After digging up some past Southeast Asian experiences for my recent Budgeting For Travel article, it reminded me why I love Southeast Asia so much.
I traveled to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand at the end of 2012 and it was a game changer. I’ve traveled to every continent, except for Antarctica, yet literally every single day, I dream about going back to Asia, so much so that every time I plan a trip somewhere new, a part of me is always so tempted to ditch the new trip and go back to Southeast Asia.
Here are the 11 things I love about Southeast Asia, why I miss it every single day and why you should go now:
1. The Food
The food in Southeast Asia is so amazingly delicious! Namely, Thai food. It’s worth going to Thailand just for the food. Pad thai, stirfries, noodles, curries, fried banana, mango sticky rice and tropical fruit all day, every day. Taking a cooking class is a fun, cheap and useful activity to do in Thailand. I was also a big fan of the fresh fruit smoothies and coconut water straight from a coconut. Coconut water is definitely an acquired taste, but learn to like it because it contains necessary electrolytes, which you’ll need because it’s hot as hell in Southeast Asia, so you never stop sweating.
2. The People
Southeast Asian people are some of the most cheerful, welcoming, warm and friendly people I have ever met (Vietnam excluded). How the locals treat you as a traveler will have a major impact on your experiences in that country. If the people are friendly and polite, you will feel safe, but if the people are unfriendly, miserable and rude, you will have a hard time feeling safe or welcome in that country.
3. It’s Cheap
Southeast Asia is stupid cheap, I mean so cheap that it might as well be free. It’s ridiculous. And I mean that in the best way possible. If you’re backpacking, you can expect to pay $3-5/night for a bed and $1 for an amazing freshly cooked meal. In most places, you can get by on $15-20/day, depending on how much you party and shop.
4. You Never Have To Do Anything For Yourself Again
Because Southeast Asia is so cheap, you never have to do anything for yourself again. Forget about doing your own laundry, cooking, cleaning or doing a manicure or pedicure yourself. The hostels don’t have communal kitchens, so cooking isn’t even an option because you can get a delicious meal made to order for $1. And if you book a bus ticket to another city, you don’t even have to worry about getting to the bus station yourself because a tuktuk driver will pick you up from your hostel and bring you there. You don’t even have to cut your own fruit because someone will do that for you too. It really doesn’t get any easier than that.
5. The Cheap Massages
Speaking of pampering, $5 one hour full body massages are a thing in South East Asia. A very good thing. I indulged on the regular, without guilt, because to get a one hour massage at home is $100, so I took full advantage while I could.
6. It’s Easy to Travel
South East Asia is very easy to travel. For most trips between cities, you take a bus, which is typically only a few dollars. The buses are typically fairly short distances and a tuktuk driver will pick you up from your hostel and bring you to the bus station. But if you’re short on time and you have a longer distance to cover, you can find a cheap, quick flight instead.
7. The Landscape
The landscape in Southeast Asia is stunning and so varied between countries. It has the expected and the obvious like jungles and beautiful white sand beaches with turquoise water, but it also has rice fields, caves, waterfalls, and mountains and more.
8. Crossing The Street Makes You Appreciate Your Life
Learning how to cross the crazy streets of Southeast Asia by yourself is a rite of passage, much like learning how to tie your shoes. It’s pure madness, especially in the big cities like Bangkok, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. If you’re a fresh off the boat traveler and you see someone cross a busy street in a big city, it legitimately looks like that person is committing suicide because traffic is constantly coming at them from all directions and there aren’t any traffic lights or crosswalks. The trick is to fairly blindly walk out into the traffic because the drivers are used to it, so you have to trust that they’ll drive around you. If you freak out and stop, that’s when accidents can happen because it throws off the drivers. You can follow locals across the street until you get comfortable with crossing by yourself.
9. The Shopping
Oh the shopping. I really enjoy shopping in other countries because all of the unique worldly treasures you buy will remind you of your travels and adventures when you are back home. I brought home a garbage bag full of treasures. And it’s ridiculously cheap, of course, so you can’t afford not to.
I had many encounters with elephants in Southeast Asia, so I learned that they’re some of the sweetest animals. Love!
Cambodia- my favorite place in Southeast Asia and one of my favorite countries, period. Out of all the countries and continents I’ve traveled, if there was one place I could go back to first, I’d pick Cambodia in a heartbeat. Despite what its people have been through, they are some of the most warm, welcoming and friendly people I have ever met. Everyone I met in my travels that had been to Cambodia absolutely adored it as well. There’s just something about it that captures your heart and I can’t wait to go back.