Best and Worst of Asia Awards
Best Bang for your Buck Cambodia – This country hands down has the best all around value in Southeast Asia. Mid range, clean accommodation runs between $8-$20 per night, meals average $2, cold beer .50 cents, and transportation $5-$10 between cities. To give you an idea, my husband and I stayed in a beach bungalow, ate and drank to hearts content, got a massage on the beach and still only averaged $20 per day per person.
Thailand- The food in Thailand is second to none. Although all of Asia has savory delicious cuisine, Thailand really out does everyone with its fusion of herbs such as holy basil, ginger, coriander and various spices. It is also unique because unlike other countries, which seem to have about 5 staple dishes, Thailand has hundreds that are served up conveniently street side for just a couple bucks. Whether its steaming bowls of noodle soup, grilled meats, or curry your after, Thailand will not disappoint your taste buds or your wallet.
Philippines-Sorry Philippines, you do have some yummy redeeming dishes like rotisserie pork and sour stewed veggies but nothing that comes close to your neighbor’s specialties. In addition, the food quality control is still not on par with other Asian nations making it tough to eat safely on a budget. Also, not a very good vegetarian destination, most dishes are pork based and are not for the faint of heart as they often include fried pig face, residual hair, and other byproduct odds and ends.
Best Big City
Seoul, Korea & Bangkok- This one was tough, so I am allowing a tie. Both have great easy public transportation, modern offerings, incredible food, great nightlife, and heaps of culture. Bangkok is a little more rustic in comparison, much hotter and cheaper. Seoul is more conservative in feel, colder, and definitely more expensive but what it lacks in affordability it makes up for in amazing Korean BBQ and abundant cheap rice wine, soju!
Best Transportation Thailand- With subways, city skytrains, tuk tuks, buses, vans, and trains, Thailand wins again. Everything just works smoothly here. The tourist infrastructure is very developed and any guest house can book you the easiest mode of getting just about anywhere. Not to mention an economy airline Air Asia can get you anywhere domestically or regionally for often less than a bus fare.
Worst TransportationPhilippines- Nothing is very easy to navigate in this country. Partially because it is made up of hundreds of islands, travel between place to place is extremely challenging and usually requires a flight as ferry are scarce, often not running, or notoriously unsafe. That being said it is worth the challenge is you have the patience and the extra bucks for flights.
Philippines- Yep, although the Philippines falls short in other areas, when it comes to beauty there is none like it. The thousand year old rice patties, the cool mountains, waterfalls and incredible island hopping make the Philippines unique to anywhere else in Asia.
Best Preserved Laos- Laos is definitely the most well preserved country in terms of nature and culture. Although tourism has greatly increased over the last decade, Laos remained relatively untouched by Western influence and remains beautiful simple. Often over looked by travelers, Lao is definitely worth a stop with its beautiful rivers, waterfalls, temples, and notoriously kind people.
Most FunThailand- Thailand has it all. Cheap Massages, great nightlife, beaches, yoga, boxing, wildlife, trekking, food, unique accommodation, easy transport and cool locals make Thailand a place I find myself having a hard time staying away from. It’s a great starting place to adjust before a Southeast Asia trip or just to get away and let loose.
Least Fun-Malaysia-This was a tough one, and although Malaysia was still fun, it was the least fun in comparison to surrounding countries. The country does boast amazing cheap India food, beautiful tea plantations, and higher standards of cleanliness however, it is more a place to relax and explore. Because of its strict Islamic culture, alcohol is rare and expensive, nightlife is lacking, and one must dress conservatively. That being said it was still a wonderful time, after all travel is not all about a party, and if it is culture you are looking for Malaysia will deliver.
Best Affordable Accommodation Indonesia-Indonesia definitely wins for best affordable accommodation not just because of price but because of value. Where $15 might get you a rustic fan room in other countries, $15 in Indonesia easily gets you an air conditioned bungalow, including breakfast! We were constantly shocked at the amazing value Indo had to offer making it much easier to put our money towards more activities instead of a place to sleep.
Most Underrated Yogyakarta- Yogyakarta pronounced Joag Ja is an amazing small city on the island of Java. Often overlooked in favor of going straight to Bali, Yogyakarta is well worth a stop over. On a predominately Muslim Island, Yogyakarta is an artist haven with more relaxed attitudes towards drinking and dress. There are also incredible temples and funky cafes not to be missed.
Most Overrated Penang –I know, I can’t believe I’m saying it but Penang was a huge bucket list place for me and it just didn’t quite measure up. The beaches are dirty, it’s insanely hot, and outside exploring the art of Georgetown, there just isn’t that much to do. We stayed 6 days which was easily 3 days too many. In addition, famous for its food, Penang again just didn’t impress. Don’t get me wrong it was good but not as good as its reputation would lead you to believe. However, a quick ferry will get you to Langkawi, a unique island boasting beautiful beaches, fun motorbiking, and insane island hopping. Langkawi is also the only place in Malaysia that is duty free, which equals abundant cheap cocktails and beer to refresh you on a hot beach day.
Best for Health and BeautyThailand-For anything health and beauty Thailand can’t be beat. I have been going there for years to get dentistry done for literally %20 of the cost of at home in the USA. And don’t forget all the massages and various beauty treatments. For $7 an hour, you can’t afford not to get a massage every day!
As you can see, Asia has so much to offer. It has something for everyone, amazing nature, shopping, food, relaxation, beaches, mountains, you name it. Asia is a great affordable vacation destination for just about anyone.