South East Asia is currently one of the most popular travels destinations for tourists looking for affordable holidays. Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines are all particularly appealing due to a high level of cultural appeal and affordable prices. The different aspects that make up the life in these extraordinary travel destinations all revolve around a number of elements that appeal to almost every holiday maker. There is something here for everyone.
If you enjoy adventure there are hundreds of different areas in each of these countries that offers intense terrain and jungle perfect for the amateur explorer. The breath-taking views might all be different, but they all offer moments of serenity transporting those fortunate enough to witness them into their very own slice of paradise. Historic ruins, beautiful architecture and some of the most luxurious beaches in the world are all things that draw a constant flow of tourists each year.
When you arrive in these countries it’s quite easy to become confused over where the best places to visit actually are. Locals and guides are often paid by companies to try to convince you that ‘their beach is best’ leaving tourists in a location pretty second rate compared to the other destinations available. Travel review sites like TripAdvisor aren’t much better either, with only the most visited beaches appearing in the search results, all with very mixed reviews. But the biggest issue is that many people go on holiday to escape from the masses of people they see at home and the regular requirement for human interaction.
That is why I have chosen to create this guide, putting together some of the best beach destinations available in South East Asia, so that those seeking solace can find some peace, quiet and beauty. The reason I have chosen to focus on beaches is that, well, introverts supposedly avoid the beach and opt for more rural holiday destinations but we shouldn’t have to miss out. Beach holidays are amazing and don’t have to be loud and social, here is how you pull of having a quite sandy get away.
Ao Khao Kwai (“Buffalo Bay”), Koh Phayam, Thailand
The first beach on our list is located on an island just off the coast of northern Thailand, Koh Phayam. If you’re after peace and quiet this island is probably not where you want to spend the entirety of your holiday but if you can get out there for a few days it’s worth it. Despite the hustle and bustle of the mainland, the route to escape is on the beach and what an escape it is.
Ao Khao Kwai or ‘Buffalo Bay’ is the perfect combination of adventure and beauty, an area of tranquillity and rest, perfect for those after long beach walks. Many local residents of Thailand even use this area as a place to get away, probably because the majority of other beaches in the country have become swamped with tourism.
A huge wooden shipwreck sits on this beach proudly and silently echoing the sailing history of the island. The jungle around the edges of the coast and large rock formations dotted all along the walk of the beach create a sense of character rarely found elsewhere. While swimming isn’t always possible, the quite beachside bars and white sand with elegant scenery more than make up for it. The ideal spot for people seeking a recluse.
Gili Air, Indonesia
Not far from Bali, this Island in Indonesia is devoid of all motorised vehicles. No cars, buses or motorbikes. Even if you can’t stand the idea of minor physical exertion and the prospect of walking between the different areas, Gili Air will change your mind.
There is something very special around the numerous bicycles and horse drawn carriages dotted around the island, going from place to place. It’s almost soothing in a weird kind of way. Besides, it’s a maximum of 2 hours to walk around the entire island if you’re a slow walker.
The beaches here are, as you might have guessed, largely untouched or spoiled by mass-tourism. Clear waters and white sandy beaches make up the splendour of the island, but it’s true beauty is found in and on the water.
Paddle boating, scuba diving, snorkelling and bay cruising are all immensely popular activities on the island. Below the surface of the crystal waters lurks entire shoals of fish and an incredible variety of sea life. You can lose yourself beneath the water and truly escape from everyone.
Bai Dai Beach, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
The clock is ticking on this one a little bit. The Vietnamese government recently realised the potential for this beach and have started making motions towards heavy tourism investment. However, until then, Bai Dai Beach still makes the list thanks to its sheer length that makes it easy to find empty areas of sea and sand that you won’t have to share.
While Bai Dai Beach doesn’t particularly have anything characteristically special to define it, almost feeling like a stereotypical beach, it’s an amazing spot to simply tan and relax. 20 km south of Nha Trang, the area is very much separated from the traffic and noise often found in the rest of Vietnam. Play your cards right and you can literally go entire days without speaking to anyone. However, for those who fancy a little bit more exploration, there is still plenty to do.
Patong Beach, Phuket
I will be honest, I um’d and ah’d for a while over whether I should put Patong beach in. Unlike the others, this destination is bristling with bars and nightlife. Probably not the ideal place for an introvert. It’s more like party central.
The reason I have included it is because it is truly beautiful and if you journey inland there are a number of activities ideal for eco travelers such as Merlin Butterfly Sanctuary and Green Elephant Sanctuary Park. You can literally feel all stress and anxiety flood out of your body as you experience feeding a baby elephant or balancing a gorgeously patterned butterfly on the tip of your nose. The best thing is, being a sanctuary, you can see that the elephants are well loved and cared for, which sadly isn’t always the case in South East Asia.
After a lot of research, I have concluded that the best way to enjoy Patong Beach is probably by undertaking a yacht charter journey in Thailand. This service would allow you to witness the splendid neon lights of the city illuminating the night sky, without having to enter it. You can travel to the beach via canoe or paddle boat at your own convenience with the ability to retreat back to your own fortress of solitude within any given moment. It’s certainly an expensive option, but one well worth considering if you want to avoid the stress of city life.
Palawan, The Philippines
Finally, last but by no means least, we come to Palawan in the Philippines. While not as popular as a holiday destination as other countries in South East Asia, the Philippines still has some hidden treasures, including Palawan. The small island is a dip into paradise, with The Telegraph proclaiming it to possibly be the best island in the world.
Now while I’m not sure if that is setting the bar a bit too high, Palawan is definitely in my personal top 10. It’s sparsely populated with a number of different areas to get lost in. Small lagoons, rock caves and caverns going deep into the mountains faces, this is an explorers dream. Of course, the beaches are amazing, but the island comes as a package with a seemingly unlimited number of possible day trips to experience.
If I was to write about everything I wanted to this article would go on for far too long. My only advice is to do some of your own research or check it out for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
Maybe you’ve been to some beaches in South East Asia that you feel should have made the list. It’s quite possible I have missed a few or are simply unaware of their existence, more often than not the lesser known beaches are the best ones! If that’s the case feel free to drop a comment below and let me know.
About The Author: Josiah Harris is a journalism graduate that has been traveling the world for the last year. It doesn’t matter how weird, wonderful or dangerous a country is, you can rest assured Josiah has either been or plans to go. Josiah also helps write travel news here.