10 Destinations in Southeast Asia that are Off the Beaten Path

10 Destinations in Southeast Asia that are Off the Beaten Path

Venture off the tourist trail into the lesser-known parts of Southeast Asia. Garrett shares the places he's personally visited and recommends.

Contributed by Eat. Travel. Photography

You’ve always wanted to go on the road less travelled, yet somehow end up going to places almost every tourist goes to anyway. Everyone’s going to the same places, seeing and doing the same things. So how is your trip different from everyone else’s?

Here’s a list of travel ideas for ten off the beaten path places you could go to in Southeast Asia. These places have fewer crowds and are good alternatives to add more variety to your planned trips.

1. Amed, Indonesia

Amed viewpoint, overlooking Jemeluk Bay with Mount Agung in the distance

What defines the perfect beach getaway? Blessed with stunning landscapes, pristine beaches and excellent snorkelling, Amed ticks all the boxes but without the occasional tourist hordes that you see almost everywhere in Bali. Thank god it’s really far off the tourist trail; most travellers hardly ever consider coming to this stunning part of Bali. For those who do, congratulations, this could be the slice of heaven you were looking for.

2. Mae Hong Son, Thailand

underrated places in southeast asia

Mae Hong Son’s Wat Jong Klang Temple

Unless you’re planning to take on the Mae Hong Son Loop, most don’t even consider coming to this part of northern Thailand, located just a doorstep away from Myanmar. This quaint and well-kept town holds plenty of surprises for those who are willing to spend more than a night here. Be it getting a bird’s eye view from Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu, strolling around Jong Kham lake or visiting the long neck Karen tribe villages in the vicinity, there is a long list of to-dos in Mae Hong Son.

Also read: Mae Hong Son: Discover a Secret Village in Thailand up in the Mountains

3. Battambang, Cambodia

Battambang’s bamboo train

Battambang may be just a small blip on Cambodia’s tourism scene but appearances can be a little deceiving. There’s actually plenty to see and do in this charming little town for those considering a stopover here. There’s the bamboo train, only one of two in the world. There’s also the killing caves of Phnom Sampeau, located just outside town, a site where some of the most horrific atrocities were committed during the Khmer Rouge era. It’s also the perfect place to start your (warning: excruciatingly slow) boat ride along the scenic Sangker river to Siem Reap. Battambang offers so much yet receives so little limelight that I’m actually wondering if that’s actually a good thing.

4. Sidemen, Indonesia

The rice terraces of Sidemen

While most tourists would opt for the touristy Tegalalang, I wanted something a bit off the beaten track. On my way from Ubud to Amed, I made a last minute decision and took a detour to Sidemen, and this is probably the best decision I’ve made during my entire stay in Bali. There isn’t much to do here, but the timeless beauty of the place is worth the time you spend in admiration.

5. Khun Yuam, Thailand

Doi Mae U Kho near Khun Yuam, venue for the annual Dok Buatong

Okay, so why mention Khun Yuam when Mae Hong Son, a town located only 80km away, was already mentioned? The answer, it has just enough to see and do to earn a place in your travel wishlist. First off, just a short drive away is Namtok Mae Surin National Park, home to the Mae Surin falls, the tallest single tier waterfall in Thailand. There’s also the Dok Buatong, an annual sunflower bloom festival which takes place at Doi Mae U Kho at the end of each year, which in my opinion, is an event which could give the one in Lopburi a run for its money.

6. Nong Khiaw, Laos

underrated places in southeast asia

Thick morning mist enveloping the many limestone cliffs in Nong Khiaw

Towering limestone cliffs surround this riverine village just a few hours north of Luang Prabang. I came here on a whim, a decision I never regretted one bit. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could try trekking to the viewpoint, which has uninterrupted and breathtaking views of Nong Khiaw and the surrounding valleys. Don’t worry if you aren’t the adventurous type, as just being here presents a very good opportunity to experience the local way of life in its truest form.

7. Sembalun, Indonesia

The farmlands of Sembalun, with Bukit Pergasingan in the distance

A remote village with vast expanses of farmland nestled among the foothills of Gunung Rinjani (Lombok’s highest mountain), Sembalun was a surprise find as I made my way around Lombok. For those considering an overnight stay, there are a few accommodation options here. While you’re at it, I recommend a short trek to Bukit Selong to watch the sunset. Want to up the ante a little? Try an overnight hike to Bukit Pergasingan for some of the best views Sembalun has to offer.

8. Mae Salong, Thailand

Mae Salong, Thailand’s oolong tea county

Located just under two hours north of Chiang Rai and away from the usual tourist trail, Mae Salong isn’t your typical Thai town, as most of its inhabitants are of Yunnanese (hint: China) descent, giving the town a very distinct feel. So what’s there to do in a place like this? Besides sampling delectable Yunnanese dishes and tea tasting, you could try scaling the few hundred steps to the pagoda on the hilltop to get a bird’s eye view of the town and the surrounding countryside. Or head over to the tea plantations nearby to experience first-hand how oolong tea is produced.

9. Ngadas, Indonesia

The almost dreamlike landscape in Ngadas

Getting here from Malang felt almost like an adventure. It didn’t come without its challenges of course, but it was well worth it. I stumbled upon this hidden gem while looking for alternative ways to get to Bromo, besides the usual route through Probolinggo. I have always read about how beautiful and tranquil Ngadas was, but I was absolutely mesmerised when I first saw the place with my own eyes. If there was ever a Hobbiton (from the Lord of the Rings) in real life, this is it.

10. Muang Ngoi Neua, Laos

underrated places in southeast asia

Muang Ngoi Neua, rural Laos

If Nong Khiaw didn’t feel offbeat enough, head on over to Muang Ngoi Neua, about an hour’s boat ride away, which runs only a few times a day and is the only way to get there. There are no roads, and up until recently, there was no electricity either. Welcome to rural Laos. Despite this, there’s no shortage of things to see and do here in Muang Ngoi Neua, which makes it popular with the occasional traveller seeking adventure. Try a short trek to Phanoy cave and be rewarded with stunning views. Or take a leisurely walk around the beautiful countryside, mingling with the locals as you go.

Do you like this list? Feel free to comment below if you would like to contribute some of your own travel ideas for off the beaten path places in Southeast Asia.

About Author

Garrett Aeria
Garrett Aeria

There are three things that Garrett absolutely loves about life: Eat, Travel and Photography, which are all perfectly summed up in his travel blog's moniker. Ever since being bitten by the travel bug, Eat. Travel. Photography represents his way of chronicling his life's journeys and sharing his enthusiasm with the world.


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