Rau Ram in Myanmar.
Rau Ram in Myanmar. (Courtesy of Rau Ram)

9 New Southeast Asian Adventures

Lose the backpacking hordes with these wild new ideas, from surfing in Sri Lanka to a culinary tour of Myanmar

Rau Ram in Myanmar.

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Indonesia: Sail the Bandas

(Alila Hotels and Resorts)

The 150-foot, two-masted Purnama, in Indonesia’s Banda Islands, is the ultimate way for a lottery winner and nine friends to explore the ­region’s empty beaches and world-class dive sites. From $12,500 per day

Thailand: Embrace Your Inner Beach Bum

(Courtesy of Bhmasia Hotel Group)

Three hours south of Bangkok, the Gulf of Thailand’s three-mile-long Thung Mamao beach is one of the least ­crowded white-sand ­havens in Prachuap province. The sleek X2 Kui Buri Resort is the only hotel on it. R&R is the focus here, but you can stretch your legs on a vintage Thai cruiser or paddle a tandem kayak in the bay’s warm water. Come sunset it’s easy to find the 48-foot-long stone bar for a Thai whiskey tasting at Happy Sippy Hour. From $185

Laos: Traverse an Entire Country

(Dag Goering/Hidden Places Travel)

Road-bike through rice paddies, kayak with river dolphins on the Mekong, and hike steep jungle paths through the waterfalls and coffee plantationsof the Bolaven Plateau on the 13-day Hidden Places tour. Spanning the full length of Laos, the route covers nearly 722 miles, from Pakse in the south to Luang Prabang in the north, with stops at timeless French-colonial villages and breathtaking tem­ples. In Luang Prabang, browse porcelain opium pipes in the moonlit stalls of the city’s famous night market, or sip white burgundy at the wine bars of Sakhalin Road. You can even trek with ele­phants in a minimally impactful way: company cofounders Maria Coffey and Dag Goering, a veterinarian, also founded Elephant Earth Initiative, an organization that supports science-based approaches to elephant welfare and conservation. $3,990

Active Recovery

(Akaryn Hotel Group)

Re-acclimate to urban living at the President hotel in Vientiane, Laos. With high tea on the lawn, it offers the city’s most opulent lodgings, though its 32 rooms make it feel more like a small palace. The spa will take care of your burning quads. From $345

Bangkok: Tour the Food Stands

(Tim Bewer/Getty)

Bangkok has thousands of open-air restaurants and food stalls. Some of our favorites have been doing business in the same spot for decades.

Kuai Tiao Pik Kai Sai Nam Phueng

Travelers and locals alike have sought out the savory chicken wings, deep-fried snakehead fish, and pork wontons for 60 years at a storied raw-food market. Khlong Toei district

Daeng Racha Hoi Thot

This open-air eatery serves the largest, freshest oysters and mussels in the city. Try the Hoi Thot—fresh mussels in crispy pancakes made from a batter of rice flour and arrowroot starch. Samphanthawong district

Sudjai Kai Yang Or Tor Kor

It ain’t bragging if it’s true: chef Aunt Sudjai Phonjang won first place in Thailand’s Som Tam Championship for serving the nation’s greatest green papaya salad out of her stall. Chatuchak district

Khao Nhiao Moon Mae Waree

This 24-hour stand serves sticky rice with creamy coco­nut milk and fresh, ripe mangos—the ultimate 3 a.m. snack. Thonglor district

Myanmar: Eat Your Way Through Yangon

(Courtesy of Rau Ram)

Myanmar’s culinary scene is getting a shot in the arm with repat­riated entrepreneurs and expat chefs. Anchoring Yangon’s food renais­sance is Rangoon Tea House, a downtown eatery in a minimalist, turn-of-the-century building known for its duck empanadas and a tasty soup called mohinga, a regional spe­c­ialty. At Rau Ram, the Hawaiian-born, Harvard-grad chef Kevin Ching serves Bun Cha Feast—a smat­tering of spring rolls, porchetta, lemongrass pork meatballs, and rice noodles—in a luxurious bistro. Beat the city’s smoldering heat with a crisp Hoegaarden at Port Autonomy, hidden away in a leafy oasis near Shwedagon Pagoda.

Vietnam: Paddle Your Own Boat

(Courtesy of Aqua Expeditions)

After redefining travel on the Amazon, Aqua Expeditions is now plying the Mekong River between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. Its 20-suite Aqua Mekong is more like a floating boutique hotel. Don’t be fooled by the plush amenities, though. Aqua’s team of local guides have encyclopedic knowledge of the region’s history and wildlife, and you can join them on three-, four-, or seven-night excursions on the ship, including daytime jaunts in a skiff or kayak. Paddle through narrow waterways to bamboo-stilt dwellings, or trek through dense jungles in search of crumbling temples. Or ride an all-terrain bike through riverbank villages. From $3,855 for three nights

Indonesia: Deepen Your Focus

Former competitive freediver Hanli Prinsloo set 11 South African records in her decade-long career, then went on to teach some of the world’s top adventure athletes how to stretch their lungs. Now she’s helping mere mortals learn to freedive in some of the most beautiful spots on the planet. In 2017, Prinsloo will offer a manta ray dive trip in ­Komodo National Park and a yacht charter to Raja Ampat, where guests can swim with whale sharks. Lessons cover the basics for ­holding your breath and slowing your heart rate, ensuring that landlubbers are relaxed and confident. You can also feel good knowing that a portion of your trip supports I Am Water Ocean Conservation, Prinsloo’s nonprofit, which works with under­privileged kids from coastal communities. Price upon request

Sri Lanka: Surf the Laccadive Sea

(Ben Broomfield/Soul and Surf)

Though peak season runs from November to April, there’s never a bad month to visit the brand-new Soul and Surf yoga and surf retreat on the lush southern coast of Sri Lanka. Within a 30-minute drive, there are waves for all skill levels: sandy-bottom beach breaks for beginners, and reef and point breaks for everybody else. With daily two-hour surf ­coaching in the warm water, video feedback, vinyasa flow sessions, and locally sourced meals, a week at this magical, all-inclusive retreat won’t be enough. From $900

Bali: Get Back to the Farm

(Courtesy of Bisma Eight)

Nestled in a natural ­rainforest setting, the garden and treehouse-like canopy suites at Ubud’s new Bisma Eight hotel offer jungle views but are within walking distance of the Monkey Forest, Ubud Palace, and other must-see sites in town. The staff can ­arrange sunrise treks and whitewater-rafting trips on the Ayung River—and the hotel’s Copper Kitchen and Bar has quickly become one of Ubud’s top tables. Guests pick produce from a sustainable farm and enjoy vegetable nasi goreng and cardamom-and-star-anise-infused cocktails. From $165

From Outside Magazine, January/February 2017
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Lead Photo: Courtesy of Rau Ram