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Laid-Back Destinations in Southeast Asia and Why You’ll Love Them

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

Sometimes you just need to sit back and enjoy your own company in a place that lets you do so.

What we look forward to the most whenever we travel is getting the chance to discover and explore places, to meet people from different walks of life, to learn more about a nation’s culture and traditions. People has come to love going places (because let’s face it, it’s just hard not to) and this constant moving towards our destination can sometimes get us all caught up in a whirlwind of road trips, long walks, food hunts and whatever it is we do every time we travel. The result? A longing for a day or two, a week or even a month (feel free to add an ‘s’ if you think you need more) to sit back, put our feet up and chill out.

We’ve had our doses of travel rush and mishaps in unimaginable ways in the most unexpected places. There’s no denying that those moments were mostly the highlights of our trips. Still, no matter how much we love action and adventure, there’s this desire to experience a languid kind of travel. It all depends on how you see a place and its people, yes, but there are certain cities, towns, districts and provinces that exude an effortless laid-back vibe. Given our limited experience in traveling within our home country and Southeast Asia, we managed to find and visit these places which we think make the perfect destinations to just chill out, unwind and do nothing.

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

The first time we got here, we noticed two things: the extensive display of Balinese architecture and the kindness of the locals. Simply put, Ubud is the exact opposite of Kuta and that’s why we loved it. The town, with all its interesting attractions and kind-hearted people, is a great place to unwind. You can bike around all afternoon and observe how locals make offerings to the gods. Maybe you can stop along the way for a taste of local coffee in one of the many restaurants and coffee shops lining the streets. Or you can simply let time pass by walking in the neighborhood and checking out local shops. It’s all up to you.

Marinduque, Philippines

Visiting Marinduque wasn’t really our priority (thanks to a local airline seat sale we ended up going here). Everything changed when we arrived in this province. Noise and pollution are uncommon. The locals were so good-natured it’s hard not to put our complete trust to them. Beyond its unspoilt beaches, old-fashioned shops and restos, unpredictable transportation and intriguing caves lie a unique laid-back charm that’s impossible to resist. Living in this quaint island for several days showed us the goodness of people to strangers, and proved to us that the best travel experiences are the ones that happen spontaneously.

Pai, Thailand

Pai is a small town in Mae Hong Soon Province in Northern part of Thailand

The small town of Pai is a far cry from the crowded and bustling cities of Thailand. A great deal of shops, guesthouses, motorbike rentals, cafes and restaurants line up the narrow streets of the downtown area, which can become populated at night. Staying outside the main drag is a different story though. Lush mountain scenery and green fields greeted us every morning, while sparkling stars and cricket sounds accompany us at night. There were days when we’d just sit outside our small hut and look at the mountainous horizon. Some nights we’d go to the downtown area and watch the place come alive - complete with music, hawkers, street sellers and carefree souls.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

It’s impossible not to know the resort town of Siem Reap, with the majestic Angkor Wat ruins sitting close to its grounds. Other than being a gateway to an ancient world, Siem Reap poses rural beauty that needs to be savored. It seems rushing has no place here, albeit the unavoidable thought of doing a temple run within the Angkor complex. Most of our days were spent visiting temples in the morning (which is a must) and then chilling out in the afternoon. It’s one of those towns where biking is such a convenient and fun thing to do. And oh, the happy pizza!

Luang Prabang, Laos

Peaceful, lovely and lazy - this is how we saw the province of Luang Prabang. This unique place exudes old-world romance and French Indochinese architecture, both of which add an irresistible charm to the province. We fell in love with Luang Prabang the moment we saw it, right after we were dropped off infront of our guesthouse in the wee hours of the morning. The town’s evident history and heritage, the stillness of the Mekong River and Nham Khan, the saffron-clad monks roaming the streets, the golden stupas and terracotta roofs surrounded by hazy green mountains all form a picturesque setting incomparable to neighboring countries. Luang Prabang has this magical atmosphere that would compel one to stay longer.

Port Barton, Palawan, Philippines

It’s no secret that Palawan is home to some of the best beaches in the Philippines, one of which is Port Barton in San Vicente. What made us include this small fishing and farming village in our list is its sheer beauty and alluring simplicity. A number of guesthouses and inns line up the stretch of white sand, facing the inviting waters of the bay. Our day started with a hearty breakfast by the beach, the coconut trees shading us from the already risen sun. The view is simply authentic - with fishermen arriving at the shore unloading their catch of the day while locals scurry towards them. We would walk along the narrow and sand covered streets to buy things or look for a place to eat. Life here can be as simple as that.

Bagan, Myanmar

This part of Central Burma has left us (or most probably everyone) in awe. Bagan emanates a rustic feel in a sublime setting. Think about verdant plains covered in strands of palm and tamarind sitting on a bend of the Ayeyarwady River. Rising from this canopy of greens are thousands of beautiful temples forming mystical silhouettes from afar. Picture perfect, we tell you. One part of our Bagan escapade saw us rushing our way along with other travelers in order to catch the sunrise or sunset. Other than that, everything else was pure tranquility. Wake up, bike to a temple, watch the sunrise, go back to hotel, eat breakfast, chill out, repeat. This has been our routine for days, and honestly, we wouldn’t mind doing it again and again if only to be enchanted in Bagan one more time.

Each of these destinations has its own laid-back charm ideal for people who long for a break from life’s daily bustle. We can’t tell which one captured our hearts the most. One thing we’re certain is that they all made us pause, take a breather and just chill out.

Do you know any laid-back places in Southeast Asia not in this list? Feel free to share it with us!

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