Throughout the past decade South East Asia has firmly established itself as the Mecca of the travelling community. Not all parts of this throbbing sub-continent are for everyone. The popular parts are busy and littered with Europeans, Australians and Americans - from the beaches of Thailand to the river banks of Laos – everyone is here to snatch their piece of adventure.
I love the region for its mad parties and unique ethos on letting your hair down but I think it's more than that which has people going back again and again. Yes it's cheap, and yes the opportunities to be explicit with your behaviour are ample but, the landscapes are often breathless, the locals welcoming, the experiences unforgettable and the food is simple but delicious – don’t be surprised to find yourself routing through the spice cupboard at home in a frail attempt to recreate the perfect Pad Thai!
|Wading through jungle and rivers|
|Passing the rice fields|
#9 – Rent a motorbike, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
It has to be done at some point on a trip to South East Asia. I didn't come across many places better than Yogya to rent a bike, pack a bag and just drive. The City itself is Indonesia's culture capital and has a lot going for it. The markets, architecture, history and layout help create a really relaxed atmosphere where it is easy to let the days go by as you become familiar with the ease of life. Once out on the roads things can get hectic - 10 bikes a breast and lorries coming from both directions on the busy roads, lonesome views of volcanoes and sacred temples on the quiet ones. Combine the free spirited ride into the countryside with a visit to temples like Borobudur (the largest Buddhist temple on the sub-continent) and Prambanan (a Hindu temple complete with an open air theater for evening performances) and you will realise why I ended up staying 2 days longer than expected and still long to return.
|Yogya - easy place to find presents for the family|
|Sat on the walls of Borobudur|
#8 – Food for thought, Kota Kinabalu food market, Borneo.
It should be a sin to eat in chain restaurants or burger bars in SE Asia. The food across the region is tremendous - fresh, cheap, tasty and in some cases, surprising. Submerging yourself within the local markets to satisfy your appetite is not a difficult charge. Street vendors appear almost everywhere selling things from noodles to dog. For me, the biggest and best of all comes on Borneo and the fish market that dominates the waterfront of Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. It is as though the underwater world has been transported to land - barbecued, sauteed, grilled or fried, then served up with an array of accompaniments to travellers, locals, men, women and children! The best bit is the chance to see the catch being carried from the holds on the boats, to the women who wash them, the men who cook them and then to you...who eat them.
|Taking the reins of a tuk-tuk|
#7 – By Day and by Night, Bangkok, Thailand.
I wasn't going to put Bangkok on this list, mainly because the stereotypical views of Thailand's capital are not at all far from reality, hence you can probably already imagine what it is like. But, it simply cannot be beaten for nightlife and is packed with daytime sights to keep the culture vultures happy. OK so it isn't for everyone but Khoa san road is the backpacking hub and can be utterly mental at times. The alcohol is cheap and free flowing, there is always some American looking worse for wear because he can't handle his drink and yes, every other person is trying to sell you tickets to a ping pong show or get you to pay for the pleasures of an overly obvious transexual. Hey, its why you either love or hate Bangkok. it is what it is and the best way to enjoy it is to embrace it.
You can party until the markets begin setting up for business, or get to bed and make an assualt on the tuk-tuk madness that will show you some of the most impressive Bhuddist statues and temples around. Bangkok is a City of two faces and if you don't go, you won't not what all the fuss, good and bad, is all about.
#6 – Take in the history, Cambodia & Vietnam.
I could of chosen half a dozen places from the Philippines, the entire country is a delight to travel. Take away the rather industriel and faceless capital Manila and there are few negatives to niggle at.
The lifestyle ethos of the island's visitors and inhabitants run parrallel to each other. Sip 'Borocay rum' in the early evening, digging your bare feet into the sand from the comfort of a hammock. Later, head to Kasbah for some upbeat acoustic jamming before struggling to beat the moon to bed after a stint in one of the lively bars at the top end of White Beach.