Association of South East Asian Nations also known as ASEAN is a make up of ten countries namely, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. In combine, we make up 8.8% of the population on Earth and it may seems like an insignificant percentage and despite our close vicinity, we are an interesting mix of countries with diversify culture, ethnics, languages, heritage, history and even our food.
Being part of ASEAN countries, has its own advantage to us, the South East Asian travellers. Often, when we talk about travelling, it does not have to be in some faraway land. In fact, there are plenty to do and see in our own backyards as well as neighbouring countries which will intrigue the mind and open up new perspective in life.
Here are some good reasons why you should be travelling within ASEAN countries
1) Budget airlines
Flying to neighbouring countries have never been better since the introduction of low-cost carriers connecting cities in ASEAN countries together with affordable flights and keep an eye on those alluring promotion deals which are hard to resist.
In addition, if you are not the kind who can sit still in a plane for long, travelling to neighbouring countries are bearable as they are usually less than 4 hours flight time which fly past (pun intended) easily with a nap or pre-load the smartphone or tablet with some shows or a good read to keep you occupy.
2) Visa-free travel
Applying for visa can be such a pain, especially if the process is long and tedious. Not to mention they can be expensive too and there is a certain amount of fear that application may be rejected especially if your passport has certain restrictions and is lowly ranked in the passport power index.
Entering other ASEAN countries are made easy with visa-free travels with the exception of Myanmar currently however by the end of 2015, ASEAN travellers will be able to travel visa-free to the country too! (YAY!)
3) ASEAN only counter at immigration
Finally when you touched down at your destination and you cannot wait to begin your adventure.. but hold on! You see long lines forming at immigration counters and impatiently wonder how long will it take for you to clear the immigration custom.
Look around for dedicated immigration counters which cater specially for ASEAN travellers. They can be faster as compared to other lines because we do not need visa to enter hence the verification process will quicken up. You can even have the smirking rights when you beat others (non ASEAN travellers) to the counters. Anyhow, if you find a plane full of travellers from South East Asia, the ASEAN only counters are not going to make much difference so be smart, act smart.
4) Suitable for short or long holiday
Whether you are looking for a quick getaway to rejuvenate or spend 2 weeks or more exploring more in depth into a country, travelling to other South East Asia country is a great choice because unlike flying only take a few hours, not like you need to buffer in 1 or 2 days of flying in the air and air tickets are inexpensive too (refer to point 1)
5) UNESCO sites
Till date, there are thirty seven UNESCO listed sites spreading across 8 ASEAN countries with the exception of Singapore and Brunei and those sites are preserved due to their importance contribution to the culture, heritage and nature.
They are being listed as UNESCO sites for good reasons. Spectacular nature, impressive sites built centuries ago leave you pondering over what the kind of life people lead back then.
6) Wet/ Dry seasons
Clustering near the equator, there are no four seasons to worry about which means less things to pack and you certainly do not need that pair of knee length boots nor a fancy thick fury coat. There are only wet and dry seasons where it either rains most of the time making roads muddy and your feet dirty or it gets super hot and humid that no matter how much water you drink, you just perspire it out instead of releasing from your bladder. Most of the time a tank top with shorts will do just fine. Of course if you are travelling in the cooler period, it is always a good idea to pack along a pair of long pants/ jeans and a jacket to keep warm.
Living in the South East Asia region, we each have our own speciality and signature dishes which represent the nation or at least a region. It is interesting how our heritage have great influence in our food, e.g Peranakan food is a mix of Malay and Chinese influence. Food always taste better and more authentic in their country of origins and it is not difficult to satisfy the craves.
One good thing about travelling in South East Asia is that it is rather affordable. You can always find reasonably good accommodations with amenities, eating out is a cheap option if you eat where the locals eat, transportations are inexpensive. An advantage about being an Asian is that we tend to look the same so we could possible pass off as a local to enjoy local discounted rate at some of the places of interest.
All around South East Asia, we have almost everything under the sun with beautiful beaches, breath-taking nature, shopping paradises, delicious cuisines, cultural and historical sites.
I hope all these reasons are sufficient for you to fuel your next trip to other ASEAN countries! Are you planning a trip within South East Asia soon?