Most Promising Gap Year Destinations Of South East Asia
A potpourri of cultures, cuisines, beliefs, languages, and ways of living, South East Asia is diversely beautiful and its countries are distinct in their depths but related in their essence. Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar/Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam – these are the countries which make up the magical and marvelously mixed melting pot known as South East Asia. A backpacking Mecca that attracts travelers, globetrotters, backpackers and gap year enthusiasts, the costs, experiences, and beauty of the region make SE Asia a haven for vagabonds and voyagers of all kinds.
These tropical lands are laced with mighty mountains, soaring volcanoes; iconic coral reefs; ancient, and historically magnificent temples, bamboo huts on palm-fringed beaches, dense tropical jungles, oodles of coconuts, coffee, tea, and rice plantations and cities so full of hustle and bustle that it never really feels that sun sets in here, well, only metaphorically.
Ideal and safe for solo travel, gap year sojourns, and backpacking travel, here are the 5 most promising gap year destinations just for sheer offerings that each of them has. So here goes your list :
Yes, Cambodia is known for Angkor Wat but there’s a lot more to it than that. From the Floating Villages of Tonlé Sap Lake to adventure sports and beach strolling in Sihanoukville, walk down the colonial lanes of Phnom Penh and get amazed by the gorgeousness of the Royal Palace and make sure that you have all the reasons why you should absolutely include Cambodia in your gap year itinerary.
Pro Tip: Opt for a pan-Cambodia budget trip with Team Go Discover Abroad to get the best out of the country in all of 10 days.
One of the most beautifully diverse island countries that is home to some 18,000 islands spanning across three-time zones, Indonesia is a slowly developing region that thrives on tourism. From the renowned islands and mindful Yoga practices of Bali to the amply industrialized capital of Jakarta, traveling in Indonesia is an experience few other experiences can match. Boasting a kind of unity in diversity few other countries can boast of, the indigenous beliefs and traditions are still intact and practiced in Indonesia even though Islam is the official religion of the country. Gap year travelers can enjoy a range of experiences in the country that encompass sailing adventures in Bali, countryside exploration starting from Sumatra and all the way to Kuta and bright beachy days in Lombok and Bali.
Home to a city that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety, Laos is the lesser explored SE Asian wonder. Ideal for a laidback time, the country is laced with temples, colonial-era architecture, vibrant night markets and a lot of lanes from the crowds (other than Luang Prabang, of course). There are primarily three regions in Laos - Northern, Central, and Southern that have a diverse topography which includes mountains, deltas, and flatlands. From trekking in Luang Namtha and witnessing the many hill-tribes of Laos to exploring Pakse, the gateway to the Wat Phu ruins and the "four thousand islands”, more of ‘exploreres’ and less of ‘tourists’ visit Laos, which is also a stone throw distance from Thailand.
One of the most developed and a popular ‘touristy’ destination of SE Asia, Thailand certainly has it all. Barbecues, Beaches and well, Buddhism, there’s something for everybody in Thailand. For the full-moon parties and lively beaches of Thailand, take an island hopping tour and to explore the quaint countryside of Northern Thailand, head to Chiang Mai amidst its hills and hill tribes.
Once a lesser visited country by travelers, Vietnam has managed to place itself on the global map and has consistently been on the ‘Top 10’ most visited destinations for several years now. Famed for the pleasantly dense green and picturesque Ha Long Bay, Vietnam has experiences and explorations that boast a blend of being man-made (the temples and pagodas) and being blessed by nature. Mekong Delta, Hoi An, Hanoi are some of the other popular spots of Vietnam. However, the country is also for its ample adventure activities’ options.
What’s the common thread between the SouthEast Asian Countries?
Each country in SE Asia has its own distinctive features and ethnic diversities but all of them have a common denominator that binds them together, geographically and culturally, making an exploration of all of them in their entirety an enriching experience.
i) Trekking and Hiking In Southeast Asia
Jungle Treks and walking trails are in plenty in SE Asia. From the rural escape of Northern Thailand to the catching a glimpse of the simple lives lead by tribes in Indonesian countryside during jungle hikes, the tropics of SE Asia are the unmissable time off-grid no gap year traveler should miss.
From the iconic Angkor Wat that personifies Indic heritage to the many Buddhist temples of Thailand, temples of SE Asia are ancient, magnificent and sometimes even UNESCO World Heritage sites. Without spending a few days exploring the many temples of the lands, a gap year sojourn is truly incomplete.
iii) Full moon parties
Contrasts bring the best travel experiences and SE Asia personifies that. The full moon parties of Thailand, the hedonistic and absorbing affairs that they are, should feature on each wanderluster’s bucket list at least once. The most famous island for full-moon parties is Ko Pha Ngan even though many such other parties have mushroomed all over SE Asia.
iv) Delicious food
Get used to not eating the usual western food when in SE Asia and try oodles of local delicacies. The only thing that can overwhelm people is different kinds of meat that one gets here - from insect meat to dog meat - but one should understand that cultural sensitivity differs and so do food habits. Take your street food strolls when in SE Asia for a lip-smacking culinary experience.
v) Idyllic beaches and tropical islands
SE Asia and Islands can, most times, be synonymous. From the backpacker party islands of Thailand to the quieter pristine ones of Cambodia, experience what ‘tropics’ are all about with the beach strolls.
vi) Colorful markets
There is nothing so quintessentially Asian as the exotic tapestry of sights, sounds, and smells which spill from the markets in this part of the world. Vibrant fabrics, exquisite crafts, heady incense, aromatic spices, and colorful fruits…..all here and all of the not-to-be-missed kind. Night markets tend to be the most atmospheric and dancing and/or performances are often part of the proceedings from traditional dancing and musical acts on instruments you’ll have never seen before to puppet theatre. The night market, Luang Prabang, Laos; the floating markets of Bangkok, Thailand; Malacca (Melaka) night market, Malaysia.
viii) Adventure activities
Surfing, extreme caving, zip-lining, rafting, snorkeling, and scuba diving are some of the popular adventure activities available across Southeast Asia and can be taken up at affordable prices. Vietnam, for instance, has exhilarating ziplining options.
How to deal with negative experiences SE Asia is famous for?
No land is utopia, and that’s true for SE Asia too. From overpaying for inexpensive goods to falling prey to travel traps, novice travelers can be exposed to overwhelming situations as well. The best bet to save yourself some such situations is either travel in a group or take trusted solo trips from reliable and reviewed organizations. Thus, Team GDA provides you with several SE Asia exploration options that are safe and give the best you can get out of the countries.
Spending a gap year in South East Asia can be all-encompassing and an enriching experience as it laced with explorations of all kinds. From some soothing and inexpensive massages in Thailand to mini and exhilarating deep cave treks in the Marble Mountains of Vietnam, from the Cambodian beach escapades to witnessing the dark past of the country’s Killing Fields, each country has its special bit to enjoy and learn from. So what are you thinking of now? Time to take out your backpacks and head to Southeast Asia and let team Go Discover Abroad manage everything else for you. Drop us a mail at [email protected] to get talking about your gap year in South East Asia.