When you study abroad in Thailand you can also explore other countries in Southeast Asia during your semester break or at the end of the semester. Most TEAN students choose to explore one or two other countries, with most program alumni saying the ‘don’t-miss’ destinations in the region are Myanmar and Vietnam. Lately some students have also ventured beyond mainland Southeast Asia to Indonesia during their semester breaks or post-semester trips.
“In order to get the most out of your Spring Break in South East Asia my biggest advice is to keep it simple. Do not try to cram too much into your week because the last thing you want is to feel stressed during your vacation. Pick one destination that has been on your mind and that you really want to see to the fullest extent.” Molly Hohle, San Diego State University
Myanmar has opened up for tourism relatively recently, making it the perfect place for students looking to get a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. Past students who’ve visited the unique country have noted that being there is like going back in time.
“…We saw the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and then took an overnight bus to Bagan. We became friends with a man that works at a bicycle shop and we rented bikes for two days to go exploring the pagodas. Bagan was my favorite place to go. Since it is so new to tourism we would be on top of a pagoda watching a sunrise with maybe two other people whereas at Angkor Wat we watched the sunrise with 500 other people, so it is a whole new and different experience. Everyone there is so friendly and a lot of people asked to take pictures with us and practice their english with us – it was such an incredible time.” Sophie Fish, Emmanuel College
Recently, the country has been in the news with how its Rohingya minority community has bee treated. While there have been calls for a travel boycott of Myanmar, the situation is complicated and there are many reasons for and against visiting the country. Ultimately, the decision is one of morality and not safety – the areas of the country where tourists are allowed have been perfectly safe – so it’s best to do some reading and make your best judgement. This article from Matador Network shares an interesting look at why travelers should still visit the country.
Vietnam remains a must-see for TEAN students traveling Southeast Asia. Before visiting this country with such rich history and culture, it is easy to think that it might be very similar to Thailand. Despite some familiarity in the chaotic traffic, big cities, lush mountains and mouthwatering food, Vietnam still offers very different experience from the Land of Smiles. Students in the past have loved the varied cuisine and exploring the many facets of the country’s landscape – from trekking in the jungle covered or rice-terraced mountains to lounging at the beach.
“In my opinion Vietnam is a must-see. I was blown away by the country’s breathtaking beauty, delicious food, intense history, and friendly hospitality. It was amazing – I was there for a week but it was not enough!! I wish I had enough time to explore every part of it.” Sydney Holinka, University of Pittsburgh
Some students decide to spend their entire break in one country, in order to really get to know one place. Vietnam tends to be the top choice for students who spend their break in one country because there is so much to explore.
Indonesia is a popular destination for backpackers and travelers looking for gorgeous beachfronts. Fewer TEAN students go there during the semester because of cost and distance, but some students take time after the semester ends to travel to the gorgeous country. While Bali may be the most well-known, there are a number of other beautiful islands to discover, such as Lombok, Gili Air and Gili Trawangan.
“Personally I traveled to Indonesia on my spring break and absolutely loved it. I was only in Bali but I would recommend a few nights in Bali and then traveling to different islands to get a different feel for Indonesia.” Brittany Watson, College of Charleston
You can also find nature/adventure treks, meditation centers and yoga retreats throughout Indonesia. Some past students have gone and hiked to the top of an active volcano, volunteered with orangutans in the Indonesian jungle and gotten zen on a silent meditation retreat.
Wherever you go, you’re sure to have an incredible time and experience a place, culture, people and cuisine completely different than what you’re used to!
Note: Air Asia usually has some of the best flight deals for getting around Southeast Asia, so be sure to check them out when traveling to these destinations – just remember as a budget airline they do tack on surprise charges.
This post was updated in March, 2018.