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The Easiest Places in Southeast Asia to Go Backpacking

These are the easiest places to go backpacking in Southeast Asia.
IMAGE Joshua Berida
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Southeast Asia is a mecca for travelers who want to have unique experiences on a budget. The region is home to centuries-old temples and pagodas, exotic markets, immaculate beaches, and friendly locals. Many find it easy and affordable to travel around the region because of budget airlines, ferries, buses and trains that connect one country to the next.

If you’re planning to go on a backpacking adventure in Southeast Asia, here are some destinations to seriously consider adding to your itinerary.

1| Bangkok

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Photo by Joshua Berida.
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Bangkok is one of the most visited cities not just in the region, but also in the world. The city mixes old and new with its centuries-old temples standing side by side skyscrapers, bustling markets and shopping malls, and even seedy districts where visitors can indulge in Bangkok’s vibrant nightlife. This city is where many backpackers start the banana pancake trail en route to nearby countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia.

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How to get there:

There are many direct flights from Manila to Thailand’s capital. Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Thai Airways and AirAsia have regular flights to this city.

Top Attractions:

  • Grand Palace
  • Wat Arun
  • Khao San Road
  • Wat Pho
  • Chatuchak Market
  • Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Must Eats:

  • Pad Thai (clichéd but still a must)
  • Banana oancake
  • Sticky rice mango

Budget:

P1,000 to P1,500 day

2| Penang

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Photo by Joshua Berida.
Photo by Joshua Berida.
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Penang sits on Peninsular Malaysia’s coast. The city became a famous tourist and backpacker destination because of its artistic vibe, attractions and beautiful old mansions. George Town became a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its cultural and historical significance to this Malaysian state.

How to get there:

From Kuala Lumpur you have the option to take the bus or train. There are also regular flights from Kuala Lumpur to Penang.

Top Attractions:

  • Street Art
  • Kek Lok Si
  • Penang Hill
  • Cheong Fatt Tze Blue Mansion
  • Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi

Must Eats:

  • Lor bak
  • Char koay teow
  • Asam laksa
  • Curry mee
  • Chicken rice

Budget:

P1,000 per day

3| Battambang

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Photo by Joshua Berida.

Phnom Penh and Siem Reap typically get all the attention from backpackers, but if you want to explore a place that is off the beaten path, go to Battambang. Battambang is a sleepy town that fits the typical countryside description. It doesn’t have the same number of attractions found in the two cities mentioned, but it offers visitors a laid back atmosphere and small town charm. Get away from the crowds and frenetic tourist pace with a few days’ stop here.

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How to get there:

There are regular buses from either Siem Reap or Phnom Penh that make a stop at Battambang.

Top Attractions:

  • Ride a Bamboo Train
  • Wat Ek Phnom
  • Killing Caves
  • Bat Cave
  • Old Colonial Buildings

Must Eats:

  • Khmer curry
  • Bobor
  • Amok

Budget:

P1,000 per day

4| Luang Prabang

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Photo by Joshua Berida.
Photo by Joshua Berida.
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This city has a history that dates back centuries. The preserved religious art, temples, and ancient structures found in one part of Luang Prabang have been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. What makes this destination an attractive stop in Laos is its rich culture and laid back vibe. Time slows down in Luang Prabang.

How to get there:

You can take a flight from Vientiane, but if you are trying to save money, there are buses that travel from the capital to Luang Prabang.

Top Attractions:

  • Kuangsi Falls
  • Wat Xieng Thong
  • Mount Phousi
  • Night Market
  • Pak Ou Caves
  • Early Morning Alms Giving

Must Eats:

  • Tam Mak Houng
  • Khao soi
  • Lao barbecue
  • Larb
  • Khao piak

Budget:

P1,000 per day

5| Lombok

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Photo by Joshua Berida.

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Photo by Joshua Berida.

This island doesn’t get the same kind of attention as nearby Bali. However, it has pristine beaches, temples, diving spots, waterfalls, and a beautiful mountain with a crater lake. Lombok is a noteworthy destination for backpackers because of all that it has to offer and it’s affordable too.

How to get there:

There are direct flights from Jakarta to Lombok. You can also get on a ferry from Bali to reach this island.

Top Attractions:

  • Gili Islands
  • Mt. Rinjani
  • Tiu Kelep Waterfall
  • Selong Belanak Beach
  • Tanjung Aan Beach

Must Eats:

  • Ayam taliwang
  • Sate bulayak
  • Bebalung
  • Beberuk terong

Budget:

P1,500 to P2,000 per day

6| Chiang Mai

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This ancient city north of Bangkok has a history dating back to 1296. Chiang Mai is a famous destination for backpackers because of its affordability and charming mix of old and new. There are several ancient temples scattered all over the city.

How to get there:

There are overnight buses and trains that will take you to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. There are also flights from the capital.

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Top Attractions:

  • Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
  • Wat Chedi Luang
  • Doi Inthanon
  • Chiang Mai Gate Market
  • Wat Prasingh

Must Eats:

  • Gaeng hang lay moo
  • Khao soi
  • Sai oua
  • Nam prik ong

Budget:

P1,500 to P2,000 per day

7| Hanoi

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Photo by Joshua Berida.
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The capital of Vietnam is a quaint destination to include in your backpacking trip. It has a mix of Vietnamese and French architecture when you explore the Old Quarter. It has many small restaurants and cafes where you can eat delicious and affordable local cuisine. The city also serves as a jump-off point for day or overnight trips to Halong Bay.

How to get there:

There are direct flights from Manila to Hanoi. Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines operate this route regularly.

Top Attractions:

  • Hoan Kiem Lake
  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
  • Thang Long Imperial Citadel
  • Day Trip to Halong Bay
  • Hanoi Old Quarter
  • Museum of Ethnology
  • Temple of Literature

Must Eats:

  • Egg coffee
  • Pho bo
  • Bun cha
  • Xoi
  • Banh mi

Budget:

P1,000 per day

8| Bagan

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Photo by Joshua Berida.

Photo by Joshua Berida.
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This ancient city rose to fame because of the numerous temples as far as the eyes could see. Bagan traces its history all the way back to the 9th century. The Bagan Archaeological Zone is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More and more tourists are visiting Myanmar because it has now opened its doors to mass tourism.

How to get there:

There are regular flights from Yangon to Bagan, but you can also take the overnight bus to reach this ancient city.

Top Attractions:

  • Shwesandaw Pagoda
  • Ananda Temple
  • Dhammayangyi Temple
  • Thatbyinnyu Temple
  • Shwezigon Pagoda

Budget:

P1,500 to P2,000 per day

9| Hoi An

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Photo by Joshua Berida.
Photo by Joshua Berida.
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Hoi An has an Old World charm that has attracted all sorts of tourists. The Old Quarter is its main draw with many traditional houses, temples, bridges, shops, and food stalls. At night visitors will get to see colorful lanterns.

How to get there:

You can take an overnight bus from Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. Alternatively, you can book a flight to Da Nang and then take a bus to Hoi An.

Top Attractions:

  • Old Quarter
  • Night Market
  • An Bang Beach
  • Marble Mountains (Da Nang)

Must Eats:

  • Banh mi
  • Cao lau
  • Banh bao banh vac
  • Com ga hoi an
  • Banh xeo

Budget:

P1,000 per day

10| Bali

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Photo by Joshua Berida.

Bali is unique from the rest of Indonesia because of its Hindu culture and history. The island is also famous for its beautiful beaches and diving spots. Many backpackers make their way to this part of the country to immerse in the culture, hang out at the beaches, party, and enjoy all that the island has to offer.

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How to get there:

There are direct flights from Manila to Bali. You can also book a flight from major cities in Indonesia such as Yogyakarta and Jakarta.

Top Attractions:

  • Pura Tanah Lot
  • Uluwatu Temple
  • Ubud Monkey Forest
  • Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
  • Tirta Empul Temple
  • Nusa Penida Island

Must Eats:

  • Babi guling ibu oka
  • Bebek bengil
  • Be siap megorent base manis

Budget:

P1,500 to P2,000 per day

11| Siem Reap

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Photo by Joshua Berida.

Siem Reap is along the backpacking trail of many travelers to Southeast Asia. The city is the gateway to the famous ruins of the country. Many make their way here as a jump-off point to Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom, Bayon, and other ruins in and just outside of Siem Reap.

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How to get there:

There are direct flights from Manila to Siem Reap. Cebu Pacific offers flights for this route.

Top Attractions:

  • Angkor Wat
  • Ta Prohm
  • Angkor Thom
  • Bayon
  • Beng Mealea

Must Eats:

  • Lok lak
  • Amok curry
  • Chicken cashew
  • Rice soup

Budget:

P1,500 to P2,000 per day

12| Krabi

Photo by Joshua Berida.
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Photo by Joshua Berida.
Photo by Joshua Berida.
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Krabi is a town located in the south of Thailand. It has a rural vibe but serves as a jump-off point to some of the country’s beautiful beaches. The powdery white sand shores and cerulean waters are what many come for.

How to get there:

There are flights from Bangkok to Krabi. Alternatively, you can take an overnight bus to reach this destination.

Top Attractions:

  • Ao Nang Beach
  • Railay Beach
  • Phra Nang Beach
  • Tiger Cave Temple
  • Island Hopping (Poda Island, Tup & Si Island)

Must Eats:

  • Som tam
  • Pad Thai
  • Moo ping and khao niao
  • Khao mok kai

Budget:

P1,000 to P1,500 per day

These are some of the destinations you can consider including in your itinerary when you travel around Southeast Asia. The region is affordable and offers beaches, temples, traditional houses, distinct cultures and history, and delicious food.

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Joshua Berida
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Joshua is a thrifty traveller.
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