During your trip planning your attention will inevitably turn to the “Big Things”, like must-see places, ‘top 10’ experiences and UNESCO world heritage sites. This was a natural focus for me as well.
These major sights are easier to find information about, easier to plan for, and easier to get excited about. In researching Southeast Asia you may have already built up some expectations for places like Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Angkor Wat in Cambodia or Koh Phi Phi in Thailand.
These landmark destinations often form the backbone of most people’s itineraries. They can definitely add some guaranteed ‘wow’ moments to your trip, but smaller experiences are equally important. The more I’ve traveled, the more I’ve wanted to keep my plans flexible so I can seek out those other experiences.
Whether it’s simply riding a scooter through the rice fields in northern Thailand, watching the sun set over the Mekong river in Laos, lazying on a beautiful beach with bamboo huts in Cambodia, or enjoying a delicious bowl of Pho noodles at a local market in Vietnam—these are actually some of my most memorable vignettes of travelling in Southeast Asia.
If you are finding it impossible to fit in all the big bucket list items, know that it’s entirely possible to have a spectacular trip without them! Don’t get me wrong, the big stuff is often amazing. But don’t be afraid to make sacrifices if not everything from your wishlist fits easily into your plan. Having a more manageable route will allow you to stay in places longer and seek out those little golden moments that you can’t always plan for.