Lesser-known destinations in Southeast Asia that are out of this world

Lesser-known destinations in Southeast Asia that are out of this world
Mergui Archipelago
PHOTO: Shutterstock.com

It's sometimes hard to look past popular destinations. They might have everything you want: interesting cultural offerings, great food, a golden beach, or just a place to relax that makes things that little bit … well, easier.

You can miss out on a whole lot of life however, just going with easy. Let's look beyond the obvious, and take an off-the-beaten-track tour of the ASEAN region.

If you want to get away from it all, there's perhaps no more iconic destination than your own desert island! With over 20,000 islands in the South-East Asia region, there's certainly a wealth of destinations to choose from. The trick is to find that slice of paradise that few others have discovered before you.

Myanmar's Macleod Island, located in the beautiful Mergui Archipelago, is a great place to start.

This private island retreat offers a single resort destination, one of only two in a stretch of 800 nearby islands, and a great base for some world class snorkelling. The serene slice of tropical heaven not only delivers solitude away from prying eyes, but just enough luxury to make the journey worthwhile.

The private speedboat leaves from the city of Kawthaung, southern Myanmar, and delivers you to the island refreshed by the crisp ocean air an hour-and-a-half later. That's off-the-beaten track, indeed.

If something a little closer to nature is what you're after, Cambodia's own Crusoe Island might be the tranquillity you're looking for. With a selection of camping grounds and bungalows, this tropical retreat tends to cater for a younger, more energetic desire to get to a secluded locale. Crusoe Island is found on Koh Ta Kiev, with ferries from Otres Beach, itself a fairly tranquil little escape in the Sihanoukville area on the southwest tip of Cambodia.

Of course, if you want to go true Crusoe, this kind of pampered camping adventure is far too mainstream! Go the extra mile, or perhaps league, to get away from it all, with your own abandoned desert island adventure.

There are companies which offer the real Crusoe experience, carting you to deserted islands throughout Indonesia and the Philippines. Relax on the uninhabited paradise that can become your home for weeks, and enjoy a true exclusive experience.

Various locations are available, depending on season, with everything from relaxing bungalows to the sweet call of the abandoned wild.

Naturally, escaping the bustle of tourist traps doesn't just mean taking to the high seas and setting sail for your own sandy paradise. Malaysia has its own opportunities for beauty away from the masses.

Sarawak's Bario Highlands provides a distant treasure that's still on our own doorstep. The wonderful, peaceful home of the Kelabit people, resting in the northern part of the province, against the borders of Kalimantan, Indonesia, offers something truly unique.

The Bario Highlands consists of a vast highland plateau over 1,000m above sea level, and is home to 10 villages and a great wealth of nature to explore.

It's most easily accessible by plane, the 45-min flight a more sensible option it seems than the 10 to 14-hour drive from Miri, depending on the road condition and weather, making it truly one of the most beautifully-rural locations in all of Malaysia. Flights leave from Miri, Lawas and Marudi, but can be subject to weather disruption.

The Highlands offer a stunning base to enjoy the natural world, with treks through the nearby jungle or kayak trips possible upon arrangement. If you're lucky enough to visit between July 28 and 30, you'll also have the pleasure of experiencing the Bario Food Festival, also known as Pesta Nukenen Bario, a riot of food and festival atmosphere that's a delight for the senses.

Accommodation in the Bario Highlands comes in the form of a traditional longhouse stay, allowing guests to best enjoy the warmth and hospitality offered by the local people.

This wonderful accommodation also allows guests to benefit from the local knowledge of friendly guides who will ensure you get the best out of this truly unique experience.

If enjoying nature's wonder is a goal, then our last destination of Umphang, Thailand, will be met with a roar of approval. This beautiful region lies in west Thailand, nestled against the border of Myanmar.

The village itself can be found five hours south of Mae Sot, reached by 165km of breath-taking, winding mountain roads.

Umphang is a small village, resting at the end of the journey. Yet, it is the springboard for one of Thailand's greatest natural wonders, Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary, and the mighty Thi Lo Su Waterfall. Despite its size, the village has several types of accommodation, yet, retaining the natural charm of a rural destination.

Thi Lo Su Waterfall is best accessed through an organised trek, which can be booked in the village.

Depending on how long you want to get away from it all, you can experience everything from a direct trip to the stunning waterfall, or a longer adventure through the natural beauty of the nearby jungle in Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary. Enjoy the beauty of this jungle paradise, surrounded by the echo of local wildlife and the roar of the mighty Thi Lo Su.

It's time to book your next adventure!

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