A South East Asia Vacation is on top of any traveler’s list wanting to plunge in the sea of long term travel. From gap year students, to people leaving their corporate jobs and also the normal holiday makers – it caters to everybody, with love. South East Asia has been on the top of traveler’s list since the 1970s and yet, it never stops amazing, especially with how it has preserved of its original culture. Signature South East Experiences are those, that will make you come back for more.
These experiences make you whisper ‘Oh, we are in South East Asia’ and indulge in its charm. Here I am listing some of the best ones for you along with the place you can have the best of that experience!
Gaping at the Waterfalls
Luang Prabang, Bolevan Plateau and 4000 Thousand Islands Laos
If you meet someone who has travelled the whole of SEA and ask them the best country to visit in South East Asia – most of the times they will say Laos. Not for the ease of travelling, but for the authenticity.
Laos is the latest entry in South East Asia travel circuit and is gaining popularity by the day (as if that’s a good thing!). People are very hospitable and simple and the country side cannot be described in words.
Look no further if all you care for is to be in the arms of nature. Chasing the waterfalls on the Bolevan Plateau was something I shall never forget in my whole life. Read a piece dedicated to Southern Laos itinerary here, including waterfall chasing at the Bolevan Plateau.
In one single trip, I saw 5 waterfalls, spectacular one after the other!
Tad Kuang Si in Luang Prabang
Tad Fane, Tad Champi and Tad Yuang on the Bolevan Plateau
Li Phi on the 4000 Islands
Khone Phapheng Waterfalls, near Cambodia border. Its the 3rd largest in the world by mean flow rate.
The only one where you are allowed to swim is Tad Kuang Si in Luang Prabang. Each one else though is completely worth it, and more!
The Temple Run
Angkor Wat Cambodia along with Laos and Bangkok
At one point of time, it sure gets too much! Even for a temple lover like me. Temple run can become the most tiring part of your ‘Must do South East Asia’ list, therefore it is very important to choose carefully. And of course, letting go!
However, what I did was way much more than what I have mentioned here. However, as I said, I am a temple lover and a culture monger. So if you only would like to do the ones that you won’t rue once you are back, go for the following –
Angkor Wat in Cambodia – of course! What a cliché, even if I wouldn’t say it, you would do it, right! However, any trip to South East Asia is incomplete without doing Angkor Wat, so let me re-emphasize.
The biggest temple complex in the world, Angkor Wat is of outstanding Universal value and hence obviously a World Heritage Site. You have the option of buying a one day or a three day pass. I bought the 3 day one because in one day, you can only see a bit of this 400 Sq Km site. Even after that, I don’t find myself qualified to do a piece of writing on Angkor, waiting for my next visit hence J
Make sure to do some research on the internet and hire a good guide, because Khmer guides don’t speak good English always. Invest on a trip that you are going to remember for the rest of your life. Even during the lean season, the crowds were quite sizeable, so if you are heading there during the peak months, get ready to see some crowds.
Other South East Asia temples that you shouldn’t miss are –
Wat Arun, Bangkok Thailand. Read my special piece on Offbeat things to do in Bangkok including Wat Arun at night.
Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok Thailand
Wat Xieng Thong Luang Prabang, Laos
Say no to boredom from the temple run!
Feel at home
Stay in an authentic Tribal Homestay
There are an immense number of ethnic tribes in South Asia. In fact, given so much of diversity in the tribes, it has been one of the crucial reasons for the political instability in South East Asia.
Politics apart, natives are of course the most interesting and sought after people for any traveler. For nothing else, but their originality and the evolution they have seen through the time and face today.
Hence, one of the most interesting highlight of a South Asia Trip has to be an authentic tribal homestay experience. Read about my experience in an Authentic Tribal Homestay in Chiang Rai.
I am yet to discover the best homestay experiences in the whole of South East Asia. However, can surely say that if you have to truly experience Thailand, go for a homestay in the North of Thailand and then your Thailand experience shall be complete. Not without.
The Monk Business
Tak Bat Luang Prabang and Chatting with the Monks Chiang Mai
Whether you are travelling to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar or Cambodia – Monks are everywhere! Well, makes sense – South East Asia being predominantly Buddhist. Seeing so many saffron clad monks everywhere, it is natural that you would like to get up close and know few insider things about them.
Being from India, I was quite shy and reserved about going to a Monk and start chatting. Partly because I looked upon them very much, and also because they are shy too J Also, I never wanted to offend a Monk’s ascetic beliefs or be rude in anyway.
However, after some time I realized that they are very friendly too. And that was especially after I participated in this very interesting opportunity that one of the temples in Chiang Mai provides. Its called the Monk chat. Read my full article on Non-Touristy things to do in Chiang Mai including the Monk chat.
Wat Suan Dok is the first one who started this Monk chat in Chiang Mai and it happens every 5 to 7 every Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. Many other temples have followed, but in Wat Suan Dok, you shall always find a co-ordinator who is helping the Monks express themselves better in English as they may still be in the learning phase.
I got a lot of answers to my questions that were in mind about Monks or ascetic life in general here. You can also claim your answers, politely, in a Monk chat J
Another experience that has to be on your list of Must do activities in South East Asia is the Alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang. Read in detail about Tak Bat, as it is locally called in one of my articles on Luang Prabang.
It is a touching and a humbling experience. Even though threatened by over-tourism, Tak Bat still continues with as much grace. Therefore, if you decide to participate, I request you to please follow the code of discipline, which is very clearly written on the boards everywhere in Luang Prabang.
– Keep silence
– Be respectful
– Dress properly
– Keep distance
– No flash photography
Staying in a world heritage town
Luang Prabang Laos and Hoi An Vietnam
This is one of the very special experiences of South East Asia. It has two of the most charming World Heritage Towns in the world. Hoi An and Luang Prabang. Of course there are ancient cities and kingdoms also, but I am talking about live towns here.
You walk into any of these towns and you shall feel that you have reached into another era.
Luang Prabang is undoubtedly one of the most charming cities I have ever lived in. Living in Luang Prabang is like living in the French dreams of a Lao girl.
Unlike Vientiane or Siem Reap that also has a lot of French heritage but has lost their own, Luang Prabang is the perfect combination of a very lush Lao and a very chic France. Look at my Luang Prabang Holiday Highlights 2018, from free things to do to not to be missed experiences.
As for Hoi An, I am still dreaming to be there and I shall update you soon once my Hoi An dreams come true! In the meantime, do take a bite of information from Travel Fish about this legendary town of Hoi An.