Southeast Asia is the embodiment of the saying: “it’s the journey, not the destination”. Many of the region’s attractions are connected by journeys that are just as much a part of the travel experience as the destination itself. These are our picks for the coolest alternatives for getting around in Asia’s best destinations.
Part of truly experiencing the culture and vibrance of the region is finding exciting ways to invigorate the commute. Whether the journeys are within a city, across a country or beyond a national border, these are our favorite adventurous alternatives for travelling around in Southeast Asia.
City Travel by Cyclo in Vietnam
Traveling around Vietnam’s chaotic cities alone is a rush for any adventurous traveler, but choosing to change up the journey between the cities’ spots — at a decidedly more languid pace — is a perfect way to see the energy of the roads as it whizzes past you. While this is certainly not a great option for speeding between city sights, hopping aboard a re-purposed tricycle with a friendly guide is part transport, part photo opportunity that can be enjoyed for just a few minutes or even an entire day.
Kayaking the Waterways
Southeast Asia is certainly not short on water adventure, with oceans, waterfalls and rivers all major draws for travelers to the region. While many stop short of dipping their toes in and keep their feet firmly planted on the white sandy beaches instead, others brave the open water with another adventurous aquatic vehicle.
Only from the vantage point of a kayak can travelers get an up-close and personal experience with Southeast Asia’s natural beauty just above the water’s surface, and with plenty of hands-on adventure to go along with the views. Kayaking is popular both as part of boating excursions and as their own means of traveling a waterway. Our favorites are in Laos’ Nam Khan River and the Vang Vieng Caves.
Ziplining in Laos’ Jungles
There’s adventure travel, and then there’s zip-lining. And in the jungles of Laos — where some areas are so dense with trees that getting from A to B is near-impossible without some clever alternatives — zip-lining is as adventurous as it gets. Unlike its trekking commute counterpart, zip-lining is an opportunity to see Laos’ from a different perspective — that is, from far above.
Plus, since your toes will be skimming the tree tops on a high-speed fly-by instead of through dense jungle and up hills, you’ll find zip-lining to be one of the fastest journeys you’ve ever had. Thankfully, in the jungles of Laos, “quick” is synonymous with “exhilarating”.
Cycling Southeast Asia
Most travelers see the Southeast Asian countryside through a bus window while traveling between destinations, opting for a less-than-stellar vantage point for the ease and comfort of the roads. But for many, part of experiencing Southeast Asia is taking every opportunity to enjoy the fresh air, and one of the best ways to do it is on two wheels, and not four.
Cycling is popular in many cities around Southeast Asia, and can be a perfect alternative for a walking tour around Chiang Mai, Thailand or Hoi An, Vietnam. But for those with the legs up to the task, traveling between cities by bicycle is one of the most exhilarating alternatives to the bus route, and there’s no match for experiencing the countryside in the open air. By avoiding major roads and traversing smaller through-ways by bicycle, the commute might take a little longer, but for most, the extra time is well worth it.
Tuk Tuk in Thailand
City travel in Bangkok is a high octane experience for even the most seasoned travelers, and the speed and chaos of the daily commute is certainly a thrill ride in its own right. One of the most adventurous vehicles on the road is the tuk-tuk — sputtering, three-wheeled, open-air carts with impressive turning radiuses and the propensity to move at breakneck speed.
They’re small enough to weave in between cars and motorbikes, which makes them not only exciting, but incredibly quick. Catching a ride with one will require some nerves and steel and some serious bargaining skills, but the extra effort promises an adventure in every otherwise mediocre city commute.
Buffalo Tours itineraries are designed for the journey-focused traveler who wants to get a little bit more out of their Southeast Asian experience. Find out how Buffalo Tours can be the best adventure travel companion you’ve ever had, with our Adventure Tours throughout Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand!