On my travels over the years I have had the privilege of spending a lot of time in Asia. I think it’s safe to say that I'm actually a bit of an Asia travel addict. I have visited 14 awesome Asian countries on various trips. The list of incredible places to visit is endless - I certainly have only been to a small fraction of them but I’m going to try and nail down 5 of my must-do budget destinations for backpackers through Asia.
So if you're planning an adventure to Asia, take a note of these awesome places to visit.
Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Phu Quoc lies just south of Vietnam in the gulf of Thailand. I love it so much that I have been twice. The cheapest way of getting to the island is via boat. You can catch a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Rach Gia then take a couple of hour boat trip to the island. Alternatively, if you have less of a tight budget, you can fly. Vietnam is known for being crazy; everything is conducted at a million miles an hour pace, especially the traffic - experiencing it is incredible.
Phu Quoc though is the other side of Vietnam. Chilled out island life is quite different to the hectic street scenes of the major cities. I have stayed at the chilled out Long Beach when visiting as, like the name suggests, it’s by the beach. Little bungalow accommodation is easy to find and cheap, making it ideal backpackers’ destination. Exploring the island, in my opinion, is best done by scooter - actually, everything in Vietnam is best done by scooter! It doesn’t matter if you're going on a family outing, moving house or delivering a cow to your friends in the mountains… it’s done by scooter. So embrace it. They are cheap to rent and super easy to ride. Much of Phu Quoc is unsealed roads and if you want to really explore the island, then you need to go on them. A few days can easily be spent finding your very own slice of paradise as you uncover secret beaches, walking trails and viewpoints. The end to a perfect day is then capped off with a sunset from the Gulf of Thailand.
Don Det, 4000 Islands, Laos
Don Det has to be the most relaxed place in the world I have ever been. Located at the southernmost point of Laos on the Cambodian border, it is accessible from a lot of major cities in Southeast Asia, more than likely via a long ‘fun’ bus ride though - it’s as fun as you make it! My journey was 24 hours in two buses and two minibuses before a short boat ride. All worth it when, on arrival, is a rural Asian paradise of semi wetland islands in amongst the mighty Mekong river. Hire a bicycle, rent a bungalow and lay in a hammock overlooking the river. When I was there I spent about $5 a day, so you can afford to stay a while.
Thousands of tourists flock to Thailand every year in search of the beaches, food and culture, many of which head up north to visit Chiang Mai. The best decision I made in Thailand was to venture a little further than Chiang Mai to the Northern town of Pai. One hundred and thirty kilometres of winding mountain roads in the foothills of the Himalayas leads to the more relaxed rural Thailand - it was worth going for the drive alone. I travelled with my brother and we decided to rent motorbikes from Chiang Mai and drive ourselves to Pai. This epic little scooter journey was breathtaking around every corner and, unsurprisingly, we had a lot of stops for photos. When in Pai, we stayed in a bamboo stilted building overlooking the rice paddies, ventured to local waterfalls and witnessed Thai life like we hadn’t seen before.
Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka
Sun, sea, surf and incredible food - just some of the reasons to make the trip to Arugam Bay on the east coast of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is an incredible country to start with. A paradise of jungle, mountains and stunning coastline. For a country that caters less towards backpackers and more towards honeymooners, Arugam Bay is the place that will get backpackers visiting. The town itself is small, the people are friendly and the ocean is great for surfing. Waking up with the sand between your toes and the sound of the ocean breaking has never felt so good.
Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo
Sarawak on the Malaysian side of Borneo is a haven for trekking, seeking adventure and seeing some incredible wildlife. Staying in Kerching in the west of the region proved to be a good base for adventures. If you’re a fan of monkeys, then Borneo really is the place for you - it’s somewhat of a monkey paradise. While out trekking in the jungle I was continually spotting different monkeys. Some of them seemed happy to see me… and some of them didn’t! The best part of the Borneo jungle though was seeing an Orangutan. These beautiful creatures will be extinct soon if people don’t help to protect them. I was lucky enough to see one in a protected area of jungle designated to preserve the animals. Be sure to visit somewhere that is protecting them in their wild environment. The nature of this experience is that you have no guarantee to see one and I think that just adds to the excitement.
Any questions about the destinations above? I will happily tell you more. To connect with me and follow more of my adventures find me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter