Southeast Asia is a tremendously popular destination for backpackers, mainly because of how affordable it is and how easy it is to travel around. The backpacker trail is well paved and you will probably find yourself in the company of many others who are doing the same thing you are.
With so many places to see in SE Asia, it’s hard to figure out where you should spend your time. Each place is unique and beautiful, but if you find yourself backpacking at your leisure through SE Asia, these are the places that you simply cannot miss!
EL NIDO, THE PHILIPPINES
El Nido isn’t the easiest place to get to. It requires a flight from Manila to Puerto Princessa and then a 5-6 hour bus ride on rough roads. But this is a location you don’t want to miss. It has constantly been deemed one of the most beautiful in the world because the boat tours take you to gorgeous lagoons with karst cliffs, white sand beaches and turquoise waters. The town is small and it’s easy to rent a scooter to get out into the lush countryside to find hidden beaches.
UBUD, BALI, INDONESIA
In the hills of Bali lies Ubud, a quiet town with cute restaurants and shops. The surrounding rice terraces provide a relaxing atmosphere and you’ll find many jungle resorts and yoga retreats here. You’ll also find Monkey Forest, a sanctuary for monkeys that will climb right up your body if you have any food. You can escape the town on scooter to explore the rice terraces or check out the nearby Balinese temples.
While Singapore is a more expensive city and not necessarily in a backpacker’s budget…you shouldn’t let that deter you from going! There are plenty of things to see and do that won’t break your budget. Head to the Hawker Center for the world’s cheapest Michelin Star meal of chicken and rice, then take a walk around Merlion Park or get a drink at Clark Quay. My favorite thing to do in Singapore is walk among the super trees at Gardens by the Bay. Day or not, they are impressive to see!
KOH PHI PHI, THAILAND
Koh Phi Phi is a backpacker’s paradise, especially if you like the social scene. This small island only has foot traffic, but for having no cars, this place is busy. There are shops, stalls, restaurants and bars on every street. You can catch entertainment on the beach every night and their neon parties are quite popular. One of the biggest draws of the island are the stunningly gorgeous boat tours, including one that goes to Maya Bay, the famous location from the movie The Beach.
HOI AN, VIETNAM
Hoi An is easily my favorite city in Vietnam and a must-see on your backpacking tour. It’s an ancient town with colorful buildings, temples and canals throughout the city. One thing that Hoi An is known for is its custom tailoring. The streets are lined with tailoring shops and the turn around is only a few days, depending on what you have made. Hoi An comes alive at night as colorful lanterns are seen all over the markets.
BORACAY, THE PHILIPPINES
I wouldn’t say Boracay is a typical backpacker location because it’s rumored to be a bit more expensive then other options. However, this island is gorgeous, backpacker friendly and an amazing place to spend a week. White Beach is where most of the action is. It has a sandy boardwalk with hotels and restaurants going up and down the white sand beach. The beaches are beautiful here and it’s not hard to find some affordable places to stay and eat that are right off the beach!
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA
Siem Reap is a fun town to explore and of course, the gateway to Angkor Wat. It is surrounded by ruins that you can venture out to by bicycle or tuk-tuk. The temple complexes can take a few days to thoroughly see. In between temple hopping, there are markets to shop at and fun bars to hang out at during the evening.
Bangkok is like no other city you will see. There are golden temples, street markets, rooftop restaurants and the infamous Khao San Road, where the music is loud and the drinks flow. Bangkok isn’t for everyone but it’s definitely a city you need to experience once. The city is huge and there is a lot to see and do, plus, it is one of the most inexpensive cities to explore.
By Ashley Jansen