You always hear backpackers talking about their love for Southeast Asia (SEA), about wanting to go there really bad, or raving about the many times they’ve been there and their crazy experiences. So, why is SEA so popular? I include myself in this category of SEA lover, so here are 5 reasons why I think SEA is so popular with backpackers:
1. It is cheap
This is one of the most attractive factors that bring backpackers to SEA. It is pretty obvious that most backpackers try their best to travel on a budget, and SEA makes this an easy task. Street food, cheap restaurants, cheap hostels, cheap transportation… they are all there.
2. Easy access
Unlike cheaper countries like India (which by the way, it is also very popular among backpackers), SEA countries provide easy access through their borders. Some countries, like Thailand and Singapore, don’t require a visa for most nationalities, and other countries, like Cambodia and Indonesia, might require a visa but it can be easily acquired at the border by just paying the fee. Also, Bangkok and Singapore are well-connected hubs.
In addition, SEA is composed of many bordering countries, so it is easy to jump from one country to another by simply taking a train, bus, or ferry.
3. There’s something for everyone
From crazy parties to cultural richness, there’s something to please everybody. You can spend all day sightseeing temples, laying on the beach, doing adventurous stuff, or even shopping; and then spend the night partying, watching shows, just drinking on the street with friends, or having fun with ladyboys (if that’s on your list). The options are endless.
For me, SEA is the perfect combination of culture, laziness, and fun!
4. Culture shock
While in recent years it has been toned down a little bit in some of the countries, the culture shock is still present and very visible. Things like visiting tribes, “happy ending massages”, ladyboys, ping-pong shows, fish massages, strange delicacies, and lack of regulations, to name a few, are a strange thing in the western world. But, they are here open a willing to be explored and to be shocked about.
I personally was impressed, shocked, and even grossed out by some of the things I mentioned above. Cockroach snack, anyone?
5. Good backpacking infrastructure
As a reaction to the initial backpacking boom the area saw many years ago, they developed a “backpacking infrastructure” that makes it extremely easy to visit the most popular places in every country (or what today is the backpacking trail). For most cities, there is high flexibility when choosing cheap hostels, train or bus options, budget airlines, and even tour operators.
Of course, there are areas, like in Laos and Vietnam, that might be a bit hard to get to, but with a bit of research, you can find your way there. You can still see villages with no water and electricity, and details like that are some of the things that make you appreciate things even more.
Still, in general, the travel infrastructure is so well developed that all you need to do is get there, hop around, and enjoy SEA.
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