In 2015, I left the UK to spend a year teaching English in Malaysia and travelling around the wondrous and, at times, bizarre place that is Southeast Asia.
As a note, a certain breed of backpackers have created something of a bad reputation in Southeast Asia for their rowdy and unruly behaviour. It should be commonplace when visiting a new country to familiarise yourself with the customs and conduct yourself in a manner that won’t offend or upset the locals. It is, after all, the home to several million people and not simply a playground for ignorant travellers.
Most of my time was spent in Malaysia, a remarkable and breathtaking country. Sadly, however, Malaysia is all too often overlooked in favour of its neighbours, Thailand and Singapore. Malaysia offers many areas of natural beauty; rainforests, waterfalls, highlands. Furthermore, islands such as the Perhentians and Langkawi, with perfect white sand and crystal blue water, will make your cares drift away.
Vibrant cities such as Penang and the capital Kuala Lumpur are also worth a visit as they showcase Malaysia’s diversity. Walking through the streets, it is impossible to miss the mixture of Chinese, Tamil, and Malay culture. Immerse yourself in Malaysian culture by trying out some of its authentic food and visiting some of its beautiful religious centres such as the Batu Caves.
Thailand has become a renowned haven for backpackers due to its low prices, immense beauty, and well-known party scene. Bangkok is a must see, though its charm can wear thin if too much time is spent there. The coasts and islands, on the other hand, never lose their appeal.
It is also worth checking out Krabi and Koh Phi-Phi if you’re looking to spend your days relaxing on the beach and enjoying the nightlife. Additionally, Koh Samui has a number of stunning waterfalls and beaches and is perfectly situated for a trip to Koh Phangan to experience the famously wild full moon party.
Cambodia is home to another of my favourite cities: Phnom Penh. Wandering along the waterfront is somehow both serene and intense. The people are extremely friendly and the nightlife is a lot of fun. Siem Reap is also a must-see, even if only to experience the splendour of Angkor Wat, the largest temple complex in the world.
Vietnam will be of great interest to history buffs. The war tunnels of Ho Chi Minh City provide a fascinating if sombre look into the impact of the Vietnam war on the local populace. Ho Chi Minh itself is a lovely city and it is well worth exploring the markets and grabbing some pho.
Bali in Indonesia has a reputation as a party island, and the Kuta district certainly lives up to this expectation. There are bars, wild nightclubs, and drunken Australians around every corner. On the other side of the island, however, lies Ubud, a district full of temples, hot springs and waterfalls. It is also a producer of the famous kopi luwak, the best coffee you will ever have in your life (just ignore how it’s made). These cities could not be more different but both are definitely worth visiting.
The Philippines are, for the most part, incredible. While islands such as Boracay are perfect for a party, the best of the Philippines can be found on the slightly quieter islands such as Cebu, where you will be graced by a truly foreign setting with whale sharks inhabiting the surrounding waters. Bohol, which is home to some of the best beaches and ocean views in Southeast Asia, should also be on your list.
Ultimately, Southeast Asia is a truly magnificent corner of the world and I would highly recommend it to all students. Its breathtaking views, friendly people and good food mean there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Image: terimakasih0 via Pixabay