Budget Travel to Southeast Asia Most Exciting Triangle

Posted by SE Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

Southeast Asia is a land rich with cultural diversity, history, and adventure to nature. Not to mention, the exchange rate of local currencies compared to other countries makes it the perfect place for students to study abroad and travel. Here are some travel suggestions on places to visit in the region on your breaks or on a semester abroad in this amazing region.

1. Backpacking to Ha Giang – the unexplored and secluded version of Sapa


The breath-taking scenery of Ha Giang. Photo: Vietnam Package Travel

When people think backpacking in Vietnam, Sapa often comes up as the No.1 destination, probably because of its breath-taking scenery for trekking and tourist friendly infrastructure of hotels and homestay. However, Sapa town is getting increasingly more touristy and much less peaceful for people who have come looking for it. Luckily, there are more places in the far Northern region of Vietnam that offer beautiful, unexplored primitive natures, authentic cultures of local ethnics and Ha Giang is definitely one of those places. 

There is no direct flight or train to the province of Ha Giang so you can either choose to book an overnight bus that will take you 7-8 hours to Ha Giang from Ha Noi or if you are feeling really adventurous, join local groups to get there on motorbikes to enjoy the breath taking narrow and winding passes of the up-northern districts. Keep in mind that if you opt for the latter, you should be a skilled driver and should know how to fix the basic motobike issues such as flat tyre, brake matter and remember to constantly check your fuel level on your motobike & fill it on the town that you reach because it is hard to find motorbike repairing shops and gas station along the hilly road.

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Localethnic people in Ha Giang. Photo: Jungleman.

Here are some of the best budget accomodation picked by Tripadvisor’s users for your reference:

  • Jasmine Hostel: Jasmine Hostel receives sky-high ratings for their friendly atmosphere and staff. They have spacious bedrooms, gardens and a great bar. There are free breakfast as well as kitchen area for those who love to cook their own foods. The hostel offers motorbike renting service and private tours that allow you to explore Ha Giang on motorbike or a car.
  • Ha Giang Amazing Hotel: Set in Ha Giang, Ha Giang Amazing Hostel has a garden, bar, on-site dining, and free WiFi. This 1-star hostel offers luggage storage space. Their staff on site can arrange airport transfers to the hotel. Travellers often compliment on their special Family Dinner with the staff. The location is convenient to visit places of interest in Ha Giang. The hotel also offer motorbike renting and the staff here would be happy to assist you with any places you want to go.

There is absolutely no short of sightseeing places to go in Ha Giang because the area is surrounded by hills, valleys and ethnic minorities villages (Hmong, Tay, Dao, Nung, Lo Lo, Giay, Pu Peo) and rarely tourist crowds. Probably the most impressive destination of Ha Giang province is Dong Van Karst Global Geopark, recognized by UNESCO as one of 77 sites with the important geological and cultural heritage. This geopark is littered with the ethereal karst formations that are nearly 400 million years old. You can also visit Lung Cu, the northern most point of Vietnam where a Vietnamese flag proudly stands on top of Dragon mountain.

One unique aspect of Ha Giang you may want to explore is the life of ethnic minorities, they have created a unique and rich cultural heritage of the area with their own traditional customs and foods. Ha Giang is known for its many special foods and beverages. For example, alcohol made from honey and corn, or Thang Co soup, a dish cooked from all parts of horses, buffalos or cows.

2. Backpacking to Thailand’s lesser known destination – Pai:

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Peace in Pai. Photo:

Backpacking into nature areas in Thailand is compulsory while exploring this beautiful country. You may have well heard of Bangkok, Chiangmai or Pattaya as paradise of tourism, however, the city of Pai, with much less presence of tourists can sweep you off of your feet with its relaxing nature and people. Locals walk the streets in their loose pattern pants as if they have not a single stress in the world. 

Here are some of the best budget accomodation in Pai, picked out by jonesaroundtheworld, a popular site for the backpackers community:

  • The Famous Pai Circus School:  Amazing backpacker atmosphere, stunning view overlooking Pai, and you can learn some fancy new circus tricks!  It’s honestly one of the coolest experiences you can have in Pai, and I’d highly recommend it.  There’s a fantastic swimming pool, free yoga lessons, and helpful staff!  
  • Spicy Pai Backpacker’s Hostel —  Easily one of the most recommended hostels among the young backpacker crowd, you’ll definitely enjoy your stay at Spicy Pai.  Located across the river from the main action, it’s definitely advisable to rent a moto to make things a bit easier.  There’s a great chill-out area, and a really relaxed vibe.
  • Common Grounds Pai — Perfectly located in the heart of walking street, this hostel / guesthouse will make your stay in this wonderful city unforgettable.  With a great atmosphere, pool table, and comfortable 4-person dorm rooms, you’ll have a nice comfy stay at Common Grounds.

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Pai- Thailand. Photo: Forever roaming the road

For such a small and peaceful town, there are actually a lot to do, you can rent a motorbike to explore the waterfalls and hills around the area. You can rent a motorbike here for about 100-150 bath per day and since the transportation system in Pai is not too developed, this is a lot more convenient means. 

Another exciting activity to do in Pai is to visit the night market, like in many other Southeast Asian country, night markets are a haven for cheap delicious food as well as merchandise from clothing to accessories to souvenirs, just remember to bargain for most things you buy.

3. Backpacking to the paradise of budget island travel – Koh Rong Samloem

Cambodia is one of the cheapest countries in Southeast Asia. Food, accommodation, and transportation are all cheap so you don’t need to do much to be on budget. 

Cambodia is popularly known for Angkor Wat, the impressive temple complex with artistic distinctiveness as fine as that of the Taj Mahal. However, if you want add an extra destination that will add more spice for your trip to Cambodia, we recommend going to Koh Rong Samloem Island.

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Koh Rong Samloem Island, located in the Gulf of Thailand and only two hours by boat from Sihanoukville is one of those places that you want to run out and tell the world about, but at the same time keep your own little secret,  Koh Rong Samloem doesn’t have the party vibe you’ll find on northern neighbour Koh Rong, however being still unspoiled by tourism, the island will surprise you with its pristine beauty and tranquility. There are sufficient options for accomodation on the island, most of which are located along Saracen Bay, just make sure to be quick as in the high season it can be very tough to find a budget room here. 

Here are some suggestions for budget places to stay in the island by

  • The Beach: offers adventurers open-air sleeping arrangement where $5 gets you a comfy mattress on a platform, nice linen and a view to die for, directly on the sand. If you like your walls to go all the way around, the imaginative circular huts come with shared or ensuite bathrooms, made from thatch and pebbles.
  • Easy Tiger: If you’re after a dorm room and a chilled out vibe, British-Australian Easy Tiger, in the heart of M’Pay Bei village, seems to be the best-run option around on Koh Rong Samloem.

  • Sleeping Trees: located on Sunset Beach it is a perfect settlement for camp lovers whether they want to literally sleep in the trees, or do it safari style with a huge canvas tent kitted out with its own wooden double bed.

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The island is a great place to snorkel. Photo:

There’s a pretty good deal of activities to do on the island beside chilling on a really gorgeous beach and disconnecting from your busy daily life. It is very popular to do snorkelling in Koh Rong Samloem crystal clear water since you can see a good range of sea life, for those who are more adventurous, you can sign up for a scuba diving trip to see the stunning coral and fish in the area. Kayaking is another fun activity on water which can take place in a variety of areas like rocky island, a fishing village and the cave waterfall. If you feel like discovering the island on land, the stunning foliage and paths across the island to opposite beaches offer you the chance to do mountain biking or long distance trekking.


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