A Quick Absolute Asia Tours Guide to Interesting Neighbourhoods in South East Asia
Off the beaten track travel doesn’t just mean donning hiking boots and finding yourself surrounded by nature, without another soul in sight. We’re here to tell you how to get off the beaten track in some of South East Asia’s largest cities, where hidden local gems leave longer lasting memories than the must-see highlights.
Off the Beaten Track in Bangkok – Koh Kret
koh kretYep, there are beautiful Thai islands to be found even in the heart of the capital city; this one, though, does not have white sandy beaches and it is manmade!
Koh Kret can be found 20km north of Bangkok up the picturesque Chao Phraya River. Hop on a boat in the center of town and cruise past the city highlights and bustling streets to end up on an island with fewer crowds and not a single car.
The best way to see the island is by bicycle on an easy 7km circuit. An artisan village, a weekend market and specialised Thai dessert shops connect you with local people and culture.
Off the Beaten Track in Hanoi – Tay Hotay ho – jade house
Hanoi’s Old Quarter is famous for its tight alleyways, street side culture spilling onto busy roads and flocks of tourists. It is fascinating and exhausting all at once. Even now that they have pedestrianised Hoan Kiem at the weekends, it is by no means a peaceful place to stroll.
Head north though and you’ll stumble on Hanoi’s largest lake; a relatively peaceful oasis that the thriving expat population has made their own. It is still a busy place – nowhere in Hanoi is devoid of traffic- but wider streets and open spaces make it much more relaxing.
Highlights here are mostly food related and include tiny Truc Bach Island with its Pho Cuon restaurants; some of the best Western food in the city; hundreds of cafes lining the lake road and a collection of new bars selling delicious local craft beers.
Experience the other side of Hanoi on our Hidden Hanoi Walking Tour.
Off the Beaten Track in Bali – Canggu
While only 20km north of Seminyak, Canggu’s laid back hipster vibe is a world away from the upscale hotels and restaurants of its neighbours. Here you’ll find a surfer crowd, boutique shops and organic cafes, surrounded by lush green farmland and an 8km stretch of coastline.
All the usual Bali activities are on offer here including surfing, beach bumming, yoga, wellness and health workshops and restaurants galore.
Off the Beaten Track in Malaysia – IpohIpod Malaysia
Ok, we are cheating a little here as Ipoh is a city not a neighbourhood but, in a list of interesting areas of South East Asia, it is well worth a mention. Easily reached from Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh made its way into plenty of top destinations lists in 2017. With a wealth of beautiful heritage buildings and thriving foodie and arts scenes, Ipoh’s Old Town is the kind of place where simply wandering is a highlight in itself.
Off the Beaten Track in Singapore – Katong / Joo Chiat
Home of Singapore’s Peranakan culture, Joo Chiat and neighbouring Katong make up one of the most colourful areas of the Lion City. Peranakan culture bloomed from decades of marriage between Chinese or Indian men and Malay and Indonesia women. Over centuries traditions and customs from each ethnic group blended and evolved into one of South East Asia’s most unique cultures.
Characterised by ornate shop houses and the best food in the city, a trip to Singapore would be far less interesting without heading here. Make sure to visit private home-museum The Intan and try a bowl of steaming Laksa.
Hidden charms can be found throughout South East Asia – what interesting neighbourhoods have you found on your travels in the region?
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