620 MILLION people | 15 official languages | 13 currencies | 11 countries | 3 non-sovereign states
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SHOESTRING TRAVEL BUDGET
$45/day : Singapore
If you are interested in living in SE Asia read this post by Jo on Tips for living in Southeast Asia on a budget.
SINGAPORE – Singapore
VIETNAM – Ho Chi Minh City
LAOS – Vang Vieng
World Nomads – Specialist travel insurance for backpackers in Southeast Asia.
Seat 61 – Excellent source of knowledge for train routes and times in the region.
Travel Independent – Detailed info on independent travel in each country.
Southeast Asia Backpacker – Awesome backpacker magazine for travellers in Southeast Asia.
Limbonis – Precise breakdown of travel costs in SE Asia from a very savvy shoestring traveller.
Ultimate Guide to Surf Holidays in Bali – Excellent guide to the best surf spots in Bali.
WORTH A READ
Uplifting, easy read of the adventures of a traveller in Southeast Asia. Read a free chapter here.
Book in which that film with Leonardo Di Caprio was based on. Seems to be on 24-7 in some Thai bars.
Tales of a Californian girl who gets divorced and goes wild in Southeast Asia for 7 months. Fun Times.
SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NUTSHELL!
Buddhism and beaches are two of the main images that the mind conjures up when someone mentions Southeast Asia. Glorious temple complexes are all over the place and Thailand especially is blessed with some smashing white sandy beaches and hot sunny weather pretty much all year. However there is much more to this region than that.
Culturally it is totally unique and ancient traditions and rituals continue to be passed down from generation to generation. Away from the cities you get the feeling the pace and nature of life hasn’t changed much in centuries. That said modern cities like Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur have all the mod-cons of any capital in Europe or North America and put many of them to shame.
While there are cultural similarities, there are subtle and sometimes great differences to be found as you go from country to country. Indonesia is not like Thailand. Travelling from Burma or Laos to Singapore is more akin to stepping in a time machine and moving rapidly into the distant future.
THE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
Southeast Asia is generally the first place people tend to go when they decide to do a bit of backpacking. This leads to a pretty young crowd mostly consisting of gap year teenagers, students and those just out of college or university. This in turn generally results in an alcohol and sometimes drug-fuelled party culture that can be great fun but isn’t to everyone’s taste. The cheapness of pretty much everything here makes long stays in the region popular.
Escaping the extremely well trodden backpacker trail is easier than you may think. Away from Bangkok’s KhaoSan Road, the popular Thai islands, Bali and a few towns in Laos and Cambodia you begin to get a taste for what brought travellers to Southeast Asia in the first place. More adventurous or return travellers in the region may be tempted to head to Burma which is at last opening its doors to foreigners while Indonesia is so large there are always new islands to discover.
Pockets of the region are occasionally volatile and ethnic tensions between Muslims and Buddhists occur in parts of Burma and Thailand. However in general this is a fairly safe region to travel in and the worst that is likely to happen is that you get ripped off by a local taxi driver or tour operator.