There’s a good reason Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most popular tourist regions. Plenty of them, in fact.
The weather is warm, the people are friendly, and the routes are well-traveled (Bangkok, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur were among the world’s top 10 most visited cities in 2016).
Getting there from the U.S. is the hard part (flight times from the east coast are at least 20 hours). But once you arrive, the entire region is easily accessible by plane, train, bus, or boat, with flights between cities starting as low as $20 each way on low-cost carriers like AirAsia.
With more than enough history, culture, magic, wonder, and cheap eats to go around (try tasty báhn mì sandwiches made with flaky baguettes for less than $2 in Vietnam), it’s hard to go wrong with any itinerary. Plus, your Instagram followers will thank you.
Explore the Cultural Heart of the Island
Ubud’s sacred temples, traditional dance ceremonies and artisanal markets are everything you imagined Bali to be. Drive 35 minutes north of central Ubud to Tegalalang for breathtaking views of the island’s famous rice terraces and waterfalls.
Experience Modern Bali Living
The freshwater pool at your open air villa in upscale Seminyak will keep you cool in every sense of the word. You’ll find plenty of modern villas on Airbnb, like Villa Belum for $90 a night.
Taste Authentic Indonesian Fare
Pick out fresh caught fish and local ingredients for delicious Pepes Ikan (snapper fillet grilled in a banana leaf with Indonesian spices and lime) from a Balinese market with the chef at Kayumanis Jimbaran Private Estate & Spa. A private cooking class is $75 per person.
See Ancient Temples In Siem Reap
You may recognize the temples of Angkor Wat from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (or every world traveling Instagramer’s feed). Hire a Tuk Tuk at your hotel or guesthouse in Siem Reap to explore the ancient ruins.
Hunt For Street Art In Penang
George Town, the eclectic island city in Malaysia’s state of Penang, has more than 70 street art murals and ironworks around its Heritage District. Spend an afternoon roaming the streets of the UNESCO World Heritage Site to find them all.
Book A Room In A Restored Shophouse
Shophouses reflect the Malay, Chinese and European influences in Penang. In George Town’s Heritage District, some have been restored as boutique hotels. A stay at Campbell House will make you feel like a guest in a private mansion. And it won’t break the bank with nightly rates starting at $87 during low season.
Ride A Motorbike
No trip to Southeast Asia is complete without hopping on a motorbike, and whizzing through the streets of bustling cities like Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It’s a right of passage.
Sample Street Fare in Hanoi
Ever since POTUS ordered Bun Cha (rice noodles with pork) with spring rolls and local beer with Anthony Bourdain on Parts Unknown, the combo has been dubbed the Obama Special. You’ll sample that and more on a delicious street food tour with trained chefs at Hanoi Cooking Centre starting at $69.
Go Trekking In Sapa
For a girl power moment, push yourself to the limit by trekking through the rice terraces of Northern Vietnam with the women of the Black H’mong ethnic minority tribe. Treks with the women-owned tour company SaPa Sisters start at $37.
Sleep On An Overnight Train
Train travel is a great way to see more of a country, and meet locals and travelers, too. Plus, an overnight train saves you money on a hotel. Be sure to spring for a first class sleeper car—it’s worth it!