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7 under-the-radar destinations in Southeast Asia

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We’re all for jetting off for some sun, sea, and sand or a fun city break, but there’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination and finding it’s overrun with tourists. After all, the whole point of getting away is to… well, get away from it all right? That’s why every so often we like to travel outside the box and visit unique places where you can completely immerse yourself in unique environments and cultures. Lucky for us there are tons of interesting places around the region where you can do just that. If you’re looking for something a bit different than your usual beach resort holiday, these are some cool places in Southeast Asia where you can get off the beaten path.



Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Komodo National Park is the only place in the world where you can see Komodo Dragons, the largest lizards in the world and direct descendents of dinosaurs. These huge endangered beasts use their long pink tongues to smell out their prey and ambush goats, pigs, and pretty much anything else that gets in their path. Join a boat trip to the islands of Komodo and Rinca for a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the dragons in their natural habitats.

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How to Get There:

The Perama Tour & Travel company offers multi-day boat trips from Bali to the Komodo National Park with stops at pretty islands in between. You can also join tours from Labuan Bajo, Flores, which is the jumping off point to the islands in the Komodo National Park.

 

Koh Kong, Cambodia

Cambodia is best known for the famous Angkor Wat temple complex, but if you really want to escape the busloads of tour groups, head west towards the Thai border to the stunning seaside town of Koh Kong. Here you’ll find crystal clear freshwater rivers, pristine rainforests, labyrinth-like wooden walkways through lush mangrove forests, and nearly deserted white sand beaches backed by the impressive Cardamom Mountains.

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How to Get There:

Buses to Koh Kong run regularly from Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, or you can cross the Thai border at Hat Lek into Koh Kong.

 

Bagan, Myanmar

If you want to see the largest and most densely packed array of Buddhist temples on the planet, head to Bagan in Myanmar. Dotted across the plains here are thousands of centuries-old stupas, pagodas, temples, and ruins just waiting to be explored. The best way to see the temples is to rent a bicycle and meander through the winding pathways at your own pace. Be sure to visit the temples at sunset when soft light illuminates them in rich shades of orange and red.

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How to Get There:

There are daily flights from Yangon and Mandalay to Bagan. You can also get there by train, bus or a even a leisurely boat ride down the Irrawaddy River.

 

Four Thousand Islands, Laos

The Four Thousand Islands region of Laos (also known as Si Phan Don) is a place where time seems to stand still and stress slips away much like the lazy waters of the Mekong River flowing gently past the gorgeous green islands. Spend your days taking leisurely bike rides past rice paddies and traditional villages, visiting Southeast Asia’s largest waterfall or simply napping in a hammock strung up on the wooden veranda of your guesthouse overlooking the water.

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How to Get There:

You can catch daily buses from the capital city of Vientiane to the Four Thousand Islands, or come in through the Laos/Cambodian border. Many tour companies in Kratie, Cambodia offer joint mini-van and boat tickets all the way through to Si Phan Don.

 

Sagada, Philippines

Most tourists in the Philippines flock straight for the beaches, but those looking for something a bit more adventurous should head to Sagada in the Cordillera Region. This sleepy mountain town offers plenty to explore nearby including rolling green hills, undulating rice paddies, and fascinating caves with karst formations. Be sure to make a trip to the hanging coffins as well for a unique insight into the local Igorot customs and culture.

 

How to get there:

You can either take a 12-hour bus ride from Manila to Sagada or catch a flight to Banaue and then take a 45-minute van ride to Sagada.

 

The Banda Islands, Indonesia

During the spice trade, the Banda Islands were some of the most sought-after pieces of land in the world for their rich supplies of nutmeg and mace. However, today these tiny volcanic islands have been mostly forgotten by the outside world, All the better for intrepid travellers who make the trip and find they have all those sugary white sand beaches, sparkling turquoise waters, and charming colonial buildings to themselves. They’re not easy to get to, but the Banda Islands definitely worth the trip.

 

How to get there:

The easiest way to get to the Banda Islands is to fly to Ambon and then take a Pelni boat to Bandaneira. For something a bit more upscale, Ultimate Bali offers liveaboard yacht charters that make trips to the islands.

 

Pulau Sipadan, Malaysia

If scuba diving is your thing, then Pulau Sipadan is for you. This small island is surrounded by incredible underwater sights including near-vertical walls, underwater pinnacles, eye-popping coral gardens, and all manner of sea life like barracudas, hammerhead sharks, and sea turtles. You can’t actually stay on Sipadan itself, but the nearby island of Mabul has a good selection of accommodation options for all budgets.

 

How to get there: 

There are daily flights to Semporna from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. Once there, most hotels can arrange pick-up from the airport.

 

 

 

Enjoyed this post? You may also enjoy Unique Hotels in Southeast Asia & Best Beach Getaways Close to Singapore.

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