A friend of mine had pestered me about visiting South East Asia. He proclaimed that it was one of the best travel experiences of his life and ‘we just had to visit.”
This conversation took place prior to our round the world journey and we had plans of returning to South East Asia having visited Thailand before on other trips. I hadn’t really given much thought to Cambodia and Vietnam to be honest until our friend had brought it to our attention. Although I did want to other parts of the region, we just didn’t have much knowledge on the area. For this reason I have put together the Top 5 Places To Visit in South East Asia from our experience.
5. Luang Prabang, Laos
We travelled to Luang Prabang on a slow boat from Thailand. It took two days over the Mekong River and we were extremely delighted to find a picturesque town nestled on the river banks. This town was once governed by the French and still to this day some reminisces of French influences on the Vietnamese Culture. The first is the delicious bread and cheese stores along the main street. Good bread is hard to find in Asia and we were surprised by the quality of the cuisine in Luang Prabang.
Also the night markets are a definitely must-see and they sell the usual touristy items, if you are looking for souvenirs. Or they are also just good to wander through whilst eating an ice cream or munching on a desert pancake.
Bars and restaurants line the banks of the Mekong River as well as the adjoining rivers. This is where we spent almost every night with beer in hand and watching the sunset behind the hills. Luang Prabang is a town that we will definitely revisit in the future.
4. Hoi An, Vietnam
This small heritage listed town exudes beauty, you will be in love from the first moment you walk down the cobble stoned streets. There is a relaxed feel to this town and it is hard not to get caught up in the laid back atmosphere. We were meant to stay for 2 days and ended up staying a week!
Hoi An is known for its Heritage listing but also for its great shopping. If you are travelling to Vietnam you must visit Hoi An before you go home to pick up a bargain on custom-made garments made of the highest quality.
There are a number of heritage sites along the many streets and you can wander for hours being captivated by the ancient charm of this town. The local shop front windows throughout the town are filled with bright purple and white flowers, Elise instantly fell in love with Hoi An and was already asking when we could come back.
Hoi An is a stones through away from the beach and if you hope in a cab or rent a motorbike for the day you will be delighted by the warm tropical waters of the South China Sea. If you are visiting in the hotter months be sure to take you flip-flops onto the beach. The sand increases in temperature during the middle of the day and we watched many people burn their feet trying to run the stretch of sand to reach the water.
We hope you will fall in love with Hoi An as much as we did.
3. Siem Reap, Cambodia
When in in South East Asia you just must visit the Temples of Angkor. Now this is not to be confused with just visiting Angkor Wat. Although seeing Angkor Wat is spectacular it is important to visit some of the lesser known Temples and you will be amazed by the architecture and detailed carvings on these large stone structures.
Our favourite temple were Ta Prohm, the most unique of all temples and has a Jurassic feel to it, the jungle has now reclaimed its real estate and the temple is overgrown with trees and vines. The other temple we loved was Bayon which is made up of human-like carvings, some of the head carvings where up to a couple of metres in height.
Angkor Wat is a must-see but it wasn’t our favourite temple to view during our time in Siem Reap. If you are planning on visiting Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor, be sure to visit as early as possible as the heat can become unbearable during the middle of the day. It is best to view Angkor Wat at sunrise and plan to be back indoors by lunchtime.
2. Dong Hoi, Vietnam
This is Vietnam’s best kept secret and we only stumbled upon this small fishing village by accident when looking for an over night stay on our way travelling down the country from North to South. We had no intentions of staying more than one night and before we knew it we had been there 5 nights.
This hidden gem is located directly on the beach and is best known for being a quaint little fishing village. To be honest there isn’t a lot to do in Dong Hoi, but this is the exact reason why we loved it so much. We lazed on the beach and every now and again we would play beach volley ball with some of the locals.
At night the locals set up beach restaurants directly on the sand and everyone comes to escape the heat from the day and bath and eat at the beach. We sat here almost every night and dined on fresh seafood and beer, which was only interrupted by a brief swim in the sea to cool off.
There are a number of budget options for accommodation but there are also some stunning resorts located right on the sea which have their very own private beach. If you are looking to get away from the tourist crowds and get in some relaxation time. This is the place for you!
1. Koh Rok, Thailand
I have travelled to Thailand ten times and although it is one of my favourite countries in South East Asia it is getting harder to find areas where limited tourists have visited. Last time we were there we were on a mission to find an island that was less commercialised and was more about the natural beauty of the island rather than the partying. We found an island named Koh Rok, after days of research the only way to get to the island was to book with a snorkel tour from Koh Lanta.
Before we knew it we had been dropped on this remote paradise island and we were amazed at just how unpopulated the island really was. We were sharing the island with only two other couples and the park ranger.
The island has some cabins for rent or you can take the budget option and stay in the tents provided for a cheaper rate. Each morning we would rise and walk along the deserted beach and then snorkel in turquoise waters before breakfast. We would spend the rest of the day either hiking, kayaking or lazing in the hammocks and reading a good book. This is the Thai paradise that I had searched for a long time.
We packed enough food for 7 days and cooked meals ourself, there is also only one restaurant on the island, but you may get sick of the same food every day so be sure to bring a variety of snacks for an extended stay.
Staying on Koh Rok was definitely a highlight of our time in Thailand and next we are in search of other secluded areas in the Similian Islands in Thailand.
Where in South East Asia would you like to visit?