7 Things You Should Know Before Traveling to Southeast Asia

We have travelled and volunteered for four months in several parts of Southeast Asia: Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. While all these countries are different from one another, we also found they had a lot in common. We have put together seven tips worth knowing for those interested in this itinerary.

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From Laos to Vietnam

After a short stay in Luang Prabang, we began our journey towards Vietnam. Crossing the border via land wasn’t the easiest alternative, but we felt it was the most interesting way to reach our next voluntary spot, close to China. Along this freezing trail we’ve encountered beautiful souls and actually never made it to Ha Giang.

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2 Days in Luang Prabang

World Heritage Site since 1995, Luang Prabang is one of the most attractive touristic destinations in Laos. This cute little town was built in the heart of a mountainous region, on a peninsula between the Mekong and the Nam Khan River. In spite of its many guesthouses, cafès and restaurants, Luang Prabang still gives off an authentic feel and is certainly worth going to for at least two days.

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Crossing Cambodia

While sharing experiences with other travelers, we found out Cambodia had a scarce reputation: the exploitation of volunteers for business purposes and a widespread sense of victimization – certainly tied to a recent history of violence – almost had us skip this destination we’d actually long craved to visit. Yet an interesting workawayopportunity came up near Kampot, and that became a good enough reason to cross Cambodia from North to South.

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5 Things to Do in Bangkok

We spent five days in Bangkok with two expat friends of ours who have been living in the Thai capital for many years. Once again, we didn’t have a guidebook, but their tips made our short stay easy and memorable. Sharing is caring, so here you go.

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Bule in Wonderland

For most Indonesians traveling isn’t an option, but our host Hardi saw in workaway a valid alternative: opening his doors to foreigners is a way to learn about other cultures. In exchange for this access to the outside world, he uses his network to create all sorts of entertaining activities for his guests. Watch out: when bule (foreigners) are in town, Temanggung turns into wonderland.

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Kulo Nuwun Java

We were meant to spend one month volunteering in Ubud (Bali) but due to a series of unexpected circumstances, we decided to change our itinerary after only 5 days on the island. Luckily, travelers tend to share tips along the way and that is how we ended up going to Ijen, Yogyakarta and Borobudur. Kulo nuwun Java!

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Tasty Days at Natsir’s

It was almost the end of our stay in Makale. Natsir really cared about filling our backpacks with natural goods from his garden. Thus, we spent an entire evening and morning making coconut oil, cinnamon, turmeric and coffee. Soon, family and neighbors joined in the process. That specific attitude is one we often admired in Indonesia: when someone is in need, they simply sit – pardon me – they squat, and help out.

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Volunteering in Toraja, South Sulawesi

It took two flights from Singapore to Tana Toraja, a region located in the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. At Makassar Airport, we soon noticed that we were among the few foreigners present. From there, we rode a night bus to Makale and at dawn we hopped in a car to reach Natsir’s village.

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