Welcome to our article on the best places to visit in Southeast Asia in 2020. Let our recent travels to Southeast Asia inspire you on your travels to this beautiful region of the world in 2020. From the ancient temples of Cambodia, to the rich culture of Northern Thailand, to the pristine beaches of Bali – there are so many wonderful places to discover.
We were inspired to visit Southeast Asia through Instagram! Australia and New Zealand were top of our lists in the beginning, but watching people like @mariefeandjakesnow, @gypsea_lust and @doyoutravel who were travelling around SE Asia at the time we were planning to go, really showed us the beauty of what it has to offer.
Our first impressions differed from each country we visited. I would say the humidity definitely shocked us! How inexpensive everything is compared to living in the UK. But something we noticed in every country was how friendly everyone was! One of Lauren’s favourite things to do whilst driving on our motorbikes was waving to all the local children in the villages!
Our Incredible Journey through Southeast Asia
We kicked off our trip in Hong Kong. Here we climbed the famous Lion Rock (which nearly killed us it was so hard), explored the famous landmarks and tried some of the most amazing food that Hong Kong offers.
After hopping on a quick flight, we arrived in the Philippines. Here we explored Manila, El Nido, Coron, Cebu, Siquijor, Bohol and Siargao. It was the most amazing 23 days of island hopping, experiencing beautiful untouched beaches and meeting the kindest people!
From the Philippines, we flew to Bali. We spent 18 days on our motorbike driving to waterfalls, beaches, eating every smoothie bowl Bali has to offer and relaxing in our villa. This is where we got engaged and it has become a really special place to us.
Thailand was next on the agenda, so we flew to Kuala Lumpur for a few days before flying onto Phuket. Kuala Lumpur was AMAZING and is definitely in our top five cities you have to visit! Make sure you add it to your bucket list for 2020.
After Phuket we did some of Thailand’s islands: Krabi, Koh Samui and Koh Pnangyang before getting a night train up to Bangkok and then Chiang Mai. Here we experienced an Elephant Sanctuary and explored the most beautiful temples. We really loved Chiang Mai.
Vietnam was next on the itinerary, and although we had the worst luck with weather, exploring the various markets, sights and temples was incredible. We would like to go back and see some more of Vietnam one day (when it’s dry)!
Next we got a bus across the border into Cambodia. We got to explore ancient temples in Siem Reap. This was definitely a highlight for us! We got to experience a sunrise at Angkor Wat and it was here that we took our most favourite photo.
We did want to see some of Cambodia’s beaches so we travelled down to Sihanoukville as we had heard and read some lovely things about it. However, what we arrived to was hell. Rubbish and building materials were everywhere you looked. Hostels and family owned restaurants had closed almost everywhere and it was like a ghost town.
The beaches were strewn with rubbish and the glowing plankton were nowhere to be seen. It was a sad experience and made us realise that if people aren’t aware, they may make the same mistake as us. It also highlights the growing trash problem. As humans, we need to do better!
We finished our Southeast Asia adventure in Singapore and what a place to end it! Everything is beautiful and clean and modern and we felt almost like we were on another planet. It was such a contrast to some parts of SE Asia. In the end, we loved each destination we visited for its own beauty and history. If we could go back and do it again, we absolutely would.
Best Places to Visit in Southeast Asia in 2020
Our three best places to visit in Southeast Asia in 2020 are Siem Reap as the gateway to Angkor Wat, Chiang Mai the beautiful city in the North of Thailand and Bali.
We took a photo at the famous Angkor Wat and it’s Lewis’ favourite photo we have ever taken. We also loved exploring the ruins and temples and met a local who drove us round for the day who was just the kindest, funniest person. He’s a friend for life now.
In Chiang Mai we went to an elephant sanctuary and it was the most special day. Especially for Lauren as they are one of her favourite animals. The elephants seemed so happy and to be that close and learn what a difference the sanctuary has done for them was heart-warming.
When it comes to Bali, there are SO many stunning places to explore. We would just set off on our motorbike in the morning, drive through endless rice terraces and beautiful scenery, and then spend the day finding waterfalls or beaches. Some of our best days were in Bali!
We are a little bit biased with Bali as it was here where Lewis proposed to me! He set up a private dinner on the beach at sunset and proposed as we were taking photos. It was the most stunning, amazing evening and Bali will forever have a special place in our hearts.
The Friendliest People and Tastiest Food on Earth
It’s hard to pick a place that has the friendliest people in Southeast Asia because we experienced so much kindness in every country we visited whether it was in Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam. But we would have to say that the Philippines would take the top spot.
We hired motorbikes in the Philippines and when we travelled through one of the smaller towns or villages, everyone would wave or shout hello to us. Lauren used to have a field day on the back of the bike waving and shouting back! They are definitely happy memories of ours.
Another happy memory of ours was experiencing the food! It was just delicious! Thai curry is a favourite of ours at home, so to experience it fresh was heavenly. We have actually learnt how to make our own now, but it won’t ever beat the curry’s in Thailand. Beef Pho, a Vietnamese dish, was one of Lauren’s favourites.
The smoothie bowls were something else! We had our first experience towards the end of the Philippines on the island of Siargao, but as soon as we got to Bali we knew we had found smoothie bowl heaven. There were so many types and all so cheap!
Tips for your Visit to Southeast Asia
The first thing would be to get immersed in the culture of the countries you are visiting. Definitely exploring the different temples. There is so much history in each country and to learn about each culture and all the local traditions is truly remarkable.
Next important tip is try the local cuisine! Lewis likes to stick to what he knows, but in Southeast Asia, he just couldn’t resist because it was all so yummy! Markets and stalls at the side of the roads are usually the best too.
Language barriers can be difficult in Southeast Asia so learning some of the language in each country is highly recommended. For us, we like to know the basics, and we found people were usually even more friendly and welcoming because you were trying. It was fun too!
One of the key lessons of Southeast Asia was about animal rights. In our opinion, it’s never okay to ride an elephant. This is something that everyone should know before visiting. They are treated so horribly and are beaten everyday from a young age for tourist amusement.
Lewis actually rode an elephant when he went to Thailand five years ago and he hated it. Like a lot of people, he had no idea how they are treated and felt terrible. It’s a small thing you can do to try and promote a more ethical and sustainable tourism industry there.
As an alternative to hotels and hostels, we found Airbnb did some really cool places to stay for even less money! You can get some huge apartments for as little as £10 a night (for two people), which gives you access to laundry and a kitchen which helps save money.
Lastly, explore at your own pace. When we started our travels we took taxis, tuk tuks or booked tours to get around. Once we hired a motorbike, everything changed and it was so much cheaper to go out exploring.
It made it feel like we had finally started travelling! The freedom to go and explore wherever we want, whenever we want is truly an amazing feeling! Just remember to always wear a helmet and drive safely. Thanks for reading our article on the best places to visit in Southeast Asia in 2020. We hope you have gained some inspiration for the year ahead!
About Us: Lauren & Lewis
I (Lauren) am 27 and grew up in a place called Bedfont – which is right by Heathrow Airport in London, UK. I used to do acrobatic gymnastics and started when I was four. I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world for competitions.
I’m a European Champion, and actually won the talent show, Britain’s Got Talent in 2010 with a group called Spelbound. I love being at the beach, going for long walks in nature and just hanging out with my friends.
I (Lewis) am 26 and grew up down the road from Lauren! I definitely wasn’t a gymnast but I do love a challenge! I absolutely love being in the water and could swim and dive at the age of two.
My challenge by the end of next year is to learn how to free dive properly. I love watching football with my friends and my team is Chelsea. I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to technology and have always loved video games.
We both actually went to the same school and lived two minutes walk from each other (until Lauren moved away in 2015 which was the year before we got together!). Five years after we left school, we started talking through our love of travel, and in 2016, Lewis asked me on our first date.
We went on three holidays in the first six months of being together and started planning our adventures soon after!