When adventure comes to mind, many Americans dream of beaches in Hawaii, Mexico, and the Bahamas or romantic getaways to France, Italy, and Rome. Newlyweds will think fondly of traveling to Europe to kiss beneath The Eiffel Tower, and college students will frantically search the web to find out if their all inclusive Cancun resort stocks Jagermeister.
It should come as no surprise that the U.S. News World Report listed the same previously mentioned tourist destinations in their, Top 25 Vacation Destinations. However, it doesn’t list any Southeast Asian (SEA) countries. The only Asian country to even make the list was Hong Kong.
It all makes sense though, because it’s the way we were raised. Europe and the islands of the Caribbean have been romanticized by our pop culture. Think off the top of your head how many Hollywood movies you have seen that feature Paris, London, Hawaii, or the Caribbean. Now think of how many Hollywood movies you have seen that take place in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Bangkok, or Singapore. Odds are your count was a lot to a little, respectively. Don’t get caught trying to keep up with the rest of U.S.A., you need to be keeping up with the world instead!
You should stop asking what your co-worker is doing for vacation, and start asking what the rest of the world is doing for adventure. The fact of the matter is, the rest of the world is going to destinations in Southeast Asia. In Forbe’s Top 10 Most Visited Cities in The World, three of the ten were SEA countries, and Bangkok was even listed as #1.
So what’s all the fuss about? After a recent visit to Southeast Asia, I came away with a few key reasons why I enjoyed my time spent there more than anywhere else in the world:
Your Dollar Goes Farther
The exchange rate works in your favor. If you want to see the exact exchange rates you can visit www.xe.com and search each individually for yourself. Lets put it this way though, when you change your first $50 bill in Vietnam, you become a millionaire and in Bangkok you can have ringside tickets to a muay thai fight for the same amount (Which for the record is 10 times more entertaining than boxing). For the adrenaline junkies, you can rent a motorbike in Vietnam for $2-$5 a day. First, you may want to watch this video of Saigon traffic.
Food Bought on The Street is Better Than Your Average Sit Down Restaurant
The food in Southeast Asia is truly amazing. You can grab a delicious dessert of sticky rice with mango and coconut milk in Thailand for just $2. Or you can enjoy some delicious Pho in Vietnam for $1.50 if you wish. Even in the most expensive country in Southeast Asia, Singapore, you can grab a full meal at a hawker centre for $2-$3. In a recent competition world famous chef, Gordon Ramsey, was actually defeated by Singapore Hawkers.
It is still possible to find beaches in Southeast Asia where you can bask in the sweet rays of sun all by yourself. For most of the good beaches, you won’t be the only person on the beach, but you won’t be one of a bajillion people who are: flying kites, throwing Frisbees, crying for no apparent reason, boogie boarding into pregnant woman, watching their dog shit, or metaphorically bowling through beach goers in their first self taught skim boarding lesson.
The Locals Don’t Hate You….Yet
Unlike Cancun, Aruba, or an island in the Caribbean, most of the tourists are not from the USA. In Mexico or France, we carry with us the baggage of the “Loud American” tourist. The rep is so bad that a cafe in an Irish tourist destination banned loud Americans from their establishment.
In Southeast Asia, American tourists are not as common, and therefore get treated much differently than how they do in Cancun. A perfect example was when I stumbled upon a couple of blue collar workers in Nha Trang, Vietnam. Despite myself clearly being more fiscally privileged (I was wielding the new iPhone 6+, a $1000 dollar phone in Vietnam) than my new friends, they relentlessly insisted on sharing food and beer with me. I eventually gave in, but paid their gesture forward by purchasing a new soccer ball for some kids I met on the street.
Some Last Words
When it’s all said and done it’s your adventure. I have paid outrageous airfares to get to Europe or Aruba, and found that I spent twice as much money once I landed on accommodations and entertainment. I could always save up to get there, but always felt constricted by budgets during what was supposed to be the heart of my trip.
Your accommodations in Southeast Asia however, can be as little as $12 dollars a night, but the journey and adventure you will experience is worth a million dollars. I am not here to tell you that you have to go to Southeast Asia for your next nomadic adventure, or that anywhere else is a waste of your time, but for me it’s the most logical place to be. That is why I am going back this summer for four months to live and work in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam. Who knows, I may never come back.
To stay in the loop with my future adventures, or if you want to gain more insight and tips into what you should explore while adventuring in Southeast Asia, be sure to follow me on Twitter and visit my website (currently under construction).