Back in the good ole days when people used RSS readers instead of Twitter to follow blogs, I used to do regular round-ups of blogs posts from others about The World’s Cheapest Destinations. After all, I can’t be everywhere doing everything, especially since I’m running a business and have a family rather than backpacking around the world snapping selfies.
My Hoi An memory, 1994
I kind of drifted out of the habit over time though, just as many readers drifted out of the habit of using RSS readers when Google unceremoniously killed theirs off. I’m jumping back into the fold this week. I’ve run across more good posts on Southeast Asia than other places, so I’m going to stick to one region this time around.
Hoi An is not some quaint Vietnamese town. The always reliably cynical Brian Spencer gives an example of the b.s. descriptions of Hoi An, Vietnam that you’ll often read in guidebooks and magazines, then talks about what it’s really like on your average night. Like many places around the world where people keep repeating long-gone characteristics (remote guidebook updating doesn’t help), it’s time to call a spade a spade. Or a dong a dong. This is a tourist trap now, so just accept that before arrival and roll with it.
Speaking of outdated expectations, Laos isn’t so cheap anymore, says Nomadic Matt. At least not compared to its neighbors. This is kind of a mystery since before it got popular it was the clear rock-bottom option. The theory seems to be it’s because it’s a landlocked country, China trade is drying up, and they have to import so much. Whatever the reason, he gives a great detailed rundown of prices from three weeks in the country and says a solo traveler should budget at least $20 a day now, probably more like $35 to be comfortable if you’re moving around.
“Cheap is relative. Cheap is an amount that’s only comparable to what is sitting in your bank account.” So says Chantae Reden when she discovers the difference between the Phnom Penh Night Market listed in her Lonely Planet book and the one she stumbles into by accident later. Hint: one has the words “Night Market” in neon in English…and smells better.
The couple behind Grantourismo spends a lot of time in Cambodia and a lot of time in kitchens. So although I haven’t heard of a single one on their list of the best cooking schools in the world and I doubt they’ve actually tried every cooking school in every country, I’d trust their recommendations. Their list is probably 10 times more informed than the magazine listicles thrown together by some junior editor in a cubicle in New York City. Four of the cooking schools are in Southeast Asia.
If you are a traveler in Malaysia, you will probably end up in Penang at some point. Here’s where a local says to go to try the typical local breakfast there: Roti Bakar.
In case you missed it, here’s a great story from James Dorsey on the bizarre bamboo train in rural Cambodia. There’s only one class and it’s “Hold on for your life!”
This well-researched article from Jodi of LegalNomads is about the spread of chili peppers around the world so it’s not really about Southeast Asia, but where would Thai food be without chilies?