When it comes to travel, one size does not fit all. Depending on your travel style, not every single tour or travel experience will be the right one for you — and that’s especially true in Southeast Asia. With plenty of options for experiencing all that the region has to offer, the experiences you have in Southeast Asia all depend on how you choose to explore it — and sometimes, that comes down to whether you’re packing hiking boots or city maps.
At Buffalo Tours, we love trekking into the mountains of Vietnam and buzzing around Bangkok in a tuk-tuk visiting temples equally, but we know that everyone has a different way of travelling. After all, we create journeys that aren’t just extraordinary – but extraordinary for you. That requires paying a lot of attention to your personal travel style, and what kinds of travel experiences you want to have along your journey (and whether you’re using your precious luggage space for a dusty pair of trekking shoes or maps of capital cities).
And while the experiences you’ll have on a trekking tour or a city excursion are equally enlightening and incredible, there are a few things to know before you choose one (or both!). The more you know about what to expect, the more extraordinary your trip will be!
Before you choose trekking…
Trekking is one of the very best ways to explore the areas in Southeast Asia that are otherwise beyond the limits of traditional travel. By ditching the vehicles and embarking on foot, you’re much more likely to get a real taste of what authentic rural communities in Southeast Asia are really like. After all, plenty of ethnic minority community members remain entirely dependent on their feet to get around, and it’s not uncommon to see village men and women well into their 60s and 70s spending hours every day climbing up and down steep hills.
But this up-close and personal glimpse at more remote communities comes with a trade-off — fewer ammenities, tougher physical demands and not to much as a roof to protect you from the elements. That said, not every trekking tour is created equal — while some make good use of your leg muscles, others are only slightly more strenuous than a stroll through the park. Depending on which level of difficulty you choose, your experience could be anywhere from leisurely hike to adventurous excursion.
Most trekking tours, however, will make clear the physical demands they require before you book. Our trekking tours, for example, offer a helpful guide to estimate the physical demands of the trip with simplified levels to help you decide if you’re really up for the challenge.
But what trekking tours lack in luxury, they certainly make up for in experience. Southeast Asia is still largely undiscovered in smaller, less developed areas. Unlike larger cities that have experienced a fair share of Western influence over the years, most rural villages reached by trekking feel as if they come from another century. Couple this with the breathtaking views you’ll surely enjoy along the way, and a trekking adventure could be your ticket to a unique and truly unforgettable journey.
Before you choose a city tour…
The cities of Southeast Asia are certainly never short on adventure. Chaotic, bursting with energy and ceaselessly growing, most capital cities and larger towns are home to incredible cultural diversity and exotic charm. Although a city excursion might not be embarking into the depths of untamed wilderness, Southeast Asian cities are certainly urban jungles in their own right.
But beyond just the modern, Southeast Asia’s cities are almost always hiding a rich, complex and colourful history. City tours are designed to tell these stories through the monuments and locations that were central to them, and there’s no better way to discover the architecture, hidden city gems and build history of a country than with a city excursion.
Unlike trekking tours, however, city tours are still within cities that will inevitably have more tourists than rural areas. On a city tour, expect to visit some locations that are especially popular tourist destinations in the country, and will have the crowds to match. That said, most of these spots are tourist destinations for a reason. Just because a location is listed in a guidebook doesn’t mean that they aren’t well worth a visit.
At Buffalo Tours, our city tours aim to go beyond the standard city excursion. Most of our tours offer something unique along the way, whether its sitting down with a local family for a home-cooked lunch or swapping the van for bicycles between city sights. A city tour to top tourist destinations doesn’t have to be dime-a-dozen, and can be just as culturally illuminating as a trekking adventure to the most remote villages.
Why (and How) To Experience Both
Southeast Asia is a destination of incredible cultural diversity, so getting an all-encompassing picture of all that a country has to offer usually means mixing up your experiences along your journey. While a city tour would be the perfect whirlwind adventure in Hanoi, you might find the best way to explore Sapa a few days later is with a trekking tour into its mountainside villages. It all comes down to what’s best for you along your journey and in each of your destinations, and what elements of a local culture you want to explore in each.
At Buffalo Tours, our customisable journeys through Southeast Asia are a perfect opportunity to try something different at each stop along the way. Doing your research about each of your destinations will help you decide between a city tour or a trekking excursion during your visit. You might find that while one spot is perfect for an off-the-beaten-track adventure, another is ideal for a city tour. Plus, combining the excitement of both travel styles will give you the chance to dive head-first into the local culture before kicking back for a more leisurely experience afterwards.
Whatever experiences you choose in each of your destinations along your journey, there are few better places than Southeast Asia to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.