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Southeast Asia, backpackers paradise

Buddha head strangled by a tree in Ayutthaya, Thailand Southeast asia is where backpacking was invented. Here, the first Lonely Planet travel guide was written.

Bangkok evolved as the central hub for backpackers. Every long-term traveler passes it several times, whether they use airplanes to travel or not. But there are more hubs, like Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, or Bali.

From these hubs, you can choose either a laid back tourist destination, or one of the many off the beaten track adventures.

How to travel SE Asia

Common denominators for Southeast Asia are the weather, and the accommodation. The weather is hot and humid, and accommodation is cheap.

Obviously, there are exceptions to these rules. In mountainous areas it can be cooler, and luxurious accommodation can be expensive here, too.

But in general, a backpacker can travel light in Southeast Asia. No need to carry a tent and matras, and you can leave your wintercoat at home, too.

What is on offer?

What's on offer, and how to get there depends on the country. Infrastructure is not as good everywhere, and although Buddhist temples are mostly common, the rest differs widely.

Tour operators are mostly country-specific. But there are a number of worldwide operators that have good tours in (SouthEast) Asia:

Kumuka Worldwide Asian Adventures

Responsibletravel.com Asia Tours

Adventure Central tours in South and Southeast Asia

As you can see, a lot to choose from. So we will get more specific in our country and destination specific pages, see below.

Vietnam, easy exploring with tours or independent

Magnificent scenery, colorful hill tribes, nice beaches, temples, hectic cities, and the unique Mekong Delta, there is a lot to explore in Vietnam.

Rowing to the Perfume Pagoda, Vietnam

But if you hate annoying touts offering postcards, tours, hotels, shoe shine, etcetera, you might want to avoid this country. Although it is still a communist country, it is the nature of the Vietnamese to sell, sell, sell. They adapted communism, and even Buddhism to reflect their capitalist nature.

Nevertheless, if you know how to handle these touts, Vietnam is an easy country to explore. You can go to any highlight on an organized tour. Or you can hire a motorbike with a guide almost anywhere.

Independent travel is also possible. But every now and then, you might ask yourself why to go through all the hassle, and not just take a tour.

Read more about this fascinating country, and find out about what different travel agents are offering on our Vietnam Adventure Travel page.

Or check out our experiences in the following regions of Vietnam:

Places to visit:

Cambodia, Shocking History, and Smiling Faces

Cambodia is well known as the country of the Khmer Rouge. But only if you visit this country you realize the horror of this regime, that kept Cambodia in its power from 1975 to 1980, and fought a guerilla war that ended only in 1997.

Smiling faces on the Banyon temple in Angkor Wat

In earlier history, Cambodia was the center of power in South East Asia. The Khmer empire included Birma, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, it's center was the city of Angkor in North West Cambodia.

Remnants of both era's are very visible in the Cambodia of today. The Angkor Wat temple conplex is the largest and best archeological site in the world. But it is the recent history that has more impact: everybody older than 30 has lost family members in the war.

Yet, it is amazing how happy the people are. It is in the nature of the Cambodian people to enjoy life, and be grateful for what they have. Even the temples have smiling faces.

There is a lot to see and do for the Adventure Traveler in Cambodia. The infrastructure is bad, so it is still untouched by tourism, apart from Angkor Wat.

Find out how to explore this unspoiled country on our Cambodia Adventure Travel page. Or check out our tales of the following places:

Places to visit:

Thailand: Something for everybody

Thailand is the most popular destination in South East Asia. It has magnificent islands and beaches in the south, and jungle and hill tribes in the North. In between are lots of temples, modern and ancient.

Bamboo Rafting in Northern Thailand

Although most tourists arrive here on a package tour, Bangkok is also the travel hub for independent travelers.

One might consider that Thailand is too crowded with tourists. But, that may have a reason. Thailand has the infrastructure, sights, tours, and friendliness to cater for almost anyone. And if you search well enough, you can find unspoiled places, too.

Read more on our Thailand Adventure Travel page. Or check out our tales of the following places:

Places to visit:

The Malaysian Peninsula and Singapore: a multi cultural melting pot

In Malaysia, the population is almost equally divided into three groups: the Malay, the Chinese, and those of Indian descent. On top of that, there is the English colonial heritage. Enough culture to dive into. Moorish Train Station in Kuala Lumpur

Traveling on the peninsula is relatively easy. The infrastructure is good, and there is a lot of accommodation for all kinds of travelers.

Malaysia might therefore be the perfect destination for first time overseas adventure travelers. Discover the different cultures, relax on one of the islands, and visit the jungle of Taman Negara, too. All withour too much hassle.

Find out some good itineraries on the Malaysia Adventure Travel page. And check out the possibilities in the following locations:

Places to visit:

Indonesia: many different cultures in a large Archipelago

Indonesia can in fact not be seen as a single country. Every island in this archipelago has its own identity, its own people, its own culture.

Homestay at the ridge of a crater in West Sumatra, Indonesia

Not every island in Indonesia is as accessible or interesting. But as a whole, Indonesia has much to offer for the adventure traveler.

Whether you search for nature and wildlife, active volcanoes, ancient tribes, religious culture, or nice beaches, it can all be found in Indonesia.

Most of the tourists in Indonesia visit Bali. But there is much more out there. So much, that the standard two month visa is actually too short for most independent travelers. But renewing that visa is in fact an adventure in itself.

Read more about traveling in this archipelago on our Indonesia Adventure Travel page. Or read about our experiences first:

Places to visit:

Borneo: Malaysia, but different

The other part of Malaysia consists of the states Sarawak and Sabah, and in between is the independent state of Brunei. The Malaysian infrastructure combined with the indigenous culture of the interior of Borneo: a very special destination Male Orangutan in Sepilok

Main attractions in Malaysian Borneo are the headhunters and the Orangutans. Both are almost unique to Borneo, and endangered.

It is up to you how you want to explore those, and other features of Borneo. With daytrips from a luxurious hotel in Kuching, or with basic facilities in a jungle camp in Sabah. Or anything in between.

Find out these different options on our Borneo Adventure Travel page. And read about our experiences here:

Places to visit:

Laos: Laid Back and undeveloped

The democratic republic of Lao (Laos for short) is the most bombed and least developed country in Asia. If you like Thailand, but hate mass tourism, this where you should go. Street in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is one of our favorite places in the world. Although many tourists have found it these days, it is still a very laid back place, and there are enough places to hide from other tourists.

And it only gets better when you get away from Luang Prabang. Although some places are developing a backpacker area, just beyond that is the unspoiled nature you were looking for.

Read more on the Laos Adventure Travel page. And read about our experiences in:

Places to visit:

Return to top of Adventure Travel Southeast Asia page



Take the Bike!

Public transport in Southeast Asia is mostly fine for independent travellers. But if you have more time on your hands, and want to really dive into the local culture, landscapes, and meeting people in the countryside, take the Bike!!

Check out this Bicycle adventures website for great tales and tips for this kind of travelling in Southeast Asia (and elsewhere).


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