South East Asia – The Hidden Gems!The common travel path for travellers around South East Asia includes the usual suspects: Thailand, Malaysia and Laos. However, off the beaten track, emerging in their full beauty and with new networks of HI hostels are the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam; overlooked and waiting to be discovered. Read on and discover why you should consider these as your next travel destination. Included are our suggestions for what to do and where to stay. Be inspired!
As the second-largest archipelago in the world with over 7,100 tropical islands and a total coastline longer than that of the USA, it’s hardly surprising that many of the Philippines’ most stunning attractions can be found in and around the sea. With warm tropical waters, the Philippines boasts some of the world’s best diving, and snorkeling, with coral gardens teaming with beautiful marine life. You can experience wreck diving around Coron, El Nido, and Taytay in Palawan;
and for the adrenaline junkies, swimming with whale sharks off Donsol is an experience not to be missed. Above sea level, unspoiled stretches of fine white sand beaches at Siargao, Sipalay, Pagudpud and Puerto Galera will seduce even the most beach-adverse; and party-goers should check out the party town of Boracay.
The Philippines also has a fantastic landscape – the archipelago’s jungles, mountains and underwater caves are ripe for exploration. The Chocolate Hills of Bohol, the Banaue Rice Terraces, the Hundred Islands, the spectacular Tubbataha Reefs, the breathtaking Puerto Princesa Subterranean River Park, and the shooting rapids at Pagsanjan Falls are all worth checking out. Fascinating reminders of the islands’ history in places such as Corregidor, Cebu, Manila, Samar & Leyte, and Vigan are also a must. Of course, any traveller who has been here will tell you that it’s the people and their culture that makes the Philippines unique - the Filipinos themselves are among the most fun and easygoing people anywhere and look forward to welcoming you. With our hostels in the Philippines, there are plenty of places to stay for travellers spending time exploring this undiscovered country.
CambodiaFrom independent backpackers, who roam far off the beaten track, to luxury tourists who stay in style, Cambodia is a popular destination for all kinds of travellers.
The ancient temple and ruins of Angkor Wat is a recognized World Heritage Site, located in northwestern Cambodia. As Cambodia's national treasure and main attraction, the Historical Park of Angkor receives thousands of visits daily and is a must see destination. There are dozens of temple ruins in the park spread across more than 400 square km all in different states of ruin and displaying a range of artistic and architectural styles.
The nearby city, and provincial capital, Siem Reap is the gateway to the Angkor ruins and home to an array of other ruins, such as Beng Mealea and Bantaey Srei. It is also the location of our HI hostel Siem Reap, which is situated a short walk from the heart of the city and the famous Pub Street where you’ll find a selection of pubs and restaurants.
Whilst many travellers do simply holiday at Angkor, and travel no further, Cambodia does have a lot more to offer. Consider rounding off your Cambodia experience with a break on the lazy white sand beaches of Sihanoukville, a tour to the atmospheric, mist-shrouded Bokor Hill Station, or a visit to the stunning colonial heritage city of Phnom Penh. Either way there’s a lot to see and do and something for everyone.
Vietnam is a country filled with captivating natural beauty and tranquil village life. From green rice fields, dotted with the conical hats of workers in Vietnam's north, to the fascinating bustle of the Mekong Delta in the south.
However, it’s Hanoi, the beautiful capital city of Vietnam and Vietnam’s second largest city, located in the north east, which attracts the most travellers. The city is a fascinating blend of east and west, with Chinese influence from centuries of dominance, and French design from its colonial past. Throughout the thousand years of its eventful history, marked by destruction, wars and natural calamities, Hanoi still preserves many ancient architectural works including the Old Quarter and over 600 pagodas and temples.
Famous sites include the One Pillar Pagoda, the Temple of Literature, Hanoi Citadel, Hanoi Opera House, and President Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, which are all a must see. Because the city is compact the main attractions are close to each other making it easy to get around. Hanoi is also home to our network of hostels in Vietnam; all of which look forward to accommodating you after a hard day’s sightseeing!
Each month Hostelling International focuses on a great travel destinations. Take a read and be inspired by our travel ideas.