Southeast Asia is a top destination for world travellers. The tropical climate allows visitors to enjoy the region year-round and offers unspoiled natural habitats for exploring. Its rich history and ancient sites keep visitors coming back year after year. Both budget-minded and luxury travellers can find a wide range of accommodations to fit their needs, whether it’s under a jungle canopy or a secluded beach bungalow. If you’re looking to explore Southeast Asia off the beaten path, check out these hidden gems.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Photo by Claire Backhouse via Flickr.com
Take the overnight cruise along the Mekong River into stunning Luang Prabang. East meets West in this sleepy town, where traditional life mixes with French colonial influences. Adventurous travellers will find plenty to do, such as canoeing to the Buddha Caves or exploring the Kuang Si Falls. Cultural enthusiasts should get up early to see the alms ceremony, where locals offer food to Buddhist monks. Each evening, travellers can shop the Night Market and pick up hand-made goods or local delicacies, and enjoy French-Lao cuisine along the river or under a canopy of stars.
Koh Phayam, Thailand
Photo by Eugene Zagidullin via Flickr.com
For a truly off-grid experience, take one of the boats from Ranong to Koh Phayam island. A single lane connects one end of the island to the other, so you’ll be pleasantly on your beach of choice. There are no cars on the island, but travellers can rent motorbikes or take moto-taxis. In the middle of the island, you’ll find a small collection of shops and cafes. With very little Wi-Fi access, you’ll be forced to spend your days hiking through untouched jungle. Look for wild boars, toucans, and great hornbills along the way. Local bungalows offer batik classes, beach yoga, and kayak rentals during the day. The rest of your time can be spent relaxing on powdery sand beaches and enjoying the spicy cuisine.
Photo by HRAMIREZ via Flickr.com
Local guides offer motorcycle tours of this unique region, where rolling hills hide coffee, tulip, and fruit plantations. Backed by jagged mountains, this region stays cool year-round and offers a much-needed respite from the more tropical areas of Vietnam. History buffs will enjoy the last emperor’s palaces and traditional Vietnamese pagodas scattered throughout Dalat. For something more cultural, sample locally produced goods or tour the market downtown. Outdoor activities are plentiful here too; travellers can enjoy nearby mountain hikes, canyoning, and waterfalls.
Photo by Don Wong via Flickr.com
This cultural hub is a favourite for those travelling off the beaten path. A strange mixture of Chinese, Malaysian, and English culture, there is plenty to see and do in this thriving city, the capital of Penang Island. Visit the impressive colonial mansions or sample authentic Chinese dim sum. Visit Little India to find gorgeous silk clothing or catch a Bollywood flick. For adventure-seekers, make your way across Penang Island to Taman Negara, the world’s oldest tropical rain forest. Here you can enjoy jungle trekking and ecotourism.
Wherever your Southeast Asia adventure takes you will be unforgettable. Just be sure to explore these hidden gems before their secret is out.