Southeast Asia is full of amazing sights, unique cultures, and dream destinations. As an avid traveler in the region, I thought I would compile my top 3 picks in the region. After visiting Southeast Asia on and off over the past 18 years, including living in the region for the past 7, I think this top 3 list should be pretty good.
Mount Bromo, Java, Indonesia
Easily the most spectacular setting I have ever witnessed, Mount Bromo is a volcanic moonscape that must be seen at dawn to be fully appreciated. The volcano is set up high in the hills and cloud gathers at the base in the early morning. The cloud then seems to flow off the sides of the hills creating a stunning scene.
The volcano itself still smokes and as the sun rises, the red and orange light makes for a very beautiful scene. Once you have witnessed the sunrise from afar, you will be guided to the crater itself. To get there you cross a moonscape of volcanic ash, still covered in misty clouds. As you reach the rim, the smell of sulfur fills the air. Then you get to gaze at the molten larva in the center of the volcano. It is a must-see experience for anyone visiting Indonesia and can be done as a one-night side trip from Bali, or in the morning for those already in Java.
Swimming with Whale Sharks in Donsol, Philippines
Donsol is a half-day journey from the capital of Manila. The small town is pleasant to explore but the only reason travelers come to this area is because of the amazing underwater life. When creating a bucket list most people think of swimming with dolphins, however, whale sharks provide a much more thrilling experience.
You take a boat out with a couple of spotters on board. These locals are out every day searching the waters for whale sharks. Once they spot one they call the tourists and everyone scrambles to get their snorkel and flippers on. Then you dive into the water and try to swim alongside the whale shark for as long as possible, usually just a minute or so before they dive down into the deep.
Whale sharks are enormous fish and getting within touching distance of them is quite frightening at first. It is soon evident that they are gentle giants and quite safe to be around. One of our spotters accidentally jumped off the boat into a whale shark’s mouth, he was completely unscathed and unshaken. This is a great adventure and can be enjoyed in one morning.
Island Hopping in Krabi, Thailand
Most visitors to Southeast Asia go to Thailand one of the most beautiful places to visit in Krabi. There are many attractive islands to explore. The problem is that everyone knows about this and there are constant boatloads of people hopping around in tour boats. The way to avoid crowds is to ignore the organized tours and book a private boat. This won’t get you around as quickly but you can plan to get to the stunning islands when no one else is around.
The beach of Railay is a good base, although accommodation is not good value. Around the corner, you can walk or kayak to one of the main stops of the tour in 10 minutes. This beach is called Thum Phra Nang and is best enjoyed in the morning or late in the afternoon. Kayaking there allows you to explore a nearby island and attractive limestone cliffs.
There are plenty of guys with their own boats at the back of Railay, or you can find them in the nearby town of Ao Nang. They will advise on the best times to visit the islands so that you can avoid the crowds and take some postcard-perfect photographs. A half-day trip will suffice, but you could easily spend a few days visiting different islands in the province of Krabi.