This article was brought to you by Lunchclick, with editing by the Departure team.
Vacations are tough to plan, and if you’re like me, nothing is more annoying than arriving at your dream destination and having your fantasies shattered by hordes of tourists.
After a long slog and the mundane grind of work, you deserve an adventure with your partner. Here are 10 destinations off the beaten path that you can visit in Southeast Asia.
1. Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia
Lake Toba occupies the caldera of a supervolcano that erupted tens of thousands of years ago. The beautiful scenery and tranquil surroundings makes this the romantic destination for you and your other half.
To eat: Fresh fish caught directly from the lake.
To buy: Take your pick from the handicrafts made by the Batak Toba people.
To do: Visit a hot spring: There are numerous hot springs with free entry located around Lake Toba.
2. Oudomxay, Laos
Take this trip if you’re feeling like a relaxed getaway with your partner. Laos is known for its laid-back lifestyle and Oudomxay – with its rugged landscape and its friendly people – possesses much provincial charm.
To eat: Laap from one of the food markets located around Oudomxay. Laap is the national dish, made from raw meat and flavoured with lemongrass and herbs. If you blanch at the idea of eating raw meat, you can get a cooked version of the dish.
To buy: Get yourself and your partner some traditional fabrics to hang up around your house or tailor into clothes.
To do: For the more spiritually inclined, take a trekking tour around the Khamtan Buddha Cave.
3. Bagan, Mandalay region of Myanmar
Bagan is the most popular tourist destination in Myanmar, but don’t be put off by this. After all, Myanmar is still relatively less-travelled compared to its Southeast Asian counterparts. Bagan’s popularity is derived from its centuries-old temples;be sure visit one of these towering, ornate structures.
To eat: Indulge yourself in one of the buffets offering traditional Burmese dishes.
To buy: Lacquerware for home decoration – it’s sure to impress your guests.
To do: Rent a boat and watch the sunset with your loved one.
4. Aurora, Philippines
Aurora was named after the wife of the President Manuel Quezon. With both historical and romantic value, this province will prove to be a great place for a trip.
To eat: Arroz Caldo, a thick chicken rice porridge. This dish is sure to help warm you up after a day swimming along the beaches of Aurora.
To buy: Shop at a trade fair and pick up Baler products, such as lambanog(fermented coconut wine).
To do: Swim in the Ditumabo Falls while surrounded by lush greenery.
5. Da Nang, Vietnam
Da Nang is the less-travelled sister of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. Due to the low volume of tourists, it offers a more authentic insight into Vietnamese life.
To eat: My Quang is rich with chicken broth and rice noodles, and can be found easily along the streets of Da Nang.
To buy: Purchase ceramics in Non Nuoc village, where you’ll get to witness your purchase being created.
To do: The Son Tra Peninsula contains many beautiful beaches where you can scuba dive and explore coral reefs.
6. Christmas Island, territory of Australia
The Christmas Island is a warm stew of different cultures. Unlike most of the locations on this list, English is widely spoken here, which may make communication easier.
To eat: A mixture of cultures also means a mixture of cuisines. There are many noodle bars on the island where you can grab a quick bite. Alternatively, try the Australian meat pie.
To buy: Duty-free perfumes. Stock up on untaxed items while you’re there.
To do: Visit sometime between October and December, and you’ll get to watch the world-famous Christmas Island Red Crab Migration.
7. Seri Menanti, Malaysia
Singaporeans are used to popping over to Johor Bahru for a quick supper. But if you’d like to explore Malaysia further, you and your partner should visit Seri Menanti, the royal capital of the state of Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.
To eat: Negeri Sembilan is famous for its siew paus (pork buns). Pick a store and bite down into the chewy, meaty filling of one.
To do: Visit the Royal Museum Seri Menanti. The palace that houses the museum was built without the use of a single nail.
8. Sra’em, Cambodia
Sra’em is a sleepy town, unfurnished with amenities and rudimentary in accommodation… which may not be a terrible thing, if you’d like to get a sense of how high-maintenance your significant other.
It does provide a great setting for a journey of self-discovery, since you get to return to a simpler lifestyle for a little bit. It provides the best location from which you can make a pilgrimage to the Preah Vihear temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a nationally significant monument.
To eat: Phnom pleoung, hill of fire, is a meat-and-vegetables feast you can get from the Pkay Prek Restaurant in Sra’em.
To do: Visit the Preah Vihear temple. That’s what you’re there for, no?
9. Kampot, Cambodia
Kampot, set by the river, is a serene and beautiful place to be. Watching the sun rise over the countryside is an experience like no other.
To eat: Saraman (Cambodian beef curry) is a must-try in Kampot.
To buy: Kampot’s economy is built on salt and pepper production. You’d be remiss if you didn’t buy back a pot of pepper.
To do: Caving is popular in Kampot and is offered by many providers, including Climbodia.
10. Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Thailand
Phuket and Bangkok are tourist hotspots, so you’ve probably already been to the Land of Smiles.
If you’d like to experience a different side of Thailand, visit the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. Khao Sam Roi Yot literally translates to “mountain with three hundred peaks”. While the name of the place is a little hyperbolic, the views are nonetheless breathtaking.
To eat: Due to its secluded nature, the National Park does not contain many restaurants. However, you can still head to Phu Noi Beach’s Dolphin Inn Restaurant for an alfresco meal.
To do: Visit the Phraya Nakhon Cave, a cavern that houses a royal pavilion.