haven’t spent the day snorkeling in Halong Bay. Hiking above Mango Bay ought to be on your list. It would be shame to leave too soon. Order a taco and chill out. We’ll take care of you.