Southeast Asia is a part of the world where you can have experiences you won’t find anywhere else. The colors are brighter, the flavors are stronger and the history is older. The parties are even crazier, lasting all night and bringing in travelers from every corner of the globe. Only you can decide what kind of adventures you want to add to your Southeast Asian bucket list, but here are a few of our favorites worth considering.
Commune with Nature
Get up close with wildlife (but do so responsibly). Southeast Asia has so many animal encounters, but some should be avoided because of the mistreatment of the creatures. Ensure that the companies you’re working with a responsible, like the Elephant Nature Park.
Live the beach bum life. Some of the beaches in the region are better than others, but spend some time relaxing and getting yourself on island time. Koh Tao was my personal favorite!
Learn about locals with a rural homestay. You’ll find listings for homestays all over Southeast Asia, especially in Vietnam. Stay with a local family, eat meals with them and see how they live.
See a World Heritage Site by junk boat in Halong Bay. Go kayaking in the bay and explore some of the caves that make the area so impressive.
World’s Best Shopping
Haggle for the best deals at a local market. Shopping in Southeast Asia is unrivaled, especially in the markets like Chatuchak in Bangkok. Be ready to negotiate for the best price, but don’t get hung up if it’s down to small change.
Wear harem pants. I didn’t jump on this bandwagon, but can certainly see the appeal. You’ll find them at markets all over the region in every imaginable pattern and color.
Get custom made clothing and accessories in Hoi An. This Vietnamese city is a favorite among travelers for the cheap tailors. Get all forms of clothes made as well as shoes and bags. Do your research on tailors and don’t get scammed into buying something you don’t want!
Ride in a tuk tuk. The photo ops are half of the appeal, but they’re not the mode of transportation everywhere. Avoid them for the most part in Bangkok, but you’ll have to take them in Cambodia.
Get around by boat, train and bus. There’s no one mode of transportation that is best in every country. The trains in Vietnam were great, but Cambodia has no rail line. Laos is known for their slow boats. Give everything a chance! You’ll be sure to get some great stories out of it.
Eat food from a stall (even if you don’t know what it is). There were plenty of occasions when I ate something when I wasn’t entirely sure of what it was. Don’t be afraid to try the street food, as it’s what makes the experience.
Drink from a bucket. It’s more for the photo op than anything else, but buckets are found in tourist hubs like Bangkok and Koh Pha Ngan. They’re full of Thai Red Bull, whiskey and a concoction of other things. Just don’t overdo it!
Sip on bia hoi on a street corner in Vietnam. The “fresh beer” is a uniquely Vietnamese experience, particularly when you’re sitting on a tiny stool surrounded by locals. The cost is pennies, but don’t expect the taste to be that great.
History and Culture
Visit a temple. It’s like going to Europe without seeing a church: next to impossible. Whether it’s the Grand Palace in Bangkok or the Angkor temples of Cambodia, you learn so much about the countries by seeing holy places. Bring a few items like scarves and long pants to cover up for these visits.
Learn to scuba dive. Not everyone is cut out for it, but if you’ve ever wanted to learn, here’s the place to do it. Not only are prices cheap, but it’s also some of the best conditions and wildlife spotting opportunities.
Celebrate the world’s best festivals. Songkran, Full Moon Party, Yi Peng and Tet are just a few of the celebrations to add to your itinerary.
Learn from the region’s history. To fully understand the countries you’re in, go on a tour or visit a museum like Saigon’s War Remnants Museum.