I wouldn’t say that we’ve been *everywhere* in Southeast Asia, but over four separate visits, totaling five months spent in the region, we’ve seen and done a lot. At this point, we’ve been to nearly every Southeast Asian country (we’re only missing Brunei and East Timor.) So what did we like the best?
Three Favorite Cities
- Luang Prabang (Laos)
- Chiang Mai (Thailand)
- Yogyakarta (Indonesia)
Each of these cities has a laid-back, fun-loving atmosphere, and days spent here flew by. We tend towards the smaller cities; Bangkok and Jakarta are not among our favorites (though we love Kuala Lumpur and would choose that as number four.)
Three Favorite Places for Neat Architecture
- Bali (Indonesia)
- Yangon (Myanmar)
Balinese traditional architecture is a blend of different styles, and it is like nothing else in the world. I particularly admired the Hindu temples on Bali, but ordinary courtyard houses were also beautiful. Both Singapore and Yangon have some fabulous old British colonial buildings, as well as Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese, and (in Singapore) Malay-style architecture. The different neighborhoods were fascinating to walk around.
Three Favorite Attractions
Hmmm… these all turned out to be sites of ancient ruins. I guess you can tell where our interests lie?
Three Favorite Experiences
- Snorkeling in the Perhentian Islands (Malaysia) The most fish I have ever seen in one place… plus turtles and sharks.
- Watching a water-puppet show (Hanoi, Vietnam) So what if it’s touristy? It’s a really cool show.
- Touching a tiger (Chiang Mai, Thailand) Do I have to explain the appeal of this one?
Three Favorite Foods
- Pad thai (Thailand)
- Adobo (Philippines)
- Banh mi (Vietnam; similar ones in Laos)
Pad thai may be an obvious choice, but we never ever got tired of eating it. In the Philippines, each adobo we tried was better than the last. I don’t know how they do it. I asked one waitress about her restaurant’s version; she just shrugged and said “It’s Filipino food.” Which explains… nothing.
Runner-up: Roti canai (Malaysia and Singapore), which we ate for breakfast nearly every day in those countries.
Three Favorite Drinks
- Teh tarik (Malaysia, Singapore)
- Local coffee, sweetened with condensed milk (Vietnam, Laos)
- Watermelon shakes (anywhere there are backpackers)
Teh tarik… how can I explain teh tarik? It tastes like plain ol’ black tea with sugar and lots of milk (think Japanese milk tea) but the process of making it is special. Before serving, it is poured back and forth between two glasses several times, which makes the top nice and frothy, and in my opinion, makes the drink creamier.