We are back for another Follow Me and I’ll Show You _______ post. This time we will show you the amazing culture and diverse landscape of countries in South East Asia starting from Laos, followed by Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and ended in Cambodia. From an ancient Hindu temple of the Angkor to the modern architectural wonder of Singapore, come follow me as I traversed through the land and you will see why South East Asia is one of the most diverse region in the world.
- Vientiane - Laos
- Vang Vieng - Laos
- Jakarta - Indonesia
- Yogyakarta - Indonesia
- Karimunjawa - Indonesia
- Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia
- Penang - Malaysia
- Koh Phangan - Thailand
- Khaosok National Park - Thailand
- Koh Lipe - Thailand
- Bagan - Myanmar
- Siem Reap - Cambodia
- Phnom Penh - Cambodia
- Further Reading for Malaysia
Vientiane - Laos
After I got back from a 3-months trip in Europe, I decided to rest for a few weeks before my wanderlust creeped up on me again and there I was on a plane heading toward Laos.
Vientiane is possibly one of the most quiet and laid back capital city in South East Asia hands down. The traffic is not as bad as in other countries and the people were very welcoming. The laid-back vibe was also due to the city location on the banks of the Mekong river.
Vang Vieng - Laos
After a day in Vientiane, I took a 7 hours mini van ride to the remote village of Vang Vieng. Vang Vieng used to be known as the hippie drug-ridden party town but due to the government crackdown, the city is returning back to its root of being an eco-adventure spot.
Vang Vieng is surrounded by beautiful limestone mountains and a river perfect for tubing and kayaking. The climate is also a little cooler which helped turn this place into a hub for all kinds of outdoor activities.
Vang Vieng is best seen from the river on a kayak so I decided to gear up and kayaked the 8km stretch. It was well worth the sweat. The stunning limestone mountains and the locals living their lives along the river made it quite an interesting sight to see.
Jakarta - Indonesia
After my micro trip in Laos, I decided to tag along with my friend from Finland and visited Jakarta. On our first day we met this local guy who offered to show us around the Old Harbour (Pelabuhan Sunda Kelapa). We were a little reluctant but it turned out to be one of the best thing I did in Jakarta. In this day and age, you would think that the guy would ask us for a tip at the end but to my surprise he didn't! It was just an random act of kindness!
Yogyakarta - Indonesia
After Jakarta, we took a morning train to Yogyakarta and explored the city on a motorbike. This was the second time I'd been to Borobudur and I still found it fascinating. What fascinate me most was how the locals kept asking to take a photo together with us non-stop! It was so funny and entertaining at the same time.
Karimunjawa - Indonesia
We decided to get off the beaten path a little and hopped on a ferry to one of the hidden gem in Indonesia, Karimujawa. This has got to be my favorite place in Indonesia.
The island is small, quiet and no tourist in sight so we were able to experience the traditional Indonesian way of life in its entirety. If you are looking to get away from the usual backpacker crowds, don't go to Bali and come here instead.
After Indonesia, we hopped on a plane to Singapore and went straight to China Town to devour all the street food they had. We know our priorities!
After a day of eating non-stop, I decided to go on a walk at night to shed off some fat. There was no better place to walk at night than at Garden by the Bay during the Light and Sound show.
Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia
After Singapore, we continued our journey up to Malaysia and explored one of the most multi-cultural capital city in South East Asia, Kuala Lumpur. I was surprise at how green the city was as I walked around the Perdana Botanical Garden to get to this monument.
We spent the first day walking around the city center and tracking down all the mosques and temples in Old Town area. You know you are in a truly multi-cultural city when you see a mosque, a buddhist temple and a Hindu temple, all in one area.
Did you know that only 60% of the population is truly Malaysian? The others are either Chinese or Indians. That is pretty low ratio of malaysians considering that the country is called Malaysia.
The next day we went to the Batu Cave to check out the Hindu temple built inside a limestone cavern. It was definitely the highlight of the trip. Unfortunately, there were too many people and I have no back photo to prove it.
Penang - Malaysia
After 3 days in Kuala Lumpur it was time to move on. Penang was the next destination and the best one of all because of all the street food you can eat here. No wonder why they called this place the "Food Paradise"!
The first day I arrived I went out and hunted down all the cool street art in Georgetown and ended my day watching the sunset from the Chew Jetty, a traditional village built on stilts off the coast of Penang.
Unfortunately me and my friend had to depart in Penang, so I spent my time alone walking around the city. I ended up finding these rocks on the coast, where locals like to come to fish and spent an hour in solitude watching the locals do their magic.
The next day, me and a couple of people from the hostel I met a day earlier went to the Kek Lok Si temple, a large complex of chinese temples built on a mountain. The temple is well known for its 30 metres tall bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy.
We went in the morning and was able to have the whole place to ourselves before the tourist buses arrived in the afternoon. We spent half a day there just walking around and getting into all the temples we can.
After 4 days of eating in Penang, it was time for me to leave the city. Seriously, the food here are so diverse and so cheap that I got excited every time I had to eat something. Penang will forever be my Food Paradise.
Koh Phangan - Thailand
After Malaysia, I decided to go to Koh Phangan, Thailand to meetup with the Germans I met at the hostel the day before. When I arrived, the Fullmoon party was in full-swing and I was curious to see what people were raving about.
I still don't know why everyone endorsed the Full moon party so much. I think it is one of the shittiest event Thailand has to offer. Nothing about the party attracts me. The people were all drunk and acting stupid. Everything was so expensive to the point that you feel ripped off everytime you want to take a "songthaew" (shared taxi) some where. It feels nothing like Thailand.
So me and my friends decided to have our own little party in the quiet corner of the island while everyone was screaming and drinking on a beach dancing to trashy EDM music with other 6000+ people.
That said, the nature and what the island has to offer apart from the party were enough of a reason for me to enjoy the visit. But if you are not so much into a party scene then stay away from Koh Phangan. There are better islands out there with way less people and much much quieter.
Khaosok National Park - Thailand
After Koh Phangan, I met up with another friend from France and we went off the grid into the wilderness of Khaosok National Park in the south of Thailand.
Khaosok national park is definitely my favorite place to be in Thailand. I had my fair share of adventure in the park before but I had never gone as deep into the park as I did this time. Since we were deeper into the park than most people, we were able to witness wildlife flourished in front of our eyes. We saw water buffalos, wild boars and several birds and monkeys in the forest.
We stayed at the Klong Yee raft house located in the remote corner of the park. It was so remote we had the whole floating bungalows to ourselves for 4 days. During sunrise, all we had to do was kick the door open and we had the best seat in the national park for the sunrise.
After spending the first day going on safaris on a longtail boat around the park, we decided to hike to the lookout point. Never have I seen something like this before.
The national park is an artificial dam created 40 something years ago and and I was so fascinated to see the flooded landscape from above.
The next day, we went out with the park rangers and trekked up the waterfall trail into the leech infested forest to have lunch.
It was quite an experience to be able to interact with nature in such a close proximity. I was probably a little too close to nature though, walking barefoot and all.
This was possibly one of the best lunch spot in the park. The rangers and the guide were hilarious as they drove each other crazy.
After 4 days off the grid without telling anyone, people was starting to worry about me so it was time for me to move on to our next destination, Koh Lipe.
Koh Lipe - Thailand
I visited the island 4 years ago when it was relatively unknown and was surprised to see how it had developed over the years, both in a good and bad way.
The increase in tourism has allowed the island to develop its infrastructure and helped the lives of the locals in so many ways but that also attracts more tourists, made everything expensive and places unbearably crowded.
At least the snorkeling was still one of the best in Thailand and enough of a good reason for anyone to come here.
Bagan - Myanmar
We took a flight from Bangkok to Mandalay and we went straight to Bagan via a public bus. To my surprise, when we entered Bagan, we did not have to pay the 25USD entrance fee like I did when I flew into Bagan the last time. The fee was probably only imposed upon tourists and we were on a very local-looking bus so that explains why we did not have to pay.
Once again, I was back in Myanmar for the second time. This time I was with my friend and my goal for this trip was simple: to go to Bagan, find the right sunrise temple this time and watch the sunrise. The last time I was here I got the temple's names mixed up and I went to the wrong one. Not this time!
Fortunately, we went to the right one this time, we were at the right season for the hot air balloons to take to the air as well. The sunrise here is possibly one of the best sunrise you can experience in South East Asia or even in the world.
One of the thing I learned about traveling in Myanmar is not to bother wearing closed shoes because you will have to take it off every time you entered a sacred site like this temple.
We woke up around 4 AM that day, rented a bike and started exploring the dusty roads of Old Bagan in a quest to find a remote pagoda where we can climb to the top, sit and relax.
Even though the sunrise pagoda was crowded most of the time, I found that if you waited a bit after the surise, the crowd would let up and you would be able to have the place to yourself.
There were over 2000 temples and pagodas all over Bagan and the best way to get to many of these remote temples is to ride a bike by yourself. That was how I explored Bagan last time and how I explored it again this time.
I really love Bagan. Even though it was my second time, I still feel excited every time I discover a temple I have not seen before.. like this one.
The amount of temples and the variety of architectural style you found in Bagan are just mind blowing. For example, this unique temple was built entirely out of teak wood whereas the others were built with red stones.
Me and my friend getting lost in the maze of dusty roads and empty fields.
We were trying to find a good place to sit to watch the sunset. We eventually found one where we climbed to the top and sat in peace.. until 20 something people decided to ruin that.
Gotta go. The mothership is calling. Goodbye Earthlings.
Walking through the cavern of time.
After 2 days exploring both the Old and the New Bagan, we left Myanmar and headed to Cambodia starting at Siem Reap and the Angkor Wat.
Siem Reap - Cambodia
Ahh, the Angkor Wat, my first foray into the world of traveling solo. It has been almost 3 years since I started traveling the world solo, and it all began here. I was feeling extremely nostalgic as I walked through the corridors wondering what my life would be like if I did not take the leap of faith.
My life would not be as cool as it is now, that is for sure. A life of no regret! :)
I got a tuk tuk for the day and went temple hopping in Siem Reap. It was the only way to enjoy the scenery at my own pace.
One of my favorite temple other than the Angkor Wat is the Bayon temple. There is something about the face sculptures that makes it mystical, like something out of a fantasy Hollywood movie.
No, I was not peeing here. I was trying to look cool but somehow it looked like I was peeing.
Since I have already seen the Angkor Wat during sunrise the last time I was here, I decided to come up with my own itinerary. In order to avoid the crowd I told my tuk tuk driver to do the usual temple circuit but in a reversed order so I didn't have to deal with all the tourists.
It worked! I went to the temple listed last in the circuit trip first and so no one was there and I was at the Angkor Wat last. It was around 2 PM when I arrived at the Angkor Wat and it was the hottest time of the day so there were not as many people around as in the morning.
On this trip, I was able to squeeze in another temple I missed the last time due to time constraint. The temple is called Beng Melea.
So, what is so special about Beng Melea? Not much but due to its remote location, the number of people here were considerably less and the temples mostly left untouched.
The nature that overtaken Beng Melea was also much more intact than the other ones. If you have time, do get a private taxi and pay Beng Melea a visit. You will not regret it.
Phnom Penh - Cambodia
Finally, we have come to our last destination on this trip. We ended our trip in Phnom Penh where me and my friend spent our days going to the museums (S21 and the Killing Field) and hanging out at the Royal Palace before we went separate ways.
If you are a history buff, Phnom Penh is a city that must not be missed. I was fascinated by the history I learned from the national museum and terrified by the knowledge I learned from the Genocide Museum (S-21) and the Killing Field. Cambodia had been through dark times and you will appreciate the country even more knowing what lies behind the city's foundation.
Further Reading for Malaysia
Malaysia may often be overlooked by travelers, but the country has so much to offer that you can’t get anywhere in Southeast Asia.
Here is a selection of articles you might want to read about Malaysia:
- Looking for a complete itinerary and travel guide for Malaysia? 10 Days Itinerary for Malaysia.
- Kuala Lumpur is where you will likely land when you are traveling in Southeast Asia and from the outside, it may look like your typical Asian cities but KL is so more and at a cheaper price too. Here’s a complete guide on things to do in Kuala Lumpur.
- Not your first time in Kuala Lumpur? How about we go explore the cafe and the unique Kopitiam culture of Kuala Lumpur with the 8 Best Cafes and Restaurant to try in Kuala Lumpur guide?
- If you are looking for a day trip from Kuala Lumpur or somewhere to stop on your way to/from Singapore, Melaka is a great place to stop and learn a little bit about this ancient port city. Check out my 8 Incredible things to do in Melaka travel guide here.
- Cameron Highlands is a break from the hot humid weather and the bustling city of KL you need. Surrounded by mountains and tea plantation, here is a complete travel guide on things to do in Cameron Highlands.
- Cameron Highlands is high up in the mountains with the cool breeze making it the perfect place to go hiking and there are over 14 trails to pick. Check out my ultimate hiking guide to Cameron Highlands.
- Penang is the food heaven of Malaysia and it is a must-stop on your way to/from Thailand. Here are 7 delicious things to do in Penang.
- Want to go off the beaten path in Malaysia? Let’s head over to Borneo with a complete travel guide and a 2 weeks itinerary for Borneo and Brunei.
- Want to know where to go after Malaysia? How about spending 3 days in Singapore or go snorkeling on Koh Lipe, Thailand?.
- For all articles about Malaysia, visit Malaysia Travel Guide page.
- Looking for more travel guides for Southeast Asia? You can find more on my Southeast Asia Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides, visit All Destination Travel Guide page.
Do you enjoy this type of photography? Check out other entries to our “Follow Me and I’ll Show You ________” series. If you have any suggestion on what I could improve, do not hesitate to let me know in the comments below or tweet me here: @peachananr
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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