As an American, Canadian, Australian, or even a Brit, the first major trip you dream of is tramping around continental Europe. And for a lot of good reasons too. Cities such as Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Berlin, and Amsterdam should all be on everybody’s travel lists.
Many of us take a big trip or two that connects all those famous cities, and then we either go back or maybe we get lazy and start going to the Mexican beach resorts or Hawaii year after year.
The thing is, if you have at least a normal sense of adventure, and especially if your travel budget is limited then Southeast Asia is probably a better choice for your next holiday. The common definition of that is Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Burma, but this is also true of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Philippines, not to mention India, Nepal, and Bangladesh as well.There are a lot of reasons for choosing Asia as a holiday destination.
Asia is way cheaper than Europe
For some people this is the most important reason on this list, and for others it’s just a bonus on top, but it must be said that there is a striking difference in costs between Europe and Asia once you’re on the ground. Asia is way cheaper than Europe in any way.
The cheapest city in Asia is Hanoi, where a backpacker can have a pretty decent time for a bit over US $10 per day. Compare that to, say, Paris, where the same group of expenses currently goes for US $75 per day, and you will recognize the value. Realistically, when you’re in a super-cheap area, you’re more likely to get a bit more, since everything on the scale is a deal.
You practically live like a king in one of the best spas in Bali rather than paying for a double room in some European cities.
The weather in Asia is sunny almost all the year
One major weakness with Europe cities is that most of them have a pretty lousy climate for most of the year. Except for the Mediterranean coast, the whole block from November to March is either frozen or deeply grey and drizzly in most cities. On the other hand, the most of SE Asia is tropical and therefore has only 2 seasons. There’s the dry season (mostly from November to May) and the so-called wet season (June to October).
However, the wet-season thing is rarely more than a minor inconvenience, and it actually brings temperatures down to more welcoming levels in some places. During the wet season in SE Asia you will usually have a few days in the week where it either pours over an hour overnight, or for an hour in the late afternoon.
If it’s in the afternoon it’s a perfect excuse to pop in a sheltered restaurant for a beer or two while you wait. In very rare cases, there may be flooding, and while this creates problems for locals, tourists are almost always able to get elsewhere or to a higher ground.
There is no pressure to learn the local languages in SE Asia
English language signs are everywhere and the people are really good in learning foreign languages, and many others enjoy the process and the deep cultural understanding you get when you can speak the native language. In Southeast Asia you can do as much as you like, and many travelers are quite successful at it, but at least there is zero pressure (or need) to learn the local language if you do not want to.
The same thing can be said for most of northern Europe (thanks to the English skills of residents there), but in countries such as Spain, France and Italy you really are at a disadvantage if you do not absorb the local language. For some people it can be stressful or even make them much less outgoing, which can detract from the overall experience.
For better or worse, the people of Southeast Asia have accepted the fact that they have more economic opportunity if they speak at least in English, plus have all the important signs and menus in English as well. Many of them love practicing their English on tourists, so it can be surprisingly easy to do anything you want and even make a few friends.
Southeast Asia is way more exotic than Europe
Whether you are starting in Cleveland or Melbourne or even London, there is nothing in Europe that will truly feel exotic to you. You may not be able to see a canal city like Amsterdam, but for lunch, the locals usually eat a sandwich or pizza or a hot dog or French fries just like you do at home.
On the other hand, there is almost nothing in Southeast Asia that will NOT feel exotic to you. From the temples to the street food to the open markets to even the little souvenirs, nothing will look familiar, and this should be thrilling.
You can get eggs and toast for breakfast anywhere you go, but you might soon be hooked on a spicy chicken noodle soup instead. It’s easy to start from scratch and take nothing for granted when you’re exposed to a totally different way of doing things.