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How to Decide Where to go in Southeast Asia

As we enter into the third year of our nomadic life we find ourselves on a new to us continent trying to decide where to go in Southeast Asia. Of course we want see as much as we can but unfortunately due to Nathan’s intolerance of excessive heat (can’t really blame him) we only have until April to explore this exotic and mystical part of the world. Plus, as we are still in early days of growing our online businesses, we have to keep a tight reign on the budget. So we just have to face the fact that we’re not going to see everything…this time around.

According to Wikipedia, Southeast Asia consists of countries that lie south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The 12 countries that make up this sub-region of Asia are Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, East Timor, Brunei, Christmas Island, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand and Vietnam.

A trip to Thailand is a given. Partly because it’s totally awesome and partly because due to work, conferences and house sitting we will be there for at least three months. But then what? Do we backpack through Thailand and try to see the whole country or do we set off to explore other countries on this amazing continent? Always keeping in mind that we only have six months total.

I know there are many people who would cry “Six months? That’s plenty of time to see them all!” However, we prefer to travel slowly whenever possible in an attempt to get to know a place better and also to save money. Something that our 7 months in Mexico and Guatemala and 8 months in Europe can attest to. So I guess there’s another sticking point in our selection…no less than 2 weeks in each country.

How do we decide you ask? Research is a part of it, of course, but to us even more important in our decision making is asking the advice of friends. Over the past two years in the business and life of travel, we have come to know some amazing people who, like us, love to explore this incredible world. This gives us some great first-hand insights and knowledge gained from their own personal experiences. Guide books are great but they are written for the masses and can’t take into account individual tastes, likes, dislikes etc. Whereas talking to other travelers and reading about their own experiences give a much more real picture. For example, there are quite a few things to know before traveling to Vietnam compared to Thailand.

So we’ve gone to the experts and asked “Where to go in Southeast Asia?” Below you will find links to articles written by fellow travel writers and bloggers all based on their own very unique and personal experiences. This will play a huge role in our final decision on where we will visit and where we will have to leave until we return, hopefully in the not too distant future.

Where do you come in? Well as many of you have been following us for the past two years (or more in the case of our friends and family) we figure you know a lot about us and what we like to do. Plus, since our biggest goal at Live Dream Discover is to create entertaining and informational stories to inspire you to travel and live a life of balance, we figure you should have a say. So take a look at the choices from other travelers, think about what you’d like us to experience and share with you and leave us your answers in the comments below. Of course we’d also love to hear your top choices of where to go in Southeast Asia based on your own travel experiences!


Should Indonesia top our list? Shannon says it definitely should.

Shannon at Lives Abroad says:

“I think you have to come to Ubud because it is the most visually interesting, culturally unique and local feeling town I have ever been to in Asia. It’s effortlessly beautiful, peaceful and full of opportunities for yoga, education and improving physical and mental health.”

Where to go in Asia Ubus Indonesia Lives Abroad
Photo of Ubud Indonesia courtesy of Lives Abroad

Read Shannon’s Top 8 Reasons to Visit Ubud, Bali


Will we Discover the Beauty of Malaysia? These travelers think so.

When asked where to go in Southeast Asia, Robson and Natalie of Love and Road say:

“Langkawi is the perfect romantic getaway! 5 star resorts, boutique hotels and views  to die for. The island is very preserved, and you can choose to be in the middle of the tropical forest or surrounded by Padi fields. What is amazing about Langkawi is the amount of activities you can do in the island. Snorkeling, parasailing, cable car, jet ski tour around the island and many more. To keep the love vibe you can go on sunset dinner cruise, a relaxing Spa treatment or  sail to private and untouched island!”

Where to go in southeast Asia, Malaysia Love and Road
Malaysia photo courtesy of Love and Road

Rob and Natalie give us 5 Reasons Why Langkawi, Malaysia is the Perfect Romantic Getaway

Vanessa of The Island Drum tells us:

“Penang was the port of entry for many immigrants during the days of Colonial Malaya and generations later that original melting pot of what is now called Malaysia, is very much alive and well in the Penang of today. For anyone visiting Malaysia, it’s not-to-be-missed, especially if you are interested in delicious local cuisine and diverse cultures.”

Where to go in Southeast Asia Malaysia stall-lady The Island Drum
Stall Lady in Malaysia photo courtesy of The Island Drum

Read more about Penang’s Traditional Trades Discovery Walk

The fun loving Nomadic Boys, Stefan and Sebastian, tell us:
“In August 2015, we visited the Kinabatangan River in the heart of the rainforest on the Malaysian side of Borneo Island. The Kinabatangan has a plethora of wildlife living in the wild in what’s left of the rainforest (the huge demands of palm oil has led to much of it being destroyed). You can see pygmy elephants, orang utans, plenty of proboscis monkeys and giant bugs who look like they’ve taken steroids. We think you should definitely include a visit here in your SE itinerary.”
Where to go in southeaast asia Malaysia with Esmerelda-the-Elephant-photobombing-Nomadic Boys
Wildlife in Malaysia image courtesy of the Nomadic Boys

Our good friends, Gianni and Ivana, of Nomad is Beautiful appeal to our love of wildlife:
“Wild orangutans, proboscis monkeys, hornbills, crocodiles and fireflies – these and more different kinds of animals you can encounter in Borneo, Malaysia. Despite the recent environmental issues, we’d still recommend to visit Borneo, support sanctuaries and eco-friendly local tour operators. By doing this, you can help to preserve natural resources and endangered wildlife.”
Where to go in southeast Asia, Borneo, Nomad is Beautiful
Photo of an Orangutan in Borneo courtesy of Nomad is Beautiful

Read How to See Orangutans in Borneo Independently


Is it really more fun in the Philippines? These experts say YES!

The dynamic duo of Tom and Meg at Travel Freedom Podcast say:

“It’s not hard for us to be inspired to visit the Philippines. It’s one of our favorite countries in the world. The Philippines is an amazing place. But there is a little island known as Bohol that stole our heart. On this island you will find luscious beaches, great scuba diving and a little creature that looks like he stepped right out of a Sci-fi movie – the Tarsier. There are only a few places in the world where you can see them – and the Philippines is one of them!”

Where to go in Southeast Asia Philippines Five Dollar Traveller

Here’s some more inspiration from Tom & Meg:

7 Photos That will Inspire You to Visit the Philippines

Ian of Where Sidewalks End says:

Sagada is a little town nestled between the mountains of northern Luzon island in the Philippines. It’s often left off the itinerary, as most people head to the beaches when travelling through the Phils, but I thought it was one of the coolest towns (both literally, and figuratively) that I visited. With good food, unique culture (coffins get hung from cliffs!), and an abundance of outdoor activities, Sagada is a great addition to anyone’s itinerary travelling around South East Asia!

Where to go in Southeast Asia, Sagada, Philippines, Where Sidewalks End
Image of Sagada courtesy of Where Sidewalks End

Here’s a City Guide to Sagada, Philippines

So, Lizzie Meets World, where to go in Southeast Asia?

“For the adventurous, nature-loving traveler, the Philippines is the perfect destination. With its crystal-clear, white-sand beaches, lush mountain hiking trails, and curious natural and man-made structures, there is really something for everyone. Coupled with great weather, friendly people, and delicious cuisine, you may have trouble leaving.”

Where to go in Southeast AsiaBanol-Beach-in-Coron-Palawan
Photo of Banol Beach Palawan courtesy of Lizzie Meets World

Read Lizzie’s Summer Lovin in the Philippines: A Balance Bucketlist for Adventurous Couples

Where In The World Is Nina says:

“I love the Philippines because there is so much variety in terms of what intrepid shenanigans you can get up to, the people are extremely friendly, the cost is relatively cheap, and it’s not traveled as much as the typical mainland SE Asia trail.”

Where to go in Asia Philippines Where in the World is Nina
El Nido, Philippines courtesy of Where In The World is Nina

Here’s a great resource for A Two Week Itinerary for the Philippines

Do you want to know about more destinations in the Philippines? Click through to this guide on where to visit in the Philippines. 


Angkor Wat may be enough reason to go Cambodia but our experts tell us there’s so much more

Richelle of Adventures Around Asia says:

I really connected with the history of Cambodia, from the stunning historic temples to the Killing Fields and S21 prison, there’s honestly so much to learn here. Watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat, I couldn’t help but sit back and and think “I’m in Cambodia?!”

Where to go in southeast Asia, Cambodia, Adventures Around Asia
Image of Kampot countryside, Cambodia courtesy of Adventures Around Asia

Read about Kampot and Kep: Cambodia’s Hidden Gems

Mark and Kirsty of Kathmandu and Beyond say:

“Impatient to see the mighty temples at Angkor, it’s not surprising that most people head directly to Siem Reap after experiencing the delights of the capital. But if you have the time, consider breaking the journey and staying in one or more of the following five destinations.”

Where to go in southeast Asia, Angkor-Wat-91 Kathmandu and Beyond
Image of Cambodia courtesy of Kathmandu and Beyond

Read Where to Break the Journey Between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap

Corrine of Reflections Enroute says:

“Cambodia is an amazing place to visit with the temples of Angkor Wat. We loved riding electric bikes through the temples, able to decide how long to stay and stop along the way to take photos!”

Where to go in Southeast Asia,Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Reflections Enroute
Image at Angkor Wat courtesy of Reflections Enroute

Reflections Enroute ask Is 3 Days Enough at Angkor Wat?

Travel Dave also picked Angkor Wat as a must see in Asia and said:

“If you’re on your way to Siem Reap to visit the temples of Ankgor Wat, there is one important travel tip you should take to enhance your trip dramatically.”

Where to go in southeast Asia, Angkor Wat Cambodia, Travel Dave
Image of Angkor Wat courtesy of Travel Dave

Learn How to Book a Tuk Tuk for Your Visit to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia


Still relatively untouched by the changes brought on by mass tourism our experts tell us to go to Laos now!

Here’s what Eloise and Stuart of Am I Nearly There Yet have to say about Laos:

“Gorgeous, steamy and beautiful – Laos is by far our favourite country we’ve ever visited. Whether you’re heading north into the cooler jungle mountains, or south to the ex-French colonial towns in the southern plains, it would be a travesty to miss Laos while you’re in South East Asia.”
Where To Go In Southeast Asia Laos Are We Nearly There Yet
“Laos is one of the poorest countries on the planet, but it doesn’t feel that way. Whether it’s village treks you’re after, or swinging in a hammo in Nong Khiaw, Laos has heaps to offer all travellers.” Check out their Guide to Maxing Your Relaxing in Long Khiaw for all the tips.

“There is so much to see in this beautiful country.  It is a little more rustic compared to its neighbors in Vietnam and Thailand, so it is worth checking it out.  Of course Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng  should be on your “must visit” list,  with so much nature to enjoy.”
Where to go in southeast Asia, Luang Prabang, Laos, Wagoners Abroad
Image of Kuang Si waterfalls in Laos courtesy of Wagoners Abroad

Visit Kuang Si waterfalls-Luang Prabang Laos with Wagoners Abroad


Like Laos, Myanmar (formerly Burma) is fairly new on the mass tourist circuit but it’s a favorite of our fellow travel bloggers. 

Matt and Alana of Great Big Globe say:

“Inle Lake is one of the most visited areas in Myanmar. The lake itself is beautiful but there is even more to enjoy in the area. We recommend taking a cooking class in nearby Nyaung Shwe. Not only will you learn how make several delicious Burmese dishes, you will also learn so much about the Burmese people and their culture. Plus, a portion of your class fee goes towards the education of local children.”

Inle Lake Myanmar courtesy of Great Big Globe
Inle Lake Myanmar courtesy of Great Big Globe

Read about Great Big Globes Cookin’ for a Reason in Inle Lake

Mar Pages of Once in a Once in a Lifetime Journey says:

“Bagan gave me renewed energy. There was something in the air beyond the dust and heat that made me deeply calm. There was something special in following the sun to wake up and to retire to sleep. The Burmese are welcoming, quiet and friendly and, although tourism is already leaving a mark, it is yet to completely change the area. If you do go, forfeit the bus and rent an electric bike. Get lost, and get found, by a squirrel jumping of a tree onto the rooftop of an ancient construction. And above all, enjoy the moment, live in the present and sit down where no tourists go. By the river, by the market, on a local boat. For this may all disappear in a few years but you are still privileged to be a part of it.”

Where to go in southeast Asia Myanmar Once in a Lifetime Journey
Myanmar photo courtesy of Once in a Lifetime Journey

Read about Mar’s Journey to the Lost World of Bagan

Taylor from Travel Outlandish says:

“Angkor Wat and Ayutthaya have nothing on the “Land of the Thousand Stupas”. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, the Kingdom of Bagan raised more than 10,000 temples and monasteries in a venture to become the hub of secular studies (more than 2,000 of which are still standing). Go for silent sunrise views, interrupted only by thousands of silhouetted temples and drifting hot air balloons. Go for one of the most lovely cultural experiences in Southeast Asia. Go before it changes. Just go!”

Where to go in Southeast Asia Myanmr Once We're Young Travel
Bagan, Myanmar photo courtesy of Once We’re Young Travel

See The Many Temples of Bagan with Travel Outlandish


We didn’t need convincing to spend time in Thailand, beautiful Thai islands, tropical beaches, delicious food and friendly people…what’s not to love?

Live Dream Discover (that’s us) says:

We’ve loved everything we’ve seen so far in Thailand…Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Pai…and we look forward to seeing so much more, but our very first impression was Koh Phangan. A beautiful island with a split personality it is definitely somewhere we would return to.

Where to go in Southeast Asia, The Thai Island of Koh Phangan
Admiring the view after an hot but beautiful hike.

Read why The Thai Island of Koh Phangan is Not Just for Full Moon Debauchery

We had to ask the Thailand experts, Chris and Angela of Tieland to Thailand:

“Simply put, Thailand is an easy place to travel! We’ve found that no matter where we want to go, there is always a convenient flight or bus we can catch and plenty of accommodations to choose from that suit our budget and travel style. And as for things to do, there are plenty! Sure, Thailand is known for its beautiful southern beaches, and colorful nightlife in Bangkok, but there are plenty of incredible places to visit in the north as well. We actually just trekked Thailand’s highest mountain! Yes, we may be a bit biased, but we think Thailand is an absolute must for anyone planing to visit Southeast Asia!”

Where to go in Southeast Asia, Tieland to Thailand
Stunning photo of Doi Inthanon courtesy of Tieland to Thailand

Read about A Day Trip to Doi Intahnon, Thailand’s Highest Mountain

Gemma and Craig of Two Scots Abroads say:

“Waterfalls, hot springs, and lush green scenery – what is there not to love about Pai in Thailand? Nestled in the mountains of Thailand, north of Chiang Mai, travellers will find, Pai, the hippy haven in the hills. The best way to travel to Pai is by scooter, don’t blink or you’ll miss the petrol stations.”

Where to go in souteast Asia Pai, Thailand. Two Scots Abroad
Image of hot springs in Pai, Thailand courtesy of Two Scots Abroad

Read about their adventure in Pai, Thailand


Travelers have definitely discovered Vietnam‘s timeless charm and our fellow foodies can’t get enough

Our lovely friend, Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads has spent a ton of time on this amazing continent so when asked where to go in Southeast Asia she tells us:

“I think you should head to Saigon. Not only is it one of the more exciting cities in Asia, it is poised on the cusp of change. The city’s 19 districts are still a mix of old and new, with tangled alleyways and plenty of places to get lost. And the food — don’t even get me started on the food. At any time of day, steaming soups, char grilled pork and a thriving night street food scene full of seafood and snails. It’s hard to pinpoint one main reason to visit Saigon, but I have 5000 words to try and convince you in my long post!”

Where to go in southeast Asia, Saigon, Legal Nomads
Food in Saigon photo courtesy of Legal Nomads

Read more from Jodi in Why I Love Saigon

Our friends, Sean and Jen, of the Venturists say:

“Mai Chau in Vietnam is an idyllic valley is about 3 hours from Hanoi, and is also a refreshing relief from the hectic craziness of the city. The local farmers still harvest the rice by hand, and a visit is a glimpse back into how life in Vietnam was years ago.”

Where to go in Southeast Asia The rice fields in Vietnam
Rice fields in Vietnam courtesy of the Venturists

Read about their Mai Chau Valley Vietnamese Cooking Class

FAQs on Southeast Asia

Now that we’ve sold you on this exotic and diverse part of the world it’s time to start planning the details. This article, Top 10 FAQs on Travelling South East Asia by Bemused Backpacker, is a great place to start. It answers many of the questions of first timers and also reinforces some important points for return visitors.

The next question is where to eat in Asia?

We’d love to hear your top choices for Southeast Asia!

Where to go in Southeast Asia Pinterest Image





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