Hoi An Boat

Southeast Asia is filled with so many top-notch travel destinations that it’s hard to see them all. Luckily, I gathered insights from travel bloggers across the web about their favorite destinations in Southeast Asia.

Mount Bromo, Indonesia

Helen McClure (ExpatExplorers.org)

Helen McClure is no stranger to travel. After living in Dubai, she currently resides in Singapore with her family. One of Helen’s favorite trips in Southeast Asia has been to Mount Bromo, a volcano in Indonesia.

Mount Bromo, near Malang, Java, Indonesia, is a spectacular sight. Fog sweeps around the base of the dormant volcano, while steam rises above. From a viewing platform at the top of Gunung Penanjakan you can then descent to the valley floor, soft underfoot with black ash. Walk through the fog, and climb to the rim, where you can peak over the edge to see if you can spot the sleeping dragon. Surrounded by mystery, superstition and tragic stories of sacrifice, it’s a must-see stopping point for any trip through Java. Bromo is one of three volcanoes in this 10km crater, which also includes Kursi and Batok.

Mount Bromo Indonesia

Image courtesy of Helen McClure. For more Indonesia travel tips, check out Helen’s Indonesia travel page on Expat Explorers. You can also find her on Facebook.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Jessica Wray (CuriosityTravels.org)

While teaching in South Korea for two years, Jessica had the opportunity to travel to many parts of East Asia. During her travels, Jessica found the small city of Luang Prabang to have the best of Southeast Asia all bundled up into one easy-going and naturally beautiful location.

Each day in Luang Prabang led to another gorgeous, relaxing and fun day of travel. From the cyan-blue waters of the Kuang Si Falls or the charming French colonial architecture, Luang Prabang is a dream.  Then, when the sun goes does, the tourists of this sleepy city stay awake. The night market makes for a great, cheap meal, and a few of the bars around town offer dancing and cheap drinks.  Once they close, Luang Prabang’s quirky side becomes evident and everyone heads to– would you believe it– the bowling alley. In an effort to keep Luang Prabang quiet, this is the only place open late! It turns into a watering-hole for all the young backpackers of the city, and always makes for great stories the next day.

Luang Prabang - LaosImage courtesy of Jessica Wray. For more on her trip to Luang Prabang, read about her time in Northern Laos here. You can also find Jessica on Facebook

Kandy, Sri Lanka

Drew Goldberg (TheHungryPartier.com)

US-native Drew Goldberg has travelled to over 40 countries in just 22 years of age. At the moment he is teaching in South Korea. Prior to relocating outside of Seoul, Drew paid a visit Sri Lanka among other places in SEA. Nonetheless, Drew’s trip to Sri Lanka stands out in the crowd.

Sri Lanka was the most eye-opening country that I visited, most likely because I had no idea what to expect. Everything from the beautiful nature, the charming people, to the incredible beaches had me instantly hooked within the culture.

In once war-torn Sri Lanka, Kandy was Drew’s favorite stop along the way.

The most amazing experience that I had in Kandy was waking up at 3AM to hike the famous Sri Pada Mountain for sunrise. This mountain has over 5,000 stairs in total, and takes about 6 hours … from start to finish. At the top lies the ‘Footprint of Buddha,’ which was very inspirational to see with my own eyes. Hundreds of people gathered together to watch the sunrise over the deep valley. That moment that I was standing there, overlooking the magnificent views of Sri Lanka, was one of the most memorable in my life. 

Kandy Sri Lanka

Image courtesy of Drew Goldberg. To find out more about his trip, check out Drew’s Sri Lanka travel page. You can also contact him on Twitter.

Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Megan Swanick (NomadicMegan.com)

As a travel blogger and TESOL teacher, Megan has travelled to many Southeast Asian destinations. But out of all, her favorite spot is Kanchanaburi. Located in Western Thailand, Megan loves Kanchanaburi for three main reasons: accessibility, beauty and history.

First of all, it’s only three hours from Bangkok with frequent vans departing from Victory Monument so it’s easy to reach. Second, it’s gorgeous. Kanchanaburi is a small town on the River Kwai and encircled by lush jungles and mountains. I used to stay at a Guesthouse on the river and go swimming each sunset, and by day I’d kayak or go hiking at one of the numerous waterfalls. I also had an amazing experience trekking through a waterfall to a local hill tribe in a nearby Karen village where we spent the night. Last but not least, Kanchanaburi has a lot of history. So for the history nerds out there like myself, you’ll get to indulge in your nerdy side in between swims in the river and hikes up a waterfall.  

Kanchanaburi, Thailand (Southeast Asia)Photo courtesy of Megan Swanick. Read more about her adventures in Kanchanaburi on her blog. You can also find Megan on Twitter.

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Josalin Saffer (JosalinSaffer.wordpress.com)

Josalin is a freelance writer, photographer and blogger hailing from Atlanta, Georgia. Out of all the places she has visited, her favorite spot in Southeast Asia (actually, on Earth) has been the East Coast of Koh Phangan–an island in the south of Thailand.

Typically associated with the Full Moon party, Josalin enjoyed the island for other reasons.

Before visiting here, paradise was just a concept–an idyllic, intangible figment I’d romanticized in my mind. Here, I learned how to be quiet. To just exist and feel and breathe. Here, the earth–the water, the sand, the breeze, and me–was everything it was meant to be. Secluded, peaceful, pristine. The untraversed east could not be more opposite from its more popular, party-fueled West Coast counterpart. And for this dichotomy, I was grateful. The best part? I could actually afford it. At Mai Pen Rai (it means “No Worries,” literally) Bungalows, I found real-life paradise for just $6 a night. 

Mai Pen Rai Koh Phangan Thailand

Image courtesy of Josalin Saffer. Read more about her travels on her blog or reach out to Josalin on Twitter

Phu Ruea, Thailand

Lauren Crabbe (TheWorldPlease.com)

Lauren has been traveling since August 2012 with no intention of stopping any time soon. Her favorite Southeast Asian travel destination has been Phu Ruea in the Isaan region of Thailand. It’s a spot many tourists tend to pass over. Nonetheless, Lauren had such an amazing trip it is difficult to put into words.

I travelled there when I was stressed, tired, and jaded, and “healed” at a yoga/permaculture retreat. I encountered some fabulously friendly and diverse people, totally immersed in my natural surroundings, experienced the Loi Krathong festivities, tasted loads of Isaan food, and learned more about the area that so many visitors to Thailand skip over. This is such a complex, rich (in every way but financially), and intriguing corner of the country, and it felt like home to me after too long away from my loved ones. I have trouble describing its significance — that’s usually a sign that I’ve found somewhere I’ll love forever.

Phu Ruea in Isaan, ThailandPhoto courtesy of Lauren Crabbe. To read more about Lauren’s trip to Phu Ruea, check out her story on Vagabundo Magazine. You can also contact Lauren on Twitter

Hoi An, Vietnam

Isaac Bennett (glipho.com/ize11)

Isaac has been on the go since 2010. Despite having visited 30 + countries, his favorite place in Southeast Asia is without a doubt Hoi An in Vietnam–a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I must admit Hoi An caught me a bit by surprise. I had heard a few good reviews from other travellers but I thought it would not be much more than a few beaches, buildings and a small market. What I found was a small city (120,000) considered one of the best preserved historic trading ports in South East Asia with a ton of heart. Though Hoi An is a very backpacker orientated place, I found it to be very peaceful, colorful, relaxing with no traffic and low crowds. While our stay was not long, the sheer beauty was memorable; we did nothing but wander the streets, meet friendly locals (and other travelers), eat cheap, tasty local food and hang out by our hotel pool.

As Isaac advises to anyone thinking about traveling to Asia:

If you’re going to Asia, go to Southeast Asia. If you’re going to Southeast Asia, go to Vietnam. If you go to Vietnam, don’t miss Hoi An–you wont regret it.

Hoi An Vietnam

Image courtesy of Isaac Bennett. Isaac can be found on Twitter. He also shares amazing travel pictures on Instagram.

Woah! As far as favorite countries go, looks like Thailand takes the cake!

Have you been to any of the above mentioned travel destinations? Or do you think there are any others that should be on the list? Tell me in the comment section below or send me a tweet!

—> (Feature image courtesy of Isaac Bennett. Taken in Hoi An, Vietnam.)


  • Nomadic Megan

    Haven’t been to all these places yet, but they are definitely all on my list! Especially the Sri Lanka one, I would love to be able to make it there before I leave Asia!

  • Joc

    Thanks so much for putting this together, Laurence. It’s a great list and it officially gave me wanderlust after reading. 🙂

    • Of course! I’m glad I found some new places to add to the bucket list

  • Agness

    I have such great memories from Sri Lanka. Definitely my favourite SE Asia destination right after Thailand of course.

    • There is always favorite places in each country I visit — but yes, Thailand is amazing! I’ve never actually been to two of the places mentioned: Koh Phangan and Phu Ruea. Next time!

  • Yuki Aditya

    Except…Srilanka is in South Asia…not South East Asia. But, thank you for putting the list.