8 travel hotspots in Asia and their off-the-beaten path alternatives

Oct 24 2018, 10:28 pm

Travel to Southeast Asia is hot right now, with everyone including your BFF’s friend of a friend of a friend flooding to destinations like Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in droves. It’s not hard to see why; vibrant cities, towering temples, legendary beach parties, bustling night markets – not to mention the street food!

But what are your options if you’re looking to venture off the tourist trail and immerse yourself a little deeper in the local culture?

You’re likely going to visit the main cities anyway, at least to stop at the airport, but there is a treasure trove of hidden gems to add along the way. Whatever your reason, the team at Busabout is here to highlight some of the must-see and off-the-beaten-path Asian destinations for those wanting to take the road less travelled.

So, read on, and get some travel inspo!

Big city Bangkok? Have a break in Kanchanaburi

 

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Bangkok was officially the most-visited city in the world in 2017, knocking London off the top spot and raking in over 20 million travellers.

Bangkok is certainly an experience – but if you want to delve a little deeper into the dark history of Thailand, then make your way a couple of hours westward to the River Kwai and Kanchanaburi. Here you can visit the trio of the infamous Death Railway, the Bridge over the River Kwai, and the Allied War Cemetery – but there’s so much more to the city! Try bamboo rafting along the river, touring the temple ruins, singing at the buzzing karaoke bars, and shopping at the gemstone village.

Going to Vang Vieng? Don’t miss Luang Prabang

 

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En route to the stunning Pak Ou Caves, near Luang Prabang. Who’s joining? 🙌 #busaboutasia

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Vang Vieng in central Laos certainly draws the crowds and has a reputation for being a party hotspot for visitors from all over the world. It has earned its spot on the backpacker loop, but if you’re looking for a breakaway from the nightlife scene then you shouldn’t bypass Luang Prabang.

Situated in Northern Laos, this town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in ’95, and once you check out the 33 gilded wats and faded Indochinese villas you’ll see why. Aside from the stunning array of temples, you’ll have a ton of river cruising and trekking options to keep you busy!

Chillin’ in Chiang Mai? Head to Pai

 

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Don’t get us wrong, we love the sprawling modern city of Chiang Mai and the relaxed vibe that it’s managed to maintain. But if you love the laid-back pace of this Thai city, we can guarantee you’ll feel even more at home in the picture-perfect mountain valley town of Pai.

Head north to this little village and you’ll be greeted with lush green scenery, temples, waterfalls, elephant parks, and a few treks where you can visit the tribes in the hills. The main street of Pai gets packed every night with market vendors and food stalls too, so you’ll never go hungry here!

Done Phuket? Go to Koh Lanta

 

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Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, and an absolute hit with visitors. Diverse beaches, bustling streets and pumping nightlife make this a popular go-to hotspot for travellers looking for a taste of the Thai islands.

But if you’re looking for an island without the crowds, make your way to Koh Lanta. Long stretches of sandy beaches, dense forests, coral reefs and tree-covered hills make this the ideal destination for anybody wanting more of a peaceful getaway.

The island itself is actually pretty big, but it’s somehow wonderfully unspoiled and we’re sure after setting foot here, you won’t want to leave any time soon.

Explored Phnom Penh? Visit Koh Rong Samloem

 

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Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s vibrant capital city. It’s been described as a city that assaults the senses, with its loud and busy streets, bright lights, and pungent scents from unique markets.

If all this excitement is a bit much for you, you might be a lot more comfortable kicking back in Koh Rong Samloem. This 10 km island is pure tropical bliss, and it won’t take long for your stresses to melt away in the sun.

To see a more alternative side to the island, head to the northern coast, which is slowly becoming more developed. This area is away from the beaches and has a growing local vibe.

Done with Nha Trang? Go to Dalat

 

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A party town at heart, Nha Trang is still a must-visit location for many backpackers making their way through Vietnam. And while Dalat certainly isn’t unknown or uncrowded, it definitely has an alternative scene and unique atmosphere when comparing it to the rest of Vietnam!

Head here instead if you want to check out the hillsides dotted with French-colonial villas, the mini replica Eiffel Tower, and widespread farmlands cultivating fruits and flowers.

Dalat also has a slightly cooler climate (by Vietnamese standards, that is), and it’s popular with outdoor adrenaline junkies who want to try their hand at white water rafting, canyoning and mountain biking.

Not into Koh Phangan Moon Parties? Try Koh Samui.

 

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The island of Koh Phangan is famous for its legendary half and full moon parties, drawing revellers from far and wide to partake in the fire-twirling, body paint-splattering, bucket cocktail-wielding action.

If you like the sound of the island paradise, but the moon parties aren’t really your thing, then Koh Samui should be your alternative! Known for its swaying palm trees, white sand beaches, clear turquoise waters and coconut groves, this island is heaven on earth. Spend days swinging in a hammock sipping a cocktail, check out the fisherman’s village and make the most of the delicious Thai dishes at the food markets!

Hustle and bustle of Hanoi? Chill in Mai Chau

 

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This one has to be the ultimate busy-city to sleepy-village trade-off! Hanoi is the incredible capital city of Vietnam, known for its centuries-old architecture and deep history. The chaotic Old Quarter of Hanoi couldn’t be more removed from the rolling green hills and patchwork of rice fields that surround the village of Mai Chau.

The ultimate destination for hiking, relaxation, and smooth cycling, Mai Chau is the ideal getaway spot. If you like the idea of waking up in traditional stilt housing to the sound of birdsong, then this place is a bit of you!

If escaping the crowds is your thing, make sure to check out our list of European tourist hotspots and their off the beaten path alternatives!

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