Southeast Asia, backpackers paradise
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. From there, you can choose either a laid back tourist destination, or one of the many off the beaten track adventures.
VietnamWe arrive in Vietnam, where communism more and more trades places with capitalism. It comes with very aggressive selling methods and a growing contrast between the rich and the poor. But this war-thorn country still has a lot to offer for adventurous travelers.
the hill tribes and landscapes of Sapa Valley in the North, to the capital Hanoi and its motorbikes, from where we take a tour to the beautiful scenery of Halong Bay. Then we move on along the coast southward, in search for the better weather in Vietnam. Via the central highlands of Vietnam around Dalat we reach
Pham Ngu Lao, the backpacker area of Saigon. On a daytour from Saigon, we visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, before we move on to the Mekong Delta. Along the way, we pass beautiful landscapes, temples, cities and beaches. And of course, a lot of scooters.
Most of the destinations in Vietnam can be visited via the many vietnam tours on offer. Independent adventure travelers, however, do not fancy organised tours in buses with many tourists. But the lack of public transport almost requires taking such a tour. Unless, of course, you have your own means of transport. And then, there's a possibility for guided on and off-road motorcycle tours in Vietnam. For those, check the Offroad Vietnam website.
CambodiaCambodia 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.
Everybody older than 30 has worked in the killing fields. Everybody has lost family members during the war (over 35% of the population was killed). And still, children get killed by landmines still lying around. The country is very poor and has a very bad infrastructure. Yet, it is amazing how happy the people are.
We get impressed by the Tuol Sleng prison and the killing fields in Phnom Penh , take the primitive Cambodian Train to Battambang, where we see the killing caves in a tour through the countryside. Then we move on to Siem Reap, and the Angkor Wat temples. We end up being very impressed by this beautiful country.
Take a look at this Cambodia Travel Guide for more ideas on travelling in Cambodia.
ThailandThailand, or rather the backpacker area around Khao San Road in Bangkok, is the major hub for reaching the rest of south east asia. But it is in itself one of the most popular destinations in the world. The beautiful islands in the South, of which we visit Ko Pha Ngan, the area around the River Kwai, the Historical Parks of Ayutthaya and Sukhotai, and the hill tribe trekkings around Chang Mai in Northern Thailand.
Singapore, Malaysia, and BruneiIn the fifties and sixties of the past century, the former colonies of England in Southeast asia attempted to form a single new nation. Today, the colonies are still separate entities. Sabah and Sarawak, both on the island of Borneo, still belong to the Malasian federation. But Singapore has separated itself. And in between Sarawak and Sabah, there is the independent wealthy state of Brunei.
In Malaysia, we visit Kota Bharu on the Islamic east coast, the jungle in Taman Negara National Park, the multi cultural mix in the capital Kuala Lumpur, Portuguese, Dutch and English colonial history in Malacca and the coastal town of Mersing . After visiting Singapore and Indonesia, we visited the states on Borneo, Sabah, Sarawak, and Brunei . On Sabah, we visited the Orangutan Sanctuary Sepilok, and the jungle camp of Uncle Tan, before we move on to the capital, Kota Kinabalu. In Sarawak, we visited the Niah Caves before we went to Belaga in the hinterlands. Coming back from the hinterlands by boat, we moved on to the capital Kuching, from which we made side trips to Semengoh Orangutan Rehabilitation center and Bako National Park. From Kuching in Sarawak, we moved back to Sumatra in Indonesia without flying. On our way back from Indonesia to Bangkok, we passed Malaysia again, via Georgetown on the island of Penang.
Indonesian ArchipelagoIndonesia 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.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to visit all islands of the Indonesian archipelago in one trip. A maximum 2 month visa prevents that. It is impossible to extend the visa, you have to leave the country first, even if only for a few minutes. We traveled from Singapore to West-Sumatra where we came across the Minangkabau people, muslims with a matrilinear system. We pass crowded West Java to Yogyakarta with its cultural monuments and the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan.
The ferry brings us further to the Hindu culture in Ubud, Bali, before we take a rest on Gili Air , a small island near Lombok. We visit the dragons of Komodo on a Komodo Dragon Cruise, backpacker style before we are dropped off at Flores Indonesia , where we visit ancient villages and the three colored lakes of the Kelimutu volcano.
The island of Sulawesi is our next stop. We visit a dutch fortress in Makassar and move on to the mountains of Tana Toraja , famous for their funeral rituals. Central Sulawesi has suffered from the ethnic fights, resulting from Transmigration. As a consequence, the village of Tentena is very quiet when we visit it, before we have to leave the country to
extend our Indonesian Visa. We take that opportunity to visit the Malaysian part of Borneo.
LaosThe democratic republic of Lao (Laos for short) is the last south east asian country we visit. This little country, situated between Thailand, Myanmar, China, Vietnam and Cmbodia, is the most bombed and least developed country in Asia. We travel by boat from the Thailand border to the majectic cultural capital Luang Prabang. Then by bus to the laid back backpacker village of Vang Vieng in the karst mountains. The tourist route is completed with a visit to the relatively modern capital of Laos, Vientiane.
BhutanBhutan is one of the most isolated nations in the World. Here, happiness is more important than economics. Adventure Travel in Bhutan means exploring a unique traditional culture in a stunning landscape. Read more about Adventure Travel in Bhutan.
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