Southeast Asia backpacking has become very popular in recent years. Is it because the area is exotic—culturally rich, full of sounds and smells and colors , and rich with flora and fauna unlike most of us northern hemisphere folks have ever seen? Is it because visas are easy to get, or because you can travel on a shoestring? Is it because of the food—cheap, tasty, and on every street corner? Maybe it’s a combination of all of these. At any rate, backpackers are flocking to Southeast Asia in great numbers, and they’re coming back full of good stories and with memories to last a lifetime.
Perhaps the first question: How many Southeast Asian countries do you want to see on your backpacking adventure? You could plan a whirlwind trip that encompasses them all, but you might end up with only shallow experiences. But it’s hard to choose. There’s a lot here inviting the backpacker.
• Thailand—the most popular Southeast Asian destination for backpackers; a friendly place with wonderful tropical wildernesses and plenty of cultural icons to explore.
• Vietnam—Some of the best food in Southeast Asia, a resolute, driven, but still friendly people, and a wonderfully rich culture: you won’t be sorry you put this one on your list.
• Singapore—A land which prides itself on cleanliness, Singapore is the most modern of the Southeast Asian nations. Want to see a place that runs like clockwork, without the dust? Visit Singapore.
• Philippines— 7000 islands, more beaches than you can count, and some wonderful volcanoes and a beautiful people as well.
• Myanmar (Burma)—a land of mystery relatively uninfluenced by today’s consumer culture, many blocked-off portions of this country are now accessible to the modern backpacker.
• Malaysia – Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures blend—and don’t blend—to make for a wonderfully diverse and yet united land. Malaysia is part peninsula and part island, and both parts have plenty to offer an intrepid explorer.
• Laos—“Land of a million elephants”, this backwater country has seen an overdue explosion in tourism in recent years, but you’ll still find lots of scarcely-visited hidden villages and undeveloped natural land to explore.
• Indonesia – More than 17,000 islands to explore, some inhabited, some not; more than 300 languages spoken, this country is one you could spend every summer in your life exploring and never get done.
• East Timor—perhaps the poorest of the southeast Asian countries, but a country that deserves recognition aside from its bloody past
• Cambodia—slightly lawless, but full of beautiful temples, smiling, optimistic people, and wonderfully undeveloped coastal land.
• Brunei – a tiny island nation that has made its fortune in oil.
Southeast Asia backpacking can be an adventure for a lifetime; one that never finishes. If you’ve only got one summer, our recommendation is that you choose one or two countries so that you can take some time doing indepth exploration and experiencing everything this region has to offer. Southeast Asia at it’s finest, is more than just a cursory trip through the region: you want to go slow enough you can really soak up the cultural richness and get yourself lost in some of the wild backcountry. Whichever way you choose to travel, though, Southeast Asia backpacking will be an experience you’ll never forget!