Lauren’s Travel Diary - My 5 favourite places in South Asia
Southeast Asia is honestly my favourite region in the world. A confluence of stunning vistas, incredible culture and delicious food – what’s not to love? Southeast Asia is renowned as a pretty high-key backpacker destination, and this is in part due to the fact that it’s cheap, has a great transport infrastructure and caters well to tourism. I spent some time exploring the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia and had an amazing time, so I wanted to share my 5 favourite places.
Koh Lanta, Thailand
This incredible island was the slice of Thai paradise I’d been searching for. I’d been to other islands in Thailand, but none of them could satisfy my idea of an idyllic island. However, with its postcard-perfect ocean views, relaxed atmosphere and stunning national park, Koh Lanta ticked every box. Better still, the island is home to an animal sanctuary where stray dogs and cats are given veterinary care and a home. If you love animals, go and visit to volunteer to walk a dog!
Vang Vieng, Laos
Surrounded by limestone karst mountains, the flow of the Nam Song river and incredible countryside, Vang Vieng completely awe-struck me. The part of town I stayed in was quiet, with a chilled out, hippie sort of atmosphere. Be sure to rent bikes and head out to explore the countryside, where you’ll be graced by mountain vieszpoints, deep caves and freshwater lagoons. Also, don’t forget to go tubing if you love to party – you float down the river in a rubber ring and stop off at river-side bars!
For a small, sleepy town, Kampot sure packs a punch. The best feature, in my opinion, was the Kampot River. I spent an afternoon canoeing down the river and was almost overwhelmed by the gorgeous scenery of mangroves, sparkling water and a jaw-dropping sunset. If you hire a bicycle and head away from Kampot, you’ll find dusty roads and humble villages where kids will run out to greet you. I found the locals here to be genuine and kind and always willing to give advice or help out.
Hoi An, Vietnam
Ah, Hoi An. The streets of this charming little town are lined with markets, lanterns and quaint cafés. Hoi An is also famous for its tailors – a tradition from back when it was used as a trading hub on the Silk Route. Come back to the old part of town at night, where the lanterns will all be lit up as it really is a beautiful sight. During my time here, I also hired a motorbike and drove from Hoi An to Hue via the Hai Van Pass, where I was treated to astounding oceanside mountain views.
Kratie is slightly off the beaten track, but it’s a place that I don’t think anyone travelling in Cambodia should miss. Here, if you’re lucky, you’ll find the endangered Irrawaddy River Dolphin, who lives in this part of the Mekong River. You can also take a short ferry journey over to the island Koh Trong, where you’ll find a basic but beautiful community who live in the middle of the Mekong. I recommend you hire a bike to explore Koh Trong, as there are no cars allowed on the island.