Southeast Asia: My Favourite Place in 5 Countries

In all of my travels around the world over the years, the majority of my time has been spent in Asia. In fact, I’ve probably spent the good part of a year of my life over there. In Southeast Asia, so far I have visited five countries – well, six including Singapore – and I thought that I would challenge myself to picking a favourite place in each of those five countries. This was a far harder challenge than I imagined. There are so many places that bring back amazing memories, and I keep thinking to change my choices, but here they are:

Hoi An, Vietnam

Waterfront street in Hoi An, Vietnam

Waterfront street at dusk in Hoi An

I fell in love with Hoi An almost instantly as I took my first walk through the Old Town. Its history, its atmosphere and its beautiful setting just captured me. I remember nights just walking through the lantern lit streets with my wife, sitting down to dinner overlooking the water, and then cycling out to the beach during the day. I’ll definitely keep coming back to Hoi An when I visit Vietnam.

Kratie, Cambodia

Sunset on the Mekong River in Kratie, Cambodia

Sunset on the Mekong in Kratie

I loved every single second that I spent in Cambodia. There wasn’t a place that I visited that I didn’t like, and choosing a favourite place was very difficult. Kratie is a small town, situated on the Mekong River in the Northeast of the country, and foreigners who venture here come to see the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins that inhabit a stretch of the river just north of town, but for me the town had so much more than that. It had a truly sleepy and laid back vibe, and stepping just outside of town puts you right in the middle of rural Cambodia. Memories of cycling around Koh Trong, an island in the Mekong River, brings a smile to my face, and sitting with my wife and watching the incredible sunset over the Mekong River in the evening just makes me want to go back there right now.

Vang Vieng, Laos

Rice fields and limestone mountains in Vang Vieng, Laos

Rice fields and limestone karst mountains in Vang Vieng

To be honest, I think I have even surprised myself with my choice of Vang Vieng as my favourite place in Laos. I was sure that I would choose Luang Prabang, one of my favourite cities in the world. The partying backpacker haven of Vang Vieng hardly sounds like the sort of place that I would love; however my mind goes back to Vang Vieng a lot, the reason being that there is so much more to Vang Vieng than partying, getting drunk and tubing down a river, which is what seems to label the town a lot of the time. For me, Vang Vieng is all about cycling through the beautiful countryside surrounded by bright green rice fields with tall limestone karst mountains towering over them, and in the evening relaxing in a laid back restaurant or bar overlooking the river. I have lots of happy memories from this place and I feel like returning there often.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Old City street in Chiang Mai, Thailand

A quiet street in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai didn’t capture me so much when I first visited, and up until my six month trip in 2013 I would have chosen Bangkok as my favourite place in Thailand – it is, after all, my most visited city outside of Australia – but after having stayed in Chiang Mai for an entire two months, I completely fell in love with it; so much so that I could see myself living there no problem at all. It is just one of those places that I needed to forget about sightseeing and travelling, and instead just live, mingle with the locals and do everyday things. I discovered a city full of life and friendly faces. I just loved how I could walk down a busy road where I felt like I was in the middle of a big busy city, and then just step down a quiet alleyway and feel like I was in a small country town. I think about my time in Chiang Mai often and long to go back there. It was a very happy time in my life.

George Town, Malaysia

Street side restaurant in Little India, George Town, Malaysia

A street side restaurant in Little India, George Town

I kind of feel like choosing a favourite place in Malaysia, for me, is like choosing a favourite restaurant when you have only been to one. Although I have been to more than one place in Malaysia, there is still so much more of the country that I need to see, however when I do, I have the feeling that my choice may still not change. George Town, on the island of Penang, was the first place that I visited in the country and I loved every minute of my time there. The mix of culture is incredible and the atmosphere addictive. Then, there is the food – some of the best that I have had during my travels. I think, perhaps, that my stomach may even be making this choice for me. Happy memories seem to focus on meal times, walking through the streets of George Town with my wife and sitting down to an amazing meal in Little India or Chinatown. I would go back here in a heartbeat.

Have you been to any of these countries? What was your favourite place?

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10 comments… add one
  • Michelle Feb 27, 2015

    I’m so happy that you loved Chiang Mai enough to make it your favorite Thailand destination. I’ve been back to Chiang Mai three times since my first visit. It’s a beautiful city that is both vibrant and laid-back and it’s definitely stolen my heart.

    • Dean Wickham Mar 9, 2015

      Hi Michelle. I think I may have left my heart in Chiang Mai. I think of it often and about how happy I was when I was there. Like you, I think I will keep going back again and again 🙂

  • Since I haven’t traveled SE Asia yet, this is a great list for me to consider where to go. Thanks!

    • Dean Wickham Mar 9, 2015

      I’m pleased that you enjoyed the post, Stephanie. I hope that you can go one day 🙂

  • Nigel Mar 2, 2015

    I did a complete 180 on Chiang Mai. Did see what all the fuss was about but after spending 2 weeks there I’m thinking about heading back for a few days. Laos had the best scenery in Southeast Asia. I wasn’t going to go tubing but it was Christmas and some people I was with changed my mind. I’m really glad I went. amazing experience.
    Great photos!

    • Dean Wickham Mar 9, 2015

      Hey Nigel. Yes, I think Chiang Mai is one of those places that needs to be revisited to really be appreciated. Agree with you about Laos. Did you go tubing through the caves as well? That was a lot of fun!

      • Nigel Mar 9, 2015

        hey Dean. Nah didn’t go tubing in the caves. didn’t know you could do that! If anyone asks I’ll tell them to look into it.

        • Dean Wickham Apr 20, 2015

          It is definitely worth doing, though it can get quite cramped and claustrophobic 😉

  • Deb Mar 8, 2015

    Great choices all around. I’d have to say I agree with them all. When I think about my favourite places and the times I had in each country, these spots are right at the top. Great idea for a post!

    • Dean Wickham Mar 9, 2015

      Hi Deb. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who loved these places; although I’m not surprised. They are amazing 🙂

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