For all the wild, action-packed mega cities Southeast Asia is so famous for, there's an equally opposite number of places that are quiet, nature-oriented, and extremely relaxing.
Here are 5 destinations I recently visited where relaxation is the local way of life.
1. Sangkhlaburi, Thailand
Waking up at 5 am is something you'll love doing when you're in Sangkhlaburi.
Because there's nothing more enjoyable, or more relaxing, than beginning the day with a stroll over Thailand's largest handmade wooden bridge.
After crossing the bridge, make sure to visit the Burmese market on the other side. The low key market includes lots of betel nut chewing vendors, and a number of delicious snacks.
Sangkhlaburi, in my opinion, is one of the most relaxing places to visit in Thailand. The lifestyle is laid back, no one seems to be in a hurry, and the scenery is extremely beautiful.
2. Yangshuo, China
Although China would not normally be considered part of Southeast Asia, since Yangshuo is just north of Vietnam, I'm including it.
If the gorgeous scenery of Yangshuo isn't enough to thrust your body into a state of immediate relaxation, sipping on a cold lotus nut beverage while reclining on a small Chinese chair in the middle of a lotus patch will surely do the trick.
Sometimes it's not only sitting or laying down that's relaxing, but also doing physical activity in a location that includes fresh air, unspoiled natural landscapes and is filled with sounds of nature instead of honks and smog.
Go on just a short bicycle ride from the center of Yangshuo, and you'll be cycling down rice farm trails, taking dips in the clear Yulong River and enjoying tremendous views of the mountains.
3. 4000 Islands, Laos
While at times the amount of backpacking tourists can be overwhelming, there are plenty of opportunities to sneak away from the crowds to discover the beautiful and relaxing side of the 4000 Islands in the south of Laos.
If lounging in a hammock strung on the balcony of your wooden bungalow overlooking the lazy Mekong River while reading a book with a cold Beer Laos in hand is your idea of a relaxing paradise, you'll end up spending a lot of time at 4000 Islands!
If you happen to get an overdose of relaxation and want some adventure, be sure to take a hike, bike to the waterfall, or take a boat to see the Irrawaddy dolphins.
4. Lake Toba, Indonesia
Encircled by sharp jagged mountains, Lake Toba is a deep volcanic lake on the lush green tropical mega-island of Sumatra, Indonesia.
To get there by local Indonesian transportation will hardly be relaxing, but as soon as the road dips into the cauldron and the glassy lake appears, your body will calm itself into a zen-like state of relaxation.
Stay in a local style Batak bungalow overlooking the lake, or pay a dollar more and you can get a hut where you can jump right out the window into the warm water of Lake Toba!
5. Batad, Philippines
Of the many incredible and relaxing places to visit in the Philippines, it's hard to beat chilling in the sleepy rice terrace village of Batad.
With over 116 man made terraces of rice that steeply creep up the side of the mountain, the beauty of the Batad rice terraces will blow your mind.
Staying in a local style hut at the base of the terraces is a sure recipe for relaxation and a way to escape the hassles of city life.
Jus a short 20 minute trek through the terraces, up a steep ridge and through some thick vegetation, is a booming waterfall that offers an opportunity to take a dip or to just sit back and listen to the sound of crashing water echoing off the sides of the mountain.