On my 3-month trip around Southeast Asia I visited five different countries including: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and The Philippines. I traveled slowly and managed to stop at a variety of different places within these countries. From tropical beaches to thick jungles, from historical sites to natural wonders, from big cities to small villages. I saw them all and everything in between. In this post, I am going to be listing my top 5 picks for the best places to travel in Southeast Asia.
I am only able to comment on the countries and places that I visited, so naturally this list is going to be shrouded in bias but there’s not much that I can do about that. Just take these five places as personal recommendations from someone to has traveled there. Enjoy!
PALAWAN – THE PHILIPPINES
The first place I visited and undoubtedly one of my favourites. Palawan is a province in the Philippines and home to two popular destinations– El Nido and Coron Island.
El Nido was the livelier of the two with some nice beaches close by and plenty of places to eat and drink. Coron was more relaxed and I personally found there to be more easily accessible activities in Coron such as markets, hot springs and an awesome mountain to climb with an amazing view.
Both destinations offer daily boat trips that allow you to explore other islands, lagoons and beaches around the area. If I had to pick one over the other – it would be Coron. I preferred the boat trip and I was also a big fan of the quieter, relaxed, atmosphere here.
Overall Palawan was a great first place to visit. The water, beaches and atmosphere are what you would probably visit for.
DONSOL – THE PHILIPPINES
The second Philippine destination on the list is Donsol – a small town in the south of Luzon. There is only one reason why people decide to visit Donsol and that reason is WHALE SHARKS.
Whale Shark boat trips take place every morning. Not only is it very likely that you are going to be able to see and swim with a whale shark in Donsol but it’s also incredibly cheap. I think I paid around $15 USD for a whole morning boat trip and once in a lifetime experience!
Donsol is a nice place to visit even without the whale shark attraction. You can explore the town, go and watch some fireflies at night and the ‘Woodland Beach Resort’ was probably the best hostel I stayed in throughout my entire trip.
SIEM REAP – CAMBODIA
Siem Reap is the best-known place on this list as it is home to the 7th wonder of the world – Angkor Wat.
Of course, Angkor Wat is a must see for anyone travelling Southeast Asia but the city of Siem Reap was also decent place to visit. Its jam packed with bars, restaurants and other entertainment – even went to see a movie here. I think there’s more day time activities too but I didn’t do them. I just chilled out, rode a bike through town, enjoyed the free breakfast and swam in my hostels pool.
KOH RONG SAMLOEM – CAMBODIA
I was personally really excited to visit the Koh Rong islands in Cambodia because I knew that the season of Survivor that was airing at the time (Survivor Koh Rong) had been filmed there. Despite this obvious reason why I would enjoy visiting the Koh Rong, it was also a fun time generally.
Staying on Koh Rong Saloem was the closest thing I have ever experienced to being stuck on a deserted island. Sure, there were some other tourists and a handful of (overpriced) restaurants but that was pretty much it. Shelter for the night consisted of a wooden hut on the beach. I spent all day lying on the beach and floating about in the bath-like sea.
I would recommend the island experience on Koh Rong for anyone visiting Cambodia (especially if you’re a Survivor fan)
DA LAT – VIETNAM
Da Lat was unlike anywhere else I visited while travelling Southeast Asia. The weather was refreshingly cool here due to the city being in Vietnam’s central highlands. It’s for this reason that Da La has earned the nickname “The City of Eternal Spring.”
Da Lat also had very different natural surroundings to what I had experienced in Southeast Asia up to that point. The expansive pine forests and lakes gave the city a very distinct European feel.
I spent quite a while in Da Lat because I liked it so much. It was nice just to walk around the city, drink the amazing local coffee and haggle with locals at the markets – I wasn’t very successful at the last one.
There were loads of adventure type activities on offer but I chose not to do many of them because my budget was dwindling at that point. However, for my birthday, I did decide to visit the local waterfall which was accessible by a long slide/rollercoaster down the side of a hill. That was pretty fun.