South East Asia is fast becoming a top destination for travelers worldwide. With more and more places opening their doors to tourism and the path being paved for tourists, travel throughout South East Asia has never been easier or more affordable. With the good comes the bad with lots of shortcuts to make a fast buck. Here’s my list of the best and worst of the region.
The Best of South East Asia:
Ultra Cheap: A huge draw for younger travelers is that your euros and dollars will go farther here than in most places in the world. The favourable exchange rates in the region help to make up for the cost of the flight if you’re arriving from North America. Every whim can be indulged for only a few dollars and you really can get the most bang for your buck out of a trip or holiday to South East Asia.
Fantastic Food: This diverse region offers a range of cuisine that will keep you satisfied for months if not years. From the spicy curries of Malaysia to street stalls in Vietnam you’ll never be out of exciting new things to eat. Of course when you need a taste of home, most of the tourist areas have a wide selection of Western food on offer as well to help stave off your homesickness.
Steeped in History: From Ankor Wat to the numerous temples of Thailand, South East Asia is rich in history and has dozens of UNESCO World Heritage sites to prove it. Centuries of battles and takeovers, dynasty’s and emperors have left a diverse architecture of tombs, pagodas and historic monuments unlike anywhere else in the world.
Ease of travel: Most of South East Asia is open for tourism and getting around for the most part is simple, safe and affordable. From VIP night buses to sleeper trains the area is yours to discover.
Top Beaches: From the white sands of Boracay to the entire south of Thailand, stretches of white sand are the norm for the region. Grab a good book or two and pluck yourself seaside anywhere in the region.
Worst of South East Asia:
Touts: From “Need motorbike”, to “Good Price” the endless harassment of people coming up to you to try and sell something can sometimes be overwhelming. The best way to deal is to offer a polite no and move on quickly.
Pollution: Where there is rapid expansion and extensive poverty, pollution will always be an issue. Most of the countries here do not yet have a way to handle the increase in waste and limited or no recycling facilities. Forests have been cut down, garbage is burned on the street and many of the beautiful beaches and oceans are filling up with garbage fast. Do what you can tread lightly and always dispose of your trash properly.
Language barrier: Language can be an issue in any non-English speaking country, but as tourism has just arrived within the past decade to many of these areas, they have a long way to catch up. Speak slowly, learn a few key phrases in each language and practice your hand at charades.
Lack of infrastructure: Similar to pollution, the lack of foresight and infrastructure in many places can be mind-boggling to a Westerner. Repairs are always done as a Band-Aid solution with corners being cut at every chance. Things often break down including buses, toilets and air-conditioning without explanation or warning.
Luckily, the best of South East Asia for outweighs the downsides and if nothing else will give you a greater appreciation for your own country.