Contributed to Fair Dinkum Traveller
When it comes to planning a weekend break, a lot of people don’t need to invest more than a few hours to research the perfect location and the ideal flight to get there. It’s easy to understand why. Between last minute deals and a getaway that doesn’t require a lot of planning, the click and buy generation is taking over the short holiday market.
There’s no shame about it. After all, sometimes all you need is a quick escape out of everyday routine to recharge your batteries. It doesn’t really matter where you’re going if you’re only going to spend a couple of days there. It’s all about not being at home – or at work for that matter – and instead enjoying the taste of life elsewhere, far away from your daily worries. It’s the quick beach break, the cultural city getaway, or the outlandish countryside weekend.
However, there comes a time when you want something else from your holiday, when it needs to be more than a quick bubble of peace. You know the feeling: You’re drained and you want to rethink your life priorities and set things in the right order for you. That’s the kind of life crisis that calls for a long holiday where you can immerse yourself in a new culture, mindset and landscape. You can’t just click and book a long holiday without considering the destination carefully. If you want to come back feeling refreshed and enlightened, you need to aim for south-east Asia. The Far East, as it used to be called, is rich in history, adventures and flavours. More importantly, it offers the perfect spiritual platform to question your motives and redefine your life.
The countries of south-east Asia
If you haven’t got a map of the world at hand, south-east Asia is a subregion of Asia that refers to all countries that are situated in a region south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. For simplicity, it’s said to consists of what used to be Indochina, and the historical East Indies and Malay Archipelago. Geographically, it’s the equivalent of about 8.5% of the world’s population, which makes it the third most populous region in the world – the two others being south Asia and east Asia. In other words, if you’re going to south-east Asia for a taste of isolation, you might have picked the wrong part of the world for that. But the region has a lot to offer in terms of tourism, history and even business if you’re looking to start a new life elsewhere.
The French influence in Vietnam
Vietnam was one of France’s most profitable colonial possessions after the country gain control over the North of Vietnam as a result of a victory in the Sino-French War of 1883-1884. As with any colony around the world; the themes of exploitation of raw materials, workforce and other natural resources are to be expected. But the French rule has left in Vietnam a variety of historical architecture and customs that give the country its particular attitude. In fact, French architecture is so dominant that the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hoi An and Hanoi. More interestingly, this isn’t the only vestige of a colonialist past in Vietnam. Indeed, according to https://theculturetrip.com, you can find a culinary influence from patisseries to restaurants in most of the country. In fact, if you’re looking to start your career in the gastronomy industry and learn from the best chefs, Vietnam is definitely the place to be.
Thailand, a beautiful country that is shut to foreign opportunities
If you want to enjoy more beaches and less colonialist guilt, take a trip to wild Thailand, and especially Khao Lak. Why there? Because it’s a little less than two hours’ drive from the Island of Phuket, but it benefits from a peaceful and relaxing environment. You won’t find the crowd of tourists you expect so that you can have the sunset, the sandy beaches and the resorts almost to yourself. It’s a little bubble of paradise that awaits you every year between November and May in this area of Thailand. However, you may find it difficult to make a living in Thailand, even if you fall in love with the country and decide to stay. There are very little business opportunities for non-native citizens as a Thai-born person has to own the majority of a company. Only US citizens can own up to 100% of a company in Thailand, but they still need a minimum capital first.
A taste of Lara Croft in Cambodia
If you still remember Angelina Jolie exploring the ruins of a temple in Tomb Raider, then you’ll be pleased to know that you can find these temples in Cambodia. Admittedly; since Angelina went running there in her tiny shorts, the place is crawling with tourists. But with a good guide, you can still see everything and revive your old Lara Croft’s memories. If you’re ready to get up early, you can visit the magnificent Sunrise at Angkor Wat – although be ready to be there before 5:30 am. You can find the famous Tomb Raider’s temple, Ta Prohm, with its intertwined tree roots too. You won’t have much difficulty to imagine life in Cambodia if you’re not afraid to downsize a bit. In fact, a couple of American tourists have made Cambodia their home since 2015 and despite low earnings – less than $35,000 a year – they have all they need. They’re the happiest they’ve ever been in Phnom Penh.
Start your spiritual journey in Laos
What if you just want a spiritual awakening for your holiday? Laos is often described as a mystical country by those who have visited it. The most important thing that tourists will tell you about the country is that it remains completely outside the spotlight. There’s barely any tourists in Laos, which means that you can take a good look at ancient Buddhist temples without getting up at dawn to avoid the crowd. Consequently, it’s a great place to find out more about Buddhism and exploring your spiritual side at your own pace. Make sure to attend the Luang Prabang ceremony in northern Laos before you leave. Every morning the monks walk in town to collect the food offerings. You can ask the locals how to participate.
The city of the many pagodas and temples in Myanmar
Another great place to explore your spiritual side is Myanmar, and especially Yangon, the city that has some of the oldest pagodas and temples in the country. Some are even believed to date back to the lifetime of Gautama Buddha over 2500 years ago. The oldest pagoda in Burma, the Shwedagon is a 99 metre-high stupa that is entirely covered in gold. It’s a place of pilgrimage for many Buddhists as it enshrines a hair relic of Siddhartha Gautama. You can see it from anywhere in town, and it’s impossible not to feel its aura. If you find your calling in Myanmar and are wondering about staying and embracing a new lifestyle, you might be interested in reading this interview http://www.goaway.sg/life-in-myanmar that explains how the expat life feels like in Yangon. As a general rule, locals are friendly and will go out of their way to help you. Besides, you can experience a frontier market in a Buddhist culture, which makes it both challenging and peaceful at the same time.
EAST INDIES & MALAY ARCHIPELAGO
Indonesia, the melting pot of cuisines and cultures
There is no bigger melting pot in south-east Asian than in Indonesia. Jakarta, home to 10 million people, offers a tour of colonial architectures, live music venues and fine dining restaurants, all within a few yards from each other. Needless to say that there’s a lot to see and experience in Indonesia, from a metropole culture in Jakarta to UNESCO-listed national parks and volcanoes to hike up on Java. If you love the creative juxtaposition of cultures, wildlife, and without mentioning the world’s biggest Buddhist temple, you’ll be happy to know that the house prices are low: https://rumahdijual.com/. In fact, you can buy a manor house with garden for the price of a small family home in the UK.
The country of the thousands of islands
With over 7,000 islands to choose from, you know that visiting the Philippines will be an adventurous experience. In fact, for most people, it can be difficult to know where to start, but here’s a little overview of the best sites to see. El Nido, for Pinoy travellers, offers one of the world’s most picture-perfect seascapes, without mentioning its fantastic limestone cliffs. If you’re wondering what Heaven looks like, El Nido might be the closest thing you’ll find to it. If you want a feel for the old history of the place, spend some time in the UNESCO-listed town, Vigan where the Spanish architecture continues to tell the tales of the past. However, you can forget any dream of making your life in the Philippines: Foreigners are not allowed to own property.
Whether you want to reboot your life or just to clear your mind, south-east Asia offers a multitude of landscapes, spiritual encounters, fascinating cultural backgrounds and exciting business opportunities to help you on the way. All you need is to pack your luggage and start your self-discovery tour.