A Backpacker’s Paradise: 6 Best Places to Visit in Southeast Asia

view of paradise

Southeast Asia is so full of diverse cultures, delicious foods, and beautiful scenery that it might be difficult to decide where exactly to start. 

Are you a backpacker looking for your next destination? Here are some of the best places to visit in Southeast Asia.

The Best Places to Visit in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is a popular destination for those backpackers looking to globe-trot inexpensively. There is plenty to see and do while island hopping, new cultures to learn about and immerse in, and delicious foods to taste and experience. 

There is something for everyone, from adventurous activities like diving or whitewater rafting to visiting temples and other types of cultural sites, this will be a trip of a lifetime and one you may never forget. All while not breaking the bank. 

1. Angkor, Cambodia

Angkor flourished as the capital city of the Khmer Empire between the 9th and 15th centuries. Home to the famous temple, Angkor Wat, it is one of Cambodia’s most popular tourist attractions. 

One of the best ways to see the Angkor temples is to rent a bike or tuk-tuk to get around the grounds. The whole site will take you about 3 hours to explore casually or almost half the day if you plan on taking your time. 

The temples are an ancient religious site and visitors need to dress modestly. It is requested that you cover your upper arms and wear shorts to the knee in order to gain access to the highest level of Angkor Wat. 

2. Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay is located in northern Vietnam and is speckled with over a thousand limestone towers known as karsts. These karsts raise up out of the bay, some of them are hollow, arched, or topped with thick jungle growth. 

Visitors to Halong will find plenty of things to do like taking a guided boat tour around the karsts and explore inside some of the limestone caves. You can also visit one of the larger islands and see the vegetation, views, and even visit some of the floating villages of the area.  

3. Ifugao Rice Terraces, Philippines

The Ifugao Rice Terraces are located at the base of the Cordillera mountain range. These breathtaking terraces were carved out of the landscape by the ancestors of the Ifugao tribe and have been used to cultivate rice, and other crops, for over 2000 years. 

The Ifugao tribe is a member of the larger Igorot group who has lived in this mountain range for thousands of years and because of the difficult terrain was never encountered by the Spanish, and later, American colonizers. Because of this their culture and practices were retained and not influenced by the new colonial cultures. 

When visiting this beautiful site, take time to show respect to the people of the Ifugao tribe who continuously work to maintain the fields and admire the creativity it took to farm these difficult lands. 

4. Borobudur, Java

Borobudur is located on the island of Java and is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. This famous temple was built in the 8th and 9th centuries by the kingdom of Sailendra and took roughly 75 years to complete. 

This ancient temple is the most popular location for Buddhist pilgrimage. It symbolizes a path to enlightenment and pilgrims will begin by following clockwise passageways and begin to gradually ascend towards the center to the tallest point. 

If you would like to follow the same pilgrimage path then you can hire a guide who will take you along the pathways while explaining the different reliefs and their stories and meanings. You do not have to follow the entire journey but can see a few of the reliefs and then ascend to the top and enjoy the awe-inspiring view from the top. 

5. Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

If you are looking to take a rest and get some beach time in on your backpacking adventure across Southeast Asia, then Ko Phi Phi is the perfect place to slow down and take it easy. 

This coastal location has been featured in blockbuster movies, and its no wonder. While standing on the white sand beach you will look out onto the clear blue sea and tall jutting limestone karsts with the beautiful lush green mountains behind you. 

This is a great location to spend some time lounging on the beach or going for a swim. You can also hire a guide to take you out snorkeling or diving or a boat can take you around to see the sites and maybe keep an eye out for dolphins. 

After a relaxing day spent on the water, you might be ready for a little nightlife. Ko Phi Phi is well known for its parties where you can dance, have a cocktail, listen to some live music or watch a Muay Thai fight. 

6. Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

Mount Kinabalu is the tallest mountain in Borneo and is a sacred location for the indigenous tribes of Sabah. This mountain has been a sacred resting place for the dead and is a spiritual focal point to the tribe. 

These days Mount Kinabalu is a popular destination for those looking to climb to the top because it doesn’t require the person to be in peak physical condition. You can hire a guide to take you to the top over two days and camp overnight. If you plan on hiking, be sure to get a climbing pass ahead of time because there is a limited amount available each day. 

You can also explore the surrounding jungle or beautiful gardens of the area and visit some of the villages in the area to learn more about the local culture. 

Which Places Are You Excited to Visit? 

These are only some of the best places to visit in Southeast Asia, there are many more areas to explore. Which places are you excited to see on your backpacking adventure? 

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