Adventures in Southeast Asia Stretch from the Glorious Mountains to the Greatest Depths of the Ocean. Which Is Your Favourite Southeast Asian Destination?
Article Updated September 2018
Southeast Asia is a compilation of countries that offers experiences that tests your boundaries of tolerance, awakens all your senses through its culture and culinary attributes and most importantly a wondrous nature not seen in other parts of the world. The combination of all these characteristics provide for a unique experience as you are never quite the same at the end of your journey. Forget the parties, the luxurious villas or even the cheap shopping. The adventures in Southeast Asia exceed far beyond the short term materialistic gains as it takes you on unforgettable escapades, as told by the worldwide travellers.
USEFUL TRAVEL TIPS
- #01 – CLIMBING MOUNT AGUNG, BALI, INDONESIA
- #02 – EMANCIPATION TRIP TO MYANMAR
- #03 – LIGHT FESTIVAL IN CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
- #04 – KOMODO DRAGONS IN KOMODO, INDONESIA
- #05 – MISSION TRIP TO QUEZON, PHILIPPINES
- #06 – TREKKING MT RINJANI, LOMBOK, INDONESIA
- #07 – WILD ORANGUTANS IN BORNEO
- #08 – SNORKELLING IN CORON, PHILIPPINES
- #09 – TRADITIONAL VILLAGE OF WAE REBO, FLORES, INDONESIA
- #10 – BANTEAY SREI IN SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA
- #11 – DIVING IN WAYAG ISLAND IN RAJA AMPAT, INDONESIA
#01 – CLIMBING MOUNT AGUNG, BALI, INDONESIA
By Tamara Belinda @ World Wide Curls
To push yourself past the point that you thought was your breaking point, past your desire to give up, in order to receive an amazing gift at the completion, helps to remind you, just how capable you are. I could not have been prouder of myself for such an experience like climbing Mount Agung to watch the sunrise. It has, so far, been the most rewarding, physical challenge I’ve conquered. Truthfully speaking, the adventure was absolutely and completely spontaneous; a ‘yes’ decision that could not be tamed. Yes, the sun rises every day, but each sunrise and where you see it are never the same.
After a 3 hour ‘nap’ from an already adventurous day at the beach, the early morning trek was an adventure on full adrenaline. In the surrounding darkness, there was nothing but the motivational mantra “I can do this” to keep me focused and moving forward. I became so completely focused on simply moving one foot in front of the other that once I realized that we were above the clouds, it was like waking up. Standing above the clouds for the first time in my life, under the moonlight, I decided to make the rest of the hike under only the moonlight. As much as I wanted to spend time fascinated by the stars and watch the slow-moving rumble of the floating clouds across the night sky, there was still more to climb.
I was still not at the top once the first light of sunrise began to peak above the clouds, so the last twenty to thirty minutes was a literal race against the sun. Tears flowed down my face once I made it to the peak of the mountain, before the sun was above the clouds, proud to have pushed my now aching body. I could not spend any time in relief, relaxation, or recovery, however, as there was still one more thing that I needed to do: Capture the moment. The rising, colorful, crisp, clear sunrise was the best reward for determination and perseverance. To be present for that sunrise at that point of view was a treasure of the moment that can never be duplicated and I don’t wish to try.
#02 – EMANCIPATION TRIP TO MYANMAR
By Daniela Varela @ Bites & KMs
Southeast Asia is a magical place, that’s why it’s so hard to choose only ONE lifetime experience lived there. Having spent almost the last three years between Saigon and Singapore, I wanted to go to Myanmar before it became a massive travel guide destination. Myanmar is the land of where the unknown becomes familiar. Land of the golden faces and skirt wearing man. Singing and charming locals riding their bikes, spitting their red tobacco around, with street dogs that are as peaceful as their monks, with jumping, long tail squirrels and shining blue lizards.
From Yangon to Bagan, the heat, the dirt, the smiles and the peace follows you around. The little bells hanging on top of the stupas or pagodas, whirling magical sounds at the beat of the wind, charming the environment as if it was Buddha itself replying to people’s prayers. This time, I decided to embark on what I called “Emancipation Trip”. I did it not alone as I was first thinking, but by myself, which is different. Life happens, hearts get broken and one needs to move on. This time was different. This time was for real. This time was the beginning of something new. It was scary at times. Very scary. And not because of the destination, I couldn’t feel safer or more at home than in Myanmar. I was scared because I didn’t know what to expect, how to react, how not to miss certain people, how to avoid feeling sad or just lingering around. But I also knew, this was part of it. This is what I was looking for. This is how I would heal. This is how I confront life. Not by patching it up with other people, but just by feeling it, mastering it, every piece of it, with the good and the bad, embracing it and evolving it one day at a time. Looking at life in the eyes and letting it all soak in.
So I bought the ticket, I took a week off, and got my visa. I knew there were many challenges ahead: how to reach the hotel from the airport, how to make it in the local train alone, how to ride a motorcycle, how to move around the magnificent temples if the motorcycle wasn’t an option, how to make it from Yangon to Bagan in an overnight bus, how to deal with my luggage, how to read Burmese.
And the most unbelievable thing was to have no plan and just wonder around the temples. Breathing, talking to locals, eating delicious curry, grabbing a bike and travel as far as possible. That’s how, not only I enjoyed every single minute of it, but also nailed 37 kms in bicycle in just two days by myself, without actually knowing how to ride one, getting to know Bagan and wondering around the temples as if it was a neighborhood I’ve always lived in.
The transforming experience was undoubtedly those smiles; those smiles and happiness you only experience in South East Asia. And this time, Burmese smiles switched my tears into laughs. They just warm your soul and melt your heart!
#03 – LIGHT FESTIVAL IN CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
By Edit Zsido @ Edit Around the World
My best once in a lifetime experience in Southeast Asia has been the Light Festival in Chiang Mai. A while ago I read an article about it and I thought I must participate once but I never imagined that I’ll happen to plan my Chiang Mai trip by accident exactly for that period. I found out just 2 days before going there that it’s happening and I got over excited. Together with other travellers that I met along the way we went outside of the town of Chiang Mai to release thousands of lanterns with our wishes written on them. It has been a truly touching and deeply emotional feeling that will stay in my memories for ever.
#04 – KOMODO DRAGONS IN KOMODO, INDONESIA
By Kate Lloyd @ What Kate and Kris Did
One of our bucket list places in Southeast Asia to visit was Komodo National Park in Indonesia. We studied zoology and ecology at university and seeing Komodo dragons in the wild was a dream. They only live on a few islands in the region, and we saw them on both Rinca and Komodo. Since they can easily kill a person, you have to have a guide with you but when you first see the huge lizards walk towards you, the bloke with you with the big stick doesn’t seem much protection! Even if you’re not a biologist, seeing Komodo dragons in the wild is an incredible experience and one that you shouldn’t miss if you are traveling to South East Asia. You can find more information in our post on how to visit Komodo national park.
#05 – MISSION TRIP TO QUEZON, PHILIPPINES
Abby Vanada @ Living for Jesus
This was without a doubt a trip that changed me as a person. I was on a mission trip for a month with a group of girls from all of the United States. We had spent time with homeless kids, explored markets, road the Jeepne’s which is their form of a taxi, and even ate bugs! For me, I realized how to grow in love for kids. I learned that it’s not about loving the kids who are super cute and everyone loves, but it’s about loving ALL of the kids that we worked with even if they smelled, weren’t the cleanest, or had lice (which were a lot of them). I completely changed as a person from this trip and I am extremely thankful.
After a month of work, my team of girls and I went on a one-night stay at a beach resort in Quezon. We finally had air conditioning, showers, American-style food, beds, and toilets that worked. This experience was the most relaxing of my whole life. I remember the Jeepne driver that took us to the beach told us to stare at the earth for 15 seconds because you will never in your life be in that exact same spot. That was the best advice I’ve ever gotten and I still use it when I travel. The beach itself was truly like one I’d never seen before. It had massive green mountains behind us, sand that was so hot from the sun it made my feet red, and water that was crystal clear I could see thirty feet below! After the entire day on the beach I was fried to a crisp, but nonetheless I have still never felt more relaxed almost two years later. I fell deeply in love with South East Asia, the Philippines specifically, and hope to return one day.
#06 – TREKKING MT RINJANI, LOMBOK, INDONESIA
Alicia Raeburn @ Miles Less Traveled
Pulling up to our hotel prior to the trek, Mt. Rinjani loomed behind it, eerily jutting into the sky on the beautiful sunny day with its peak hidden by clouds. It was then that we really started to panic. Trekking is not something my husband and I really do. Simple day hike? Sure. Multi-day climb up the side of a volcano? Not so much. What, exactly, did we think we were doing here? After a couple days of should we or shouldn’t we and doing all the research we felt we could, we committed to the trek and trusted (hoped, rather) that the experience would be one that was worth our mangled nerves.
The trek was two days, one up the side Mt. Rinjani and the other back down, with the night spent camping on the crater rim. The climb up was gruelling, about 11km at an increasingly vertical slope, with the latter half being done in completely exposed sunlight. At the time, we were in pretty good shape, but we still struggled up that volcano in a way we could not have predicted. We arrived at the rim sweaty, dusty, and wobbly-legged just in time for sunset. As we sipped hot tea and munched on fried bananas, we watched the sun dip behind the western rim of the crater, illuminating the lake below and the mini volcano that sprouted up inside of it. This was one of the first moments in our trip around the world where we realized what it was all for, that this beautiful world is simply too amazing not to explore. It dispelled our fears not just about the trek, but about our trip in general. It turns out, the experience was worth so much more than our mangled nerves, giving us the validation that any reason for travel and exploration is reason enough.
#07 – WILD ORANGUTANS IN BORNEO
Karen Turner @ Wanderlustingk
One of the most special experiences that you can have in Southeast Asia is to see wild orangutans in Borneo. As an animal lover, there is nothing more exciting than to glimpse a mother and her baby high up in the trees—and knowing that she’s free to move around her natural environment encumbered. There’s no guarantee that you’ll see these beautiful animals, but you’re likely to see other endangered wildlife while in Borneo, including proboscis monkeys.
I never realized the magnitude of the environmental damage from plantations and logging until I went to Borneo and I encourage anyone interested in seeing wild orangutans to see them before they’re gone forever. In the Kinabatangan region of Borneo, efforts to ensure that the orangutans survive in the wild are being supported by eco-tourism, which has breathed new life into the region and encouraged the Malaysian government to protect this amazing landscape.
#08 – SNORKELLING IN CORON, PHILIPPINES
Viola Wang @ The Blessing Bucket
Coron is gaining fame as one of the most sought-after destinations in the Philippines, and one of the reasons is its unique snorkelling sites. Beside the aqua blue water, stunning corals, and colourful fishes, you can see several sunken Japanese boats from World War II when you go snorkelling in Coron.
Many tour companies offer snorkelling trips to the shipwrecks. It’s indescribably haunting yet beautiful to observe these ghost ships. So much Titanic vibes! If you want to visit the wrecks that are too deep for snorkelers, you can also join a diving trip. What a once in a life time opportunity it is to witness an artefact from the war period and learn about world history. Definitely a must do activity while visiting the Philippines!
#09 – TRADITIONAL VILLAGE OF WAE REBO, FLORES, INDONESIA
Amalia @ Amelie
Wae Rebo is one of the traditional villages in the island of Flores. Located some 1,100 meters above sea level and tucked away in the mountains of Manggarai region, this beautiful village is not only well-known for its preserved culture and tradition. It is also famous for its unique traditional vernacular architecture. The traditional wooden houses, called Mbaru Niang, that have existed since 18 generations ago, are tall and conical in shape. Each structure has 5 floors which are used for different purposes. The main and biggest traditional house is called Niang Gendang. It is not only used for traditional ceremonies, but it is also the house where the village chief lives along with other 7 family members.
Visiting such an isolated village is not exactly easy – it takes determination to get here! Bad road conditions make the whole journey even harder and longer. It takes at least 7 hours by car from Labuan Bajo to the nearest village of Denge, passing through various landscapes from paddy fields, mountains, to beaches. From Denge village, the journey continued by foot for 3 more hours hiking through some jungles and hills. To be able to reach the Wae Rebo village and be welcomed with smiles by the locals was truly heart-warming. Meeting them and learning about their culture was an experience that I would cherish for the rest of my life.
#10 – BANTEAY SREI IN SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA
Amy Chung & Andrew Bales @ Family Globetrotters
A pilgrimage to Siem Reap is of course to visit Angkor, the capital city of the Khmer Empire. With over 1000 temples sprawled over 40,000 hectares, Angkor is vast. We visited all the major temples on this archaeological site and they were all so rich in history and its bas reliefs completely breathtaking.
We had however heard about the lesser known temple, Banteay Srei. This 10th-century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and took us 45 minutes on the tuk tuk to get there through the bumpy and dusty roads. Banteay Srei is the citadel of the women. It is built mainly of red sandstone and the building themselves are miniature in scale, especially compared to its more famous temples. We thought the carvings in Angkor Wat were intricate but it certainly was nothing compared to the bas relief carvings at Banteay Srei. We stood there looking carefully at every ruin, every shrines and every building. One cannot help but to just shake one’s head in absolute admiration. How did they do this? It is no wonder it is known as the Jewel of Khmer Art. I was very humbled to have seen this for myself and delighted that after 1000 years, it still stands to remind us all of this wonderous place.
#11 – DIVING IN WAYAG ISLAND IN RAJA AMPAT, INDONESIA
Clare Groom @ The Hiking Adventure
We set off from Sorong, West Papua aboard dive boat Calico Jack, bound for one of the remotest parts of the Raja Ampat archipelago. It was to take three days to get to our destination and on the way, we’d be diving and snorkelling in the crystal-clear waters of Indonesia’s finest marine park. The world’s finest marine park, quite possibly.
Arriving at Wayag, mooring between the towering rocks in a blue lagoon that looked like it had been photoshopped (I had to pinch myself that this wasn’t a “filter”!) we were greeted by ten sub-adult reef sharks. Circling the boat, nosing up to it – wondering what we were. After watching the spectacle for some time, we entered the water. The sharks kept a distance but were curious – non-aggressive. I watched as their sleek bodies glided through the water, the light bouncing off the soft waves – it was mesmerizing. We went to a tiny beach on a small uninhabited island, no one for miles, I swam in the shallows and marvelled at the remote, rugged beauty.
I wasn’t supposed to be on this trip. Not being a diver, I wouldn’t have thought about it – I only knew Raja Ampat existed thanks to Blue Planet. My brother gave it to me as a gift, to accompany him and his (our) family on a voyage to celebrate both his 40th birthday and the life of our late mother, whose love of the ocean and its creatures weaved a consistent thread throughout our childhood.World travellers share with Family Globetrotters their most memorable Southeast Asian adventures. Have you done any of these in your travels? #familytravel #southeastasiatravel Click To Tweet
From traversing mountains in Indonesia to mission trips in the Philippines, adventures in Southeast Asia are to be had by all. We certainly hope that these inspiring stories continue to give you the travel bug and that you’ll add them onto your bucket list if it isn’t already on it.
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