A handy, concise-ish list of the best, the worst, and the rest from each place we visited.
(completed as we go...)
- See: The Taj Mahal and the Red Fort.
- Eat: Only at trustworthy restaurants. Make sure your water comes from a bottle. Don't get a parasite.
- Know: If you don't have a hotel (or even if you do) rickshaws will fall over themselves to get you to one. They usually know decent hotels, and receive commission for brining new guests. The Taj Mahal opens at 6am for sunrise, and there will already be a line then (albeit a shorter one.)
- See: The Golden Temple, the border closing ceremony
- Cruise: Along the Irrawady River at sunset.
- Visit: The Htilomilo, Sulamani, Dhammayan, and Ananda temples by e-bike. Watch the sun rise from the Shwesandaw temple.
- Rent: E-bikes and explore all the unnamed temples that don't make it to the main tourist guides.
- Stay: At Ostello Bello Bagan, pricier but well worth it for their planned activities.
- Eat: At Thip Samai restaurant, by the Old City. Great pad thai and egg omelette.
- See: The Royal Palace in the Old City, Terminal 21 shopping center (it's huge), Chatuchak market (also gigantic, and they sell everything there - take a map at the beginning so you don't get lost).
- Take: A water taxi to the Old City, the sky tram into town to see the skyscrapers.
- Stay: At Bodega Bangkok for a rowdier social scene, at Live It Up hostel for a more laid back place with rooftop wifi, and at The Hostel 16 for a chilled-out outdoor vibe.
- Eat: Dinner and a drink at the Beach Hotel on the main beach.
- Hike: From Byron Beach around to the lighthouse on the easternmost point of Australia.
- Surf: On the beach across the point at Tallows.
- Surf: At Old Man's Beach near downtown Canggu if you're a beginner; at Pererenan Beach if you have some skillz.
- Visit: The beautiful Tanah Lot temple on the oceanside west of Canggu, the Taman Ayun temple inland of Canggu.
- Grab a drink: At Old Man's Beach at sunset and watch the surfers come in (best on Wednesdays), and at Sandbar and the restaurants along the water there.
- Eat: At Gourmet Canggu, a great mix of different Asian foods. Grab local Indonesian food at Warung Yess. If you're tired of Asian, grab great pizzas and calzones at Hacienda Bali.
- Stay: At the Canggu Beach Hostel, 15 mins outside of town but with a great pool.
- Stay: At the Gate Capsule hostel by the south gate of town: no-frills, but a great place to book tours from, and located close to downtown and right on one of the main night markets.
- Visit: The temples all over Chiang Mai - which has over 300 wats - starting with Wat Chedi Luang in the middle of town. Check out the main night market on Prapokkloa road at night (it gets hectic.) Go on a humane tour to an elephant sanctuary, where you can wash and feed elephants (and go rafting and hike to a waterfall, on some tours.) Hint: If the tour lets you ride elephants, stay away.
- Check Out: The coworking space at Punspace Nimman, the original digital nomad hangout in Chiang Mai, which was rated the best place in the world to live and work remotely.
- Best Time: During one of the city's lantern festivals. You can light and release lanters on the river or take a boat ride down it to see all the lanterns being released.
- Stay: At Dalat Family Hostel, a great experience with large communal dinners every evening at 5pm.
- Do: The canyoning tour in the waterfalls of Dalat. An awesome way to get into nature and do some absailing and swimming down natural waterslides.
- Stay: At Begadang Backpackers hostel and hang out in the light-up pool or play volleyball on the palm tree court.
- Watch: The sunset from the small beach bars on the west of the island.
- Eat: At any of the tiny warung shacks throughout the island, which will give you a full plate of delicious local food for $1.12.
- Go Out: To Legends, a beach dance party with a dj booth hoisted up in a tree.
- Stay: At the Broken Compass hostel, one of the nicest on the island (only bookable via their website.)
- Watch: The sunset over Mt. Batur from the west side of the island - my two favorite spots to watch from were The Exile and Bloody Mary's.
- Go: To the northeast corner of the island and snorkel the reef there to see some turtles.
- Eat: At the unparalleled night market by the harbor, where fisherman bring their catch of the day each night.
- Avoid: The main strip of clubs and bars by the harbor, which gets hectic at night.
- Skip Surfer's Paradise unless your ideal vacation spot is Atlantic City.
- Eat: At Bún chả hàng mành (great bun cha restaurant up a spiral staircase.) Egg coffee at Cafe Phố Cổ, on the rooftop tucked away behind a silk shop. Good hot pot at Don Duck in Old Town. Get banh mi anywhere you go.
- See: Ho Chi Minh's body in his mausoleum, somewhat eery but a very unique experience (closes around 10am each morning.) Rent a motorbike and go around the west lake - amazing lakeside drive the whole way around with small cafes to stop over. Take a walking or food tour of the Old Town. Visit Hoa Lo Prison and see the "Hanoi Hilton" where John McCain was imprisoned (prepare for a little propaganda...) Walk around Hoàn Kiếm Lake by Old Town and visit the famous temple for newlyweds in the middle. Take a day trip to the Perfume Pagoda.
- Avoid: The Temple of Literature, which seemed hugely overrated given the price.
Ho Chi Minh City
- Eat: At Nhà hàng Ngon, an old-colonial style open air restaurant with an amazing array of Vietnamese food.
- See: The War Museum in downtown. Walk along Nguyễn Huệ street to the river. We didn't make it up to the skybar, but we hear the observation deck has a great view. Visit the Củ Chi tunnels if you go to the War Museum first. If you visit the Mekong Delta, do the overnight trip rather than the daytrip.
- Avoid: Backpacker street, unless you like over-commercialized strips of tourist bars, clubs, and sex workers.
- Stay: At Sunflower Hotel, a "hostel" with a great swimming pool area.
- Eat: At Banh Mi Phuong and Madam Khanh, "The Banh Mi Queen" for unreal banh mi sandwiches.
- Get: A suit, banana shirt, or tuxedo tailored to your exact fit at any of the local tailors. The best are Peace Taylor (formal) and Bari Cloth Shop (tropical.)
- Grab a Drink: At Why Not Bar, because why not?
- Visit: Victoria Peak to see views of the city. The mid-levels escalators to see how you commute by moving walkway. Macau for degenerate gambling. LKF for degenerate nightlife. And Happy Valley on Wednesdays for degenerate horse races.
- Hike: Dragon's Back ridge, for a hike that feels eerily like the Marin Headlands, and the hills of Lamma Island for views of the city's back.
- Eat: Everywhere. See the eating our way through HK post for details.
- Take: A boat tour of the lake, but try to find a shorter or less commercial version, as the main boat trips tend to be tours through the neverending industry of tourist trinket production.
- Stay: At Ostello Bello Nyaung Shwe in the northeast of the lake.
- Check Out: Nahargarh Fort overlooking the city and Amer Fort in the middle of the city.
- Stay: At Zostel Jaipur, very low-key and welcoming.
- Check Out: Lovely Professional University to see India's largest (and first) private university.
- Grab Dessert: At the Lovely Sweets Factory in downtown Jalandhar for endless Indian sweets.
- Stay: Anywhere off the main drag of loud, dirty bars and restaurants.
- Check Out: The island boat tour organized by Jungle Bar, which takes you to 28 secluded beaches and at night takes you back through phosphorescent plankton.
- Grab a Drink: At the Heli Lounge Bar, a reclaimed open-air rooftop helipad with great views of the Petronas Towers.
- Don't go here. Nobody likes Kuta.
- Surf: At Gerupuk Beach for great (but sometimes crowded) waves on the Inside and more expert waves on the Outside, at Seger Beach for a reef break (shallow) with pretty big waves, and at Selong Belanak for tiny waves on a beautiful beach (and great views on the ride over.)
- Stay: At the Pipes Hostel, a little surfer hostel with a skate bowl in the back and a great atmosphere.
- Eat: At any tiny warung shack on the side of the road, and at El Bazar for great middle-eastern food and even better wifi, and at The Bus for amazing pizza.
- Stay: At the Gekko hostel if you're ok with outdoorsy accommodations. The hostel is a set of bungalows around a main social area, with chickens, dogs, cats, and buffalo running around. Also be sure to grab one of their burgers.
- Grab a Drink: On the bean bags at Mali Mali Beach Bar and watch the sun go down over Pulau Island.
- Visit: Cenang beach by the Gekko for yoga and sand volleyball. Tanjung Rhu beach for beautiful secluded beach vibes. Pasir Tengkorak beach for a tiny beach with hiking and waterfalls.
- Eat: Brunch at Top Paddock in Richmond, at Le Bon Ton for dinner, and at Messina for gelato.
- Grab Coffee: Anywhere in the Fitzroy neighborhood, which is uncannily similar to San Francisco's Mission for its hipsters and artisanal coffee shops.
- Grab a Drink: At the Garden State Hotel.
- Visit: Great Ocean Road to see amazing sea cliff views that rival the PCH. Anglesea Golf Club to hang out with kangaroos. Hit the beach in Sorrento, close to Melbourne, or at Apollo Bay down the Great Ocean Road.
- Check Out: Tam Coc national park, a beautiful series of lakes, caves, and cliffs, known as "Halong Bay on land."
- Stay: At Tamcoc Backpacker Hostel.
- Eat: At Minh Toan Father Cooking restaurant, right next to the hostel, and try some of the local goat meat.
- Visit: Mo Paeng Waterfall, where you can swim in the falls or jump down the natural water slide. Pai Canyon to watch the sunset over the cliffs and valley below the town. Grab scooters and check out the Yun Lai viewpoint that looks out over the Pai valley (romantic setting for two bros to scooter to together.)
- Stay: At Pura Vida Resort, just outside of town, and rent scooters to go around.
- Grab a Drink: At the outdoor backyard at Spirit Bar to hear some chill live music with funky lighting.
- Eat: At the open air food market along Jalan Penang street.
- Play: Laser tag, which is for some reason a big deal in Penang.
- Visit: Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, home of secret prison S21, and the Choeung Ek killing fields outside of town - both stark reminders of the recent genocide.
- Stay: At Eighty8 Backpackers Phnom Penh, which was the only moderately good hostel I was able to find in the city.
- Visit: All of the nearby Angkor temples, using a three-day temple pass you can buy for $40.
- Take: A guided tour that starts with a 4am sunrise over Angkor Wat and takes you through all the main sites of Angkor Thom.
- Stay: At Onederz Hostel for a spot with a great rooftop pool to wind down at sunset, at One Stop Hostel for a chill spot to plug in and relax (and, if you're in the mood, at Funky Flashpackers if you want more high-energy pool parties, and at Mad Monkey for a rooftop beach bar.)
- Visit: Otres beach during the day, and grab a drink and a day bed. (The beach turns into a party at night, but is pretty trashy.)
- Avoid: Serendipity beach on the main Sihanoukville drag.
- Check Out: The main bay and its fantastical-looking Sheraton Towers with a boat platform resting on top. The Gardens by the Bay behind the towers, with suspended walkways hanging from giant mushrooms.
- Eat: At the open-air market by Raffles Place downtown for a great mix of Chinese and southeast Asian food.
- Stay: In Manly Beach for a great beach scene and Bondi Beach for a beautiful beach and great waves.
- Go Out: In Manly, to Donny's Bar to grab an apple juice whisky, to Hotel Steyne for some pool, to 4 Pines Brewing for great chicken parm and beer, and to Insitu for a good time. In Bondi, to the Bucketlist restaurant on the beach for a Sunday session. In CBD, to Frankies for live music and solid pizza.
- Walk: From Bondi beach along the cliffs to Coogee.
- Eat: At Warung biah biah and order all the small dishes. At Naughty Nuri's and get the ribs, martinis, any of the juices, and fried banana for dessert. At 9 Angels for a hippy, donation-based, home-cooked buffet experience and good social hour.
- Try: A luwak coffee, or cat poo chino, from one of the plantations. Also try the coconut coffee and fresh lemon tea. A yoga class at The Yoga Barn, one of the most well-known studios in the world with great jungle backdrops.
- Swim and Chill: At the infinity pool in the middle of the jungle at Jungle Fish. ($100k Rupia cover charge before 5 o'clock, but free after.)
- Visit: The Pura Tirta Empul "water temple" and take a shower in the holy water. Check out the rice terraces on the way to the water temple, but don't be sucked into the cafés. Jump in at Tegenungan Waterfall and try to swim against the current. If you love monkeys, check out the Monkey Forest and pay $3 to see all the monkeys you've ever wanted to (don't bring a hat, glasses, or food. They will rob you.)
- Climb: Mt. Batur early in the morning to see the sun rise over Mt. Rinjani on Lombok.
- Stay: At In Da Lodge for nature all around and a chilled-out poolside vibe during the day.
- Skip: Taman Ayun temple to the west of Ubud; it's far and pretty unspectacular.
- Surf: At Pedang Pedang beach (go to the break left of the point) and Uluwatu beach (be sure to go at low tide - the beach is only accessible through a cave, which floods at high tide.)
- Eat: At Om Burger - pretty good burgers, great smoothies.
- Grab a Drink: At Single Fin in Uluwatu, overlooking Uluwatu beach, and watch the sun go down as surfers come in.
- Visit: Shwedagon Pagoda at sunset to see the colors give the temple a golden glow.
- Eat: At 999 Shan Noodles for great noodles (obviously.) Rangoon Tea House for good beer and higher-end local food. 19th St. in Chinatown for street food and a busy local scene.
- Grab a Drink: At 7th Joint Bar & Grill for a mixed local and expat scene.
- Take: The circle train around Yangon (takes 2 or 3 hours) to see the real city, including the farms, markets, shacks, and abject poverty that still persists outside the tourist areas.