Many people who travel often discover a niche they are drawn to more than others. Some like big cities– they like losing themselves among the bright and exciting lights, and the thousands of people moving from one place to another.
Others like historical sights. From Machu Picchu to Ankor Wat, to Teotihuacan they pack their water, get up early, and explore the lost civilizations.
Me? I like islands. No, no, not the islands full of people and resorts (although those have their time and place) I like the islands that have no cars. That only have electricity for 4 hours in the afternoon and the rest of the time you just have to deal. I like the islands that take 2 days, 1 train, 2 buses, a boat, and a plane to finally reach the destination (true story).
The following is a list (not in any order) about the various islands I have wandered to. I will try to be as detailed as possible for those that are interested in attempting to make their own adventure to an “off-the-beaten-path island”. After starting this post I realized I had a lot to say. Instead of creating one super long post I’ve decided instead to write two. Next week I’ll post one featuring the non South East Asian Off-the-beaten-path islands I’ve been to.
Four Thousand Islands– Don Det
Location: Don Det, four thousands Islands, as you might be able to tell, sits in a large group of islands between the border of Laos and Cambodia on the Mekong River.
Setting: This is not an idelic, “blue-water-white-sand” location. The water is brown. Like brown, brown and pretty dirty. After spending a day kayaking around the islands and even momentarily crossing over the boarder into Cambodia, I broke out into a rash caused from clogged pores. But nonetheless I really enjoyed my time here.
I traveled to Don Det directly from Vang Vieng and man, was that a trip, an approximately 25 hour trip. I first took a bus from Vang Vieng to the capital Vientaine. From there I took another bus that cuts across Thailand from Vientaine to Si Phan Don. In Si Phan Don the bus dropped me off directly in front of the boats. I some how managed to catch a bus that went to the quite, or non touristy side of the island, and by the time we arrived I was so exhausted that I didn’t bother walking back to the other side.
If you plan on making a trip here, just make sure you get the side you want. My trip to Don Det was a long time ago so I’m a bit fuzzy on all the specific details, but if I’m remembering correctly I was able to buy one ticket that included all the different transfers. I recommend checking in with your local hostel (even if you’re not staying there) and they should be able to help you figure out the best way to get there.
Experience: As I stated before I really enjoyed my time on Don Det. I snuggled in my hammock hung off the porch in front of my private bungalow and watched the sky come down around me. I walked the island snapping pictures and even tried the “happy shake”. There were multiple tours offered and I opted to take one kayaking the Mekong River. It was very hot and dirty but I did get a chance to see the Irrawaddy dolphins, which in 2014 had a wild population of about 100.
To see my original post from 2014 click here.
Koh Rong– Cambodia
Location: Koh Rong is located off the coast of the Cambodian town Sihanoukville.
Settings : Ok, I need to make a disclaimer before I start talking about the setting- about 5 years has past since I have visited this island and from the quick google search I just made it looks like things have changed A TON. I am going to talk about my personal experience on the island, but if you are thinking of traveling here I highly suggest you do some more research.
I loved my time on Koh Rong. This island is probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The beaches were idealistic with crystal water and golden sand. I rented a shared room for $10 a night at the end of the beach and loved how disconnected I was from the world.
Getting there: Like most of my adventures to these islands getting here was an adventure. I took an overnight bus from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville which took about 6ish hours. I got off (a bit dazed) and walked down the street, took a right, and saw the office for the boats. There I paid about $10 before walking to the pier where I proceed to wait for close to 2 hours. While waiting, I started chatting with another group of solo travelers. This turned out to be a huge live safer. Once the boat finally showed up we started to get in line and I made a bad joke about someone’s ticket flying into the water after that huge wait…. yep, you guessed it, my ticket then proceeded to fly into the water. The incredibly friendly (not) dock worker communicated that I would either need to get that ticket, or buy a new one. So I of course proceeded to give all my worldly belongings to my new friends and jumped into the pier fully clothed. With eyes and cameras of about 100 people on me I lifted my $10 dollar ticket up on my palm like the gold it was, and managed to swim while also holding my pants up to the side of the boat where some friendly people helped me climb up to my waiting bags. Thankfully my nice new friends hadn’t stolen my stuff and even let me use one of their towels for the 1.5 hour boat ride. Yay from traveling adventures.
Experience: With no wifi and patchy electricity I spent my time on the beach, on a boat tour, and drinking with my friends. With a more mature mind, I do regret not interacting with the locals and treating the place as a party spot. I wish I would have respected the beach and the people more.
I was on their land, I should have made sure to respect it, while also trying to make sure my money went to the locals and not to expats who had moved in. That being said, during my 5 days on the island I spent most of my time on the beach with the exception of one day when I went on an all day boat tour. We went fishing and then around to the other side of the island where we could watch the sunset, jump into the water, and eat the fish.
Original blog post here.
Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia
Location: Nusa Lembongan is located off the southeastern coast of Bali directly off the coast of Penida.
Setting: While this little slice of heaven is often passed over as travelers go to the Gili islands or stay on Bali, it was easily one of my favorite places. I had a private bungalow a thirty second walk away from the beach for $15 dollars a night. Here I did some of my favorite snorkeling and even got in an awesome massage.
Getting there: Thanks to it’s proximity to Bali Lembongan was actually quite easy to get to. I simply went to the pier on that side (southeast) of the island and caught a fast boat. From my recollection the trip took about an hour. Unfortunately, I cannot remember how much it cost. After the boat ride, I hopped on a taxi that took me to the end of the road. I got off and walked around the foot path asking for lodging where I got lucky and managed to find an incredible place moments from the beach.
Experience: I visited Nusa Lembongan in 2014 at the very end of my trip throughout Southeast Asia. Even though this point I had spent time on over 10 islands in 3 months, I honestly thought it was one of the best. I didn’t have to fight the crowds as I had on Bali, or Phi phi, and it wasn’t as big as Koh Lanta or Lombok. I swam after manta rays, explored coral the color of the rainbow, and watch the sunset by myself over the blue waters of the Bali sea. While this island wasn’t quite as rustic as I prefer, it was a gem among the other, over commercialized, islands in the area, and one I would highly recommend.
Original blog post here.
Koh Lipe, Thailand
Location: Koh Lipe sits in a group of islands off the southwest coast of Thailand close to Malaysia.
Setting: My entire time on Koh Lipe I walked shoeless, from my hostel, to the various restaurants, to the boat we took to go scuba diving. The water on Koh Lipe was incredibly clear and blue with fine, white sand. While there are cars on this island they don’t dominate the enviroment, and it was small enough that I could walk from one side to the other without too much time or energy.
Getting there: I visited Koh Lipe during the end of the my island hopping adventure in Thailand. We went to the pier on Koh Lanta and bought tickets from Bundhaya Speed Boat which took us on a 3 hour boat ride directly to Koh Lipe from Koh Lanta. Compared to some of my other island seeking trips, that now seems very small, but at the time it seemed like a long time.
Experience: My short time on Koh Lipe was spent in and around the water. I had just been certified to dive and all I wanted was to be under the water. Unfortunately, even though the diving on Koh Lipe is supposed to be great, V and I didn’t have too much luck. The visibility wasn’t great and we didn’t see much. However, I loved spending time sitting in the sun and eating all the curry. Note: make sure you say no spicy when ordering food here, I ate a curry here that was so spicy my eyes, nose and mouth all had liquid spewing out.
Original post here